A Connection With Cockatoos
I have always loved Sulphur-Crested White Cockatoos, ever since I was a young girl and my dad brought a young one home in an old wooden fruit box. He said that it had fallen out of a nest, and he named the young fledgling Benny, after his favourite comedian, Benny Hill. Benny needed soft food still, and I used to come home at lunchtime from the primary school around the corner to feed him his porridge.
Benny was a joy to have as a pet. He would sit on your arm, do acrobatics in his cage, and he became a great talker, greeting you as you came home with ‘Hello! What ‘cha doing? Hello! Hello! Hello!!!’ All in various tones of voice – he was hilarious!
As all much loved pets are, Benny was very spoilt. His favourite seeds were sunflower seeds, which he would eat and leave the rest. Unfortunately this led to an imbalance in his diet, and his feathers began to bleed and fall out. Dad took him to the vet and we tried him with various supplements, but he continued to deteriorate, and one day his beak broke, quite short. It was back to the vet again. I came home from school to a very quiet house that day, and instantly knew something was wrong. Dad, with tears in his eyes, told me that the vet had decided to put Benny down, as he would have had too much trouble trying to eat. I was devastated… I never got to say goodbye to my friend.
Over the years, if I ever came across a white cockatoo at a zoo, or as someones pet, I was always drawn to them, spending time talking and admiring them, telling them how gorgeous they were…
About four years ago I was doing a series of Workshops called the ‘Four Directions’, where each day we honoured a different direction and did various exercises associated with each particular one. When we were doing South we were looking at Animal Totems, and while were were connecting and finding our own particular Animal Totem, I found myself squawking… Yes, it was the White Cockatoo!
A few days later I was driving along the road near Daylesford, where I used to live, and there was a White Cockatoo by the side of the road, with another lying still next to it. I made eye contact with the bird as I drove past, and could feel its distress. I did a u-turn and pulled up next to them. One flew about ten feet away, but the other didn’t move. I could see it was dead, and I looked at its mate, shaking my head. ‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,’ I said. ‘She can’t come with you…’ I gently picked it up and moved it over to the fence, away from the road, and did some symbols over the bird, to send it on its way. Its mate was still there watching me, and as I looked at it we again made eye contact, and after a few seconds, it flew up into the air, did a circle overhead, then flew away.
I moved into this property in November, 2009 and my relationship with the White Cockatoo continued to grow and deepen. The people who lived here before me had fed the birds around here with a wild bird mix twice a day over many years, and they were keen for me to continue this, and would even provide the seed. I needed no persuasion, and quickly got to know all the feathered visitors to the garden. There are Crimson Rosellas, Galahs, Little Corellas, Eastern Whipbirds, Superb Fairy Wrens, Painted Honey Eaters,Grey Currawongs, Magpies, Ravens, a Rufous Whistler, and some other birds I haven’t identified yet. Sometimes I see a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles soaring high in the air currents above my neighbours’ paddock. And there are a few families of Sulphur Crested White Cockatoos. Some I think I recognise from the farm down the road where I used to live, who I would talk to when they were perched in the tree near the clothesline. (Well, they all look very similar and it is hard to tell them apart…!)
The cockatoos perch in the dead gum tree next to the clothes line here, waiting for their food. It didn’t take long for them not to fly away as soon as I came out to feed them. They let me stand quite close now, and are making a recognizable ‘Hello’ in response to my greetings (Sounds like ‘hello’ to me!)
There are a few families who are regulars, and they call out to me, when I am outside in the vegetable garden, or in the paddocks with the sheep or cows, and let me know that they are back for dinner, or breakfast. If I am inside they give a loud screech outside and if I am at the kitchen sink one flies down to the kitchen window to tell me to hurry up. It makes me laugh when I look outside to see the cockatoos perched up in the tree, then I see a flurry of white feathers and hear a light thump as one lands on the roof above the window. I twist and strain my neck to look up to the guttering and sure enough I see a cute white feathered head, with a lovely sulphur-yellow crest, and black cheeky eyes appear, as it turns around to look in at me. I chuckle as I immediately stop what I am doing to go outside and feed them.
One day I noticed one was hanging around on the ground at the top of the driveway, and seemed unwell. It wouldn’t let me get too close, and it didn’t fly away, but climbed up a nearby tree . I kept checking all day, and when I came home from work at 10.00 pm it was still there, I decided that if it was still there in the morning I would try to catch it and take it to the vet. As soon as I woke up the next day I ran outside and there it was, lying on the ground under the Ash tree on the other side of the drive; I picked it up but it was dead. I cried and cried for ages… It is now buried on the Eastern side of my sacred circle. When I do ritual there I call in the White Cockatoo. In Scott Alexander’s ‘Animal Dreaming Oracle’ the White Cockatoo represents Air and Illumination, and is a guardian of Gate of the East. This feels right for me!