Do I have a Pet Cockatoo?

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo

Methuselah, the local Sulphur Crested Cockatoo

Methuselah (that’s what I’ve named him) has moved into a pecan tree above the chicken run. He’s either sick or very old (or both). I suspect he’s old – which means something because cockatoos live easily to 80. He’s lost a lot of his feathers, especially from his beautiful yellow crest, and his white isn’t quite as bright at the average cocky. Most cockatoos are found in flocks or at least pairs but this guy keeps popping into our tree all by himself. I’ve been a bit worried about him but can’t think of what I can/should do to help. I did approach him to see if he was an escaped pet. If so, he showed no affinity to humans. Neither did he harbour a deep fear. Which means I’m no nearer to uncovering the truth.

Old Cockatoo with just a few feathers in his crest

Methuselah with just a few feathers in his crest

I went into the chook run to rake up fallen leaves from the pecan trees (and to collect another few kilos of nuts off the ground). After about 30 minutes of hard labour, Methuselah landed in the tree above me and squawked. I talked to him and he watched me. Then he hopped down and drank from the trough that will be one of the watering places for our chickens (once we move them here from our Chatswood house).

Methuselah drinking at the chook trough

Methuselah drinking at the chook trough

I cracked a couple of pecan nuts and tossed some flesh towards him – he didn’t seem to understand I was trying to feed him (probably not an escaped pet then). I set some on a brick near him and moved away. Not so much as a look in my direction.

If his beak is still strong enough to crack open the pecan nuts, he’s got plenty to eat, and he’s got a nice trough of water right there too. I don’t think there’s anything I can do beyond watch and speak nicely to him whenever I see him. He seems content to just rest all day waiting for that end game with dignity. I wonder what he’ll think when the chickens move in.

Here’s a younger, fitter sulphur crested cockatoo that visited my Chatswood garden. Plenty of yellow crest and clean, white feathers on display there.

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo – now that’s a crest


Young, healthy sulphur crested cockatoo

Update 7 July 2013: Yesterday, after I made this post, I saw Methuselah several times. When I did, I would call his name and talk to him, trying to get him used to me. In the evening, I found him at the edge of the pecan orchard sitting on the ground.

Today I went out and called, “Methuselah,” but didn’t see him. That’s not a big deal, he often doesn’t show up until mid-morning. At 10 I started to worry and went looking for him where I last saw him. About 2 metres away from where he was peacefully sitting last night, I found a pile of white feathers with yellow tinge. Obviously a cockatoo. Pretty definitely to a fox. Almost certainly Methuselah.

Methuselah, R.I.P. I knew you for only a little while, but you did brighten my days. You’ll be missed, old fella.


About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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15 Responses to Do I have a Pet Cockatoo?

  1. They are beautiful birds, even with the issues of age. I wish the best for your new friend.

    • Me too. The poor thing probably thinks I’m quite the nuisance. I go out and check on him and, if I don’t see him, worry. But he keeps coming back even though I am stalking him 🙂

  2. John from Victoria says:

    This bird may not be that old. It may show early infection by the “psittacine beak and feather disease” (Avian Circovirus) which is quite common in Australia and frequently affects sulphur crested cockatoos.
    There are a few of those around here. They end up getting quite ugly and tired, they are set upon by other cockatoos because of their poor appearance and end up alone. They are then a lot more tolerant of humans (mostly too tired to fly off).

    • Oh gosh – I hope not. Thanks for the link (I think). I’m hopeful Methuselah doesn’t have this since his beak and claws look fine. What’s really scary is there’s no treatment. I guess there’s none for old age either. Whatever it is, Methuselah will probably live out the rest of his days on this farm. He doesn’t fly much any more (if at all) and I suspect he’ll be taken soon by a fox or by the weather or… It’s sad, but it’s nature and it’s going to run it’s course. I’m just going to do my best to make an environment with as little stress and as much comfort for Methuselah as I can.

      • John from Victoria says:

        I think this particular virus, if that is what it is, can only infect other cockatoes and parrots. Around here only a small number of galahs and sulphur crested cockies show visible signs. Your chicken and birds of other species should be OK.

        • That’s what it looked like from my read of the link you sent. Which is why I don’t see any point in trying to deal with it. If I did get the bird tested and it turned out to have the virus, I wouldn’t have it killed and there’s no cure so there’s nothing I could do. Methuselah will be spared from having blood taken.

  3. karen says:

    Methuselah couldn’t have found a better home, no matter his health issues.
    Auntie Laura will make it all good. 🙂

    • I’m trying. This morning (it’s 2 degrees outside – that 36 F!) I went out and put a bowl of water outside of the chook run. Yesterday he hung around the outside of the chicken run near the water trough. It dawned on me overnight that he might have been thirsty but couldn’t manage the high fence. I also cracked a couple of pecans and left them there (no doubt another bird will get them first, but I did try). He’s nowhere to be seen yet this morning but I often don’t see him till mid-morning. I’ll worry until he shows up. It was a cold night and if he’s sleeping on the ground, he’s not going to last long.

  4. I think Methuselah could fit in quite nicely with your chickens.

    • I think they might like each other. I’m hoping my chooks will come in the next couple of weeks and we’ll find out. I wonder if he’ll eat chicken food. I don’t have any here right now, it’s back in Chatswood with my chickens.

  5. cohutt says:

    Dang, just saw the final update.

  6. sorry about his demise. It is life as you say. Sometimes it is difficult not to interfere.

    • Thanks. It is difficult. Honestly I would have interfered if I actually thought I could help. I was more hopeful than optimistic that Methuselah would spend a few years hangin’ out with my chooks. It’s sad, but nature isn’t always a cheery beast. I just hope it was quick and that the fox is doing well.

  7. Pingback: Miracle of Life (or Death) in Nature | Behind cohutt's fence

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