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#9482 - 07/17/03 03:13 AM Help this lady please  
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 3,398
Jerry Offline
Jerry  Offline
Lives Here

Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 3,398
Ohio Valley
I'm posting a letter that I received. I'm so busy at the moment that I cant post the answer she needs. Hope you members will help.

"Hi....I am sorry to say this but I think I need help.

I am writing you because I am unable to solve this problem myself and could really use a bit of advice.

I have umbrella cockatoos....3 to be exact....

Let me give you the whole story....first I got Buddy...was told he was only 7 years old but have since found out he is much older than that...actually my vet told me that the band on his leg was not a breeder band , it was a import band...so I know he is at least 21 years
old ...because of other signs I actually feel that he is older than that

Then I got JoJo....the people selling him told me he was about 7 years old....I got there and because I had already gone through this with Buddy realized that they were wrong and JoJo also wears a import band...making him about 21 ...he looks much younger than Buddy as well

Then....comes Lacey....she is a 3 year old given to me by a lady that has a business selling birds....I met her last year and went to visit...she has lots of birds of many varieties...very nice....

Anyway Buddy has his own cage...JoJo has his and they are directly across the room from each other...Lacey has her own for sleeping but spends the day with the boys.....she had no problem spending time with each of them...with JoJo it seems they are friends and she spends time in his cage when I have to put them in to do things like work...I work at home so am
here almost all the time..she plays with him on top of his cage as well...then she also spends time with Buddy....they play on top of the cage
and spend time together but it seems she has chosen him insofar as playing the mating game....so she does not seem to have a problem dividing her time with them...and to be honest I have not seem any signs of aggression toward
her from either of the boys. Here is the problem:

The first couple weeks that we had JoJo...he and buddy got along wonderfully..then suddenly out of the blue...JoJo did not want to be near
Buddy...I thought it was because Buddy was a bit more aggressive but I am finding out differently..lately

At first Buddy would try to go over to JoJo's cage...like in the beginning..but JoJo would fly off and sit on the sofa till I put Buddy back
on his own cage..this has been going on for months...no big deal....then I started to notice that when I would leave Buddy in his cage while JoJo was out, instead of behaving himself and playing on top of his cage like he
always did...JoJo would get down and go over and try to beak fight through the bars of Buddy's cage....

JoJo is becoming increasingly aggressive......I believe that he is becoming insanely jealous over me....and anytime I even approach Buddy's cage to do anything JoJo is immediately on alert...if I touch or pet Buddy in anyway...JoJo becomes totally aggitated then suddenly attacks...he was just doing flybys...then landing on me...and threatening Buddy...then he would land on me and nip me....now...today....he totally came undone just because I was putting Buddys box back on his cage after he threw it off...he
actually landed on my shoulder and bit right through my ear!!!!!! I am kind of in shock...not knowing what to do...it hurt so bad I nearly fainted but managed to put him back in his cage...I have not been able to look at him or go near him since...that was a couple of hours ago..and have finally gotten the bleeding to stop..he could have taken the top of my ear off and now I do not know what to do.....like I said...I believe he is jealous...recently he has started to act out the same way with my husband
except he has not tried to bite him yet and I would like to prevent him from doing so.

I have thought about moving him to another location in the house...but I have a very small house and not enough space to move him and his cage anywhere else...so now I must find a way to get him to understand that this is inappropriate behavior and I care for both equally....

I know I have been babbling on here but felt you should kind of get the picture of what I am up against....I feel that they have been shoved from
home to home for many years and can not even imagine parting with either of them...I do everything I can to try to give them loving caring homes and want to do so for the rest of their lives but....I want to be safe doing
it...yes I know they can bite and believe me I have gotten my share while getting to know these guys in the beginning but it has gone from the
expected "feeling each other out as to who is alpha leader" to this....vicious sudden attacks

If you have anything...I mean anything...that you can tell me...guide me in doing....help me to deter these attacks I would be so grateful and forever in your debt

Thank you for anything you can do and I wait to hear from you


#9483 - 07/17/03 05:46 AM Re: Help this lady please  
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 474
Dr. Mike Offline
Dr. Mike  Offline

Joined: May 2003
Posts: 474
New Jersey
Hi Debi

The first thing you need is to understand why this is going on. Frankly, it doesn't surprise me at all. You need to see them from a different perspective – THEIR perspective. NOT a human perspective. They are NOT humans – they are BIRDS. They have a full set of instincts that are in place to help them be successful fulfilling one goal. Reproduction. Not survival, not being “happy”, just reproduction. Nothing more, nothing less. These instincts are driven to behaviors by their God-given hormones. These hormones are there for a reason. To drive their behavior towards successful reproduction and to cause physiologic changes in their bodies to make them successful in reproduction. Nothing more, nothing less.

In the natural flock, there is a lot of space. There is also plenty of opportunity to choose a mate of similar age and seniority in the flock.

A flock has a definite age class system. Only the most senior, dominant members are able to occupy nesting territory and have reproductive status. I have defined this age class system elsewhere. Here is a link to the thread that contains the explanation of this system, as well as other information you may find useful:


Understand, though, that active reproductive status is a class above a status called sentinel/soldier status. This class is not able to be reproductively active yet. They have other jobs in the flock. Namely to act as sentinels, guarding the flock, and as soldiers – chasing away intruders – either other species of animal that want to compete for territory or food resources, or predators that want to steal babies from the nests of the reproductively active members. Birds in this class will eventually be able to become reproductively active only when they, as mated pairs, are able to lay claim to some nesting territory within the flock territory. This nesting territory is at a premium. It is a limited resource. Moving from sentinal/soldier to repro.active is a major leap in status. It has to be an earned graduation. One of several conditions must be met:

1) The available nesting territory is expanded, due to fewer competing species or predators (or by overall flock territory expansion, due to other opportunities to do so), and
2) More available food resources, or
3) Existing repro.actives becoming unable to successfully hold nest territory from younger, stronger sentinel/soldiers due to age and reproductive failure, or
4) Some repro.actives leaving the flock to find and occupy new territory, forming a completely new flock, leaving unoccupied nesting territory

So, let me define the human/bird flock dynamics that are playing out in your (very) limited flock territory. Then I will tell you what you must do to achieve harmony:

But first, let me direct you to a thread that contains a post I wrote that has a detailed explanation of imprinting - it is also a useful thread for understanding other parts of this dynamic:


First, even though Buddy and Jojo are wild-caught, they have achieved a filial imprint on humans, making them see humans as simply other flock members – subject to the same rules they instinctively are driven to follow. You are fair game. Lacey is hand-raised and not only has a filial imprint, but also a strong maternal imprint, as well. She is the most confused here, and is the innocent, caught in the middle of a power struggle.

Buddy was the first in the territory and had claimed it as his own (after you and your husband, of course). Then came Jojo, another sexually mature male. For a while, they were both sentinal/soldiers in the flock, along with you and your husband. All was well, until they each began to expand their personal territories in anticipation of potentially mating (with you). At first, Buddy (being first in) was dominant.

BTW, the “alpha-male” term is not technically correct here , as there is not the large difference in dominance between sexually mature males as there is in a dog pack between the A-male and the younger males in the pack. In the flock, all males will stay in the flock and they will each define and hold their individual territory within the flock territory. In the dog pack, the A-male is THE above all leader. Any challenge to his dominance results in his dethroning or the ousting of the challenger from the pack. There can be only one dominant leader in a pack. In a pack, this A-male has a harem of females – all making his babies. In the flock, each male has his own single female. They are monogamous. There are many dominant males in a flock – they just stratify themselves with territory lines within the flock territory.

So, then Jojo started to try to expand his territory into Buddy's. Then Buddy began challenging Jojo by going to Jojo's cage. At first, Jojo backed off. No big deal? – VERY big deal, actually. Now, when Buddy was in lockdown, Jojo began to take advantage of the situation and challenge Buddy while he had an advantage – Buddy could not fight back. There is a power struggle between these two, starting over territory and YOU (as potential future mate – first we acquire territory, then we win a mate).

Then, into the territory came Lacey, a young, VERY desirable potential mate, but with little seniority and status. She was (and is) technically just a sentinel – she is not yet a sentinel/soldier. She is, however, a “teaser” in the dynamics of your flock. She is choosing Buddy as HER mate. This suggests why Jojo is trying become the more dominant male here – He demonstrates this by becoming more insistent that YOU are under HIS control when it comes to movements within territory and who YOU interact with. YOU have more status and dominance than Lacey, so Jojo (as well as Buddy) would naturally chose you over her. Nevertheless, she has stimulated Jojo sexually, causing him to need to get things advanced to a more reproductively active level between you and him. He will show you how strong and dominant he is by forcing you to accept HIM and NOT Buddy. If he does not control you, he will not win you. This is just the way it works. Everyone wants to mate with the strongest, most dominant choice available. This ensures the likelihood of successful reproduction, as well as the likelihood of producing the strongest most viable babies possible.

Now, in the wild, of course, there is MUCH more room in the territory. Power struggles like this would play out to a point, then they would sort it out and the most dominant male would end up with the most dominant female and the others would accept and respect this and simply move out of their immediate territory and find other spots to occupy (still within the protection of the flock territory, of course, but in a lower position).

In the situation you have created, there are two major roadblocks to this harmonious resolution:

1) YOU are HUMAN. You will NEVER be able to be a mate to either of them. Furthermore, being human, and being the “owner of the territory”, with complete control over who ends up where, Jojo will never be able to control you in a way that will put HIM in this “leadership” position in the mated pair relationship he wants to have with you.
2) The territory is too limited for the dominant ones to force the less dominant ones out of “their” nesting territory. They are severely limited by totally unnatural walls and ceiling. They cannot expand as needed. As they would naturally do in the wild.

Know that you will NEVER,NEVER, NEVER get him to “understand” that this is inappropriate behavior. In his perspective, it is TOTALLY appropriate behavior. Furthermore, it is unrealistic and completely unfair to take this anthropomorphic stand and try to force him to comply with our human social structure. They are forced by their instincts and driven by their hormones to be what God made them – BIRDS!

BTW, I hope you now understand that Jojo is NOT jealous of you or anyone else. Jealousy is a HUMAN trait. He is simply trying to CONTROL you (as well as your husband, btw). This is how he would win you as a mate in the wild and how he would keep other flock members out of his nesting territory. He is simply trying to follow the rules he was born with.

Now, what to do about it. There are few possibilities that have any chance. One is to expand the territory somehow. You have indicated that this may not be possible. Buddy and Jojo need more room. Another would be to keep one locked down always when the other is out. This won't really solve anything – Jojo will still be aggressive to you and everyone else. He may decide you are just not going to be available and choose Lacey, instead, at which time he will attempt to control HER. Then you will have the potential for harm to her.

Another approach is to reduce the hormonal drive these two males are feeling, especially Jojo. Two ways to approach this:
1) Remove Lacey to another room.
2) Consider hormonal reduction therapy for Jojo (and possibly Buddy, as well). This comes in the form of hormone treatments designed to antagonize the bird's driving hormones. Three agents are available. Progesterone (effective, but some side effect possibilities), Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG – no side effects, but not as effective and must be given often as it wears off quickly), and Lupron (very expensive, no side effects, wears off less quickly than HCG, but is not always effective. All three do wear off, at some rate. This approach doesn't really solve the problem. The only REAL solution is to change the unfair dynamics you have forced them into.

You could think of this in anthropomorphic terms by imagining following scenario with all human players:

Two dominant, tough very crude and sexually hungry males are locked up in a room. There is a dominant female who controls their movements, to the point of being in control of when they each are allowed out of individual cages they each must live in most of the time within this room. She cannot be controlled, but they will always try anyway, because they really want to have sex and make babies with her and drive the other one out of the room. There is also another, less dominant male that comes and goes, but neither of these tough guys can control him, either. Sometimes, the stronger of the two is allowed to go over and push the weaker one off his favorite chair. Then, once a day, the female restrains the stronger of the two in a cage and allows the lesser of the two to go over and poke at the other with a stick. Then, a young girl is introduced into the room. She is allowed to go between the two males as she pleases. But, while she wants one of these guys, they both really want the dominant female. One of them is stimulated by this girland this stimulation just causes him to want the older female that much more.

Just imagine what would happen over time with this group and imagine how it would be any different than what you now are seeing. Think about how fair it is to any of the three that they are forced to live under these conditions.

I do NOT mean to be mean to you about this. I feel strong empathy to your plight. You have unwittingly set the stage for the problems you are now seeing. These birds are just trying to do what comes naturally to them, but are in very unnatural circumstances. I know you have genuine love in your heart, but you have to understand that if you try to mate with both these males in front of each other, there will be trouble.

Rather than try to force them to become human and expect them to live up to human social standards, try to think of how, based on the explanation I have given as to why it is happening, to correct the situation. The only natural solution is territory expansion. Move to a larger house (I know, easier said than done, but this may be the only really effective way to actually solve the problem). Move Lacey (or better yet, Jojo!) to another room. Try hormone shots. I would recommend trying Lupron, possibly after a small-dose single starter shot of progesterone for Jojo. This MAY buy you a calmer bird and give you the opportunity to change the dynamics in the flock.

Good luck – if you need help finding a good avian vet that can help with hormone treatments, let me know by PM.

Natural Birdsmanship - The only way to understand these magnificent creatures is to learn THEIR language.

Dr. Mike smile

#9484 - 07/17/03 05:31 PM Re: Help this lady please  
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 1,092
Ron Pack Offline
Lives Here
Ron Pack  Offline
Lives Here

Joined: May 2002
Posts: 1,092
Hi Debi...Dr.Mike explained things pretty well here so I hope nobody minds if I add a few thoughts.
I'm a little confused about this whole set-up you have with your birds. You mentioned "Buddys' box"...so I assume you meant nestbox. Also, you say Lacey has chosen Buddy to play the mating game with, but you still allow Lacey to interact with JoJo while Buddy is in his cage. I think this is a cruel and dangerous thing to do. If I were JoJo, I would bite you too. <img border="0" alt="[laughing]" title="" src="graemlins/laugh[1].gif" />
Really tho, this set-up isn't fair to any of your birds and you need to make some serious changes in order to keep the peace with-in your small flock.
Some things you might want to consider that may or may not help with JoJos' aggression...first thing I would do is to take down the nestboxes. Nestboxes can become protected territory and male 'toos will protect their nest site. Besides,nestboxes shouldn't be used unless you intend on setting the birds up for breeding .
One thing that helped in my situation ( 6 U-2s here) was to place dividers between the cages so the male birds couldn't see each other. But this caused the birds to scream back and forth to each other, so I eventually had to put them in seperate rooms.
Wing clipping would keep JoJo from flying onto your shoulders, which is a dangerous place for a hormonal or aggressive bird to be.
DIET...I'm not really sure just how true this is, but I have read that foods high in starch and sugar can raise a birds hormone levels as much as 10x ???
I get the impression that you want these birds to be one happy family by interacting together, but I don't think that is possible considering the limited space you have and the fact that Lacey and Buddy have been playing the mating game. Sometimes, just the sight and sounds of two birds mating can trigger a rise in hormone levels in other birds and I suspect this may be part of what is happening to JoJo. So please don't blame JoJo for biting, he's just doing what comes natural to him.
Anyway, I hope things work out for best for you and your birds...

#9485 - 07/17/03 07:51 PM Re: Help this lady please  
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 474
Dr. Mike Offline
Dr. Mike  Offline

Joined: May 2003
Posts: 474
New Jersey
Hi Ron

I don't know if she meant nestbox, or a small box he has to play with confused
If it is nestbox, you are right - she is really looking for trouble if she has nestboxes set up here.

Good point about the starches - I have seen this. Also, about the ones that are active stimulating those that would like to be. Always feel free to add in - I have no exclusivity here and appreciate other's input smile

Dr. MIke

#9486 - 07/19/03 05:13 PM Re: Help this lady please  
Joined: Jul 2003
Posts: 2
Ms. Deb Offline
New Member
Ms. Deb  Offline
New Member

Joined: Jul 2003
Posts: 2
Hi all....just to clarify things a bit...the box I was referring to as Buddy's box is just an ordinary cardboard box that I give him and the others have their own....to chew play in and destroy at will...and as far as their diet goes they get lots of fresh fruits and veggies...and they love frozen peas and mixed veggies warmed up...they get whole grain bread that I toast for them...as well as a bit of chicken and bits of others meats and once in a while pasta or potatoes but not often..they also get a fruit pellet formulated for parrots from the pet store..it is rare maybe every couple weeks that they get seeds...I do treat with peanuts and sunflower seeds though...alright that is it for that.

I have taken Dr. Mikes advice and have now started to mostly give them seperate time out..it is working well...working on doing things a bit differently and so far so good...will keeping touch thank you all

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