Saturday, May 6, 2017

Parroting and Parrots

I'm not an animal person. They're unpredictable, needy, and just one more living thing I pathologically want to like me. Justin, on the other hand, will welcome anything into our home which requires regular maintenance. Despite our limited space I have deemed one corner our "Flotsam and Jetsam Corner," wherein we have a revolving door of fish and birds. The Flotsam fine as they require minimal attention. The Jetsam, two parakeets, were a nuisance at best to begin with but I've been shocked to find that I am rather intrigued by the birds, Blue in particular. Blue is the blue parakeet, there is also a green one called Green who, when outside of his cage, regularly gets stuck in corners and small spaces inconsistent with life after a time and requires rescuing, which he doesn't even have the sense to recognize he needs and flaps around and bites and fights your good will the whole time. It makes me really resentful.

Blue has a little more sense. When he's let out of his cage he stays pretty much where he's placed and doesn't cause a lot of fuss. I attribute that to higher intelligence than Green, but is more likely due to the fact that we have one of those cool looking old fans with the razor sharp spinning blades behind about four "s"-shaped "protective" wires, about the gage of an earring post. It had occurred to us that the fan did pose a threat to a none-the-wiser pet shop pet with the ability of flight but, as with most potential threats which occur to us, we dismissed it, until one warm night when we heard the sound of something possibly going through a wood chipper and then a bunch of flapping around. We collected him off the floor from among a pillow of chopped feathers and coddled him to soothe the shock and tried to keep him awake to, I don't know, I mean, you're not supposed to let people sleep after a concussion, right? I doubt Blue had gotten a concussion, but we were trying everything short of immersing him in ice water that we'd ever heard of people doing to keep someone from dying. Minus a few feathers I think he came through the better for it since he was clearly significantly traumatized enough to stay where he's put. His favorite place is Justin's old baseball glove.

Justin gets obsessed with certain things over periods of time and once he's amassed a significant collection of products, gear, books, what-have-you pertaining to said obsession, the obsession moves on to something else. For instance, we will never again have to buy light bulbs because he went through a light bulb phase which compelled him to buy several of every size, type, color, wattage, and shape of light bulb. Right now, it's birds. He's a studious man and has devoted himself entirely to learning everything he can about birds, parrots in particular. And I have to say, they're fascinating, more interesting than light bulbs anyway, Tesla connection aside.

Apparently the most intelligent bird is the African Grey parrot, in terms of verbal communication. I find it fascinating that birds can talk. I had always assumed that when a parrot talked, he was merely "parroting" what he had heard. But according to Justin's research, the African Grey, among a few others, actually tell you things, they really are communicating.

The local pet store has a parrot that talks. His name is Clyde. He doesn't like anybody except the owner of the pet store, Mary. There is a sign on his cage warning customers to keep away, he bites. The sign is redundant though because if you even attempt any cutesy stuff with Clyde, he'll say "watch out" or "back off," depending on one's proximity. He acts mean all day but when it's closing time he starts talking his head off to Mary. "Clyde is hungry!" "Clyde wants out." When he gets too chatty, Mary will tell him "that's enough, Clyde, no more talking." To which he'll respond "Clyde doesn't want to stop!" Aside from referring to himself in the first person, he's like a little kid. He's got a vocabulary of about 150 words. And he uses those words not only to express what he's thinking and feeling, but to amuse himself.

Mary has a dog at home and when it's nice outside the dog is let out through a sliding glass door. This would not be a problem except that Clyde has learned that the dog's name is Sue and how to mimic the sound of Mary's voice calling Sue. Mary has had to learn to leave the sliding glass door open when Sue is out because if she closes it, Clyde will call for Sue in Mary's voice just to watch her run headfirst into the glass door. And he'll do it until Sue is about knocked out. Clyde finds it hilarious.

Humor is a pretty sure sign of intelligence. There's kind of a riddle, a thought process that goes with a sense of humor. For an animal to do something strictly because it's funny is amazing to me. On the other hand, these highly functioning parrots are known to mourn. Their life span is something like 30 years. That's a long time to learn language and emotions and form attachments and opinions. When the caregiver of a parrot passes away or is no longer around, they have been known to go into a kind of depressed state. They'll quit talking. They won't eat. They'll even weep, not necessarily shed tears, but will tuck their head under their wing and make sobbing sounds. They're mourning.

So, like I said, I'm not an animal person but I can't deny that they can be endlessly interesting, more so even than light bulbs. Every animal, if you study them enough has something amazing about it, bees, whales, dolphins, dogs, all of them are incredible. I don't want them in my house necessarily but I can appreciate a bird with a sense of humor and attitude enough to tell people to "back off." As for right now, Green is safe in his cage and not lost or stuck or anything and Blue has climbed/flapped up onto the couch and has been sitting on my leg the whole time I've been writing. He can't talk, of course, but I'd like to think that if he could he'd be saying "I like you."

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