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The Umbrella (White Crested) Cockatoos
Carol Highfill

UMBRELLA COCKATOOS, also known as White or White-Crested Cockatoos, are all white with pale yellow under the wings and tail. They have a broad, pure white crest which is normally flat against the head and unfolds when raised. This action is the source of their name, "Umbrella". Beaks, legs and feet are a blackish grey, which often look lighter due to a covering of cockatoo powder.

Umbrellas or U2s or Umbies are one of the larger cockatoo species averaging about 18 inches 45 cm, but smaller than the Moluccan and Palm Toos. Males have black eyes, females red or dark brown, but DNA or surgical sexing should be done to be sure. Umbrellas, like the other cockatoo species, are long lived with a life expectancy of over 70 years. They live in small groups or flocks.

U2s have no sub-species, but there is a growing awareness that there may be two sizes of U2s. The larger ones, in the 560 - 675 gram range have a broader head and beak. The smaller in the 425 - 550 gram range are more petite and have a thinner head and beak.

Umbrellas are native to Indonesia, in the Moluccan Islands of Batjan, Halmahera, Obi, Ternate and Tidor.

Habitat: Forests and around farmland.

Diet: Consists mainly of berries, fruits and nuts found in the top of large trees.

Incubation period, weaning: Umbrellas lay small clutches, usually one or two eggs. Incubation is about 29 days. Chicks leave the nest in about 11 weeks. Both the male and female take turns in sitting on the eggs.

Umbrellas as Pets

Umbrellas are beautiful, intelligent showoffs and can live over 70 years. They are very affectionate birds and may have been the source of the term "velcro bird" to describe their strong cuddling behavior. Umbrellas form strong bonds and may grow to regard their owners as mates. They are also very intelligent and curious and, if allowed, will learn to manipulate their owners.

Umbrellas do talk. Although some umbies do obtain a vocabulary of 50-100 words, in general they are not the prolific talkers that amazons or greys are. Of our four pets, one has a vocabulary of about 50 words. The others vary between 5 - 15 words. They are good at doing tricks and some excel in mechanical feats such as undoing locks and bolts. In summary, umbrellas are intelligent, social, good natured, active, acrobatic and very affectionate. They talk some, bond to their owners and make an excellent companion

Umbrellas can also be very loud. They have strong voices which carry and are not good candidates for an apartment or closely spaced housing situation. They have strong beaks and are chewers and if not monitored will destroy anything within reach. Provide umbrellas with large, roomy cages which they can climb around in and exercise in.

Umbrellas should be part of the family, their cages placed where they can see activity and where others passing by can stop to say hello. They also need to be out of their cages for a time each day, to get attention, exercise and a change of environment. Be sure they have toys and perches to satisfy the chewing urge and to keep them from becoming bored. U2s are one of the species which tend to feather pluck for a variety of reasons including loneliness and boredom.

Owning a U2 should not be taken lightly. They require care and attention and lots of space. They can also be costly to keep. But if you can provide for their needs, you will be rewarded with lots and lots of love and affection, entertainment and fun.

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Umbrella picture courtesy of Roy O'Grady

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