Birdies in the Background--Life With Three Playful Parrots

Time For Toast

Image: Three Parrots on Tree Stand
Image: Three Parrots on Tree Stand | Source

Parrots or People?

I had been dialed into the conversation with the human on the other end of the phone and not into my parrots who "thought they were human." Their chatter was the furthest thing from my mind--or my hearing, for that matter, at that particular moment in time

What's Going On There?

“What’s going on there? Do you have a small child in the background?” asked the lady from Sears. She sounded puzzled--and with good reason. I’d been trying to place a catalog order over the phone.

I say, "trying" . . . because my African Grey parrot, Bailey, had been hamming it up big time. He kept interjecting: “Peek-a-boo. I see you. Gim-me a great big KISS!” (accompanied by loud smacking noises) into an otherwise normal phone conversation.

Of course, “normal” is a relative term. Those of us who share our lives with parrots have developed the unique ability to talk and hear over decibel-breaking background noises. As mother of two young children, I’d honed my skill of tuning out to what I thought was an accomplished level, then took this sanity-saving device into the “masters” arena when I became a parrot parent. I could quite comfortably talk to anyone, in any situation, oblivious, forgetting I had feathered friends listening in and eagerly adding their two cents worth.

Naughty Child or Naughty Parrot?

"It seems you have another child that loves to talk," the teacher said, clearly annoyed.

I Told My Caller I Was Home Alone, Then Realized Later, My Parrot Had Been Happily Talking Away in the Background!

This was brought home to me in a most embarrassing fashion, during a conversation I had with a schoolteacher. He’d called to tell me my son had the intrusive habit of interrupting, to discourse to the rest of the class. The teacher said that while they appreciated my son’s enthusiasm, the consensus was he had to learn to give others a chance to talk.

Reading between the lines, I knew the man viewed my son as a motormouth but was too polite to come right out and say so. The teacher was warming to his topic, when he stopped, clearly frustrated. “It seems you have another little boy who loves to talk,” he said, reprovingly. “In fact, I can hardly get a word in edgewise.”

“Oh no,” I assured him," I’m home alone.” I could tell he thought we were a "problem family" and I was focusing in on this, not really paying attention to what I was saying.

Upon later reflection, I realized how foolish this must have sounded--because one of my parrots had been yapping up a blue streak in the background!

Cough... Cough... Cough...

Beaker loved to garner attention by coughing. He was so convincing, visitors wondered if he was ill

A Jekyll-and-Hyde-type Transformation Whenever Company Came to Visit.

Another Grey parrot of ours, Beaker, came to us from rough circumstances. Beaker, at first, was rather quiet, but showed that, he too, enjoyed playing to an audience. He underwent a Jekyll-and-Hyde-type transformation whenever company came to visit. Beaker would wait until conversation was underway, then engage in a stellar performance, giving a gravelly-sounding rendition of a smoker's cough: "Hoo-wuh! Hoo-whu! Hoo-wuh!" leading visitors to express concern over his health.

Beaker Would Imitate a Smoker's Cough

Image: Beaker Was a Little Rough Around the Edges
Image: Beaker Was a Little Rough Around the Edges | Source

Boozer in the Background

The telemarketer seemed convinced I had a "boozer" in the background and her tone of voice indicated that she viewed my telling her it was actually my parrot asking for a drink, as a rather pathetic attempt to cover for a drunken partner.

Beaker Had a Gravely "Boozer" Voice

Beaker recently gave us some startling insights into his former home-life. A telemarketer contacted us one evening, phoning right around supper-time. The marketer started into her sales pitch, but her words trailed off, when Beaker, in a voice that would have made any bar patron feel right at home, said leeringly. "Want a ... drink? Need a drink. Well, come on ... gim-me a drink!"

"Is there a ... problem?" the telemarketer asked archly.

I tried to explain that it was only my parrot talking but I don't believe she was convinced.

I've learned that parrots, like children, have an uncanny habit of saying things at the most inopportune moments. Vying for attention, they rise superbly and instinctively to occasions when attention is focused elsewhere, outdoing themselves with verbal acuity.

"Get Your Exercise!"

Image: "One-two, one-two..."
Image: "One-two, one-two..." | Source

Bailey Insults a Guest

I remember when Bailey insulted my husband's sister, Merrilee. She stepped through the doorway and he sang out in a cheerful voice, "Hi-ya tubby." At least, that's what Merrilee thought she heard.

Bailey had taken to greeting visitors by saying, "Hi-ya lovey" to them, which we tried to convey to Merrilee, but she remained convinced that Bailey had commented on her appearance. She said with resignation, "Huh, even the bird notices that I'm overweight."

She took a seat on the sofa and pointedly ignored Bailey. He must have sensed her reserve because he postured and vocalized, outdoing himself trying to capture her attention. Finally, he eyeballed her sternly, bobbed his head up and down, and commanded, "One-two, one-two. Exercise. Come on get your EXERCISE!"

That did the trick! Merilee's head snapped around and she glared at Bailey. She commented that the bird gave her the creeps, that he was too knowing somehow. Merrilee has never forgotten Bailey's disparaging remarks and avoids him whenever she comes to visit.

A Prayer and a Lovestruck Parrot

In another incident, we saw that even sacred moments could have a humorous side. My sister, Dee, dropped over, bringing an impromptu dinner. We were standing in the kitchen giving a blessing, when Bailey, who was smitten with her, revealed his true feelings during a pause in the prayer. "I missed you, Dee," he declared tenderly. "I love you, Dee." My husband, stunned, lost his train of thought; my sister giggled; the rest of us, all composure lost, cracked up, laughing helplessly, the prayer completely forgotten.

Muggles Acting Goofy

Image: Cockatoo Spreads Wings
Image: Cockatoo Spreads Wings | Source

Goofy Miss Muggles

The newest addition to our family, a Moluccan Cockatoo named Miss Muggles, (who, in hindsight, I believe, should have been called Miss Snuggles) puts on her goofy act whenever visitors come to call. She puffs up and pretends to be menacing, then, when this has lost its effectiveness, she dances, bobs, and lurches drunkenly from side to side, trying to recapture attention. When nervous visitors understandably back off, she chastises them by launching into an unintelligible round of loud scolding.

Muggles & Visitors

Image: Cockatoo Muggles Steps Onto a Hand
Image: Cockatoo Muggles Steps Onto a Hand | Source

Most people retreat to the safety and hoped-for quietness of our living room, but Muggles then calls out insistently, "Hello? Hello? Hello?" I know the best course is to bring her into the room, allowing her to see our company. I try to temper her enthusiasm but am often hard-pressed, because she'll launch into an ear-splitting cawing--until I allow her to run across the rug and up the nearest leg!

Muggles & Snuggles

Image: Muggles Snuggling With a Visitor
Image: Muggles Snuggling With a Visitor | Source

Maniacal Laughter

The walls reverberated with maniacal laughter!

Insane Asylum

The other evening, I was again on the phone, foolishly thinking my office would be a quiet place to conduct an interview; however, I made the mistake of leaving the door open. I shake my head at my failure to learn from past experiences. Muggles and Beaker decided it was happy hour--and all the better because "mom" was on the phone.

Muggles started laughing. Beaker, not about to be outdone, joined in. Muggles laughed back and Beaker copied her. The volume increased. "HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH!" Soon, the walls reverberated with maniacal laughter. The fellow I was speaking with, said, "Good GRIEF! It sounds like you live in an insane asylum."

I had to agree with him. I've learned that days and nights are never dull when you've got birdies in the background.

*All images are my own author photos.

Copyright Athlyn Green (M. Rhodes)

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Best Parrot Movies

The two movies shown here are great films about parrots.

  • In The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, a man finds his life purpose in caring for the parrots in his area and he also finds love.
  • In Look Who's Talking, parrots sing opera, play catch, slide down bannisters and engage in other playful and naughty behavior.

Look Who's Talking

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© 2014 Athlyn Green

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