Jeff Sexton

Friday, April 14, 2017

Ed, Olive and Harlan

At the end of October 2016, 6 or 7 months ago, we brought home two cockatiels, Ed and Olive. This wasn't quite an impulse buy, but it was close. We were at the pet store for other reasons, and when walking over to the bird area, these two just went nuts. The chirped and sang and ran from side to side in their cage. The were screaming "take us home!" as clear as their little bird voices could manage.

On the way home we talked about getting the two birds. At first not seriously. But then more and more so. That afternoon we did a lot of reading online. Just what's it like to have cockatiels? What do you have to do? What do they even eat? We had no idea.

The next day, we went back. They were still there. Went home with a cage, a bag of food, a couple toys, a little box with two birds inside, and a one page printed sheet of information.

In retrospect, knowing what I know now, this is frightening.

It's frightening to think the anyone can walk into a store like that and leave with an animal like a parrot, with so little preparation. These animals are both a huge joy, and huge commitment. Bringing a parrot into your life is nothing like getting a dog or cat, nothing. There is so much to know... I don't even want to think about how many birds have miserable lives because of unprepared owners.

When you Google up information about birds, you notice right away that every website starts with a whole page introduction that is really a big long, desperate attempt to talk you out of it. There's good reason for this. If you're thinking of getting a bird, do your reading, and believe the warnings. Birds require a lot of interactive time. The require toys. The require specialized medical care. The require good quality, fresh food, warmth and a big clean cage, every single day. You must be prepared to upend your life and rearrange your furniture. If you're not, get a hamster.

That said, Ed and Olive were an amazing addition to the household. They are incredibly intelligent, friendly, curious and active creatures.

In continuing to read and learn about parrots, it didn't take long to encounter information about an animal that may actually be at the top of the intelligence scales, second only, believe it or not, to humans; the African grey parrot. The more experience I had with Ed and Olive, the more interested I was in the grey parrots.

I mentioned the warnings you see on websites about parrots... When it comes to grey parrots, the warnings get really desperate. There are whole websites that seem to have been created just to talk people out of getting one of these animals. But the more I read, the more interested I became. And after awhile, my mind was made up.

There are a few ways to get an African grey. But they are not available at a typical pet shop. I did not know exactly how or when I would get one, but one day in September we went to a specialty parrot store out of town. My thought was to buy a large cage and get it setup, loaded with toys, and ready for when a bird became available.

At the store there were two Congo African greys (CAG), and one of the smaller Timneh grey (TAG). They were all young birds. One of the Congo greys climbed right up on my shoulder and wanted a head scratch. It rode around with me the whole time we were in the store, which was a awhile, looking at cages, talking to the staff, and the other birds.

Harlan came home with us. He now occupies the dining room. Getting Harlan has been a great experience, I wish I could have done something like it many years ago.

There are many things no one told us about parrots. Now, keep in mind that I am not a vet and by no means an expert at all. This is just what I have learned from reading and relatively short personal experience. Just the same, I thought it would be a good idea to create a series of blog posts here about Ed, Olive and Harlan, and all the things we have learned.

Here is the first thing...

The internet is wrong. There is a shocking amount of partial and incorrect information out there. After everything I have read I get the impression that parrots were vastly misunderstood up until fairly recently. As late as the 1990s, really good food mixes don't seem to have existed. Some say that today, the lifespan of many birds is actually much longer than previously believed due to birds typically dying young because of poor nutrition. That's just one example... More to come, stay tuned.


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