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An Update on My Quest for Better Food Options

After MUCH research and asking around, I’ve finally decided what my birds will be eating.  I’ve decided to go with the TOPS pellets and Goldenfeast blends. 

TOPS or Totally Organics pellets are cold pressed and all organic.  If you’ve ever had a rabbit, they look just like rabbit pellets.  My first impressions were great!  It arrived in a factory vacuum sealed foil bag and upon opening, smelled wonderful.  They smell like grains and green things.  Very healthy!

Goldenfeast blends are, in my opinion, the best “seed” type blends available.  There are so many other great ingredients that I hate to refer to them as seed blends.  It just doesn’t do them justice.  So far, I’ve purchased the Caribbean South Blend in the 32 pound bag and the Central American Blend II in the 12 pound bag.  Again, these arrived in factory vacuum sealed foil bags.  The scent was wonderful!  Lots of dried fruits and veggies, nuts, pasta and seeds. 

The big kids, Ollie the Military Macaw and Alano the Umbrella Cockatoo, were the first to get switched over.  The mix I made for them was 20 pounds of the TOPS pellets and 32 pounds of the Goldenfeast Caribbean South.  Ollie is a great eater but had tired of the Zupreem Natural pellets and the basic seed mix he had been getting.  He dug into this on the first day with no hesitation!  He especially loves the variety, it seems.  Alano is a little harder to please.  His last family spoiled him with too much people food.  When he came to us, he was eating Zupreem Natural pellets only and whatever the family was eating.  Once he discovered my initial seed mix he was eating fairly well but, and I chalk this up to him being incredibly smart, within days I could tell he was a bit bored with it.  I was a worried that he would balk at the new, healthier mix but I was wrong.  I know for him, the variety of tastes, textures, shapes and colors caught his attention right away.  It’s been about two and a half weeks since the switch and I am seeing no signs of him getting bored. 

The there is sweet little Simon, the Goffin’s Cockatoo.  He has been with us for a year and a half and came from a neglect situation.  He is terrified of everything (still) and I am certain that he thinks I am trying to poison him with all the new things I try and make him eat.  Based on his reactions, he wasn’t used to eating anything but seed.  Initially, I tried the Zupreem Fruit pellets and a basic seed mix.  He wasn’t thrilled but he would eat it.  The new mix I made for him was 10 pounds of the TOPS pellets and 12 pounds of the Central American Blend II.  He wasn’t afraid of it (trust me, this is a big deal!) and did eat the first day.  He still isn’t eating enough though.  I’ll write more about Simon and his diet as it develops.

Baby the Cockatiel and the Budgies are next. 

Remember, never feed a pellet only diet!  It will provide too much protein and that is bad for the kidneys.  Also remember, lots of veggies, fruits and VARIETY, VARIETY, VARIETY!

The Cockatiel


Baby, the Whiteface Cockatiel


The cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) is a small parrot that occurs naturally in  the outback regions of inland Australia. It is the smallest member of the Cacatuidae (cockatoo) family.

In Australia, it is also commonly referred to as Quarrion and  Weiro.


They average 12.8 inches or 32 cm in length (including tail). Healthy adults usually weigh between 2.8 – 4.4 oz (78 and 125 grams) – the average being 2 oz or 90 grams.  Some mutations, particularly  some lutinos,  tend to be rather small-boned birds. They may  weigh between 2.8 – 3.2 oz (78 and 90 grams). Some selectively bred for competitions may way  between 3.9 – 4.4 oz (110 and 125 grams).

Like some other cockatoos, as for   example the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, the   cockatiel has an erectible crest. Tiels and cockatoos in general also share   other features, such as the facial feathers covering the sides of the beak,   which are rarely – if ever – found outside the Cacatuidae family. In contrast to   most cockatoos, the cockatiel has long tail feathers, roughly making up half of   its total length. Its distinctive pointed yellow crest is held erect when   startled or excited, while a crest slightly tilted indicates a relaxed state of   mind.

The plumage is generally mid-grey,   lighter underneath, with an orange cheek patch and a prominent white blaze on   the wings. A row of yellowish spots can be   found underneath the wings of female cockatiels, but not on the males. Some   other mutations exist, such as the Lutino, which is a light yellow color.   Female Lutinos also have barred tail feathers. Both the cock and the hen have   yellow facial feathers: the female has a yellow wash around the beak and eye, in   the male, yellow covers most of the head and the fore part of the crest. Male   cockatiels are very protective and nurturing of their offspring and are known to   be very capable of raising their newborns if the mother is unable to.

Their  lifespans in captivity are generally reported  as 15-20 years, though it is   sometimes given as short as 12-15 years and there are   anecdotes of some  living as long as 30 years.

Their voices are quite pleasing, and they rarely get noisy, except when excited and that usually doesn’t take long.



Pet cockatiels have been bred to have many different coloration patterns. Featured above (Soupy) and below (Cico) are normal greys. The “wild” natural grey tiels are said to be the hardiest and smartest of all. This might have been true for the longest time, as a lot inbreeding was done to produce mutations. Many color mutations are

now well established and may very well be as hardy and smart as the original greys. The opinions differ as much as the personalities of the great numbers of cockatiels out there. Over the years, I have owned very smart mutation tiels as well normal greys. I would choose a pet on the basis of its personality over its coloration any time.

Available color variants include Lutino, Pearl, Cinnamon, Pied, Silver, and Whiteface  and appear both singly and in combinations such as lutino pearl, whiteface pied, and the very rare whiteface lutino which is the technical term for albino cockatiels.   There have also been reports of an ‘Olive’ variant. Albinos (who have no color pigments) are relatively rare and more expensive than other colorations — although they have become more available in recent years and the price went down substantially since then.  Whereas all other tiels have black eyes, the whiteface   lutino has pink / red eyes, pink toenails, and a pink beak. Whereas most mutations   persist into adulthood, certain mutations like pearl are   molted out in the males and retained in the adult females. Nearly all whiteface lutinos are females, a factor of the sex-linked mutations that create the combination.

The Goffin’s Cockatoo


Simon, the Goffin’s Cockatoo

Note:  I have to say that these little parrots are my favorite species of all time!  They are clowns and always ready to be goofy!


The Goffin’s Cockatoo or Tanimbar Cockatoo, Cacatua   goffini, is one of the smaller cockatoo species. They are native to Tanimbar Islands (Maluku province) in  Indonesia. Wild populations of this bird are threatened due to habitat loss and   illegal trapping for the cage-bird trade


They weigh, on average,  350 grams   – but the weight range of this species is 220 to 390 grams. They mesure about 31 centimeters from head to tail. Goffin’s Cockatoos are the   smallest of all Cacatuidae. Males and females are identical in appearance. At   first sight it appears to be a white cockatoo with some salmon/peachy/pink face   feathers, and a pale grey beak.

Like all members of the Cacatuidae, Goffin’s Cockatoo is crested, meaning it has a   collection of feathers on its head that it can raise or lower. Its body is   mainly covered with white feathers, with salmon/peachy/pink colored feathers between the beak and eyes and   also on the underside of the crest feathers. The underside of its wing and tail   feathers exhibit a yellowish tinge. The eyes range from brown to black. The   Goffin’s Cockatoo is quite graceful in flight.

Goffins are not known to be the best talkers in the parrot world, but many of them will learn a few words and imitate sounds they are exposed to on a daily basis, such as phones, microwaves, etc.

Training and Behavioral Guidance:

The goffins are less demanding and noisy than most of the other cockatoo species, and have a great  personality to boot. They make a good choice for people who would like a cockatoo that is somewhat easier to accommodate than the larger species. This does not, however, mean that keeping them caged all day without much attention is acceptable. There are many goffins out there who have developed severe behavioral problems under such sad conditions. They are loving, playful and need to be an integral participant in family life. This is not a “cage bird” – but a fun and extremely loving companion for the right bird owner.

Talking in general terms, cockatoos certainly demand a lot of attention, but are appreciated  for their exceptionally loving, devoted personality that is second to none. Cockatoos require an extremely dedicated   owner who is willing to provide significant and meaningful attention to these    intelligent parrots. They require consistent   training from a young age to  ensure potential cockatoo owners enjoy a   bird free of  destructive and annoying habits. Behavioral challenges that cockatoos present include:

Excessive Chewing: Any parrot will chew. In nature, they use their beak to “customize” their favorite tree, to enlarge the size of their nest in a tree hollow. Doing this keeps their beaks in good condition. The problem is excessive and undesirable chewing. Undisciplined cockatoos will chew on electric wiring potentially causing house fires.  The owner needs to provide plenty of “healthy” chewing opportunities (bird toys, natural wood branches, etc.) and training is necessary to teach a cockatoo what is “off-limits.”

Biting: Cockatoos, as most parrots, are likely to discover their beaks as a method of “disciplining us” once they are out of the “baby stage.” It really is important to learn to understand them and to guide their behavior before an undesirable behavior has been established. If this behavior is unchecked, the cockatoo is likely to be dominating the entire family, chasing and attacking their least favorite humans (usually the ones they deem to be a competitor for their human mate’s affection). Training is vital to stop this destructive behavior.

Screaming: Not everybody can tolerate the natural loud call of a cockatoo, and even though it can’t (or should not) be entirely eliminated, there are ways to discourage screaming / screeching in your pet cockatoo.

The Umbrella Cockatoo


Alano, my 12 year old male Umbrella Cockatoo


The Umbrella Cockatoo or White Cockatoo, Cacatua alba,   is endemic   to the islands of Central and Northern Moluccas (aka Maluku Islands) in Indonesia. Specifically, they occur naturally on the islands of Bacan, Halmahera,, Tidore,   Kasiruta,  Ternate, Kasiruta  and Mandioli.

They are also found on  the island of Obi and the nearby island of Bisa, but it is believed that they were introduced to these islands and are escaped pets. (BirdLife International, 2001; Juniper and Parr, 1998)

Within their natural range, they are  found at elevations of 1,000 to 3,000 ft (300 to 900 m) in  a variety of habitats, including forests and open woodland, mangroves, swamps and agricultural areas (where they are considered “pests” since they feed on the crop). They are particularly common along the  edges of clearings and rivers.

Umbrella Cockatoos, like all the other species of cockatoos, are important for the dispersal of seeds — which has important consequences for the ecology and evolution of plants.

Although the umbrella cockatoo is not classified as an endangered species it   is classified as vulnerable. It numbers in the wild have declined owing   to habitat loss, hunting and illegal trapping for the cage-bird trade. It is listed in   Appendix 2 of the CITES list of protected   species. This gives it protection by making the trade of wild caught birds   illegal.

Umbrella Cockatoos  can live over 40 years in captivity and 30 years in the wild. There are some claims that some of them have lived to the ripe of age of 100, but this has not been verified.

Umbrella Cockatoos are medium-sized cockatoos that weigh between  17 oz (480 g) up to 25 oz (700 g) – the average being 20 oz (565 g).

They average 18 inches or 46 cm in length. Their wingspan is between 9.84 – 12.2 inches or 25 to 31 cm. (Arndt and Pittman, 2003; Juniper and Parr, 1998)

Umbrella Cockatoos are large white parrots with brown / reddish or black eyes,  dark grey beaks and legs.

The Umbrella Cockatoos was named for its  broad, backward-bending crest, which open like an umbrella and fan out. The Umbrella Cockatoos and the Moluccan Cockatoos have the largest and fullest crests.

When  the crest is lowered, the feathers fold back over the head and the crest is hardly visible.

As attractive as the cockatoo crests are, their major purpose is communication.

A raised crest can indicate that a cockatoo is displaying for its mate; defending its territory or its flock, calling its flock members; or a cockatoo may be expressing curiosity, excitement, surprise, fear or frustration. For those approaching a cockatoo -a raised crest may be a warning not to touch them – or else risk being bitten.

A lowered crest can indicate calmness, friendliness and general approachability.

There are some pale yellow / lemon colored feathers on the underside   of the wings and tail, which flash when they   fly.

Gender identification:

Both males and females have pale blue eye-rings, but males have  dark brown eyes, while females have  reddish eyes. The female also tends to have  a smaller head and beak than male.

Breeding Season

Umbrella Cockatoos  only breed once a year – usually between December and March, when vegetation growth is at its peak and food is  readily available.

Courtship & Mating

As part of the courtship behavior, the male ruffles his  feathers, spreads his tail feathers, extends his wings, and erects his crest.  He then bounces about. Initially, the female ignores or avoids him, but – provided he meets her approval – will eventually allow  him to approach her.

Once he is accepted as a mate, they will both preen each  other’s head and scratch each other around the tail. This serves to strengthen their pair bond.  Eventually, the male will mount the female and perform the actual act of mating  by joining of the cloacae. For bonded pairs, this ritual is much shorter and  the female may even approach the male. Pairs leave their group and find a  nesting spot in a tree.

Cockatoos form a close bond that lasts for a lifetime. If  they are separated, they may slip into a deep depression. In absence of a  “true” mate, they may accept a caretaker as its mate.


Nesting & Raising of the Young

Cockatoos generally nest in tree cavities of the largest trees, about 16 – 100 ft (~5 to 30 meters) above the ground.

The average clutch size consists of 2 (occasionally 3) eggs which are incubated for about 30 days. The male and the female share the responsibility of incubating the eggs until they hatch. Generally they raise only one of the chicks, which in most cases is the first one that hatches. However, if that chick is malformed or weak, they will raise the second one.

The young fledge when they are about 3 months old and are fully independent half a month to one month after leaving the nest.

The young reach reproductive maturity when they are 5 to 6 years old.

In their natural habitat, umbrella cockatoos typically feed  on various seeds, nuts and fruits, such as papaya, durian, langsat and  rambutan. As they are also feed on corn growing in fields, they do considerable  damage and are, therefore, considered crop pests by farmers. (BirdLife  International, 2001)

They also eat large insects, such as crickets (order  Orthoptera) and skinks.

Captive birds are usually provided a parrot mix containing various  seeds, nuts and dried fruits & vegetables. Additionally, they need to be  offered lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and branches (with leaves) for chewing  and entertainment.   


  Umbrella Cockatoos as Pet Birds:

Umbrellas  are very   social, needing a lot of interaction. They can be very loud and their calls (a   very loud screeching noise) can be heard up to three miles away.

If noise and attention levels are not of concern, hand-reared umbrella cockatoos can make good pets, as they are sociable,   intelligent and they can learn tricks and be trained. They can imitate human   speech, but generally they are not good talkers. However, they can destroy   furniture with their powerful beaks, they can make a lot of loud noise and they   demand a lot of care and attention. Their droppings are quite large and   semisolid and can be messy. Umbrella cockatoos as pets need so much care and   attention, and can be so destructive and expensive to keep, that some pet birds   are often passed from one owner to the next. Even hand reared cockatoos however   are not really domesticated, and even the sweetest cockatoo can seriously bite   and injure a person without provocation.

Umbrella Cockatoos equire the largest cage available   at least 3′ x 3′ x5′ and need to be out of their cage as much as possible. They   are not an easy pet to keep and require a lot of time, devotion and   understanding from their caregivers.

Cockatoos certainly demand a lot of attention, but are appreciated  for their exceptionally loving, devoted personality that is second to none. Cockatoos require an extremely dedicated   owner who is willing to provide significant and meaningful attention to these    intelligent parrots. They require consistent   training from a young age to  ensure potential cockatoo owners enjoy a   bird free of  destructive and annoying habits. Behavioral challenges that cockatoos present include:

Excessive Chewing: Any parrot will chew. In nature, they use their beak to “customize” their favorite tree, to enlarge the size of their nest in a tree hollow. Doing this keeps their beaks in good condition. The problem is excessive and undesirable chewing. Undisciplined cockatoos will chew on electric wiring potentially causing house fires.  The owner needs to provide plenty of “healthy” chewing opportunities (bird toys, natural wood branches, etc.) and training is necessary to teach a cockatoo what is “off-limits.”

Biting: Cockatoos, as most parrots, are likely to discover their beaks as a method of “disciplining us” once they are out of the “baby stage.” It really is important to learn to understand them and to guide their behavior before an undesirable behavior has been established. If this behavior is unchecked, the cockatoo is likely to be dominating the entire family, chasing and attacking their least favorite humans (usually the ones they deem to be a competitor for their human mate’s affection). Training is vital to stop this destructive behavior.

Screaming: Not everybody can tolerate the natural loud call of a cockatoo, and even though it can’t (or should not) be entirely eliminated, there are ways to discourage screaming / screeching in your pet cockatoo.

Toothbrushes as Toys-Why It Isn’t A Good Idea

Thank you to whoever found this and posted it on Facebook.  This is GREAT info for anyone who currently uses tooothbrushes or was thinking of using toothbrushes as toys.  Such a simple thing could be deadly!

A Clinical Case of Zinc Toxicosis and Potential Copper Toxicity from Toothbrushes

David Kersting, DVM, St Louis, MO

Zinc toxicity is a commonly discusses topic investigated by pet owners and avian veterinarians. New sources of toxic levels of zinc have been identified in the last 20 years. Clinically, a diagnosis of zinc toxicity has now always been straightforward there is no pathognomonic signalment for zinc toxicosis. Clinical signs are nonspecific and include lethargy, anorexia, poly-dipsia, polyuria, diarrhea, weight loss, and vomiting.
Case Report:

An 8-year-old male umbrella cockatoo (Cacatua alba) present-ed for feather picking of three week’s duration. The feather de-struction began in the areas of the crop and neck and contin-ued to include more extensive areas.

History included a work schedule change for the owner, a new cat in the house. Physical examination was within normal lim-its. A crop stain revealed increased numbers of yeast with 50% bussing. A fecal gram stain was normal.

The patient re-presented four weeks later with continued feath-er destruction.
A radiograph revealed abundant metal objects in the ventricu-lus. Size and shape varied, including straight wire shapes to square-edged 2-mm objects. The proventriculus was enlarged and the intestines were filled with gas.

A ventricular flush was performed through a cropotomy incision after packing off the cranial esophagus in relation to the crop. Approximately 40 20mm rectangular metal clips were flushed out. Despite aggressive flushing, 5 metal clips were left be-hind. The bird was discharged with antibiotics and an antifun-gal.

Two weeks later the feather destruction resumed. Three days from that, the owner discovered the source of the metal clips was from toothbrushes the bird had been given as toys. On radiograph, ten more metal clips and a probable plastic object were seen.

The owner declined a second ventricular flush due to cost.

A toothbrush has multiple holes to allow the seating of multiple groups of bristles. A V-shaped bundle of bristles are seated into each hole and secured with a rectangular metal clip. Five toothbrushes, representing five companies; Crest; Oral-b; Reach; Bright Choice; and Butler G.U.M. The heads contain an average of 31 metal clips. Zinc levels were from 255,000 to 306,000; Copper levels ranged from 680,000 ppm to 730,000 ppm. Lead was consistently less than 18 ppm.
The toothbrush was not recognized by this author as a potential toxic item and was often recommended as a safe toy. In fact, toothbrushes are NOT acceptable toys for parrots.

How to Create A Bird First Aid Kit

How to Create A Bird First Aid Kit

One of the less talked about aspects of bird care is what we as bird owners are supposed to do in case of an emergency. In this article, they talk about how to set up a basic bird first aid kit. A little preparation could mean the difference between life and death for our little buddies. I’m working on one now and I hope that you decide to make one too!

Herbs for parrots – an introduction by Ann Castro

Long before ready made medicines were available, our ancestors helped themselves with herbs when they were physically or psychologically unwell. Wild animals have also been observed to medicate themselves with nature’s remedies. Unfortunately, much knowledge has been forgotten. This is a shame, as sometimes heavy duty medicines with all their side effects are not required and we could help our animals and ourselves with much gentler cures.

Many herbs are available with which you may help your parrots.

ATTENTION: As illnesses in parrots can progress suddenly and rapidly, I strongly advise you to take your bird immediately to an experienced avian vet, should you notice any symptoms whatsoever that your bird may be feeling unwell. And please do not forget to take him in for regular well-bird-checks, as well. Parrots, as prey animals, will tend to hide their diseases as long, as possible. By the time they are too weak to hide their symptoms any longer, they may be already quite ill. You simply cannot afford to lose any more time by experimenting with cures. Also, you need to discuss the simultaneous use of herbal and mainstream medical remedies with your vet. Some of them may interact, inhibiting their performance or even cause harm.

Having put this cautionary note ahead, herbs can be extremely helpful. You may use them for smaller ailments, for  chronic problems which cannot be solved with mainstream medicine, for psychological problems and also – in agreement with your vet – alongside a mainstream medical treatment, for example to boost your bird’s self healing powers or to alleviate symptoms.

Means of application

Herbal remedies may be used in several ways. Not all of them are appropriate for use in parrots. Even if imagining the application of lower-leg compresses to a parrot makes me giggle – I would not really want to have to carry that out in real life. The basis for most herbal treatments for parrots is tea. It may be internally or externally.

Internal application

Most parrots love warm drinks. Thus, this method is really easy to apply. Teas may be helpful for psychological issues, for slight ailments or as preventive measure, as the active agents are very dilute in teas. Teas are also appropriate for ailments where a high level of liquid intake is desirable, e.g. to flush kidney and bladder. When my parrots are treated with warm teas, I usually give hold the tea cup in my hands, if the bird is tame. This is not necessary, but I am of the opinion that the attention and loving care being thus conveyed to the animal, helps it feel better. The warmth of the tea furthers the feeling of being cared for.

External application

Feather destructive behaviour often responds well to herbal remedies. Photo: Ann Castro

Teas may also be administered externally. You may mist your parrot with a tea or put it in a bowl so your bird may bathe in it. ATTENTION: Parrots with very light colored feathers may experience staining from the tea! If your bird has foot problems, you may bathe his foot, e.g. chamomile tea for ulceration of the foot soles. If your bird is very tame, you can also apply the tea to the affected area with a cotton swap or gauze pad.


Of course, herbs may also be used to produce ointments. But I think most of us will not bother with this and would rather buy salves from a pharmacist. When using salves on parrots you need to be careful to only apply them to unfeathered parts of the body. Messing up the feathers could lead to feather destructive behaviour as your parrot frantically tries to clean his plumage. If the feathers are massively coated in salves or oils, it can become a health hazard. Feathers thus soiled can no longer fulfill their temperature regulating function. This may be life threatening!. Furthermore, parrots tend to have sensitive skin. I would recommend talking to your certified avian vet prior to using any salves.

Tea preparation

Three methods are used to prepare herbal teas. The medical effect will depend on:

  • the dosage – that is the amount of herbs used
  • how fine the herbs were cut or ground – the more ground up the herbs are, the more ingredient ends up in the tea. Make sure that you grind up the herbs just before preparing the tea, as more volatile parts will otherwise get lost
  • and the duration during which the tea is allowed to steep or boil. It is best to stick with your vet’s or manufacturer’s recommendations on this.


    Warm tea is enjoyed by most parrots

    The most common way of preparing herbal teas is to pour very hot or boiling water over the herbs, cover them and let them steep for five to ten minutes. Covering your tea prevents more volatile components from escaping. This method of preparing tea will kill most germs that may be present in the herbs. It is appropriate for teas made of leaves and flowers.


    To prepare a decoction, you place a pot containing the herbs and cold water on a stove and gradually heat until boiling. Then you let it simmer on a small flame for another five to ten Minutes. This method of preparation is appropriate for teas made of tougher components such as roots, bark or wood. Virtually all germs are killed with this method of preparation, but more fragile components of the herbs will be destroyed as well.


    To prepare a macerate, the herbs are steeped in cold water for several hours. This is appropriate, if the herb have compnents, such as Gerbstoffe, which you do not want to leach into your tea. This method has two major disadvantages. On the one hand no germs are killed. On the other hand, it takes a long time to prepare. Thus this method is rarely used. Having said that, a Japanese friend of mine showed me how to make a delicious iced green tea fort he summer time using this method. He puts the jug into the fridge during steeping though, which will at least minimize bacterial growth.

Meet The Small Cockatoos by Sally Blanchard for Bird Talk Magazine

When I first started working with pet birds and parrots more than 30 years ago, a cockatoo was a cockatoo. It seemed that many people thought of all of the cockatoo species as being essentially the same bird. Umbrella cockatoos and Moluccan cockatoos were easily confused and usually assigned the same traits. Imported Goffin’s cockatoos were readily available, but many people thought of them as being mini umbrella cockatoos or Moluccan cockatoos.

After working with various species of cockatoos, it became quite evident that the smaller cockatoos, which are now usually referred to as corellas, have very different personalities than the larger cockatoos.
The Goffin’s cockatoo and the bare-eyed cockatoo (or little corella) are the two most familiar pet cockatoos in the United States. Others include the Ducorp’s cockatoo, the endangered Philippine red–vent cockatoo and the slender-billed cockatoo, which is the largest corellas. On the other hand, the rose-breasted cockatoo shares many of the personality traits of the small cockatoos but is not classified as one. While lesser-sulphur cockatoos and citron-crested cockatoos are not much larger than the than the other small cockatoos, they generally share many of the personality traits of the larger cockatoos.

Small Cockatoos: More Than Just A Size Difference If I recall correctly, I have never worked with an overly fearful Goffin’s cockatoo or bare-eyed cockatoo. I have met several Goffin’s cockatoo that pluck their feathers, but I can’t remember meeting a feather picking bare-eyed cockatoo.

Before the importation of parrots stopped, I tamed dozens of wild-caught cockatoos, and it was usually easier to make progress with the larger ones.

The Moluccan cockatoos, umbrella cockatoos and various sulphur-crested cockatoos usually responded quickly to my calm energy and easily went from one step to another as I worked to build their trust. Wild-caught Goffin’s cockatoos, on the other hand, were usually more difficult to tame.

I have heard people say that the smaller cockatoos are not as smart and, therefore, do not learn as well as the larger ones. I believe that they are quite intelligent, but they have a different way of being smart than the larger cockatoos.

After working with a good number of smaller cockatoos, the aspect of their personality that became most obvious to me is their shorter attention span. The various sulphur-crested cockatoos, the Moluccan cockatoos and the umbrella cockatoos might spend a great deal of time on one task.

For example, Skippy, a rescued lesser-sulphur crested cockatoo that lived with me for a few years, loved to manipulate a stainless -steel bolt and wing nut. It became very easy for him to unscrew the wing nut and then screw it back on the bolt. He liked to complicate things and would often put a piece of fabric over the bolt, which made it far more difficult for him to reattach the bolt. He always accomplished the task even though he had to spend some time working on it.

Although such a pet bird may exist, I have never known of a slender-billed corella or rose-breasted cockatoo that had the patience and dedication to stay with a task that long. This is not to say that they do not play. These smaller cockatoos love to play, but they prefer their own level of multi-tasking; they like to go from one high-energy task to another fairly quickly. The key to keeping these birds happy is lots of toys that have different purposes including those with motion and are fun to bang around, those that make noise and/or those that can be quickly chewed; corellas love a lot of stimulation!

Small Cockatoos Will Not Work For Food … While the little cockatoos can be trained to do a number of tricks, I rarely see them in bird shows. This is most likely because of their short attention span, but it is also true because they are not likely to work for food treats. On the other hand, consistent nurturing and handling will pattern them to perform many fun behaviors. They thrive on a lot of playful attention from the people in their lives.

A few years back, I did a seminar for Ronie’s For the Love of Birds, a bird shop in Sandy, Utah. I fell in love with Ronie Wheelwright’s bare-eyed cockatoo, Roo. I remember that Roo was in her early 20s and full of energy. Her favorite game was baseball, and she would bat a gently pitched foam ball back at the pitcher with her beak. Then she would hop around until another ball was pitched to her. I had so much fun playing with her that I had to avoid the temptation to smuggle her out in my suitcase and bring her home with me.

Roo is primarily responsible for the fact that I fell in love with a 21-year -old bare-eyed cockatoo on consignment at Feathered Follies in Lafayette, California. She is the most affectionate and quietest bird I have ever known. Instead of screaming for attention like some cockatoos learn to do, Roxi-anne says “Hello” over and over in an incredibly sweet voice. Although I have known smaller cockatoos that are screamers, they do not seem to develop this problem as much as the larger cockatoos.

I have noticed with the bare-eyed cockatoos and the Goffin’s cockatoos. I would call it “bounce-back ability.” They don’t hold grudges. Recently I visited my friend, Barbara Bailey, who is one of the prime movers of the Indonesian Parrot Project. This group is working to maintain the wild populations of the Moluccan cockatoo on the island of Seram in Indonesia. Bailey has more practical experience with both wild and pet cockatoos than anyone I know.

Bailey lives with a dozen or more cockatoos and also houses many rescued cockatoos for TARA (Tucson Avian Rescue and Adoption). At any given time Bailey and her husband, Bruce, may be caring for up to 20 cockatoos of several species. Ear plugs are a must, especially at meal time. A lot of my experience with these fascinating and often misunderstood birds comes from my many visits to the Bailey’s home.

During my last visit, an unusual altercation with another cockatoo left Romey, her male Goffin’s cockatoo, with a serious rip on the inside of his beak. We rushed him to their avian veterinarian and Romey went through some pretty invasive handling. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Blake Harrington put such delicate sutures in the rip between Romey’s upper and lower mandibles. The Goffin’s cockatoo also had a rip on the roof of his mouth, and it took some concentrated effort to stop that area from bleeding. Romey was pretty miserable for a few days but recovered with no emotional baggage or change in his personality.

Romey is a good example of a mature male Goffin’s cockatoo. He seems to fancy himself quite a ladies’ man, although his strut is not just performed for Bailey’s female Goffin’s cockatoo, Jordy. Bailey relates that Romey’s hormonal periods are similar to those of her larger male cockatoos with the exception that he usually seems more mischievous than aggressive.

The cockatoos in the corella group can become skilled flyers with great maneuverability. Romey is fully flighted, and part of his flight plan often involves trying to knock other birds off of their perches. During my visits, he has buzzed my head. I can just about feel his toenails combing my hair and, if he is looking for a reaction, he certainly gets one no matter how hard I try not to respond.

Small Cockatoo Wild Behaviors In the wild, bare-eyed cockatoos live in large flocks and therefore are very social birds. Pet bare-eyed cockatoos enjoy a lot of interaction but also like to be where the action is so they can keep their eye on everything. I have met several that are excellent talkers although my own bird, Roxi-anne, mumbles a great deal of what she says, but I can understand most of it. Roxi also loves to fly, and her favorite game when she spends the day at my Laughing Parrot Gallery is to fly up to the loft in the front of the store.

Sometimes she will come down to me when I call her, but often she waits until I go get the ladder. Once I put it in place to climb up to get her, she flies down. She is clearly aware of the rules she has made for me to play this game with her.

I have watched several of these high-energy cockatoos perform all sorts of gyrations to get attention from the people in their lives. Most bare-eyed and Goffin’s cockatoos love to spend time on the floor, but their sense of curiosity is such that they should be supervised at all times. These birds can glean all sorts of dangerous items in searching through the carpet and around the room.

In my experience bare-eyed cockatoos have one of the sharpest beaks of any parrot family bird. Roxi is definitely not a biter but, because she only has one leg, she uses her beak for balance. Even though I warn people who want to hold her that she might touch her beak to their hands as she steps on to it, many still pull away. In her attempt to get her balance, she will often scratch a person’s hand as they move it away.

With Small Cockatoos, Comparisons Stop At Size Bailey believes one of the major differences between bare-eyed and Goffin’s cockatoos is in the way that they bond to their human flock. She believes that the bare-eyed cockatoos are more in sync with the people in their lives, while the Goffin’s are a bit more self-absorbed.

I think that parrot family birds rarely provide their caregivers with unconditional love. We have to continually provide parrots with the proper care and nurturing to maintain a positive bond. My bared-eyed cockatoo, Roxi-anne, comes the closest I have ever known in regards to a parrot providing unconditional love. Goffin’s do form a bond with their caregivers but seem to require more diligence from the people in their lives to maintain the bond.

Small Cockatoo Bird Cage Considerations Goffin’s cockatoos and bare-eyed cockatoos also need lots of cage room to dance and perform their acrobatics. Because of their high energy and sense of curiosity, the smaller cockatoos need a cage just as big as the larger cockatoos. At least part of this is true because they need a great number of toys and chewing opportunities to keep them happy.

I believe they prefer a cage that is wider than it is tall so that they can spend time playing on the bottom of the cage. A cage without a grate is preferable but keep the floor of the cage clean.

One of Joseph Forshaw’s “Land of Parrots” videos shows a bare-eyed cockatoo rolling around on its back while waving a branch in its foot. It is obvious the bird is playing with great delight. The little companion cockatoos love to play with foot toys and roll around on the cage with them in their feet. They also have fun with toys that hang from their bottom perches. I recommend using a stainless-steel screw eye and hanging a toy that almost reaches the floor of the cage.

Over the years, I have talked with dozens of people who are smitten with the delightful personalities of their Goffin’s cockatoo and bare-eyed cockatoo. They are unbeatable when it comes to high-energy playfulness and curiosity. The more playful interaction they have with the people in their lives, the more playful they become. Although these smaller cockatoos are not necessarily “perfect” pet birds, they are less likely to have some of the behaviors that create problems in the larger cockatoos. Most of all, these social parrots are generally willing and able to forgive us for our inconsistencies as their caregiver.

A Bare-Eyed Cockatoo Story My bare-eyed cockatoo, Roxi, was not on a good diet in the two decades before I met her. Her diet conversion was going slow. One night, after she lived with me for a few months, I heard a blood-curdling scream. I rushed downstairs and found Roxi hanging off the side of her cage. Her right leg was backwards. It was 5 am and I rushed her to the local emergency vet clinic. They no longer had an avian specialist, so I held her for what seemed like forever until my avian veterinarian’s office opened. She had a stifle luxation; her upper and lower leg bones were no longer connected, and all of her tendons and ligaments were out of place.

At my vet’s recommendation, I took Roxi to the Veterinary School at the University of California at Davis. I had given a program there for vet students so I knew some of the staff.  Because of the extensive damage, Dr. Lisa Tell told me that the leg would have to be pinned so that everything was in proper alignment again. Even with a successful surgery, the leg would probably remain stiff. With her history of malnutrition, there was concern about the bone being able to handle the pin. This proved to be true when the upper leg bone fractured. From that point on it was touch and go. Roxi developed an infection and at one point her veterinarians were not sure that she would survive all of her medical problems. Malnutrition had also compromised her immune system. The veterinarians decided that her leg would have to be amputated.

The owners of another bare-eyed cockatoo were gracious enough to allow me to take their bird, Bogus, up to UC Davis so he could donate blood for Roxi. He was a trooper and had no adverse emotional reaction to the two-hour round trip or to giving blood. Roxi spent over two weeks at UC Davis. It seemed that no matter what was done to her, Roxi kept her friendly personality and had sweet “Hellos” for everyone she met at the vet school. Once home, I was amazed at how quickly Roxi adapted to having only one leg. She never lost her sweet trusting personality for a moment.

Military Macaw Species Profile

My Military Macaw Ollie


The Military Macaws (Ara militaris)  received their name  when they were first imported into Europe by military personnel; also some suggest that this species was named for the overall “army or olive green” color of its plumage.

At first glance, these parrots may not be as striking as some of their cousins, but these parrots are beautiful nonetheless. They are fun-loving and sociable, and many of those kept as pets have distinguished themselves as excellent talkers.

They  occupy a massive but fragmented range from Mexico down to  Argentina in South America.

They  live in pairs, in families, or in large flocks, usually  roosting in the highest outer branches of trees or foraging for fruits and nuts. They  are usually easily identified even out of sight by their loud screeching and croaking.

They  were once very common in Mexico, but are now listed as an endangered species due to the clearing of their habitat for agriculture and capture for pets. While the remaining two populations are not endangered, the entire species has been listed on Appendix I of CITES to assure protection of the northernmost race.

BirdLife International classifies this species as “Vulnerable”. The main threats are habitat loss and domestic trade. The current population is estimated at 10,000 to 20,000, and is decreasing.

In the wild, their  breeding season stretches from about January to March.  The female can lay as many as four eggs which are incubated for about a month, 28 days before they hatch.  The female is the only one who tends the eggs and the young.  Captive birds readily hybridize  with related species

Each subspecies represents a different and distinct population and they are are separated by thousands of miles of terrain.

  • Military Macaw, A.m. militaris – The nominate form occurs in the eastern tropics of Colombia to western Venezuela and south into eastern Ecuador and northeastern Peru.
  • Bolivian Green Macaws, A. m. boliviana – this subspecies is found in the tropical portions of Bolivia and ranges to extreme north-western  Argentina.
  • Mexican Green Military Macaws , A. m. mexicana population – the northernmost subspecies is located in Mexico from southeastern Sonora and Sinaloa south to the Yucatan and perhaps into western Guatemala.

They are probably  the smallest of the large macaws at a length of 27 – 33 inches (70 – 84 cm) from beak to tail. Their wing length: 14 inches; wingspan: 39 – 43 inches; and weight: 862 – 1074g.

The plumage is mostly green, except for the red tuft of feathers on the forehead (behind the cere of the beak) , white cheek patches with tiny black feathers,  bluish-red primary wing feathers, and tail feathers that are brown red above and  yellow underneath.

The plumage of young birds is duller compared to the  adults’.

This parrots readily breeds and is therefore easily available in the pet trade. The military macaw is the quietest and least expensive of the large macaws to acquire.

It  can get nippy and thus requires more attention and training to  maintain a pleasant nature.

Militaries do well in a large macaw cage as an indoor pet. They enjoy toys, especially wood items that they can chew. They are quite capable talkers and can be easily trained, including being potty trained to the cage.