The Umbrella Cockatoo

Tidore Island photo above and top home of the Umbrellas

Photo Above: There is a Peacock sitting on the perch with Umbrella’s they ignore each other

The Umbrella and Goffin colonies are the most challenging for me to manage.  We charge The Umbrella’s will be very loving, to each other for weeks and then out of the blue, birds are being chased relentlessly. I have to be sneaky to see who the naughty bird is. Because they all look alike from 30′ away, it’s hard to tell who is who. And, they are sneaky and smart, if they see me, they stop and blend in. I walk out of their sight, it starts again.

My observations, in the past 20 years of their colony, the Umbrella’s come in 3 distinct personalities: 1) Sweet cuddly females. 2) Sweet cuddly, shy males. 3) Unpredictable, moody, aggressive, loud, destructive, occasionally sweet, and naughty semi hyperactive males.

The Umbrella’s are the most common species of all of the Cockatoos. The reason for this? They are the most prolific breeders of all Cockatoo species. And, the breeding facilities collect the females as, “spares” to fill in when other active breeder females die. They are bred to death, body depleted from laying eggs. It’s common practice for breeder facilities to scoop up pet females, under the disguise of a loving family to provide a new home. That “spare” sits in a cage at the breeding facility until a breeder female dies. Then they are next in line.

We have a large population of wild caught Cockatoo’s here at the Sanctuary. I have always been very protective of them, keenly aware of their tragic life, being snatched out of their jungle home. To see the islands in photos somehow makes it worse, than I had imagined. What have we done to them? The wild caught, are the parents to our pet birds. Wild caught don’t belong in our homes. They have been pumping out babies for the pet trade, to earn their keep. These old wild-caught, deserve to retire with their own kind, with dignity and they are welcome here, at our Sanctuary. 

During the day, the sweet Umbrella males and females like to hang out together in small groups. The groups change daily so, they’re not forming cliques. I was always curious about cliques. Everything will be great for weeks and then out of the blue, some grumpy male will start chasing the others around. The chasing behavior is not to rape or attack the females, it seems random. The male will stop and yell in the face of the passive birds and then run off to chase someone else. Its nuts and it makes me crazy.

 I want to mention, there are several birds in the Umbrella colony that have physical limitations and the aggressive males never …. ever pick on them.  I don’t think the aggressive behavior is hormone related. I believe the aggressive behavior is likely symptom of captivity and a personality type that does poorly in captivity. The behavior is unique to this type of male. 


I now house these aggressive males in a separate colony and they all get along great with each other !?  They are so goofy.  

I do have a naughty female…Mia. She occasionally, needs a time out.


Life with the moody Umbrella isn’t much fun. In your home he will be very entertaining with lots of displaying/mating dances. It will look like the youtube videos of Cockatoos, throwing their head around, yelling or talking loudly. Minutes later he is running around, trying to bite everybody’s feet. Then off to something else. They do have times where their sweet but, when they are bad! 

This is one of those sad cases where, it’s unlikely they will be a successful candidate for adoption. I get lots of calls where this type of personality, gets passed from home to home.

If you have one of the sweet, cuddly Umbrella’s they are so sweet. And, they are happier than the naughty Umbrella’s. The sweet Umbrellas can have a decent vocabulary but, they mumble and always sound as if, they are talking baby talk. This ‘type’ of Umbrella will snuggle non-stop in a marathon to see who will quit first.

My 28 year old pet Umbrella  is one of those super sweet birds. And, I was a little concerned about how well she would integrate into the colony, years ago. She dove right in and disappeared! She comes when I call her but, I always get the feeling I am embarrassing her. Mom…. not in front of my friends! I snuggle her for a few minutes and then she’s off to her busy social life. I have brought her into the house for dinner and a movie once in a while. She gets antsy after an hour and clearly is excited to get back to her friends. As, I’m walking her back to the colony, she is leaning in it’s direction while, bouncing up and down. Clearly, she can hardly wait to get back to her friends. This goes back to something I think is important for us to know. It doesn’t matter how sweet and tame our pet Cockatoos are, they prefer to live with their own species, if given the option.

                                                                         Umbrella Story

The Umbrella above, was donated from a breeding facility after she was attacked by a breeder male. Because she is not tame, I decided not to pursue a prosthetic beak for her. I know she is difficult to look at, but I didn’t want to subject her to more trauma. She has learned to eat our fresh food mix and even eats Zupreem pellets. I have kept her in an attached enclosure, worried about introducing her to the main colony. After about a year, I decided to try introducing her slowly. I was very worried but, it wasn’t fair her living alone, watching all the other Umbrella’s interacting. I considered putting a couple of friends with her, it wouldn’t be fair to keep her friends, away from the group as well. I put her in and stayed close just in case. I should mention, she has a strange voice/call, it was easy to listen for.

I did some weeding in the area, then a little further away…..several days went by without any alarms. Then I heard her frantically screaming, I ran over to see a male chasing her. She was terrified, I ran inside to grab the male and I was yelling no. He stopped, let me pick him up (sweet male) and he had a peanut in his mouth! He was trying to feed her! I couldn’t soothe her, not being tame. So, I cuddled the male to re-assure him, which gave her time to relax and settle on a perch with her girl friends. This is the reason it’s so important to monitor the birds closely. There are so many instances where they need a human available to oversee the colonies.  You cannot just stick them into colony and walk away.

Note: picture above shows the red eye color in female Cockatoos. I prefer to describe the eye color as iced tea. Weaker or stronger but, the color of iced tea.

                                                                    Umbrella Fun Story

About 10 years ago, while talking to birds in the Umbrella colony, there was about 15 birds that had missing feathers on their crests. There were a few missing on each bird. It made me laugh because it looked like missing teeth on a comb. I noticed a few more birds, and a few more. Now, all of the Cockatoos here molt in July-August this was not a molt. I could see where the feathers were bit off with a little stem left.The next year, it happened again. Not as many birds as the previous year. Each year, each summer there were birds that had missing crest feathers. The pattern would change too. It was clear, someone was giving out complimentary haircuts. Every year, in the summer.

The patterns are really funny, my favorite she had only one crest feather left, the center of her forehead. I still cannot figure out who is the stylist. 

Tidore Island home to Umbrella's
Below: Tidore Island

The Umbrellas are noisy birds and they will test you. They, like other Cockatoos, will scream for attention but, the Umbrellas have a mono tone call, ah ah ah ah ah ah and they will put themselves into a trance like state. It’s not at full blast, which would be exhausting for them. This repetitive call is for the sole purpose of irritating their people into letting them out of the cage or picking them up. They are relentless, and they will go for hours. But, they don’t do it here. 

The Umbrella’s are not the loudest of the Cockatoos, the Triton’s win that one. Their colonies are next to each other.

The Umbrella colony is very challenging to introduce new birds, they are not trying to hurt the new birds. They will do juvenile delinquent practical jokes on the new birds. I cannot find a pattern as to which birds they will accept right away. Logically, you would think females would be accepted easier than males. Not the case. The Goffin colony is the only other colony that teases new birds. It can take weeks to introduce an Umbrella or Goffin. Once a new Umbrella is accepted, they are one big happy family.

Here is a couple of examples of what they do: I will take a new bird into the enclosure and put them down on a perch, I stay within a few feet, and I read the body language to see how comfortable the new bird is. If fearful, I remain in the enclosure with them for a few minutes, then take them out. We will do baby steps, slowly until the new bird looks confident and is making friends. I am giving you the short version. You can call if you want more details.

Other birds go right in. If that is the case, I leave them in the enclosure, but stay in the area. One of the birds will tip toe up to the new bird as if to say hi. Just when the new guy is relaxed and about to mutual preen, the naughty bird will stretch tall, tail flared, crest up, lunge and scream at the new bird. As if to say boo! The new bird jumps and wonders what the? The juvenile delinquent thinks its funny and skips off.

The other favorite practical joke is: waiting for the new bird to fall asleep on a perch peacefully, then the juvenile delinquent of the day, and it is ever changing, will dive bomb the new bird off the perch. The poor new bird is waking up half way to the ground. They bounce on the wood chips but, that poor new bird is wondering what the? And the naughty bird? He is pleased with himself.

If I knew who the juvenile was, it would be easy to pull him out, introduce the new bird and then re-introduce the delinquent later. Well, they all look alike from 30′ away and they won’t do it while I am standing close. They change who will be naughty to keep me guessing. I even took the initiative and took the suspected delinquents out prior to several introductions… didn’t work. It drives me nuts. I cannot get anything done while introducing Umbrellas or Goffins. Because of this, we charge $1,500. to take in any Umbrella or Goffin Cockatoo.

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