Umbrella Cockatoos

by Kelley Gile

UMBRELLA COCKATOOS, also known as White or White-Crested Cockatoos, are all white with pale yellow under the wings and tail.  They have a broad, pure white crest which is normally flat against the head and unfolds when raised. This action is the source of their name, "Umbrella". Beaks, legs and feet are a blackish grey, which often look lighter due to a covering of cockatoo powder.
Umbrellas or U2s or Umbies are one of the larger cockatoo species averaging about 18 inches 45 cm, but smaller than the Moluccan and Palm Toos. Males have black eyes, females red or dark brown, but DNA or surgical sexing should be done to be sure. Umbrellas, like the other cockatoo species, are long lived with a life expectancy of over 70 years. They live in small groups or flocks.

U2s have no sub-species, but there is a growing awareness that there may be two sizes of U2s. The larger ones, in the 560 - 675 gram range have a broader head and beak. The smaller in the 425 - 550 gram range are more petite and have a thinner head and beak.

Umbrellas are native to Indonesia, in the Moluccan Islands of Batjan, Halmahera, Obi, Ternate and Tidor.

Habitat: Forests and around farmland.

Diet: Consists mainly of berries, fruits and nuts found in the top of large trees.

Incubation period, weaning: Umbrellas lay small clutches, usually one or two eggs. Incubation is about 29 days. Chicks leave the nest in about 11 weeks. Both the male and female take turns in sitting on the eggs.

Umbrellas as Pets

Umbrellas are beautiful, intelligent showoffs and can live over 70 years. They are very affectionate birds and may have been the source of the term "velcro bird" to describe their strong cuddling behavior. Umbrellas form strong bonds and may grow to regard their owners as mates. They are also very intelligent and curious and, if allowed, will learn to manipulate their owners.

Umbrellas do talk. Although some umbies do obtain a vocabulary of 50-100 words, in general they are not the prolific talkers that amazons or greys are. Of our four pets, one has a vocabulary of about 50 words. The others vary between 5 - 15 words. They are good at doing tricks and some excel in mechanical feats such as undoing locks and bolts. In summary, umbrellas are intelligent, social, good natured, active, acrobatic and very affectionate. They talk some, bond to their owners and make an excellent companion

Umbrellas can also be very loud. They have strong voices which carry and are not good candidates for an apartment or closely spaced housing situation. They have strong beaks and are chewers and if not monitored will destroy anything within reach. Provide umbrellas with large, roomy cages which they can climb around in and exercise in.

Umbrellas should be part of the family, their cages placed where they can see activity and where others passing by can stop to say hello. They also need to be out of their cages for a time each day, to get attention, exercise and a change of environment. Be sure they have toys and perches to satisfy the chewing urge and to keep them from becoming bored. U2s are one of the species which tend to feather pluck for a variety of reasons including loneliness and boredom.

Owning a U2 should not be taken lightly. They require care and attention and lots of space. They can also be costly to keep. But if you can provide for their needs, you will be rewarded with lots and lots of love and affection, entertainment and fun.

Before the High and Far-Off Times, O my Best Beloved, came the time of the Very Beginnings- sometimes referred to as the Time of the Great Grayness; and it was in the days when the Eldest Magician was getting Things ready. First he got the Earth ready, then he got the Sea and Sky ready; and then he told all the Animals that they could come out and play. The Animals said: "O Eldest Magician, How shall we play? Everything in the World is gray and we can barely see one another- never mind play!"
Eldest Magician looked around at the wide land, "Something is very wrong with the World", he said. "It is hard to tell when the rainy days stop and the sunny days begin!". The Animals all agreed. "Someone must go to the Ends of the Wide World to the magical creature called the Rainbow- if the Rainbow will share its colors, the Wide World will become wonderful indeed! Who will go?"."Not I", said the Donkey, "Gray is a fine color for a humble animal like me- I wish no change of color!". The Magician looked elsewhere. "Not I", said the Dolphin, "Gray is a fine color for a sleek animal like me- I wish no change of color!". Eldest Magician shifted his glance. "Not I", said the Elephant, "Gray is a fine color for an imposing animal like me- I wish for no change of color!".

The Eldest Magician began to despair, was there no Animal with a wish for beauty? "Will no one travel to the Rainbow?" All the Animals refused to meet his eyes, all but one- a cheeky bird with bright eyes and a loving disposition- the Cockatoo. "Gray is NOT a fine color for the Whole Wide World!- I wish for a change! I will go". And as it so happened, O Best Beloved, the courageous bird braved many perils to reach the Rainbow, but reach it he did. The Rainbow gave of its colors gladly, and when the Cockatoo returned to Eldest Magician, he was every color imaginable. The Animals marveled at the radiant Cockatoo, and wished for color for themselves (all except for the Donkey, Dolphin, and Elephant...). The Cockatoo gave every Thing in the world a color, gave and gave with his loving heart, until the World WAS wonderful, and very beautiful...but!! The poor bird forgot to save a color for himself!

And that is why, O Best Beloved, the Cockatoo, of all the parrots, has no color of it's own- only white or black with small traces of color in hidden places (except for the especially sensitive ones who blushed pink from all the praise from the other Animals); and as recompense for this unselfish act, the Eldest Magician caused the Cockatoo to have a proud Crest upon his head, so THAT'S all right, Best Beloved. Do you see?

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