My Pet Parrot Stories #2: Catherine & Bobby

Have you heard about our new monthly publication? “My Pet Parrot Stories” by Parrot Essentials is a collection that features our customers’ parrots. We believe that every bird has a unique story, and we would love to hear yours!

To participate, simply visit My Pet Parrot Stories: Introduction, where you can read more and submit your feathered friend’s story. Additionally, we are pleased to announce that the selected stories for publishing will receive Up to £50 Parrot Essentials gift code as a reward.

For today’s pet parrot story, we’re meeting Bobby, the Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) and his owner, Catherine. Bobby is a lovely, gentle bird who takes some time to warm up to people but is friendly and curious.

Bobby is a housebird who loves to sit on the curtain rail watching parrot TV. He is not one for cuddles but loves interacting with the entire family and will choose to sit on you quite happily. If food is on offer, he is happy to do anything to get it!

My Pet Parrot Stories #2: Catherine & Bobby

The Meeting Story

Q: How did your parrot come into your life?

Bobby is 8 months old (he was hatched at the end of July 2023). I have lived with him for 3 months. I am very in love with Bobby, he is increasing his trust in me on a daily basis. We really like hanging out together, and he always does a happy dance in the morning when I come into the room.

Bobby was given to me by my partner. He knew how enthusiastic I was about Australian King Parrots and that I had been looking for and considering one for a long while. He got Bobby from a breeder here in Northern Ireland.

We had to do a 4-hour round journey with two children in tow. As you can imagine, it was an interesting journey and took us the entire day, but Bobby was more than worth it.

Q: Why did you choose this pet parrot specifically?

Initially, their looks drew me in. Male mature king parrots (it can take 3 years before their adult plumage comes in fully) have the most vivid redheads and breasts, while the females have beautiful green feathers. Once I had seen them, I had to learn more.

I spent a long while reading up on them, utilising forums and online articles, but it was hard to find information on them. Australian King Parrots are not one of the more commonly kept Parrots in the UK or Europe, and when they are kept, they tend to be aviary birds.

Eventually, I found information from a handful of people who kept them as indoor birds, as well as people in Australia who were interacting with wild populations. The consensus was that these are gentle, docile Parrots who don’t tend to bite.

They aren’t much up for cuddles but love to interact with people and are quite happy to sit on you in general. Even wild Australian kings quite happily come to your hand when something tasty is on offer once they know to trust you at least.

That point in my research was where I decided I would love one of these birds, and it would be a good home for the lifetime of the bird.

My partner spotted Bobby advertised on the breeder’s Facebook, and I knew after seeing his video that I would regret it if I didn’t give this bird a home; in his video, he seemed a little shy but very sweet; I have been in love with Bobby ever since.

Bobby and Catherine: Why did you choose this parrot?

Food

Q: What’s your parrot’s favourite food?

Bobby loves Nutri-Berries, especially the ones with papaya. I recently used them to teach him to step up on command. I am now teaching him to allow me to handle his wings in the hopes that I can harness-train him, allowing him to enjoy the brief summer sun we get here.

Bobby will happily do anything for a Nutri-Berry, as I have quickly found out, and he gets really excited when he hears the packet rustle.

Parrot Essentials Tip: Catherine has nailed the concept of training a parrot here. Our birds are incredibly food-motivated, so it’s essential to have snacks on hand when trying to teach them new things.

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Activities & Talents

Q: What activities or hobbies does your parrot enjoy the most, whether mischievous or adorable?

  • Bobby likes to hang upside down and swing his head around in what I have affectionately come to call his “happy dance”. It is really comical.
  • When out of his cage, he likes to spend at least an hour sitting on the curtain pole watching Parrot TV. He seems really intrigued by all of the other birds.
  • Bobby is a brilliant flyer, but he struggles with his landing. This means that when he tries to land on my head, he often crashes and ends up in my lap instead! I’m helping him work on the safe landings.
  • He likes to spend time on his play stand, which is last year’s repurposed Christmas tree – we cut the branches to suitable sizes and covered them in parrot toys so it keeps him busy.
  • Bobby also likes to play with my glasses. He sits on my arm but moves up to my shoulder and likes a game of removing the glasses. Unfortunately, I don’t see very well without them, which makes the retrieval interesting.

Talents and Traits

Q: What’s your parrot’s most interesting talent?

He is capable of opening his cage locks. We now have to padlock him inside and remove the key at night time in order to prevent escape. He knows how to turn the key to unlock the padlock if we leave the key in. Bobby is also a master at knot picking. He loves to untie knots in rope or strips of leather.

Bobby the Australian King Parrot - Master of picking locks!

Q: How does your parrot express affection or bond with you and others?

You know when Bobby wants to say hi to you because he will follow you around the room. As I mentioned, his flying skills are great, but his landing needs work. He will stand on his playstand desperately wiggling to get your attention so that you come over and get him.

Bobby doesn’t like being petted or cuddled very much, so when he does ask for head scratches, you know you are one of the privileged few!

Challenges and Surprises

Q: Have you run into any challenges with your parrot so far?

The biggest challenge so far has been encouraging him to take a bath. He just doesn’t seem to want to. We have tried several tactics – providing a flat tray with a small amount of water and splashing hands to encourage him to use it – but he just never does. He dislikes being wiped, so that’s a no-go!

We even tried getting him to watch our conure bath in a water bowl – this had some success, and he did give splashing the water a quick go but nothing more. At the moment, we are trying to introduce him slowly to the idea of misting. We give him a small spray, then some Nutri-Berries, and hope this method will work well forward.

Parrot Essentials Tip: Catherine is again leveraging the power of food, but she’s also using the concept of social learning. Parrots do learn from and imitate each other. This can be helpful for getting yours to bathe, to try new toys, or to switch them from seeds to pellets.

Q: Were there any unexpected behaviours or needs that surprised you?

For the first few weeks we had Bobby, he was an incredibly quiet bird. It turns out he was just settling in because the first time we heard him call, it was a shock. He is actually quite loud, especially if I leave the room. Bobby is not a cuddly bird, but he has actually grown very attached to me, which initially surprised me. He needs to know I am about, or he will call after me.

The lack of ability to land was also a surprising one; he had spent time in a flight since being reared, and I think I had the idea that birds who fly also learn to land. It was interesting to find out that wasn’t the case.

Life Together with Bobby the Pet Parrot

My pet Parrot Stories - Catherine Davies: Live with Bobby

Q: Can you share a memorable story or experience that highlights your relationship with your pet parrot?

The first few weeks with Bobby were spent wondering how to progress and build a relationship with him. He wasn’t scared of humans or being hand-reared. However, he showed little interest in spending time with me. He didn’t interact much or play. We had many passive bonding moments. During these, Bobby did his own thing. Meanwhile, I went about my daily activities. It was a big exercise in patience.

His time out of the cage at first, he mostly spent on the curtain rail watching. He pretty much ignored me otherwise. I started to get worried he would be bored not interacting with anybody.

The day I discovered Parrot TV was our breakthrough for him. I uploaded it to YouTube to create a calming atmosphere. This was to help him gain confidence in his new environment. Initially, he was a fluffy, sleepy bird with a neck wound. But he transformed into what we now call “goose neck Bobby.” In this state, he stretches his neck to an incredible length. It’s as if he’s straining to see something far away.

He started walking up and down the pole while watching birds on TV. This was the first time I saw him so excited. I realized he liked the wolf whistles from the TV. Within three days, he started imitating the wolf whistle.

I then began wolf-whistling back at him. I did this during his feeding times when opening his cage, and whenever I passed by him. Each time, he responded with excitement and a “gooseneck” posture. Bobby started to notice and pay attention to me. When he walked over to me, I gave him treats as a reward.

This was our breakthrough point, and his personality really started shining through. It was from here that he started wanting to play with me and talk with me and where our bond really started to form properly.

Even now, the “gooseneck” is my sign that something has really got him excited. It’s really funny to see, and for Bobby, it means, “This is super interesting. Please give me the food/toy/take me to the cool-looking thing.”

Q: How has your parrot impacted your life or helped you through tough times?

I struggle with anxiety, so I don’t really socialise or even leave the house often. My children, partner and Parrots are pretty much my life.

Bobby is insanely positive about everything; he really gives things a more cheerful outlook, and there is nothing that makes you feel better as much as a parrot showing you they have trust and affection for you. Every time Bobby achieves a milestone, I feel like I have also achieved something.

It’s surprising how much talking with a bird can help. You can let them know all of the things that are worrying you, and it seems like they listen so intently (of course, they don’t understand, but it helps) of course, they are the best listeners because they won’t gossip.

Bobby has a wonderful calming influence, and having a creature you can talk to, who also talks back, is great for company. He also influences my entire schedule because he is so routine-driven. He likes to be out at a set time and fed at set times, which encourages me to also follow a routine.

Words of Wisdom

Q: Based on your experience, what advice would you give to someone considering getting a pet parrot?

Consider how much time they actually need. There seems to be a belief that Parrots and other birds are relatively easy to take care of and don’t need much time spent on them, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

They need a specialist diet that takes time to prepare. Lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, soaking seeds, pellets, seeds it all takes time to prepare.

Then there is time spent generally with them. If you don’t put time and effort into training, you won’t end up with a friendly bird that wants to spend time with you – of course, you then get the potential for a bird to pluck or have other mental health issues.

I often say that having Bobby is like having another baby. His needs dictate my whole day. It involves constant feeding, training, and playtime. He constantly sits on me, and once you have a pet parrot, you don’t really get free time.

It’s also really important that you find your nearest avian vet. Most vets are not experienced with or able to treat even basic ailments in birds. Parrots need a specialist. We have to travel 2 hours to our nearest avian vet. If this isn’t something you can do then unfortunately it might be worth reconsidering, as every animal needs access to routine and emergency health care.

Catherine's Advice to Future Parrot Owners

Closing Thoughts on Having a Pet Parrot

Q: What do you wish you had known before acquiring your pet parrot?

I wish there was a crash course for new parrot owners. It should cover all the different training methods. Researching this information by yourself is challenging. It’s hard to determine what information is reliable. My training attempts have involved a lot of trial and error.

Bobby and I are getting there, but it would have been awesome to know beforehand about encouraging things like cooperative care to make things like nail trimming easier.

The next step for Bobby and me is wing handling. Once he allows that, I plan to introduce a harness. I am hoping he is harness-trained and ready by summer so I can take him into the garden to feel the sun on his wings! I can’t wait to show him the outside world and to see his “goose neck” when he spots the wild birds flying about.


Want to share your own Parrot Story and receive a £50 Parrot Essentials gift code? You can contact us with a quick introduction. If we’d like to feature your story, we’ll send you the questionnaire to help you tell it.

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