Companion Cockatiels – Amusement

I always kept German Shepherds until I found myself living in inner city apartments ten years ago. When I met a couple who urgently needed their two cockatiels babysat for six weeks I couldn’t resist the opportunity.

These birds, a female and younger male, were hard case. He wouldn’t always sit on my shoulder when I left the room, but she did, and when she and I left, he would set up a ruckus, then launch himself off the cage and plummet, clip-winged to the floor to march after me, shouting to his girlfriend the whole way. Both had paper fetishes and bit cute little beak shapes out of any paper I was remiss enough to leave within reach.

Now I have two male cockatiels, Coriander and Bergamot (B&C). Cockatiels, as members of the parrot family, fall under the category of companion birds. They want to be in your company and to interact with you. They are affectionate, sensitive, surprisingly intelligent and downright comic.

They are very messy, however, and I constantly clean up after them. The mess is mostly husked seeds which parrots seem to enjoy flinging for at least a metre radius of their cage.

All parrots are flocking birds and in the wild, when separated from the flock, call to each other. In captivity they do the same thing… only in captivity, it is I who represents the flock.

They want to know that I’m within cooee and whistle me up periodically to make sure I’m still around. As long as I respond, they’re content. If I’m a bit tardy with responding, they’ll come looking for me. I’ll be sitting at the computer madly writing when two little birdies appear at the doorway, chirruping. They clump straight over to my feet and begin climbing until they reach my shoulder where they hunker down, gurgling (much as a cat purrs), content. If I sit next to their cage, they’ll clamber out and clumsily leg it over to sit on me.

B&C are free to be out of their cage when I’m home but I lock them up to go out because they will occupy themselves, beak first, with the nearest interesting looking thing. Telephone cables and electric leads are chief amongst attractive items. They’ll destroy my plants for the pure pleasure of nipping the leaves off. If it’s metal, they’ll find the weak link within seconds. Jupiter, a male cockatiel I once had, would sit on my shoulder and play with my earring. Next he’d crane his head around in front of my face to show me the bit he’d just disengaged from the hook which would still be in my ear.

I’ve taught this pair to say, You’re a twit. It amuses visitors. Recently I left them with the breeders for a couple of weeks. When I returned, they were saying Hello Darling. Both sing in tune to Strauss waltzes, as conducted by Karajan. I leave a CD on repeat while I’m away to serve as company and increase their repertoire. Bergamot has annoyingly picked up the screech of a Mynah Bird and Coriander repeats the sound of my mobile phone messaging beep. You’ve heard the expression, ‘learning parrot fashion?’ It means, repetitive. That’s how you teach birds to pick up new words and sounds.

B&C adore Milk Arrowroot biscuits as a treat. They used to go crazy for broccoli but prefer silverbeet now. They’re also partial to green beans, manuka, bottlebrush, eucalypts, pittasporum and willow. They pick them happily to bits which they fire gloriously about the place. It keeps them busy as well as nourishing them. I thread a folded piece of paper through their cage bars and they tug at it for days. A small pine cone also keeps them occupied.

In the wild, cockatiels spend approximately 80% of their time foraging, interspersed with periods of rest. B&C will be busy as summer bees, flat out singing, scrambling over their cage, pulling branches and leaves apart, and then all of a sudden, there they are with their heads on backwards, their beaks buried in the feathers on their backs, and their eyes closed.

They love being sprayed with water occasionally and rub their heads along the perch, wings stretched out and up, tipping themselves at crazy angles to take full advantage of the spray. I used to take Jupiter into the shower with me. When he’d had enough he’d scramble up my arm and I’d roost him on the rail to preen while I washed.

B&C are still young at six months. I can expect to have the company of these charming feathered clowns for twenty years or more.

Source by Theresa Sjoquist

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