Saturday, September 6, 2008

What's the facination with birds, anyway???

The pics are- me with Freeman, my blue quaker- named after Morgan Freeman, my favorite actor in the world. Dudley in the dog food and doing the "eagle" show. Pepper looking terrified.

You know, I used to wonder what all the fuss was about birds. I was pretty much a self proclaimed bird disliker. Not a bird hater, just a "could care less" kind of person. Then we got Ranger- our blue headed pionus. He only furthered my view that birds are mean and beastly animals. He preferred Jon and became quite nasty with anyone else. We'd had parakeets and cockatiels, but please, they are just THERE. Then Em got Kito and I watched this amazing bond develop between them. He truly LOVES HER. He ADORES HER. And Emily has never loved another one of our animals with the passion that she loves that little bird. He preens her eyelashes, he kisses her, he snuggles with her. HUH??????????? Now we have taken in 5 other rescued parrots and I see now what the big deal is. Birds are pretty darn amazing. Now, this isn't to say that I am crazy over all my birds, because some of them annoy me to death, but I have to say- they are very smart and very affectionate animals. How is that you ask? Well, my blue quaker, Freeman is a vocal bird. He fears many things and his normal response to anything strange or unknown is this LOUD "ACK ACK ACK!!!" Annoying to say the least. But, when I pick him up and make soft clucking noises to him, he clucks back and gently nibbles my nose, eyebrows or ear. He ADORES ME. He will sit on my shoulder for an hour and just cluck and nibble. No, he can't talk. No, he doesn't do tricks. I don't care- I don't care if any of the birds ever learn tricks- I don't have time or the energy to homeschool parrots. Pepper, our rescued Amazon Grey is a closet talker. He talks up a storm when noone is around. Here are some of his vocalizations. We have no idea who Arnold is, by the way, if you were going to ask. :)

"Hey Arnold!!! Come here, Arnold!!"

"Goodnight Pepper bird!"

"Come here, hey, come here, come here!"

"Good morning Pepper bird"


can imitate a car alarm, says hello when the phone rings, and makes lovely whistling noises.

He has 3 different voices- the deep voice of a man that we don't know, HIS voice, and a high pitched voice. It's hysterical.

Dudley, the severe macaw is more limited in his speech but he is HYSTERICAL. He is in love with Emily. She is his "wife". He will protect her with more fervor than a bulldog. Come near her when he's on her lap and you will be missing a finger. He plays peek a boo under the covers, can hold the tip of his wing in his beak and look like a ballerina or yoga expert, and says, " DOOP DOOP DOOP". He dances to music. He's a scream. He makes us all laugh.

So, now I am a bird person, and I realize why so many get sold or given away or neglected- they are the emotional and intellectual equal to most 2 year old humans and need a ton of stimulation and interaction to keep them happy and content. That's why we tell people to really research birds before getting them- they are a high turnover pet. And they don't do well being rehomed over and over like dogs do- dogs adapt, birds don't always. It took Pepper 4 weeks to talk here and 6 weeks to step up without shaking all over like we were going to beat him. Even now, we are not sure if he will ever allow us to pet him. He is terrified of someone touching him ANYWHERE. Birds take patience, love and more patience. Because they are more intelligent than the average dog, they are more suceptible to mental illness, especially if not given the stimulation and 'mind exercise" that they need. When left in a back room and ignored, they can become mean and hateful animals. And it's hard to spend time with them if you have the average work schedule of most adults. You get home, you are tired and the last thing you want to do is take the bird out and play with him. But, like a child, you MUST DO IT or the bird will become a brat, just like a child who is ignored. God made them to fly and we caged them and asked them to be content. Hardly a fair deal, if you ask me. But since I cannot free my birds, I try my best to rotate toys, give them new foods, and take them out and challenge them. Jon and the girls are also a HUGE PART of this. That's why we tell most working people to not get a bird, and if they must, to get a smaller bird such as a green cheeked conure or a cockatiel- the bigger the bird, the bigger the needs are. We are not perfect bird owners BY ANY MEANS, but because there are more of us and we are home more, the birds do get a good bit of attention. They are an integral part of our humane education program in the schools and the kids get a kick out of Jon's funny stories of how many times a bird poops or "when you get married in 20 years, what if your wife HATES BIRDS??" The kids just die laughing, but it is a good point for the kids to think about before they go home begging for a pretty macaw. :)

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