I didn't foresee it happening but I recently adopted a 24 year-old U2 named Baby. He hasn't been sexed but based off of his behavior, I am guessing he's a male. I plan to have him DNA'd soon. Baby was surrendered to a local bird rescue when his previous companion experienced health issues and was no longer able to care for him due to her old age.
I visited the bird rescue because I was looking for an addition to my flock but originally hoped to find a macaw that was drawn to me. There are already two other birds in my family - Rigby, a CAG, and Nickie B, my cockatiel I've had since I was 13. I purchased Rigby from a reputable breeder and he's a wonderful companion. Upon educating myself more on parrot care and behavior, I decided I wouldn't look to breeders or stores to find a new bird for our flock since there' so many in desperate need of a good home. I figure if you're in it to find a life companion then it shouldn't matter whether they're babies if you connect with the right bird. (I'm well-aware of the philosophy of this site and agree with it now that I've had my experience with Baby).
I've wanted a larger parrot since I was a kid and I thought my experience with Rigby, which has sometimes been challenging because of his anxiety, served me well to adopt a macaw or a cockatoo. I went to the rescue to find toys for Rigby and to browse the birds up for adoption as well as to look into volunteering. After seeing the macaws up for adoption at the rescue, I asked about the cockatoos.
It was then that I met Baby. I don't know what exactly drew me to him or what drew him to me but he perked up the minute I walked up to his cage. The volunteer said he he didn't behave like that normally and that he was usually completely shy. His lower chest was bare from picking but overall he looked healthy. His cage was entirely too small and the volunteer told me that his previous companion became too elderly to take him out on his stand so he stayed in his small cage most of the time. He eventually stepped onto my hand after a little coaxing and soothing words and after sitting with him for about two hours, we had bonded. I knew I couldn't leave him in such distress and felt right about adopting him. I would procure a much larger cage and get him what he needed. Meanwhile, I would enjoy a devoted companionship for life. I maintain basic knowledge of cockatoos from research and reading due to interest so I thought I could handle it and it would be fine.
Boy, was I wrong...No amount of reading can prepare you for what it's like to live with a rescued U2. I don't even feel like Baby had a honeymoon period at all. He immediately bonded with me and became instantly possessive of me, some of which I took for good signs. It wasn't even two hours after being home that I experienced first hand the intense, demonic vocalizations of a stressed out cockatoo. He walked around the entire house calling for his mama and screaming a pulsating cry that sounded like Satan was ascending from hell. Some of it was cute and precious, since he says "Hi Baby" and "Hi", "Momma", "I love you" and "where are you". He doesn't behave as if he was abused because it's clear his previous mom dearly loved him and showered him with affection - maybe a little too much. However, it seems like he's spent years in a small cage, deprived of his human partner. He screamed if I left the room for five seconds and when I tried to let him roam the house to explore, he strutted about, screaming even more. Needless to say, it was overwhelming to me, Rigby, Nick, and Devin (my Boston Terrier). He instantly raised the anxiety level of everyone in my house, most notably me. Baby finally stopped the overwhelming screaming a few minutes after I put him to bed. It had been reverberating through the house for two hours and I was exhausted and stressed. I decided I made a huge mistake and couldn't hack it. Could I really live like this for the rest of my life? I went to bed believing I would take Baby back the next day and fess up to my na´vetÚ.
I awoke later that night after some rest and couldn't stop thinking about Baby. I felt horribly guilty that I had agreed to care for him only to realize that it wasn't at all what I expected it to be. I decided maybe my intentions outweighed my abilities and I wouldn't be able to properly care for him. I was justified in retreating from this challenge (or more a duty) because I did so with incomplete information.
I wasn't being honest with myself. When I awoke later that night, I faced the fact that I had been wooed by Baby's cuddly nature in the rescue and that I was endeared by his attraction to me. In reality, caring for Baby entails much more than my love for his cuddliness. He has significant behavior issues due to neglect and I am admittedly directly inexperienced with caring for neglected large parrots despite my love of learning and reading about it. I realized this fact did not remove the duty I had accepted to care for him, even with his behavior issues and the inadvertent neglect he experienced in his past. I hadn't thought carefully about what caring for a rescue cockatoo would entail and I had barely begun the challenge when I was giving up on him. I resolved I was better than that and that Baby deserved better than that. I took to the web for research and eventually stumbled upon mytoo.com and this forum.
I can't express how much it's helped me. I learned this feeling is common among too owners and that there is this special, awesome responsibility these birds require that is keenly spiritual if you accept it. Baby is keenly aware of my emotional posture toward him and possesses an emotional capacity that overwhelms his ability to function. He seems to see me with a deep sense of trust when we haven't even known each other a week. It's overwhelmingly special. It's also overwhelmingly intense to care for him because of this. This site and message board helped me realize that my feelings were normal and with the right amount of patience and devotion I could succeed for Baby and help guide him to a healthier life with more assurance.
We're now about four days into the journey and I'm happy to report that attitude from the human changes everything when caring for cockatoos. I've learned that there's a function to Baby's behavior and I've intently worked on using emotional intelligence and environmental analysis to determine what he needs and what he must now learn. I also recognize he's probably been exhibiting some of these behaviors for dozens for what could be dozens of years and he may never fully be a calm, manageable bird. I'm okay with that but I am pleased at his progress in such a short time. He's finally in a much larger cage but he seems to be a little uncomfortable with it. It's clear the space and size overwhelm him. He adores being cuddled and being near me at all times and he clearly has no concept of existing independently of the person he's bonded with. I'm working on baby steps by having "Baby Time" and then having my time and ignoring his demonic calls for attention or responding to sounds that I can tolerate and that I would rather him use to check that I'm coming back or still near. I'm happy to report I can walk around the house away from him for brief periods without him screeching and it hasn't even been a week.
I'm so thankful he's in my life and while I know I have a lifetime of challenges ahead of me while caring for him and breaking him of his deep-seated bad habits, they'll be accompanied by lifetime rewards of companionship and devotion between us.