Parrots can be very entertaining. Spend just a few minutes in the bird room at a pet store, and surely you will see some clown budgie or cockatiel or conure entertaining him or her self by hanging upside down, carrying a toy around, tapping on a perch, or just shouting something. Much of the entertainment is derived from the long-term association we have with our birds.
Just as I sat down to write this, our blind Congo African Gray, Io, gave a loud wolf whistle. Then a few seconds later, he gave just the first part of the whistle. And waited patiently for someone to finish it. I obliged three times, then got busy. So Mike stepped in and whistled. Many bird people wonder who is training whom.
All hook bills need toys, many toys of many different kinds, and lots of those toys need to be rotated or changed out occasionally. Finches and canaries, as far as I have ever observed, don’t much care for toys, but a male of this type will spend hours trying to get a string that has been tied to the side of the cage to pull free. The strong nest building instinct will not let the little guy rest if he can see the string and has the energy to pull at it. In this situation, the entertainment is probably felt stronger by the observer and not the bird.
I am entertained by the things Mike says to the birds. He has named many of them, and bestowed nicknames on more. He talks to the birds as if they can learn from him, understand him, and answer back. “Why did you do that?” “Don’t worry, we’ll be right back.” “It’s not a snake!” and “What did you say, Bobo?” I try not to think about the fact that a definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting a different outcome each time.
Bobo, our toeless Congo African Gray, is of course the star of the entertainers. She waits until our attention is elsewhere, then mumbles something. If I catch it, I will repeat what it sounded like to me. Mike will say, “Bobo, watch your language!” even if he didn’t understand her. While we had roommates, one of them sang to Bo every day. Bo tried her beak at warbling a tune. The pay-off for her is how we react to what she says or does.
As a guaranteed crowd pleaser, Bo can’t beat her dangling act. Without grasping toes, she still does a remarkable job of climbing around her cage. She stretches her neck as far as she can to the top of the cage, grabs a bar, and unwraps her legs from around the side. And there she dangles, waving her little legs in the air.
If this doesn’t get our attention, and since she can make noise without using her beak, she will whistle or call, or something, until one of us notices. Without fail, one or both of use will tell her she’s a very clever girl, our Bo Dangles.
Love birds are really smart little parrots. With some stubborn exceptions, they have always learned that once the lights go out at night, if they have been given a night of free flying in the house, then it’s time to go back to their cages. All I need to do is close and clip the doors behind them. Problems do arise, that are not entertaining, when we move birds into a different cage. They are used to going to the location of the cage, and don’t really notice the furnishings. And that means I may find one pair of lovies cowering in the corner of their cage, complaining about the squatters who are in their food and making themselves at home.
Sometimes a nesting hen will stay in the nest box and rely on the male to feed her and give her moisture that way as well. She will not defecate in the box, so when the chore is over, the bird goes to the nearest perch, and releases, well, a shit load. It can take minutes for the process to end. Our rosey Bourke, Ethel, had to be forcibly removed from a nest when the eggs proved to be infertile. After she took her dump, she practically glared at me, as if to say, “All that sacrifice for nothing!”
I don’t know why it happens, but sometimes a bird will talk or whistle but we don’t really understand what he is saying. Mostly this happens with cockatiels. With my first ‘tiel, Palafox, I wanted him to say, “G’Day, Mate!” I apparently repeated it with a certain cadence and tone so that he created a whistle to match. No one else would have understood what he was saying. Hermes, one of our rehomed cockatiels, gives two identical notes, then a much higher note. To me, it sounds like he is saying “Jar Jar Binks!”
I’ve seen many videos on Facebook and Youtube of entertaining birds, and our little troupe isn’t in that category. Few people would be as entertained by their antics and sayings as Mike and I are. It is exactly like having kids, and understanding your child’s babble. Or not understanding, as the case may be. No matter what they do or say, they are our feathered kids.