Wallflower cockatoo blossoms into dancing king

Tilly the sulfur-crested cockatoo with wings outspread and head cocked to the side
Tilly was shy when he arrived at the Sanctuary, and after trying everything to get him to open up, caregivers found his true love: ’80s women pop artists.
By Best Friends staff

Parrot Garden at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is where the party’s at. All day, feathery friends — from bouncing budgies to magnificent macaws — chat away, calling to each other and serenading anyone who might pause to listen. Music plays often throughout the day, providing the birds with a backdrop to their meals and playtime and giving them (as well as caregivers and volunteers) something to dance along to. Truly, there are few places livelier.

But, as with any party, amid the colorful chaos are corners of quiet: shy songbirds and watchful wallflowers who prefer to keep to themselves — birds like Tilly, the sulfur-crested cockatoo, who’d been quiet and reserved since the day he arrived at the Sanctuary. He’d spent most of the past decade in a home. But when his person was no longer able to care for him, Tilly’s world had flipped upside down, and he’d withdrawn.

No matter how caregivers tried to get Tilly to come out of his shell and unleash his inner party animal, he remained stoic — at least until someone found the right beat to get his head bobbing and his feet stomping.

The dancing king, young and sweet, almost 17

It turns out Tilly was just waiting for his song to come on. Where treats and toys had failed to tempt him, turning on some ’80s pop music finally got Tilly to perk right up. And he was especially fond of female singers. Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart and The Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men had him fluffing his feathers and throwing his wings into the air. He came alive with the music, swaying and sweeping his whole body back and forth with the rhythm, and his confidence only grew as his caregivers gathered around to cheer him on and join the impromptu dance sessions.

[How Spiderman got his groove back]

The change was incredible. Tilly was the star of the show whenever his favorite tunes came on, and his human friends were more than happy to keep the good vibes going. With shared enthusiasm for timeless classics, Tilly felt like part of the flock. He started bonding with his caregivers like they were all the proverbial birds of a feather.

These days, he’ll bop, dance, and sing along to his favorites while supervising meal prep or cleaning. He’s part of the party and, more often than not, the life of it as well. Honestly, who could resist the pure joy of a cockatoo really getting into his groove?

He knows he’s the dancing king, young and sweet at almost 17. And he is having the time of his life (ooh, see that bird!).

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