I have always loved birds. They, however, do not share the same affection for me. I worked with veterinarians with talent to treat birds, but I lack the skill to treat a bird that is ill. I, however, I am able to complete the menial tasks of trimming nails and beaks. I am also able trim the feathers to prevent a bird from flying- and flying away.
Since birds don’t typically love me, I have learned to be careful. Once a bird latched onto my finger and I feared it would break the bone. The larger birds are quite capable of this. Others that care for birds receive kisses and the birds climb all over them and their shoulders and come when they are called. Birds only want to eat my fingers when I try to play with them.
From ‘wolf whistles’ to uttering actual words, it fascinates me that some birds make noises and some can talk. Some, like African Gray Parrots, have sizable vocabularies. I realize much of this may be ‘parroting’ or mimicking – especially when a bird growls like the family dog- but when I attended bird shows, the birds seem to know what to say to questions they were asked. During a show at Sea World, when they were still in Ohio, I watched a bird answer all the trainers questions with perfect precision. When asked how the bird gets out of trouble, the bird replied, “I love you,” an gave the trainer a kiss. A piano teacher of mine owned a cockatiel that sang, “You are my Sunshine” while he played the song on his piano. Very cute. Sang better than I am able.
One veterinarian I worked with told me while he was trimming the nails of a full grown Macaw, the bird told him, “Don’t do that.” He was taken back at first. Afterward he learned that when the owners took the bird from its cage, it would try to bite them. They would tap the beak and say, “Don’t do that.” We all laughed.
It may be embarrassing to image what a bird in my home might say. Maybe something like- “Who’s the idiot who left … here.” “Somebody’s in real trouble now.” Or, “If you do that again, I’m going to give you a good spanking.” There are probably many things a bird could learn to say while living with people.
My favorite bird story is the story of the family that lost their little bird- a cockatiel- who flew out their open door. They were frantic and looked everywhere for him. When they decided to give up their search, a neighbor who knew them and the bird called to say he was at their house. They told the owners that when they opened their door, he miraculously flew in. The wife sent the husband, Norm, to retrieve the little guy. When Norm walked into the rescuers’ home, the cockatiel flew right to him, landed on his shoulder, and said, “Hi, Norm.” Whether they just repeat is debatable, but I know if I had a bird that did that, I would never want to lose him again. Sweeeet little bird.
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