I saw this picture and quote on a friend’s Face Book page, and it confirmed in my heart what I’ve been trying to do with this series on “A Few of my Favorite Birds”…get people interested in discovering the personalities of the colorful little winged creatures that are everywhere about us! However, what usually inspires my choice is a recent encounter, so for the next few weeks I may be talking about tropical birds. This week, for sure, it’s parrots! Although there are no parrots native to America or Europe, I’ll bet it’s one bird that most children (and adults) do recognize. Parrots have been the subject of both art (like this Tiffany stained glass at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts) and lore probably since the Garden of Eden! Parrots are native to the tropical and subtropical areas of the world, such as these green Amazon parrots. Over time, parrots have been so popular as pets that a few have escaped and survived in the wild in Europe and America. In the U.S., there are now several states that have feral monk (green) parrots.*There are over 370 different species of parrots, and this group includes the greatest diversity in size for birds (3.5-40 inches) as well as tremendous differences in weight (2.25 oz.-3.5 pounds). Parrots make wonderful pets, because they are so intelligent, colorful, and musical. They can sing and imitate all sorts of sounds…even human voices! If you’d like to hear a parrot singing (in two languages, no less), check out this youtube video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYmEviJK5Hs singingThe male African grey parrot is the most accomplished master of human speech in the entire animal world. If you’ve got a few more minutes, here’s a clip of an African Grey practicing some of his 350 words! Talk about a brilliant bird brain!
Although there’s such great diversity among the various species of parrots, they have several things in common. All parrots have have powerful, curved beaks (great for cracking nuts…I even heard of one who used to peel chocolates and eat the nuts out of the middle). They also have zygodactyl feet, which means they have 4 toes on each foot: 2 pointing forward and two backward. Most parrots have no sexual dimorphism (which means you can’t really tell the males from the females by size or color).Another characteristic of nearly all parrots is that they are vividly colored, and some are multicolored, such as this beautiful, rainbow-colored lorikeet perched on my grandson’s arm. The first time Alan and I were in the Bahamas, there was a parrot in the hotel lobby who kept up a steady stream of conversation with the guests and only seemed willing to stop when his cage was covered at night. Parrots are the most long-lived of all birds. Some have been known to live up to 95 years, and the average age for macaws (like this one) is 50-75 years! But, think twice before you try to buy one for a pet, because they attach very strongly to their primary owner and have been known to die of heartbreak if separated! Also, because of abuse and marketing, their numbers have diminished so much that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) bans the sale of any wild-caught species…so they’re hard to get even if you want one. The few I’ve known were rescued, such as Kevin (from my article on “The Friendliest Hawaiian I Ever Met”), who was saved after being mauled by a dog. So, unless you know of a parrot who needs help and you’re willing to be a devoted friend for the rest of your life, you might want to—like me—be content to catch glimpses of them now and then and enjoy a friendly “Hello” in passing. I keep thinking of how much birds remind me of people. People can have their hearts broken if they’re oppressed, abused or misused. We humans also become deeply attached to our primary caregiver (parent/spouse) & live a very long time, so unless we’re willing to commit to a lifetime of loving and sharing, we should just enjoy other people without trying to make pets or playthings out of them… ’cause some people talk too much, and some people eat too much. Some people are grouchy and act like they’re going to bite our heads off at times, …others are always busy clowning around and never seem willing to get serious. But, no matter what our beloved is like, if we’ve got one, we need to be one
…and hopefully, a good one…for our whole life!“Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:9, ESV; the Hebrew word for “vain” is hebel, which denotes brevity, as in, life is short, a “vapor,” or “mere breath”).
(*Picture of monk parrots in Florida is from Wiki, and the pictures of my grand children with the lorikeets were taken by their parents. I took the rest in the Bahamas and Hawaii.)