What is an Umbrella Cockatoo?

The Umbrella Cockatoo is sometimes also called the White Cockatoo, or White-Crested Cockatoo, although there are quite a few other white ones out there!  In total, there are over fifteen different species of Cockatoos.  It's called the "Umbrella" Cockatoo, the more popular name, because of their crest which looks like an umbrella when it's fanned out, as you can see in the picture below.  Although they look all white from the outside, they actually have a few yellow feathers underneath their wings and the underside of their tail.  The males are typically larger than the females, with larger beaks and usually a darker iris, whereas the females have more of a reddish brown to their iris.  The Umbrella Cockatoo is one of the larger of the Cockatoos, and can live to be 60 - 70 years old.  They are native to Indonesia, the islands just north of Australia and south of the Philippines, so Rocky is a long way from home!  They have a larger "twin", called a Moluccan Cockatoo, or Salmon Crested Cockatoo, native to the Moluccan Islands.  Cockatoos can be very affectionate and loving, and can sometimes require a lot of attention.  Cockatoos can talk, and can often be very loud, but none of this is the case with Rocky, a very unique bird indeed!

I often refer to Rocky as my dog, and when people finally see him they wonder why. "He's a bird", they  tell me. Okay, yes,  I know that...he's a bird. But Rocky doesn't know that, and he hasn't complained yet. You see, a few years ago I really wanted to get a dog, but I was unable to get one due  to landlord restrictions. I still wanted a pet, though, so I began to think about what type of pet  I could get and my decision was pretty much limited to smaller cage animals. Initially I thought about a Ferret, but the first one I looked at thought my finger as a french fry and tried to take a bite, so I nixed that idea. Besides that, the $200 asking price was way too high for an animal you can get elsewhere for about 35 bucks. Ferrets are illegal pets for private ownership here in California, so that is the reason for the steep asking price. So the search continued for an exotic pet until a friend of mine, who owned a parrot, suggested that we look at birds.

Most people I talked to told me to get a Cockatiel or a Lovebird as a first bird, but I wasn't about to settle for a starter bird. Nah, I wanted a big bird. So we went to all the bird stores here in town, like
Bird Crazy and Our Feathered Friends, to see what they had. We also went to the Wild Animal Park and the San Diego Zoo to watch the bird shows there. There was another place called Freeflight, in Del Mar, where the birds were all outside in a large enclosed area and as you walked through you could handle the birds and get to see what they were like up close and personal. I immediately went to the biggest bird there, a Hyacinth Macaw, and he was a real sweetheart. The size of his beak made me a little nervous, though, especially since my friends Senegal Parrot (read that 'small') had taken blood samples from me on a regular basis. Still, I inquired about the price and after hearing it I shook my head, picked myself up off the ground, brushed the dirt from my pants and asked if they really meant that he was for sale for nine thousand dollars. Uh-huh. Nine thousand!

They kindly suggested that I look more towards the Cockatiels or Lovebirds. Back to the damn starter birds again. I adamantly shook my head and asked if they had any birds that were in the lower-middle-class price range. We continued to look around and I saw an Umbrella Cockatoo there named Snowy and I fell in love with him. It was then and there that I decided that the Umbrella Cockatoo was going to be my favorite bird. Snowy was not for sale as he was their own bird, but the price was more realistic for a large parrot. I really think that compared to the sticker shock of my first inquiry almost anything would be easier  to swallow than six of my automobiles. But still, $900 for a wild caught bird that needs to be tamed was a lot of money, and $1200-1600 for a tame bird was far out of my price range. After all, I was just planning on going to the Humane Society and adopting a dog for about a hundred bucks or so. So I started to look  towards the birds in my price range and was stuck with choosing a smaller bird. I wasn't happy with it, but I knew that I was not going to be able to spend the kind of money needed for a Cockatoo. We eventually found a Green Cheek Conure for about $200 and after spending some time with him I decided to put down a 50% deposit.

In the week that followed my friend found an ad in one of the local papers for an Umbrella Cockatoo for $200. Now, if you think like I do you must be wondering to yourself, "What was wrong with the bird?". Skeptical as I am human, I nonetheless decided to call the person with the ad and we stopped by that afternoon to see him. When we went in 'Kingsly' hissed and reared back at the sight of me, and by the identification band on his left leg we could tell that he was a wild-caught bird, probably confiscated while someone was attempting to bring him into this country illegally. We talked to the owner and he told us that Kingsly was purchased from a bird store, and that he had to sell him because he and his fiancée were moving to a new condo that wouldn't allow pets. I asked him to take the bird out and he very cautiously reached in and slowly took him out. Every time I got close he looked like he was going to bite me, and although the owner said Kingsly had not bitten anyone he still looked pretty intimidating. As we talked he made his way back into the cage where he sat and stared at me, probably wondering the same thing I was wondering: "Is he gonna hurt me?"

After talking a while longer I was told that we were the first ones to reply and that someone else was going to come by the next day to look at the bird. I knew I had to make a decision that night, because the price was a steal and with the $700 I would save over the birds in the stores I could buy lots of antiseptic and bandages. I made one last attempt to pick him up and as I reached my arm into the cage, to see if he would step up, he lunged out and placed his massive beak around my forearm. I immediately cringed and expected the worst. I reminded myself that it was impolite to cry in front of strangers so I mustered up all the courage I could and I pulled my arm out of the birds grasp. I was so caught up in the potential of experiencing intense pain that it took a few seconds before it dawned on me that it didn't hurt at all. I looked down at my arm and there were no visible marks whatsoever. I turned to the owner and told him that the first aid kit wasn't needed, as I proudly displayed my forearm to them sans the gaping wound that a beak (with two-thousand pounds per square inch of pressure) can inflict. I asked for a moment alone with my friend and asked her if she minded me putting the cage in the back of her car, because that bird was going to be mine. We returned and shook hands on the deal, and we brought him home.

 Once home he was briefly given the name 'Snowball' by my friend, but I made an executive decision that I wanted a much kewler name. Who ever heard of a dog named 'Snowball' anyway? I thought for a moment, and his white feathers reminded me of the rock candy I used to eat as a child so I finally decided to name him 'Rocky'. I called the bird store where I had the deposit on the Conure and explained to them my situation. He knew that I truly had my heart set on an Umbrella, and he graciously refunded my deposit and wished me well.

I never did figure out what the previous owner did to make Rocky distrust him, or anyone else for that matter, but I have had him since 1992 and he has not bitten anyone. He is a very calm bird with such a gentle nature about him that everyone simply falls in love with him. Unlike other parrots, he is very independent and he is surprisingly well behaved. He is extremely quiet for a parrot, too, as he just doesn't make much noise at all. In fact, most of my neighbors never even know I have a bird until I tell them. And you know what the best part is? He doesn't talk. That's right, not a single word! Most parrots can at least utter a few unrecognizable words or complete phrases, but Rocky only 'peeps'. If you don't own a bird, hearing one talk is pretty amusing. But one of the most difficult things to teach a bird to do, if not completely impossible, is to just shut up!

Please click on one of the links at the top left to read more about "being Rocky".
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