The Name Game

Naming birds is tricky. Humans are hung up on gender issues, and they feel really stupid if they give a male bird a female name and vice versa. In truth, the bird could care less. Whatever name you call it, those are just sounds that mean you want the parrot’s attention. I can’t think of too many domestic animals that can tell if you gave them a gender name that doesn’t match them. There are few honest pet psychologists with loads of cats and dogs seeing them to get over the trauma of the wrong name.

True, dogs will respond better to a name that does get their attention. And stop naming your dogs with people names, will you? You are just adding to the problem of anthropomorphizing them. Yeah, like that’s a big problem. Respect your pets as family members and as the animals they are. That’s all it takes. And darn if they don’t divide their list of “favorite” names into males and females. Talk about anthropomorphizing.

I was going to be flippant (okay, more flippant) and say cats don’t respond, so call them what you like. But that’s not true or fair. Some cats can be taught. You can name the kitten the sound the can opener makes and it will always be there when you call. This article doesn’t mind using people names, and takes you to the same list of names as the dog one above. And research shows that cats like names that end in an “ee” sound.

Parrots are tricky. You have a good chance of hearing the bird repeat whatever you name it. And this can sometimes cause untold heartache. For instance, I love the name Paula. I love the name Melissa. I can never name any pet those names because the two previous wives of my husband went by those names. My first cockatiel I named Palafox. I never planned on having him say his own name, so I didn’t mind that he probably couldn’t handle the F or X. Maynard says his name a lot, which makes him sound like an idiot child. What is it about having your bird say its name in conversation?

Science has shown that wild parrots name their offspring, and have names themselves. They communicate with thousands of other birds and identify themselves by their name. Handfed and hand raised birds probably sit around wondering what their names are, or why the big feeding machine isn’t using their name. I wonder if that means when we finally do name them, they are able to relax and start interacting with other parrots, finally. Here’s a better list of names for your parrot.

Oh, the things we do to our pets. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.

Hey, You!

It’s a common failing. My mom only had three kids, yet we often were called by names of our siblings. I would call my daughter by my cat’s name. I ended up calling my husband Honey so that I wouldn’t accidentally call him anything else. I call my workers by each others’ names, and they give me this look that says, “You waited too long to retire.”

So I often call Maynard by Mr. Io’s name, or Jake’s name. Bobo almost never gets a wrong name, so I think I am at least confident about males and females. We have around 70 birds here, and they almost all have names. Some came with the names, some were named here, and some were moved around so much we lost track of the old name and gave them a new one.

We have a cockatiel in an outside aviary that carries the original name of Mom. Sometimes when Mike is talking to her and says, “Thanks, Mom,” I stop and wonder if he’s talking to me. When the kids were little, we did call each other mom and dad when talking to them. As a stepmom, that helped so much in getting the kids to think of me as mom. And I thought of them as Whosits and Hey You.

When I was more into breeding zebra finches, I knew the names of the birds by the place of their cages. That was okay until we began moving things around. “I’ll update the notes later” never happened.

I did put tags on all the cages with the names of the birds, their age, etc., at one time. The love birds and cockatiels really liked the new chew toy.

Most often these days, I confuse Jake and Maynard, because they are the two birds that have the most one on one time with me. Which reminds me, we were given a beautiful silver cockatiel hen named Guapisima. Her original owner, let’s call her Dora, lost her house and had to move into an apartment. She was okay to have her dog, but the bird would cost extra. Dora thought she could get away with the bird, but found out one of her neighbors is a crabby witch with a capital B, and would turn her in if the bird made any noise. The bird was in a smaller cage in a new house, and not given much out time. So she did make a bit more noise than she used to.

Dora gave us the bird and the larger cage, and we paired her up (the cockatiel, not Dora) with our beautiful and sweet lutino cockatiel male, Creamsicle. They weren’t in love at first sight, but they were interested in each other.

A couple weeks later, Dora decided she missed Guapisima too much, and asked to take her back. We always make it clear to those who rehome birds to us that they can have their birds back at almost any time. We offered to give her Creamy too. Creamy is one of the rare parrots. He was hand fed, and loved people so much that even when in the community cage with other cockatiels, he wanted out with people all the time. The chances I had to take him out are precious to me, but I always felt bad about not having him out more.

So Guapisima and Creamy went to Dora’s, and will probably live happily ever after. Dora’s teenage daughter loves Creamy and has him out all the time. That’s the outcome I so wanted. Dora did call recently because she doesn’t think Guapisima is happy. I advised her that the bird could be a little jealous, having to share her humans now. Just give her more attention. Always go to her first with out time or treats or anything. After a while, she will adjust.

Back to Jake and Maynard. Or do I mean Maynard and Jake? Well, in a perfect world these two parrots would love each other because I love them both, and would be good friends. And then it wouldn’t matter what I called them. I’ll let you know when that perfection happens. See you Thursday.

Lassie is a Parrot

There have been lots of news stories in recent years about families or children being saved by a pet parrot. Parrots are very adaptive beings, as you can tell by the thriving flocks in urban settings. But how do they know to save people? Could Lassie have been reincarnated as a parrot?

Here are some facts. And when I say facts, I mean Fox News stories. This Indian Ringneck named Pearly saved his family from a fire started in their laundry room.

But that’s totally self serving. He didn’t want his house to burn up or his food bringers to be injured. So no real evidence there.

An Amazon saved a father and son who were sacked out on the couch. Peanut had only been there six months, but it seems like fate bringing him together with these two guys.

Still not the Lassie attitude I thought we’d find, however. Willie the Quaker parrot comes closer, saving a baby who was choking while not in any danger himself.

However, this parrot was just scaring off a rival for his mate’s attention.

This macaw scared the bad guys away, but not before his owner was injured and threatened. Lassie would not stand for that.

Maybe this parrot was hoping one of the pups would grow up and take over this rescuing business.

Here’s a bilingual parrot waking up his owner when she stops breathing at night. Great idea. I hope he also tells her about the benefits of weight loss and exercise.

Parrots do grow attached to their people, and the sudden removal of one from the parrot’s life can make a lasting impression.

Speaking of court cases, here’s a divorce proceeding that admitted evidence provided by a parrot.

And one where the bird’s testimony won’t be allowed.

We flock together with parrots because their intelligence and emotional make-up are similar to ours. So if we need healing, and the parrot needs healing, we can help each other in that process.

For troubled children, a parrot is one option, especially a little non-threatening parrot like a budgie.

Parrots have blabbed to police when their owner is driving drunk, have alerted us to fires in our homes, and maybe brought justice to the deceased. Why wouldn’t we fight to keep them as pets and as a wonderful part of our natural world?

I’ll be back on Sunday. Have a great weekend.

The “Fid” Debate

One of the odd customs that arrived with the Internet is the ability to start a “flame” war. For example, if someone states an opinion which you dislike, you (assuming you are this sort of person) can ignore the fact that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and fire off a scathing reply. You can tell the person about their lack of mental acuity, their close personal relationship to animals of the lower orders, and question if their family tree has any forks. (

Now, usually this behavior is discouraged in internet communities. Also it’s well known that if you ignore the flamer, he or she will go away looking for a more responsive target. But if your heart is really involved in the subject under discussion, going away may not work well for you.

The term “Fid” stands for furred or feathered kids. Lots of people consider their birds, dogs, cats, goats, horses, and so on, to be substitute children, and positively part of the family. It’s an affectionate term meant to convey that close relationship. I have no objection to the word or the meaning, but the very first Internet flame war I ever saw started over an innocent use of Fid.

At the time, my bird club had a group on Yahoo. Posts would arrive by email, or you could read everything directly at Yahoo. I was a moderator and often posted links to interesting bird photos and articles, as well as the lost bird information from 911 Parrot Alert. A past president of the club and lifetime member sent a post to the group that contained lots of good information. But at the end, she said something about her fids.

You would have thought she insulted the mother and all grandmothers of the person who responded with a very negative post. This responder is a very knowledgeable person who often came and talked to our club about many diverse subjects. She felt the use of the term Fid encouraged people to anthropomorphizing parrots, which in turn led to parrots not getting their basic needs met, and creating a bird who plucked or screamed or was overly destructive. And the bird became a dependent for life. Looking to people for socializing, food, water, and companionship. And security.

Well, I disagreed as gently as I could, and given that I wasn’t the person who made the first comment, I kept a pretty good emotional distance. My opinion was that the phrase did not automatically lead to mistreating the parrot, being only an affectionate term that didn’t always harbor poor pet-keeping habits. More flames appeared in the exchanges.

The original poster eventually returned to the conversation, and tried valiantly to lay oil on these troubled waters. Ah, sadly, oil and flamers don’t mix. And sadly the knowledgeable person severed her ties to the club.

In searching the net for some good information about the term Fid, I had to tell Google it was slang. Otherwise it means some sort of tool of a tapering shape. But the Parrot Forums came through with someone asking about the term and a cute discussion of the meaning and uses. (

To my surprise, there is a whole new group of such terms, and I still find them charming: Fibling, Faby, Frat. If you can’t guess the meaning, here’s the answer sheet: (

Apparently in Oxford slang, a Fid is a violin. Short for fiddle, which makes some sense. Did you know Antarctica has it’s own slang? Here are a few entries: FIDS – “Falklands Islands Dependencies Survey” was the original name for the “British Antarctic Survey” (BAS). Members of FIDS referred to themselves as Fids and the name stuck. It is usually taken as meaning someone who has travelled to Antarctica and worked on a FIDS or BAS ship or base. Some purists maintain that it should only apply to those who have wintered on such a base. Br.

Fidlet – A FID in his or her first year, sometimes considered as someone in their first summer south preceding the first winter after which they will be a Fid proper. Br. (

Absolutely unconnected is this Wikipedia page on cockatoos, but for some reason it came up in my search pages and has really interesting stuff: ( I looked for Fid on the page and could not find it. Let me know if you do.

So what am I getting at with this post? Good question! I often remember that heated debate over a term of affection, and am saddened that the person who threw the first fireball felt so strongly about it in such a negative way. How can someone who made her living through bird breeding and behavior information have been so resentful of the relationship other people have with their parrots? It’s a puzzle I still have no answer to.

As your New Year hatches and grows, fledges and flies, I wish you may keep peace in your heart and tolerance in your words. And may your flock bring you harmony and love.

The Name Game

Most hook bills are capable of learning their names.  Many other birds recognize their name and come when called.  Mike and I put a lot of thought into the names of our birds. Many come with names already assigned.  And sometimes that drives me crazy.

For instance, Zazu.  This would be a great name for a love bird or any African parrot, because in the movie The Lion King, the secretary bird carried that name.  But for a sun conure from South America?  Boo!  And how many hundreds of sun conures are there with the name Sunny?  Almost as many are there are cats named Kitty.

Our African gray female has a special need in that she has no toes and cannot perch.  She loves to show off her little stumps  by hanging from the top of her cage by her beak.  That is how she got the name Bo Dangles.

We named our first violet love bird Jimi, after Jimi “Purple Haze” Hendrix.  We named our green cheek Esmeralda, We named a white cockatiel Mallory for her marshmallow appearance.

Psycho bird Beeby, a half-moon conure, came with his name, and it stood for Bad Bird.  He is unbelievably cute and loveable, but he does have a tendency to bite and attack us.  So he has gained many nicknames:  Beebozo, Lord Beebatron, Beeb the Merciless, and Beebus.

Elmer is a cockatiel who arrived with his name, and because he can say  “Whatcha doing, Elmer?” I could not change his name.  Newbert arrived with the name Charlie.  Eh.  He was a nearly wild cockatiel who flew into a window at my office and was brought to me.  Mike named him Newbert.  Better.

Sometimes bird pairs have names that go together.  The first rosey Bourkes I had were named Fred and Ethel.  But a pair of sun conures we were given were called George and Bella.  Bella knows her name, so I call her Gracie Bell.  It works for us.

I guess names mean a lot to me, I remember roommates naming kittens Frank and Jake.  I was astonished.  These were geeky fans like me, but they didn’t go with Jake and Elwood.  They loved westerns too, but they didn’t go with Frank and Jesse.  Unbelievable.

When I spent time on email lists or Yahoo groups devoted to various birds, I noticed a few common names showing up.  Love birds were often called Skittles.  Amazons were named Kiwi.  African Grays were named Smokey.  So I conducted a survey of the members of my bird club.  I expected to see many matches, but instead there were very few duplicates.  I was amazed, and pleased that my club contained many original thinkers.

I also think names can harm or help a bird in how folks think of them.  We were given a female cockatiel named Tweeker.  She was frantic when she came into the house, pacing in her cage and squawking.  Once the former owners said their goodbyes and left, we put her in with the community.  (I know. I have been very lucky in that I don’t often quarantine new birds, but no illnesses or other traumas have been spread to my flock)  The bird settled down immediately in the flock, and soon paired up with our largest male, TJ.  We renamed her Teena.

We received a beautiful white-faced gray cockatiel that went into our aviary.  He has the largest eyes I have ever seen on a cockatiel. They give him a surprised look, and he is not very tame.  But in coloration he is just like our inside bird named Kai.  So he has two names.  I call him KaiClone, Mike calls him Spooky.

We had Gouldian finches for some years, but never had good luck with breeding them, or even keeping them alive.  Still they were amazingly beautiful birds, the males had a sweet, soft song.  It was very entertaining to watch the males bouncing on a perch while holding grass or straw in their beak, giving a pretty girl the eye.  Mike named one Elliot Gould, and he was a character.  Whenever he got a drink out of the Lixit bottle (the type used more for hamsters and rabbits, with the ball bearing at the end of a tube), he would lean back and weave from side to side for a few seconds, then take another drink.  I have never known a bird to get so much enjoyment out of water.

Word play weighs in on bird names in this house.  That’s why we have an Indian Ringneck named Wraith (Ring –Wraith) and a tuxedo button quail named Tennessee.  I named a canary Patience because she waited all day in a small carrier at work until I could bring her home.  A cockatiel who never quite got off the ground during out time was dubbed Scooter.  A cockatiel missing a toe became Stubby.

Now and then a bird arrives with the perfect name.  A simply beautiful gray pearl cockatiel, a female of impressive circumference, bore the name Princess.  She is demanding and regal, and not at all impressed that we put her in the aviary so she can work off her extra ounces.  And our best breeding cockatiel hen is known simply as Mom-bird.

All our birds have names, sometimes they get extras due to characteristics, behavior, or playfulness.  I confess some get new names when we forget exactly what we were calling them.  The names always mean something to us, and even when we have to explain the joke to others, we know we love our birds because we have named them, just as if they were family.  Which, of course, they are.