Up at the Crack of Dawn with Rooster
By Margie Gear, Adoptive Parent
I was grazing through my friends’ Facebook musings in July of 2010 when I saw a plea posted by the Mickaboo Cockatoo Coordinator to contact her regarding a cockatoo in need. An email exchange with her revealed that an umbrella cockatoo needed to be picked up from an apartment complex down in Los Gatos, CA. The initial background we received was that he had been abandoned by his owner “out back in a secluded area behind a large ocean freight container on a paved parking lot, in a wide open space that sits on the property”.
When I arrived at the complex, I met with the woman who had called Mickaboo, a Good Samaritan named Lynn who had been caring for the bird, named Rooster, for several days. She apparently heard his screams from the far corner of the property, and followed the cries to the source. There she found Rooster, alone, without food or water in his cage, and obviously scared. I went with her to see where she found him. The “secluded area” was actually the garbage area of the complex. It was not “wide open”, but was surrounded by overgrown bushes and hanging trees - a perfect haven for predators. The “ocean freight container” was actually a stinking dumpster. Rooster’s cage, which was a tall, narrow, old wrought iron structure containing only one toy, an old rawhide dog bone on a rusty chain, was still there, right next to it. Rooster had been put out with the trash.
Lynn explained to me that she’d spent the next two days coming out to see him and fill his bowls with water and some seed from her cockatiel’s stash. (She told me no pets were allowed at the complex, but she had snuck in her little friend.) She went and covered his cage with a blanket at night the first two nights, as she felt she couldn’t bring him in and risk getting a visit from the apartment manager, who might find her ‘tiel and make her remove him. He was thus left alone in that trash area, to endure two nights outside with the wild creatures, cold, and darkness. The morning of the second day, she went out and found him at the bottom of his cage, shivering in a corner. She said she couldn’t stand seeing him suffer, so she opened his cage and brought him into her apartment. He gladly stepped right up.
Later that day, there was a knock at the door. A woman was there – she turned out to be Rooster’s owner. She handed Lynn a bag of broken sugar cookies and stated that this is what the bird, who she said she named Rooster, ate. She said that she had raised Rooster as a baby and had had him for 10 years, but was tired of his “noise and complaints”, so she rolled him out. She said that Lynn could have the bird to keep, rehome, or hand over to an organization that would take him. She then turned around and left.
Lynn tried to get Rooster to eat some apple pieces and a piece of toast, but he’d have nothing to do with them. He did eat some cashews, but that was it. He just wanted to be skritched and held, and to explore her small room. That night, she put Rooster in the only cage she had in her apartment, a spare cage designed for a ‘tiel. She said she had to put him on his side and squeeze him in, but he gladly complied. This gentle giant knew that this woman was saving his life.
When I met him, Rooster was wary, but he came to trust me enough to let me put him in the carrier I had brought. Lynn said her goodbyes and we left with cage in tow back up to San Francisco. I cleaned up his filthy cage as much as I could, added some fun, new toys, and put him in it until I could obtain a decent cage for him. I noticed immediately that he would go up to the slick bamboo perch across the top of the cage and somersault. It would appear that this was what he did to entertain himself, given that there wasn’t much else to do in that cage. It was both impressive and sad to watch. (You can see him doing his acrobatics at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVo-Ju5S1Jc.)
While I was just going to foster him, Rooster quickly stole my heart. He loves his showers and flaps and says “Pretty bird!” while in the water. When he wants me, he yells out “Hi Rooster!” It does get my attention. He has some serious screaming issues (thank goodness for large lots and understanding neighbors who are patient, deaf, or both!), and he still does pluck occasionally, but we are working on them and I have found that an early bedtime, lots of foraging and chewing toys in a roomy, new cage, regular misting and showers, and a good diet have helped
He loves his Harrisons Lifetime Pepper, most veggies, and foraging for the special cashew treat. He is a wonderful, sweet, loving guy with an opinion and a swagger - he IS a male Umbrella Cockatoo, after all! – and I am lucky to have such a special bond with him. I love him dearly.
He may never have made it if not for Lynn. When I sent her some photos of Roo and thanked her for what she did for him, she said, “You always thank me but I thank you and others like you for taking care of precious birds and other animals that need love.” Amen.