Life with Parrots Q&A

Q. What is that bird saying?
A. The Gettysburg Address, as far as we can tell. We have a cockatiel named Elmer who says “Whatcha doing, Elmer?” We have a cockatiel who whistles “Pop Goes the Weasel.” We have an Indian Ringneck Parakeet that meows like a cat, says “Hi Wraith” and imitates every other bird in the house. I think Wraith is also the one who makes the answering machine beep when a message is waiting. My sun conure likes to say “Buh-bye” when I am on the phone. Beeby, a half-moon conure, talks in bursts, but he sounds like a cartoon character on speed. Congo African Grey Blind Io only says “Whoop-Oh!” but does the greatest selection of sound effects ever. Running water to overweight pugs to car alarms. African Grey Bo Dangles has the second best vocabulary in the flock. She says “apple?” And “water?” After biting you, she will say “I’m sorry!” If she falls off her shelf, she says, “Whoa! What happened?” When lovebird Jake is flying around, she’ll call to him, “Come ‘er! Come on!” She also has a sound she makes that consists of two tones that humans can’t easily reproduce. We call it her “dunk-dunk” sound. When she gets an apple or other treat, or likes the game of tug-a-war we played, she makes that sound.

The best thing about Bo is that she is always learning new sounds and words. She says “Honey” and sounds like me if she wishes or like Mike. Maynard the Double Yellow-headed Amazon, doesn’t learn new things, but is very entertaining with an extensive vocabulary. With him, it’s not so much what he says, as the timing. He likes to join in the laughter when people are having a good time, even the people on TV. He’ll join in any song, but only knows his own words and tunes, and if someone is upset and arguing, or there are fight scenes or explosions, he gets agitated and concerned. If I leave the room, He starts to call, “Mama! Mama!” Eventually it slides into an exasperated “Hello?” And if still not getting the attention he wants, he’ll yell, “HELP!”

Maynard knows the difference between one of us going into the kitchen to put dishes away, and getting food prepared. If we’re making food, he wants his share. Mike always gives him toast and cheese. I give him egg, oatmeal, hamburger, tuna, and veggies. Not usually a picky eater, he does like his egg and tuna best.

Q. How long does it take to clean all the cages in the house?
A. Define “clean.” To scrape the cage trays and grills, move all the cages so that the rug can get vacuumed all around it, and make sure each cage has everything needed, for example, cuttle bones, fresh water, clean food dishes, can take two days. To roll all the cages outside for a hosing takes weeks.

Q. How long does it take to give food and water to the whole flock?
A. We do the waters every day. It can take about an hour. We feed only a few times per week because currently we give a seed and pellet mixed diet with greens thrown in as possible. This is the first thing that will change when I have more time available. I will serve a mix of quinoa or some other high-protein grains, fresh vegetables and fruit, and fresh greens. How long will that take? I don’t know yet. Some of the prep will be done ahead, so it’s mainly a matter of filling little paper trays and putting those in dishes. The card trays (http://www2.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11940725&whse=BD_115&Ne=4000000&eCat=BD_115|6224|7179&N=4033720&Mo=83&pos=2&No=25&Nr=P_CatalogName:BD_115&cat=7179&lang=en-US&Sp=C&ec=BD_115-EC38072-Cat6224&topnav= ) keep the dishes a little cleaner and provide some foraging and chewing fun for the birds. The plate under the tray prevents the silly birds from dumping the food through the grate too soon.
Q. Does Maynard know what he’s saying?
A. Sometimes, he seems to. He can’t possibly be randomly calling “Mama” in a weak voice, sounding totally helpless, alone, and afraid, making me feel guilty, without having some idea that this will work. If this is random, then I am more of a pushover than I thought.

Q. When you have had a busy weekend and need to have a post up for this blog, but didn’t have time to think about it or write it up, what do you do?
A. Make up a bunch of random questions and prattle on with the answers. Hey, it works.

Thanks for reading. See you on Wednesday.

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