Lesser Sulfur Crested Cockatoo

Cacatua sulphurea sulphurea

» Also called Yellow-crested Cockatoo
» About 13"
» Their range is East Timor and Sulawesi and the Lesser Sundas.
» CITES I These birds are Critically Endangered mostly because of capture for the pet trade and habitat destruction.

These clever birds are truly a mechanical marvel. They need lots of activity and play challenges and can entertain themselves for hours with toys - especially foot or puzzle toys. They have a long attention span with sometimes astounding attention to detail. Lessers often love to stuff food into their toys. CPQ subscriber Gordon King has a lesser named Jeremy who is one of my all time favorite birds. Jeremy is independent, playful, and affectionate to Gordon. She will play with food and toys for hours by placing them on various parts of her body and moving around her playgym until they fall off. Because of this Lesser trait, I often see ratty looking feathers on the shoulder area, especially with the birds who put their food there. I would love to know if this strange behavior is based on a natural behavior and what that natural behavior accomplishes. Skippy, the Lesser I lived with is the only parrot I have seen who unscrews wing-nuts from bolts and then patiently attempts to screw them back together even if it takes an hour or so. He will even take a piece of cloth and put it over the bolt before he screws the wing-nut back on. Then he loses interest in the particular toy and goes on to something else. He will spend hours trying to put two objects together, moving them every which way. He took a cup shaped piece of plastic off of a toy and dipped it in his water to use it as a drinking cup.

  When these cockatoos are good, they are very good, when they are bad... they can create serious problems for their caregivers. In poorly socialized lessers and citrons, there is a tendency for what could be described as “skitzy” traits, often resulting in phobic behavior. They can become afraid of  a previously beloved owner. At this time, the bird may transfer allegiance to less a concerned family member or friend. If they become fearful, don’t pressure them, patience is the necessary virtue to win back their trust. Sometimes with a traumatic situation, they will go into "prey mode" and seem to become afraid of just about everything. Direct attention can even send them deeper into a fear mode. The key is to be very coy and even submissive with them and they will come back to the people that they are bonded to. Often their response when they are in this fear mode is one of aggression.

I have worked with dozens of Lessers and find them to be extremely clever and very manipulative: both with play objects and with people! Both hens and cocks can be great companions if they are provided with proper guidance. These birds cannot tolerate aggression from the people in their lives and if they are mistreated, they readily return aggression. In working with cockatoo aggression, the most important aspect to pay close attention to their body language. Most parrots exhibit what are called 'intention movements' before they actually start a behavior. When people observe their parrots carefully, they will start to notice these 'intention movements' and can act to distract negative behaviors or leave the bird alone in the case of aggression. Avoiding bites is one of the first steps to stopping aggressive behaviors. 




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