New Cockatoo Owner, Need Advice

JackieR

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Apr 26, 2020
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Hello!

I recently adopted an 8 year old Umbrella Cockatoo last week. I owned birds growing up, but never a cockatoo or any type of large parrot. So I am a bit of a noob and hoping to get some advice. I tend to be a bit of a hypochondriac when it comes to my animals, and I’ve become concerned about some damage he has to his feathers.

I rehomed the bird from a lady in my neighborhood who had owned him for two years. She had him housed next to one other parrot, an Amazon in its 20s they owned for its whole life, who looked very healthy with no feather damage. Before this owner my cockatoo was with his breeder for the first 6 years of his life, who I never met and don’t know much about.

My cockatoo seems very healthy, friendly, and lively. I noticed when we picked him up he had some damage to the ends of his wing and tail feathers. I assumed it was cage abrasion and maybe some barbering and chewing of the feathers. However, I just started reading about PFBD and have gotten myself VERY freaked out. His tail feathers are ragged on the ends, and most of his flight feathers are extremely ragged and broken off at the ends. His wings were clipped at some point but I’m not sure how long ago. His beak looks healthy. All of the feathers that are damaged seem to be damaged at the ends. They are only damaged in areas he could reach, not at all on his head or neck.

I have a vet appointment for him Wednesday, it is the soonest I could get him in at a nearby bird vet.

I have been trying to read up on PBFD but getting extremely conflicting info. Is it something that could manifest in an 8 year old bird? Is this what it would look like? Is it ever something that can be managed recovered from? How common is it really? I could find no statistics on how common it is in the US or where it’s most commonly seen?

Sorry for all of the questions! I will attach a picture of his tail feathers, wing weathers, and a full body picture. I’m really hoping it’s just from him chewing on them. I think he was most likely caged for a lot of the day most days before we acquired him.

Any advice really appreciated!
 
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JackieR

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Pictures attached, hopefully
 

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noodles123

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Jul 11, 2018
8,141
354
Parrots
Umbrella Cockatoo- 15? years old..I think?
Welcome-- 1. please be patient....cockatoos are challenging but they are so so smart. 2, NO CUDDLES---NO PETTING ANYWHERE OTHER THAN THE HEAD AND NECK....(yeah, they love it when it goes past that, but it's sex to them and U2s are VERY VERY VERY SEXUAL---this is more important with U2s and M2s than any other bird....). 3. No boxes, huts, tents etc. 4) TEACH INDEPENDENCE. 5. Do not respond to screaming unless you can tell it is genuine (they will use it against you if they know they can manipulate this way). 6. Try not to get bitten, but if you do get bitten, try your hardest not to react unless you are sure you know why it happened---some will tell you differently, but these birds are like 5 year-olds and as soon as they see that they can get things to happen with that beak, it's game-on.....7. Make sure they get at least 12 hours of quiet sleep nightly--- this is SOOOO much more important with large "Toos" than any other species...
8. They need a lot of time out of their cage.....like....3 hours would be the VERY VERY bare minimum.

If you test for PBFD, do the blood-test and wait until you think symptoms are showing b/c asymptomatic carriers will often test negative (even if spreading it to other birds/infected) if not actively shedding at the time of testing. Cockatoos are prone to feather mutilation because they are SO complex. DO get your bird in for a CBC/ exam by a certified avian vet (not just an exotics vet--- they are not the same) ASAP. The CBC is not going to tell you about PBFD, but you need to make sure that liver (and other organs) are functioning well and that white-count is normal etc. Vet visits should happen at least 1 x yearly minimum.

PBFD is messed up because the incubation period can range from a few weeks to 10+ years and even an entire lifetime. There are birds who live their entire lives spreading the virus without symptoms...then they infect other birds who may have symptoms within weeks, years, or never...BUT an asymptomatic/carrier bird can kill other birds (the very same virus that doesn't kill them can and does kill others) but it is very tricky. It also lives on surfaces, carpets, couches, air ducts etc for ages and is highly contagious....so boarding etc (even with seemingly healthy birds) is always a risk.
 
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JackieR

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Welcome-- 1. please be patient....cockatoos are challenging but they are so so smart. 2, NO CUDDLES---NO PETTING ANYWHERE OTHER THAN THE HEAD AND NECK....(yeah, they love it when it goes past that, but it's sex to them and U2s are VERY VERY VERY SEXUAL). 3. No boxes, huts, tents etc. 4) TEACH INDEPENDENCE. 5. Do not respond to screaming unless you can tell it is genuine (they will use it against you if they know they can manipulate this way). 6. Try not to get bitten, but if you do get bitten, try your hardest not to react unless you are sure you know why it happened---some will tell you differently, but these birds are like 5 year-olds and as soon as they see that they can get things to happen with that beak, it's game-on.....7. Make sure they get at least 12 hours of quiet sleep nightly--- this is SOOOO much more important with large "Toos" than any other species...
8. They need a lot of time out of their cage.....like....3 hours would be the VERY VERY bare minimum.

Do you have any opinion of the state of his feathers?
 

noodles123

Well-known member
Jul 11, 2018
8,141
354
Parrots
Umbrella Cockatoo- 15? years old..I think?
Welcome-- 1. please be patient....cockatoos are challenging but they are so so smart. 2, NO CUDDLES---NO PETTING ANYWHERE OTHER THAN THE HEAD AND NECK....(yeah, they love it when it goes past that, but it's sex to them and U2s are VERY VERY VERY SEXUAL). 3. No boxes, huts, tents etc. 4) TEACH INDEPENDENCE. 5. Do not respond to screaming unless you can tell it is genuine (they will use it against you if they know they can manipulate this way). 6. Try not to get bitten, but if you do get bitten, try your hardest not to react unless you are sure you know why it happened---some will tell you differently, but these birds are like 5 year-olds and as soon as they see that they can get things to happen with that beak, it's game-on.....7. Make sure they get at least 12 hours of quiet sleep nightly--- this is SOOOO much more important with large "Toos" than any other species...
8. They need a lot of time out of their cage.....like....3 hours would be the VERY VERY bare minimum.

Do you have any opinion of the state of his feathers?

he appears to be barbering his tail feathers, or maybe they are breaking due to a nutritional deficit. Cockatoos with perfect feathers (ESPECIALLY U2S) are few and far between. His head looks rough-- but possible plucking...he doesn't look very healthy but he may not have PBFD--he may just be stressed and fed improperly. He looks great from the front, which is a bit odd, as many U2s pluck their chest areas, but try not to assume too much, and DO TRY TO GET A CAV!!! (Not just an exotics vet that sees birds).
 
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noodles123

Well-known member
Jul 11, 2018
8,141
354
Parrots
Umbrella Cockatoo- 15? years old..I think?
I updated my original post to include more on PBFD, so do look back at that. You cannot tell if a bird has it just by looking until the disease has progressed, but a shiny black beak/lack of powder down, as well as bald patches can be indicators (especially if they are in places that the bird can't pluck)...Again-- a bird can spread this without symptoms for many many years, which is why it is so important to pay attention but also have testing run when you have doubts (keeping in mind the high number of false negatives). Mal-formed feathers, splitting feathers etc can also be indicators...long beak/beak deformities...it varies..

Again- he appears to be barbering his tail feathers, or maybe they are breaking due to a nutritional deficit. Cockatoos with perfect feathers (ESPECIALLY U2S) are few and far between.
 
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JackieR

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Apr 26, 2020
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Welcome-- 1. please be patient....cockatoos are challenging but they are so so smart. 2, NO CUDDLES---NO PETTING ANYWHERE OTHER THAN THE HEAD AND NECK....(yeah, they love it when it goes past that, but it's sex to them and U2s are VERY VERY VERY SEXUAL). 3. No boxes, huts, tents etc. 4) TEACH INDEPENDENCE. 5. Do not respond to screaming unless you can tell it is genuine (they will use it against you if they know they can manipulate this way). 6. Try not to get bitten, but if you do get bitten, try your hardest not to react unless you are sure you know why it happened---some will tell you differently, but these birds are like 5 year-olds and as soon as they see that they can get things to happen with that beak, it's game-on.....7. Make sure they get at least 12 hours of quiet sleep nightly--- this is SOOOO much more important with large "Toos" than any other species...
8. They need a lot of time out of their cage.....like....3 hours would be the VERY VERY bare minimum.

Do you have any opinion of the state of his feathers?

he appears to be barbering his tail feathers, or maybe they are breaking due to a nutritional deficit. Cockatoos with perfect feathers (ESPECIALLY U2S) are few and far between. His head looks rough-- but possible plucking...he doesn't look very healthy but he may not have PBFD--he may just be stressed and fed improperly. He looks great from the front, which is a bit odd, as many U2s pluck their chest areas, but try not to assume too much, and DO TRY TO GET A CAV!!! (Not just an exotics vet that sees birds).

Thanks for all of the info! I do think his previous diet was not good, they gave him a lot of junk food. I have switched him to a pelleted feed that he likes. It’s zupreem, is that a decent feed? I also give him plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, as well as nuts and seeds as a treat.
 

noodles123

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Jul 11, 2018
8,141
354
Parrots
Umbrella Cockatoo- 15? years old..I think?
Mine came to me as a seed addict and was eating a bit of Zupreem- it isn't the BEST, but it is considered to be good (it's fine--it's way better than many things out there) . Harrison's etc = better (because they don't have added sugar or coloring) but if your bird won't eat them, then it is sort of pointless. I feed my U2 the colorful Zupreem pellets with the African Grey on the bag lol. DO NOT give junk food..that will probably be a challenge, but I sometimes have to open chip bags two rooms away (as mine came to me as an adult as well and had many unhealthy habits). Try to keep nuts as treats--- more veg than fruit (fruit can lead to obesity and high sugar levels in excess---also, avoid fruits high in vitamin C, like citrus (unless given a small sliver 1-2 times per week, as these can lead to Iron Storage Disease). Salt, sugar, artificial sweeteners, coffee (even decal), caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, onion, garlic (and anything from that family), rhubarb, and avocado= things to never give...Now, some salt and some sugar---in EXTREME moderation is fine, but the rest= toxic.
 
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JackieR

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Apr 26, 2020
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Mine came to me as a seed addict and was eating a bit of Zupreem- it isn't the BEST, but it is considered to be good (it's fine--it's way better than many things out there) . Harrison's etc = better (because they don't have added sugar or coloring) but if your bird won't eat them, then it is sort of pointless. I feed my U2 the colorful Zupreem pellets with the African Grey on the bag lol. DO NOT give junk food..that will probably be a challenge, but I sometimes have to open chip bags two rooms away (as mine came to me as an adult as well and had many unhealthy habits). Try to keep nuts as treats--- more veg than fruit (fruit can lead to obesity and high sugar levels in excess---also, avoid fruits high in vitamin C, like citrus (unless given a small sliver 1-2 times per week, as these can lead to Iron Storage Disease). Salt, sugar, artificial sweeteners, coffee (even decal), caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, onion, garlic (and anything from that family), rhubarb, and avocado= things to never give...Now, some salt and some sugar---in EXTREME moderation is fine, but the rest= toxic.

Thanks so much for all of your help, I really appreciate it! It’s great to find someone with experience to talk too! I’ve been trying to google but sometimes it just gets me more confused! Haha! I’ll try to get the Harrison’s next time and see if he likes them. I’ll make sure to give him more veggies than fruit too and to limit his citrus intake.

The previous owners didn’t feed him pelleted feed. Just nuts, seeds, human food and fruits and veg. I think they gave him a lot of human junk food like potato chips and French fries as well. I’m hoping now that he’s on a better diet it should help!

He is very bright eyed, friendly and seems happy. So I’m hoping that with some good care and attention he will start to look better soon.

The only other issue I have with him is he is scared of water. I don’t know when the last time he had a proper bath is and he needs one. They used a squirt bottle to punish him. I’ve tried getting him used to standing in the bathtub with just like a half inch of lukewarm water in it. He doesn’t mind that but won’t really bath himself or get wet past his feet. He is scared of squirt bottles and the shower.
 

noodles123

Well-known member
Jul 11, 2018
8,141
354
Parrots
Umbrella Cockatoo- 15? years old..I think?
if they just fed him seeds and nut (no pellets) that could explain the feathers for sure. I still think it's important to get a very solid CAV check (w/ blood---even in a super healthy bird) but, diet is huge. They are tricky--- they can get kind of addicted to messing up feathers and it can be hard to stop it depending on the reason---mine really liked these small plastic c-links that I found on Amazon-- it was a good replacement behavior. Never "punish" a parrot...that's sad (I know you didn't-- but it's sad that they did). Mine is also a terrible bather...she will get in pie-plates (pyrex style) or large Pyrex roasting pans (glass) but she RARELY gets anything other than her legs and barely her chest wet. I do spray mine, but I don't think she ever saw it as a punishment...poor babies.
https://www.amazon.com/Plastic-C-clips-C-links-Glider-Parrot/dp/B00SX2YGDY
It takes a long time-- try to gradually introduce new sounds etc--- mine is scared of the sound of the shower but she used to be terrified of the bathroom. Now she will sit with me on the (closed) toilet while the water runs if she gets too dry and needs the steam, but it was very gradual. Also-- if they do get wet (or sit in a steamy bathroom) think about how cold you feel when leaving that setting and remember that they cannot regulate temperature half as well, so they are very prone to getting too cold too fast...
 
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Scott

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Aug 21, 2010
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Parrots
Goffins: Gabby, Abby, Squeaky, Peanut, Popcorn / Citron: Alice / Eclectus: Angel /Timneh Grey: ET / Blue Fronted Amazon: Gonzo /

RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
Welcome to you and your beautiful U2!!

Superb advice above from noodles123. Images 1 & 3 present as typical while #2 is inconclusive. A recent hack-job clip might explain. Active cockatoos, especially those well handled will have less than pristine feathers. The plastic link chain is beloved by most of mine. I believe this brand is manufactured in the U.S, want to avoid potential offshore varieties with impurities.

Definitely seek an experienced certified avian vet. So called "exotic" practices often lack specialized training and equipment.

A helpful bathing technique uses acclimation to override punishment spraying. Dollar Store* type bottles with adjustable nozzles are ideal. (think they are ~ 1 liter capacity) Fill with warm water, hold bottle about one foot away and spray upwards at angle using fine mist setting. This allows droplets to fall in a natural near vertical mode. Once your bird accepts you can gradually coarsen the spray and target hard to reach areas such as under wings.

The "best pellet is the one that is eaten. Parrots are notoriously picky, if you can somehow obtain samples the process will be easier. Zupreem also produces a "natural" pellet without dye, but mine never accepted. FruitBlend not the best but widely tolerated. I transitioned my entire flock to Harrison's using their transition protocol. Mention this not to "product push" but believe their method is applicable to most any pellet: https://www.harrisonsbirdfoods.com/using-our-foods/large-bird-conversion/

*Not advisable to repurpose old bottles previously containing potentially harmful liquids!
 
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noodles123

Well-known member
Jul 11, 2018
8,141
354
Parrots
Umbrella Cockatoo- 15? years old..I think?
I also used to spray myself with the water in front of Noodles (and act like it was really nice)--this was done b/c I am not sure if she was punished with a sprayer, but she wasn't really a fan early on.
 

Scott

Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
Aug 21, 2010
32,184
6,264
San Diego, California USA, Earth, Milky Way Galaxy
Parrots
Goffins: Gabby, Abby, Squeaky, Peanut, Popcorn / Citron: Alice / Eclectus: Angel /Timneh Grey: ET / Blue Fronted Amazon: Gonzo /

RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
I also used to spray myself with the water in front of Noodles (and act like it was really nice)--this was done b/c I am not sure if she was punished with a sprayer, but she wasn't really a fan early on.

Never thought of that but great idea!
 

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