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Old 10-02-2020, 06:34 PM
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Exclamation Cockatoo help!!

Okay, so I am fostering a Giffin’s cockatoo (Charlie, 13) currently from a local rescue. I want SO badly to keep him. I just want to correct some behavioral issues first but I have honestly no cockatoo experience so I need some help/advice!!

First) he won’t fly or step up on to me at all. If I ask him to step up, he lowers his head to be “pet”. If I push him further to step up he tries to bite me. BUT he does fly right to any males. Including my dad and my fiancé. He flys right to them no problem. How do I get him to come to me??😭 ps: he is not treat motivated at all. I take his food out at night and try with his fav treats. It’s a no go.

Second) he plucks really badly. This is a previous behavior. But he plucks a new feather coming in. And plays with it. Throws it under his wing and turns his head upside down. It’s like a weird tick. He does this with wooden toys as well.

Third) he throws his food out under his wings too.
Honestly I don’t know how to get good training sessions in. He doesn’t like treats. Completely un interested. Does anyone have any ideas on how to make progress with him?? I so need help.

I want to keep him but he can be so nasty sometimes. But he’s also so sweet. And wants head pets. But then will turn on me and bite. I am just having a ton of trouble reading him.

Thanks in advands!!
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Old 10-02-2020, 07:44 PM
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Re: Cockatoo help!!

Have you had parrots before other than your sun conure? Cockatoos are the most re-homed of any parrot variety. I am stressed out reading this and I have had a very long day, but there is so much you need to know just to care for cockatoos...let alone if you haven't had a lot of adult bird experience (babies are always sweet)...so let's start here:

Also, how long have you had him? You are pushing too hard and too fast based on the behavior.
How long have you had your sun conure and how old is that bird?

If he is placing food in his wings that is hormonal/nesting behavior. He should have no access to boxes, huts, shadowy spaces, low ledges or anything even remotely shaded within his cage or in the house where he hangs out. He need a minimum of 12 hours of quiet/legit sleep every night (on a schedule, like a toddler)--this regulates hormones and immune function. When you do pet, never pet for too long and stick to the head and neck only- the rest is sex.

Last edited by noodles123; 10-02-2020 at 07:49 PM.
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Old 10-02-2020, 09:59 PM
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Re: Cockatoo help!!

As noodles says, the behaviours you describe are nesting behaviours. However, they can also be interpreted as ritualised or displacement behaviours which the bird might do from stress at being in a new environment. It can take weeks before a bird feels relaxed and comfortable in a new home and, if he has come from an abusive or neglectful background, he might require a great deal of input before he begins to cooperate with you.

Since he's giving you mixed messages about how much he trusts you, I'd assume he doesn't, fully. You'll need to build trust by going ultra-slowly and showing the bird you won't ask anything of him he doesn't want to do (eg. step up or come out of his cage). Simply spend time sitting beside his cage, speaking in a low voice and offering treats occasionally. He may not like treats right now, but he will come to eventually if they are associated with pleasant times.

Gather together as many tempting food items as you can find. My Alexes and Cockatoo like sunflower seeds for treats, but I've also used millet spray, bits of apple, grapes (one bite at a time) and dried pawpaw/papaya. Even bread crust can be used (sparingly - it's not nourishing) if the bird really goes for it. Offer tiny bits of these different foods to your bird and, over time, you should be able to get an idea of what he prefers. If he won't take food from you now, that's just another pointer that he's not relaxed in your presence.

Don't worry! It takes lots of time and the patience of a saint, but if you're willing to put in the work you ought to be able to communicate with this birdie.

I would forget the idea of caresses and scratches at this time. It's more important to build the bird's trust and you need the caresses more than he does right now. Just work on helping him calm down a notch and teach him that you're his best friend. When the time's right, you could begin with 'step up' but for now, just *be* with him. Give it a week or two and see how his behaviour develops when you're near him, then, ask again for more suggestions on what to do next.

There's no reason to assume the worst with this bird. Just because you're a novice with cockatoos, it doesn't mean you're incapable of learning (we all did *and* we made our mistakes along the way - no one's perfect). Just be calm, take things slowly and let things unfold, OK?

Best of luck to you and do stay in touch!
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Old 10-02-2020, 10:32 PM
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Re: Cockatoo help!!

Thanks!! I really appreciate the encouragement. I am not new to birds totally. I have done well with smaller birds for years and I was hoping for a bigger challenge. And I love this guy. He’s so sweet. I have him on a great diet, he gets plenty of sleep. And I never ever touch anywhere other than head scratches. He will try and get me to pet under his wing and I know that’s obviously hormonal behavior. I never do that. I know enough to figure out basic bird behavior. But yeah the weird throwing food under the wing thing doesn’t make sense. Thag I know of, I don’t do anything that should cause him to be hormonal but the rescue did say he is easily hormonally triggered.
It’s so weird because I’m pretty sure he’s not scared of me. He just doesn’t want to come to me. Like if I have people food in the living room (cheezits) he flies right to my shoulder to get some. But other than that not so much. I plan on taking it slow and I don’t push anymore. I ignore any unwanted behavior to not reinforce it. But some of the body language is confusing. I’m trying really hard! I just don’t have a ton of experience. Which is why I’m asking for advice because I’d like to gain the experience and help out birds when I can!
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Old 10-03-2020, 07:34 AM
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Re: Cockatoo help!!

Good on you! I think you have exactly the right attitude and being prepared to wait watchfully is the most important part. In my experience, the best way to change behaviours is to deflect them. So, when birdie is doing something undesirable, offer something that's far more fun. This is easiest when a wanted treat is available, so do try and find out what floats his boat.

My corella was a maniac when she arrived. She attacked everyone within coo-ee and just screamed her head off whenever she was out of her cage. She wouldn't even sit still long enough for me to try anything with her!

Target training was what saved us. I began pointing my target stick and Rosetta would bite it. I'd follow immediately with a treat and she'd look for the chance to do it again. It took no more than ten minutes for her to work out the system. This was the only thing that would quiet her down and make her start thinking instead of strafing every living thing in the house!

Cockatoos, being so intelligent, generally thrive on puzzles and problems and things they have to work out. This is why giving them foraging opportunities and plenty of 'brain' toys is so vital. Rosetta *loves* doing tricks and even my daughter has been able to teach her to 'wear your pretty hat' on command. It's also good to provide stuff for chewing, as a cocky will spend hours chomping away on timber and turning it into confetti. See if you can find a trustworthy source of untreated wood (there's a list of safe timbers on one of our forums - sorry, I forget which one). Or, find an untreated pallet and rip off the timbers. I just poke one through the cage and watch while the birds kill it to death. So much fun!

If you have any Australian trees growing in your area, check them out in the autumn. The blossoms and nuts are wonderful treats for parrots and the branches have lovely stringy bark which pulls off most satisfyingly.

Just keep on doing what you're doing. Birdie will respond in his own time and, hopefully, let you know what he needs.

PS. What's his name???
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Old 10-03-2020, 07:53 AM
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Re: Cockatoo help!!

Hey thanks so much for your support! It makes me feel better that other have struggled too despite trying so hard!! I think I def need to get him some more brain games to play so he can stay entertained. Maybe find ways to keep him occupied so he won’t pluck. Though he does that weird wing thing EVERYTIME he destroys wood and I’m not sure how to stop that. But thank you for all your positive advice. !
His name is Charlie he’s 13. He’s had wonderful homes before this. His family gave him up because he started to become aggressive and they were having a new baby. So he went to a rescue. He knows how to target and step up it’s just he doesn’t want to. There’s not much that motivates him to do what you ask of him. He’s very stubborn and likes to do things his way
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Old 10-03-2020, 10:35 AM
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Re: Cockatoo help!!

When mine got SUPER hormonal and was about to lay her egg, she was all about making this little match sticks and shredding things...but she is always mildly hormonal.
He will needs to chew, but I'd avoid any wicker or bulsa type toys for now. How much sunlight is he getting daily? Too much bright light can increase hormonal behavior...
Has he had blood-work because sick birds will often pluck too.

I found that these little plastic c links that they sell for kids etc were a hit with Noodles when she was over-preening her chest. It didn't stop it, but it did seem to take some of her attention off that area.

Recently Noodles has also created a game where she breaks up pellets, drops them in a drinking straw and then tries to get them back out. Maybe he would enjoy something odd like that ha

Last edited by noodles123; 10-03-2020 at 11:15 AM.
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Old 10-03-2020, 01:24 PM
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Re: Cockatoo help!!

Welcome to you and Charlie, respect for fostering a challenging bird!

How long have you had Charlie? Acclimating can take weeks to well more than a month or so, you may not be aware of emotional "baggage" from prior homes. By description he appears to feel safe, key is to build trust as predicate for a deep bond. Larger birds are more daunting, might find some helpful tips: Tips for Bonding and Building Trust

Nearly all my Goffins enjoy placing food and other objects below the wing. Typically spontaneous and occurs in the open on cage-tops or stands. Never perceived it as hormonal. They are immensely playful clowns apt to break out twirling in place and other hilarious antics. Many of mine are buzz saws and delight transforming macaw-sized block toys into splinters. BPA-free chain links are especially loved.

Favored treats include bits of almond, walnut, millet, crusts of whole-wheat bread, on occasion unsweetened "chex" type cereal and a few original Cheerios. They also love clumps of cooked oatmeal served at room temperature.

It is possible Charlie prefers males, hence his reticence to fly to you. Not insurmountable as long as he does not totally dismiss your presence.

And finally, plucking, one of the more vexing and confounding behaviors. Endless theories and potential triggers, please read this wonderful treatise written by a former moderator: Plucking: A Search For Answers

Do you have any pics or videos to share?
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Old 11-09-2020, 07:19 AM
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Re: Cockatoo help!!

Hi I have a couple of points? I have a female G2 and she juggles anything on her wing, it is what she spends a lot of her day doing. She came with a 'lamb bone' but I have swapped that out for some wooden toys which she unties from leather plaits and then takes it to juggle in another part of her cage. Is your 'boy' deffo a boy? Any DNA proof? My girl is spirited and this has grown the more settled she has become. If I touched her at first she'd literally try and take my face off. I just lightly touched her wing as she went into her night cage, she wanted to bite. Then one day she hesitated for me to do it, just briefly and it has grown from there. She is when she wants a real snuggle bunny now.



She knows the boundaries here but still pushes buttons LOL. My advice is to gain confidence and trust as this is really a great start to training. These are sensitive birds too so I would advise that if you intend to make it a long term arrangement do so as quickly as possible. These birds are not good being passed around IMHO.
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