The eldest cockatoo in the world dies in Chicago
Cookie, an at least 83-year-old cockatoo and one of Chicago’s best known zoo animals, died over the weekend at Brookfield Zoo, the zoo announced Monday.
“On Saturday morning, Cookie suffered a very abrupt decline in his health, prompting the veterinary and animal care staff to make the extremely difficult decision that it was time to peacefully euthanize him,” Michael Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for Chicago Zoological Society, which runs Brookfield, said in a statement.
In addition to generations of fans, the Major Mitchell’s cockatoo could claim many superlatives. He was the last animal that dates back to the zoo’s original collection, in 1934; the oldest living animal at Brookfield; “one of the longest-lived birds on record,” according to the online Animal Ageing and Longevity Database; and “Oldest Parrot - Living” as certified by Guinness World Records in 2014.
The press took note, too, often covering the zoo’s annual birthday celebrations for the parrot.
“Like some cockeyed vaudevillian comic in a loud suit and a funny hat, Cookie, an old cockatoo, always has relied on exaggerated showiness and a raucous line of patter to attract attention,” began a 1994 Tribune story marking what was then called the animal’s 60th birthday.
Even in his final years, Cookie still had the beautiful plumage characteristic of his species, with pink feathers on the head and neck, white on the body and a red-and-white crest atop his head. But he had been off display and living in the keepers’ offices backstage in the Bird and Reptile House since 2009, after he began showing signs of stress while in a public area, said Tim Snyder, curator of birds. A sign went up informing the public that Cookie was still there, but essentially in retirement.
“He did a complete turnaround and became very active,” Snyder said. “He sat in on our meetings. He let everyone know what his feelings were. If he didn’t like you, he had a really loud, screechy voice and, if you were talking, he would interrupt you.”
When Cookie was happy or wanted to draw attention to himself, he would say his own name repeatedly, the only human word he mimicked, said Snyder.
He had battled various degenerative ailments through the years, including osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. “We all know that because he was 83 years old and well past the normal lifespan, it was going to happen eventually,” said Snyder. “But it was like he was going to outlive everybody… He was a family member for the department.”
When Cookie came to Brookfield from Australia he was a young adult which means at least one year old, possibly a little older, hence the uncertainty about his age, according to the curator.
Brookfield was planning to host a memorial to the animal, which has received fan mail from around the world, on its Facebook page, officials said.