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The Great Cockatoo Capture

By Patricia Blau


Most companion birds who are released into the outdoors don’t survive – they simply do not have the survival skills to live and protect themselves without their human family.  This story describes one of the more literal and successful rescues on which our volunteers have embarked. 

On the 8th of February, 2011, a plea for help went out to Mickaboo volunteers to rescue a “cockatiel” loose in the back yard of a Sacramento resident.

The first volunteer to reach the site, Robin Fritz, discovered not a cockatiel but a Goffin’s cockatoo, munching away on the food in a wild bird feeder.  Though the bird showed interest in Robin, it was too frightened to come out of the trees for capture.  Robin left.

The next day, Scott Shipley met with the homeowner who had reported the loose bird.  A large oak was pinpointed as the cockatoo’s favorite hang-out; the bird had been flying around the neighborhood for about three weeks!  Checking various yards, Scott soon spotted the bright white bird in a neighbor’s yard.  Scott tried a slow approach, but the cockatoo took off handily—he could fly very well.

Soon the bird returned to the favored oak tree.  The neighbors said the cockatoo liked to talk to the humans but would not approach.  Scott tried hanging out below and chatting him up.  The cockatoo listened, and then changed locations. Scott moved with him, chatting away, from one tree to another.  Still, the bird kept his distance.

The next day more Mickaboo volunteers, Alisa Simonoff and Jason Smith, met Scott at the oak.  Scott brought his cockatoo, Gracie, who is very social with other cockatoos.  In addition, Scott’s pockets held food—notably peanuts, which most birds cannot resist.

The loose bird was chomping away at the bird feeder.  He immediately showed interest in Gracie, and he came quite close.  Scott put Gracie, in harness, on a shed roof and brought out the peanuts.  The cockatoo came so close at this attempt that he almost took a peanut from Scott’s hand.

Though Alisa and Jason had to leave, Scott stayed to tempt the bird with peanuts.  The cockatoo was clearly hungry and very interested!  In fact, any time the plastic peanut bag was crinkled, the bird showed excitement and would come a little closer.  He no longer seemed to want to fly out of the yard, with the good food around.

A bird travel cage was set up on a table, and Gracie was positioned on top of it.  A trail of peanuts was laid out leading to the cage; a pile of peanuts was put inside the cage.  The cockatoo ate one peanut after another, walking right up to the cage door. Tentatively, he jumped onto the open cage door and reached inside for a peanut.  Scott stayed very still, and Gracie was calm.  The loose cockatoo ate a peanut, and then reached for another. 

Now he began eyeing the pile of peanuts in the cage.  He hopped again on the edge of the cage door and sat there for what felt like a half hour.  He stared at the peanuts, looked at Gracie, looked at Scott—again and again.  He evaluated the risks.

Finally he courageously hopped into the cage for the food.  Scott moved quickly and shut the door!  The poor cockatoo, very unhappy at this new development, frantically flitted about the cage (with a peanut in his mouth). With help, Scott clipped his wings and transferred him to a larger cage with water and toys.

Now named after a nearby street, Marconi (Marco for short) was whisked to a Mickaboo foster home, occasionally saying “Hello!” along the way.  He remains there today, safe and sound in his temporary abode.  He has his own page on the website and is available for adoption by a loving family.  Though afraid of hands (so far), he loves to be talked to and continues to say “Hello!“