Umbrella Cockatoos As Companion Parrots: Why They Are Difficult To Keep

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Ria.345

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Jun 23, 2021
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Sun Conure and Umbrella Cockatoo
Temperament:
Umbrella Cockatoos are the equivalent of having three 2 year old toddlers in the house, all in one. U2s have a temperament that does not necessarily compare to most other parrot species. U2s tend to throw tantrums when something doesn't go their way, they scream up to 135 decibels worth of noise that will make your neighbors ears bleed down the road, they have the ability to test your limits by misbehaving and rebelling against your every command, they change their minds very quickly with minute craving cuddle time and the next craving to push you to the edge, and finally, they are capable of attacking anyone they distrust or dislike, making them very dangerous due to their very wild instincts.

Diet:
Just like any other parrot, umbrella Cockatoos need a good diet to keep them happy and healthy. When it comes to a good diet for our birds, variety is key, nutritional value is vital, and individual health needs need to be addressed along with it. A good diet not only helps with physical health by preventing such issues like obesity and fatty liver disease, but they also help with parrot aggression and hormones. Diet makes a big difference.
Pellets: Pellets serve as a base diet for your bird and fills in nutritional gaps. They are not meant to be the entire diet. Choosing the right pellet to feed your bird means carefully looking at the ingredients list and making sure that the pellet has no extra fillers, or any dyes, since the color adds on sugar as well as extra unnecessary additives and preservatives.
Veggies and Fruits: Chop is a great way to introduce vegetables to a birds diet. There should be more veggies than fruit due to fruits sugar content. Chop can include so much variety, and includes things like various greens, whole colorful veggies, cooked or sprouted grains, legumes, herbs, sprouts, and some fruit, all in one dish, finely chopped up through a food processor. You can also introduce veggies through veggie kebabs hanging in the cage. Or through foraging toys, or putting pieces of large veggies through the cage bars. U2S are curious and will eventually rip through the veggie thinking they are toys and they will eventually be enticed to actually try the food and eat it.
Seeds and Nuts: Seeds and Nuts are still vital to a larger birds diet but should not compose of the entire diet. They are fatty and full of carbs, which can possibly help an underweight U2, but note that U2s also are prone to obesity and being overweight. So avoid seeds like sun flower seeds and instead opt for treats like safflower, almonds, walnuts, or pistachios. Seeds and Nuts are excellent reinforcers for desired behavior and trick training sessions since they tend to be high value.

Enrichment:
U2s are like toddlers. We need to be able to keep them occupied and content for as long as we possibly can in order to encourage good behavior and prevent behavioral issues like plucking or self mutilation, which they are prone to. The birds that pluck the most are the umbrella Cockatoos a majority of the time. So it's important to provide various forms of enrichment for our U2s to live their best life. These forms can include foraging, which is the act of an animal working for their food rather than getting it in their dish. This allows your U2 to find food in their cages and toys while also keeping them busy for hours when you have good quality foragers, and a smart and curious bird. Another way to enrich your U2 is through shredding and destructible toys. This can include toys made of wood, paper, cardboard, sisal, or other shreddable material. Allow your U2 to direct their powerful beaks onto something that is not their own body. This also keeps them occupied in a healthy way and engaged onto different activities. Enrichment doesn't just have to be materialistic nor does it always have to involve toys or foragers. Enrichment is also interaction through training, flying, or even talking to your bird about your day. Get your U2 used to being busy and into something that isn't their feathers or your luxuries. This creates a less dependent bird and more mentally stable parrot. After all, they're U2s. They're smart, but we have to bring out that side of them.

Housing:
U2s and any other parrot need proper and spacious housing conditions, that's their cage or aviary. A cage should always be associated as a safe haven, a comforting home base for your bird. Don't think of a cage like a prison cell or a closet, because that would be torture. Instead, think of it as a room or mini house for your bird. That's how spacious a bird cage should be. The key is bigger is always better, if you can afford it. But if you are getting a parrot, you should already be financially stable enough to invest in such a basic part of parrot care like the big cage. These are things you have to think of beforehand. For U2s they are large birds of course, so having a large sized cage matters a lot. They need a cage that is at least twice or three times their wing span. A cage with a playtop would be great if you do not plan on acquiring a separate play stand. And a cage that is as wide as it is tall or wider than tall is a great choice to address as well. Additionally, bar spacing is crucial. You do not want a cage that has too big of bar spacing otherwise you're going to find one day your bird got too curious and boom, gets their head stuck between the bars. Not fun. Cages should not be painted since paint can chip and harm your bird, as well as make sure that the cage you purchase is stainless steel because it is a safe metal. Make sure you have a check list!

Expenses:
When it comes to any larger bird, expense is a big favor in why many choose to not even get a bird at all. They are super expensive and not great if you keep a constant budget. Expenses for U2s can include large cages, continuous replenishing of destroyed toys, new perches, play stands, constant supply of various veggies and grains, monthly pellets, grooming services at the vet, and annual wellness checks and any other veterinary costs associated with your birds health, which are SUPER pricey. Sometimes there are hidden expenses such as repairing property damages because one day your U2 decided your baseboards looked a little too chewable that day. It happens but if you want a nice looking house, you're going to have to cover those costs too just from fixing the damages already done.

Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning!:
So much cleaning to do when you have any parrot because parrots are just messy. But one thing about U2s is they are DUSTY. So dusty. The dust and power from their feathers and skin is so bad, it gets everywhere. On your clothes, on you, on cages, on stands, on perches, on carpet, on floor, on walls, even in the air itself. You are surrounded by dust when you have a U2 enter your threshold. Congrats. Get the vacuum and the duster because those are going to be your best friends. Vacuuming the carpet and dusting shelves and walls are just essential when owning a U2. It must be done daily to somewhat manage the dusty environment. However, having an air purifier is handy and it's really a must have. It cleans the air through a filter system and ensures that the air you AND your bird is breathing is healthy and safe and free of harmful contaminants. Again, really helpful. Cleaning and wiping down cages is also a must. Something to do daily. Your bird stays in that cage sometimes and you need to keep it dust free and clean to prevent your bird from acquiring a nasty respiratory infection. This also includes giving your U2 regular baths misting showers to prevent bad lung health. It's a lot of work but it's worth it.

Behavior Issues:
Plucking can be due to an underlying medical condition, and should be ruled out first before taking any further steps to address the problem. If it's not a medical thing, then it is psychological. U2s tend to get very bored very easily and I've seen many problems with this. Plucking can also be an effect of stress, hormones, boredom. That's why we as U2 owners must ensure our birds are getting the proper attention, lots of toys and enrichment, and daily interactive play. However most of the time, inconveniences arise. Most people work in full time careers and go to work, most people have a social life and go out with friends, most people budget their money in ways that work for them, and most people don't normally have the time and patience to work with these types of parrots. At the end of it all, U2s and all parrots don't get the time and attention they need, the enrichment that they deserve, nor the time they need to fly and be out of their cages and just be content. All because of the standard norm that people are nowadays and the virtues they hold are not aligned with what the U2 actually needs for their happiness and survival. U2s need owners that will be patient with them, give them plenty of enrichment, constantly interact with them, and just be a flock member to them 24/7 while also caring for their basic and advanced needs. That's a lot to ask from the average human nowadays. And if the U2 doesn't get that one special human or anybody like that, it means probably a lifetime of plucking and self mutilating until they get something that is close to resembling a perfect fantasy for them. But that fantasy just rarely ever turns into a reality.
 

Scott

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Aug 21, 2010
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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.
Wonderful narrative Ria!! I've not had much contact with the enigmatic U2, but understand they are potentially challenging and one of the most re-homed parrots.
 

Cottonoid

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I agree, what an excellent write up! The parrot rescue I went to gets cockatoos pretty regularly :(
 
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Ria.345

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Jun 23, 2021
261
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Sun Conure and Umbrella Cockatoo
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Hey guys!

I wanted to post in this thread of mine of a relating topic that I think should really be shared.
Because I know not everyone on PF is an official member; most of them are in fact lurkers or people just trying to gain more knowledge without actually joining the site, and that's fine!
But whether a lurker or a member or someone who visits this site once a month even, I still think it's crucial to share this little tidbit I have in my head.

It's about the horrors of the exotic pet trade and specifically what happens to parrots in the trade nowadays.

I think there are three main reasons that we see and have to acknowledge when it comes to parrots and the morally flawed treatment that they receive on the daily.

1. The Questionable Hierarchy
In the multiple philosophy classes I've taken, I've learned that the social hierarchy of individuals and things in a society are as follows:

Divine Creatures: Godly Figures
Humans: People existing on Earth
Animals: Non Human Life that aren't plants
Inanimate Objects: Non Living Things


With this hierarchy, although animals are not at the bottom of our list, they are treated like it in our current world. This era has really taken exotic (specifically exotic) animals like parrots, and put them close to rock bottom and treat them as such.
When it comes to over crowded and over flowing rescues, rehabs, and adoption centers with parrots, we as humans have simply deemed the situation and the victims in it as unimportant or not valuable to be displayed on mainstream media. It just doesn't belong there, no one cares about it, and no one should care about it is what they all think. It's sad.

2. Character Alignment
Humans always fall into some sort of inconvenience. Even if we think we know what we're doing, we truly don't. Most of the time. Basically, you get a new job, you can't give an attention needy creature the time it needs to thrive and be happy. You start having a family, your bird that hates children and other people has to cope with the new change. Youre changing your location to out of state, well you can't take your bird with you for that long of a distance or for such a drastic change that they'll have a hard timr adapting to.
We normally don't think of nor want these inconveniences that make us re-home our birds, but they happen and it makes us look bad. Most of the time, the traits of humans and birds done align in the right way, they are non fitting puzzle pieces.
We as humans sometimes cannot GIVE our birds what they need, and birds in turn cannot GET what they need.

3. Ignorance Is NOT Bliss
Just like the above, there are unintentional inconveniences, but that roots from ignorance and not truly understanding and knowing what a bird really needs to thrive.
What we don't know can hurt them. Nowadays, people don't do the proper research to be able to say "I can take in this bird." People don't take the time to really learn about their care nor their emotional needs and how they can meet them.
People are usually not willing to change their lifestyle or mindset for these poor creatures. And that's where the problem lies. This goes with any exotic as well. We have people going in big chain pet stores that sell them not only the birds or other exotics, but the wrong information along with it. And it's not just the care. If people don't understand a birds behavior or wild instincts, there could be a lot of damage done, and off to the rescue shelter you go. And then the bird suffers with yet again, another repeating cycle of trauma, rehoming, and the wish for a forever home and peaceful life with a loving family/ caretaker.

This is how birds and other exotics end up in rescues all the time. Plus a bunch of other factors.
 

Cottonoid

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Cotton is my first bird, but with my pets before him I've thought about how most people would never dream of just dropping their human child off at a "rescue" because their child didn't like their new partner, or because their job required they use daycare, or because their child screamed too much.

(This is not meant to be a comment on the real life interventions for families in need of help with care; that's for another day/forum)

My pets aren't my child because the relationships are more complex and lifelong in all the ways - my kid moved out!

These are good thoughts you've laid out, Ria. And really good ones for any prospective parrot owner.

Cotton most likely came from a not-great breeding situation/mill and almost certainly came through a pet store that has a constant rotation of unusual species. He's certainly been shuffled around a lot in the last year, after already suffering illness and stress. And he's just one bird that his former family did love. Affection alone just isn't what our birdies need.
 
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Ria.345

Banned
Banned
Jun 23, 2021
261
833
New York City
Parrots
Sun Conure and Umbrella Cockatoo
  • Thread Starter
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  • #6
Cotton is my first bird, but with my pets before him I've thought about how most people would never dream of just dropping their human child off at a "rescue" because their child didn't like their new partner, or because their job required they use daycare, or because their child screamed too much.

(This is not meant to be a comment on the real life interventions for families in need of help with care; that's for another day/forum)

My pets aren't my child because the relationships are more complex and lifelong in all the ways - my kid moved out!

These are good thoughts you've laid out, Ria. And really good ones for any prospective parrot owner.

Cotton most likely came from a not-great breeding situation/mill and almost certainly came through a pet store that has a constant rotation of unusual species. He's certainly been shuffled around a lot in the last year, after already suffering illness and stress. And he's just one bird that his former family did love. Affection alone just isn't what our birdies need.
You are so right! At least Cotton now has a great living situation!! These sort of things happen everyday but we really underestimate the circumstances. Sigh.
 
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