A cockatoo named Jim had plenty to say and kept the front office on their toes.
  • 1930s

“Have a drink, Jim?” Many a Zoo visitor passing by the administration office and the café was greeted with that line. Looking around to see who was offering, they’d find a white cockatoo tilting his head and looking at them with a blue-ringed eye. If they said no, Jim would quickly follow with “Have a bit of bread?” He didn’t like to disappoint. But he did love to talk!

Jim had been a pet before he came to the Zoo, and he had developed quite a vocabulary, which he continued to add to. The staff once counted how many different sentences he used regularly, and came up with 62. And that didn’t include all the other single words he knew. He spent most of his time in his birdcage at the entrance to the offices and opposite the Zoo café, since he had not gotten along with the cockatoos in the Zoo. When someone he knew came by, he would call to Maude Scott, who was in charge of the café, “It’s alright.” For a stranger, though, he’d call “Somebody’s here.” Maude even came to rely on him to know when she had a new customer!

Jim was very fond of Maude, and would lie in her lap, turning over and over to be petted. In a ZOONOOZ article, Belle Benchley said, “He is the most affectionate and docile of birds with her but a perfect nuisance to the regular bird men.” He did like the grounds foreman, Norman Johnson, and was always on the lookout for him to have a conversation. For some reason, Jim insisted on calling him Jack, though—a name used only for him.

Jim had several toys, but his favorite thing was a closed cardboard box. He would tear a hole in the top that he could fit through, and then spend time taking objects in and out. He was always on duty, however, and if someone walked by he would put his eye to the hole and give the proper announcement to Maude. Jim also loved a “bath,” having his cage brought out to the lawn under the sprinklers, when he would hang upside down and fluff out all his feathers.

Over the years, the staff occasionally heard some rather “strong” language from Jim, apparently learned prior to his life at the Zoo, and he could be, albeit unintentionally, inappropriate. One evening when Maude was changing in her office to go out to a party, Jim watched as she took off her stockings. He startled her by saying, in a drawn out tone, “Do you want a bath?” Probably a good thing her husband wasn’t there to hear that one!

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