Cockatoos always mate for life, don’t they?

There are two white sulphur crested cockatoos who have taken up residence in my liquid amber tree.  They always sit on the same branch, sometimes facing left, sometimes right, and often back to front.  They appear most days (often one first, and later on the other) and just sit quietly there looking about and occasionally leaning casually against each other.

At first I thought they might have been having a secret tryst, like Romeo and Juliet, enjoying the stolen moments afforded a forbidden love.  But then I thought about how long cockatoos live.  Apparently the white cockatoo can live to 100.  My neighbours had a pet one called Wally, who learnt to imitate my dog Axl’s bark and would mimic me when I was calling my son in the backyard.  He had even belonged to an aboriginal at one time, and had picked up a lot of Aboriginal dialect, but had forgotten it as his new owners were only fluent in English.

I used to enjoy having a limited conversation with him over the fence (he lived in a large aviary, and often rode around the backyard on family member’s shoulders).  I would say:  “Hello Wally” and a little voice would reply “Hello”.  It became part of my day as well as his screeching when he was very excited or competing with Axl to see who could bark the loudest.

His owner eventually died, and he now lives with the son and grandson.  They’ve told me he still barks and is now 46 years old.  He won’t ever know the joys (and maybe) trials of a long term mate as he has never been in the wild and doesn’t know he is not human, but he is loved and I am sure very well cared for.  Having him as a pet is a lifelong commitment, and in his case several human lives.  I know he will be cared for as part of the family through another generation if necessary.  I miss him, but know that his future is secure.

But back to my two cockies.   Cockatoos, unlike many species, mate for life.  That is a big commitment when your partner might live to 100!  Most humans are lucky to make it to 80, and some have a much shorter lifespan.  They (cockatoos not humans) eat nuts, seeds, berries, fruits and insects and don’t work out or take vitamins, so they must be doing something right.  Is it that their life is simpler than ours – no bills, no traffic jams, exams, competing for jobs etc. or is it something else.  They have to sleep in trees, frequently get rained on, suffer in the heat and drought, and presumably have to compete for a mate.  They have to search for food and water, and can’t just drop into the local supermarket to top up their supplies.

I like to think that it has something to do with their loyal natures.  The cult of celebrity does not seem to have infiltrated their flocks, and they don’t need to flaunt their togetherness.    They don’t appear on the covers of the latest gossip mag with their latest hot partner, recovering from the last failed fling with someone they proclaimed was their soulmate.  They simply don’t care if no-one notices their relationship status.  They don’t mind not getting daily updates on Kim Kardassian’s latest drama.

They just sit quietly together on the same branch of the tree enjoying each other’s company  like Darby and Joan.

Under their canopy
Eyeing off the photographer
Back to front on favourite branch
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