Bilingual cockatoo bird

Cockatoo at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary learns how to perfectly imitate a macaw. Sunshine the bird is bilingual!
By David Dickson

Did you take a foreign language in high school? (And if so, can you remember anything beyond asking where to find the bathroom?) For most of us, picking up any kind of a second language is a grueling, tedious process. But not for Sunshine the cockatoo. He makes the whole process look fall-down easy.

Parrot Garden at the Sanctuary

Best Friends has a new parrot garden. It’s a gorgeous setting, complete with cascading waterfall and outdoor bird cages, which let the birds experience sounds, smells, and sights that they wouldn’t otherwise get to enjoy. As you can imagine, they love going out in nice weather… and they don’t always want to come back in.

Learn more about the Parrot Garden at Best Friends

Cockatoo imitating military macaw's screams

One day, bird caregiver Ken Theus was bringing in the parrots. One particular military macaw was not happy about the idea, so the macaw started screaming. Not in pain or fear or anything like that. Just exercising his right to be grumpy. In a really, really loud way. Sunshine the cockatoo was at the other end of the garden, listening with interest to the emotional declaration.

And then Sunshine, too, started screaming. That may not sound so unusual. After all, when one dog barks, others usually start barking. And if you happen to know Sunshine the cockatoo, you’d know that he loves to scream, often just for kicks and giggles. But this was a different sound. A sound that the bird staff have never heard him make before. You see, it was a spot-on imitation of the macaw’s gripes! Which means that in a matter of seconds, Sunshine earned himself bilingual status. He can now scream in two different languages: cockatoo and macaw. Not bad for a day’s work!

Considering a parrot as a pet?

Photo by Troy Snow