Feather-picking cockatoo with open neck wound

Spending 28 years in a single room would be unbearable for anybody. Windy the cockatoo lived as a breeder bird for nearly 30 years. In all that time, his whole world was the inside of a simple shed. By the time he was rescued and came to Best Friends, he was not in any hurry to make human friends. After all, people had never been a close part of his life.

Feather-picking parrots

When his family could no longer care for him, Windy and his mate, Sidney, came to live at the sanctuary. At Best Friends, their breeding days are now over. That’s a big relief, although they each had a long road ahead. These two Moluccan cockatoos were serious feather pickers. Windy, though, was the worst. He plucked at himself so badly that he formed a large open wound below his neck. Making things even trickier, he wouldn’t let anybody close enough to treat it. Surgery looked like the only option.

Enter Wendy… Perhaps Windy perked up after learning his caregiver’s name (Windy and Wendy has a nice ring!), but he really fell for her. The funny thing is, Wendy Hatchel, one of the parrot caregivers, used to be intimidated by the big parrots not long ago. She’d volunteered at Best Friends last year and knew right away she wanted to come back and work with parrots full time. Never mind that she was an office manager back home. Never mind that she had never worked with parrots before. Something clicked!

At first the large birds seemed scary, cockatoos in particular. However, it didn’t take long before she found her stride. And all of a sudden, Wendy formed a special bond with the cockatoos, who are often the most demanding of all the birds.

Treating a cockatoo's open neck wound

Here’s how she works her magic with Windy. For starters, Wendy is able to take Windy out of his cage with no problem. After cuddling and playing with him, she just says, "Chin up," and he listens! He stretches his neck for medicine time. Within a couple months, Windy’s wound has just about closed off entirely—no surgery necessary. And he’s learned people can be friends, a big step for him.

As an aside, Wendy is the only person so far with whom Windy will do this. Just goes to show that animals really know what they’re doing when they pick who gets to take care of them!

Photo by Molly Wald

Learn more about the parrots at Best Friends’ Parrot Garden.