Friday, February 5, 2010

A Parrot Can Change Your Life

Are the animals in your life your family? I know mine are. Of course I do have a human family and wonderful friends. But my animals are my constants. I can count on their joy when I return home (and many times when I just walk into the room.) If I feel like singing I know one of my parrots will absolutely join the chorus. If I decide to whistle, I am guaranteed two more parrots will participate. If I am scurrying about the house my flighted parrots will follow. If I am curled up in bed to watch some TV, my long time blue fronted Amazon parrot companion of twenty three years will insist on preening my eyelashes and eyebrows, an indescribably relaxing feeling. And of course I can always count on my dog to snuggle up next to me when I am feeling under the weather. I can’t imagine life without their company.

There is plenty of information that cautions people about the responsibilities of having a parrot in the home and the potential behavior problems. And I certainly agree. Acquiring a parrot, or any animal, is something one does after researching the pros and cons and evaluating one’s own situation. I am all for responsible pet ownership. So yes, do your homework, find a responsible breeder, adopt from a reputable parrot rescue, learn about common parrot behavior problems, practice positive reinforcement, determine the financial responsibility, and keep educating yourself so that your parrot will have the best life you can offer. But after that is done and you have decided to take the plunge, be sure to take time to do this….enjoy your parrot!

A parrot can change your life. I know a parrot changed mine. That eye brow preening parrot has taught me so much. I joke that my relationship with that bird is the longest of my life. But it is true.

Tarah, my blue fronted Amazon parrot came to me as an adult and I know nothing about her history prior to her joining me. She was sold for $100 to a friend who worked in a pet store. When my friend could no longer care for her she came to me….with a biting and screaming problem. Even so I was enchanted when my new parrot roommate said “hello” when I was eating a piece of bread. Little did I know this small green parrot would lead me to a career in animal training.

Tarah taught me that a kind and gentle approach to animal training and handling teaches an animal to trust you. Like many parrots, Tarah will bite if forced to do something against her will. Tarah taught to me to give up on force a long, long time ago.

Tarah came to college with me, where I studied zoology. After graduation I went to work at a zoo. In part because of my few years as a parrot owner I secured a job at the bird show. After getting my feet wet with bird training I was hungry for more. I devoured books on training and soon found myself applying my new found knowledge on some of my parrot’s behavior problems, like that screaming for attention issue! I watched our relationship blossom as I began to understand more about how to influence parrot behavior with positive reinforcement……and Tarah learned to whistle instead of scream for attention.

Even though I worked all day with animals, I looked forward to coming home and spending time with my parrot. And I thought it a good sign that my parrot seemed happy to see me too. I can’t remember the first time I was close enough that Tarah decided to preen my eyebrows, but we both obviously liked it. My parrot learned not to poop on me so she could have more time working on my eyebrows. Every time she pooped on me, I would put her back on her cage. She quickly learned to “hold it” so she could stay with me longer.

It was in these close moments I also learned to relish the smell of an Amazon parrot. To me Amazon parrot smell is like mom’s apple pie. It means love.

My parrot taught me some important lessons on how to connect with an animal. But she also inspired me to learn more. I already enjoyed seeing animals in the wild, but soon I really wanted to see parrots in the wild. I have since had several opportunities to see parrots in their natural habitats and highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in parrots. It makes me proud that many people who share their home with a parrot are often concerned with parrot conservation. These are the folks so touched by parrots they will donate money, time and goods to make sure wild parrots can thrive. That is not something that can be said about too many other types of pet owners. Parrot lovers are a special kind indeed.

At this point in my life I have met and worked with thousands of parrots. I often wonder if any of it would have happened had it not been for that one eye brow preening parrot in my life. I was once asked what my “happy place” is. Guess what my answer was. Tarah still preens my eyebrows nightly and I still look forward to it. I hope you too have a “happy place” that involves a parrot.
Barbara Heidenreich
Copyright 2010


Aminah Alzahir said...

So very touching. A parrot changed my life, that is for sure. A tiny blue budgie named Nunu. I always loved birds, always watched them in parks and found them to be very funny. I had birds growing up, or shall I say, my parents had birds. I never considered having them myself until one day in a Petco, this little blue budgie caught my eye. My husband and I had decided we needed a pet and wanted to 'start small" so we agreed on fish. I was waiting for the employee to come help me get some fish but by the time she arrived I had forgotten all about those fish. Watching Nunu run around the cage bossing everyone around, ripping millet from the beaks of other birds, pulling tails, and then scurrying off to hide behind this obviously older pale blue budgie for protection was downright entertaining. I had to have them both. I bought them, came home $300 poorer without fish. I had these two quirky birds on my kitchen table and was so scared because they would not eat, which began my terrified google searches, where I found your website, and several others. The other budgie is named Jazzie, she is still the protector, and true leader of the flock, but Nunu handled the dirty work, the bossing others around, Jazzie is far too busy chewing on things to handle such mundane tasks. Nunu is abnormally small, nothing wrong with her, she is just very tiny for a budgie, as if they are not tiny enough !!

Well this flock of two turned into a flock of 10 various parrots, all rescues. Nunu changed my life. I was a bored housewife looking for a pet and what I found was a totally changed life. I had been to college, graduated and was floating, had no idea what i really wanted to do, and was stuck in small town USA with no real options. with the birds came a realization that I wanted to be a vet, just like when i was 5 yrs old "rescuing" all the animals I could find and bringing them home for my grandparents to feed. I wanted to help birds, in any possible way I could. So I am back in college, studying veterinary medicine, obtaining as many courses, certificates and as much knowledge as I can about birds, how to train them, save them and love them. It was Nunu, sitting on my finger giving me sweet kisses and hopping up and down to Bob Marley (her absolute favorite) and her extreme jealousy when I paid attention to the other birds that put this fire inside of me. Jazzie took forever to come around, she wanted nothing to do with people. She did eventually come around and she is a real lover now, my most trained, most tame and most affection bird, of the budgies anyway. This love is like nothing I have experienced before, not even from a cat or dog. To get a bird to trust you, to land on you, even to run to you when scared because it knows you are safety, is truly one of the greatest accomplishments a person can make in their life. I have since lost Nunu this last week, the pain is incredible. I love all my pets, but they are all different. Nunu was my beacon, my muse. She was supposed to become a cantankerous old lady. I will miss her everyday for the rest of my life, my flock will never be complete. However, for the rest of my life I will do what I can do to help birds, whatever that ends up being.

Barbara Heidenreich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barbara Heidenreich said...

What a great story Aminah! Thanks so much for sharing it.

K said...

I'm always glad to hear that someone else notices the sweet scent of an Amazon. We also have a Blue-Front and I love to bury my face in her neck to enjoy that scent. Poor hubby can't smell it! Thankfully, it's one thing I'm NOT allergic to. :-)