BIRDS, HANDS, AND BUSHES

Racket had gotten out of his cage. Nothing unusual about that, except that usually when I let him loose, I’d make sure to put away anything I cared about to avoid having Racket destroy it. It was  futile but I felt obliged to try.

Racket, as his name implied, was a charming, noisy Sulpher-Crested Cockatoo. He was the perfect example of why cockatoo owners invented stainless steel perches. Racket could reduce anything made of hardwood to splinters in seconds. He had gone to work on the sofa not long ago … not the upholstery. I think the upholstery wasn’t a sufficient challenge for him. He had gone all out to redo the carved wood frame, perhaps with the intent of correcting the original artist’s errors.

The arm of the sofa nearest his cage was a pile of wood chips and splinters. No evidence of the original design remained. Having completed his work on the sofa, he had refocused his efforts towards acquiring wisdom. He began ingesting the Encyclopedia Britannica, one volume at a time. At this time, he was about half-way through the project. I could see that he’d had a busy morning and had consumed two more volumes.

There wasn’t much I could do about it. I had no where else to put the books. The flat was tiny and there was no storage space. Racket couldn’t spend all his time in a cage. Parrots need freedom, at least an hour or two a day. They are smart birds. They need to interact with the world, with us, to explore and have fun. Racket was doing what Cockatoos do for fun: tearing apart everything on which he could lay his beak.

I wasn’t sure who’d let him out that morning. Probably one of the kids. But he couldn’t stay out all day. I had to go to work and no sane parrot owner would leave their bird loose, unsupervised with no one at home. Or at least no one sane would leave this parrot unsupervised.

Sulfur Crested Cockatoo playing

Cockatoo photo by Miguel

I shuddered at the thought of how much damage he could do given an entire day to wreak havoc. It was time to put him back into his house.

“Come on, sweetie,” I cooed. “Time to go home. Mommy’s got to go to work.”

“CAWWWWWWW! SQUAWK!! ACK-ACK-ACK!” (No M’am, I have other plans) he said. Ah those melodious tones.

He was a tame bird, bad habits notwithstanding and would stand on my hand, nibble on my ears. So far he hadn’t taken it into his head to remove my ears, though he had tried to rip an earring out.  But tame and obedient are in no way synonymous. He knew I wanted him back in his cage and he clearly didn’t want to go there. I needed a proper bribe or he could easily elude me for hours.

“Come along, baby,” I continued, sotto voce. “Mommy needs to get going and we don’t have all day to hunt wild birdies.”

I offered him my arm and teased him with a piece of watermelon in my other hand. He was ever so fond of fruit. Finally, after trying his birdy best to get the fruit without having to climb up on the arm, he gave in and climbed aboard. Quick as a wink, he was back in his cage, a squishy piece of red fruit dangling from his beak.

I pondered how much worse this would have been if I not have been able to get him in hand and instead, had been left with two just like him safely hidden in a bush. It boggled my mind.



Categories: #animals, Humor, Pets

Tags: , , , , , ,

16 replies

  1. We sell so much pet bird supplies at Mecca that I know there has to be a lot of bird owners out there…. but I’ve never understood why. Why birds? I would bring a wild squirrel into my house before I’d have a bird. I admit, I am prejudiced against the species, but I don’t understand their appeal as pets…

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    • They are smart. VERY smart. And funny. Each one is unique and they have a lot of personality. But they are not pets for everyone and they are very high maintenance. I would never have another one. Or a squirrel. Or a ferret. Or even another cat. I’m too tired to deal with them.

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  2. Wonderful name for a bird! Great story and yes, scary to think what a whole day out would have meant for the flat!

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    • I think there would have been no flat left, just shreds and broken shards. For a long time, between kids, dogs, cats, and parrots, I didn’t own anything breakable. Everything was plastic or metal. Anything breakable had already been broken. It’s why I won’t have any more cats. Cats jump. They claw. I can’t handle the destruction of all my pottery and glassware again.

      Racket turned out to be THE name for that bird. He was amazingly loud. You wouldn’t think such a small body could produce so many decibels.

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  3. Racket is a perfect name for a cockatoo. We have had a lot of them flying overhead and shrieking the last few days. I think there must be some kind of cockatoo convention somewhere nearby.

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    • They are VERY loud, especially when you have one in the house. They are like dogs that can’t stop barking. And if you have dogs, they learn to bark, really. One of the things Racket could do very well was sound like a whole pack of small yapping dogs.

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      • Yes, they are great imitators and fast learners too. When I was a child we found a stray one in our garden, can’t remember if it was a cockatoo or corella but even though we only had it for a week or so before it’s owners claimed it that bird learned to imitate the kettle whistling and the dog barking. It drove mum crazy.

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  4. “I’m da conciorge.., He’s up on da roof, he keeps boids…, doity, filthy boids!”

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  5. When I was a child we had 4 budgies and a cockatoo called Charlie. Charlie was really tame and learnt to speak really well. He was a lot of fun for us kids. The budgies lived in an outside aviary. Not so much fun.

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    • We had budgies as kids. They were fun, but Racket was quite a character. Smart. It was like having another person in the house, one with a big beak and a destructive streak. He did a great imitation of the toaster oven (ding!) …

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  6. What a wonderful pic.

    You know they can imitate phrases quite well if you put the effort in? My grandmother had one for years (‘he’ even laid an egg). I’ll have to ask my sister what ‘he’ said, other than ‘hello cocky’!

    Where we live now, they’re pests. Hundreds perch in some large trees not far away but I’ve never though to take a photo. Even if I did. I doubt it would be as great as this. Thanks for the reminder of how we used to think of them.

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    • I’ve never seen them in the wild — and that isn’t my picture. The photographer is credited in the caption. It’s a great picture, but I’ve never seen a cockatoo in the wild. I have heard that they do great damage to crops and such and it would certainly fit with their personalities.

      They aren’t the best talkers in the parrot world. African Grays and any of the Amazon parrots are better, but Racket learned to say “hello” and imitate a variety of other sounds. They all learn a few phrases and sounds. Beyond that, you need to be more dedicated than I was! He was a fun bird.

      I eventually let him be adopted by a very bird-empathetic friend. He was MUCH tamer and happier than with me. I think our cats made him nervous. He could easily have beaten any cat one on one, but they still made him uncomfortable and kept him on guard. Nervous birds are destructive birds. Rule one, it would seem, in parrot ownership.

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