Seven African Parrots To Celebrate Kwanzaa

I am going to be a bit preachy here. I live by the belief that what happens to any one living being on this planet happens to all of us. So when I hear about some creature going extinct, it’s not just an impact on the ecosystem where the animal lived.

In the same way, holidays impact all of us, whether because we commemorate a miracle of lighs, a special mark in the seasons, or a feast of family, community, and culture.

According to the Official Kwanzaa Web Page:
The Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles) are:
Umoja (unity) – The Congo African Gray parrot is super intelligent and therefore valued in the pet trade. Efforts are in place to stop illegal netting and sales, but if we are not united in these efforts, the parrot, currently vulnerable in the wild, will move down the slope to extinction.
Kujichagulia (self-determination) – Senegal parrots are sweet, loving companions if they are hand fed as young chicks. But if wild-caught, they never will be tame enough to be good pets. Their self-determination, if left alone and not tampered with, is to be wild and free, natural and beautiful. This trait has helped keep them at the status of Least Concern, perhaps proof that being impossible to tame is vital to survival.
Ujima (collective work and responsibility) – Lovebirds are little African parrots known for their devotion in pair bonding, and their aggressiveness in defending their nest and young. The peach-faced lovebird is luckily on the Least Concern list, and there are huge populations in aviculture and naturalized in urban areas outside of Africa. The cheery little birds work together during the breeding season to bring materials back to the nest. The female will strip off a bit of palm frond, tuck it under back feathers that she can then constrict against her bod, and when she has a full load, she takes this all back to the nest. An excellent symbol for collective work, everyone working together and meeting their responsibilities.
Ujamaa (cooperative economics) – You may have heard a lot recently about a Cape Parrot. This bird was considered a subspecies related to two savannah-dwelling parrots, but now is seen as a separate species. This parrot is critically endangered, and has a very small area that it calls home. It is believed that only 400 survive in the wild, and the Cape Parrot Project is working to save them. But to save the parrots, you must save the trees that support them. To save the trees, you must bring the people into the plan, and make it work for them economically. This great video tells the story, and also explains that when you save the trees, you save all the wildlife that live in and around the forest.
Nia (purpose) – Most birds reproduce through a method much like placing the openings of two bottles together. It’s called the cloacal kiss in aviculture. But if you are a parrot on an island like Madagascar, and you require several males to keep you fed during incubation of the eggs, you would be smart to evolve a specific purpose for mating. The Vasa has re-evolved phallus, and the female will mate with more than one male. She will also sit near her nest and sing complex tunes that lure males to her. These smitten males will feed her until the eggs hatch and she can feed on her own. Vasas also have a different look than other parrots, and ornithologists now believe they are the genetic link between parrots and raptors. Unlike most parrots, Vasas must have meat in their diet, and in the wild they hunt to fulfill that requirement.
Kuumba (creativity) – For many years, I have wanted to have a Jardine’s parrot. I met one and she totally won my heart. I tried to talk the owner into letting me host her, because his wife did not care for birds of any kind and would not let him keep any in the house. So the beauty lived in a big cage in a cramped shed with first parrotlets for company and later canaries. He could not part with her; coming to visit with her each day made his life more pleasant. And I can’t blame him. Jardine’s come in lesser and greater, and black wing, with the lesser being more common. They are a funny, playful, and creative bird that loves being watched during play. Hide and seek is a big favorite. They live in good sized flocks in the wild, so they are naturally social. But due to the pet trade, this parrot is on the CITIES II list as illegal to trap or trade. Let’s hope that’s enough to prevent decline.
Imani (faith) – I started with the Congo African Gray, and will end with the whole family of grays. Officially, there are only two species, the Congo and the Timneh. I’ve seen both and I can tell the difference between them. Some people claim that there is a species or subspecies called the Cameroon African Gray, nicknamed the Big Silvers. These birds are larger, and have more silver than gray in their body feathers. The Ghana African Gray is heart-wrenching in that if it ever existed, through interbreeding with the Congo, it no longer can be identified as a separate species. And there’s a trend to encourage red factor grays to the point of having a completely red bird. Not what nature intended, by any means. It takes faith to let people say and do what they are driven to say and do, but not change your own integrity. We can save the birds that exist in the wild, if we have faith.
Thank you for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.

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