Goffin's Cockatoo, Tanimbar Cockatoo, Cacatua goffini, white parrot

Lessons from my Cockatoo

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Sugar perched on our jade plant.
Sugar perched on our jade plant.

My companion animals are more than just my friends; they’re also my teachers. I’ve recently reflected on the lessons from my pushy, wild-caught cockatoo. He’s a rescue, probably over 35 years old, and full of personality. Domestic birds of his breed will learn to speak, but that boat has sailed for him. He just makes wild bird noises. He came with a dopey name, Sugar, but since he responds to it, we haven’t changed it. So what does he teach me?

  • Celebrate each day as the gift that it is! (He greets the rising sun with a fury of shrieking which, believe it or not, means he’s happy.)
  • Speak your truth. (He never holds back saying what he thinks, if only I could understand.)
  • Ask for what you want. (He doesn’t just ask for what he wants, he demands it.)
  • Don’t be afraid to show affection for those you love. (He is quite a snuggler with his favorite person.)
  • It’s okay to play! (He likes to somersault down my cleavage when my husband isn’t watching.)
  • Freedom is more important than we think. (Caged, Sugar is depressed beyond measure; he lives to fly.)
  • Order is over-rated. (He makes chaos out of order.)


Making chaos out of order can be hard to see as a gift, but Sugar preens his tailsometimes I need to be nudged, or even pushed, out of a rut. Those ruts can be in my thinking, routines, career path, friends, or hobbies. When I get out of my comfort zone and take some risks, I can enter new zones of chaos. Bring it on! You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. I can’t do anything new without inviting in some chaos. I might as well get used to it and make it my friend.


There are other lessons, in the negative, that Sugar is happy to teach me:

  • Don’t be a bully. (He’s dominates the other birds, although he thinks he’s a natural leader.)
  • Don’t be wasteful. (Parrots, by their nature, are wasteful eaters; they’re designed to seed the rainforest.)

    Sugar eating a banana.
    Sugar eating a banana.
  • You can toot your own horn too much; keep it modest. (Cockatoos can be very, very loud.)


I’m still quite a distance from being the person I’d like to be, so there are lots of things to learn. My companion animals are doing their best to help me out. It’s my job to listen and learn.

Bath time!
Bath time!


    1. Awww, thanks. My cockatoo is sitting on my chest and fluffing his feathers with pride, now that everyone knows he’s so brilliant!


  1. This is such a great post. Just the right lessons and just the right length. I am sure long books have been written about it and don’t say it half as well.

    They say (whoever they may be) that you only retain so much of what you read. So I know I won’t remember all your Cockatooey Lessons. So I am going to just choose two to take away and work on.

    The first is: Ask for what you want. I am a bit timid and usually embarrassed to speak up and say what I mean or what I want. I don’t want or need much, but still if you don’t ask, you won’t get.

    The second is: Celebrate each day as the gift that it is. Sometimes it seems we are always waiting for that special day to appear. We build up a party or holiday or some event and when it comes, sometimes it is a let down. Let everyday be filled with celebration.
    Beautiful Bird!


  2. You do an excellent job of photographing that white, especially when it is white on white. Your skills amaze me.
    I would say your bird teaches you a nice lesson in tolerance; he being a morning person and you not sharing that joy. But you keep him.
    The statement on your blog that REALLY impressed me is that obviously you have a plan for personal growth! How many people go all
    through their lives and never have that? Probably a majority. We tend to focus on rather earthy goals of achievment and acquiring, but how
    many people focus on improving their character, their perspective on people, their inner tools for having a full life of giving, sharing,learning, creating, loving. Keep up the good work!


  3. We have a cockatiel, born and raised in captivity, who shares many of those same lessons, though I will never agree with her crazy joy at sunrise, And don’t have a headache around here.


    1. Yeah, if I had known of his sunrise routine, I probably wouldn’t have gotten him! And ditto on the headache, I’m still trying to see him as a positive addition, though.


  4. Well, isn’t Sugar just beautiful and great lessons being learnt. When I first rescued Litchi, she taught me to wake up and welcome the world in with glee. I found myself saying to her, every morning, “welcome to today Litchi” – it’s just how she reacted to it, with such enthusiasm.


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