The Pet Cockatiel

Table of Contents:
   Understanding the Pet Cockatiel:    Author: Pat Tucker (All Rights Reserved)
                     Cockatiel Behaviors:    Author: Pat Tucker (All Rights Reserved)
    Intimacy and the Pet Cockatiel:     Author: Pat Tucker (All Rights Reserved)
                           Sir Simon Story:   Author: Pat Tucker (All Rights Reserved)

                         UNDERSTANDING THE PET COCKATIEL

CHOOSING A PET: The hand-fed cockatiel is sought by the prospective pet owner for its affectionate nature and emotional dependency. This dynamite combination, along with its manageable size and moderate price range, has made this species an extremely popular pet.

IMPRINTING: Birds are unique in their ability to imprint on humans.  When artificially incubated or pulled from their natural parents with closed eyes, the first visual imprinting is surprisingly powerful. Thus, we become their extended family and voluntarily accept the roles of nurturer, companion, and potential 'mate'. Unlike other animals, the hand-fed bird becomes intimate with us, and because of our emotional complexities, we surrender to this type of interaction. As a result of the above phenomenon, one of the strongest bonds between animal and human exists with the hand-fed bird.
                      
                 
                            
       
HEALTH: The health of a bird whose feathers are uneven, broken, or dull in appearance is suspect. This, coupled with constant lethargy (often mistaken for tameness), may spell disaster. A healthy bird's eyes are alert, the vent and nasal passages are clean and the feathers are strong and shiny. A healthy hand-fed cockatiel will be tame and affectionate, but will have distinctive periods of activity and rest.

CAGE REQUIREMENTS: Due to the cockatiel's wide wing-span, they require a relatively large cage in relation to their size, approximately 2 feet in diameter for one bird (larger for multiple birds). This will allow for appropriate exercise during their hours of confinement. Bar spacing should be smaller than the diameter of the bird's head (3/4" maximum for cockatiels). Food cups should be accessible from the outside for ease of maintenance, and a removable bottom tray is a must. The addition of a bottom grate (preferably removable for easy maintenance) will prevent the bird from accessing droppings or soiled foodstuff. Each cage should be checked for problem areas and if there is any potentially dangerous protruding wires or intricate decorations where claws could be trapped, keep looking. An inappropriate cage could cause serious injury to your bird. Consult with your breeder before purchase.
                                        
                                    
        
Perches:
Perch size should be appropriate for the species of bird. The diameter should be small enough for stability but large enough to prevent the toes from overlapping as they surround the perch. If possible, provide more than one size perch so that the bird's weight is not consistently supported by the same pressure points as this could cause ulcerations on the bird's feet and considerable discomfort. Natural branches from unsprayed fruit trees make excellent perches and are more healthful than wooden dowels due to their uneven contour. The average perch diameter is 3/4" for cockatiels.

Toys: cockatiels are inquisitive, energetic animals who enjoy the type of stimulation that toys provide. Unfortunately, many commercially manufactured toys are unsafe and too often cause serious injury. Small wood shapes and leather pieces strung on untreated twine, raw hide or cotton rope knotted at the bottom make safe and interesting toys. If a chain link toy is considered, only those with closed links should be offered to avoid trapping a bird's tongue or toe. Although a tame, hand-fed cockatiel will not bite unless provoked, never under-estimate the power of your bird's beak to destroy its favorite toy.


HOMECOMING: The first 48 hours in your home is an exciting, but critical, time for your newly weaned baby cockatiel and will undoubtedly be stressful for everyone. This is the time when phone consultations to your aviculturist/breeder are invaluable and when the following information may be helpful.

Stress: It is important to understand that the most difficult adjustment for your baby cockatiel is the abrupt change in environment. The bird has been taken away from his siblings, his 'parent' (hand-feeder), and the only home he has ever known. This is a stressful period for the bird and sensitivity and constant reassurance will help him make the adjustment.

Eating: The first 12-24 hours are exciting, both for you and for the baby cockatiel, and frequently food intake is less than normal during this time. Keep 'outings' to one hour intervals with alternate resting periods inside the cage for eating and sleeping. Carefully monitor the bird's food intake and droppings and consult with your breeder if any abnormalities are noticed.

Covering the Cage: Birds have a higher metabolic rate than mammals. This is substantiated by their higher body temperatures; however, both avians and mammals have something in common with regard to body temperature: both are homothermic, this means that these lifeforms need to maintain a constant body temperature - day and night. The main disadvantage here is that constant maintenance of temperature requires considerable energy. When body heat is lost, which is common during the night, the metabolism needs to be increased either by 'fueling the fire' (in the form of food intake) or fluffing the feathers. Since it is difficult to increase the metabolism during the night through food intake, fluffing the feathers to create insulation is the bird's only recourse. Covering the cage on three sides, but leaving the front open for air circulation and light intake, will help the bird maintain its body temperature and create the feeling of safety.

Night Light: Cockatiels have a tendency to thrash in the night if frightened by a shadow or noise, especially in a new environment. This behavior is called the 'flight response'. During these episodes, a bird may sustain an injury that providing a simple night light could prevent. With adequate light, the bird will be able to identify the perimeters of its cage and prevent serious injury.


NUTRITION:  The diet consumed by our birds in the wild is often impossible to duplicate in captivity. Scientific research conducted during the 1980's & '90's has resulted in a series of pelleted foods for our pet birds which are formulated to contain all the basic elements for a healthy existence. Since cockatiels are not a particularly food-motivated species, the problem often encountered with these products is acceptance. Since many birds never accept these pelleted diets exclusively and some birds 'fast' for days rather than consume them, supplementation is usually necessary. Although hand-fed baby birds weaned onto these pelleted products will eat them as a sole diet, there is an important psychological consideration. In the wild, birds spend much of their time and energy foraging for food, which provides a great deal of stimulation; but in captivity, food is offered readily and exercise is often limited. Since birds are exceptionally intelligent, they need visual and mental stimulation from their environment which can not be derived from a bland, pelleted diet. Foods containing a variety of different colors, shapes, consistencies, and textures will entice a bird to eat heartily while fulfilling both his physical and psychological needs.

               
               

Although there are many approaches to feeding birds in captivity, the following diet, which contains a variety of foods from each food group, will maintain a healthy and happy pet bird.

Dry Food Mix: Vitamin fortified seed mix (40%), pelleted food (40%), commercial egg food 19%, and Spirulina (1%)

Vegetable Mix: Assortment of cooking greens (kale, collard, Swiss chard, etc.) plus finely chopped uncooked vegetables (carrots, broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, etc.)

Mash: Rice, bean and corn mix, cooked and fed warm

Misc: Wheat bread, hard-boiled egg, finely chopped cooked chicken, pasta, chopped fresh cranberries

SUPPLEMENTATION:  Vitamins are classified into two groups: Fat-soluble and water-soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) are stored to a limited extent in the fatty tissues of the bird's body. As a result, indiscriminate vitamin supplementation (especially with D3) can cause toxicity problems.

Vitamin A, which is needed to maintain the normal health of the intestinal tissues as well as the respiratory, renal and reproductive tracts, is not present in plants in the vitamin form, but instead, is converted in the liver. Sources for vitamin A are yellow and orange colored vegetables and dark leafy green vegetables. Vitamin D3 is produced in the skin when birds are exposed to direct sunlight or full-spectrum lighting such as Vita-lite). Breeding birds have a higher vitamin D3 requirement prior to egg-laying. Good sources are egg yolk and avian supplements specifically listing the ingredient. Vitamin E helps to preserve and protect cell membranes. Good sources are green leafy vegetables, alfalfa, oat groats, egg-yolk wheat germ and fatty seeds. Vitamin K plays a role in normal blood-clotting activity. Good sources are green leafy vegetables, alfalfa, soybeans, and beet root.

Water-soluble vitamins include Vitamin C and a group commonly referred to as the B-Vitamin complex. These vitamins are not stored in the body. B-complex vitamins effect metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It is found in plant and animal proteins, yeast, cereal grains, egg yolk and green leafy vegetables. Birds are not considered to have a particular need for Vitamin C supplementation. Vitamin C is involved in bone formation, and although it is not contained in the egg at laying, synthesis of Vitamin C begins as the embryo develops. External sources are fruits, broccoli and dark leafy cooking greens.

Minerals are divided into two groups: Macro-minerals [calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, salt (sodium chloride), potassium and sulfur], and Micro-minerals [or trace minerals - manganese, iron, zinc, selenium, copper, cobalt and iodine). Minerals are contained in the bones and to a lesser degree in the body tissues. Since 3-5% of a bird's body consists of minerals, and since minerals cannot be synthesized, they must be included in the diet.

Calcium is not a mineral that functions alone. For proper absorption, it must be accompanied by the proper ratio of phosphorus and adequate amounts of Vitamin D3 are needed.

A good source of minerals is Fishmeal which is contained in many of the avian pelleted diets.

GROOMING & MAINTENANCE:  Grooming requirements for the pet cockatiel differ substantially from their wild counterparts, primarily because of the atypical "habitat" in which they live. A bird raised and kept in captivity has little need for long-distance flight and sharp claws to forage for food. There is also a lack of natural rainfall on their plumage which is essential for optimum conditioning. It is important to understand that the difference in the environment of our captive birds considerably alters their grooming requirements.

Bathing: Captive birds quickly learn the psychological and physical benefits of bathing when introduced to a bowl of water, a drizzling faucet, or sprayed lightly. Routine bathing encourages preening and becomes a ritual with our pet birds, ensuring that their feathers remain strong and shiny.                           

               

Wing Trimming: A good wing trim,which is essentially the clipping of a portion of the primary flight feathers, is a simple, painless procedure which ensures safety and guarantees that the bird will choose a reasonable "pecking order" position within the "flock". A good wing clip removes the lower portion of the first 6-8 primary flights on both wings (depending upon the weight of the bird). With this technique, the bird retains the normal flight pattern, but can't attain the usual height or distance which prevents unwanted collisions with mirrors, windows, and walls.

Since cockatiels are strong flyers, maintaining the wing trim is an ongoing process. This can be performed by a veterinarian, veterinary technician, or breeder; however, it is easily learned and maintained by the pet owner as well. The most important aspect of wing trimming involves the presence of 'blood feathers', which are newly growing feathers still being nourished by blood vessels. Before proceeding with a wing trim, the flight feathers should be examined closely to determine their state of development. "Blood feathers" can be detected by examination of the upper section of the feather, called the "quill". This portion of the feather is hollow and filled with blood in a growing feather, but will be clear and solid when the feather has completed its development. During a wing trim, cut only the mature feathers and leave the "blood feathers" in tact. A blood feather may be trimmed once it has closed off from the blood supply.
                   
(Example of trimming around a blood feather)    (Example of a blood feather)

(Warning: If a blood feather is cut or broken off cleanly during normal activity, blood will flow freely from the feather quill and should be removed immediately.)

Nail Trimming: Birds nails grow naturally, much like human finger nails. In addition, they sharpen their nails as a natural part of the preening process. This provides the bird with stability for climbing and a natural tool to forage for food in the wild; but in captivity, birds are provided with a plentiful food supply and their physical environment is not particularly challenging. In actuality, the fact that we handle our pet birds frequently, potential injury to our delicate skin is an obvious disadvantage of these razor-sharp claws, not to mention the danger of injury to the bird should an overly-long claw become caught and broken. As a result, nail trimming should be a part of the grooming regimen for pet birds.

Young birds have naturally sharp claws which may need to be filed frequently during the first year. However, once the bird is an adult, nail trimming is necessary only 3 or 4 times a year. Tame, hand-fed cockatiels are usually willing to be gently wrapped in a towel as this procedure is performed, but before you clip, file or grind, it is important to understand the anatomy of the bird's claw.                                  
                            
 The upper portion of each claw is equipped with a small vein, which is filled with blood. In light-colored claws, this vein is clearly visible, but in the dark-colored claw of some cockatiels, it is impossible to detect.

The recommended technique, called 'blunting', that takes only the sharp tip of the claw (using a nail clipper, nail scissors, or grinding wheel) is your safest avenue, especially with a young bird that requires frequent trimming.      
                    

       (left to right: Nail Clippers, Scissors, Steptic Powder, Dremel Tool)

In the event that you hit the vein and the claw bleeds, apply pressure until the blood stops and dip the claw in flour or a steptic powder (available at pet shops).

Molting: Normal molting depends on temperature, humidity, photo-light period, diet and reproduction, and since these are highly variable elements in captivity, molting in captive birds is often unpredictable.

During a molt, the bird may be less active or vocal, will solicit preening from its favorite bird or human, may scream if a blood feather is disturbed during preening, and should be provided with extra protein in its diet.                  
                 

                                      (Sir Simon and friend Sadie)
In cockatiels, a molt lasts 2-3 months. Excessive preening activity is normal behavior during the molting stage and is not an indication of illness, however, there should never be bald spots on any bird associated with a molt.

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                                     COCKATIEL BEHAVIORS

Bird behaviors serve numerous functions ranging from simple hygiene to a complex communication method. A basic understanding of these behaviors will expand the developing relationship between you and your cockatiel, and help create a deep and lasting bond.

Begging: Baby cockatiels emit a crying sound at feeding time while simultaneously assuming a distinctive body posture in which the body is lowered slightly and the head is retracted into the neck. This is called 'begging' and is designed to alert the parent bird that feeding time is near. It is not unusual for a newly weaned cockatiel to continue this activity for several weeks after they are fully weaned. In fact, some clever individuals learn that by displaying in this manner, special attention will be received. Consequently, many cockatiels will expand this behavior to mean, "I want my head scratched" or "I want to play, cuddle, etc.

Preening: Since a bird's feathers are linked to its survival in the wild, it should not be surprising that a large percentage of time and energy is expended on their care. During preening, which is essentially the maintenance of feathers, the bird accesses the oil gland at the base of the tail with his beak by rubbing it in a circular motion. This releases the natural oils that are then spread throughout the feathers using the technique called 'preening'. The preening technique involves individually running the feathers between the beak and tongue, beginning at their base and ending at their tip.

Fledging: Baby cockatiels begin to exercise their wings at a very young age in preparation for leaving the nest. This maiden flight is called 'fledging' and occurs roughly between 4 and 5 weeks. It is not uncommon for baby cockatiels to firmly grip an object and wildly flap their wings with little regard to what or who is within range.  
         
                 
This activity is very healthy for a captive bird with clipped wings since the heart rate and energy expended is similar to actual flight. An occasional pet cockatiel continues this behavior for many years, but most abandon the activity for alternate forms of play as they mature.

Teething: Baby cockatiels begin to exercise their beaks during weaning as a natural part of their development. Initially, every aspect of their environment is investigated in search of food items, but this instinct soon expands to include other forms of stimulation such as preening and playing. Often the baby cockatiel does not distinguish between edible and non-edible items and a form of distraction may be necessary until this learning process is completed. As is common with many young animals, this 'chewing' phase continues several months past weaning. This is part of the normal development of the bird and is eventually outgrown.
 
The Third Foot: Cockatiels frequently use their beak for climbing and testing their environment.When a 'human perch' (finger, hand, or arm) is extended to a bird, he may first "test" it with his beak to ensure that his weight will be accommodated. This behavior is often mistakenly interpreted as a threatening gesture, and the 'human perch' is withdrawn. If this scenario is continually repeated, the cockatiel receives a mixed signal and will not trust the perch. Once the bird learns to trust the 'human perch', this behavior becomes less frequent.

    

Roosting: A healthy cockatiel has continual periods of activity and rest throughout the day and a steady period of rest at night. The behavior during the resting period is called "roosting". During this activity, the bird will fluff his feathers to control his body temperature. The extent of the fluffing is directly related to the ambient temperature and does not mean the bird is ill. This roosting position can vary from a two footed stance with open eyes to a one footed stance with closed eyes and the head tucked under the wing. The difference in these behaviors could be described as the difference between a mild resting state and a deep sleep. It is perfectly normal for a baby cockatiel to enjoy longer and more frequent periods of sleep than an adult.

Displaying: Birds have an uncanny ability to communicate through behavioral displays. If interpreted correctly, these behaviors can serve as an effective communication method between human and bird. Since attention and admiration are actively sought by most cockatiels, displaying for the 'spotlight' is a daily occurrence. This behavior is designed to make the cockatiel the center of attention, at which time the behavior often changes to a demure, coy demeanor.

Sounding the Alarm: Cockatiels (especially males) use behavioral displays as a warning device either because they choose not to be approached at a given time or because they sense danger. These displays include hissing, lunging, screaming (especially loud chirping sound) and standing in an erect posture with feathers held tightly to the body.

Pecking Order: Cockatiels establish social positions among flock members (both human and bird) using a variety of techniques. This is frequently described as "establishing pecking order" and effectively structures the community with regard to dominance. Although most individuals insert themselves comfortable somewhere in the middle of the "pecking order" a particularly independent personality will undoubtedly attempt dominance from time to time and diversionary tactics may be necessary.

Sexual Behavior: Cockatiels have innate tendency with regard to sexual activity. They are, in fact, substantially effected by their environment and many pet cockatiels come into breeding condition during Spring and Summer. Some behaviors associated with the adolescent or sexually mature male cockatiels include singing an intricate mating song while strutting back and forth on his perch with wings slightly spread from his body, aggressiveness within their perceived territory, and actual attempts at copulation with either an inanimate object or an animate object such as a human hand. Sexual behaviors associated with female cockatiels include sitting in food dishes, increased cuddling, assuming the mating position (head and body lowered & tail elevated while emitting a rhythmic high pitched sound), and egg laying.

Vocalization: Cockatiels are social animals by nature and live and move in flocks. Thus, it is understandable that a cockatiel who has been separated from his 'flock' or 'mate' will try to establish voice communication. Pet cockatiels will vocalize to determine the location of a given flock member, to solicit attention, to greet a returning flock member, or simply for amusement. Cockatiels are usually not sought as companions solely due to the talking and singing ability, but many males become quite accomplished. There are many approaches to speech training, but the most effective method involves reciting words and phrases ONLY at the appropriate time as if you were communication to a very young child. With this approach, the bird will learn both the meaning of the phrase as well as its pronunciation. If a word is spoken at an inappropriate time, the cockatiel will learn the word, but associate it with an inappropriate meaning, or incorporate it into his courtship song. Additionally, it is important to speak slowly and distinctly and in a lower pitch since cockatiels repeat words faster and in a higher pitch than it is heard.
                                         
                                          Simon and Sadie at Play                                       

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                               INTIMACY AND THE PET COCKATIEL

Cockatiels have a delicate psychological makeup, and understanding the sensitive balance between trust and fear is paramount to the initial bonding process. Furthermore, cockatiels are among the few Psittacines that do not defend themselves with other parrot species. All of these observations have taught me to work gently and slowly with cockatiels in order to achieve the highest degree of intimacy.

My basic approach to developing a strong, intimate relationship with my pet cockatiels is to tune into the bird and listen to what he or she is communicating. Basically, the bird will guide you through this entire process. (For the purpose of this writing, I will use the pronoun 'he', even though many of our beloved pet cockatiels are females.)

There are four stages for the bonding/training process:
                                             (1) Affection
                                             (2) Obedience
                                             (3) Touching
                                             (4) Talking

Affection is the first stage of developing an intimate bond with your cockatiel. Keep in mind that affection can't be forced; it takes time to develop. During this first stage of training, allow your bird to sit with you for periods of time without asking anything in return.

                               

The purpose of this initial stage of interaction is to develop trust between you and your bird, and will set the tone for the relationship that is to follow. Talk softly to your bird as you hold him on your finger or as he sits on your shoulder or a nearby perch. Offer food and water by hand to show him that you are a caring flock member, and/or manipulate a toy in his presence to stimulate him. And most importantly, show your bird that you enjoy his presence by walking around the house with him as you look in mirrors so he can see his reflection, look out windows so he can see the trees, grass and sky, and point out various household items to familiarize him with his environment. This stage of the training process can last a few days or a few weeks, depending upon the individual.

Obedience is the next phase of training and one that sets boundaries and teaches your bird how to be happy as a part of a 'human flock'. It is much like teaching young children the behavior patterns that are acceptable in society so that they can grow up to be a productive member of that society. Our pet birds also need this type of guidance to fully enjoy the interaction of their human counterparts in the household. My basic philosophy in this stage of training is simple. You must find that stimulus which will motivate the bird to exhibit the desired behavior. Once this is done, repetition will set the behavior. The most effective stimulus (and the one that I use) is the verbal command, although clicker training is also effective. Present your finger to your cockatiel and use a simple verbal command such as 'Step Up'. Decide upon the verbal command you choose to use and be consistent. Repeat this periodically, but don't push the bird if he resists. The same approach can be used to teach your bird to stay on a perch or play area or potty on command by using the appropriate verbal commands, such as 'Stay' or 'Go Potty'. Once your bird is obeying the command, reward him by using his favorite stimulus from your Affection Training. My pet cockatiels love to be rewarded with a verbal 'Good Boy' and a kiss on the beak, followed by a stroke on the head. Do you see what is happening here? We are using our initial affection training as a tool to achieve the desired behavior.

Once you have taught your cockatiel to obey your commands, it is time to move on to Touching.  If one of your stimuli is stroking your bird's breast or touching his foot, you are well on your way to achieving success in this area. However, if it is not, don't be discouraged. You have other stimuli from your affection training to help you achieve this goal. The same basic philosophy applies with touching. Reward your bird with the  stimulus each time he allows you to touch him consistently for a period of time. My favorite stimulus with cockatiels is talking softly in a high pitched voice. The head, back and chest are a few places to start.

                              
                                                 
If the bird resists touching on the head, start on the back and work your way up. Don't try to get under the feathers initially as this will threaten the bird. Remember, you are trying to achieve a bond, and this can't be done if the bird is nervous. Once your bird gradually begins to relax and accept being scratched on the head, use the stimulus less and less frequently until it is no longer needed. It is wise to get our bird's attention each time, however, before proceeding with touch in the early states of training. Eventually, touching will become one of your stimuli and you can use this very effectively toward your next goal.

Talking is the most difficult goal to achieve and may take a very long time. At the risk of appearing sexist, I must point out that, in cockatiels, it is the male that is most likely to achieve this behavior. The male cockatiel begins to practice his mating call at about three months. This call (which is designed to be a stimulus for the female) sounds more like a squeaky wheel to the human ear in a young bird. By this age, you will probably have heard several different cockatiel sounds from both the male and the female as they do have a pretty good range and tend to imitate the sounds around them. These are the sounds that will be used to imitate the human voice. Whistling seems to come easily to the male, but the female will also learn this sound. Repeat the word, phrase or whistle consistently. Eventually, you will hear a throaty sound coming from the bird. Reward this behavior by continuing to repeat the word or sound you want to teach the bird, followed by the bird's favorite stimuli from your affection training. The same principle applies to talking as to touching and obedience. Reward the bird with the stimulus often when the desired behavior is first displayed and then raise your standard as the bird begins to learn, requiring more and more from him to earn the reward.
                     
                          
Of all the birds that I have had the pleasure to work with, the cockatiel is by far the most gentle. The danger I see with the training process for the cockatiel is that there seems to be a very delicate balance between affection and fear in this species, and for this reason I urge you to tune yourself into the bird and watch what he is communicating to you. Sensitivity is a must! All can be lost, if at any time during the training process, fear is instilled in the bird. If the bird is afraid, slow down the training program. Remember to have respect for your cockatiel and you will be well rewarded.

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                                        THE SIR SIMON STORY
                         
                            
                             Simon on his 'special needs' sleeping perch                  

Sir Simon is a name suitable for royalty, and it fits my special-needs male Cinnamon Cockatiel perfectly.

Sir Simon came into my life at 10 weeks as an addition to my breeding flock. He earned his champion status in 2 shows, placing 9th BIS as a baby and Best-In-Show at 18 months. Shortly after his BIS win, I noticed that he was favoring his left foot. Upon examination, I discovered a large tumor at the knee joint and immediately rushed him to my Avian Veterinarian. Surgery was scheduled the following day.

Unfortunately, this tumor was nourished by two very large blood vessels, one above the tumor and one below. The surgery was successful, but the blood supply below the tumor site was compromised.

                        
                      10 days Post-Op: Blood Supply to foot already compromised

During the next several weeks, I watched as the compromised area began to die. By week 5, it was clear that amputation was the only course of action.  Once that was accomplished, the long road to nurturing his psychological needs began.

Although Sir Simon was no longer in pain, he faced a difficult adjustment. As I watched him maneuver his way around the cage, trying over and over to accomplish a simple task, my heart told me to help him at every new endeavor. Fortunately, my head told me that he had to learn to do things on his own, and if I continually lifted him up to the high perch or moved a toy closer to him, he would never have the quality of life that I desired for him. And so, I restrained my emotions and let him learn. Each day I saw him making progress and by the fourth week post-amputation, he had mastered his cage totally. I was such a proud Momma!

However, this was only the beginning of his journey. Sir Simon was an aviary bird, and during his first 18 months, he lived in a large flight with other males. Although a sweet natured bird, he had a lot to learn about bonding with humans. To complicate this, he had been through a terrifying ordeal and his only experience with human hands was NOT pleasant. The next 6 months was a slow, but rewarding experience, as I applied the four stages of my personal bonding/training program: Affection,Obedience, Touching, Talking. (See the article: Intimacy and the Pet Cockatiel appearing earlier in this section.)
                    
Eight months Post-Op, Sir Simon is a happy, well-adjusted, and forever spoiled member of our family.

                                

He loves people, has learned to step up on anyone that asks using his beak as leverage, and is finally singing happily and learning a few words. Sir Simon is a very special bird and we are blessed by him every day.