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This is in response to some letters I get every month about the plight of the large 'Toos and why I feel that they should not be bred or owned.  I think many of these letters come from breeders or pet shops,  nonetheless, here's how I feel.....

"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose..."

As a skydiver that now only gets to jump a few times a month (as compared to  every weekend for many years)  I know what it is to be grounded.... to have my "wings clipped".  I feel a great loss that reminds me on a daily basis of what used to be.  Few humans can understand this because it's not natural for them to even consider leaving a perfectly good airplane at 13,000 feet and body fly all over the sky, and then pilot your "wings" for the next 15 minutes through Gods beautiful heavens under 5 pounds of nylon.  But the large cockatoos understand perfectly how I feel. And I know exactly how they feel.  You see... small birds fly mostly by instinct, while the larger birds like the Moluccan and Umbrellas fly with the complete understanding and joy of what they are doing.  Because we know that these parrots are extremely intelligent (much more so than just "a bird") we also know that they too feel a tremendous loss when caged.   So how about those 'Toos that are bred in captivity?  They have never soared, or even flown a short distance,  but I'm here to tell you that they too are born with the instinct to FLY.  And just because they've never had the chance to experience flight, doesn't mean that it doesn't bother them on a DAILY basis!  This is the sadness I see in their eyes.  This is the REASON they were born!  How would you like it if for no reason whatsoever, someone placed you in a nice prison with good food and things to keep you busy for the rest of your life?  It would STILL be a prison wouldn't it?  It would be against your very nature to accept that wouldn't it?  Because you were BORN to be free weren't you?

My feelings about large cockatoos and ownership have evolved into the following:

I feel that this particular species should not be bred and sold.  I feel that only institutions and zoos with the proper facilities should be allowed to own them.  Private individuals with the means to supply huge aviaries should be licensed to keep them.  As their habitat will surely one day disappear, that's still no reason for every Tom, Dick and Mary to own one.  I would rather see them become extinct as to see them suffer for 75 years in a cage.  And yes they WILL suffer, just as you would if placed in a prison, even a good one, for a lifetime. They will lose their owners to death.... or be abused or neglected... or shoved around to many homes... or just become a mere commodity that will wind up in a rescue somewhere.  And even if they find a loving home, nothing less than free flight will free them mentally and emotionally.  Again, these are INTELLIGENT, EMOTIONAL creatures unlike any other in the bird world.  They are almost humans with wings, and I know a little about how that feels, and what it means to lose a big part of your life.  Many of you cant understand this.

Look, I'm not someone who thinks animals have souls or natural "rights".  God himself gave us dominion over these animals, to care for and treat with compassion.  We all must do what we think is right by them... but in our selfishness to "protect" them, we are really doing many of them more harm in the long run.  They become prisoner companions at best.  ( If you'd like to know my feeling on animal "rights"...click here.   (Dont waste your time)

I know that if you've read this far, you're seriously attempting to understand this creature and what it means to care for such an animal.  I hope you make the right decision when the time comes for you to weigh the responsibility.  Don't be selfish...be understanding.  

Each of us has an opinion as to the best way to combat the extinction and suffering of these large cockatoos.  You just read mine.     

*Here is an interesting conversation on my messageboard

From the looks of this site, nobody should own a cockatoo.  I am hoping to have a very close member of the family in the form of a feathered friend.

*** You are correct in assuming that I personally feel that large cockatoos are not "cage" birds.

I am very interested in a 9 month old umbrella female, that sounds wonderful.  And as you indicated, the owner is pregnant and moving cross country and doesn't want to take the bird.

*** Large 'Toos shouldn't be sold at less then about 6 months of age (and even then, they're still not weaned). So now this 'Too is only 9 months old and the lady wants to be rid of it already? Why do you suppose she bought the bird in the first place?  (Dont answer that...we all know why)  

I loved my Blue and Gold, and we spent about 2 hours a day quality time out of the cage together.  The rest of the time is spent in the cage or on top in the living room with someone home all the time.  Is this not sufficient for an umbrella?

*** It might be.  Keep in mind that the average Umbrella wont just sit on top of the cage like a Macaw. He will want to go exploring all over the place (and chew things). If this means that he then will be in the cage 22 hours a day, I think not.

Are they really the most horrible birds on the earth to have so much negative information written about them in one place?

*** There is absolutely nothing "horrible" about large cockatoos. There are only horrible owners that dont understand their needs, and soon tire of having such a dynamo as a pet.  I'm only trying to tell people that they'd better be prepared to get pregnant and have a 2 year old human baby for the rest of their lives if they consider a large 'Too.   Because that's exactly what you're getting.  

How do you feel about macaws?  Do you believe all large birds should be kept in the wild?  And how sad to say that all the happy stories you read about on the internet are just stories of misery loves company.  Could it not be true, that the owner setting the time allotted for me time be set and then the bird knows where it stands and everything is fine?

*** Let me ask you this:  If I came to your house, forcibly took you from your family, locked you away in a very nice prison for life, with all the food you could eat.... would YOU be happy about it?  Even if the guards were "like family" and waited on you hand and foot....would YOU like it?  You see, animals with wings were meant to fly, especially the larger ones with bigger brains.  These are the ones who suffer most.  So your question about "setting the time allotted for me time be set and then the bird knows where it stands".... is forcing even more rules on an animal that isn't even domestic in the first place (as much as we'd like to believe they are).  However, there IS truth to the fact that IF you're going to keep this bird in prison for a lifetime, a few rules will help YOU out some.  I mean, like a child, a large bird must have some rules also. (I just think its a shame that one in prison already must have to put up with "rules" on top of everything else.)  But that is the case.  

Do you believe I should leave this umbrella and seek out another macaw, or that all large birds should be in forests or on islands?

**** All large birds should be left alone, but that's never happened and never will, so we work with what we have.  Isn't it funny that we would never consider keeping an Eagle or Great Heron as a pet, but demand that all the tropical species are fair game for our pleasure?  As far as advising you: If after reading the pages of letters on my site...and all the other information  presented there - you feel that you are in the 5 to 10% of those capable of  giving either bird the proper home - then by all means do so!   The real  question however is: "Am I really capable...or am I just being selfish and want a pretty pet".  You must decide that.

Sincerely

Jerry


Are We Really Saving Them?

One of the most common assertions made by breeders is that captive breeding is necessary to keep parrots from becoming endangered. Breeding parrots in captivity is not going to save the species in the wild. Most birds are bred outside any official conservation program, and the vast majority of birds bred in captivity are bred for purely commercial purposes. Captive breeding fails to address the leading causes of wild bird population decline -- habitat loss, pollution, and the pet trade. Moreover, captive release programs are nonexistent for most species and are largely unsuccessful in practice.

Breeding contributes to overpopulation since it results in breeding more baby birds for the pet trade. Breeding facilities often resemble nothing more than warehouses of birds for production purposes. Breeder birds are routinely placed with a mate in small cages with nothing more than water, food, and a nest box.

Many breeders and stores will sell unweaned baby birds, claiming that finishing the weaning process by the purchaser will "guarantee" a hand-tame bird. Nothing could be further from the truth. Building a nurturing relationship with a parrot begins when the bird, no matter what his or her age, learns to trust. The reality is that many birds who have not successfully completed weaning may not learn to eat on their own and can actually starve to death. Many baby birds suffer or die from physical injuries such as burned or punctured crops (stomachs) and infections from inexperienced hand-feeders. Unweaned chicks are sold because hand-feeding is labor-intensive; it is far more profitable to sell the chicks quickly despite the risks to the young bird.