Early on in our Life with Rocky adventure, we encouraged display as “cute.” The crest would come up, the wings would come out, ragged as they are, and he'd do the “bouncy bounce.” We laughed and thought he was playing.
And to be fair, on some occasions, a 'too WILL display when playing and you must know your 'too's body language very well indeed to know whether he is playing or if this is indicative of an unhappy, frightened or ready-to-chomp 'too.
Last night, we saw a playful 'too display. A commercial with music came on TV, and Hubby started to dance and sway a few feet from Rocky – out of reach, in other words – and Rocky's crest came up and he began to bounce and bob and do Car Alarm. But the difference this time was that Car Alarm was not full volume and was followed by the throaty chuckle that is Rocky's imitation of human laughter, and then the crest came down but the bobbing continued and he was almost in perfect time with the music, which Hubby continued by singing when the commercial ended. We laughed, Rocky laughed and it was fun.
We do have fun with Rocky. Life with Rocky is not all about dodging bites and rebuilding confidence and trust. Sometimes it's a heart-melting snuggle with a 'too who leans against me, lays his head on my chest and makes contented little grunting sounds with closed eyes while I stroke his head and face. Sometimes after bedtime, which he sets himself around sundown, and we obey by covering his cage with a king-size sheet, he'll come down the bars like Batman and Robin on the Batpoles, and he'll appear, upside down, and say “Hello!” He does his best talking when his cage cover is on and will entertain us with a steady stream of unintelligible 'Too Talk, or practice his English words and phrases, holding an entire conversation with himself.
“How are you?”
“Rocky Rocky Road.”
“I wuv ooh!”
“Whassup, whassup, whassup!”
We answer, of course, dutifully repeating the words and phrases we understand and making our best guess at what he's saying if we don't. I try to teach him new ones, and whistle tunes which he whistles back, sometimes right and sometimes not right, but it's communication and that's the main thing, anyway. When we go to bed, a couple of hours after he has, we stop and lift the cover and coo good night messages at him. Often he'll sidle over to the bars for a head scritch or reach out with his foot wanting to hold hands and give my finger a squeeze, or put his beak through the bars for a kiss.
We usually have to listen to an Evening Squawkfest when we first cover his cage, but what he wants then, I'm learning, is for me to stand next to the cage and talk to him a while before I completely cover the cage. I tell him he's a good Rocky Too-Too and I love him and he talks, too, and he makes me laugh when he says “hmmmm?” or when he chuckles his Fred Flintstone belly laugh.
When he first moved in, we were appalled at his feather condition and at how thin he was. You could see his keel bone protruding through the sparse feathers on his belly. His wings and tail are ragged, which he is partly responsible for because he “combs” them with his talons, but someone gave him a very sloppy and amateur wing clip before we met him, and cockatoos will often destroy wing feathers when that happens. In the intervening months we have tried to tempt him to eat snacks and people food and have had minor success in putting some weight on. His feathers have improved greatly, but until he has a thorough molt, the wings and tail continue to be ragged and he continues to comb them with his talons. His head and chest look much better now, and while he is still too thin and his keel bone is still too prominent, it is better covered by feathers now. He lets me preen the pinfeathers on his head and his crest has filled out nicely.
Sometimes we have band practice at our house and Rocky is very fond of live music, even if we're stopping and starting and trying to learn or perfect a new song. He likes it when I practice the piano, though I'm not particularly good at playing piano. He likes for us to play guitars and sing. Recorded music will do if nothing else is available, and we leave music playing for him if we're going to be gone a long time, but even when he's screaming full tilt, if one of us gets a guitar and starts playing, he goes quiet and pays attention. I change the words to songs to include his name, and when I played “Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver, which of course already includes his name, I discovered that he seems to like almost anything by John Denver. My other birds prefer lively music with a good beat, but Rocky was just as enthralled by “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” which is quiet and introspective.
He still doesn't want to go out of sight of his cage. Even when sitting on the porch with me, he regularly looks through the picture window to make sure his cage is still there. I can't take him into the kitchen or bedroom or bathroom. He has only seen one of the other birds, Clyde, when I carried Clyde in to see him, and Clyde was so startled at the sight of this huge white parrot in HIS house that we didn't stay long; or rather, Clyde didn't. He flew off my shoulder and headed back to the room we call The Birdcage in a tearing hurry, squawking all the way. Not that I think Rocky and the little birds would make good companions. I thought it might make Rocky feel better to know there were other birds about. Apparently, he doesn't care. He shows no interest when he hears them. He's a little afraid of the wild birds he can see out the porch windows. Maybe he's never been around other birds.
I hope someday he will be comfortable with riding on my arm and touring the house. I don't expect to mix him and the other birds, but I'd like to offer him the option of a shower perch, or a wider world than our living room and porch, which is all he sees now.