The King is rockin' the house

Ever met a feather-boa-sporting vulture you didn’t like? (Ever met one, period?) Ophelia the DuCorps Cockatoo, (or now, King O) is one of a kind in many different ways; his unusual appearance is only the beginning.

King O used to live with an elderly woman who spent every waking hour with him. (She thought he was female, thus the name Ophelia.) A lot of birds have terrific first homes like this. They are brought in as a baby and bond deeply with their person or people. Of course, that’s rarely the way it stays forever. Things will often go great for a long time, and then the bird almost always has to move on to another home.

You see, unless you give your child a cockatoo as a present on his first birthday — hint: not a good idea! — the bird is going to have more than one home. It’s a simple matter of life expectancy. Cockatoos can live a human lifespan. The lucky ones get to spend ten or twenty years in a home, yet most stops end up being far less than that. For King O, his whole world turned upside down when his first person passed on.

Some members of the family met King O and wanted to take care of him. Here, however, came a sharp contrast from his previous life. Where his first person had been home all day and spent time with him constantly, the new couple both worked and didn’t know a whole lot about caring for cockatoos. So he didn’t get out much.

That’s when the feather picking began. One of the hardest things on a bird is to experience a drastic reduction in affection. King O started pulling out his own feathers, including using his feet to get the head feathers. That’s also when the noise picked up. All cockatoos can scream loudly when they’re frustrated and most have no qualms doing so. King O made it known in no uncertain terms that he was upset. Before long, he was on to another home. In fact, he’s only eight years old now and has already had several different homes.

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Jacque Johnson

Despite the bumpy road he’s been on, though, this guy is such a character you can’t help but fall in love with him the minute you meet him. "He has the biggest personality I’ve ever seen," explains Best Friends parrot manager Jacque Johnson. Boy, is she not kidding! Spend two minutes with King O and you might make the same assessment.

For one thing, he’s a perpetual chatter box. You walk in and are greeted almost instantly with, "Pretty, pretty bird!" or "Ohhhhhhhh!" or maybe he’ll even sing and dance for you. He has many favorite songs he likes to croon, such as Cecilia from Simon and Garfunkel (substituting the word Ophelia) or one of the Beatles songs, or maybe some Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan. He loves to dance, he steps up for head scratches, he constantly bobs and weaves and grooves when his favorite music plays, and in all other ways likes to hog the spotlight. There’s no keeping this guy in the backstage crew, that’s for sure.

Some of this larger than life behavior comes wired with the original package, obviously, but it’s also the byproduct of how he was raised. King O grew up in an environment where he was the star of the show every minute of the day. Part of him still wants to be treated that same way. Leave the room, for example, and don’t expect him to be happy about it! After all, who walks out on a celebrity?

Lucky for King O, he’ll soon take up lodging in the main office up at birds where he’ll be surrounded by friends and visitors from dawn ‘til dusk. (All animals at the Sanctuary are separated temporarily, until tested, when they first arrive.) Someday he hopes to have a home again where he is adored all day long, but until then, he’ll have the next best thing: Love and attention from his caregivers and everybody else who walks through the building.

But yeah, truth be told, The King does look a bit like a vulture with a feather boa around his neck. Maybe someday he’ll decide to stop plucking out his feathers in this exact fashion, but until then he has definitely developed a look all his own. And really, no two superstars are supposed to look exactly alike, are they?

Welcome (and all hail) King O!

PS: The King made it to Monday's funny video on PeoplePets.com.

Why not sponsor this remarkable bird?

By David Dickson

Photos by Gary Kalpakoff