The art of healing

All it takes is the skill of a great vet, the attention of loving caregivers and the friendship of another bird.
By Best Friends Animal Society

Not many animals can walk around with a large hole in their stomachs and pretend nothing is wrong. But Beau, a moluccan cockatoo who came to Best Friends a few months back, has had practice. He’s carried that battle wound for over seventeen years!

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Look at me!

Except it’s not really a battle wound. Beau did it to himself. Many parrots pluck their feathers out of frustration, boredom, or other emotional hang ups. It’s a complex problem not easily dealt with. In some birds, however, the problem goes deeper than feather-plucking. They can start picking at and damaging their skin with those sharp beaks.

Moluccan cockatoos seem to be more disposed to feather picking and harming their own bodies than some other parrots. Beau was among the worst cases the caregivers at Best Friends had ever seen. In his previous home he had been showing this behavior for many years. His family tried everything they could think of, but never found a way to convince him to stop hurting himself. In the end, they were no longer able to meet his needs and Beau came to live at Best Friends.

Dr. Deb Nicholson, Best Friends’ avian vet, decided that surgery was the first course of action. Dr. Deb was able to cut away the dead tissue and stitch the hole back up again. She had to remove so much skin it was a fairly tight stretch in the end, but lucky for Beau, skin accommodates and grows back as needed. The procedure was a success. Surgery, though, was only the first step.

Beau needed a complete shift in lifestyle. He had to wear a collar and vet wrap for a time, which prevented him from aggravating the area, and he was under constant supervision. After all, he’d been attacking that same spot for nearly two decades. It was going to take some major effort to break that habit! The caregivers also worked hard to establish trust with him. He started to respond by trusting them back.

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Then something else happened to improve the situation. Beau met a female cockatoo who struck his fancy. Charlie, also a moluccan, has feather-plucking issues as well. The two birds really hit it off from the get-go and have been best pals ever since.

Perhaps that new friendship is just what Beau needed to break his lifelong problem. He found his courage. Only two months after his big surgery, Beau is down to nothing but a sweater. That’s an amazing comeback! These sweaters are more for comfort and security than protection.

A bird who wants to get past a sweater will do so in minutes, if not seconds. But so far, Beau has decided to move on from the old ways. He has stopped picking at the sore. He’s healing. Never too late for a fresh start, right?

Written by David Dickson

Photos by Sarah Ause

Friends are great, as are fashionable sweaters, but so are toys. You can be a part of Beau’s progress by donating items from the animal wish list, including parrot toy parts.