THE RACKET

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 — not unlike Duke the Dogge. I sometimes wonder if Duke is a doggish reincarnation of Racket. But I digress.

Racket had gone to work on the sofa not long ago. Not the upholstery because the upholstery wasn’t a sufficient challenge for him. He had gone all out to redo its carved wood frame, perhaps with the intent of correcting the original artist’s errors. It was an old sofa and by the time Racket was finished refinishing it, it was much, much older.

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 and need to interact with the world, with people. The need to explore and have fun. Racket was doing what cockatoos do — 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. Or maybe the latch wasn’t properly closed. Regardless, 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.

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, such 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. I needed a proper bribe or he could easily elude me for hours.

“Come along, baby,” I continued, sotto voce. “Mommy needs to go to work and she doesn’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. As I left for the office, I could hear his wild cackle. What a bird!

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. Retired! Yay!

13 thoughts on “THE RACKET”

  1. They are wonderful birds. My only experience is my son‘s boss that takes his cockatoo to work every day. It’s a factory, so it has to search for something peckable. It generally sits on a piece of machinery or the shoulder of an innocent human. Sometimes it explores the wastepaper basket.

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    1. They can get incredibly tame. They are also smart. I’ve seen them become real members of the family. We gave him to a friend eventually because we had cats and they cats made him nervous. He was never going to really tame down as long as he was watching for a cat. But our friend turned him into a pet. He was a lot tamer than Duke is now!

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  2. You really had a Sulphur Crested?? I’m impressed! 🙂 Over here in Perth we have wild white cockatoos (and the black ones you saw the photo of) but the Suphur Crested’s and Major Mitchell’s are more in the Eastern States.

    They are beautiful birds, but my favourite Aussie parrot is the Pink and Grey Galah.

    I see these birds in the wild regularly in my suburb and occasionally a whole flock of 20-30 of them as they waddle around a park feeding on grass shoots and bulbs. They are so cute, but i suspect they share your Cockie’s penchant for chewing any wood to bits if they have nothing more entertaining to amuse themselves. 🙂

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    1. The pink & gray Galah is a magnificent bird. And EXPENSIVE. Really expensive. I got Racket more or less as a gift. The store owner didn’t know what to do with him. We had him for about five years and then, after he moved to a new home, he got much more tame — without cats in the house.

      Cockatoos can be super destructive, but they also make fabulous pets if they like you — and you have a way with birds.

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    1. He was but mostly because i didn’t know much about birds. Once I figured out what I needed to do, it went better. But to own parrots, it help to have “a feel” for birds and how they think. Some people have it naturally. The rest of us need to learn.

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  3. I got to help take care of a salmon crested cockatoo and a blue and gold macaw when I worked at a nursery. The macaw and I didn’t bond but Sunny, the cockatoo and I became real friends. That bird was a character! A lot of personality. And living in a large aviary and getting to go on walks while on my shoulder was great. But I can’t imagine having one at home. They are like toddlers with beaks. Curious and into everything. It was a fun time. I could picture yours. It sounds like you had a good relationship with Racket.

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    1. It was good, but it was also destructive in an extreme way. What one cockatoo can do to an apartment is hard to imagine, but they are really STRONG. Much stronger than their size and weight indicates. Keeping big birds, you really need a household set up for them. And you need to be a “birdie” kind of person. There was a time in my life when I could handle the destruction, but I am past that now. I like a home that’s reasonably clean, neat, and organized … and a cockatoo is none of those things!

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  4. I remember my Grandma had a parakeet when I was pretty young, which is my only experience with pet birds. I always thought they were a strange choice for a pet, at least definitely not for me. I prefer to keep my companions below eye level…

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    1. Birds are very interesting pets, but they aren’t for everyone. The big ones, like parrots, are too smart for their own good … and unlike cats and dogs, they actually need to be tamed or they can be pretty wild. I enjoyed their company, but they were a fair amount of work compared to other creatures I’d cared for … and I don’t really have the right mental space for dealing with a parrot.

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