The Moluccan Cockatoo

Overall  Mood

The Moluccan colony is the most successful, happy and enthusiastic of all. One of the things that they pick up from each other is laughter, all day and even after dark. Everything is a reason to celebrate. A dragonfly, a feather floats by, toy drops. If I go by the colony with a wheelbarrow, water the flowers, dog barks, a wild bunny runs by or when one of my Koi does an Orca whale leap out of the pond etc. If the wind blows, they hold out their wings and try to imitate the noise. Laughter and enthusiasm are contagious.

Observation notes 

A few years ago, I put a huge addition onto the Moluccan colony that gave them 3x the space. Thinking ahead to future growth, I made it C shaped. Eventually, I’ll make it a full circle around a group of cedar trees.
We were excited about the grand opening of the new section. Making friendly bets about who would be the first to go exploring. The Moluccans tend to congregate in the original section. Anyway, we punched out the wall to the new section, and ran out of the enclosure to watch the fun. I had shaded lawn chairs and iced tea waiting for the grand opening action. We waited, and waited, and waited and nobody showed up. None of the Moluccans were coming. I know they are not shy or fearful and they were watching it being built and seemed curious. Finally, we decided to throw shelled peanuts* into the new end. The birds know the blue peanut bag from Costco and the noise of “raining peanuts”. It worked slowly the birds started climbing down to the ground and walked, in a huge group, towards the new section. Oh, the sound of peanuts being cracked on a large scale. The conclusion, they prefer to snuggle together. Still years later, the far end of their enclosure stays empty most of the time.   (see photo right)

 

The single Moluccan was following me around, don’t worry he isn’t feeling left out.     * We feed peanuts as treats, on occasion.

The Cockatoo Rescue and Sanctuary was established 1992

 

I have several Moluccans that have mobility issues. They are not picked on, or isolated. The other Moluccans will step aside to make room for the handicapped bird to maneuver down a perch. I have a few that sleep on the feeding perch to give them more secure footing then a perch. I have seen them lean on the other birds for stability.I am frequently asked if mutilators or feather pickers are treated differently in the Moluccan Colony, or any of our colonies for that matter.  They have concerns about their bird being picked on, like chickens or parakeets. It makes no difference if they fly or not they are still accepted. The Cockatoos are oblivious, it makes no difference. We have hundreds of Cockatoos here….it doesn’t matter to them.

Personality Profile

 The Moluccans are my favorite variety of Cockatoo. I know I shouldn’t have a favorite but, I do.

The female Moluccan’s are really sweet but, there are always exceptions. The girls prefer to hang out with other girls and play “beauty parlor”, they primp, pose and preen. If the sun is out the girls are sunning themselves. They are gentle and move slower then the males. The girls are quiet, polite and don’t like to get dirty. If they want attention from me they will usually say something, like their name and lift their foot as a hint.

As pets, the girls can suffer from depression if they’re not handled enough and its never, ever, enough. You would likely notice them pacing, rocking or feather picking. The girls will self-mutilate more often than the males. Mutilation can be with or without feather picking.

The male Moluccans seem to come in two different personality’s sweet passive, patient, snuggle bugs that are easy to live with or, wild outgoing flamboyant, loud, one man show type. I think they are really entertaining! If you have one……. you know what I mean, and they can be very difficult to live with. They can also be moody.  The reason the male Cockatoos are so loud and outgoing? And the Moluccan male is the most outgoing of all the Cockatoo species, that I have experience with. Males are trying to get the attention from the object of their desire, human or bird. They work on their “show” and want to preform it for us. If we take the time to watch from beginning to end, they are happy and proud. You can see the satisfaction on their face. They stand a little taller and if you lay on the praise you may get a repeat performance. Imagine my delight watching this on a large scale.

If you interrupt his masterpiece he will be really upset. He will have to start all over from the beginning. Repeated interruptions and he will be insulted and impatient. The males have a temper and you may get bit. And when a male Moluccan is unhappy he will be loud in protest and is prone to temper tantrums. They are big chewers that comes from an instinct to build a nest.

Aggression Issues

The Moluccans have been accused of killing their mates in breeding programs. So, I understandably was extremely cautions during the first few years of this colony. All the Cockatoo colonies experience aggression, in varying degrees.  It isn’t because a male is trying to be the “flock leader” there are no flock leaders with Cockatoos, Macaws or Greys.  The birds just like humans, have bad moods occasionally. Usually, the mood will last a few hours or as long as a day. And it doesn’t escalate (usually) to the point that I need to step in. It took me years to learn the difference between their vocalizations and is not a skill I can articulate in this forum. It was nerve wracking to watch them work it out without stepping in. The aggression is seen in the domestic males with other domestic males. The wild caught males and females do not exhibit this behavior. If any of the “bad moods” escalates or lasts more then a day, I will put the offender into a “time out” enclosure.  

Introductions

This colony is kind, gentle and welcoming to all new birds. It doesn’t matter if the new bird is male or female, plucked or not.  I wish all the colonies were like the Moluccans in this respect. Usually, I bring the new bird in its carrier up to the front wall to see the colony and I see the reaction of the new bird. The Moluccans fly up to the front wall to say hi. (photo above)

Most of the Moluccans want to go right in and start making friends. The girls in the colony are the first to approach any new birds. They tip toe up and start preening each other. If the new bird is shy or worried the “welcome committee” will instantly reads the concern through body language and tip toe back a few steps to reassure the new bird. These are the subtle baby steps that can be part of the process. Occasionally a bird will look a little overwhelmed by the introduction. If they are I will bring them into my house. I keep 3 empty Macaw size cages, for this reason. The new Moluccan will settle in and when they look ready or rested I will take them back into the colony for a bit. I am in no hurry, they can take as much time as they need.

Most new males are confident and relish being in the spotlight of the colony. They will strut around showing off their dances and vocalizations. They will repeat “pretty bird” or some other praise phrase that their family used.

As with most of the Cockatoo species, some of the males are more reserved and can be shy and insecure. The reserved males take a little more time to introduce.I keep in close contact with the family donating their bird. They know their bird better than I do, in case there are issues with the introduction. 

Maybe the new bird is grumpy, on a hunger strike, sitting away from the other birds. Any behavior that indicates difficulty fitting in. We can brainstorm to make his/her transition more comfortable.

Fun Stories

In the spring I was contacted by a family with a Moluccan male named “Murphy”. He has a huge personality, very smart, confident and very busy. A typical case of; a personality so big that it cannot be contained in our home. The family did not exaggerate his personality. He is every where in that colony, utilizing every square inch. I see him running and hopping on the ground. He is hanging upside down from a toenail, then seconds later he is walking through the food pan while the others are eating, he is a very happy boy. Murphy is a great source of entertainment for me! It never gets old. But, I know how difficult it is to live with that type of personality 24/7.

We have two Peacocks in the Moluccan colony, they perch next to each other at night.  I saw the male peacock running out of the corner of my eye and something didn’t look quite right. Well, Murphy was surfing on the Peacocks tail! He only lasted a few seconds and about 20 feet before he jumped off, quite an impressive dismount too.

Fun Stories

Most Cockatoos, especially the species indigenous to the tropical islands in the South Pacific, prefer to take rain baths. The Cockatoos here are no exception. But, there is one female Moluccan that didn’t get the memo.  When all the other birds are hanging from the roof and sidewall trying to catch the water, “Ester” is standing in the water bowl, stomping one foot up and down while her wings are out stretched. Her stomping looks just a little kid playing in a mud puddle. The other Moluccans give her dirty looks, clearly disgusted, and Ester doesn’t care. 

 

Anytime that you house Cockatoos outside, you need to be cautious. They are big escape artists in our homes. So, I am careful to check the enclosure perimeter regularly. Every morning as I drink my coffee and plan my day, I watch the Moluccan colony. The Moluccan’s are visible from my favorite chair. I see something out of the corner of my eye that doesn’t look right. There is a Moluccan standing on top of the roof, loose. He is flapping his wings and looking at me, obviously trying to get my attention. Once our eyes meet, he starts strutting back and forth across the colony roof. He is doing the can-can. He would stop every now and then look back at me, to see if I am still watching, and then he continued. I really enjoyed the show while I finished my coffee. Then I went outside, told him how much I enjoyed his performance and flattered him into coming to me.

Sweetheart

The male Moluccan’s are more difficult for most people, to live with. I have always been entertained by their displays. Which brings me to Sweetheart. You can’t see it in photos, there is a gazebo in front of the Moluccan colony. It faces the first section of the original colony. Its shady and a favorite spot to take a break. There are two big planters on each front corner of that section. When I first sit down, Sweetheart quickly gets down from where ever he is, and runs up to the front wall and starts barking. Barking is something many of the Cockatoos do but, Sweetheart uses it to introduce himself.

He patiently waits for me to get comfortable, then he runs and hides behind one of the big planters. He will peek out…….and then do a goose step, the march of the Russian Military, with his leg kicks mixed with a hop. All the way from the right pot, twenty feet to the left pot. Then he will peek out to see my reaction. And of course, I am impressed. Then he repeats from stage right to stage left and repeat.

 I know how lucky I am to live among these magnificent birds they deserve more then a cage in a corner of our living rooms.

Photo Left and Below: Seram (ceram) Indonesia the home of the Moluccan Cockatoos.

 

 

 

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