Avian Expert Articles

The World’s Oldest Cockatoo Passes Away: Celebrating Cookie

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photo of Cookie, courtesy of the Brookfield Zoo.

The world incurred a loss in August of 2016, as Cookie, the world’s oldest cockatoo, passed away at his Brookfield Zoo (IL) home. He was 83 years of age. As history recounts, Cookie arrived at the Brookfield Zoo in 1934, not long after its official opening. He arrived from an Australian Zoo located in Sydney at the young age of 1, and represented the species at the famed Illinois zoo for many years. In 2009, Cookie was retired from public view when he acquired osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, conditions that plague the aging with risks of easily broken bones and swollen joints. After Cookie retired, his health and mood improved, which supported the action taken to ease his stress levels of public display. It was likely that Cookie gained years to his life by this thoughtful decision. Nevertheless, age won out when Cookie died on August 27, 2016.

The “Guinness Book of World Records” officially recognized Cookie as the world’s oldest known cockatoo in captivity in 2014. Typically, these cockatoos (known scientifically as Cacatua leadbeateri and also referred to as Leadbeater’s cockatoo, after the British naturalist, Benjamin Leadbeater) live 40 to 60 years. Cookie beat that average by more than 20 years, topping the high-end of expectation.

Cookie was a Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, so-named because of the observations of Major Tom Mitchell, an explorer of Australia whose prose showered praise for the noted bird’s beauty during his days in the forestry of the country. This species of cockatoo is white with pink colorations found in the bird’s face, nape, forehead, and belly. For females, the upper chest is usually white, and their pink coloration is paler than the male. The cockatoo’s crests are especially colorful with bright red and yellow bands that are immediately noticed. These unique and beautiful birds are also known as Pink Cockatoo. The Major Mitchell Cockatoo species are found in the inland areas of Australia. Interestingly, the Major Mitchell Cockatoo is the ONLY cockatoo with a multi-colored crest providing the bird a part of its notable uniqueness.

Cookie was a source of pride for not only the Zoo, but also for many who followed his growth and passing years. When he reached age 60, the press was there to commemorate the milestone. When he retired, they were there to note the time. After Cookie retired, he did make public appearances on special occasions, such as his birthday. Cookie was so well known that he received his fair share of mail from all areas of the world.

Cookie was known to be somewhat cranky with a disposition to be “vocal” about things that displeased him. It was said that if he didn’t like a person, the disliked person was aware of it. Cookie had only one word in his vocabulary – “Cookie.” When he wanted attention or was happy, he would say his name repeatedly.

News of Cookie’s passing was recognized worldwide. The Chicago Zoological Society released a beautiful two and a half minute video that can be found on YouTube (here). It shows his fans and his caregivers at the Zoo enjoying his life as he lived it.

The world will miss you, Cookie.

In fact, we already do.

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