Tickled Pink

Susie Christian

Susie Christian

Morro Bay, California

"P" stands for Pink but it also stands for Personality Plus too! The Rose-breasted cockatoo is far from your average white Too in every way. The most obvious difference is the knock your socks off stunning pink color, bordering on a raspberry hue. Very few parrots are pink! Their rich and classy color scheme consists of subtle shades of soft grey on the back, wings and tail contrasted with the deep rose-pink face, chest and under-belly. This fantastic color scheme is topped off in jaunty fashion with the Rosie's light pink "helment". The Rosie has a recumbent crest, which is flattened to their heads or stands at attention depending on their moods. You can tell their mischief level by watching their crest. You see I am very prejudiced when it comes to Rosies. It isn't just all about their dazzling appearance either. They possess the most dynamic, outgoing personalities to go with their exceptional looks!

Early months

Tiny Rosies are very sharp mentally even when they are a few days old. They have the feeding response of a jack-hammer and look like tiny bumblebees covered in exotic pink down. They actually look like they fell in the cotton-candy machine at the carnival with the wispy pink fluff they sport. As babies they are very active and sometimes will jump out of the butter tubs I keep them in during the first few weeks. It is as if they want to be adults in a day. But they do grow up fast. I swear they grow in front of my very eyes as I watch them. Rosies wean very quickly, between six and eight weeks. They have a personality that wants out of the Tupperware tub and lets move on and explore the big world out there.

As the scant pink down leaves, it is replaced with an itchy looking mass of pin-feathers, faintly resembling a porcupine's relative. But from these hundreds of quills emerge the lovely soft feathers they will soon sport. Rosies are built for flight and once they wean and start flying, nothing holds them back. I don't trim my babies wings unless they are going to be a pet.

My personal pet, Gertie birdy has her wings trimmed but the pair I keep in the large cage in my house have full flight. However, when this pair who were raised by me, just started to fly I trimmed a few feathers from their wings just to settle them down a bit. It took a little wind out of their sails. A gradual or partial wing clip does wonders for a young bird's attitude in the early days of its weaning and learning. When they feel a speck of their independence taken away through a partial wing clip they begin to "listen' to us humans a bit better.

A good portion of a young Rosie's time is spent foraging on the ground, waddling around in a pigeon toed fashion exploring undiscovered and unnoticed treasures on the floor. They search for things like seeds that have fallen into the carpet, rubber tips on furniture, rubber backing on throw rugs, light cords and other assorted items that are generally off-limits. Rosies, I believe love touring the floor equally as well as they love breaking out into sudden flight, wheeling and screeching around the house. Even as adult birds, they retain this love of scrounging around on the floor for food tid-bits or general mis-adventures.

Juvenile coloring develops slowly and when their baby feathers first come in, the pink is muted and the grey isn't as distinct as it becomes later on. Rosies are little balls of pink and grey fluff well into their first few months, not actually achieving their final color until after their first or even second moult. The adult Rosie is very stately and proud, holding each feather just so and perfect in appearance.

Great Companions

As with any other hand-fed parrot it is a good idea to start bonding with a Rosie as soon as possible after weaning. I have done this with my pets. Of course they were hand fed by me from a week old so I have the advantage of being with them from almost the first moments of their memory. I also find that hand-reared birds will stay tame and teachable long after weaning.

A while back I visited a friend who had a large cage full of young Rosies, approximately seven months old. None of these birds knew me at all but at least half of them came over to see me and pressed their heads against the wire, begging to have their heads petted. Not bad for being five months down the road from weaning and still wanting to crawl in my pocket and go home with me practically!

Young Rosies are inclined to use their beaks more often than other cockatoos and tend to nippiness. Their version of nippiness doesn't equal a bloody bite, but a persistent nip. They seem to use this nip as a means of exploring the surroundings and expressing themselves. I find that by tapping them on the shoulder or other part of their body and even moving them to a different position it will take their mind off the nip and they are distracted. It works better than scolding them. With some observation the Rosie's nipping can be controlled and lessened by trying different behavior modification techniques. The up side is that they aren't noted for taking mammoth chunks out of the molding on the house or eating holes in the walls as some of the larger white cockatoos are famous for.

I find the males to be equally as great for pets as the hens. The pet male I have is paired with a hen and they both vie for my attention. She loves to have her head rubbed as long as I will accommodate her, while he isn't as into the head fondling. He just prefers to fly after me in the house, landing on me and wanting to clown around. This consists of him hanging upside down, screeching and flapping while holding onto my forearm. What great fun for him. He seems to want to be close to me on his terms and not actually touched or fondled as much. She relishes a lot of handling and touching.

My first pet Rosie, Gertie lives here as a single bird. She knows how much I worship her and she gives every bit of it back to me. In fact she can't stand either one of the pair that live right above her, even the male. If I play with one of them in front of her, she goes to the back of her cage and turns her back on us. Does it sound like she is jealous? It is a good thing I have no intention of breeding her because she intensely dislikes any others of her own species. She plays some through the cage bars with the Red Lory who has the run of the house but Rosies generally don't seem inclined to interact much with other parrot species.

Gertie's cage sits by the door so I pass it many times a day. She is always by the cage corner looking at me with eager anticipation and that familiar 'big face' with feathers fanned out, urging me to stop and itch her head. Because I cuddled her a lot from her early months, she loves to sit on my chest and have me rub her head when I watch television. I am privileged to do this for maybe twenty minutes then she will climb up, sit on my knee, pick her feathers and go to sleep a short while later. Gertie also loves to sit on my knee and help me check my E Mail while I rub her head. When she has had enough she proceeds up to the back of my chair, tucks her head behind her wing and goes to sleep, occasionally waking up for a short head caress. She will sleep there for hours and just loves being close to me.

Talking and Noise

It is my observation the male Rosies talk much louder and plainer than the hens usually. I have a male breeder Gus, who was a pet originally but now lives outside with his mate. If I turn on the porch light at midnight he will pipe up with a series of, "Hi, Hello, What's your name, Hi birdy, Pretty birdy", when I am trying to be quiet so as not to bother the neighbors. Lot of help Gus is! I do reinforce what he says when I am near his cage and have tried to teach him new words like his own name, but he seems stuck with saying a few things with great volume and most clear pronunciation.

My pet, Gertie learned a few words but is not a great talker. She is better at waving her foot on command and playing pat a cake with me. Lloyd, the male house pet Rosie, at two years old says many words and phrases that I have taught him. Rosies learn to talk in the first six months. When I raise my hand in a wave Lloyd waves back and also says goodbye or hello depending on the foot he raises. All three of them tell me goodbye every time I go out the door.

Rosies are skilled at picking up a human laugh quickly and respond with a high repetitive chuckle they delight in making many times a day. They are also quick to pick up speech they hear in a high feminine voice repeated with a lot of emphasis and volume. The sound of coughing is another sound they do well and very identifiable!

They are not noted as screamers but can raise a raucous while they are having fun. One minute they are sitting quietly on a perch playing with a toy and the next minute they are all wings and action, screeeeing in wild happiness. You never know when the sillies will hit them and they may even hang upside down on a perch flapping and squealing in wild and crazy Rosie abandon. Overall, they are definitely one of the quietest Cockatoos I am sure, as their outbursts aren't that loud and are over quickly.


I have to be very careful not to over feed my group of Rose-breasted Cockatoos. They can gain weight at the sight of food. Because I have Eclectus and they can be fed almost unlimited amounts of food with no weight problems I sure had to change my thinking on the quantity of food I give the Rosies.

The Rosies get very very small portions and only about a scant teaspoonful of canary or parakeet seed in the afternoons as a treat. These tiny seeds more closely resemble the seed they would find in the wild to eat. They are never given sunflower, which would pack the weight on them for sure.

Their morning bowl of food consists of sprouts, brown rice, beets, sweet potato, carrots, apple and a variety of greens such as kale, bok choy, swiss chard, dandelion greens, beet tops, carrot tops or what ever looks good at the local Farmer's Market. They also love pomegranate seeds or anything else that has a 'seed' to it. Of course they don't get all I have mentioned every day but it is what their diet is comprised of generally.

As a treat I pick long blade grasses (weeds) from my unsprayed yard and put a clump of it in the outdoor bird's flights. The indoor pets also get a smaller amount because of the mess. They enjoy the soil on the roots as much as they do the green stems it seems. When I had Rosie babies last season, Dale Thompson told me to run out and pick a bunch of this grass and put in for the parents to feed the babies. He said the parents would feed it to them as a first meal and they sure did. They saw it right away and made short work of it, extracting the green juice from the stems. This would be the same principle as drinking wheat grass juice. It is a purifier, cleanser and tonic for the blood.

I also distribute the 'dirtied' wood shavings into my yard that the babies in the house have been using in their tubs. Because I feed babies old enough to have feathers, millet sprays some of this seed shatters into the shavings. In time the discarded millet seeds sprout in the yard and produce nice fat milky heads of green millet. I pick these at the peak of ripeness and feed them to the Rosies. This is the ultimate treat for Rosies or any other bird for that matter.


Rosies are very active and inquisitive birds and need lots of things to play with and chew on. They love limbs from safe trees, pine two by fours or pieces of soft safe wood to whittle away on. If there is no grate on their cage bottom they will tear up the paper on the floor almost as quickly as I put it there in playful glee. Rosies seem to love bell toys and will ring them all day long. They also love rawhide strips with toys attached. They will grip these upside down and swing and flap their wings. Anything they find in their immediate vicinity is considered a potential toy to a Rosie.

The birds in the house have a group of soft yarn-type toys they cuddle up to at bed- time.
They seem to need a teddy bear of sorts to snuggle against. In fact Gertie has an old (clean) cotton yarn mop head tied with some ten-inch strips of unbleached muslin that she actually cuddles under at sleepy time. She drapes the strips over her back and tucks herself in. Of course it is best to observe them closely with the toys and make sure there is nothing to get a toenail caught in.

I always go for the biggest cage size I can afford or have room in my house for. Rosies love the room to cavort, romp and generally move around in. Gertie, even though she doesn't fly well is allowed to walk and climb around the house regularly for exercise. The pet pair that fly are allowed to do this several times a day and they really look forward to this 'out time'. I force them to fly all over the house giving them great exercise.

Of course they distribute a small amount of down in their flight routines, but generally Rosies aren't nearly as 'dusty' as the white Cockatoos. I give them frequent spray baths many times a week using water mixed with aloe vera, a good feather conditioner. This practice keeps the powdery down, down!

Rosies are quite flexible to my schedule and if there are days I am busy and not able to give them the amount of attention they'd really like, they don't revert back to being wild and unfriendly. They instead patiently play with their toys and wait for me to take them out and give them love.

There are so many things I adore about Rose-breasted Cockatoos. Their intelligence, animation, humor, attitude and affection constantly amaze and entertain me. My life is never dull with these gleeful pink and grey imps of the Cockatoo world. They run the gamut of emotions all the way from silly pranks to high drama to complete submission and tender love. I don't know what I'd do without my little pink cheerful clowns in Cockatoo clothing!


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