Christmas for the Birds by Dorothy Schwarz

African Grey and Cockatoo parrots on Christmas tree


African Grey and Cockatoo parrots on Christmas treeWhile writing a Christmas round-up recalling the jokes and funny incidents that parrot people discuss amongst themselves, I’m being assisted by my two African Greys, Artha and Casper. There’s a rope stretched across the ceiling in my office for them to play on. The shelves are all protected with cloths even so the top of the door and a LOT of books have been parroted. And the question mark key on the keyboard no longer functions. What’s it about African Greys that wins our hearts and baffles our minds? They’re such amazingly intelligent, emotionally sensitive creatures!’

Here are some few anecdotes about Greys and other bird some true and some not. See if you can guess which. Of course the jokes aren’t true but they ought to be. I will start with a corvid story. They’re arguably as intelligent or maybe more so.

A Raven

My friend was outside her house when a raven appeared. It started calling out to her cat, ‘Here, kitty, kitty kitty.’ The cat sauntered over to investigate and the raven smacked it on the head. Later that day, a neighbour came by looking for her raven. When my friend told her the story she said, ‘That was him all right.’ She’d taught the raven to call to cats and smack them on the head!

Amy’s caring Grey

Living with Greys, you find they can be caring as well as comic. Amy reported both of these traits. ‘I went over to get my Grey’s bowls from her cage to feed her. I was upset about something and I was crying. She stuck her little head out of the empty feeding bowl hole, cocked her head at me, and said in the most gentle voice, ‘It’s ok.’

Amy’s husband taught the bird to say, ‘Amy’s bootie-licious’

Amy walking past her cage, thinking of other things didn’t respond past her cage and thinking of other things didn’t respond to  Zoe’s ‘Hi’. The Grey  called out, ‘Hola’. Still no response. As Amy continued down the hallway, she heard a loud cry, ‘Amy’s bootie-licious’ That got her attention and back she came.


Walking in town

When someone sees Artha on my shoulder and asks, “Is it real?”

I always want to reply but I’m too polite: ‘Oh, good. You can see him too. I thought that I was the only one.’


Telephone Call

Telephone rings. I answer: ‘Who’s calling?’

Artha on my shoulder says crossly: ‘Who is it? Who is it?’

Caller, ‘Can I speak to Wal?’

Me: ‘He isn’t in, who’s calling please?’

Artha: ‘Who is it?’ (mad laugh) ‘Who is it?’

Caller: ‘I can hear him in the background.’

Me: ‘Well he isn’t here. It’s the parrot.’

Caller hangs up.


Artha African Grey plays with piano toy

Gracie’s visit

Across the field from our house is a care home. One of the patients had a distressing habit of screaming in the garden. Easily audible from our aviary.

My friend Kaye left her Grey Gracie in our aviary for ten days while she went on holiday. Gracie spent a happy time in the aviary; she flocked with Artha and Casper.

The day after the parrot was taken home, Kaye sounding embarrassed, called me late in the evening. ‘Is everything all right?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Between you and Wal? Are you all right?’

‘Eh. Why shouldn’t we be?’

After some hesitation she murmured, ‘Gracie won’t stop screaming in a woman’s voice.’


Paula’s pets

My friend Paula has a Rottweiler named Sweetie and a scarlet macaw called Chopsie.  The washing machine broke down. It was insured so she arranged for the repair man to call.  She had to be at work. She knew the company well so arranged to leave the key under the mat. She left a message on the kitchen table for the engineer. ‘Please make yourself a cup of tea. Talk to Sweetie if you want. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SAY A WORD TO THE PARROT.

The engineer arrived and started mending the machine. It was arduous and complicated. Sweetie, a huge Rottie, lay down on the rug and watched every movement. The repair took much longer than anticipated. The work was hindered by the parrot’s maniacal screeches and repetitive singing of Happy Birthday to me. Happy birthday to me,’ over and over and out of tune. After the tenth repetition, the engineer, at his wits end, turned to the parrot’s cage and yelled, ‘Shut up, you rotten, lousy bird.’

‘Go get him, Sweetie,’ said Chopsie.


My friend Roger and Chico his Double yellow headed Amazon

Roger takes that damn Amazon Chico everywhere with him. He went to our local Odeon recently with Chico on his shoulder.

‘Two tickets please.’

‘Who’s the other ticket for?’ the ticket girl asked.

‘For Chico of course.’

‘I’m sorry. We only allow guide dogs.’

Roger shrugged and marched out. In the car park he shoved Chico down his baggy jeans. Chico lets Roger do ANYTHING with him.

Roger bought a ticket and sat down in the auditorium. The film started and Chico started wriggling, as he was too warm. So Roger figuring it was dark enough, unzipped his jeans to let Chico stick out his head for some air. ‘And don’t make a sound,’ he whispered.

Two minutes later, the girl sitting next to Roger clutched her friend’s arm and whispered. ‘What’ll I do? The chap next to me just unzipped his trousers!’

The friend said calmly. ‘Just ignore him. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.’

The girl whispered back, ‘I know, I know, but this one’s eating my popcorn!


(You guessed right. The last two are made up; the others aren’t.)

Great moments in a parrot owner’s life

The moment you realise you spend longer cooking for the birds than for yourself.

The moment when you tidy the bird toy box and realize that you have been hoarding all the nicest ones so they won’t be destroyed.

Definition of a masochist

A person who adopts pets that refuse to sleep past dawn;

That scream at the top of their lungs when they are happy;

That scream at the top of their lungs when they are unhappy;

That have tin openers in front of their faces and learn to speak English so that they can argue with you.

Another name for a masochist – a Parrot Owner



If I’m chewing something, all the pieces are mine.

If it looks like mine, it’s mine.

If I saw it first, it’s mine.

If you put something down, it automatically becomes MINE.

If you like it, it’s mine.

If I like it, it’s mine.

If I can reach it, it’s mine.

If it’s in my beak, it’s mine.

If I can take it from you, it’s mine.

If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.

If it’s mine, it cannot be yours in any way.

And if I figure out how to open the damn doorknob

I’ll add the neighbour’s stuff to what’s mine!


Welcome to a Parrot Lover’s Home Life (adapted from an anonymous author)

Welcome to my wonderful life in which worrying about a 50 gram baby kakariki is as common as worrying about a sick child. A house in which the bird room has the best view. A life full of noise, feathers, squawks, seed hulls on the floor and parrot poo in unexpected spots. A shopping list on which the only tropical fruits are for the birds. A garden where I won’t weed out the dandelions because the parrots love them. A kitchen in which I spend more time cooking for parrots than I do for myself. A life where even though I can’t stand the smell of beans cooking, I cook them because my birds like them and when there’s only one egg left, I’ll scramble it and share with them. A life in which an African Grey parrot sitting on the edge of my cereal bowl is nothing unusual. A life where, every time I leave the room, my African Grey asks, ‘where you going?’ This is my world, and you’re welcome to it. But please don’t forget that when you come to my house that my birds LIVE here; you’re just a guest.


(These ones really are not true)

At the Pet Shop

A fine Orange Winged Amazon had a blue ribbon on her left leg and a red ribbon on her right leg.

‘Pull the red ribbon and she’ll speak English. Pull the blue ribbon and she speaks Spanish’” said the assistant.

‘Oh, great,” enthused the customer. “What happens if I pull both ribbons together?’

‘I fall off the perch, you idiot’ screeched the Amazon.

Overheard in the pet shop

Assistant to customer: ‘You want to buy a quiet parrot. Sorry, why didn’t you say so? Hurry up, the Toy shop closes in half an hour.’


When your prayers are answered

Charles 2nd hand parrot would only say one sentence. ‘Wanna make love?’ Charles, a devout person, recounted this to the parish priest.

Father Macauley laughed. ‘My parrot Biko only says one sentence, too. “Let us pray.” So why not – next week after Mass – bring your bird over to the rectory. I bet he’ll be praying by the end of the afternoon.’

Next Sunday, Charles feeling hopeful, came into the rectory sitting room with Hilda on his shoulder. She spotted Bicko in his cage and cried out, ‘Wanna make love?’

Biko’s head turned heavenwards, his eyes closed and he intoned, ‘Thank you, Lord. My prayers have been answered.’


Some definitions:  Parrotonoia – fear that the parrot is up to no good

Pollytheism: a belief that there are many gods – all of them parrots.


African Grey on Christmas tree

And finally

The Parrot’s Prayer

Our feathers which are glorious

Parrot be my name

My mess is done

My human come

To clean poop, bring food and scratch me

Give us this day our nuts and fruit

And skip the boring pellets you deem necessary

And also bring toys so we may leave your curtains alone

And lead us not into the veterinary office

But release us from cages

For yours is the kingdom

That I will chew and destroy for the next seventy years

So there!

Tim Wright published – Parrots of the Wild – as part of mentor’s legacy

Parrots of the Wild A Natural History of the World's Most Captivating Birds

Parrots of the Wild: A Natural History of the World's Most Captivating BirdsParrots are very intelligent, create tight social bonds and many species can live over 50 years some even 100 years. Tim Wright considers them the most human of all birds.

“There’s a reason that they can be such charming pets: they have a lot of characteristics that we think of as human,” Wright said.
“They’re particularly intelligent – they have advanced cognitive abilities, they’re capable of learning vocalizations and of mimicking our vocalizations. They also tend to have very tight social bonds.”

These captivating qualities led Wright to spend the last 20 years studying this fascinating group of birds, and, more recently, to co-author “ Parrots of the Wild ,” a book exploring the lives and history of wild parrots.

“It was a tremendous honour,” Wright said. “I knew it was going to be a very exciting book in that it was trying to meet twin goals; It was trying to be a real scientific work – it was synthesizing a lot of what was known from field studies about parrots, as well as laboratory studies of their behaviour, sensory capacities and cognitive abilities – yet also making it accessible to the public.”

The authors worked together in order to achieve the balance of presenting scientific work using language understandable by the general audience.

Section topics included in the book:

  1. The evolutionary history of parrots
  2. Parrot feeding habits
  3. Social behaviour
  4. Mating systems
  5. Conservation

The book covers a lot of information about the parrots from how they evolve from 1 into 350 species, to new statistics including parrot extinction and conservation success stories.

“Parrots are actually one of the most endangered groups of birds,” Wright said. “Some of that is due to loss of habitat – that’s one of the very characteristic things people do is cut down forests for agriculture or other reasons, and that can hurt parrots. The other main reason for endangerment is capture for the pet trade, which has decimated some species.”

The book shares about parrot endangerment balancing with data on conservation success stories.

“I think Cathy’s hope was to show people who are fascinated by parrots as captive animals, what wild parrots were like,” Wright said. “It might help them be better pet owners, be more considerate and perhaps to do a better job of preserving wild parrot populations.”

While there is still much to learn about how parrots live in the wild, Wright explained that the glimpses we do have share similarities with us.

“I think that some of the aspects of parrot ecology – the way they move through the environment, the way they communicate to help each other find food, that sort of thing – is instructive for thinking about human evolution, as social, large-brained, communicative animals,” Wright said.

More information about the book:

  • Listen to a podcast of Wright discussing the book with the World Parrot Trust – Click here
  • Purchase the book – Click here.

Credits: NMSU

Alex the African Grey Parrot – Smarter Than Average Four-Year-Old

African Grey

Alex the African Gray Parrot Was Smarter Than
Your Average Four-Year-Old

African GreyIn 1977, animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg went into a pet shop to purchase a parrot. The one-year-old African grey, randomly chosen by the store clerk, was named Alex—or more specifically ALEx—the acronym for Avian Learning Experiment.

For the next 30 years until his death in 2007, Alex helped Dr. Pepperberg show the scientific community—and eventually the general public—that parrots possessed the potential to reason and understand complex abstract ideas.

User moonsprite shared an article about Alex’s accomplishments on Reddit’s Today I Learned community, highlighting that his handlers believed he possessed the intellectual abilities on par with a five-year-old human:

“At the time of his death, he could identify 50 different objects and recognize quantities up to six and could distinguish seven colors and five shapes. He understood the concepts of ‘bigger,’ ‘smaller,’ ‘same,’ and ‘different,’ and was learning ‘over’ and ‘under.’”
He had a strong vocabulary spanning over 100 words and even came up with his own word for an apple, when he saw one for the first time, naming it “banerry”—a combination of “banana” and “cherry,” two fruits he was already familiar with. Alex could also count and was able to communicate what he wanted.

Once, when Alex told researchers he wanted a banana, he was instead given a nut. He responded by chucking the nut back at the researcher and asking for a banana again.

Alex was making incredible progress—and had made headlines and been in television features—when he died suddenly. He was only 31-years-old, just half of his expected lifespan, but the researchers said he suffered from heart disease.

His last words, which he spoke to Pepperberg every night before bed, were, “You be good, see you tomorrow, I love you.”

Alex’s legacy lives on in Pepperberg’s research, which she has continued under The Alex Foundation: A nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting research that will increase understanding about the extent of parrots’ cognitive abilities.

According to their mission statement, the foundation seeks to secure the future for parrots, both through preservation efforts and by educating owners on how to handle their smart feathered friends:

“Through these efforts, The Alex Foundation, and the memory of Alex, will live on and will accomplish its mission to improve the lives of all parrots worldwide.”

Credits: UpVoted & Allen School 


Free Parrot Training Webinar by Barbara Heidenreich

training parrots webinar

training parrots webinarFree Parrot Training Webinar is Back!
Hopefully for Good with your Support

I have to be honest, while my name may be somewhat known, I am like many in the animal business and make a modest living. As an animal lover I struggle with the inner battle that many share, of needing to make a living but at the same time wanting to help as many animals as possible.  I realize at this time some cannot afford to pay for the behavioral help they need for their parrots. However I believe I may have a small solution to this dilemma. As is commonly the case, as a community we are quite strong. When times are favorable we often have the ability to support our friends and colleagues. We often do this by donating what we can, when we can.

So for this reason I have decided to continue to make the webinar on Training Rescued and Re-homed Parrots available at no charge. However I ask if you watch this webinar, that you consider saying “Thank You” by offering to pay what you can.  The amount is up to you! (The parrot training webinar normally sells for $19.95.) Your contribution will help make it possible for this item to continue to remain free for those who can’t afford it. If the generosity of others has helped make this a wonderful opportunity for you, you can help pay it forward by helping spread the word about this resource on social media, in chat groups, etc.

If parrot people come through with their support, maybe this can be extended to other resources. I sure hope so! It is up to you parrot community 🙂 If you love these resources and want more, let it be known through your contribution and/or word of mouth support. What you do and say matters!

Webinar Description:
Whether you work in a rescue or sanctuary, foster parrots or have adopted a parrot into your home it is sometimes difficult to break through or overcome behaviour problems with a parrot with an unfortunate or unknown history. This parrot training webinar will provide guidance for those working with some of the more challenging behavioural cases in the avian community. Total run time is 1 hour and 50 minutes. You can log in and out as much as you want to watch at your convenience or repeatedly.

How to Contribute:

Click on this link.

The donation is set at $1. If you would like to increase this amount, change the number in the box under “Qty” then click on the  words “update quantity.”  This will allow you to increase your contribution by increments of $1. Then proceed to checkout.

parrot training webinar

Visit this link to access the webinar

If you are experiencing any problems connecting to the seminar in your usual browser, consider switching to a different browser. Just paste the link to the webinar in a different browser such as Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. Also be sure to have a current flash player on your computer such as Adobe Flash Player

For iPads use the Puffin browser or Photon both are free apps. This will allow you to view flash video files included in the presentation. You can log in and out as much as you want.

This webinar is one of many resources you can find at I hope you will find it extremely beneficial to helping you foster a wonderful relationship based on trust with the parrots in your life.

All the best!

Barbara Heidenreich

Credits: GoodBird

How To Tell If Your Parrot Is Stressed

Yellow Faced Parrot

Stressed ParrotReading up on parrots and how to look after them before you bring them home in their bird cages is so important, as they’re not easy pets to keep – especially if you’ve never had a bird before.

Stress is not uncommon in parrots and you need to know what signs to look out for, as well as any potential causes of stress that you can keep to a minimum to ensure your bird stays in peak condition.

Stress bars are one sign that your parrot is unhappy. These are horizontal lines that run across the feathers, so keep a look out for any feathers they shed that you can check over just to be on the safe side.

A lack of appetite is also a key signifier, as is destructive or aggressive behaviour, or fear and nervousness.

So what can trigger stress in birds? A bored parrot can become stressed quite easily, while traumatic events, loud environments, sudden noises, lack of exercise, poor health, a dirty bird cage, loneliness, moving house, changes to diet and daily routine or being too hot or cold can all contribute to the development of stress.

You need to know before you buy a parrot that they are quite sensitive birds and should be treated as such. Parrots have even been known to die because of their stress and anxiety levels so do all you can to keep your new pet happy. If you’re concerned about the welfare of your bird, make sure you book an appointment with the vet as soon as possible.

Keep your parrot stimulated and happy with a range of Parrot Toys and Parrot Health Supplements from Parrot Essentials.