Theophanes is a New-England-based blogger, traveler, writer, photographer, sculptor, and lover of cats.
A Tale of Avian Horror
The bird you see sitting perched in the photo above is GT, my mother's nefarious, blood-sucking cockatoo, who aspires to nothing more than to plan my untimely demise. I suppose I should start in the beginning, before GT entered my nightmares.
I Never Was a "Bird Person"
At the age of twelve, I helped my mother run an aviary consisting of around 65 birds, mostly cockatiels. I loved hand-feeding the babies and answering customer questions, but the birds themselves usually turned against me soon after weaning. These were the same birds who made loving family pets, learned to talk, and adored every other human on the planet. I never really questioned why this was; I just figured I wasn't a "bird person."
It's true, birds are the most conniving, picky, and self-righteous animals on the planet, even exceeding humans in their power to hold onto judgments and grudges. No adult bird ever liked me, except for a few coopfuls of chickens who were too dumb to know better. It didn't matter what I did to appease them. At my first meeting, I would hold out a treat, which they'd take indignantly and go back to staring me down with the evil eye and hissing. I was never intentionally mean to a bird, but that didn't matter; they all were part of a conspiring global club that had me on their blacklist.
. . . Except With African Greys
There was only one species of bird that actually liked me; those were the African Grey Parrots—you know, the ugly ones with all the brains. This isn't that surprising since African Greys are the rebels of the bird world. They tend to hate everyone except people the other bird species have blacklisted. I had noted that for a long time, people either had birds or an African Grey—rarely did they have both, and when they did, the African Grey was usually penned up like some vicious tyrant, which any bird can be given half a chance.
The Arrival of GT
My mother had decided sometime in here that she wanted a larger parrot. The cockatiels were lovely, but she wanted one of the birds that could destroy an entire house in an hour sharp, swear louder than a trucker whose arm just got lopped off, and outlive her by a great many years. In specific, she wanted a cockatoo, one of the crested parrots who are usually white and intensely cuddly with their owners. So one day we were in a pet store and she noticed a baby Goffin's Cockatoo who was just being weaned. She fell in love.
Though I didn't do a thing besides look in his general direction, the bird took an immediate dislike to me. His little black beady eyes were aflame with malicious intent. I just knew it. Goffin's Cockatoos are the smallest of the cockatoos and are the most devious due to the fact that they will escape anything you put them in, given enough time to plot. My mother named him G-Too (short for Goffin's Cockatoo) because she's creative like that. Eventually that got shortened to GT because, being lazy English-speaking Americans, we disliked having to spend so much time pronouncing the whole thing.
I Tried to Befriend Him
I tried everything to be on this bird's good side. I fed him treats, I cooed sweetly at him, and I gave him spray bottle showers (which he adored.) I even made him toys. This didn't matter. The bird was an unfettered moody God in his own right, and he knew it. I shouldn't have been surprised when his glowering turned into biting. He didn't bite everyone—just me, repeatedly, no matter what I was doing. He'd fly across the room just to attack me, which was no small feet since his wings were clipped. When his feathers were too short, he'd flop to the floor, sneak up on me, and bite at my ankles, hard!
GT Did Not Appreciate the Cockatoo Experts' Advice
Eventually it got so bad I demanded he be locked in his cage when I was around. It was just as well. Cockatoo experts will advise new owners to put their parrot "in the most active room in the house so they can enjoy the people going by." Parrots are incredibly needy, after all, both emotionally and intellectually. What they didn't say was that there are some exceptions, namely psycho birds.
GT would attack me and scream for hours, rocking back and forth like he had Tourettes, and just generally be an unhappy bird whenever his cage was in an active part of the house. He wasn't appeased until he got his own room, locked away, where he finally settled down and stopped trying to kill things. Parrot experts tell us locking a bird away where it isn't with its human for 1–4 hours a day is the worst and most detrimental thing you can do. The experts never met GT.
It's an Ambush!
One time we again tried putting GT in an active part of the house; this time it was in the hallway where he could have some mental stimulation but not too much. The bird acted like stimulation was a form of crack. I had no idea the ferocious fowl had spent all day slowly turning the hinges on the door of his California Cage in a bid to get out. When I was minding my own business, walking down the hall, I did notice that his door was flopped on the floor, but I didn't see the bird anywhere in sight.
Stupidly, I thought nothing of this and went to walk over to the door when something hit me with the force of an oncoming train. Before I could figure out what was going on, I felt the sharpest pain of my life. The bird was clinging onto my shirt and biting my chest as hard as he could, drawing blood and giving me scars in the process.
Without thinking, or even knowing what had attacked me, I instinctively grabbed the attacker and flung him clear across the house. The bird landed with a thud on the floor but got up unfazed, shook his head, and took three steps toward me before thinking better of it. He had actually methodically planned out his cage escape and had sat in ambush on top of his cage, just waiting for me to walk by. Of course I felt bad for sling-shotting him across the house. It's not in my nature to abuse animals, but needless to say I kept my distance from him from then on.
He Has Bitten Every Hand That Might Feed Him
Goffin's cockatoos have been known to live into their 50s, and because of this, it's unlikely my mother will outlive him. This is a crying shame when you think about the fact that he's bitten everyone he could have been possibly willed to, damning himself to an incredibly unpredictable future.
Currently you can find GT in his room, sitting in his cage, babbling drunkenly to himself because he's too damn lazy to make actual words come out. I know this because he could say hello when we brought him home. After he came here, he knew he didn't have to impress anyone and let his speech decay to infantile babble, absolute gibberish only he and his imaginary evil twin can understand.
The Bad Behavior of Cockatoos
Since getting GT, I have learned that cockatoos are psychotic birds. Yes, they can be super sweet and cuddly with people they like. However, these are also the birds that are nearly impossible to breed because both males and females in "bonded breeding pairs" have been known to tear off each other's toes whenever they're pissed at each other, which apparently is frequently. They also can decapitate their own children by biting their beaks clear off in infancy, and they're not too good to rip out their mate's feathers in giant hunks.
At Least GT Is Happy
When a mate isn't available and they haven't had enough mental stimulation, they'll stay occupied by plucking themselves bald. Such charming creatures they are . . . GT apparently is the exception to this rule as he's always been in perfect feather.