From Chatterbox Magazine,
by J.C.F. (From the files of Sally Blanchard)
FEW of those who have only seen the Cockatoos in Zoological Gardens, sitting up in state on their perches, ruffling their splendid feathers, and screaming at a stranger’s approach, have any idea what clever, amusing birds they are, and how friendly they can be made by kindness. Those from China and the Straits are the most beautiful and the best tempered; they are quite white, except for a deep orange crest and an orange glow over the feathers, which is caused by the underside being of that colour, while it fades into a soft lemon under the wings.
We had a pet cockatoo of this kind, which lived with us in India for fourteen years, and during that time always took his place amongst us as one of the family. A plate was regularly set for him at the table, and he used to eat his meals in a most orderly way. On one occasion, though, when a friend was dining with us, I remember seeing ‘Cockatoo’ step across the table and take him gently by the nose. This was intended as a compliment, and the gentleman, who fortunately understood cockatoos, tried to appreciate it.
When ‘Cockatoo’ first saw one of my sisters as a little baby, he went into peals of laughter, though afterwards, he now and then stopped to amuse her by shaking his crest and chuckling at the same time.
He always accompanied us on any journey and used to travel on the palkee, outside or in, as he pleased, and on one occasion in returning from Mahabuleshwur he was honoured by a palkee to himself. On arriving at the house the bearers stopped, the door was thrown back, and out stepped ‘Cockatoo,’ with a majestic air, quite up to supporting his position. He did not, however, always behave with such discretion whilst out visiting.
He was really a most intelligent bird, and seemed to understand all that was said to him, particularly anything about himself, and once we discovered him listening at the door, having heard his name mentioned inside. On being caught, he drew back, and we fancied that he looked as ashamed as a human being could do in such a case.
There was one trick he was especially fond of, and this was pecking up all the wood in the wood-basket into tiny chips. We often tried to prevent him but to no purpose. The sly fellow managed to make himself a hole in the back of the basket, through which he crept, and quietly chipped away, quite hidden amongst the wood; when, however, the servant came for wood, ‘Cockatoo’ spread his wings, put up his crest, and appeared in full glory, nearly frightening the poor man out of his senses with his screams.
‘Cockatoo’ of course considered himself as chief among our pets, and I once remember an amusing scene of his haranguing four turkey-cocks. He was standing before them on his perch, accompanying his address with appropriate gesticulation. At each pause his auditors loudly applauded and after bowing and smiling; ‘Cockatoo’ would graciously continue.
He always looked upon the couch as sacred from the intrusion of any pets but himself, and I remember one day seeing him seated on the high end, half asleep, and every now and then falling forwards with a great lunge. In one of these half-waking moments, he saw at the other end of the couch a little dog, lying fast asleep. There was no more sleep for ‘Cockatoo.’ For one moment he stood irresolute, bristling with indignation; the next his mind was made up. Carefully, silently, he let himself down to the ground; then, with the greatest care to tread softly, he walked underneath the couch. On reaching the other end he leaped on the couch, his feathers spread, and his face full of fury; he uttered a piercing shriek, and the dog was off the couch in a moment, and ‘Cockatoo’ returned, with an important air, to his nap at the other end.
It would be wearisome to relate all the anecdotes preserved amongst us respecting our cockatoo friend. He died in extreme old age, deeply regretted. We have his crest carefully preserved in sandal-wood, and his memory will live in our family for many a year.