The Name Game

Most hook bills are capable of learning their names.  Many other birds recognize their name and come when called.  Mike and I put a lot of thought into the names of our birds. Many come with names already assigned.  And sometimes that drives me crazy.

For instance, Zazu.  This would be a great name for a love bird or any African parrot, because in the movie The Lion King, the secretary bird carried that name.  But for a sun conure from South America?  Boo!  And how many hundreds of sun conures are there with the name Sunny?  Almost as many are there are cats named Kitty.

Our African gray female has a special need in that she has no toes and cannot perch.  She loves to show off her little stumps  by hanging from the top of her cage by her beak.  That is how she got the name Bo Dangles.

We named our first violet love bird Jimi, after Jimi “Purple Haze” Hendrix.  We named our green cheek Esmeralda, We named a white cockatiel Mallory for her marshmallow appearance.

Psycho bird Beeby, a half-moon conure, came with his name, and it stood for Bad Bird.  He is unbelievably cute and loveable, but he does have a tendency to bite and attack us.  So he has gained many nicknames:  Beebozo, Lord Beebatron, Beeb the Merciless, and Beebus.

Elmer is a cockatiel who arrived with his name, and because he can say  “Whatcha doing, Elmer?” I could not change his name.  Newbert arrived with the name Charlie.  Eh.  He was a nearly wild cockatiel who flew into a window at my office and was brought to me.  Mike named him Newbert.  Better.

Sometimes bird pairs have names that go together.  The first rosey Bourkes I had were named Fred and Ethel.  But a pair of sun conures we were given were called George and Bella.  Bella knows her name, so I call her Gracie Bell.  It works for us.

I guess names mean a lot to me, I remember roommates naming kittens Frank and Jake.  I was astonished.  These were geeky fans like me, but they didn’t go with Jake and Elwood.  They loved westerns too, but they didn’t go with Frank and Jesse.  Unbelievable.

When I spent time on email lists or Yahoo groups devoted to various birds, I noticed a few common names showing up.  Love birds were often called Skittles.  Amazons were named Kiwi.  African Grays were named Smokey.  So I conducted a survey of the members of my bird club.  I expected to see many matches, but instead there were very few duplicates.  I was amazed, and pleased that my club contained many original thinkers.

I also think names can harm or help a bird in how folks think of them.  We were given a female cockatiel named Tweeker.  She was frantic when she came into the house, pacing in her cage and squawking.  Once the former owners said their goodbyes and left, we put her in with the community.  (I know. I have been very lucky in that I don’t often quarantine new birds, but no illnesses or other traumas have been spread to my flock)  The bird settled down immediately in the flock, and soon paired up with our largest male, TJ.  We renamed her Teena.

We received a beautiful white-faced gray cockatiel that went into our aviary.  He has the largest eyes I have ever seen on a cockatiel. They give him a surprised look, and he is not very tame.  But in coloration he is just like our inside bird named Kai.  So he has two names.  I call him KaiClone, Mike calls him Spooky.

We had Gouldian finches for some years, but never had good luck with breeding them, or even keeping them alive.  Still they were amazingly beautiful birds, the males had a sweet, soft song.  It was very entertaining to watch the males bouncing on a perch while holding grass or straw in their beak, giving a pretty girl the eye.  Mike named one Elliot Gould, and he was a character.  Whenever he got a drink out of the Lixit bottle (the type used more for hamsters and rabbits, with the ball bearing at the end of a tube), he would lean back and weave from side to side for a few seconds, then take another drink.  I have never known a bird to get so much enjoyment out of water.

Word play weighs in on bird names in this house.  That’s why we have an Indian Ringneck named Wraith (Ring –Wraith) and a tuxedo button quail named Tennessee.  I named a canary Patience because she waited all day in a small carrier at work until I could bring her home.  A cockatiel who never quite got off the ground during out time was dubbed Scooter.  A cockatiel missing a toe became Stubby.

Now and then a bird arrives with the perfect name.  A simply beautiful gray pearl cockatiel, a female of impressive circumference, bore the name Princess.  She is demanding and regal, and not at all impressed that we put her in the aviary so she can work off her extra ounces.  And our best breeding cockatiel hen is known simply as Mom-bird.

All our birds have names, sometimes they get extras due to characteristics, behavior, or playfulness.  I confess some get new names when we forget exactly what we were calling them.  The names always mean something to us, and even when we have to explain the joke to others, we know we love our birds because we have named them, just as if they were family.  Which, of course, they are.


3 thoughts on “The Name Game

  1. Aww, what great names! We thought long and hard about names for our 2 baby birds, though with our adopted sennie, we left his name as is. Since they’re thinking that parrots internalise their own names (he does say it with such glee!) I figured I might as well. Plenty of nicknames have evolved anyway, haha! Names should always mean something.

      1. The babies are all grown up now… I wish they were still wee, haha! We chose Ptak (Polish for bird, and being a nickname for one of small stature) for our parrotlet; Mishka (meaning mouse) for our ‘tiel; and Charlie and Pip for our canaries – Pip because she makes a squeaky ‘pip’ noise, and Charlie because my boyfriend insisted. Naming is an ordeal, LOL.

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