We received a call in Dec. from a lady whose husband had recently died after suffering a long terminal illness. They had been breeders for many years, specializing in Grey’s and Pionus. She had sold off many of the breeding birds but had a few that had been pets at some point in their lives. She wanted us to place them in pet homes or if that didn’t work then place them in our sister organization for lifetime sanctuary. We picked up Jack, Baldy and Lexi with their cages, and accessories. Poor Baldy was so nervous and flapped, growled and screamed while being toweled. Lexi stepped right up onto a hand. Jack also had to be toweled as he was not tame. During quarantine, Lexi continued to be a total sweetheart just eating up every ounce of attention she received even though she had spent years as a breeding bird. I was unable to connect with Baldy and earn his trust. Our policy is that each bird gets a chance with at least 3 separate people working with them before they are placed in sanctuary. Baldy has not adapted to life as a pet and continues to fear humans. He has however, grown a few head feathers while with us.
Jack would come to the front of the cage and talk to me, allowing me to scratch his head but then attempting to bite. I love a challenge and Jack became my project. We spent a great deal of time with the bait and bite game, me trying to read his signals somewhat successfully, some of the time. If the cage door was opened, Jack would move to the back of the cage but continue to talk to me. Many days later, about 3 weeks, he decided I was somewhat safe. Jack would come to the open door of the cage, standing on the grate and allow me to scratch his head. Jack works for praise and the more excited the praise, the better. He would still occasionally try to nip my finger so I allowed him to do so one day. He stood there with my finger in his beak, trying to figure out why there was no shout of “ouch”, just a quiet request to “be gentle”.
The grabbing of my finger soon became a thing of the past unless I did something to upset Jack and did not pay attention to what he was trying to tell me. Jack began to come onto the open cage door to get closer to eye level with me. He would refuse all requests to step up but that was OK, we had plenty of time to earn more trust. We continued on at Jack’s pace until one day, much to my surprise and I think Jack’s as well, he stepped up from the open cage door onto my hand. It is not easy holding back on the excitement when this happens, but with Jack, and most birds for that matter, it was an absolute must. I praised Jack excitedly while he sat on my hand getting his head scratched.
This victory of Jack’s only lasted for about 3 minutes before he was obviously ready to go back to the safety of his cage, which we did. It was another week before jack stepped up again. This time, he allowed me to carry him through the small bird area and the entire retail area before he decided that was enough. Jack and I will continue to work and enjoy each other’s company. He allows others to scratch his head through the cage bars but nothing more. Our volunteers are awesome and will also continue to work with Jack at his pace. Eventually Jack will choose his person but I am a better person for having known Jack. Birds continue to humble me even after all these years. Their trust is such a delicate thing and to earn it is an honor like no other