Welcome to our Photo and Information Tour!
The Cockatoo Rescue and Sanctuary provides a permanent home where pet and wild caught Cockatoos, Macaws and Greys, can live out their lives, retire with dignity, in a peaceful park like setting. Birds are housed in species specific colonies among their own kind, at our unique 20- acre Sanctuary in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. The colonies are nestled among the ferns, evergreens and bamboo giving the birds a feeling of privacy.
This site is packed with photos and information of our Sanctuary and residents. Click a species or topic from the list to view colony photos, observation notes, personality profiles, introduction details and the fun stories of interactions between birds. We detail aggression issues, challenges and solutions.
Each colony has its own distinct personality, like a soap opera each day is a new episode. We also give you tips for building Colonies, should you be inspired to create your own backyard habitat.
The Cockatoo Rescue and Sanctuary was established in 1992.
Cockatoos are affectionate, gregarious, clever, comical, enthusiastic, and mischievous birds. Those are the reasons we are attracted to them. And, those are the same reasons why we are heart broken when their personalities change under during our watch.
Pet Cockatoos are suffering from loneliness, anxiety, depression and they begin exhibiting obsessive compulsive behaviors like feather picking or self-mutilation. There can be drastic personality changes. The less obvious compulsions are pacing back and forth, going in circles over and over, repeating phrases like their name, over and over. Head swirling, bouncing up and down or, maybe your bird is quiet, too quiet. Not wanting to leave his/her cage. If your sweet Cockatoo starts biting or, attacking for no apparent reason, and screaming, relentless screaming. From a Cockatoos point of view, it can’t be much fun for them, to scream all day.
If you had a child that is exhibiting behavior of pulling their hair out, eating into their flesh, pacing for hours, spinning in circles for hours, bouncing up and down for hours, repeating phrases obsessively, not wanting to leave their room or, screaming relentlessly, I am confident that you would get that child help. You would recognize the behavior as “crazy” if it were a child. Well, when this behavior is coming from our Cockatoo it’s also crazy.
There are several reasons why this is happening;
Life stage has been halted
Going insane from captivity
Has a personality that needs a bigger life
The Big Personality/ Too Big for a Cage
There are people who have big personalities, really big personalities. I like to use the analogy of two siblings. One, sibling A has a quiet personality that loves, nothing more than to stay inside on a nice day, all curled up with a good book and a cup of tea. In school, sibling A did all her/ his homework in advance. The sibling B, would be miserable to staying inside on a nice day reading a book. Because surely there must be an adventure to be had. Sibling B is the life of the party, center of attention and in no hurry for homework, thanks to cliff notes and is a constant, source of headaches for her parents. Or, so I have been told.
Some of the Cockatoos, have really big personalities. Personalities too big to be contained into a cage or, our homes. If your Cockatoo has a big personality, you know there is no peace in your house. Your bird, with a twinkle in his eye, running around like a hyper 3-year-old, with a sugar high. You can’t leave them unattended. If company is over, your bird will be screaming to get out of the cage, so he can show off for your friends. He also wants to show off for the mail person, meter reader, neighbors much to their chagrin. If you live alone in the country, this personality is fun and entertaining enjoy, I do.
But, if you have a family or neighbors, this type of fun loving Cockatoo, can be draining. I hear from wives, whose husband has threatened to let the bird loose, divorce or something worse.
This big personality type Cockatoo, doesn’t thrive in our homes. It is very sad to see them sitting in a cage, hungry for adventure. They suffer from lack of stimulation. It reminds me of the old saying, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. This big personality type, thrives in our colonies. They have a captive audience! They can run around getting into mischief 24/7 and they can teach the captive audience new and exciting tricks. If they get bored, they can show off to the neighboring colony, who is also a captive audience.
Photo Left: Australia habitat of Bare Eyed Cockatoo
Life Stage Interruption
In the wild, Cockatoos live in huge flocks of friends and family. Their days are filled with adventure flying around, foraging for food, naps, preening each other, playing …..repeat.
If you step back and look at our stages of life, baby, toddler, school age and so on, In the early years we are totally dependent on our family nucleus mom, dad, siblings, aunts ….as we grow, our world expands, to include our own small adventures. At school age where we have a bigger life to include more friends and adventures. Slowly our life and we grow. At some point, we build our own life. Our adventures and world just get bigger. Life is one big adventure. The Cockatoos, have a life cycle. Unless they are captive… We are their family nucleus, their lives are frozen. We are their friends, family and adventures are limited to our schedule or their cage. We control the food, toys, attention is when we have time. They go to bed when we decide, we are their world. Imagine how it would be to live in a room the size of a half bath. I’m sure we would be screaming, pacing, depressed and slowly going insane.
The Cockatoos should be flying free, having fun with lots of adventures. They are meant to live in big flocks, surrounded by their own kind, they were not meant to be solitary creatures or live alone. So, the next time your Cockatoo starts screaming when you leave the room, remember, you are his whole world and he is not meant to be alone.
I often hear “my bird is so demanding that, I can’t even leave the room without him/her screaming”.
Going Insane in Captivity
I hear “my bird is no longer as content as he/she used to be”. Then I hear the pain in their voice…as they tell me all of the things they have tried. Several cages to give their bird different options. Toys of every sort, perches, swings, balls, bird behaviorist, special full spectrum lights. Organic foods, supplements , hormone shots and the list goes on and on.
I am asked if they should get a friend for their Cockatoo. Or, should they build a back yard aviary? Will it help? It sounds logical. The problem, based on personal experience and discussions with Cockatoo people who have tried the “friend” thing. There is a chance that another bird, the same species and sub-species, may get along for a while. But, it is far more likely that it will set up a sibling rivalry and they will fight for position. And the only thing louder than a Cockatoo, is two. What if they don’t like each other?
The idea of building an outdoor aviary? Well, if you are outside with your Cockatoo, it will work. But, if you go inside and your bird is outside, your Cockatoo will likely feel like its being punished or abandoned. Then comes the screaming, obsessive compulsive, self soothing behavior kicks in. Such are the drawbacks of living with Cockatoos.
Another common comment from Cockatoo people, “no matter how much attention I give my Cockatoo, it’s never enough”. Even those Cockatoo people who are home all day, every day, still say, it is never enough. They are right……and its never, ever going to be enough. Humans can never fill the void of 24/7 same species companionship. I didn’t really understand………… until the first Cockatoo colony was up. Once I was able to sit back and watch their mood and interactions.
We didn’t take these beautiful creatures out of their wild flocks, but we live with the aftermath of those who did.
Because our pet Cockatoos are just one or two generations out of the wild, they still have wild instincts that affect their behavior. They may not know why they are unhappy but, they know something is wrong. As their guardians, we need to find ways for them to cope.
Usually, pet behavior will start to change around age 10 to 20. This age range is the reason hormones are blamed for the cause of “discontent” and they may be a contributing factor. I think the primary reason, pet Cockatoos suffer from depression and anxiety is the lack of companionship, adventure, a life cycle interruption.
They lose interest in things that they previously, loved, like toys. Of course, they lose interest in those things. We all lose interest in childhood games and other things as we grow older. Who wants to play Barbie when your 20?
Pet Cockatoos have no role model, except us.
Photo Below: Seram Island home of the Moluccan Cockatoos
Now that I have explained our point of view, you know why we feel it is so important to provide Cockatoos with a better life, a bigger life. That is the motivation to take a path away from the traditional “warehouse” style of rescue.
We have to start somewhere and I started like the others, working out of my home with individual cages. Adoption rescues can’t run their operation without individual cages. I did a couple of adoptions back in 1992 when I started. I was not good at it and I didn’t like it either. I failed both adoptions and blamed myself.
For me, it was overwhelming trying to give all of the birds individual attention, clean, feed and repeat. I had a time table and any change in my schedule, meant some of the birds would have to wait until the next day, for their one on one time. I felt so guilty! I didn’t have many birds back then and it just wasn’t working. I started looking for options.
I heard about a Cockatoo breeder in our state, he kept his birds outside and utilized colonies for the “single birds” to meet. He called “a singles bar”, Jim and Susan Murphy also housed Macaws, Greys and Amazons, The single Cockatoos would find their own mate, then be “set up” for breeding. He thought, if they picked out their own mate they would produce more eggs. Jim Murphy was a character, and he has since passed.
I saw the enclosures and immediately knew it would be a solution for the individual cage dilemma and his Cockatoos looked so happy and healthy. I thought my birds looked good, his were gorgeous. From that moment my imagination went wild with possibilities.
Once in a while, we come to a cross road in life, where we can take an unexpected turn. This was mine.
The Blunt Truth
Most people donate their birds to traditional rescues because, they are no longer able to give their bird enough attention. If the bird is donated to a place that has hundreds of birds, in hundreds of individual cages, how will your bird get any attention? There are not enough hours in the day to give each bird attention. It is called warehousing birds. There are rescues that have cages in every room, stacked two or three high. A life of solitary confinement. Tame birds desperately waiting for someone to stop and notice them. Cockatoos are not particularly fond of strangers. So, the volunteers cannot give your bird “quality” snuggles like mom did.
Hundreds of birds = hundreds of cages to clean. 300 cages = 600 food and water bowls. The people who run these warehouse rescues are overworked and exhausted from working around the clock. Yet, they continue to take in birds. This is why there are so many rescues that start and fail. Something needs to change before they burn out. We need efficient, humane solutions for this growing problem. When the rescues fail, their birds are often scattered to the wind. I believe the species specific colonies, are the solution for Cockatoos.
Cockatoos cannot emotionally take, being bounced from home to home. They will crack from the stress. If you donate your Cockatoo to a rescue that finds adoptive homes and utilizes foster homes, how will your bird know it is a temporary home? It won’t and will start to bond to the foster mom. Only, to be bumped to another home?
Cockatoos are sensitive to change. If you want to find a really good home for your bird, one that is suited to the personality of your bird….do the interviewing yourself. I know it’s upsetting and it’s easier to have someone else find the home for you. The Cockatoo really suffers when its bounced around from home to home. Usually, a Cockatoo will take up to one year before they trust a new home. Don’t you owe him/ her that much?
As you navigate through this photo and information tour, consider this……. are humans really the ultimate companion for Cockatoos? Or, is it our human arrogance? Would they prefer to wait in a cage, in our living room, for scraps of attention we might give them, at the end of our day? Should re-homing be re-considered? Why do so many people think that rehabilitation and adoption should be the first choice and sanctuaries should be a last resort? Maybe, living with humans should be the last resort. The Cockatoos need more than we can give….. that’s why so many people are heard saying “no matter how much attention I give my Cockatoo, it is never enough”. Their right, they need to be living in huge family flocks. Never, ever as solitary creatures, living in our homes.
Look at the body language in the photos to come. You will see the Cockatoos hanging out, relaxing with their friends.
We are not trying to talk you out of your bird. We don’t “need” anymore Cockatoos, we have plenty. Sorry, that sounds a little harsh. We really love Cockatoos and we need more options for Cockatoo placement and clearer understanding of their unique needs. I am offering a different perspective on the issue of understanding why Cockatoos do what they do.
The Cockatoo Rescue and Sanctuary does not adopt, foster, trade, sell, breed, exhibit or display our birds. Apart from the photos on this website. We do not use our birds as educational tools. Our primary function is to provide a safe, secure, peaceful environment both physically and mentally for all of the birds in our care. This is a closed facility.
We do not give tours of any kind, even for pre-placement. We are not a vacation destination and we don’t allow families to come and visit with their bird. We don’t take photos of your bird in or out of the colonies. We will not do a live video feed or put up a camouflage duck blind, so you can look at the colonies without alarming the birds.
We have many birds here, both wild caught and pet Cockatoos that are terrified of strangers. Since I can’t read their little minds, I error on the side of caution. It is not in their best interest to be on display. Additionally, to shield the birds from chaos and a parade of strangers, we do not utilize volunteers from the public. We are not a zoo. And, most importantly, our policies are not negotiable! The safety and security of our birds is a priority.
We are aware some people are uncomfortable with our closed facility policy, I understand and respect your views. Please respect ours.
I hope you will enjoy our website Photo and Information Tour. Please visit our Wild Caught page, listed in the navigation menu.
Please consider donating to our non-profit Sanctuary. We were established in 1992 and your donation will help us provide for the birds that call this home.