June 1997 Magazine
At long last, BeBe's isolation was over and we brought the three U2's out to the play area in the den. Murphy took the highest perch in the back of the gym and Ashley took the perch nearest Carol. When we put BeBe on one of the perches, she immediately jumped down to run out of the room. I fetched her back and held her in my arms and told her that the guys (Ash and Murph) are her friends. She let me hold her, but that didn't mean she believed me. This was going to require work.
BeBe shared the new large cage (with a divider) with Murphy, who demonstrated a little more interest in her than Ashley. Ash just wanted to be with Carol. I put a perch on BeBe's side about 2 inches higher than the one on Murphy's side so she was a little higher than he was. There were also perches where each could get away from the other.
Right away, BeBe and Murphy slept on the perches nearest to each other. Murphy would lean against the bars of the divider seperating them, while BeBe left three or four inches between her and the divider. After several days, I caught them doing birdie kisses through the bars. During the daytime visits to the public play area, BeBe slowly started to approach first one and then the other male. After about a month, she started to preen them a little. But she was afraid to let either one touch her. She also tried to put her foot on each male's face. (Somewhat like a human baby touching mother's face) She did the same to me and it probably was something she learned from a previous owner or handler.
Ashley had shown no interest in BeBe whatsoever. But, as he watched her with Murphy in the next cage, even with the divider, he began turning his back to them to stare at a corner. He was cool to both Carol and me. It seemed that he thought he should have a roomie, even if he showed no interest in one. We renewed our efforts to find a female for Ashe.
After two months of BeBe and Murphy playing kissy face through the bars of the divider, we took away the top piece of the dome for the cage so the birds could go from side to side over the top of the divider. I stayed up all night the first night and slept during the day when Carol was awake. Murphy seemed to follow BeBe around, but didn't threaten her. She acted nervous and uncomfortable. One day I found her walking on the bottom of the cage on Murphy's side. I worried that she was trapped there, so I opened the cage and moved her to the other side. She took one look at me and promptly climbed over the divider to reclaim the spot I had just rescued her from. Ok, so she wasn't trapped and I worry too much.
Murphy was so excited that he could hardly contain himself. This guy was definitely on THE MAKE! He chewed two huge 1.5 inch diameter by 2 foot long dowels into splinters, some no bigger than toothpicks. He wanted BeBe to admire his pile of splinters; however, there was one that he didn't want her to touch. She didn't understand and for that matter, neither did I.
It was at this point that I started a program and wish to share that with other bird handlers now. Every time that BeBe gave out a yelp, Murphy got scolded and sometimes a 5 minute time-out punishment. This was first started as I was scared witless (even more than my normal state of witlessness) that one of our U2 males would kill or be killed by his prospective mate. I do not think that scolding the male when the female yells will stop mate aggression, but MAYBE: 1) the male will hesitate or even run to a neutral corner because he knows that big bird (me) says that is a NO-NO and 2) the female will yell sooner and louder because she knows that big bird (me) comes running and always takes her side. MAYBE the combination of these two things will give me a one to five minute alarm/break to get there when trouble is brewing. If you think I am wrong in this, please don't tell me as I like to feel needed.
But if I am right (I probably am in spite of what Carol says), several ideas spring (lovely word, when one is in slush from a winter wonderland scene gone bad) to mind. As soon as we unload this over-taxed museum piece that we live in and move to an area where we can construct greenhouse/habitats for the birds, I want to install a microphone/speaker system in each breeding cage. Hopefully the software to analyze sounds of whales can be modified for cockatoos. Each new sound can define an entry into the library so the program will be able to recognize similar sounds. Then, the program can alert us when a new sound occurs. I can sleep with a beeper-buzzer taped to me under the pajama bottoms. And I will hope that when I roll out of bed at 3am to 4am with a buzz in my pants, it will prove to be that one of the females just found a new way to express her pleasure when the earth moved for her. But, if it is that one of the males just won't take no for an answer, I will help explain to him that when she says no, it means no! And if I am awakened to find that a male just won't take no for an answer, I will find creative ways to express to him that I am very disappointed.
The speakers? Wow, I am glad that you didn't forget those. Ashley likes to sing off-key (VERY) with Carol (who sang in a chorale and has a very pleasing voice), but he does it with great gusto. So, in his cage area, if a female yells for help, maybe we pipe in Carol singing the Ashley song. Perhaps he will stop and sing and dance to her voice and forget about killing the female long enough for me to get there? If this sounds silly, please remember that 20 years ago, it was unheard of for a husband to be guilty of battering his wife. Today, we know that it is not silly, but unfortunantly it is common. And if my voice saying: "NO NO, STOP THAT!" causes a male to stop, then it is right even if it sounds silly.
While on this subject, male birds in the wild posture and display to each other. Male moose bang into each other's heads. Male frogs try to out yell each other. Male peacocks use a display of colors in the tail feathers to establish who gets the new girl in town. MAYBE we need to let the male cockatoos display to each other with crests up and wings out yelling at full voice to let off pressure which might be taken out on their poor mates. It would be a kick in the pants to find that when we make the males be quiet to please us, it makes it more likely that one kills his mate because he can't deal with the pressure we put on him. Egad, does this mean that we have met the enemy and he is us?
One very nice thing happened with BeBe. She came with a recipe for BeBe birdie pie that she loves. The other two watched her eat it and decided that they couldn't let a mere female do something that they couldn't. To their very great surprise, they liked it and started eating a more balanced diet. I decided that 'monkey see, monkey do' isn't all that bad. The recipe for BeBe's Birdie Pie can be found on the Birds n Ways recipes page.
Leaving these topics, we can look at other things. We noticed that BeBe looks like Ashley, the same hook beak with a wider head. We decide that Ole Murph may have been hurt by being hit or has birth defects or may even be some sort of throw-back. A freak? Oh, well, I love him because he is such an imp. And, you hafta look close to see that he is different from the other two.
Part VII - Mickie Arrives
Then PJ Schimel (on BirdTech) reported her rescue of two cockatoos - a Goffin and an Umbie. She asked the people on our mailing list if there was anyone who would rescue a female umbrella. Well we responded to her request for help and all agreed that we would take Mickie. Mickie had been kept in a basement in a small cage, alone and unloved for quite a while. PJ found her and rescued her from this prison.
So we immediately got ready and drove the station wagon from NW New Jersey to Long Island to get our new baby. Not only did we search high and low for females for our males, but we crossed state lines to bring them home. I hope that this does not violate the Mann act. I call Mickie a baby, but she's at least 9 years old and about the most beautiful and wonderful bundle of sweetness and love. (Our other 3 are great too).
Mickie rode home in the car as if she was a seasoned traveler, nonchalantly looking out and also shredding the newspaper in the carrier.
We brought her in the house and cuddled her for a while. And boy does she like to cuddle. Then we carried her in to meet Ashley (her new companion). We introduced them, he in his cage and Mickie in my arms. Neither seemed very impressed. So we decided to really introduce them.
BTW (by the way) - Mickie was vet checked and quarrantined by PJ when she got her, so we had no worries about putting the birds together. PJ's aviary is immaculate and she follows stringent cleanliness rules. I can't tell you how impressed I was with her methods and with PJ herself. We think we've made a new friend. And if you want a bird - we heartily recommend her aviary (It's MAP certified)
Back to our story.
We took Ashley up to our bedroom which has a king sized bed and is one of the birds' playgrounds. Usually all 3 of our too's climb under the covers and remain there doing birdie things while getting petted by Carol for at least half an hour. Then they emerge to be petted some more and play with the human slave and their toys or get talked to, etc. So of course Ashley immediately went under the covers. When we brought Mickie to the bed, before Carol could even hold her she scooted under the cover and dashed for Ashley without pausing even to be held. Now Ashley can be one cool dude who rarely interacts with our other 2 toos, but for about an hour the two birds made clicking noises with their beaks (By this is meant that they open and close the beaks over and over again which makes a small sound). This sound is the one they make when they're happily being petted. Then Ashley came out for some reassurance and petting, while Mickie came to the edge of the covers for her share of petting. Love at first sight? Doubt it. But at least it seemed like a good start.
What a change has occured for Mickie! She went from being alone in a dark basement to rehab with PJ and on to her new home with 2 humans and 5 birds (3U2's and 2 conures). She took all the changes well.
The next surprise was in putting Mickie in her cage. There was a seperate one for her while she was getting used to her new world before letting her live with Ashley. Well Mickie would have none of it. She scooted right into Ashley's cage. We watched very closely to see that everything was OK. But so far so good.
All the birds vocalizied and called out to each other. Murphy and BeBe were in the new cage and were still getting used to each other. BeBe had been here for three months and had been together with Murphy without the cage divider for only about a week. So everyone was still settling in.
Isn't life great? Carol felt so good that she could almost cry. And we noticed one of the most beautiful things in the world. Mickie looks just like Murphy. He ain't no freak, he and Mickie are a different subspecies than Ashley and BeBe.
The next day was unbelievable. We took all four birds up to the bed to see what would happen. Well within minutes Mickie was giving bird kisses to the others. They sort of lock beaks and click. She's some FEMME FATALE! Mickie was so excited that she just hopped from spot to spot. Murphy noticed and started doing the same thing. Soon, all four looked like frogs playing follow the leader. We wondered if this was the cockatoo version of a sock hop?
It seems that Mickie gets along with everyone, but she flirted with Murphy -- a lot. Will there be mate-swapping right here in our little garden of Eden? The next episode will deal with more of the love life of four horny feathered teenagers who are without a clue of what to do.
More in the future issues.
Winged Wisdom Note: Ken Highfill has owned pet birds for over 12 years and is co-creator of the Birds n Ways website.
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