Determined cockatoo climbs into the lap of luxury

Simon the cockatoo on a couch on the leg of a smiling person
Simon’s shyness was keeping him from getting adopted, but when he spotted the family he wanted, he made sure they weren’t leaving without him.
By Sarah Thornton

Simon has always been interested in people. From the time he first arrived at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, he would sing and dance and call out to passersby for attention — as long as he felt safe and comfortable in his enclosure. But outside of his familiar confines, he wasn’t quite so confident.

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He’d spent the first several years of his life in a pet store and then went to a home where his person suffered a major stroke. All this meant that for the better part of his two decades of life, the energetic cockatoo had been cage-bound. He simply wasn’t used to being handled, getting out to explore, or even playing with toys. The Sanctuary, then, was understandably a bit of a culture shock.

[How Spiderman got his groove back]

Caregivers at Parrot Garden took it slowly with Simon. He figured out how to play with (or at least have fun pulling apart) his toys pretty quickly, but leaving his enclosure and being handled took a bit longer. Even though he saw and interacted with his caregivers every day, it was almost a year before he warmed up to them enough to step up onto someone’s arm instead of backing away into a corner when his door opened. That was his response when meeting potential adopters, too.

But, as they say, it’s really the parrot who picks the person. And when Simon met the people he wanted to go home with, he was more than ready to step outside of his comfort zone and cause them to fall in love.

The parrot picks his people

Daniel and Samantha Vickers had always been cockatoo fans, but there hadn’t been a bird in their life for several years — not since their children were very little. Every now and then, though, their 7-year-old daughter would comment on how she missed having a bird. She remembered seeing pictures of the family’s cockatoo from when she was just a baby. And once the idea got stuck in Daniel’s head, he couldn’t let it go.

The family lives a little over an hour away from the Sanctuary, so it was easy to decide where to go to find a new feathery friend.

“When we got to the cockatoo room, that’s where my heart just melted,” Daniel says.

“It felt like Simon was competing for attention,” Daniel says with a laugh. “He was trying to talk to Samantha, and she wasn’t paying enough attention to him. So he climbed down (from his enclosure) and walked over to her.”

[This adopter’s home is for the birds — literally]

Simon’s boldness shocked his caregivers. While he’d started hanging out on top of his enclosure, he’d never gotten down on the ground like that — especially not to march right up to someone he’d only just met. And when Samantha reached down to have him step up, he hopped right onto her hand, earning another gasp from the onlookers who’d taken so long to get him to that point with them.

A volunteer who knew Simon then suggested to Daniel: “Put your chest up against his head.” Confused, at first, Daniel did as she said — and then melted even more when Simon snuggled right up against him. Simon had turned his charm up to 11. He’d decided these people were his, and he was absolutely going to leave with them.

Daniel and Samantha took time over lunch to discuss, but they’d been completely won over. Simon was going to get his way.

Welcome to the family

“If he was shy, it’s news to us,” Daniel says, many months after bringing Simon home. The big white bird has completely settled in with his new family, happy to snuggle up with them on the couch or let their daughter massage his feet when he’s resting in his enclosure.

Simon is included in everything from the time he wakes up to the time he goes to bed.

He joins Daniel in the shower, and he has a perch next to the dining table, where the family’s two dogs wait patiently for him to drop any treats that he decides he doesn’t want. When the big tortoise, Bowser, lets himself inside (yes, they also have a pet tortoise, and yes, he knows how to open the door all on his own), Simon is the first to alert everyone with a loud yell. And he keeps a close eye on the cats, watching them wherever they go.

When the weather is nice, Simon joins his family outside to puff up his feathers in the sun and people-watch. “We have a concrete wall and some chairs out there, and he just loves sitting and watching all the kids,” Daniel says. “We live on a cul-de-sac, so there’s not many cars, but when a car from the neighborhood comes by, Simon greets them: ‘Hi! Hello! Hi!’ He was even out there with me during Halloween, handing out candy. He loved it.”

He dances to Michael Jackson and adores the song “I Love It” by Icona Pop. He’ll serenade the family during dinner, and at bedtime, when Daniel and Samantha sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to him as they tuck him in for the night, Simon sings along sleepily.

For Simon — and for his new family — life is good. There is a particular couch in the living room he’d very much like to chew up, but fortunately, it’s easy to distract him from it. “I feel very fortunate that he got to come home with us,” Samantha says. “He’s a really great guy.”

“Yeah. I’m happy,” Daniel agrees, and the smiles are clear in all their voices — because, of course, Simon is also chattering his excitement in the background.

He’s pretty pleased with his choice, as well.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2023 issue of Best Friends magazine. Want more good news? Become a member and get stories like this six times a year.

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