Rocky is a ransomed rescue, whom I found on a Facebook “buy and sell” site, listed as one would list a sofa or bicycle one no longer needed. I was horrified, because I suspected, from the way it was worded, that the first person sober enough to reply with the right amount of money would be allowed to take him away, and the people wouldn't bother to first find out if they knew anything about parrots, much less cockatoos.
Cockatoos are special cases, and require more fortitude and understanding than most other parrots.
The people said his screaming upset the man of the house, who has a heart condition or high blood pressure or something, but it turns out that he was actually abusive to Rocky. He and his buddy blew smoke in his face, for example. We know the buddy in a distant way. To give credit where it's due, I believe the woman and her teenage son wanted to find Rocky a better home for Rocky's sake, but as with many cockatoos, he's been in and out of many homes. We don't know and can only guess at what he's been through.
This weekend, I found another clue to his history. It's best to pet your parrot's head only in most cases, because pressure on the back might make him think you're making romantic overtures, and a hormonal parrot can be, well … you don't want that. Generally, I only meddle with Rocky's wings and back when I'm trying to smooth ragged feathers that he's damaged with his habit of combing them with his talons, but on Saturday he had his head stuffed under my arm and there was nothing else to pet but wings. I found an odd bump on one wing. He didn't flinch when I touched it, so I parted the feathers to get a better look, and I found an old break that had healed badly and, though I'm no medical expert, looks as if it were never treated.
Rocky has a spot on his other shoulder that does make him flinch when I accidentally touch it, and I try to avoid petting wings for that reason, too. It's hard to avoid unless I just don't touch that side at all, because there isn't an obvious old injury there. I can't see anything wrong with it at all. I had not been aware of the place on this wing. I had attributed his lack of flying to the ragged feathers and a bad clip job somewhere in the past. The feathers have never had a chance to recover and are a mess, in spite of molts. He sometimes hangs from his door and flaps wildly, and he can glide to the floor if he chooses to, but he never tries to actually fly. I wonder if he can't, due to damage that I now know involves both wings. Flapping is not the same as supporting his weight in the air would be.
How did his wing, maybe both, get broken? If it was an accident, due to a fall or a bad landing, why didn't they take him to a vet? Did someone do it while hurting him somehow? He is certainly afraid of a lot of things that my other birds don't even look at twice. Over the 10 months that we've had him, Rocky has learned to accept brooms and some other things that once terrified him, but we still know we can't pick up a wooden chair or stool to move it if he can see us. We can move upholstered furniture, but not a straight chair or barstool. He even panics at curtain rods, so that when I had to hang up new curtains recently (thanks to him destroying the old curtains), I had to try to conceal the rods with my body while I put the new curtains on them and constantly reassure him as I hung them back up. He has been abused, and he has been hit. Sometimes when I reach out to stroke his head, he flinches. He knows I am not going to hit him, so it's an involuntary reaction to a memory of someone else hitting him.
He's come so far in so many ways, and that's a testament to the power of a parrot to trust and love the humans who love him, in spite of humans in the past who did not deserve that trust and love. This morning, and most mornings, when I put on my coat and got ready to go to work, I went to his cage, where he was having his breakfast, to say goodbye. He stopped dunking pellets, leaned out through his open cage door, and offered his beak for a kiss. Yesterday, I let him sit on my shoulder, which he always wants to do but usually makes me nervous, and we played a game. He pretended he was going to chomp my ear and I said “No chomping Mommy's ear!” Mind you, he could have chomped it if he wanted to. He didn't even try. He used the rounded top of his beak to barely touch my ear to tease me. I knew, and he knew, that it was just playing. I trust him and he trusts me. Imagine the intelligence behind those black eyes to come up with this idea, and to play a game like that, and to know that he should be gentle with his beak so as not to hurt me. It's astonishing.
I adore all seven of my birds and they all have brilliant minds in their own ways, but there's something about winning the love of a bird I know was abused and rejected, whose trust was thrown back in his face over and over again, that's extra-special.