June 2001 Magazine
Moluccan Cockatoos, Greater Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos, and Umbrella Cockatoos love to be held by their favorite people while they exercise. They flap their wings, raise their crests and scream for joy in the hands of their human. The large cockatoo craves being handled. They need you to handle them one-on-one.
There are 2 kinds of handling, quiet handling and active handling. Quiet handling comes naturally for most of us. As pictured here, my male Moluccan loves to sit on my knee. This photo is of us sitting quietly on the porch just enjoying a pretty day together. Strong bonding results from happy times like this together.
There is a joy to handling cockatoos while the bird exercises. Active handling is exhilarating to both bird and human. This activity is a special time they can share together. Enjoy the activity with your bird, relax and let him guide you as to what he wants in this session with you.
When I handle a large cockatoo, I practice the first rule of safety to use with all parrots, "Mind your face." Facial bites are painful and many can be avoided by not letting any parrot sit on your shoulder and by always keeping your face out of beak's reach. Hold your large parrots at waist level at all times when you carry them. Extend your arm all the way out when the bird is using it to perform their athletic ballets. This picture shows you to extend your arm, protecting your face. Also, look at the way I am holding his feet, lightly but with my thumb on his toes just as a gentle reminder who is in control of this interactive session.
The second rule of safety for me is to lower my energy level when I am handling a large parrot. If I am excited, then the cockatoo perceptively knows that and raises his energy level to meet mine. If a cockatoo starts banging or tapping his beak on your hand or arm, time to set him down. Large parrots sometimes signal overexcitement by this beak banging. A hard bite can follow this behavior. Learn your bird's signals for best play time results.
As I am not a tall person, I took a cautious approach in first learning how to handle my male Moluccan cockatoo. He was my first large parrot, a romping, stomping, swash-buckling adventurer in feathers. I started slowly, allowing him to flip off my hand backward and swinging him gently. To right him easily, I sang a song to him, 'The Man on the Flying Trapeze,' On the last stanza I would swing him up high and he would then right himself as he knew that was the game we were playing. Cockatoos love to play games with their humans.
If you are right handed, always handle your parrots with your left hand. This gives you confidence and helps to stifle inherent fears of getting bit on your primary hand. I suggest that you learn to use both hands to carry your large parrot. All my cockatoos enjoy having one foot on or in each hand of mine. This position gives you the maximum control over your parrot's motions. It allows you to shift the parrot to distract him should he get over excited or in danger like a wasp buzzing by.
Go with the flow, if you parrots wants to swing, then swing them. Gently is the beginner's approach as you both learn what to do to play successfully together.
One of my Umbrella Cockatoos and my male Moluccan like to try to take my wrist in their beak to further swing out. I have weak wrists and resist this, but they are not trying to bite, they are trying to grab my wrist like they would grab a tree branch in the wild or a perch on their playtree. It took me a while to realize they were not trying to bite.
Learn your cockatoo's play habits. If he tries to clamp you for balance or furthering the play, expect this and try to help him athletically to keep his balance. You can wear a wrist wrap to assist your courage and lend some protection should you also have a wrist grabber.
If a bird gets out of control, set it down gently but fast. Never show fear. Cockatoos are not intimidated on the ground like a lot of parrots. Setting them on the floor or ground will break the pace, and allow time to regain composure.
Being masterful with a cockatoo helps you work with the bird. Be confident, act like you know exactly what you are doing. Your attitude is very important when dealing with a cockatoo. This is an empathetic parrot who knows what your body language is telling him.
Sometimes it is necessary to carry 2 large cockatoos at once.
This photo shows you that I hold my thumb over their toes for control. It also shows you the larger bird on your right is carried much lower than the smaller cockatoo. This is Sabrina, age 6, a galerita galerita Greater Sulphur Crested Cockatoo on the left and Cowboy Dallas, age 3, a male Moluccan Cockatoo on the right.
One more important safety rule is to never extend your hand to try to pick up an excited cockatoo. If your cockatoo is dancing, crest up, and babbling or crowing, wait until he finishes his performance before you offer your hand and command, "step up."
Leaving you with a delightful image of Rockie, a male Moluccan Cockatoo, swinging gently and lightly from his human's hand. Learning how your cockatoo plays athletically will make your cockatoo a more content and loving companion.
Enjoy your magnificent large cockatoo.
Winged Wisdom Note: Linda gratefully acknowledges firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com for their refinement by discussion of the ideas presented here. Linda has published eight articles in consumer and collegiate journals and enjoys the study of parrots and wild birds.
A pet bird ezine, pet bird e-zine, for pet parrots & exotic birds. Cockatoo Parrot picture courtesy of Glasgow Enterprises
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Cockatoo Parrot picture courtesy of Glasgow Enterprises