Now that summer…

Now that summer is here, I try to put the birds out in the garden daily to catch the sunshine, or at least the uv which they need. This is necessary for their health.

If they are in the garden, I either pretend to be gardening, sit with them or if I am in the house I have the front door open so that I can keep an eye on them. I live in a very rural area. Surrounded by fields and with only a single track road going past the house, people going past are often on foot or horseback and everyone is fascinated by the parrots.

They sit in their cages, ignoring their toys and looking very small; unlike in the house where they fly around freely, their personalities making them seem much larger than they actually are. They rarely speak outside as they don’t talk to strangers, but they will whistle to each other, the wild birds and to me.

When folk stop, the first thing they ask is, “Do they talk?”

“Oh yes,” I always reply; “I can’t get them to shut up normally”. I get dubious looks at this, as they look at Parrot and Darling sitting quietly. I then compound the apparent falsehood by boasting how clever these two mute, motionless birds are. The disbelieving glances sometimes stimulate me into trying to persuade Parrot and Darling to prove me right; by trying to persuade them to perform some action which they fall over themselves to show me in private, inside.

“Look at this” I say desperately, ‘Watch Darling dance.”

Darling seems to love dancing in the house. I click my fingers and sing to her, anything will do; she isn’t fussy. She bobs her head up and down, makes clicking noises and dances along sideways, fluffing up her feathers and occasionally waving a foot. Parrot may or may not sing along too; “Do do do do do”.

Outside with people watching however, Darling looks at me as though I’m insane. What, do tricks? Am I mad? 

To encourage her I start to dance among the brussels sprouts, singing along and clicking my fingers. “Ooh ooh ooh, I want to be like you ooh ooh”. Parrot looks at me interestedly, Darling turns her back on me and my neighbours look at me pityingly while their grandchildren snigger.

The riders and walkers continue up the road and once they are out of sight,the birds will climb around in the summer sun and mutter under their breath at me.

It is exactly the same in the house, if visitors come. I talk far too much to people about how wonderful the birds are. Like any proud parent I cannot wait to let people know what wonderful thing any one of the birds has done recently.

Crow particularly fascinates people. She constantly amazes me with her intelligence, sense of humour and affectionate personality. Anyone who turns up here nearly always wants to meet her.

Unfortunately she is very shy with people she does not know – which is almost everybody – and runs away to another part of the house if people call. If she does peek around the corner of the room to say hello, she will disappear pretty quickly if a camera is pointed in her direction. A friend of mine who called in having travelled from Aberdeen; managed to actually see her but upon producing a camera only managed to get a lot of shots of her back end disappearing from the room. I’m pretty sure that she was teasing him as she kept coming back in and looking at him, only to run out when he tried time and again to photograph her.

Four months on.

Well Darling is still plucking, though not as badly as she was. I am not too concerned as I know that she is getting a good diet, plenty of out of cage time and in spite of the horrible year we have had weatherwise, she has been outside to soak up Vitamin D from the sun. She enjoys her daily shower and is generally a happy wee thing. She is no longer as quiet as when she first came to me however. Although her voice is delicate and ladylike at times, she can and does shriek loudly if she wants attention. 

As soon as I open her cage door in the morning, she comes over to greet me, putting her head down for a tickle and making kissing noises. She won’t leave the cage though until she has had her breakfast. She likes her food this one, and she likes Parrot’s food too. She isn’t in the least bit fussy as to what I give her which is a blessing, as Parrot has turned his beak up at a lot of stuff I know is tasty (for parrots) as well as nutritious. However, he does not like to see her eating something which he doesn’t have, so is now a lot more adventurous in his eating habits.

Once she has had her breakfast, she will usually climb out of her cage and straight into Parrot’s cage, where she will sit on his favourite perch and play with his toys. If he hasn’t eaten all of his breakfast, she will have that, too. If Parrot has the cheek to come over, in spite of the fact that he shows only friendly interest in her, she will scream blue murder and start beaking wrestling with him. I have to admit that she fooled me for a while. I thought that Parrot was attacking her and removed him from his own house to protect her. She hides at the back, clinging onto the bars and refusing to step onto my hand and come out.  Nerve wracking though it is to observe rather than interfere however, I have realised that it is she who is the aggressor every time. No injuries have occurred and obviously, I watch them closely to make sure that this does not change.

Her favourite toy is a cardboard box. Put a new box on top of her house and she will climb over and chew and shred all day long, littering the floor with the remains. I’m thinking of hiring her out as an office shredder for confidential documents. Not much is left by the time she is finished.

Parrot prefers a more intellectual challenge. Working the catch on the window, for instance; to see how quickly he can open it. I have recently covered all the window catches with thick perspex, DIY double glazing; making them inaccessible to busy beaks and feet.

Meanwhile, Parrot is coming along with his language nicely. There are some words that I am confident that he understands the meaning of and uses appropriately time after time. Others he can say but he doesn’t necessarily know what they mean. He is, in fact; parroting. It can be highly amusing though when he says something which is completely apt for the moment.

He appears to have worked out the first person singular by himself, which is really impressive. He no longer sits in the window swinging, muttering obscenities. For this I am grateful. Instead he will hang upside down from his swing and tell me, “I’m gorgeous!”. No false modesty there then. Some while back when he was pestering me in some way or other, I told him , “Stop it, you feathery pest”; the reproachful rejoinder being, “I’m a good boy”, before continuing with his original behaviour.

I had a recent attack of (very) late Spring Cleaning going on. I’m not a natural housewife but taking advantage of this unaccustomed burst of house pride, I decided to strip the wall behind the parrot cages of wallpaper. The birds had actually started on this with their customary enthusiasm, quite unasked for. I figured that paperless, nicely plastered and painted, it would look lovely for a short while until they next decided to decorate.

I got out the steam cleaner and set it up, having first put the parrots into their cages and moved them into the middle of the room. They could see what was going on but could not investigate and risk being burned by the steamer. Darling was perfectly happy to sit and shred a cardboard box in her cage, but Parrot was offended at being locked away and climbed the cage walls looking pathetic and making little peeping noises. This I ignored, but I chatted away as I was steaming and stripping the wall, explaining what I was doing and why.

Eventually I said, “If we get the wall all nice and clean, maybe your dad will plaster it for us?”. “Fat chance!” says Parrot.

Once I stopped laughing, I tried to think where he picked this little gem up. The fact is though, I have no idea. He hears things and stores them, not necessarily using them until a long, long time in the future. I was in the kitchen with him one day and he came out with, “I’ll put t’ kettle on then, shall I?”; in a strong, Yorkshire accent. Before he came to me, he lived for both of his two years with an Asian family in Newcastle. His previous owner spoke Urdu and Geordie. As far as I know he had lived with them as soon as he was old enough to leave the breeder. I don’t know who the breeder was, or what accent (s)he had. Perhaps Parrot heard it from television, but if so it is long before I got him as I don’t have a tv and he has lived with me for nearly two years now.