Parrots and most birds are happiest when their lives as pets have elements of their lives in the wild. Lots of wood to chew on, lots of fresh greens and grains, and lots of contact with their flock. Toys can also keep parrots busy and happy, but there is one better way to keep a bird occupied and not bored. Continue reading
Anyone living with parrots gets the idea that they understand a lot more speech than we realize. Maynard especially knows that his sweet-voiced “Good Morning” will get a chuckle from me, especially at night when I am turning out the lights. As I’ve said before, he’s trained me to know that when he asks, “Want a cracker?” he is saying he wants some of whatever I am eating. If he doesn’t like what I am eating, he will complain until bread or cheese magically appear.
Through animation, we have come to think of our birds as little people sometimes. Reading studies that say they have the intelligence of a three-year-old human child doesn’t make them children. But some of us treat them that way. In the recent past, with the fear of having to rehome my whole flock hanging over me, I did tell people they were my children. This is not exactly true, only a way to communicate with non-bird people.
Mixing what my birds do say with what I think they would say if they had full human understanding, I present the following speeches from my birds. I hope you enjoy the silliness.
Four-year-old violet lovebird, Jake: Is there anything else to eat? Can I have some of that? I don’t want to go back in my cage. I’m going to visit the birds in the other rooms. I’m back, did you miss me? I’m not afraid of that green bird/those cockatiels/conures/other lovebirds/greys/ringneck/wild birds/cat.
26 year old double yellow headed Amazon Maynard: Don’t leave me! May I have an almond? This is my favorite toy. What is it? Come over here. Come on! I like your phone. Scratch my head. Nice. Nice. NO! Too much. Okay, you can do it again. Don’t touch my wing/tail/back/feet.
Two year old grey Indian Ringneck Parakeet Wraith: Stay away! You can’t see me in my tent.
Whitefaced grey cockatiel of unknown age Kai: This is my personal space. Stay out of it. Now this is my personal space, too. This is my personal toy which I will sit on so it will hatch someday.
Blind Congo African Grey of unknown age Io: Did something change? What was that noise? Here’s my toy, right where I left it. The food is good, but the bowl tastes better. You moved my cage! Your voices are coming from a strange direction! I must panic and shake and moan for a while. Another bird is having fun. I don’t know if I like that. I must shake and complain until I make up my mind.
Toeless Congo African Grey of unknown age Bo Dangles: I’m beautiful. I have my quirks, and you just need to get to know me. I only bite you because I love you. I always say I’m sorry if I draw blood. Will you birds be quiet? Jake, come here! Don’t bother me, I’m watching my budgies. I love the little yellow one. I wish you would put that cat in my cage.
Male Canary named Ernesto: I have a beautiful voice, all the girls love to hear me sing. La la la la la trill. And for my next number, La la la la la trill. Here’s my favorite, La la la la la trill. Now the big finish: La la la la la TRILL trill.
Keep smiling and I’ll be back on Thursday.
The other day I was in a room at the back of the house when I heard our blind male Congo African Gray Io start to whistle. He has learned to give the first ascending note of the “wolf whistle” and wait for one of us to do the rest of it. He often will whistle the whole thing a few times, as if showing us what is expected, and then do the first part, and wait.
Being a well-trained parrot companion, I finished the whistle. He repeated his part, and I responded again. He then whistled a trill that I hadn’t heard him do before. I walked out to the office where Io’s cage is, and realized I had been whistling a duet with Mike. And doubtless this wasn’t the first time.
We love to talk and sing with our birds. We’re as pleased as parents of a potty-trained toddler when they do something cute or smart, and can talk for hours if someone would just listen about what great companions they are. We wear matching Hawaiian shirts with parrot prints just so strangers will say something and give us an opening.
Ring-neck doves coo and chuckle, and are fun to imitate. But they don’t seem to be aware that we are trying to speak dove. Sky, the female, is docile enough that when we discourage her from laying eggs in the food dish, she will sit on our hands for a long while and be comfortable.
Male cockatiels, tame or not, sing their hearts out at all hours, and don’t mind at all if we sing along. Sometimes the song is a rather boring two notes up and down, that we hope will be over by midnight. But sometimes there are surprises. We had a beautiful cockatiel re-homed to us who sang “Pop Goes the Weasel.” It took him a few weeks to settle in, but then as soon as we were out of the room he would whistle the song. For some reason, Mike never caught him doing it until right before we found a home where the bird could be an only-bird and get the one-on-one attention he craved.
Outside in the aviary, we just placed a re-homed pair of cockatiels this summer. I was out doing yard work when I heard the theme song from “The Andy Griffith Show” float out of the aviary. Pineapple was serenading his girl with the best song he knew.
Mike relates a story from his youth, when a stray cockatiel landed on his brother at a construction site, and decided to stay. Brother Joe took the bird home and with parents’ help, set the bird up in a cage with food and water. The bird was content but not inclined to sing or whistle. Then one morning at sunrise, the cockatiel gave his first performance: The Baby Elephant Walk, a handful of other show tunes, and then nothing again for days.
The best trick the bird could do was wait for the perfect moment, when Mike was out in the front yard, and a pretty girl jogged by. The bird would wolf whistle, and the girl would glare at Mike. Before he realized what she was reacting to and say, “It’s the bird, not me!” she was up the hill and out of sight.
Sometimes the birds like to sing with each other, or pretend to be another bird. Our Indian Ring-neck Parakeet, Wraith, is in a room with finches, canaries, lovebirds, and budgies. He likes to whistle like the cockatiels, and sometimes talks like the CAGs, but never when we are in the room or can hear him.
Sunny the sun conure (I always feel I have to explain or apologize for that name. Come on, how original is that? But she came with the name and knows it. I could have changed it to Money or Honey, but that would have been confusing. But I digress.) likes to make some sounds and wait for me to repeat them. Her Mystery Sound is a soft “chu-chu” whisper. When I make that noise, she stops what she is doing, looks at me, and fluffs up. She makes it back, and if I do it again, she rubs up against me. I guess it means I love you in sun conure. Sunny belonged to an elderly couple who surrendered her to FreeFlight in Del Mar when they could no longer care for her. I still wonder what exactly Sunny associates with that sound.
Speaking of FreeFlight, if you are in Southern California, you should do your level best to go visit the birds there. Their 4th Annual Fund Raiser is coming up on October 12th, and Mike and I will go if at all possible. Last year we went as guests and had a great time. There was some food I could eat on my diet, and lots of birds to talk to and cuddle with. The silent auction is amazing, so worth the time and money and for such a good cause. We wore parrot shirts, of course, and drew some attention and photographers. Two years ago we volunteered and had every bit as much fun as the guests did. Here’s the link: http://www.freeflightbirds.org/
Song is a different thing to different people, cultures, and birds. Hope you have a special songbird in your life!