Forrest the cockatiel is missing part of his beak and part of his toe. He also can’t fly. None of that matters to this resilient bird, though. He doesn’t need working wings when the presence of his fellow cockatiel Peanut sends his heart soaring… or when he can enjoy some head scratches.
Saved from life in a packed car with multiple other birds, Forrest ended up in the care of Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue nearly 12 years ago. He came into their care with multiple injuries, including some that may have been inflicted on him by the larger birds in the car. Extra love and care from another one of his companions left him with a unique look, too.
His owner Heather Hohlowski says, “He was heavily plucked, probably by another cockatiel. Could have been a bonded cockatiel that just over-plucked him to such an extent that those feathers won’t grow back. The follicles are too damaged, so he’s got a lot of feather loss on his head and neck.”
Not only that, but a wing injury that was never properly treated, coupled with a congenital wing issue, keeps Forrest grounded. He can’t fly, only flutter a few inches above ground.
His struggles continued a bit when many of the other birds were adopted, but he couldn’t seem to find that forever home at first. He did luck out, though, with his foster mom, Martha, who kept him safe and loved for the next eight years, before he ended up finding his forever home with Heather, who already had a pearl pied cockatiel named Peanut who immediately won his heart.
Heather says, “He courts her. She doesn’t seem to have a lot of interest, but she tolerates him.”
How does Forrest put the moves on?
Heather explains, “He sings to her. He loves sitting right next to her. He tries to get as close to her as he can. Sometimes she’ll allow it. Sometimes she won’t. But he’s happiest when he’s sitting next to her.”
You can see this beautiful example of unrequited love play out on Forrest’s Instagram page, with an example just below.
While he’s a love bug now, he wasn’t always so open, after his rough beginning. He had to learn how to eat with a chunk of his upper beak missing, how to adapt to running without two whole feet, and how to trust people again after being so neglected.
Fortunately, he landed a great foster, Martha, who taught him that humans could be loving. She’s one of many volunteers for Mickaboo, which was launched in Northern California in the 1990s by two vet techs with cockatiels named Mick and Aboo. The organization helps foster and find homes for abandoned birds and makes sure to educate bird parents for the best outcomes. It’s a labor of love, as there is no paid staff, or even a physical shelter, and all the donations they receive go straight to medical care, which can be extensive in cases of severe neglect.
After the organization helped heal Forrest from his history of neglect, it was time to find his forever home. It was still a bit scary for him, though, because he needed to adjust to new people. He arrived clinging to his cage, only being coaxed out with a bit of millet. After a few days, he was content with standing on his new family’s hands while he ate. They left it at that for some time until Heather tried grazing his face while holding the millet, and then a breakthrough happened.
She says, “One day, he suddenly just accepted that and started making these squeaky sounds which I’d never heard from my other cockatiels.”
He had discovered the beauty of head scratches, and there was no going back.
Heather explains, “He just seems so ecstatic when he’s getting a head scratch. He went from not being touched at all to constantly asking for scratches. Whenever he’s out, he’s jumping up and flapping his wings to get onto my finger, and then he immediately puts his head down and starts making that little noise. I’ve literally given him a head scratches for hours at a time because it’s so hard to stop when he’s making that sound.”
Now, in addition to his head scratches, he enjoys misty showers, his millet snacks, and running to keep up with Peanut.
Heather has also served as a volunteer in different capacities with Mickaboo, so her strong love for birds has led to other adoptions. So far, there have been four. One, a cockatiel believed to have been a breeder bird, Banana, recently passed away.
Heather says, “Forrest had no interest in her. Peanut is sad about it. I think Forrest feels like now he can make more moves on Peanut.”
Others may come in the future, too, because Heather says there’s something really special about rescuing birds.
She explains, “Seeing a bird that’s frightened, to go from that to having them actively seek you out and put their head down and put themselves in that vulnerable of a position and trust you that much, can be overwhelming. Even now with Forrest after all these years, sometimes I just tear up when he puts his head down. I think he really trusts me that much after all he went through.”
To hear more from Heather and see some cute Forrest clips, watch the video below!
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