martial arts cockatoo

Umbrella Cockatoo:
Not a Martial Arts Fan

by Sally Blanchard 
Drawing by Nancy Boudreau


I did a consultation with a woman and her young Umbrella cockatoo who was very uncomfortable with her 9-year-old son. I talked to the woman for almost an hour before the boy came home from his martial arts lesson. He was full of energy and immediately greeted the cockatoo aggressively with some sort of martial arts, which alarmed the bird enough for him to throw his crest in the air and scream. I thought the boy was moving too fast and I could see why the ’too had problems with the boy.


Sometimes doing a consultation was a matter of flying by the seat of my pants; I couldn’t always plan ahead because I never knew exactly what was going to happen. That is what makes it challenging and keeps it interesting. I often have to think quickly and often I realize that something I know that has nothing to do with parrots could be very helpful. I had a friend who taught Tai Chi and while I admit I know very little about any martial art, I knew that people moved very slowly and that sometimes keeping your balance was one of the problems people had with the discipline. This gave me an idea. I told the boy that Tai Chi was a very difficult martial art because it was difficult to move so slowly and keep your balance.


I continued to improvise by having the boy move very slowly, pointing out how well he did this. I also threw in a bit about Tai Chi being a very macho martial art because it requires concentration and balance. The boy was intrigued and practiced moving very slowly near the cockatoo. It was amazing how quickly and dramatically the cockatoo changed his energy around the boy. It would be the mother’s job to keep reminding her son to stay calm around the cockatoo. She called me a week or so later to tell me that the boy and the Umbrella were doing much better and the 'too even let the boy be part of their cuddle sessions.


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