Cockatoos' love story
SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia
Julius Bergh, of Nerang, on Queensland's Gold Coast, wasn't surprised when he
heard a BBC Wildlife report that "the finding of a parrot with an almost
unparalleled power to communicate with people has brought scientists up short."
The bird, a captive African grey called N'kisi, is reported to have a
vocabulary of 950 words, and to show signs of a sense of humour.
Julius has written what may well be the world's most appealing picture-story,
with dozens of amazing photographs, about a flock of intelligent sulphur-crested
cockatoos living in his tropical garden, only a few miles from the late Steve
Irwin's world-famous Australian Zoo.
We asked Julius for permission to copy a photograph and text from his
website. He agreed, and told us:
It is indeed a good news story at a time where there is so much bad news.
As one person put it: "A beautiful love story about a cockatoo with only one
wing and her prince in shining feathers who fell in love and asked for her
wing in marriage". People just passed it on from person to person sharing
the good cheer.
These birds are so intelligent that if someone calls me "bird-brained" I
say "Thank you".
After I uploaded the story of the cockatoo family in our back yard, I
emailed a few friends and family who passed it on to others, who passed it
on to yet others.
Within a few days the website was visited by thousands of people from all
over the world. At first we were amazed by the overwhelming response, but if
you think about it, love, loyalty and parenting are universal values.
I receive emails from the USA, Britain, Holland, Mozambique, Denmark...
the list goes on. A paper in Western Australia wants to publish the story;
there are forums in the Web discussing it, and I made contact with many
friends with feathers in their souls.
We did not start out to write a story. The story wrote itself, or more
accurately, the cockies wrote it and I passed it on to a few friends but it
looks like we will have to take it seriously now. A book publisher has
approached me so we will have to wait and see what transpires.
The vet that gave us the Cockie actually started working at Steve Irwin's
Zoo about five years after we got the one-winged cockie.
It is good to know you appreciated the story and pictures. Dad and Junior
are flying all over the place leaving Mother behind. She does not have a
mobile phone so she just screeches with an almighty sound and they come
home. Pretty much like my mother did.
Cockatoos mate for life so hopefully the story continues.
Here is the cockies' love story, which Julius has kindly allowed us to retell
in his words (but it's far better to see it fully illustrated on his website
- see link below).
About eight years ago a wild Australian Sulphur Crested Cockatoo flew
into a car and broke its wing. The motorist took it to the vet in Nerang,
who had to amputate the wing. We adopted her - for which we needed a
National Parks and Wildlife permit - and kept her in a cage outside where
she was often visited by wild Cockatoos. One of the things that impressed us
was how she would push lettuce leaves through the bars of the cage, offering
food to visitors.
Last Sunday she again had a visitor. As usual he spent a lot of time
sitting on the cage with a tamper proof latch. There was a lot of talking
and grooming. A bloke has to look presentable when courting a bird!
Things got interesting when he approached the front door. . .The clever
fellow figured out how to undo the tamper proof latch!
He opened the door for a lot of mutual grooming and food sharing...Oooh,
that's nice! Scratch a bit more on that side, dear...
At first it seemed as though he was annoyed because she did not fly off
with him and he would squawk a lot. He soon came to understand that she
could not fly so he just stayed.
However, she was no longer returning to her cage. The two of them would
stay in the trees in our garden and because the yard is well fenced, they
were safe from dogs, but the neighbour's cat is not kept indoors at night
and we often have to chase it away. Chances are the cat would come off
second best in a confrontation with a cockatoo, but at night cats remain a
danger because they could stalk a sleeping bird on the ground.
Cockatoos make their nests in hollow logs but we noticed the male hard at
work digging a hole under a clump of
We put down a hollow log for them but they just ignored us. The nest he
dug was a hole with a short tunnel leading off to where she laid her eggs.
Once there were eggs in the nest, the male became extremely aggressive.
You better not get near the nest or he will take chunks of flesh from your
foot. It was difficult to take these pictures because I literally had to
steal them while running away from the male.
We kept a vigil to see how things were progressing. They took turns
incubating the eggs and covering the tunnel. After about three weeks, the
Whenever Mum and Dad Cockatoo leave the nest, we try to get a look but
you have to do it while running because Dad Cockatoo is chasing you!
Julius's latest venture was to issue a series of attractive e-cards for
Let's hope that his next move will be to install a webcam, so that the
world's millions of bird lovers can watch those amazing cockies - live! A few
years ago, the Brisbane (Queensland) daily newspaper The Courier-Mail
attracted worldwide attention when it set up a webcam showing the day-to-day
activities of a family of peregrine falcons.
A webcam showing Julian's intelligent cockies would be a sure-fire winner.
Passionate parrots are even more interesting than peregrine falcons!