Meet Charlie, a 26 year old male Great Sulfur Cockatoo, direct from New Zealand! Charlie has been with us since 2002 and has been *heard* by all visitors to the store ever since! We purchased Charlie from a family in Michigan who had brought him back to the US with them. They had been stationed in New Zealand for a few years and bought Charlie as a pet then and managed to go thru all the paperwork in transporting him into the United States in 2001. Unfortunately they were not able to keep him for long once back here and my dad purchased him for the store. Charlie was a pretty hand tamed pet at this time and he quickly paired up with our female pet Greater Sulfur, Gracie. They would pal around in the outside aviary, but inside in their regular cage, Charlie became quite a bully to her. It’s well known that Cockatoos become very aggressive to their mates during breeding seasons when kept in captivity. With limited space to get away from the aggressor, many Cockatoos injure or even kill their mates. We did not want anything to happen to Gracie, so we separated them and she ended up going with one of our employees to be kept as a pet. Charlie continued to patrol the outside aviary with our other store pets and over time became enamored with a very unlikely suitor—Buddy, our male Eclectus. Buddy and Charlie’s cages were side by side in the store and whenever they went outside in good weather it was like a reunion at the airport between two lovers—they would go thru courtship bows, regurgitating for each other, and always by each other’s side until it was time to come inside again. They would be our little odd couple for over 10 years, until Buddy passed away back in 2016.
About this time we acquired a Slender Billed Cockatoo named Cheri, who lived across the aisle way from Charlie. Once again out in the aviary Charlie found a new friend. This one at least was a little more species appropriate than an Eclectus! Charlie and Cheri have been inseparable in the aviary ever since and are often referred to as “the bad birds” that get to patrol the aviary when customers are not allowed out. Charlie will chase after every one who is a perceived threat to his girlfriend, so they get a few hours outside together before the rest of the crew get their turn in the aviary.
Charlie has received a reputation around here for beating out the odds. About 10 years ago we had a few of the birds in the aviary and when we went to put them back inside everyone was accounted for except Charlie. We could hear him, but we couldn’t see him. One of the birds (probably Sadie, our Hyacinth) has broken a few of the clips holding the wire together, creating a gap, and Charlie had escaped! He was outside the aviary running around with his new found freedom, taunting us. When we got close to him, he flew off into the woods at the edge of the property. My mom and dad tracked him and found him sitting on the rocks along the creek bed having the time of his life. Typical naughty cockatoo. My mom had always gotten along with him pretty well, so she went up to him slowly, nut bribes in hand, and was able to get him to come to her. What a relief!
A few years after this, Charlie had two bad accidents in a row. First, as he was being toweled for grooming, he flew to the back of his cage and hit his neck on a perch at a bad angle. We still don’t know what exactly happened to him, even after a visit to Dr. Bob, but he had a terrible crick in his neck, which changed his vocal range, and made him walk a bit sideways. A few months later he got stuck in the aviary on a rogue wire. In an 80’ x 40’ aviary he found the ONE wire that he could get his toe stuck in. Again, typical cockatoo. After being cut free, his toe was broken and quite swollen. It healed well, but he has a crooked, fat looking toe now he will have for life and he continues to walk a bit sideways from his first injury. Three bad incidents in a row is enough for him! On the plus side, in the last year or so he has grown tremendous strength and is now flying very well. He’s a very large Cockatoo; Dr. Bob says he is the biggest, best built Greater Sulfur he has ever seen. Unfortunately with that strength he is faster at getting after us when we go out the in aviary and we have to be more watchful than ever!
Charlie can be a real sweetie inside in his cage, enjoying pets from a wide range of guests that come in, but outside of his cage, especially with Cheri in tow, he can get very aggressive with hands. He loves to say “Charlie”, “Bad Bird” and blow raspberries with his tongue stuck out! You’ll often find him screaming at you if your back is turned to him, as he demands attention from everyone who comes in the back room. Charlie may be a more hands off bird with most people, but he has personality to boot! Come say hi to Charlie next time you are in!