Moluccan cockatoos, also known as salmon-crested cockatoos, are parrots that are not for the faint of heart. These highly intelligent, emotionally demanding, extra large, extra loud members of the Cacatua family require dedication and defined boundaries in order to happily co-exist with their humans. If you already have a Moluccan in your life, here are a few tips on how to make living with a 5-year-old in a feather-suit easier on the both of you!
The Sound of Silence? Forget It
It’s a fact … people will think you have someone locked in your closet screaming for help. That demure powder-puff sitting quietly on a perch is NOT going to be the same cockatoo when it finally becomes comfortable in its new surroundings.
A 747 Jumbo Jet produces as much as 140 decibels of noise. Moluccans hold the record as the loudest bird on earth at 135db (average = 120db)
In the weeks before adopting Thor, our 30-year-old Moluccan hen, she never uttered a sound. During her first night with us, she sat quietly on top of her cage with her cheek feathers happily fluffed out. At 6am the next morning, I heard a soft whistle coming from inside her covered cage. I thought, "Oh, how sweet…” and gave myself a little pat on the back for adopting such an "obviously” well-mannered cockatoo. A few seconds later, all the oxygen in the house was sucked out as Thor took a deep breath and bellowed "WAKE UP! WAKE UP! Aaaah!… Aaaah!… Aaaah!!!” at the top of her jungle-sized lungs. I realized at that point that I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.
In time, I came to understand and appreciate Thor’s vocalizing. I learned that certain sounds meant certain things. I learned what sound meant that her music was too loud … or that she wanted lights out for her nap. I learned the difference between the questioning "Where are you?” squawk, versus the "It’s time for my bath!” caterwaul. I also learned that sometimes Thor makes tremendously loud noise just because she can. It’s just part of her DNA. And that’s OK with me now. I realize that the days of a peacefully quiet house are probably gone forever. I have accepted that as a trade-off for the joy she brings to my life in many other ways. Sometimes we simply have to allow our parrots to just "be” who they are … even if we have to invest in earplugs for ourselves.
Dust In The Wind … And Everywhere Else
Cockatoos, cockatiels and African Grays are known as Powder Down Birds. They do not produce oil to condition their bodies and feathers. They produce powder… and lots of it.
Special feathers called powder down crumble into a fine, waxy dust that coats their feathers, beaks, skin and feet. Keratin sheaths that protect emerging feathers crumble into feather "dust”… which joins the powder down to float around the house like little white fairies. The good news is that a dusty Moluccan is a healthy one. The bad news is all that dust will find its way into and onto everything in your house. It can even cause problems with your HVAC system, so make sure to use premium-pleated air filters and keep them changed frequently.
Moluccans are the largest of the "powder down” birds, which means: bigger bird = MORE powder. Regular bathing of your Moluccan will help to keep the powder and dust to a minimum, but they are always going to produce more … every day. People with allergies and breathing issues can be hypersensitive to cockatoo dust. Macaws are especially sensitive as well. But even if you are not susceptible, consider a stand-alone HEPA filtration system next to your Moluccan’s cage.
If It’s Wood … Or Plastic … Or Upholstery …
You can easily finish this sentence if you have a Moluccan. They are the perfect demolition crew of "one.”
Make sure that your Moluccan has plenty of safe "chewables” to keep that beak busy, both inside and outside of the cage … otherwise Granny’s rocker will really be a thing of the past!
Keep these beaks busy… or you’ll be sitting on a pile of toothpicks!
Soft wood like untreated pine is great for "instant-splintering” satisfaction. Harder woods such as dogwood or Manzanita are super for beak conditioning, AND for burning mental calories!
Have Eyes In The Back Of Your Head
One minute you have a calm cockatoo sitting quietly on a perch. Turn your back, and you’ll instantly hear the scurrying of zygodactyl feet speeding across the floor, headed for mischief.
Is it possible for a bird to move that quickly? Yep … especially if it’s a Moluccan.
I have learned that Thor has two speeds … dead calm and wide open. The first I believe only exists in my imagination … the second I absolutely need my running shoes for!
Stock Up on Elbow Grease … And A Scraper
Moluccans make eating an art form. Expect gleefully flung fruit, veggies, beans and pasta to become an Impressionistic display on your walls, floors and windows. And then expect to work pretty darn hard to clean it up. What doesn’t get vacuumed or scraped up is going to have to be sprayed and wiped off, so make sure that you use cleaners that are non-toxic. Apple cider vinegar is a safe and cost-effective choice … as long as you don’t mind your house smelling like pickles!
Together Forever … And Then Some
Moluccan cockatoos can live 80 to 100 years. That’s right, folks… otherwise known as "FOREVER.” Combine that with the mental tenacity of a 5 year old, and you’re living with Peter Pan in a parrot suit that will probably outlive YOU. Did I think about that when I adopted Thor? Nope. Do I worry about that now? Absolutely.
It is imperative to have a long-term care plan for your Moluccan, otherwise they risk a questionable fate in the hands of inexperienced people. Including them in your will, and having a list of experienced avian care-givers is a great start to ensure their safety and security past your lifetime.
Make sure to plan for their lifetime, as your Moluccan may very well outlive you.
Don’t Give Up Hope … Ever
Moluccans are one of the most lovable, yet demanding parrots to care for. Life with them will test your patience, and perhaps your sanity. Learn as much as you possibly can about them. Talk to people who really understand them. But don’t give up on them. We owe it to these magnificent creatures to work as hard as we can to make their lives easier. Why? Because if we don’t… no one will.
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