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High-Energy Cockatoos

Cockatoos have a lot of energy

By Sally Blanchard

You read about high-energy parrots in the August 2009 issue of BIRD TALK magazine. Now learn about high-energy cockatoos:

In an article in the Emu (The scientific journal of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists, volume 94, part 3) Julian Read describes a flock of rose-breasted cockatoos deliberately flying into vortices (they call them willi-willies; we call them whirlwinds or dust devils.) According to Mr. Reid, “The birds spiral acrobatically, calling loudly, leave the vortex, then catch up with it to take another spin.” In the particular incidence that Mr. Reid observed, the birds took their E-ticket ride in five or six short bursts spanning a total of 30 to 40 seconds. Eventually the flock settled in a group of trees as the willy-willy continued out of sight. Playful bare-eyed cockatoos have been observed enthusiastically hanging off of windmill blades as they turn around and around. 

I bird sit for a high-energy and playful umbrella cockatoo named Ginger. When she comes to visit, we play “Ms. Cockatoo.” This is a totally silly game that Ginger loves to play with me. Clearly it is frivolous without any purpose except to have fun. After her caregiver leaves, Ginger starts to initiate the game with her postures and excitement. It is mostly me making a big deal out of all of the things she does. She will throw her crest, spread her wings and knock her beak on my hand. Of course, there are no other contestants, so she is the winner every time we play.

We sing and dance and I move her crest from side to side. She squeals with delight but it is not screaming; it is an indication of how much fun she is having. When she is on my hand, I flap her down up and down just a bit, and she spreads her wings and I tell her how beautiful she is.

When I announce her as the winner, I put a makeshift paper crown around her crest and she is really happy about it all.  The fact that I give her totally focused attention for 5 or 10 minutes seems to keep her happy if I have her out with me a few times during the day. Parrots that receive focused attention and have daily interactive play with the people in their lives tend to be secure enough to be happy playing by themselves. 

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