After adopting the Australian Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, we were impressed by how she would push lettuce leaves through the bars of her cage, offering food to wild cockatoos that would visit her.
On one occasion she had a visitor who spent a lot of time sitting on the outside of the cage. 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!
There was a lot of mutual grooming and food sharing after he opened the door. He visited a number of times.
The cockatoos subsequently mated and we looked forward to beautiful baby cockatoos. Many cockatoos, including the special mate, continued to visit our bird regularly. As she has only one wing, she initially stayed inside or sat on top of the cage. At first it seemed as though he was annoyed because she did not fly off with him and he would squawk a lot. However, he soon came to understand that she could not fly and he just stayed. She was no longer returning to her cage and would stay in the trees in our garden.
Cockatoos make their nests in hollow logs, but we noticed the male hard at work digging a hole under a clump of Lilly Pilly trees. The nest he dug was a hole with a short tunnel leading off to where she had laid her eggs.
They took turns incubating the eggs and covering the tunnel, and after about three weeks, the eggs hatched.
Both babies grew well and fast. The mother fed them diligently and their bellies were round. She kept them warm at night and the dad made sure that no other creature got near to them.
The dad was as proud and protective as can be. When I dared to get near the nest, he would attack my feet, the lawnmower, wheelbarrow – anything that moved. He regularly fended off other wild cockatoos, even those that looked like friendly visitors.
During this time South East Queensland had its worst drought in more than 10 years. Some said it was the driest in 100 years. We were happy to get a bit of rain one weekend, and I went to see how the cockies were coping with the mild rain.
Dad had done the only thing he knew – dug more holes inside the main hold. The earth was soft and the babies were in no danger. I noticed the dirt on the babies as though the dad was trying to cover them to protect them against the rain.
I put an old umbrella over the hole, but a few hours later we discovered that one of the babies was missing. I started to dig and a foot stuck out of the mud. It was totally buried in the hole in the middle. He was still alive, but mud filled his beak. We used toothpicks to clear his mouth, but sadly he died from asphyxiation.
The remaining baby coped well and was okay. We closed up the little holes, put down a bamboo place mat and a tea towel on top of that to stop the dad from digging more holes.
Sometimes we dads try too hard, and in spite of our best efforts, get it wrong. I hope one day our kids will not judge us too harshly.
He grew stronger by the day. Dad protected him really well, and mum fed him regularly. As he grew to be as big as his mum and dad, it was difficult to tell him and his dad from the other cockatoos that continued to visit.
Dad and baby were not always around because both could fly off, but they continued to spend most of the day with mum.
One thing is guaranteed though: Every night at sunset mum and dad sit together and lovingly groom each other before retiring for the night.
The Cockatoo Story
By Cheryl Goodenough
Perhaps you've seen the email? It's about a wild Australian Sulphur Crested Cockatoo that broke its wing in about 1998. The motorist took it to a vet in Nerang, Queensland and the bird was subsequently adopted by South African-born Julius Bergh, who hails from Pretoria, Pietersburg, Kaapstad, Sydney and Nerang – in that sequence.
The Bergh family kept the cockatoo outside in a cage and she was often visited by wild cockatoos. I'll leave the rest of the story to Julius to tell, but in 2006 the computer programmer by profession built a web page on which he wrote the story and included some pictures (he's a photographer by passion). Julius emailed the link to a few friends, who passed it on to more friends, and before long the number of visitors to the Cocky web page was growing daily.
“When I got a few hundred visitors a day, I thought that was a lot,” says Julius. “Then it went up to thousands a day, then 10,000 and 20,000 until it peaked with 42,600 visitors on one day!”
The story was published as a book after some encouragement from Julius' daughter and people who sent emails from around the world.
“I had school teachers, Sunday school teachers, librarians, parents and grandparents suggesting that I should try to get it published. Eventually I was also contacted by two publishers and one of them, Col Stringer, eventually turned it into a small, inexpensive book.”
Julius says that Col is a minister who saw the universal message of love and loyalty that is evident in the story.
Love on the Wing: A Tale of Two Cockies is available from www.juliusbergh.com/cocky.
For the full story see www.juliusbergh.com/cocky