Surry Hills bird lover Sparrow Townsend adopted a very special cockatoo recently. Her new family member has inspired her to become a conservation activist, while also asking for recognition from the Queen as her cockatoo celebrates a special birthday. 

Surry Hills local Samantha the Cockatoo is turning 100 and as this Australian native reaches her centenary, owner Sparrow Townsend is using her story to advocate for bird conservation following the country’s deadliest bushfire season to date.

Hatched in 1920 and originally hand-reared by a twelve-year-old boy, this Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is entering her 100th year of rotations around the sun. The 12 year boy then raised Samantha for the next 67 years, during which time Samantha lived through historic events, including her second encounter with a global pandemic.

“She’s seen WWII, here before the erection of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House…gone through the depression and she’s seen the Spanish flu”, says owner Sparrow Townsend.

Sparrow Townsend, who recently adopted Samantha after she was surrendered to pet rescue service Birdsville in Alexandria, is the bird’s third owner following what has become an extraordinary life.

Sparrow and Samantha. Image courtesy of Sparrow Townsend.

After the first owner became too old to look after her, Samantha was purchased by the Kungl Family at a garage sale in Bateau Bay, beginning a life with her second family in 1987 which lasted another 33 years before being unable to proceed.

“With any transition, a bird will fall apart in days…she got very thin, needed a bath and gentle handling”, recounts Townsend who is committed to giving Samantha her best life whilst also sharing her story with the community.

Townsend, an Avian technician and bird lover, is determined to use Samantha’s story as a catalyst to educate and encourage greater conservation and protection for our native birds, especially after last season’s devastating bushfires destroyed thousands of hectares of natural habitats.

Townsend sees Samantha is a great symbol of survival.

“She’s advocating for her species, propagating for survival….she is a figure of conservation being this old,” she Townsend.

Townsend is going online to create a fun take on animal dress ups and photoshoots with the help of Samantha and some of her other winged companions but also to press an important message of protection and preservation.

Now in her twilight years, Samantha is enjoying a new lease on life with daily activities, including visits to Australian icons such as the Harbour Bridge and the Opera house as well as socialising with local families and many photo opportunities.

“She is outgoing, loves to dance, engaging in learning skills and tricks…She’s out and about meeting people and sharing her story,” said Townsend who has also started curating a book in honour of her latest family member.

However, as Samantha gains greater local notoriety, Townsend’s most recent goal is to gain birthday recognition from the Queen, who in 2014 celebrated the 100th birthday of Frank the cockatoo who resides in a sanctuary in Tasmania and has since lived to be 106.

Samantha’s rich and colourful history is one Townsend is passionate about sharing and in the future, as COVID restrictions ease, has plans to take her story into nursing homes and schools to “teach them to respect our wildlife, adding a whole new dimension to our understanding of birds…preserving them and engaging with the young and old”.