On December 26th, I was given the most precious gift a person could ever get – a baby Umbrella Cockatoo.My husband, Matt, and I made an hour and a half drive to a breeder in Gregory, Michigan. When we arrived we were greeted by Mike and shown downstairs, where we waited anxiously to meet our new bundle of joy. Mike brought us a small tub which held two baby Umbrella Cockatoos. One male and one female, they stared at us from inside the tub. Just seeing them melted my heart and I wanted to take them both. Mike handed me the little male and I held him close to my chest. He snuggled under my chin and at that moment I just knew he was going home with me, no questions asked.
Both babies were only 3 months old, just learning how to perch and still a little clumsy. It was time for their feedings, so I sat on the floor with Mike and helped him feed. They both eagerly took a few spoonfulls of formula and then devoured some warm soaked weaning pellets. Content from the warm food, they both waddled around the floor for a few minutes.
I couldn’t help myself, I picked up the little male and just held him close to me. He let out a few soft coos and chirps and then fell fast asleep in my arms. My husband took care of business and then we wrapped the baby in a soft towel and placed him in the carrier.
On the way home, we were trying to figure out a name for the new member of the family. I rattled off what seemed like 1000s of names and not one seemed to fit. From inside the carrier the baby bird let out a holler, as if to say, “Pick one already!” and he raised his crest. With his crest raised he looked like he was wearing a wizard’s hat. Just then it hit me, “Merlin!” We both agreed that Merlin was a perfect name.
Merlin made himself right at home. He was still on one feeding a day of formula and was handfed warm soaked weaning pellets. He experimented with all the new solid foods I gave him. Merlin preferred veggies over fruits although he liked apples, grapes and oranges. He took to the bean mix right away and enjoyed munching on his birdie bread.
Being a “working bird Mom”, Merlin had to learn to play on his own and entertain himself while I was at work. I have a pretty flexible schedule but there were times I was gone for 8 hours in the day. I provided Merlin with safe, fun toys and he did very well by himself.
Merlin spoke his first word at the age of 4 months. One morning when I uncovered his cage and said Good Morning, he greeted me with a very excited “Hello!” I was so thrilled to hear this. I had always been told that cockatoos were not the greatest talkers, but if that was the only word he ever learned, it was OK with me.
I also started training Merlin to wear a “Feather Tether.” He accepted it well and never gave a fuss about putting it on or taking it off.
Even though it was January here in Michigan, we had a week of strange weather where the temperatures were in the high 60’s to mid 70’s. Merlin was able to go outside for the first time to see the beautiful world around him. He wore his harness and was able to explore the sights and sounds of the great outdoors.
Merlin also had his first visit to see the avian vet when he was 4 months old. He had been to the vet with the breeder when he was a couple of months old, but I wanted to be sure that everything was going well and that he was a healthy bird. My vet assured me he was in excellent condition. He got his first wing trim and was very good for the vet. Even when “Dr O.” had to get “personal” with Merlin, he was very brave and gave us no fuss.
When he was about 5 months old, I began taking Merlin for rides in the car when I went to the video store, hardware store or the bank. He really seemed to enjoy riding and now he goes with me just about everywhere. I take him to work with me, where I take care of teenage foster boys. The boys love to have Merlin visit and Merlin loves all the attention that he gets when he is there. When I have to stay for the weekend, Merlin stays with me at the group’s home. He has a large travel cage that I keep there and Merlin is very comfortable in it. Merlin has helped a few of the boys become more social with the other kids just by being there. They ask me questions about Merlin and it gives them something to talk about. They also take turns caring for Merlin by changing food and water dishes and cleaning the cage.
Time flew by and Merlin was already 7 months old. He learned to say many words and phrases. His favorite was “Merlin’s a good boy!” Merlin also picked up “Peek a boo,” “I love you,” “Hello buddy,” and started to crow like a rooster. If I was in another room in the house and Merlin got lonely he would make the rooster sound and I would repeat it back to him. It was as if he was asking “Am I OK? Are you OK?”
In July of this year we purchased a camper trailer and set it up at a campground in Ohio. Merlin goes with us every weekend and has a great time. The campground is so big that you need a golf cart to get around. Merlin rides on the golf cart like an old pro. People get a kick out of seeing him ride around and stop us to ask about him and to meet him. He likes to meet new people and greets them with a friendly “Hello” or “Merlin’s a good boy!” It is a great way to educate people on parrot ownership. There are a few other people that we have met at the campground who also bring their birds with them. It’s a lot of fun to meet and talk with other bird people.
Merlin turned one year old on September 27. He is such a joy to have as a companion and a family member. He brightens my day. After a hard day at work I can’t wait to get home to see him. Merlin is a lot of work, but I wouldn’t give him up for the world. Merlin also shares our home with another parrot, a Senegal, named Kiwi, four Zebra Finches, three cats and a Siberian Husky.
Umbrella Cockatoos make wonderful pets and companions, but I strongly recommend that people do research and talk to breeders and owners of parrots before they decide to purchase one. Most of all they need to make sure they have enough time in the day and in their lives to give the bird the attention it will need all of its life. If the answer is yes, then a parrot will become another wonderful member of their family.