| As most readers know, I love hearing stories about parrots and I love to tell them! I will add more stories to this section of the website. If you have a great parrot story, I would love to read it!
|BONGO MARIE & THE CORNISH GAME HEN
by Sally Blanchard
story about my late great African grey, Bongo Marie, appeared in the
first issue of the Pet Bird Report and in a few issues after that. It was also used as the title story in the book The Parrot's Lament by Eugene Linden and consequently appeared in both Time Magazine and the Reader's Digest. It is perhaps one of the best known parrot stories. In fact, when I had my gallery, a woman came in and when I introduced her to Paco, she said, "Oh No Paco" not realizing that she was in front of the actual Paco from the story.
I am convinced after living with Bongo
Marie for close to 25 years that she had a sense of humor. Her laughter was almost always appropriate. It seems to me as if some African greys
have a superiority complex; as if they think they are better than other
parrots they live with.
Bongo Marie has always acted as if Paco, my female double yellow head
Amazon, was not her equal – as if green was an inferior color. Perhaps
that is why it took such a long time after I got her to get her to eat
greens; she had heard you are what you eat. Both Paco and Bongo Marie
had lived with me for about 20 years and they were never friends. Bongo
occasionally called Paco’s name until Paco responds. Then the grey tells
the Amazon to "Be Quiet!"
years ago, Bongo Marie’s cage was right next to the dining room table
and Paco’s cage was right near the door. I was fixing dinner and had
just taken a Cornish game hen out of the oven and was poised to carve a
piece of the breast meat. Bongo Marie slid down the side of her cage and
eyed my dinner quizzically. I often gave her tidbits of what I was cooking, so this was not unusual behavior. What came next is what was so funny! Suddenly, she threw her head up and in a
frantic questioning voice exclaimed, "OH NO, PACO!?!?!" After I stopped
laughing, I explained to her that the bird on the platter was not Paco,
"Look Bongo Marie – that’s not Paco. Paco is right over there." She
looked towards Paco and in a very indignant voice said, "oh no," as if
she was disappointed. Then she laughed hysterically with her very
maniacal laugh as if to let me know she had been joking all of the time!
Accusations that I was Lying from the Bird Training World
story has become quite well known in the avian world. It was the
feature story in the book called The Parrot's Lament by Eugene Linden
and was written about in both Time Magazine and the Reader's Digest.
I also tell the story of Bongo Marie and the Cornish Game Hen in my
seminars and bird show trainer, Steve Martin, has used it in his video
as an example of what he considers to be excessive anthropomorphism.
Anthropomorphism is the attributing of human shape or characteristics to
gods, objects, animals, etc.
In a video-taped program he gave for a Minnesota Bird Club, Mr. Martin told the story wrong and stated, "Well, you know what - that whole story is fiction - it has to be fiction and I guarantee you it
never happened that way. There is not a bird in the world that I know
that has the capability of conversation of language like that in that
the use of language context. I mean that’s some incredible cognitive
thinking that they’re trying to say - basically its a fiction story. But
unfortunately it is
put across by the quote unquote expert as fact. I think that’s sad
because it allows and encourages people to go home and interpret the
behaviors that their bird does in such an anthropomorphic way that takes
them farther and farther from a positive relationship with their bird."
Martin calls the Bongo Marie and The Cornish Game Hen story fiction and
virtually accuses me of making it up – of lying about it. Am I a liar?
As a quote unquote expert, I don't like being called a liar. I
can assure you this is a true story as are all the others I have told
about my clever African Grey, Bongo Marie. In telling the story, I am
very careful to use the words ‘as if’ to tell it in a way that does not
give the impression that I completely believe Bongo Marie was cognizant
of each and every thing she was saying. However, I don't believe that
Mr. Martin, as a bird show trainer, has much understanding of the
relationships between people and their companion parrots.
I personally believe that the world of
companion parrots living in people's homes is a very different world
than the world of training birds for bird shows. Is some of the trick
training/operant conditioning/clicker training information valid with
companion parrots? Sure, but some of isn't and I believe it can be so
rigid that it doesn't encourage people to have an intuitive relationship
with their parrots that is based on creative thinking. For example,
there is a book from several years back that stated that if you wanted
your parrot to roller skate that you should only feed him when he was on
the skates. This is the kind of information that made me become
cautionary about clicker training. I am a big fan of positive
reinforcement, but I don't think you need food and a clicker to relate
to your parrot in this manner. Praise goes a long way with companion
CROOKED LITTLE GREY CROOK
Back in the early 1990s I was giving a program in the Philadelphia area. I was staying with a woman named Peggy who had a grey named Gizmo. Evidently Gizmo had suffered multiple hip and pelvis fractures in the nest box and turned into one crooked little bird. As I remember, the suggestion was that the baby should be euthanized. Luckily this did not happen and the grey went to a home where he received excellent care and was well-loved. I had a suitcase full of toys that were to be raffle prizes (this was before they charged so much for an extra suitcase). I was sitting on the living room floor going through the toys. Gizmo was watching intently and suddenly climbed down to the floor and came running over to the suitcase, grabbed a particular toy, and went running back across the room with. He had stolen a toy from right underneath my nose. Of course, he got to keep it. Gizmo was one delightful little parrot that had no idea he was handicapped!
Over the years I have found a few things that are almost always true about handicapped parrots. The first is that they accept their handicaps and most of the time they don't even act as it they have anything wrong. On some level handicapped parrots seem to know that they are dependent on us and, therefore, are incredibly sweet.
If a parrot is afraid of being misted with a bottle; there are creative ways to gradually acquaint him with the spray bottle. Bongo Marie was terrified of the spray bottle when she first came to live with me. She was actually terrified of almost everything, but just seeing the spray bottle caused her great fear. Most spray bottles have red nozzles and red is a “flash color” for greys so I looked all over and finally found spray bottles with a blue nozzle. After a few days of trying to show her that it was safe — I even sprayed myself in the face and acted like it was really fun — I set the bottle to a fine mist and placed it inside my blouse, with the nozzle just below the top button. I calmly walked up to her in a submissive posture with my head down. I smiled but didn’t make direct eye contact with her. I sprayed the fine mist above her and a little bit to the side (not directly at her) so it just sprinkled down beside her. At first she was surprised, but not really frightened like she was when I tried to spray her directly. After trying this for a week or so, she moved into the spray and I sprayed more directly towards her. Within a week or so, she was actually enjoying the water coming gently down on her. After a few more days, I took the bottle out of my blouse. She had no problem with it. Eventually she learned to love her baths so much; she turned them into a special game. I approached her with the spray bottle behind my back and she said, “Gonna getchew!” I pulled the bottle out and sprayed her and she yelled, “Pow, Pow — ooh, ooh ya got me!” She loved her spray showers and sometimes even invited me to play by exclaiming “Gonna getchew,” even when I didn’t have the spray bottle in hand.
A NOT SO
This is about my Callie, who is the most hilarious Grey parrot around. She
fears nothing nor anyone, but I couldn’t BELIEVE what
she did this past weekend! I had my family over for my Dad’s birthday. Everyone
was gathered in the dining room laughing and talking — you know, that party atmosphere
of cake, presents, people — and I could tell Callie was itching for attention.
She was on her stand in the living room vocalizing and trying to get everyone
to look at HER, but to no avail. She loves crowds. Callie has a PermaPlay BellTower hung by ringalinks from the ceiling in my dining room. She enjoys
flying to it and getting it to spin around, and then she hangs straight down and allows it to twirl her. It’s great exercise, and she wears herself out
doing this every morning. I don’t know how she doesn’t get dizzy ...but the
faster the better. However that is not my story ...
On this particular day my Dad was supposed to be the focus. Callie was about to
remedy the fact that she wasn’t the center of attention pronto. While we were
all gathered there honoring my Dad in the dining room, Callie flew in like a
rocket to her Belltower and got it spinning around.
She actually holds on and flies in a circle to get it going. Crashing the party and accomplishing her mission was a success,
for everyone focused on her in amazement.
Well, it was
impossible not to notice, as this was going on over their heads. HAHA Being the
good parrot bragger that I am, I decided to show them that if you praised her,
she would get wilder and more entertaining with her aerial displays. I was
shouting “Oh, Callie! Wow! LOOK at CALLLLIE! Woohoooo!”
and everyone else was clapping and hooting, when all of a sudden she stopped.
She got this “look” in her eyes and proceeded to hang from one toe, and she
held her wing straight out, as far out as she could possibly extend it, like
Spikey LeBec does, and kept it there like she was a winged goddess in all of her glory! The more they clapped, the more
she held the wing out like she was on a stage, showing her ravishing beauty to the
audience. She also changed positions and uprighted herself to hold it outstretched at that vantage point! Since
she had that same wild look in her eyes as Spikey, I was on alert to intercept
in case this was some type of “overload” situation. I didn’t want her launching
an attack on anyone. Who knows what a parrot will do? Her wing was even quivering
like Spikey’s does. She did it again, too, so it was unmistakably the showing
off deal that Spikey does. She has never shown off like THAT before! It was too
I didn’t think a Grey would do something like this? I thought this was a
“Caique” thing. Erica, my daughter, was there. She said, “Moma,
like Spikey!” But I already knew that was what Callie was doing. The more
everyone clapped and hooted for her, the longer she just held her wing out,
eyes spinning; only she was in the air instead of standing up. I wonder if she
would have done Spikey’s “walk” with it if she had been on level ground? Well, although she did crash my Dad’s party,
everyone loved it, including my Dad. Wonderful entertainment, I must say. Is
this normal for a Grey to do this? If I had to bet a bird other than a Caique
would do this, it would have been my Tweezer Quaker, not my Callie Grey. Oh, and
Callie sometimes hops like a Caique when she is excited to get somewhere while on foot. I’m talking HIGH hopping.
AN A-DOOR-ABLE GREY PARROT
Bongo Marie showed her manipulative cleverness in many
ways. Her cage was in the kitchen right next to the swinging café style doors
to the living room. If she was on the top of her cage, she would stretch her
short little body as far as it would go to grab the swinging door with her
beak. It was pine and just perfect to chew on. She learned quickly that if I
knew she was on the door, I would come running into the room and put her back
on her cage. Of course, at that time, I would give her a great deal of drama by
giving her a dissertation on why she was not allowed to climb over and chew on
the door — a drama reward and certainly not the right thing for me to do to get her to stop. One afternoon
as I was talking on the phone in the bedroom, I heard the all too familiar
sounds of her chewing on the door. I put the phone down and ran into the living
room but she was sitting on her cage behaving herself. As I went back to finish
my conversation, I heard the same sounds again. She was still just sitting on
her cage. It took me awhile to figure out that she had learned to make the
sounds of chewing on the door. It got just as much attention from me and saved
her the energy of stretching her body out to climb on the door.
by Rita Gary
I have had my 22 year old grey, Hemphill, for 8 years. A coworker gave him to
me. She had had him for 6years and felt she was no longer able to care for him.
Since he was my first ‘big’ bird, I have learned a lot from caring for him.
In his former’ life, he had been exposed to cats. So my two cats were not a
problem for him to adjust to when he came to live with me. I was cleaning house
one Saturday and Hemphill was playing on top of his cage. I was in the back of
the house and Hemphill was calling to me with the ‘come here come here now’
calls. I would call back to him, but not come, because I was trying to get my
chores done. I knew he was safe on top of his cage. The two cats were asleep in
front of the window, soaking up ‘rays’.
I began to hear the very distinctive sound of ‘cats throwing up hairballs.’
Anyone, who has ever had cats, knows that sound is very distinctive. I would
come running into the living room, hoping I would catch the hairball before it
hit the carpet. I got to the living room only to find the two cats,
sleeping soundly. This happened several times
I finally thought that something was up ...
I stood in the hall where I could see
Hemphill, but he couldn’t see me. I observed Hemphill performing very
accurately the ‘hairball’ cough. He had obviously figured out that all of his
‘come here, come here now!’ calls only got a verbal response from me. But the
‘cat coughing up hairballs, ‘got instant attention from me.
He has done this sound often enough that I can distinguish the
difference now but I do have to laugh every time I hear it. He fools visitors
every time. He is also quite good at the telephone, house alarm, the two
antique clocks, the other birds and any other sound that amuses him. Aren’t
birds great? How dull life would be without them!
By Marty Block
We rescued Adam, our 4 year old Border Collie, because he was unwanted by his
owner because “he was too stupid to train.” I intentionally have tried to prove
otherwise so have taught him a number of tricks. “Clap off’ and he turns out
the lights, and does a bunch of other pretty incredible things including
vacuuming. One of his favorite tricks is retrieving liquid refreshment from the
fridge. He learned this during football season when we have had company for
‘Packer Games.’ (Lazy hosts?) Our 2 Congo African Greys Dominic and Ringo
obviously learned our commands from hearing us tell Adam to get a beer for us.
Each one of them has a different version of asking Adam to get a beer as the
dog responds to a couple of different commands. Dominic says, “Hey, Adam,
(whistle, whistle,) Get me a beer.” When Adam brings the beer, Dominic says
“Such a good boy!” And Ringo says, “TOUCHDOWN? I need a beer!”
In either case, Adam responds by opening the fridge and retrieving a can of
beer (bottle if no cans available). He is trained to retrieve for the person
that asks for it. Well, needless to say, when a bird asks …he delivers.
Unfortunately Adam ‘loves’ to respond to commands and work and needs a job when
he is not herding sheep or in obedience. So, he and the birds have this “kick”
making him retrieve beer because they find it amusing!! (I swear!!)
As I must work out of the house often, I kept coming home to find all the beer
(and of course when that runs out mustard, ketchup, soda, BBQ sauce, etc.)
piled under the birds cages ... and a panting pooped-out dog. I rarely had a
cold item left in the fridge when I got home.
Unfortunately, I have had to crate Adam when I leave now because I can’t afford
to replace all the now warm items he delivers from the fridge to the birdies. Adam
is so proud he can take an order and always delivers the goods ... even if the
Greys can’t “enjoy” the delivery!?
NOT SO SUBTLE MIMICRY
FROM BONGO MARIE
After living with me two years,
Bongo Marie,.my African grey was finally tame and trusting of her relationship
with me. She had started talking and often mimicked sounds around the house and
my voice. One day as I was cleaning her cage, I noticed her acting quite
strangely. She was moving her beak up and down and from side to side making a
slapping type sound. I was quite worried about her because she had been
so sick when I got her that she wasn’t expected to live. I had her step on my
hand and took her in the bedroom where I sat down and closely examined her
mouth and beak. She had stopped moving her beak in that strange way but I
wanted to make sure that she didn’t have a sore or something stuck in her beak.
Much to her dislike, I gently toweled her and proceeded to use a tongue
depressor to look inside her mouth. I saw nothing unusual, apologized to her
profusely, and returned her to her cage. I continued to clean her cage and a few
minutes later, she started to make the strange beak movement again. I stared at her and
the motion became even more exaggerated and in addition to the slapping sound,
she started making a popping sound. It was then that the lightning bolt hit me
… she was “chewing gum.” I had recently started chewing gum with a vengeance in
an attempt to stop smoking (I did for good a couple of years later). At least
it wasn’t bubble gum! For years afterwards, she continued to imitate me chewing
when I ate in front of her. I have often stated that we can learn a lot about
ourselves from careful observation of our companion parrots. Among many
things, hopefully I have learned to chew gum more gracefully in the company of
others — especially if they are short and grey!
By Su Egen
The other night as my Blue-front Amazon, Cado, and African Grey, Dorian were
out playing, Dorian was busily turning on and off the dining room light as if
to alert burglars that we must not be home. At last the light went off and stayed off. I was in the middle of a movie, so I ignored it. Siva,
my Umbrella, was long ago in bed having, as usual, demanded his “bye bye” (cage
cover) and song for sleep. When the film was finished I went into the dining
room only to find that Dorian had shut off the light, gone into his cage and
closed the door. He was asleep on his “sleeping swing.” Poor Cado was sitting
quietly on the cage top perch, hoping no one would remember to put him to bed.
He looked like a work of taxidermy. I often wonder if I will be necessary at
all for Dorian as he grows and becomes more self-sufficient. Now, if he could
just learn to cook and clean cages...
"DAD, COULD I PLEASE
A DRINK OF WATER?"
I’ve met a
lot of smart African Greys and could tell hundreds of great stories about them.
Although I still feel compelled to say that my late grey Bongo Marie was the
smartest parrot I ever met, some of my favorite stories are about Jason.
(Whodee my present Grey is not a great talker but makes up for this with a
great repertoire of wonderful sounds and an exceptionally cuddly personality.)
Jason lives with Gordon in a fifth floor apartment on one of those famous San
Francisco hills. Jason’s friends include Jeremy, a Lesser Sulphur-crested
Cockatoo and Molly, an Eclectus. Gordon provides a marvelous home for his three
parrots and has a wonderful aviary on the roof of his apartment building full
of avian treasures. One of Jason’s favorite pastimes on the roof is bathing in a
shallow paella pan that often has fresh greens floating in it.
A few years ago I was visiting with Gordon and a few of his friends. He had
fixed a delicious dinner and afterwards we sat and visited. Gordon was talking
when Jason placed his beak and cheek against Gordon’s cheek and said, “Dad,
could I please have a drink of water?” Gordon, said, “Jason you will have to
wait a minute, I was talking.” In a few minutes, Gordon got up and went into
the kitchen to fetch Jason a class of filtered water. Jason put his beak in the
water and made human drinking noises. Then he actually took a few sips putting
his head back to swallow. With water dripping from his beak, he again placed
his beak against Gordon’s cheek and sweetly said, “Thanks Dad, that’s great!” After
dinner we all went into the living room. You could see a beautiful view of a
much of San Francisco and it was beginning to get dark. Gordon placed Jason on
his perch on a window ledge. Jason fluffed his feathers looked out towards the
city and emphatically stated, “See all the pretty lights!” Being quite a little
gentleman, Jason will spend time with almost anyone who visits his home.
Gordon had been trying to teach Jason his telephone number but all he had heard
was Jason’s endless repetition of numbers — none of them in the order of the
phone number. Gordon had decided it was a lost cause when his phone rang
one afternoon. A pleasant voice on the other end said, is this 555-1234? Gordon
said that it was and the woman continued, “I live down the street and just
wanted to check if your parrot was actually saying his phone number. I have
been hearing him practice and today I heard him say, ‘My number is 555-1234,
that’s my number!’ He seemed so sure that I just wanted to call and find out if
he had finally gotten it right. (Of course the number has been changed to
protect Jason from solicitors calling to sell them bird toys without Gordon’s
permission. If Jason can learn his telephone number so well, perhaps he could
also learn Gordon’s credit card numbers!)
Gordon feeds his parrots nothing natural, mostly organic, foods. Jason has the
most beautiful grey feathers that I have ever seen. In the light if you look
closely at the feathers on his back, he is not a grey parrots. His feathers
vibrate with the iridescence of blues, violets, and magenta. It is the
combination of an exceptional diet, time in the aviary on the roof, and the
fact that Jason always takes advantage of his bathing opportunities. I have not
seen Jason for a few years now but I trust that he is still the clever, polite,
exceptionally handsome and well-loved fellow he was when I met him.
Out of what seemed like nowhere, my loquacious grey started to say “Pork”. It
became her favorite word. Instead of saying, “Good to see ya” when I came home,
she started saying “pork.” One friend who had a little extra weight wondered
whether she should take Bongo Marie’s greeting personally. Bongo usually had a
large vocabulary but when she fixated on a word that might be all she would say
for days. She often came up with words and expressions and a lot of the time I
had no idea where she had learned them. In this situation, the light bulb
suddenly went on. I had just adopted a toy fox terrier puppy. The people who
had owned her took her camping and she injured her leg. They didn’t take her to
a veterinarian and the leg developed gangrene. The people told the vet to put
her down. The vet’s assistant called me and the puppy came to live with me
right after her front right leg was amputated. The other people had named her
Princess. While I was trying to come up with a new name for her, I called her
the dog formerly called Princess but in a few days I named her Kea. She was
full of energy and ran all over the place acting as if nothing had happened.
She could jump up on the couch, but she couldn’t jump down. She would whimper
and I would walk over to the couch to help her down. I would always show her
sympathy by saying, “Poor Kea.” That was
where the word, Pork came from.
My dogs eat a
special recipe of oats, cooked ground turkey, shredded carrots, and other
healthy ingredients and they love it. When Thea (my assistant) or I feed the
dogs, we have to feed Kea, my 3- legged Toy Fox Terrier, in the bedroom with
the door shut. She is one of those rare casual canine gourmets who take forever
to finish her meal. The large dog, Dewey, gulps his food down and would quickly
finish Kea’s portion if he could get to it. The Silky Terrier, KT, is also a
gulper so her food bowl doesn’t have to be defended from Dewey.
One Saturday, I fed the dogs their breakfast and went out to work in the
office. The dogs usually come out with me, do their business, play awhile, and
then settle down for their perpetual naps. I got sidetracked with a project for
a few hours. When I went back into the house, KT and Dewey followed me but I
didn’t see Kea. She usually needs an engraved invitation to follow me so I
figured she was still snoozing. When I walked past the bedroom door, I heard
Kea whimpering and realized I had forgotten her. She had been in there all that
time. As I started to open the bedroom door, Bongo Marie
exclaimed, “Oh Kea, poor Kea, good dog!”
While this may seem amazing to those who don’t live with a loquacious grey,
actually the most amazing part of it is that Bongo certainly prefers yelling at
the dogs when they misbehave or, in many cases, simply because it is fun. But this time she seemed to show great sympathy for her canine
GIVE ME A KISS
by Bob Kennedy
The sun came up on the most beautiful day I
had seen in quite some time. The temperature was in the low 60s, the sun was
bright, and the air was so clean you would have thought that the industrial
revolution had never occurred and that coal had never been discovered either. I
opened the blinds and woke the chickens (well, not really chickens, but I like
to think of them that way anyway) and stepped out into that glorious day to
fill the bird feeders and clean up the mess from yesterday’s visitors to the
I returned to let the guys out of their cages for the day, Opus CAG started
singing “Old McOpus had a farm, e-i-e-i-o” and both TAG Bingo and him started
quacking like ducks and started laughing maniacally. Of course I couldn’t
resist and told them how much I loved them and Opus decided that he wanted to
cuddle. Now this may not seem unusual to most of you, but Opus only cuddles,
normally, when something has saddened me almost to the point of despair.
Otherwise his loving consists of talking and trying (often successfully) to
outwit me. Of course, I couldn’t resist cuddling with him on that perfect
morning. He lowered his head for skritches and allowed me to pet him and kiss
his “feathered butt,” one of the very few things he lets me do daily without
getting bummed out with me. Then he started asking “Can I have a kiss?” Well,
of course, he can always have a kiss, that goes without saying.
I leaned over to kiss him, and quick as greased lightning, I had a very hard
beak firmly clamped on my nose. Have you ever been standing around with a pound
of parrot hanging from your nose?
don’t recommend it; especially when that parrot is swinging wildly as though he
had discovered a new and more fun sort of boing. While I know better than to
add to a bird’s sense of happy excitement by making a fuss over something as
common and simple as a beak clamp, all my training and all the behavioral
advice I’ve given over the years were trapped somewhere inside the red cloud of
incredible pain blotting out my brain. Only the flight or fight response was
operational at the time and there was no fight possible. I mean, I’m 6-03, 220
pounds and this one pound parrot was beating me up quite efficiently.
my wife was working from home that day, and she ran to the rescue. She was
finally able to detach the (the now laughing hysterically) Opus from my
proboscis. Bingo (Bingalo) was also
having a laughing jag going herself. As she was putting him back in his cage, Opus
uttered the immortal words “Oh crap!”
wife was kind enough to leave the room before she broke down laughing. That’s
one of the reasons I love her so. (my nose has healed just fine)
WHAT A BIG HELP!
was lying in bed early one morning, in a lot of pain from a shoulder injury,
and heard my husband downstairs. Half asleep I called out to him, ‘Honey, could
you bring me an Advil?’ and heard back “What?” again I said, “Could you bring
me an Advil, please?” and again the answer was “WHAT!"A third lime I repeated
my request, starting to get a bit annoyed and a third time I heard back “WHAT!”
louder and more annoyed just as my question had been. So I yelled “ADVIL!” to
which the reply came, “OK, all right, goodbye.”. That’s when I realized that
the entire conversation had been not with my husband, but with Bartok, my
African Grey, who always says ‘OK, alright, goodbye.’ when he doesn’t know what
I want from him. My husband was in the shower the whole time and never even
heard me call.
TOOTSTER & THE GOLIATH POMEGRANATE
Bonnie Zimmerman brought home a special treat
for her parrots - the largest pomegranate that she had ever seen - about the
size of a melon! She tried to sneak through the house so that her parrots
wouldn’t get all excited pomegranate and hid it on shelf of a cupboard inside
behind some pots and she left to go shopping for the afternoon.
When Bonnie returned, she was shocked to
see what looked like a ‘bloodbath”. Then she saw her African grey, Tootster
stained red from head to toe. She followed the little red foot prints from his
cage to the kitchen floor where she found the remaining pieces of the pomegranate
strewn everywhere. Pomegranates are one of nature’s gifts to the parrot family
that loves colorful fun foods in packages with different texture and shapes.
Tootster is no exception in his love for the juicy red fruit full of seeds.
Bonnie’s surreptitious attempt to hide the pomegranate had been observed. A
mechanically minded parrot, Tootster had escaped from his closed cage, made his
way through the house and scaled the cabinet in search of the special treat
that was twice his size. He had devoured half of the fruit before he waddled
back to his cage leaving the telltale path of pomegranate juice.
WORSE THAN A WHOOPEE CUSHION
by Sally Blanchard
A Visit to the
I had quite a few embarrassing moments at my veterinarian’s office because of
my talented African grey, Bongo Marie. I took Bongo to the vet right after she
threw herself off of her cage during an earthquake. She had a bruise on her
face and I wanted to check it out. I was sitting quietly in the waiting room with
Bongo in a cardboard box on my lap. The box fit her but was not roomy. I was in
a hurry and couldn’t find her carrier. There were no other birds in the room —
only dog and cat people. Bongo had learned some interesting sounds and words
from the teenage boys who lived next door. Suddenly from inside the box rumbled
the most embarrassing and quite authentic noises of flatulence. As the sounds
continued and grew louder, the other people in the waiting room seemed to
become restless and I felt an obligation to explain apologetically that it was
a bird in the cardboard box making the noises. Would they understand? “Yeah,
sure it’s the bird in the box, ha ha ha.” Certainly anyone who had a dog would
believe that animals experienced flatulence but it wasn’t quite the same thing
with a bird?
As I began to fidget, it even appeared to me that the dog next to me was
looking away as if to deny responsibility to his owner, “Honest, it wasn’t me
this time!” While I was figuring out some clever apology to make, I was temporarily
reprieved when the technician called my name to go into the examining room.
However, much to my mortification, Bongo had saved her best and loudest
rendition for the moment that I stood up.
After the vet
pronounced her bruise to be superficial, I went to the counter to pay. Bongo
was in the box again and I placed it on the counter. Instead of making the
sounds of flatulence, she yowled like a cat about to get into a fight. Again
there were no bird people in the waiting room. The box was fairly small and a
woman who was waiting with her cat asked me incredulously, “Do you have a cat
in that box?” It was definitely too small and the wrong
shape for a cat.
Houdini-do and the Magic Fountain
I should rename
Whodeedo to Houdini-do. He has become an incredible escape artist. His cage is
next to the half wall that divides the dining room and the living room. I
purchased a copper and slate fountain and placed it on the ledge on this wall
for extra humidity. It consists of a copper tube frame with a piece of flat
slate hanging from it. The bottom is a copper box with smooth rocks in it. The
water runs down the slate and gently splashes into the rocks. Lately, it seems
that Whodee’s greatest ambition is to let himself out of his cage and climb
over onto this fountain. Once he is on it, he starts pushing on the piece of
slate until it starts to swing back and forth. Of course, when he does this,
water no longer goes in the copper base but all over the floor. My mother, who
spends a great deal of the day watching old game shows on the cable game show
channel, sees him doing this and calls me to come and get him before the carpet
is sopping wet. He always looks so innocent and somewhat shocked that this fountain
is not a special toy I bought just for his amusement. Of course, the key is for
me to remember to double latch his cage door to keep him from doing this. I
usually do but sometimes I forget and he has learned to manipulate the latch
and swing the door open. He is quite the gentleman, always closing the door
behind him as he leaves.
Whodeedo can be quite silly in his own way. He sits on his stand next to
my office chair and jabbers incessantly. He says hello in a dozen or more
voices. He is not really a talented talker but he does like to vocalize. His
particular talent seems to be in imitating many sounds and voices. Since my
mother watches so many games shows, Whodee does what seems to be a medley of
game show buzzers and tunes. Over the holidays, I was bird sitting an African
grey I had helped tame about 10 years ago. Sam makes a great assortment of
wonderful sounds, ranging from trucks backing up to water dripping. Whodee
quickly picked up almost all of Sam’s sounds perfectly, including the mournful
“dog barking in the distance.”
WHERE’S YOUR POODLE?
great African Grey parrot, Bongo Marie, had a way of coming up with absurd
comments. Sometimes I had no idea where they came from but sometimes I could
figure it out after awhile. Bongo usually greeted me and various visitors with
an enthusiastic “Good to see ya!” but often she would get fixated on
saying something else for a while. One day, for no reason that I could figure
out, she started enthusiastically asking people, “Where’s your poodle!?! when
they came into the house. It became Bongo’s favorite thing to say and I have no
idea how she learned it. Everyone who came in the house was asked, “Where’s
your poodle?!” Statistically, I knew that someday someone would eventually
visit my home who actually had a poodle. Sure enough, a new friend walked in
the front door and Bongo immediately asked her, “Where’s your Poodle?!” My
friend, a non-parrot person was flabbergasted, “How did she know I had a
poodle?” It was too much fun to explain immediately that Bongo Marie was
in the habit of saying that to everyone!
Another time, she started saying “PORK!” with great gusto. She stopped saying
everything else almost as if it was a test for us to figure out why she was
saying, “PORK!” It took us a week or so to figure it out. I had just adopted a
three-legged toy fox terrier who was about 6 months old. The vet had been told
by her previous owners to euthanize her because of her leg injury but a friend
took responsibility for the vet costs and her leg was amputated. A few days
later she came to live with me. She ran around as if nothing had happened. Her
only problem was jumping off the couch so she received a lot
of sympathy. I named her Kea. Bongo heard “Poor Kea” a lot and from that
she extracted the “Pork” sound to exclaim for almost every occasion. I had more
than one slightly zoftig friend who was not happy with Bongo Marie’s greeting
when they came in my house
DEATH OF A YELLOW THING
By Carolyn R.
Setting the Scene: Late afternoon. A sofa in a living room. One baby grey bird
with red tail and an attitude waddles down length of sofa. A Yellow Thing
(Yellow square piece of paper with adhesive on one side) lies in bird’s
path, adhesive side up.
Bird: (waddle, waddle, wad....) Bird steps onto Yellow Thing. As bird
lifts foot to continue on, Bird suddenly notices that Yellow Thing is
attached to bottom of foot. Bird freezes. Bird stares. Bird looks askance at
Human: “Whadda you got there, Punkin?”
Bird: Still transfixed by Yellow Thing stuck to bottom of foot. “CHEEP.”
Bird turns head to stare intently at thing on foot. Bird tries to touch
tongue to thing but starts to lose balance (standing on one leg). To
recover balance, Bird starts to put foot back down, but is confounded by fact
that Yellow Thing seems to be in way Bird recovers balance, resumes one legged
stance and stares some more.
Human: You want me to get that off? (leans over to remove thing)
Bird: “SQUAWK!” Bird shuffles out of reach to avoid losing thing to
Human. Bird delicately nibbles edge of Yellow Thing.
Bird, bolder now, tongues Yellow Thing. Yellow Thing has temerity to
attach itself to Bird’s tongue.
Bird: “THQUAWK!” As Bird stands there with Yellow Thing stuck to tongue,
Bird’s pupils dilate.
Bird pulls Yellow Thing off tongue using foot. Again Yellow Thing sticks
to foot. Bird’s head feathers ruffle. Bird uses beak to wipe Yellow Thing off
foot. Yellow Thing brazenly adheres to Bird’s beak. More feathers
ruffle. Bird stares cross-eyed down beak at Yellow Thing, then suddenly explodes
“SCREECH!!!” Bird maniacally attacks Yellow Thing, ripping into it
gleefully, huddling over it with wings outstretched, jumping up and down on it
and tearing at it.
Human: also stares, transfixed, as bits and pieces of Yellow Thing flutter
onto sofa and floor
Bird: Winding down now, Bird gives a few last “RAAACKKSS” and wing flaps and
stops to stare around field of battle. Vanquished YellowThing (now many Yellow
Thingettes) doesn’t move. Bird takes bit of Yellow Thing in beak and
waddles no, make that STRUTS — over to Human. Bird lays Yellow Thing bit
near Human’s leg, gives a wee baby bird “coo,”
and climbs up on Human for a nap.
Human: “er ... good job, Punkin.” (Human, bemused, starts skritching head of
baby bird, who is now looking like most innocent of god’s creatures versus Bird
of Death. of moments before) Human ponders advisability of relocation via
Witness Protection Program in case Bird ever looks at her the way Bird did at Yellow
Thing. The End.
THE UPS &
DOWNS OF O’MAR
By Judy Glick
The Elevator Parrot
O’mar is my 16 month old Congo African grey parrot. We live on the 26th floor of a
high rise apartment in New York City. O’mar frequently accompanies me in the elevator down to the lobby of my building to get my mail.
Sometimes we go up to visit his brother
on the 34th floor. Generally,
people smile and enjoy visiting with my well-mannered parrot. “Does he talk?”,
“Aren’t you afraid that he will fly away?”, “Will he bite?” and “How old is
he?” are the most frequent questions
asked by strangers when they
first meet O’mar. Some people
are quite surprised when they realize they are sharing the elevator with a
parrot. One man asked O’mar, “So Birdie, you can’t talk, can you?” My talkative
grey quickly replied “Hello, how are you?” The man almost collapsed against the
elevator wall saying “Birds really CAN talk!’ Although most people enjoy O’mar,
occasionally there is problem. A sad experience was when a woman went into a hysterical panic when she saw O’mar. “Don’t get on this elevator
with that bird! I hate birds – they bite!” O’mar and I looked at each other as
if to say, “Is this woman rationale?”
During warm weather, we often stand
outside the building for awhile each
day to enjoy the sunshine. (I always check his wings first.) Many people stop to O’mar and
ask questions about him. One time, a group of Japanese tourists gathered around to have their photo taken with
my “celebrity” grey as a souvenir of New York City. He enjoys attention and I
always make sure that he is safe. I feel that exposing O’mar to the world and
the world to him has made him a much sweeter and more sociable bird.
Occasionally for one reason or another, my gregarious parrot doesn’t join me on
my trips to the lobby. The people that know O’mar miss his presence and always
ask how he is. It is interesting to me
how friendly most people are on the elevator when I have my grey friend with me. Without my parrot along, the
elevator ride is usually silent.
O’mar seems to be a magical connection that allows strangers to talk to each
other in this huge and often impersonal
I guess you
would have to be a wild bird watcher to understand the irony in this story.
Cormorants are graceful fish eating birds commonly found near water, usually
near the coast but there are some species that can be found around lakes and
rivers throughout the world. One of the first clues that cormorants are in the
area is that everything from buoys to power towers is covered with white
“guano” or bird droppings. There used to be a delightful statue of Snoopy on
his doghouse chasing the Red Baron in the San Francisco Bay right along Highway
880 off of the Berkeley shoreline. There were always cormorants on it and every
few months or so it would become totally covered with white streaks of guano.
Various parts would disappear for cleaning and it would come back clean and new
only to again suffer the onslaught of digested and defecated fish. Yuck!
I have a really nice life-size clay sculpture of a cormorant that sits on a
table in the living room near my African grey, Bongo Marie’s cage. One day when
I had visitors, I was sitting in a different chair with a view of the living
room that I usually don’t have. I had cleaned house ‘thoroughly” in preparation
for the company. Suddenly, I noticed that Bongos cage had been shoved over
closer to the table with the sculpture. Have you guessed the rest? The
cormorant was totally covered with streaks of “Bongo Marie guano”. Perhaps my
mind was so used to associating streaks like this with cormorants that I had
not even noticed them. As they say - turnabout is fair play.
GET A LIFE
We have lived with our African grey “Ziggv” for over three years. Besides the stereotypical
claims of intelligence and talking ability, the quality of the grey that was
important to me was the lack of regular screaming and obnoxious noise. Ziggy’s
hilarious sound effects as well as his pleasurable calls and whistles of
happiness are a wonderful background in our otherwise quiet rural home.
Although I was
the one that fed and raised Ziggy as a baby, he vacillated back and forth
between my wife, Gay and myself as his chosen human. When it was either
of our turns to be rejected, the other spouse was sympathetic but sometimes
that inner glow of satisfaction of being the chosen one made its way to the
outside. It was time that each of us had a bird of our own.
Every article in every publication we owned about choosing a new bird was
reread. We rehashed all of the same old arguments about the pros and cons of
this bird and that bird. Finally, we acquitted a Red-fronted Macaw. The breeder
said had been weaned for over a month.
After all of the health precautions and quarantining, it was apparent
the ‘bob’ was sweet, gentle, affectionate, and acrobatic. It was also apparent
that Bob could scream and scream and scream. I had a very difficult time with
this. If we were within ten feet of Bob when he sounded off, it actually hurt
and our ears would ring.
We had several conversations with Sally and it was decided that Bob probably
had some sort of weaning trauma. Perhaps he was force weaned at too early an
age. Sally thought this caused him to be insecure which resulted in his
negative and seemingly incessant behavior of screaming for attention. Sally
started my wife, Gay on a program of “weaning regression” where Bob received
formula with a syringe for a few weeks gradually decreasing the amount and
then allowed to wean himself when he was ready to be weaned (leave the nest, so
At times, while everyone
was in the using room relaxing, Bob would suddenly scream, ending the
tranquility. To ease my tension, I would deliberately say, ‘Get a life, Bob!”
Within about two weeks Bob started rejecting the feedings and happily weaned
himself. Consequently, the screaming
also subsided to tolerable occurrences and Bob has turned out to be a wonderful
pet! On occasions when we do hear some screaming, we often hear Ziggy
admonishing the macaw with “Bob, get a life, Boooooooooob!”
Is It Flight Envy?
By Lionel Silva
Gopi, our 3 year old Timneh grey comes up with new word and phrases usually on
a weekly basis but this one really surprised me. Sometimes we have low-flying
police helicopters over our neighborhood. When they show up, I usually gripe
about it to my girlfriend. Yesterday while I was working on my PC, Gopi
was across the room sitting on her tree. She was gazing up in the air through
one of our high windows in the family room. All of a sudden she said, “Damn
I was stunned. I looked up in the sky and saw a low-flying jet overhead. I
sure felt lucky that we had cleaned up our language just before we brought Gopi
home from the breeder. Who knows what else I might have called the helicopter
if we hadn’t done that!
"I'M GONNA TOUCH YOUR TAIL"
“It was a rare
sunny day in February. My aunt had the back door open to allow the full impact
of the sun to enter through the large glass door. Bud, her toy poodle, was lounging
on the top step soaking up the rays. Spike, my aunt’s African Grey, lazily preened
on top of his cage as she scrubbed the kitchen floor. As time elapsed, Spike
climbed down his cage and made his way towards the sunny steps. As he passed
her, she said, “Spikey, no touch Buddy.”
All seemed to be peaceful until she heard Spike teasingly announce to Bud, “I’m
gonna touch your tail!” My aunt sprang into action, but — too late. Buddy let
out a pained yelp. As she approached, Spike repeated several times, “Oh, oh!
Shhhh, Bud, Bud. It’s OK, It’s OK!”
NOTHING TO CROW ABOUT
— While relaxing in my recliner about 6:00 in the evening, I was playing
“tickle your chicken toes” with my
one-year-old African Grey, Silver. Suddenly, she disappeared from the arm of my
chair as if jerked by a string and ran like mad across the floor to her cage. I
couldn’t understand what had frightened her and had never seen her jump and
yelp like that. Some movement overhead caught my eye and there on the clear
glass skylights directly over my chair were two big crows walking around,
eating bugs off the top bubble and occasionally peering in. I got a bird’s eye
view of crow tummies and crow tootsies. A very unusual angle to observe crows
from, you must admit. I retrieved Silver, cuddled her, and then put her in her
cage, safe and sound. She seemed comforted but when it got dark at about 8:00 I
again had her in my lap. She kept a sharp eye on the skylight, just in case.
I’ve never known wild birds to approach the skylight in the six years since we
had it installed but if it is going to be a habit, I will move my chair out
from under it. I can’t imagine a more traumatizing event for a companion parrot
than to be startled by a “predator” over head while happily playing in their
own living room!
Enough for Charlie
Charlie is a conversant African grey who lives with the Greenes. As usual, one morning at breakfast, Charlie was making
his food preferences known, “I want a carrot.” Obediently, his owners quickly
went to the refrigerator and procured for him his usually favorite tender
bottom tip of the carrot. When they offer the morsel to Charlie, he rejected it
exclaiming, “I want a BIG carrot.”
So they went back to the refrigerator and brought him the biggest
carrot. Taking it, he replied, “That’s good!”, and proceeded to chew chunks out
of their offering.
What Kind of Animal Lives in My House?
Is she a fowl?
When she wakes up, she often crow’s like a rooster but she likes to do that any
time because it is a fun noise. She also caws like a crow quacks, like a duck,
gobbles like a turkey, and clucks like a chicken. She loudly imitates a spoiled
caique (sounds like the first 3 notes of the shower scene in Psycho) but she
also tweets like a delicate little bird.
Is she a hoot? She hangs upside down and hoots like a howler monkey when she is
playing. But she also hoots like an owl and laughs like a kookaburra.
She certainly has porcine eating habits but is she a pig? She snorts like one —
often after she’s been fed and is rooting around for leftover tidbits.
Is she a watchdog? She barks like a seal when anything is going on outside
(she’s really imitating an Airedale). But who’d be afraid when she yips like a foofoo dog if the mailman comes up on
the porch. For some unknown reason, she asks people “where’s your poodle?”, and then exclaims, “Bongo Marie’s not a poodle?
Is she a cat? That is her favorite imitation, especially when the cats
are meowing to be fed. Yet, once when she was meowing and I gave her a treat,
she insisted, “Bongo Marie’s not a
cat!” She seems to know what she isn’t but what kind of animal is this who lives in my house?
CASEY JONES AND
THE AIRPORT SECURITY GUARDS
By Chet Fuhrman
Drawing by Jeff Riebe
We prepared very
carefully for our trip to Minnesota. We had the airline reservations for
months, including the reservation for Casey Jones, our ten-year-old Congo African Grey. We had the required
health certificate and were at the airport two hours early. Getting the “excess
baggage” ticket for Casey took forever. We had checked two bags and carried everything
needed for the next two days up the escalator to the “security area.” Three of
the four “carry on” bags were placed on the x-ray machine conveyor belt and the
guard told us, “The carrier must go thru the x-ray machine.” Of course, we took
Casey Jones out and walked thru the metal detector.
When we got to our bags on the other side, a very large guard was standing
there with his right hand just above his very large gun. He said, “I need you
to open this bag for me,” as another guard walked to the telephone. He claimed.
“We must make sure that the airport people know you are carrying a bird on the
plane.” I smiled, because I knew that there was some weird looking stuff in that
bag. I began unloading the contents and the guard said, “I need to know what
that thing right there is.” I pulled out Casey’s concrete perch, took it out of
the zip-lock bag and handed it to the guard. It is about 1.5” in diameter, 9”
long and had washers and a big wing nut on one end.
I presume it may have looked
like a pipe bomb in the x-ray machine, because I soon realized that five armed
guards surrounded us. The first officer remarked that he had never heard of
anything like that before. I explained that it was Casey’s favorite perch and
could help keep his toenails trimmed. I explained further that we were going to
do a program for a bird club in Minnesota and Casey Jones was to be the star of
the show. Since we would be staying at a friend’s house for five days, we
wanted to make sure Casey would be as comfortable as possible by taking along
his favorite toys and perch. The other weird looking stuff would be used when
Casey did his tricks during the program.
My wife, Joyce, was holding Casey during this whole episode — and of course,
the whole world was watching. I mean NOBODY was going thru this security
station. Then another guard asked, “Does he talk? What kind of tricks does he
do?” We put on a mini trick bird show right there in the ONLY security station
in the airport. Suddenly, we all realized that the area between the top of the
escalator and the security station was FULL — people were having a hard time
getting off the escalator. The security people all laughed, thanked us and
decided they should go back to work.
everything back in the bag and laughed all the way to the waiting area for our
plane. We never get bored when we have Casey Jones around. My little ham
JING: BEAK FU
Jane Hallandcr’s Timneh African
Grey, Jing, accompanies Jane to her Chinese martial arts (tai chi)
school every day, where Jing has
a spacious cage in the corner of the workout room. One of Jing’s favorite pastimes is watching students practice,
while sitting on her open cage door, chewing on a wedge of fresh corn on the
cob — much the same as we
sit at the movies with a box of
One day, the class was being instructed by one of Jane’s assistants, who was
teaching the students how to defend against a knife attack. Using a rubber
practice knife, the instructor went from one student to another slashing at
each person, giving them the opportunity to respond with the correct self
defense technique. Each time he made his aggressive slashing movement, Jing
said a loud “OW!” As the instructor moved on to another student and pretended
to attack with the rubber knife, Jing yelled “OW!” — much the same as an enthusiastic movie-goer who
is completely involved in a high action film.
WHAT KIND OF
BIRD IS THAT?
By P. Linde
We all know the
African Grey is capable of imitating sounds and voices to astonishing likeness
and at the right moment.
I went shopping leaving Popeye, my eight year old grey alone in the house. For years every other
week my two house cleaners have been opening the door, shouting out “Hello is
anybody home?” in their deep voices with Spanish accents. As we know, African grey’s love to mimic
So, here comes this police officer responding to a burglar alarm (at the WRONG
address). He parks across the street and enters our house through a back
bedroom door. Upon entering he says “Hello, this is the police, is anybody
home?” On cue. Popeye, our African Grey says, “Hello, what ya doing?” (In his
best male Spanish accent.) The
Police officer thinks he has “his man” and says.. “Hello?”.., again. The bird
responds in like, and adds a hearty laugh ... which must have caused the police
officer’s hair to stand on end … because at that point mom returns with two packages in her arms only to meet a
very large police officer who looks a little startled. I ask him what he is
doing in my house, and he said my alarm went off then he realized he had been talking to a “bird” and started to laugh ... until
he realized he still had to go to the real alarm ... next door, lie made a mad
dash for the door and I went on with my business.
Ten minutes later, there was a knock at the front door, (“Popeye says. “Hello,
come in…” ). I answer the door and the police officer says to me, “I GOT TO
KNOW...WHAT KIND OF BIRD IS THAT - IT SCARED THE DAY LIGHTS OUT OF ME … IT
SOUNDS SO HUMAN?’ I replied, “An AFRICAN GREY, of course.”
THE STAIR MASTER
By Diana Borasch
I am never alone, and my house, despite hard work, and good intentions, is
almost always somewhat messy. It is a good thing that I am not a fanatical
housekeeper, or I would exist in a constant state of panic over the debris created
by an active household. I have one husband, two boys, three birds, and one
golden retriever, not to mention all the critters on the back deck (but that is
When I am at the sink, my budgie is always on my shoulder. When I am in the
bathroom, the dog is always right there with me, and my Grey parrot, Bondi, will
call and ask “Diana, what are you doing in there?” I just never realized the
lengths, or in this case, heights that Bondi would go to find me. The other day
I had to go upstairs for what I had thought would just be for a few minutes, but
the few minutes stretched into a half hour or so, and Bondi decided that he’d
had enough. Normally he is content to stay on, if not in his cage, and even
though I knew his wings needed clipping. I was not worried. I should have been,
because he had been unusually loud and active that morning regaling me with an
ear-splitting whistled version of a Mozart tune (‘Eine, Kleine Nacht Music”),
and an equally deafening ‘bad opera with birds’ rendition of ‘Mommy loves these
baby birds!!!” He had a great time screaming at the other birds to shut up when
they dared to make any noise that might interrupt his performance. He exhorted
the dog to a chase by yelling “Squirrel” whenever I made a move towards the
In any case, after a successful hunt for dirty socks, with them loaded in my
arms, and with the dog in hot pursuit, I headed down the long hall for the
stairs. Imagine my surprise, when I negotiated the last corner to find a
startled Bondi blocking my way. I almost squashed him, and Winston barely had
time to put on the brakes. Before I could even try to stop the dog from stepping
on him that bird reared up, fluffed up, glared at me, and yelled “What are you
doing, PUMPKINHEAD?” He stalked over to me, ordered “Up!’ and then calmly rode
down the stairs on my hand as if nothing had happened. His adventure through
the family room to the stairs had left him extremely pleased to have found me
and to have me back in hand, so to speak. Oh, as I said before, it is a good
thing I am not too obsessive about everything being clean all the time. Because
as I descended to the kitchen, I noticed there were additions to my stairs.
Obviously my little bird had more than enough time to contemplate his imagined
abandonment and had left a small green calling card on each and every step. I
am still working on getting the stains out of the carpet ... I am still smiling
WHO’S THE CLEVER ONE?
Many years ago,
I taught Bongo Marie, my African grey, to do a whole series of animal
imitations on cue. The best way to teach responses to a grey is to say your part
quietly in a monotone voice with no enthusiasm and then say the part you want
them to learn with great enthusiasm. Usually they will only be interested in
learning the enthusiastic response but will still associate it with the
monotone portion as a cue. To get the routine going, I would start out with “cat got your tongue?” and Bongo would
meow. Then came, “Nice weather for
ducks”, to which she said. “quack,
quack, quack.” “You‘re in the dog house.” encouraged her to reply, “woof woof woof.” “The sky is fulling,” was rewarded with her
chicken imitation, “puuuck, puck,
puck, puck.” A loud outburst of “oooh
ooh haaa haa” (the sound you hear in jungle movies - it sounds
like a cross between an Australian Kookaburra and a Howler Monkey) was her
response to “Wanna play jungle?” My
favorite was when she bobbed her head up and down saying, “gobble, gobble gobble” to the cue “hey turkey.” She could oink like a
pig, chirp like a cockatiel, hoot like an owl and believe it or not, on a good
day, she even did a decent imitation of an American bittern on command. (I
won’t even try to spell that sound. Years ago I won an impromptu bird imitation
contest on a bird watching expedition but I rarely lose my dignity that way
anymore.) Bongo would perform readily for company and would usually respond
with at least 6 or 8 of her animal imitations when prompted.
One day, I was being interviewed for a newspaper article. Trying to impress the
reporter, I started with my cues to Bongo but she would not mutter a sound. I
sat there like a fool repeating things like, “The sky is falling”
and “Wanna play jungle” over
and over until the reporter thought I was a babbling idiot. If Bongo even
looked at me, I would interrupt the interview with a “hey Turkey” but Bongo Marie was evidently doing her Mute Swan
imitation. After about an hour or so of this nonsense, the woman was getting
ready to leave. As we were standing by the door, Bongo Marie suddenly exclaimed
“gobble, gobble, gobble” to
which I replied “hey Turkey.”
Then she meowed and I said “cat got
your tongue.” She continued with her chicken clucking, “Puuuck, puck, puck” and I answered “the sky is falling.” This continued
until I had responded properly to all of her cues. “The reporter commented, “Oh yes, she does have you well trained.” After that, Bongo
Marie became bored with the game unless she initiated it and had me
respond to her cues. She would often meow until I ask her, “cat got your tongue?” So tell me who
is the clever one?
By Bonnie Zimmerman
Early one morning (around 6 am) I
was still half asleep in bed. I
kept hearing my AG Toots talking and it
sounded so loud. “Hey little buddy, buddy,” “How ya doin’ Toots?” “I love you.”
Well, it was the incorrigible Tootster making trouble again.
He broke out of his cage via a
food door, cruised the living room, stopped for a checkbook snack on the sofa,
toured the kitchen clearing off the counters for me, and then he pushed open
the bedroom door, Tootster then proceeded to walk around my still somewhat dark
bedroom confusing me immensely. But then the final straw ... he slowly climbed
up the side of the bedclothes towards my still-attempting to sleep frame and
then ran at me with his wings out screaming, "Oh boy!” I jumped straight up in total surprise. As I
regained my composure, Toots looked at
me straight in the eye and said ...
“It’s birdie breakfast time.
Toots ... want some coffee?” I started laughing really hard and stumbled out of bed to go make him his