Scritch your birdos.
April 21, 2017 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Aw! What a great story. Birds will really change your life. I just agreed to adopt four budgies because the owner has health problems.

And yes, lost birds *do* get found. Gobble is very lucky!
posted by Calzephyr at 11:36 AM on April 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

My enthusiasm for bird as pets rather waned since the age of 18 when I was bitten on the side of the neck by my aunt's evil bird (it loved fried chicken).

Despite my avian mistrust, it was really rather a lovely story and a nice pre-work experience.
posted by Samizdata at 11:38 AM on April 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was bitten on the side of the neck by my aunt's evil bird (it loved fried chicken).

uh what's your neck made out of
posted by edeezy at 11:42 AM on April 21, 2017 [17 favorites]

Ah yiss! A birb story. Wonderful!
posted by Splunge at 11:45 AM on April 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

uh what's your neck made out of

Samizdata, like the rest of me. The fried chicken comment was to show its complete lack of empathy and implicitly evil nature.
posted by Samizdata at 11:48 AM on April 21, 2017 [7 favorites]

Also, parrot bites on the neck are quite painful. Feathered bastard drew blood.
posted by Samizdata at 11:48 AM on April 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I knew I was talking to a slab of rock and I really didn't anticipate the rock to talk back. You have to tell a really funny joke for that to happen.

posted by Greg_Ace at 12:02 PM on April 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

My cockatiel flew on my plate once, bypassed his favourite food, toast, to snack on my chicken. He also enjoys eggs way more than I am comfortable with :D

Sorry to hear about your bite Samizdata. I keep meaning to get the moles on my neck removed for this reason.
posted by Calzephyr at 12:02 PM on April 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Great story. Especially if you don't care for birds. Thank you.
posted by hat_eater at 12:04 PM on April 21, 2017

Parrots in general love the shit out of fried chicken. Ours simply can't get enough. Eggs are probably the only thing they love more.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:16 PM on April 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

The poster also had a very compassionate response to somebody still mourning the death of their bird a decade ago.
posted by Lexica at 12:26 PM on April 21, 2017 [7 favorites]

So, I once bought a parrot as a gift for my wife. It wasn't until I got home with it that I realized this bird had an absolutely terrible attitude and an obscene vocabulary to match. Every word out of the vile thing's mouth was rude, obnoxious, and laced with profanity, and it started making lewd or insulting comments to my wife non-stop. She was understandably upset about this "gift", and I was mortified that I'd made such a hash of what was meant to be a gesture of love.

I tried and tried to change the bird's attitude and vocabulary by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music, and anything else I could think of - all to no avail. After more than a week with no progress I got frustrated and started yelling at it. Naturally that only made the situation worse. Finally at the end of my rope I grabbed the parrot, threw it in the freezer, and slammed the door shut. I stood staring at the fridge for a few minutes breathing heavily and shaking with adrenaline as listened to it squawk and kick and scream inside. Then suddenly there was total silence, not a peep from the freezer, for what felt like ages. My rage suddenly dissipated when I realized I might have killed the poor thing.

I threw the freezer door open, fearing the worst. I was stunned when the parrot calmly stepped forward and said to me, "I believe I may have offended you and your wife with my rude language and actions. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate behavior and I fully intend to do everything I can to make amends."

As I reached out to let the apologetic bird step onto my arm it added, "By the way, if I may ask...what did the chicken do??"
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:32 PM on April 21, 2017 [44 favorites]

Awww sweet story. Birds are such strange dudes to live with. Definitely not like cats or dogs. More like... yeah, they're dinosaurs.
posted by Capybara at 12:35 PM on April 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

I found his deconstruction of Gobble's peregrinations (sorry) pretty convincing.

I'd say he has quite a talent -- as well as a bird.
posted by jamjam at 12:52 PM on April 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Don't worry too much about parrots loving chicken - we love us some pork and they're probably about as related to us, if not more so. (Parrots and chickens are from completely different clades, whereas humans and pigs are members of the same clade! Don't ask me how much DNA each share, I can't remember how to get genetic distances out of this stuff and I've already Wikipedia'd my best for you here.)
posted by maryr at 1:26 PM on April 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

That was really awesome.
posted by Coaticass at 2:28 PM on April 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

yes I will scritch my birdo
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:49 PM on April 21, 2017 [7 favorites]

I remember reading this when it was posted and it was still just as lovely to read it again.

My parents have a Grey too, and their bird (they refuse to get it DNA tested and instead refer to it variably as "he" and "she," so yes, my parents have a genderfluid bird) probably came from a similar situation. Around 2003, some kids found Lucky on the football field at the middle school where my mom was a science teacher, and they brought it to her because everyone knew she was the critter lady. She was smitten - we had a Senegal and she'd wanted a Grey for awhile, but they are damn expensive! My folks called me and I spent the next couple of months searching Craigslist or whatever there was in 2003 and lost bird threads in forums, never found anything promising.

When they first got her, Lucky would say, "Little biiiiiiiit!" in a little old lady voice, "Bad bird!" in a man's voice, and a garbled entire answering machine message (with beep) that we tried and tried to decipher. No luck. I kept hoping he'd say the number and we could find his home, but we never did.

Luck bird is still going strong. She lovvvvvves my dad to death; she regurgitates for him like Gobble, hangs upside down from his hand and kisses him, finishes all the dumb songs he sings. We have no idea how old he is but I kind of assume he'll be around forever. He's already outlived one dog and will probably outlive another in the next couple years. Lucky is super jealous when I'm around - when I lived at home for a year after college, she immediately clocked that I was a challenger for my parents' love, and though that was 13 years ago it's like it was yesterday. But I would never, ever give that bird away if I was charged with his care sometime in the hopefully very faraway future.

And I'm already a third-generation crazy bird lady; while writing this, I was buzzed repeatedly by two budgies and squawked at by two lovebirds. And now there's a cockatiel on my head, and he demands those scritches in the title, so...
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:04 PM on April 21, 2017 [10 favorites]

Oh, and here is birb of my heart, Chicory.
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:06 PM on April 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh, are we doing birb pictures? Here's a birb picture.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:10 PM on April 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

My parents have a Grey too, and their bird probably came from a similar situation.

It's unbelievable that people are apparently letting inherited $1000 birds just fly away free because they don't want them! Do they not know how valuable they are, or what?
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:47 PM on April 21, 2017

Well, when you realize that they're basically flying can openers with the soul of a three-year-old, it becomes a lot more believable. I kid, but man, it's less like getting a dog and more like taking in a cranky stranger. With very little control of their bowels. Who can talk. And has a gift for picking noises and phrases you do not want them to repeat and then repeating them at high volume. For decades.

But I just love them. Because crazy bird lady.
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:58 PM on April 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

See also: irresponsible backyard breeders and a glut of birds who, once they grew out of the cuddly youngster phase, weren't so sweet anymore, and it's very hard to rehome a bird like a Grey. Plus, many of them have deep psychological trauma after their person dies or they're given away or neglected or let loose, okay I have to stop, too sad.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:02 PM on April 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

For more reference, there are basically three classes of parrot.

Africans, mostly Greys like Gobble, are solitary and moody. They don't like a lot of noise or commotion and busy environments can make them neurotic. (Neurotic birds pick their feathers out, which is major trouble.) But Greys are also considered among the most intelligent of psittacines, probably because they devote so much attention to their immediate environment. OP's suggestion that he was "married" to Gobble isn't far off. Greys tend to like small cages (they think less prison and more home) in quiet places.

New World parrots are more social and boisterous, but they are also capable of entertaining themselves for long periods alone. They also like the security of a small space but are more comfortable in a room full of strange people. They are also VERY LOUD when they want to be. Our birdos are all new world, one very statesmanlike Amazon and four two geriatric Peachfront Conures. At 27, our conures are among the oldest known to be alive in captivity. Unfortunately the two survivors are the singletons of two self-selected pairs, both of whom lost their mates in the last year, and they don't get along. Cookie the Amazon is pretty old himself but he'll probably outlive me. He also knows how to say "Got a ..." {currency unit} for everything from a nickel to a dollar, which he apparently learned in a pet store while I was learning to walk.

Australian parrots run in huge flocks in the wild, and are ridiculously social. Without constant interaction and stimulation they quickly become bored and depressed. They are among the most beautiful of the psittacines with garish colors and wild crests, but also very demanding as pets, very quick to feather-pick if they get lonely and bored. They are probably as smart as their cousins but tend to be more interested in snuggling than figuring out how to say "pretty bird."

Birds are, indeed, different. We've observed for years that they seem far more intelligent than they have any right to be for the size of their brains, and it was observed recently (lost the link alas) that their brains are organized differently, much more compactly than mammalian brains, so that a parrot actually has about as many neurons and presumably the same level of brain complexity as a cat. Birds also have different hard-wired instincts, such as the feeding behavior OP observed. Few science fiction aliens do "different from humans" as believably as any pet bird does.

I hear Cookie calling, gotta go scritch.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:04 PM on April 21, 2017 [14 favorites]

It's unbelievable that people are apparently letting inherited $1000 birds just fly away free because they don't want them! Do they not know how valuable they are, or what?

When people talk about how expensive pet parrots are, they're always quoting breeder prices. There's no market for second-hand birds, at least not the kind that can provide consistent pricing. Most people who are giving up their old bird willingly are doing so because they couldn't handle or didn't want the responsibility or are moving and can't take their critter. People in those categories aren't looking to extract value, they're looking to get rid of a liability. And there are a LOT of old birds people out there that people are trying to get rid of, unfortunately.

Also, people have an emotional connection to birds as a symbol of freedom, particularly flighted birds. Birds with clipped wings get over it pretty fast. (The process itself is not like declawing, it's more like a haircut.) Many humans can't get over it at all and freak out about birds with clipped wings. So a family member who inherits a pet bird might think that the best tribute to the animal would be to set it "free". (Where it'll probably get eaten by a hawk or starve to death.)
posted by tobascodagama at 8:07 PM on April 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Can you train them to poop in a certain spot? Like a cage and not on the couch? (Serious question)
posted by eggkeeper at 8:25 PM on April 21, 2017

I ask because this story was so lovely it made me immediately want to go get a rescue bird :)
posted by eggkeeper at 8:28 PM on April 21, 2017

Ok, I'll go google. But it's so much more interesting to ask y'all than Dr. Google.
posted by eggkeeper at 8:29 PM on April 21, 2017

I love bird posts because all us metabirdpeople get together in the comments and share our bird pics.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:46 AM on April 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

We live with a sarcastic cockatiel. He is cankanterous and vain. He laughs at the misfortune of others.

A serial harasser, he wolf-whistles at anyone who removes any article of clothing. He is a big fan of noise and chaos and bright colours, so his taste in movies tends to skew CGI. He complains when we watch something he doesn't care for, articulating his irritation by singing the theme of something he prefers.

If you offer him food he doesn't like he stares you down while gingerly shitting in his own water dish. That means, "No thank you."

His favourite time of day is sun rise or sun set. Early in the morning when I get up to do the dishes we sing. He is excited by the splishy sounds of the water in the metal sink, and gets off on cutlery clacking together, so it puts him in an improvisational mood. We whistle together. Good jams.

Birds are good people.
posted by Construction Concern at 5:57 AM on April 22, 2017 [10 favorites]

Can you train them to poop in a certain spot? Like a cage and not on the couch? (Serious question)

They have a sort of natural instinct not to poop in their own nest. Whether you can convince your bird to extend this concept to other locations kind of depends on your bird.

Our eclectus is pretty good about not pooping on people or on furniture. But eclectuses are cavity nesters, so they already have this rudimentary understanding that the right way to poop is to hang your butt off of a ledge. So she's quite willing to hold her poop until we put her up on a perch somewhere. This is not something we had to train, it seems to be more or less instinctual.

Our Amazon, on the other hand, poops everywhere and doesn't seem remotely bothered about it. Amazons are generally not cavity nesters, so they don't instinctually hold their poop in the same way or make similar distinctions about which places are appropriate poop spots.

It might be trainable behaviour? Maybe? But it's hard to train a behaviour that doesn't have some instinctual component. Scolding a parrot does not help. Especially an Amazon. They love getting yelled at, because it's an excuse to yell back. (Not that they need an excuse.) So negative reinforcement as a training method with birds is not a thing, at all, which makes training them not to do something very difficult.

We also fostered a Moluccan cockatoo for a while. He seemed to have a similar "find a ledge before pooping" instinct as our eclectus. Which is all well and good, except that Moluccans are enormous, with proportionally enormous poops. So even if he goes to the edge of the bed (or couch) before pooping, you're still gonna get some poop on your furniture. He had a tell that he was about to poop, though. I don't remember what it was, but it was something we learned to notice and we were able to negotiate that into a "take me somewhere I can poop" request. Our bed sheets were grateful for that. But the main thing that worked was convincing him to poop before he came to hang out with us somewhere. You'd do this by picking him up and then bouncing him up and down on your hand for a moment or two. Either he'd poop or you'd know that you could hang out for a while before poop became an issue.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:42 AM on April 22, 2017

He complains when we watch something he doesn't care for, articulating his irritation by singing the theme of something he prefers.

Is My Neighbor Totoro his favourite movie? I have a theory that all cockatiels hatch knowing that theme song already.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:43 AM on April 22, 2017

Great read. A thousand years ago I shared a house with a guy who owned a smallish green parrot (with touches of red here and there). I was, in short order, able to let the little guy out regularly and he'd sit on my shoulder, criticizing my ear hygiene, then wander down to my lap and flip over on his back for skritches.

Definitely a commitment, and probably incompatible with our cat.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:47 AM on April 22, 2017

tobascodagama: The soundtrack from "My Neighbour Totoro" is definitely part of his repertoire, yes, but less from his enthusiasm for the film than my daughter's. She insisted he learn the melodies.
posted by Construction Concern at 9:30 AM on April 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

We need a MetaTalk for the parrot MeFis to flock :D
posted by Calzephyr at 11:55 AM on April 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

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