This is an unanticipated blog entry about my two eclectus parrots. Vincent and Aki. You will understand why as you read. From the time I was a child I loved birds and had a wonderful powder blue parrot named Money. (Though a present, I knew he and his cage and accessories were expensive items.)
Two years ago I bought a beautiful female eclectus from a man who decided to give her up because he was away at work from five thirty in the morning until seven in the evening. I decided upon this species of parrot because they are known to be relatively quiet, unlike Amazons and Cockatoos, whose dawn and dusk celebrations of life are enough to make you quickly don your pair of noise reduction ear muffs. This "freedom of screech" allows them to communicate with other distant flocks.
Those thinking of getting a parrot should learn what's involved in taking care of one. Whether they are hand-reared or not parrots retain their wild characteristics. They generally bond with only one person viewing others as interlopers often the recipient of a bite meant to send them packing. Often it is the bird who is sent packing. Because of their noise, ability to inflict painful bites, and reluctance to bond with more than one person, the average parrot has lived in five different homes before he dies, often unwanted, sometimes living in the dark in a cage semi-permanently covered with a towel or blanket. After the research consider getting your bird from a rescue. Parrots are the third most discarded pet in the U.S.
Aki's home was reeking of cigarette smoke and had a beak so deformed she could not close it. Her breast was completely bare from plucking. There was no way I was not going to take her home with me.
Next day it was straight to the vet who set to work on her beak with his clippers and dremel. When Dr. Sager stretched out her wings we both smelled cigarette smoke.
I ordered special eclectus food which is high in vitamin A. They also need lots of fruits and vegetables. Her previous owner gave me the remainder of the food he's been feeding her, but it was not really what she needed.
Aki adjusted well to life in Acton, spent time outside in the sun, and had full spectrum light over her cage. She ate well and seemed to enjoy the variety of food I offered her. Aki was happy to be out of her cage and happy to be in it. When she wanted to be picked up she would lower her body and vibrate her wings. Here she is on our deck munching on some petunias:
This is where she spent many hours with me while I was at the computer or reading in bed. That swing was a favorite :
A few weeks later I was contacted by a woman I talked to earlier about her eclectus. She asked if was still be looking for a bird and wanted to know if I was still interested in her male eclectus. She was an excellent caring owner and simply did not have time for Vincent due to changes in her work schedule. He, too, had begun to pluck. I decided to take him, as well. The more I learned about parrots the more I thought Aki would be happier with a companion. And so Vincent arrived with his own cage which I put next to Aki's.
I expected an exciting time when they first met but the pair seemed only mildly interested in each other. When parrots are but a few days old, they are removed from their parents by their breeders. They are then fed by humans, and become imprinted, essentially thinking they are human, while still having the same needs and behaviors as any wild eclectus living in its native Solomon Islands Vincent was more interested in regurgitating and sharing his food with me than with Aki. However, in time they bonded, and Aki happily moved into Vincent's cage.
After several trips to the vet, Aki was finally able to close her beak. She no longer smelled of tobacco smoke, enjoyed baths several times a week, as did Vincent.
Yesterday, was another routine trip to the vet for beak and toenail trimming. Everything seemed normal. Aki only objected when the vet started using the Dremmel, but she'd always behaved like that, as did Vincent.
All of a sudden, Dr. Sager rushed out of the room saying that Aki had gone into cardiac arrest. Despite his best efforts Aki could not be resuscitated. I was stunned. Dr. Sager explained that cardiac arrest occasionally occurs with smaller birds, canaries, parakeets, and finches. This was the first time in his career as an exotic animal vet that a bird Aki's size had died of cardiac arrest. Dr. Sager suggested that there might be some underlying medical condition that had compromised her health.
I will never know whether that was the case, but certainly, Aki's health had been compromised before I had gotten her. Her food was not the best and she was exposed 24/7 to second hand smoke. She didn't receive routine vet care and had been unable to close her beak for God knows how many years.
Now Vincent is without his mate. In the wild, of course, he could draw support from his flock. Sadly, his only flock is me. Dr. Sager advised that I not get another parrot because there was no guarantee they would bond. I had just been lucky, it seems with Aki and Vincent. I decided that I would get a parakeet so Vincent would at least have the company of another bird. Dr. Sager advised me to wait a week or two. Vincent would need to mourn for that length of time, and he might view the arrival of a new bird as that of an interloper. They can't be together, of course, Vincent could do terrible damage to such a little tyke.
I understand much more about parrots than I did when I was a little girl with a parakeet. They are highly intelligent and emotionally supersensitive. Each flock has its own dialect and each baby has been named by its parent. But why do they talk like us? Deprived of the language of the flock, they learn the language of humans. Do they understand the English they have learned? Well, I think it depends on what they have learned. When my husband is in a rush Vincent will say with a measure of concern in his voice, "What's the matter?" When he caught me wiping away the regurgitated food he'd given me with a paper towel, he said "S_ _ t!!," as he marched over clearly intending to give me a bite for rejecting his nourishing, albeit rather disgusting gift. Trying to mount Aki when she was not in the mood he kept repeating, "Stop it! What are you doing? Stop it?!"
Vincent was observing Aki getting her beak trimmed from his carrier, and when the vet rushed out of the room with her in his hands, Vincent said, "What's the matter? What are you doing? What's the matter?" Did Vincent understand the questions he was asking? I'm certain he did.
Thank you for reading The Windflower Weekly--
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