People who are young enough and have time to spare are blessed to take in a parrot fresh out of the egg or nest box, or whatever. A new parrot, young and impressionable, ready to give you love and learn to please you. Because that’s what the parrot most wants to do, please the main flock member in their life.
What this means is that the only voices you will hear from your bird are those of your family and your own. It’s good to know your bird will only pick up voices you know, however many odd noises and sounds it learns and repeats. Caution: Try not to react to those irritating sounds or you will reward the bird with attention and you will never hear the end of the noise or bad words.
If you, like me, adopt older birds, maybe ones that have been through a couple owners already, you never know the voices you might hear. They won’t be all in your head.
Blind Io is an African Gray Parrot of unknown age. He doesn’t talk, actually, but his sounds and calls are fun. The closest to speaking he ever got was saying “Whoop-oh!” at night. However, he lived with a woman who kept two elderly, overweight pugs. Most evenings, he would whimper, whine, wheeze, and snuffle enough to have us looking around for the dogs. He has gotten away from that but I will always remember his vocalizations.
Bo Dangles, another African Gray, lived with the same woman as Io did. She speaks up all the time and about 50% of what she says can be understood. She asks for Apple, Corn, Water, and giggles evilly when something funny happens. When the other parrots in the room ramp up their vocalizations, she lays down the law. “Alright, alright, alright, knock it off!” She sounds just like the woman who passed away 8 years ago.
But Bobo also says “Dirty Birdy” in a different voice. No idea who that other voice belonged to as her owner before us raised her from a chick. Mysteries that will never be solved. She has the knack for doing both my voice and my husband Mike’s. She says, “Honey,” as if asking for attention. She says “Come here!” when another bird she hasn’t seen before is in the room. She’s much too screwy to actually be allowed around other birds, but she never gives up hope.
My sun conure, Sunny, a sweet girl who loved everyone, had few vocalizations. But if she was on my shoulder while I talked on the phone, she would say, “Bye-bye! Bye-bye!” until I hung up. If she saw someone walking a dog, she would bark. And if a plane went overhead or she heard one, she would look for somewhere to hide. No idea why that was. By the time I was able to have a dog, Sunny had stopped barking.
We are currently fostering a Blue-Crown Conure named Chessie. I have no idea where Chessie got her phrases. She says “He-llo.” And “Ay yi yi!” but sometimes she gets stuck and says “Ay yi yi yi yi yi yi yi yi.” She taps her beak on the cage bars in time to the syllables. “Good-bye” is her other word, which she uses in the morning when we first enter the room. Silly girl.
I saved Maynard for last because I’ve shared his story so many times. He went from a drug dealer to a nice lady to that lady’s sister to my friend Fred to a family in his apartments, back to Fred, then to me. And he chose me, so I will hopefully be his last owner.
Starting with the drug dealer, who kept Maynard in a cage in a room with the door shut, Maynard can do a long phone conversation as if heard through a wall. Mumbled with lots of “Yeah” bits. He calls the dogs that the nice ladies owned. He calls me Mama, which he must have picked up from the family who had him. He also, when he gets really frustrated, will start talking in a voice like a small child. I have never been fast enough to catch that on film or tape. As soon as he sees me, he returns to calling Mama or Help!
I’m not sure where he learned his Parrot Patter. This is a series of phrases he says in the same order and same inflection almost every day. It goes something like this: Good Morning! How are you? Hi, Maynard! Hi, Maynard! Good-bye! Want a cracker? At this point, he either settles down to wait for his toast or picks one phrase and says it over and over.
I’m impressed with how much Maynard learns around us. If I am in another room and he would like me to come back and sit by him, he starts to call the dog. “Tilda! Tilda!” This is the only thing I know of that he has learned since being with us. Not bad for five years of no training.
Parrots are wonderful entertainment packages with individuality and amazing smarts. Their vocal talents can’t be praised too much. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back next Sunday.