Published Jun 20, 2005

I finally saw The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill this weekend. The parrots were portrayed as true individuals something which everybody who has been around parrots knows parrots are — even birds unsuitable for pets, like the conures in the movie. These birds, with their expressive body language and their social and bratty behavior, had a true love for interaction and a real relationship with people. Memories of parrots I’d once known filled me from the first moment of the movie to long after it was over.

The first parrot I really ever knew was Baby. Baby is a Goffin’s Cockatoo and was, at the time, the apple of his mom’s eye, free to run around the dorm room in which he lived and to scream all the live long day. Baby, in fact, had a strong preference for people who were not his mom, although she doted on him. Like most G2s, and unlike most other ‘toos, Baby was an energy-filled maniac who loved to run around and climb up and down every surface of the room. He was a good bird, though, and learned to sit on my lap while I’d do homework for hours.

Having proved myself as a responsible individual to Baby’s mom, I got to keep his curmudgeonly housemate, a cockatiel named George, for a summer. George had once been quite tame but, of late, had become used to a stolid, testy existence on his own. Well, on a cage in the corner where he was kept well-fed and stocked with his toys alone. I kept George on top of my dresser, and, once a day, would let him out to play on top of his cage. George did not, however, appreciate being handled, until one day he flew clear across the room and alighted on my shoulder as I worked at the computer; he sat there for the rest of the afternoon, several hours at least. I rewarded him by clipping his wings so he couldn’t fly so well.

George, of course, clearly needed a friend, so a baby ‘tiel named Coco was procured. On Coco’s very first day in the family, I took him in the shower, which he enjoyed immensely. I thereupon pampered and played with him for the rest of the day. “You should own a bird!” was the comment made at the time. Later, George picked out almost all of the feathers on Coco’s crest.

I did not, however, purchase a bird any time soon, or, at least, not for me; I did make the down payment on a Jardine’s Parrot named Dweebus, a name he got because his hatred for men repeatedly foiled attempts to sell him (he loved women, of course). Despite this potentially fatal character flaw, I adored Dweebus. He is maybe the coolest parrot I ever met. One evening I was bouncing him up and down on my finger; to emphasize the play, I said “whee!” at the top of one bounce. At the top of the very next bounce, he said “whee!”, enunciated perfectly. He also learned to say “No! Heh heh heh” after he bit, to imitate farts, and, inconveniently enough, to imitate a rather personal form of moaning. As a man-hater, Dweebus would only tolerate me as long as his mom was out of the room — I could even occasionally scratch him — but as soon as she came by he’d bite me until I gave him to her.

By this point, I wanted a parrot, and almost bought a brand-new baby Senegal. The baby was tiny and adorable, but my future roommate said “no parrots!” I feel lucky, however, since, about a year later, I had the chance to spend some time with older Senegals and discover how aggressive some can be (and I have the scar to prove it!). Of all parrots, I’m least likely to handle a Senegal now because I believe that they find hard, aggressive biting can be fun, and they’re truly mischevious.

Some months later, I got Junior for my birthday, and he is still my baby. His story is probably one for another time.

Of course, parrots are an addiction. I nearly bought a Military Macaw whom I had actually gotten so far as to pick a name for in my head. A well-socialized bird, this particular macaw suffered from not being as social a bird as I wanted — but who else could be a love sponge like Junior? Certainly, Patton would have happily sat on his tree and interacted verbally. I believe Patton was eventually sent off to breed as he could not be sold, but he did spend some time keeping Dyan Cannon’s incredibly sweet and well-behaved Military company while she was off shooting something.

Shortly after the Military, I met a hilarious little Caique. Caiques are the tumblers of the parrot world, loving to wrestle with my thumb, dangle from my outstreched finger, and roll around in the palm of my hand. Someone else saw the appeal of this bird and he was bought beforeI could think twice about doing the deed myself.

I remembered how much I’d liked the Senegal, and how charming Dweebus was, so I always coveted another Poicephalus. I almost got a little Meyer’s who was a true love sponge, always up for scratching and even crawling in and out of my shirt and laying on his back in my hand. But, at this point I wanted someone a little different from Junior. I must have visited this bird five times and I know the seller was very sad when I finally decided not to make the purchase.

It was easier to not buy the Meyer’s because, at the time I decided not to make the purchase, I met a Scarlet Macaw who completely enchanted me. While macaws are parrots whose personalities are closest to those of the large dogs, and Scarlets in particular are often fairly aggressive, this bird had been raised with Cockatoos and had learned to be cuddly and affectionate like those parrots. He was a good talker, although he would occasionally bite a hand offered for a step-up rather than climbing on it, a small discipline issue easily enough solved by the eventual owner. I dawdled in buying Inca, so the girl I was then dating snatched him up; when we broke up shortly later I was split from my almost-macaw forever! Inca’s talkativeness and my subsequent experience with several macaws makes them the bird I’m most likely to get next, if, of course, I ever get another bird.

Not too long after, the bird store at which I’d met most of these birds closed. Since then, I’ve not found a store I wanted to frequent as much, and it’s just been Junior and me. Of course, I’ve played with some birds at stores when I’ve gone toy shopping, but I promise, Junior, it was just a one-time thing.

1 Comment

Some time, I’ll have to introduce you to my friend Shariann, who has parrots named Baci and Ozone. Ozone gave me a shed feather, last time I visited — plucked it out and handed it to me. I’m sure he’d be horrified to learn that it became a cat toy.