-by: Betsy Lott
My Cockatoo in Morgan Hill, is an imported Moluccan. His name was dubbed with his "Boo Hiss", but I have started calling him "Boo" or "Boo Boo Bear" because I think it's kind of cruel to call any beautiful bird a condescending name such as this. (Besides that every bone in my body wants to hug and cuddle Boo and help him understand that we only want to love him, not hurt him).
Originally, Boo was imported to the US he wears the band, but I think he may have entered the US in less than impressive arrangements which is where I think he learned to be terrified of human hands and heaven forbid, gloved ones.
I believe him to be at least 15 years old, possibly older. He was living in Atherton with an elderly woman who died six years ago. About eight years before she died, the woman's daughter gave her a hand raised Lilac Fronted Amazon baby. At some point the lady also acquired a cockatiel. It was five days before someone broke in her front door to find the woman passed away. Needless to say, when the elderly woman died, her daughter contacted my friend, Jo Anne, at Portola Valley Feed to come pick up and find homes for the birds. Money was not really an issue.
Jo Anne described Boo's living conditions as such; All three birds were fully flighted living on a broomstick suspended from the bedroom ceiling in the elderly woman's home. Although all the furniture had sheets covering them for protection, nothing was chewed up, not even the broomstick. There was a central feeding location that the birds could go to as needed.
After finally catching all three birds, Jo Anne immediately had them all checked thoroughly by our avian vet. All three birds were quarantined for 45 days and treated for Psittacosis. They were treated with weekly injections and fed medicated pellets for the first 30 days. Then, after two weeks of regular pellets and fresh food, they were cultured again and received clean bills of health.
At that point the birds went to Portola Valley Feed for resale. Since then, Boo had spent every day in the same cage. Granted, it was a good sized cage, even if it was round with a dome on top (which I despise).
I had been working for Jo Anne at the store for about two years. Being the bleeding heart for any good cause that I am, I was (and still am) a sucker for any bird in a bad situation. There were two birds in the very back room of the store because they were either obnoxious or pathetic. The obnoxious one was a Blue and Gold Macaw named Coco and the pathetic one was Boo.
Sine my own Blue and Gold Macaw is such a cuddle bug (more like a Technicolor Cockatoo), I decided Coco's only problem was due to improper care on the part of her previous owner. (Coco had a particular liking for human digits if you get my drift).
Coco & Boo's cages were across from each other I felt sorry for both birds but my husband flat out said "we have enough, love them at the store all you want, just don't bring anymore home". (Any guess as to where my home away from home is now)?
I began by offering treats to both Coco and Boo. Boo, still to this day, will not take food from me, but I soon won over Miss Coco the Cuisinart. Coco thought I was her new champion. Once I won her over, there was no avoiding her, (not that I would, mind you). She appointed herself my "guardian-bird", no one could get within an arms reach of me without her lunging at them. Even if I had her out on a perch near me in the store, no one could go near her unless losing a digit was an option. She's been getting a lot better. I spent a lot of time holding Coco, playing with her, preening her, etc., all in the line of Boo's sight, but he's still not buying into that game. Coco recently lucked out by finding a couple who could handle her and promised to shower her with love and care as I had, so she's off to a good home at long last.
My husband finally consented to buying Boo for two reasons: He wanted to see me at home more often and Jo Anne made me an offer I absolutely couldn't refuse.
Boo came to live with us in our "bird world". Of course the first thing I had to do to welcome him home was buy him a bunch of toys and some new perches. I gave him one perch especially higher than the others so he would have a nice place to roost at night. He came the closest to being touched that afternoon when I installed the perch. I hadn't even gotten the thing secured yet when he opened his large beak and hoisted himself upward to the perch, but alas, all good things must come to an end. As soon as Boo realized he was within six inches of my hand supporting the perch, he dropped like a hot rock to the bottom of his cage and tried to become one with the newspaper. I should point out that I never attempted to frighten him by reaching for him or anything
like that. When Nate, my husband came home that night, we sat down and tried to figure out what to do. He asked if we should call Sally Blanchard. I said that although I dearly love Sally's great advice, after reading many articles by Layne Dicker, we decided to call him.
Layne had us catch Boo in a towel and take him to a neutral room for work. We used our hall way since we could close off either end, then it was just me, Boo and the floor. After weeks of work Boo would step up onto my hand, but only so long as I had a towel over it. He is still terrified of touches with human hands. After a few more weeks worth of this step up step down game, Boo sidled over my arm to be closer to me. Without even thinking, I leaned over and kissed him, Boo freaked out. Quickly realizing that I spooked him, I quietly asked him to come back to me and he did. Then I looked him in the face and told him he looked like a porcupine and if he wanted me to preen him, he'd have to let me kiss him to do it. After much skepticism Boo decided he liked having my lips comb through his feathers, so he would let me do this for hours. After several more weeks of this, we still couldn't get any further with him. We wanted so badly to ease his scared demeanor. One day, a friend of mine, who had been out looking for cottages to rent, called to tell me about a breeder of Moluccan's she'd recently been to see. (The lady had a cottage on the grounds which is how my non-breeder friend found her). I got in touch with Carol, (the breeder) later that day. As it turned out, Carol had a female M2 as skitzo as Boo was, but for totally different reasons.
The hen, who's name is now Phoenix used to have a mate, who one day beat the crap out of her. He maimed her wing, broke her foot, tried to rip her beak off, just to name a few. Anyway, during months of rehab, Phoenix took a dislike to humans because they constantly made her hurt (you know how physical therapy works). After talking it over with Carol, my husband, and even Layne Dicker, we decided to see what the two birds would think of each other. So we took Boo down to Morgan Hill with his cage to meet Phoenix. For Phoenix, it was love at first sight. Boo took a bit longer to come around. For the first 4 weeks their cages were about 2 feet apart. Then Carol gradually began to scoot the cages closer together. (From day one though, Phoenix was one with the bars of her cage. She wanted Boo.) Finally, their cages were touching and Phoenix was still trying desperately to meld through the bars to be with Boo. Boo was kind of warming up to the idea. One night, Carol decided to open the two cage doors and see what the birds would do. Right away they both climbed out and went to the tops of their respective cages. After about two hours of them just staring at each other, Carol decided to leave them out and just go to bed. Just after midnight that night, she got up and decided to check on them. Wouldn't you know it, they were on top of Phoenix's cage snuggling and preening each other! Carol went back to bed smiling. The next morning when she got up to feed, Boo and Phoenix were inside her cage sharing breakfast pellets. In early June, she moved them outside to a huge flight. They took to it wonderfully! She went straight for the nest box and he became her protector. Now whenever anyone is walking by or changing the cage liners or feeding, Boo stands in front of her, wings cocked, crest up, stamping his foot and hissing. He's making certain we all know that Phoenix is his woman! The did have an egg last year, but it wasn't fertile. We really don't care if they ever breed, but it is so heart warming to see them happy. -Betsy Lot