Christmas for the Birds by Dorothy Schwarz

 

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

***

PARROT OPINION

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!

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