Why I Love Parrots as Companion Animals

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Celestial Parrotlet

Parrots may not make good pets, but I was thinking on this: There are endless reasons why I love them anyway. I’d never give my birds up if I had any kind of a choice! It takes a saint-like amount of patience to live with one…as well as an immunity to mess, noise, and waste…yet if you can tolerate the negative aspects of ownership, a parrot can make a wonderful, life-changing companion.

My parrots are typical. They are affected by seasonal hormones that make them many times more likely to bite and scream and act like little terrors. Like any bird, they love to chew up my valuables (and have an uncanny knack for identifying these things), fly around like creatures possessed, and steal foods that are bad for them even when I’ve lovingly prepared a wholesome meal. No, I adore my flock because they are birds, not cats or dogs, and because they do bird things. I enjoy all the little things that differentiate them from our domesticated pets.

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Parrots are not domesticated, and this is the root of all their behaviour.

 Parrots are true to who they are. They do exactly what they want, when they want, and they don’t have ulterior motives – such as pleasing you. A parrot follows his instinct. This is exactly what makes them so unsuited to captivity, but also what endears them to me. I like that predictability (which is in itself sometimes unpredictability).

I am enamored of their soft, brilliant feathers, of course, but more so with their bold personalities. Everyone one of them is unique, and has his or her own likes and dislikes. For example, Mavi hates red cabbage. No matter how I disguise the occasional bit of red cabbage, he will not touch it. Ptak loves strawberries, but Mavi won’t touch those either. Bobo the cockatoo loves everything, ever, while cockatiel Mishka only liked green things. If you had food she wanted, she’d be dangling from your collar and doing acrobatics to try and get some – and if you still weren’t sharing, she’d try to stuff herself into your mouth or casually saunter right through the middle of your plate. These little things make parrots very special. To me, it totally makes up for the fact that you shouldn’t be cuddling them, or that you will get bitten randomly.

When I look into the eyes of a parrot, I see someone looking back at me – more even than with dogs, cats, or horses, which are all very intelligent and wonderful companions. Parrots are thought to be sentient. I appreciate that when I talk to my flock, they are aware and truly listening. Or at least I feel like it.

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Senegal Parrot in the window.

Parrots also smell good – or at least, mine do! Mishka smelt of fresh powder… I used to bury my nose in her feathers every now and then. You can guess how much she liked that. I loved her un-tameable wildness, how she used to mimic the phone dialing, or ‘sing’ the music to one of my favourite city-builder games. I came to admire her fierce independence. Everything was done on her terms. If she wanted to be with you, she’d let you know by trumpeting the song of her people into your ear. If not, she’d self-amuse on top of the door. She was courageous and neurotic at the same time. I loved her for her for being, well, Mishka. A bird.

In truth, there are endless small things to adore about each individual in my flock. They test my patience every day, but I always smile when my littlest parrot, Ptak, pipes, ‘Baby bird, you’re so pretty, bird!’ and makes up his own grammatically-correct sentences from words I taught him in a different context. Or when Mavi the Senegal declares, ‘You’re so CUUUUTE. I love you!’ as I wake him up. They’re mirrors of your home life. If you shower them with love and respect, they reflect it!

In the end, it’s the small things that make even the toughest times bearable. It takes just one sweet little moment to remind me that today was tough, but tomorrow can be better.

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Umbrella cockatoos in their aviary

 I think the best part of having parrots is that you will never be alone again. I am flock now.

Their neediness can be wearing; parrots thrive on social interaction, making it a prerequisite of life with a bird. Their highly social nature is a pro and a con, but really a pro – if you’re ready to give your whole life up to such a clingy creature. The problem becomes when the novelty of that super-close companionship wears off. When it begins to impact your life, will you still think it’s so fun or interesting? Many people don’t.

So why do I do it? This is a question I’m asked a lot, especially after I’ve been honest about my life with parrots. It’s a challenge! If you’ve read some of the articles on this blog, you, too, may reasonably wonder the same thing.

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Biting Caique “Monty.”

Well…I share my life and home with parrots because they will win your heart – and they need humans who can tolerate their quirks and wild nature. Captive parrots can never be released into the wild. They are completely and utterly dependent on people. In the end, however, their intelligence costs them their homes. Parrots are always looking for something to do, things to chew or explore, and often that leads to trouble. It is no longer so cute after your parrot escapes his cage for the fifth time while you’re out and destroys your house. Again. Or chews your antique furniture to bits. Or screams until your eardrums ache and your neighbours file noise complaints.

I aim do my part to help captive parrots, and what that means to me is adopting the birds I can provide for and doing my best to give them good lives – plus writing about the truths of parrot ownership so that others can learn from my experiences.

Life with parrots is about sacrifice. In the end, I love that they taught me selflessness, compassion, and patience. I love the bond we share, and all the tiny things that make me smile. So yes, they may be terrible pets, but I choose to remember the quiet moments and let the bites and the annoyances slide past. It’s what keeps me sane long enough to care for these most demanding of ‘pets’!

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Senegal parrot looking to step up.

 

 

Hall’s Choice Open House in New Market, MD

For once, my parrots aren’t the main thing keeping me super-occupied in life (although they certainly play their part!). I’m helping to organise a pet-friendly charity event for Clean Water Linganore, and, as you might imagine, there is a whole lot to be done. There’s going to be food, ice cream, local tours, arts and crafts, dog-training sessions, meet-n-greets with political candidates, horse events, and more! And if you just like looking at gorgeous Hanoverian horses, you can do that, too. :P

Clean Water Linganore’s main goal is to teach the community about the importance of both our local farmland, and the watershed area that is set to be developed in the area. The open house is being held at Hall’s Choice Farm in New Market, Maryland, on June 22, 2014 (10:00-16:00). If you live in the area, be sure to come visit!

My apologies if I haven’t been replying as quickly as usual. I have a big catch-up blogging session to do for sure.

*Regular bird updates to be resumed soon.*

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Parrotlet Mimics the Rain

 

Parrotlets can mimic and talk incredibly well, which people tend not to expect out of small birds. This is just a quick post today, but I wanted to share Ptak’s adorable ‘trickling faucet’ noise. It does sound rather like a running tap. He has recently applied this noise to any water, including rain, whether that be a drizzle or a downpour. Previously, he used this noise only to signal when he wanted a drink or bath in the sink. Rainy days are full of extra fun for him now, as he spends a lot of time watching the world go by outside my bedroom window!

Bird Visitors

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Had a friendly little visitor to my garden yesterday morning. This homing pigeon got a little lost on his journey from Ohio to New Jersey. They apparently will often stop to rest for up to two or three days in a row, but this one picked a bad spot. Our property is up against wilderness and a small wooded area, so we have all kinds of predators, including pets, hawks, feral cats, coyotes, owls, foxes, etc. All would be happy to munch a pigeon.

I made friends with him by offering him some safflower from our treat stash and a little pan of fresh water. He then followed me around for a bit on the ground and had a nap. I didn’t think he seemed sick or injured, just tired and hungry.

When he didn’t leave by dinner time, I got a cat carrier, tossed some seed in, and in he went. I christened him Nigel.

In any event, dear Nigel (after contacting Animal Control and the local club of his owner) is on his way home to New Jersey. Websites usually suggest leaving these birds alone if they appear to be okay, but since this one refused to get off the ground, we all decided he needed a little help! Happy endings all around.

Side note: I washed thoroughly after contact with the strange bird, and my flock never came into contact with him – very important!

Scares and Laughs – Life with Parrots

I had a slightly alarming moment a few nights ago. Ptak, my parrotlet, was contentedly sitting on my shoulder as I wrote. I use a ballpoint pen (that fact is important) in a journal to make notes and jot down the things I need to do. As I began to write, I heard Ptak make a repetitive clicking noise deep in his chest. Anyone who’s owned birds knows that respiratory clicking is bad news.

Heart in my throat, I paused, and Ptak nonchalantly preened his wings. The clicking stopped.

I started to write again, and the clicking started anew. This went on a few times more before I realised that he was mimicking the sound my pen -specifically, the ball – against the paper! What a relief… I start, he starts; I stop, he stops – down to the millisecond. It’s pretty cute.

My parrotlet is actually a very good mimic; he has sound effects for most everything he encounters. As I get ready for the day, for example, he makes the schweep noise of me dusting off my jeans, the snap of elastic, the rustle of papers, and the sounds of me eating my breakfast (clangs, bangs, and chewing).

Mavi the Senegal parrot has also really been improving his speech. He has many different ‘voices,’ which he’s perfected, and recently even learned some new phrases. As I woke him this morning, he climbed down to his bowl and declared, ‘Hey, Buddy!’

He also has started saying ‘step up,’ and ‘I love you.’ Most Senegal parrots have a raspy voice (described a lot as sandpapery), but Maverick does an adorable and clear imitation of me speaking to him. Mind you, he does also have plenty of so-called sandpaper voices. But he’s not limited to these. Mostly he does sound effects – like letting me know how tired he is by imitating the squeal of the door hinge, followed by the light switch click – and is getting very good at communicating through these sounds. If he wants me to leave, he mimics the sound of the door!

Mavi’s newest thing, though, is to hush himself whenever he gets loud. If he’s being hyper (not screaming or making particularly undesirable noises, by the way – just being rowdy), I’ll sometimes tell him, ‘Shh.’ Recently, he applied this noise to his own shrieking. So he goes, ‘Shriek, shriek, shriek! SHHHH.’ And yes, he definitely tells me to hush sometimes.

In any event, things are sloooowly settling down after springtime. My Senegal is still rather short with me, but I am allowed to talk to him again, and sometimes even give him a scratch or two. He still can’t be out while I’m in the room, but he is no longer reacting violently to the mere sound of my voice. Big improvement!

Meanwhile, Ptak is doing great. He has discovered a love of window-watching and spends much of his time observing the world go by. In fact, he is very fond of the bees that frequent our roof, and loves to chatter at them. He calls big ones ‘silly birds.’ When the wild wrens come in to investigate, Ptak does his best to scare them off. We don’t get too many birds in our front garden since he discovered the window. :P

That’s about all here. Long time no write, I know. I have some posts in the works for the upcoming week – check in soon!

Students with Birds Has an Official Website.

Tonight is the opening night of LittleBlueParrot.com, my own website that I’ve been working very hard on! As a self-confessed technophobe, learning to do all this has been a trial (even if the process was a bit simplified for me). I had to do a lot of research before feeling ready enough to publish.

Anyway, dear readers, I’d love if you’d take a look and let me know your thoughts. This blog will still be well-loved and much used, of course! You can go check out some of my photography there, too. I promise I’ll blog some more soon – things have been a little hectic lately.

As always, likes, shares, Tweets, and re-blogs are appreciated! Little Blue Parrot is just the next step towards starting my own sanctuary here in the U.S.

 

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Spring is here!