22 October 2008


I am owned by a wonderful red tailed parrot, aka an African Grey.

Meet Picard, whom I affectionately call Pico.

Picard came to live with us as a weaned baby. His hatchday is 7 November and he will be 11 this year. Parrots are fascinating and African Greys are particularly so. Not only do they speak parrot, they speak human. Picard's human speech is mostly English, but he also has a little French. And he doesn't just "parrot" things. He carries on conversation with me.

There is a lot of controversy in the parrot world about whether as a responsible companion you clip their wings or you let them be flighted. For most of his life, Picard has been flighted. Early on I came to the conclusion that for us it was not right to take away one of a bird's most basic rights and survival skills. If you have a flighted bird in your home, you have to take some precautions. At first is can seem like a lot of trouble, but soon becomes second nature. These are the two most important things.
!. Doors. Never ever ever stand in a doorway to the outside with the door open. When you go in and out, open and close the door fairly quickly. We have put screen doors on all our outdoor door openings, too.
2. Ceiling fans. If your bird is out of its cage, ceiling fans must not be running.
One of my favourite things that Pico says to people is, "I can talk, can you fly?"

Pico's cage is in my office/library. (This was a mistake that will be rectified when we build the new house at the farm.) In the family room he has a boing. (A boing is a spiral wire, covered with thick cotton rope. It hangs from the ceiling. Picard's is about 5' tall & 2" diametre.) Most days when I am home I open his cage door in the morning and just leave it open as long as I am home. He can get out to play on his cage top gym or he can fly. Normally I can hear him fly and know to expect him. When he flies, it is normally to his boing. But sometimes he misjudges things and he will land on the floor. This embarrasses him. Seriously. His little face is blushed if he gets caught on the floor. And he is so embarrassed that he won't talk. A few times Picard has been temporarily lost. Seriously. If he is on the floor he will not make a sound. And that brings me to another precaution with flighted parrots. Walk softly. It would not be good to step on a parrot.

Why I am making this post: A little grey bunch of feathers with a red tail and a somewhat red face just came walking from the hallway into the family room. We have wood floors and they don't give the best traction. Besides being embarrassed, if Pico is on the floor, he has to walk pigeon-toed. I am sitting on the sofa watching Countdown and have watched him walk all the way to me. When he got here, he ducked his head and sheepishly picked up one foot, indicating he'd really like me to pick him up. I do love this bird. Now he's on his boing, whistling and talking to me.

Picard is not the only parrot who shares his life with us. We also have Sunshine, a sun conure. The scientific name of sun conures translates to "miniature macaw of the sun". Sunny truly is beautiful with his yellow, orange, emerald and sapphire feathers. I don't have a close-up photo of him online, but here's a pic of Pico and Sunny bird at the farm.

Sunshine does not speak English as much as Picard. He has a few words, but he mostly whispers them. However, Sunny is a fabulous watchbird. I always know when Mike gets home, because Sunny starts squawking like crazy when the garage door opens. Many people can't live with sun conures because of the squawking. Sunshine doesn't squawk too much, and it's nice to have a watchbird. Squirrels or wild birds by his window will also set him off. If by chance Sunshine does go on a squawking binge, Picard soothes him by saying, "Calm down Sunny bird, it's all right. Calm down."

Sunny bird is a lot of fun and very playful. Abbey used to have a little electric train that he would sit on and ride. Now Sunny is flighted, too, but he rarely ever flies. I do not know why. Oh, and Sunny turned 11 this past summer.

I love parrots and am glad to spend time with these two.
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