This article was first published in Parrots Magazine December 2018 Issue 251
A whirr of wings is swiftly followed by loud screaming, manic laughter, “OW OW OW!” and “I WANT SIX POUNDS A DAY!” It’s another average morning in a household of four parrots. Nevertheless I am obliged to sprint into the bird room to make sure there is no blood shed. Bobbie and Ollie are screaming and lunging at each other on top of Bobbie’s cage interspersed every now and again by Bobbie’s “Mwahahahahahahaaa! Woo, how are you?” and “OW OW!” Somehow I don’t think she takes their fights too seriously. Chico not wanting to be left out, is shouting, “I WANT SIX POUNDS A DAY! WHAT? WHAT?” The French windows to the aviary are open and I really hope most neighbours are out at work.
Sitting Room or Bird Room?
I use the term “bird room” very loosely. Once upon a time it was a sitting room, for humans. Now there is only one sofa or should I say sitting space for one human. The rest of the sofa used to belong to Kobe the Pionus until he was forced to share it with the Amazons. It used to have cushions but Bobbie the Red-lored Amazon kept nesting behind them. The nesting I didn’t mind, but scratching holes in the already battered throw was taking things too far. The cushions had to go. With four massive cages in each corner, three parrot stands and an array of Boings, Atoms and other toys hanging from the ceiling, there is no room for any more human furniture. Even the conservatory is lined with multiple containers of “parrotphernalia”.
Of course the cages had to be carefully placed. Kobe hates “everybirdie” so he’s next to Chico the elderly and disabled Panama Amazon who won’t bother him. Chico’s cage is nearest to the radiator to keep his arthritic legs from seizing up. The other two Amazons, Ollie the Orange-winged and the aforementioned Bobbie are at the opposite end of the room. Bobbie’s cage door leads out onto a large java stand since flying is not yet her strong point.
The cause of the disagreement? Bobbie’s cage play top and everything on it are Ollie’s, of course! Who would have thought this previously timid and cage bound bird would turn out to be a property mogul? Suddenly with deafening screeches and a flurry of wings, both birds shoot over to the other side of the room. Magpies! Magpies are much more fun to shout at. Kobe who has been completely silent through the commotion lets out an alarmed squawk at the approaching Amazons and takes off at high speed to the kitchen.
The kitchen is Kobe’s domain. No Amazon has dared pursue him there; yet. I follow the blue green streak that is Kobe and find him waiting on the window perch above the sink. He greets me with a cheery, high pitched, “Hello! You’re a funny old thing.” I tell him less of the old please, and get on with preparing their breakfast. There’s a pause, then a grating sound as he grabs the wooden blinds next to him. I look at him, “Kobe, don’t do that!” Keeping one mischievous eye on me, he blows himself up like a little round puffa fish and promptly chomps the slat again. Great! He’s succeeded in gaining my attention and I’ve just taught him to chew the blinds! Why did I fall for that? After living with him for almost 11 years I should know by now he does anything and everything to get my attention.
The Chico Song
Chico pipes up from the birdroom. “ALLO?” he shouts in his little old lady’s voice. He then says hello in every way he can think of in his strong northern accent, mostly at full volume, and continues with a softer, “Eh? What? Ohhhhhhh. Alright. Alright, luv. Alright, I gotta go”. He laughs a wonderfully infectious laugh, again in the voice of the old lady. It feels a little voyeuristic to be privy to some of the goings on in his past life. When he first came to live with us, he would only shout for “Ara Ara ‘AROLD?” Gradually his vocabulary increased and different voices appeared.
Chico had lived most of his 50+ years with an elderly couple and I am assuming it is the wife’s voice he especially loves to use. When they died, he was passed down through their family. The granddaughter, fed up with his aggression and noise was going to have him euthanized, but Chico had lots more living to do. I bet too, he was glad to be finally out of his tiny cage with a plastic perch so greasy and dirty it was almost black. Being only partially sighted he has become increasingly responsive to my voice so I decided to teach him to sing the Chico Song:
Ohhhhh Cheeeeeko Luuuuv”
He loves working on his opera singer’s warble on the “Cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeko” part. I think it gives him a sense of accomplishment.
Bobbie not wanting to be left out begins a beautiful trilling whistle. I am guessing she learned this from her first family. From the things she says plus her wicked, “Mwahahahahahahaaa!” straight out of a horror movie, it is obvious they had a sense of humour and loved her, but sadly, their circumstances changed and they were forced to part with her. Being caged for much of her next seven years she lost the ability to fly. Although she still reminds me of a flying elephant, Bobbie’s aviation skills have improved tremendously. For a while she used the sofa as a crash pad to practice her landings, but she is now able to land pretty precisely on all sorts of things, even the hanging Atom. Her squeals of excitement on take-off help me keep track of her whereabouts from the kitchen.
Bobbie and Ollie used to get along, to the point of sharing a cage for brief periods, but alas no longer. As Bobbie the new arrival became more confident she would sidle up to he who must not be touched, much to Ollie’s horror. He would try to ignore her until the very last minute, and then he’d take off with an indignant yelp. Their relationship disintegrated from there.
Ollie loves Kobe
Ollie was horribly neglected in his first home. His people weren’t bad, but their ignorance nearly killed him. As a result he ended up with serious respiratory problems. When he was taken from their home, he was suffering from Aspergillosis, sinusitis, a collapsed nostril, and inflamed and scarred air sacs. His breathing was so laboured he wasn’t expected to survive that first night. He was completely silent when he came to live with Kobe and me, except for almost continuous sneezing, so his Orange-winged jungle cries are always music to my ears, albeit sometimes mind shattering music! He’s the only one of the four who doesn’t speak English, but being so wonderfully expressive in his native tongue he doesn’t have to.
Ollie loves Kobe the Pionus but the feeling isn’t mutual. Soon after Ollie got over his cage bound years he would follow Kobe everywhere. Kobe, fed up with his stalker, learned to chase poor Ollie away. Hence the reason for the addition of two more Amazons. Ollie obviously needed a friend of his own kind. I was looking out for another Orange-wing, but we were soon to leave England when Chico and Bobbie turned up.
Bobbie won’t put up with Kobe’s aggression and Ollie has learned from watching her, to stand up for himself. It has given him a new confidence. Still Ollie tries to sit as close to Kobe as possible and Kobe now grudgingly accepts it. Kobe has been with me since he was a baby. He is very much bonded to me and I think a little miffed at the growing Amazon population. I remind him there wouldn’t be two extra Amazons if he had just offered the beak of friendship to Ollie in the first place.
Silence. Not a good sound. I sneak back into the birdroom. As soon as she sees me, Bobbie pins her eyes and pipes up with “Love you, love you!” in her deep man’s voice. “Love you too,” I reply. She is sitting on one of the stands without her partner in crime, Ollie. Where’s Ollie? I call him. Silence. Why do parrots maintain absolute silence when missing? Kobe’s exceptionally good at that. It’s only been a handful of times, but when Kobe goes missing it’s like he’s disappeared through a worm hole in the universe. Only after 10 – 15 minutes of my rising panic and increasingly frantic searching does he materialize again, usually but not always upstairs.
Ollie has recently become an intrepid explorer. He has investigated every inch of the conservatory, was the first to try out the new aviary and is now roaming far and wide, but luckily for Kobe not as far and wide as the kitchen. I retrace my steps, he can’t have gone far. Then the tick tick tick of claws on hard floor give him away. He’s in the bathroom and by the look of the upturned recycling bin has been rifling through the contents. It’s only a matter of time before Kobe’s kitchen will no longer be sacred to Kobe.
Having surmised all parrots are accounted for, I go back to putting the finishing touches to their breakfasts. This is Kobe’s favourite time. He likes to act as food tester. He flies to my shoulder, shimmies down my arm, plops onto the kitchen counter and sticks his beak into the nearest bowl with a “yum yum, very yummy”. Just as well it’s his!
“ALLO?” shouts Chico from the other room. “Allo! Coming!” I call back. “I wanna parrot!” he continues. “You are a parrot” I answer as I walk through to the bird room with the four breakfast bowls and Kobe on my shoulder. Bobbie starts screeching with excitement when she catches sight of us and Ollie flies to his cage in anticipation of breakfast. “I want to get OUT!” screams Chico and wails like a forlorn cat. Bobbie joins in with an enthusiastic impersonation of a car alarm. I slot the breakfast bowls into each cage; and finally peace prevails.