It is a true and genuine honor for me to be able to share my life with birds. I find I rarely take for granted each encounter I have with the ones in which I share my house. I type this as I have Rico, my Umbrella Cockatoo sitting on the chair to my left foraging with one of his favored foot toys and a chickadee about 4′ to my right figuring out how to get into the aviary. This aviary is the best thing I could have done for the birds and for myself. I find myself sitting here at the patio table listening and watching all the wild birds. It really is neat to just sit and watch how they function each day and watching them think and interact. I watch my parrots watch them also. I find it so fascinating to watch my birds observing how things are done. It’s fascinating to watch them put their observations to work. Research has stated that observational learning is a sign of higher intelligence (Bodini 2005).
I rely heavily on observational learning to help in teaching my imprinted Moluccan Cockatoo to understand he is a bird by watching my Umbrella Cockatoo.Watching the changes in behavior and how these two have grown and developed together over the past 3 1/2 years has just been amazing, and you can bet that I have it all documented. Rocky, my Moluccan Cockatoo came to me 3 1/2 years ago with numerous issues. So many that, well I won’t go into detail but Rocky’s future had a time limit. It is Rocky that has brought my fingers to the keyboard here today. Let me tell you my morning ventures with an amazing bird.
Since I brought Rocky home 3 1/2 years ago, our relationship has changed visibly almost daily. This bird has taught me many thing including patience, small steps in modifying behavior, side effects from taking choice away, and most of all how precious life really is. Every morning my soul just smiles when I hear his morning whistle. I smile when I hear the “thunk” of things falling and hitting the cage grate. When I hear this, I know he’s foraging. Foraging was something he knew nothing about 3 1/2 years ago.
This morning Rocky and I had to take a venture out of the house which required him to go into his carrier. I won’t lie but the carrier and the presence of a towel are two things I haven’t worked on in a while with Rocky. I showed him the carrier this morning and asked him to step in and right on in he went. I shut the door and he turned around and looked at me. “Good” I said as I slipped some palm nuts in through the door. He immediately started chewing on them. Out the back door we slipped and headed for the garage while Rocky squealed “Hi Rocky!” to the neighborhood. Never a dull moment with this guy, I tell ya.
I sat his carrier on the garage floor in front of my Jeep. I needed to back the Jeep out before putting him in the front seat. I told him “Hang on” as I jumped in the Jeep and backed it out of the garage. My eyes glanced up to look at Rocky in his carrier. A thought and a wave of emotion struck me so strong. Rocky was sitting in the dark garage on the floor. His eye peered out the side window of the carrier at me. That’s all I could see was his eye and how intent he was in watching me. That is when it really struck me how these precious lives are truly at our mercy. As much as we try in creating independence in them, their livelihood is totally dependent on us. I sat there and starred at him and thought “No matter how hard I try to create independence in you Rocky, you will always have to depend on the human race for your care.” Why this was such a revelation to me at that time, I don’t know. I have thought about their dependence on us numerous times. It was that eyeball starring back from inside the carrier in the dark garage that struck me so hard. There may come a day when I won’t be pulling back into that garage and it is my responsibility to raise them and train them for a future beyond my household. If I love them that much, this will be one of the best things I can do for them.
I opened the door and walked up to the carrier and picked it up. I peered through the front panel and said “Rock, you are such a good boy.” The crest feathers went up and a look of calm came over his face as he blurted out a “Dooo doooo doooo doooo, Rocky a good boy?” I laughed as we walked to the Jeep. “Yea, Rocky is a good boy.” I said.
I was so proud of him this morning. He went through several events that pushed his stress buttons for
sure. Through the positive interactions and training we’ve worked on over the past 3 1/2 years, Rocky accepted every potential aversive with which he was presented. Once very feared items and unfamiliar situations and locations, his training and our relationship made the morning events result in having one hell of a proud care taker. When our morning event was coming to a close, Rocky looked at me and bounced up and down on my arm with each force of gravity letting out his ear piercing squeal. He does this when he’s very excited. If no one in the building knew Rocky was there before, they sure did now. “I love you Dooo! (his nickname, see above) You Rock!” I said. “Rocky a good boy?” he said. “Yes, Rocky is a good boy.” I replied. I knew what was coming from him next. “Dooo dooo dooo dooo!” I asked him to step into his carrier and in he went without a second thought. Wow, what a feeling all of this was for me today. I am so honored to be able to share my days with him. As they say, “Someone’s disposables may be another’s treasure.” A treasure he is. “A gem” is what I often call him. He gives life a whole new meaning.
I end this with Rico still sitting to my left but now fluffed and perched on one foot. The chickadee to my right has now been replaced with another sitting in a small tree, chirping to his heart’s content. Life is good. Life is good.