JADE AND THE FIG
By Suzanne Harrison
My Red Belly Parrot, Jade, has been going to work with me for more than 6
years. She has her own play gym set up behind my desk where she can look out
the window all day and also supervise what I am doing most of the time. My
boss, an optometrist, wasn’t sure at first about having a parrot in the office
but the idea sort of grew on him especially after Jade started to work her own
brand of goofy magic.
One day my boss brought a basket of fresh figs back from lunch and wondered if
Jade would like one. I didn’t know as she had never seen a fresh fig before so
I suggested he choose a small one and give it to her. Very carefully, Eliot
selected the smallest of the figs and set it gently on the base of Jade’s play
Startled by this strange apparition in the midst of her domain, Jade leaped
straight up in the air and ran as fast as she could to hide behind one of the
pillars of her play gym. Peeking carefully out from her “hiding” place, she
peered at the fig, her pupils pinning, feathers slicked down flat, neck
stretched out, wings lifted for flight (never mind that they are clipped and
she can’t fly). By this time Eliot and I were trying not to laugh — with little
success. But when Jade crept all the way around the back of her playgym to
approach the fierce bad fig from its “blind” side, we just gave in a howled.
Carefully, Jade stretched out her neck. Ever so delicately, she reached with
her beak to test the stem of the fig. It did from another angle. Still the odd
fruit sat there, immobile and innocuous (but appearances can be deceiving).
Ignoring the unusual behavior of her human companions (who were holding their
sides. and bending over while making strange hooting noises), Jade studied the
situation. She seemed to be at a stalemate.
It was at this point that I tried to convince Jade of the safety of figs.
“Look, Jade, it’s a fig,” I explained, “You can eat it!”
I don’t think she believed me.
By now, Eliot and I were getting short of breath and our sides hurt from laughing,
so something had to be done. I picked the fig up and, with one swift twist of
my hands, “killed” it. Once it was safely “dead,” Jade was able to see its
seeds and proceeded to eat it with gusto. Ah, the adventures of a peripatetic
TOOL USE IN SENEGALS … or what in heaven’s name
is she thinking?
By Lynn Traylor
My Senegal Honey’s favorite toy, wings down, is the cap from a tube of Blistex
lip ointment. About the 200th time I had to chase her down as she tried to gallop
off into the sunset with the entire tube, I decided to scrub out the cap and
give it to her to play with. She just loves these things, and will hold it and
chew it literally for hours, her eyes glazed over in sheer bliss.
I almost hesitate to relate the first indication of tool use. Honey is allowed
to be a shoulder bird, because of her remarkably good manners, and frequently
sits there with her Blistex cap while I watch TV or read. The problem comes
when she has a sudden preen attack. Where to put the cap? She would try
balancing it on my shoulder, but as soon as she scratches herself or does the
Senegal tail wag, the cap would invariably fall. She would try clutching it in
a foot, but she needs one to stand on, and one to scratch with... Holding it in
her beak didn’t work, she needs that to preen too. Her frustration was
Then, one evening, she hit on the answer. She suddenly reached over with her
foot, grabbed my nose, pulled it over to her, examined it for a moment, then
carefully placed the Blistex cap in one of my nostrils! I, of course, snorted
with laughter, dislodging the cap! Amazed, I retrieved it and gave it back to
her. She grabbed my nose, rather huffily I might add, and stuffed the cap back
in, a lot less gently this time! She then proceeded to preen herself (yes, I
sat there with the %$#&i S thing in my nose, just to see what came next),
and when finished, reached over, retrieved the cap, and went back to her happy
chewing. My nose, in this case, was the tool, a handy Blistex cap holder. She
will utilize it whenever I allow, now.
The second instance also centers on the precious Blistex cap. I noticed one
night, while she was on her playgym, of course chewing her cap, that she was
dropping it in her water dish and then fishing it out. As I watched, she sat on
the edge of the water dish, intently studying the cap. She then reached in,
grabbed it by the rim, and flipped it quickly upright, so the water in the cap
poured into her beak! Her eyes pinned wildly, and she did it again … and again.
I watch her drinking with her little “cup” every night now, and I swear it
looks like she is doing shots in a bar.
I’ll let you know when she uses her Blistex cap to unravel the mysteries of