"Does it talk?" is invariably the first question asked when someone learns that you share your life with a parrot. What they really mean to ask however is; "does it mimic human speech?". Because we tend to base all things on our own understanding of how social interaction works on a human level, this question somehow relates to how intelligent a parrot may or may not be. The truth is, all creatures talk in some manner or other, but only birds have the unique gift of mimicking human speech. But is this a gift, or a curse?
When considering the purchase or adoption of a companion parrot, too often the propensity for mimicking human speech can become the basis of species preference. Somehow, the flashy colors, ability to mimic, and possibly even the expense of purchasing a parrot makes them a desirable choice for those who step outside the normal realm of companion pet lifestyle. A beautiful bundle of feathers and antics that can even speak! Wow, how appealing is that? Of course things like bleeding fingers, splintered woodwork, ear-piercing screaming, and general mess don't come into the equation...until after our new child has come home and soon forces reality to set in. And the problem of what to do about this biting, screaming monster that seems to be taking over our home. Easy, let him stay in his cage, that way he cannot bite us, and or possessions are safe. But what about the screaming, it won't stop? Easy, we will sell him on Craigslist.
Six years ago, I moved to the island of Syros in the South Aegean Sea, in order to marry a woman who lived there and I had fallen madly in love with. The problem was, I lived with 2 parrots whom I loved deeply, and I believed loved me as well. I looked into shipping possibilities, and after determining there was no way to ship them that made me feel good about their welfare, especially when combined with the prospect of quarantine once they arrived in the new country I decided I would search for a good home for them both. Having done so, I gave them both away and tried to make the transition as easy as possible for all of us with visits and what encouragement, advice I could give to their new parronts. After a period of keeping tabs, I felt comfortable they were in good hands. The problem, for me, was that I felt horribly guilty at leaving my babies, and combined with the daily feeling of loss at their absence from my life (which still hangs with me) I decided I would never let another parrot into my life. Unlike the majority of parrot "owners" (a word I don't actually believe fits but will use for sake of ease) I didn't so much mind the problems that sometimes comes with parrot companionship, and I felt/feel a very deep connection with our feathered friends, and so to give them over into the hands of someone else was extremely difficult. And so too, the vow that never again.
Soon after coming to Syros, while on a trip to a pet store to purchase dog and cat food for my wifes' babies, I met Christo. A beautiful Congo Grey with a deeply intelligent sadness in his eyes, he was sitting in his all too small cage, on his single dowel, looking dejected and incredible forlorn. I went often to the store after that to see him, and to try and connect with him on some level. He was the personal bird of the owners wife, and not for sale; he was also, apparently unloved, on a horrible diet, with a very dirty water bowl in an extremely dirty cage suitable in size for a cockatiel or perhaps a conure. I asked about buying Christo on several occasions, but was always told how the woman couldn't bear to part with him. Nevermind that she was afraid of him, and didn't interact with him, she of course couldn't think of selling him.
A few years passed, and the economic crunch began to really hit Grrece, and one day the store owner notified me that they must close, and would I like to buy Christo! And so, 2 years ago, Christo became the first of the 4 fids who currently share our home. And so I will begin the chronicle of the parrot Sanctuary I am hoping to bring to the island of Syros. Little more than a dream, at this point, but a very strong, compelling dream that I hope I can see through to fruition. I will in future posts chronicle many aspects of my own life with companion parrots, as well as my perception of them, and the steps I take (as I take them) to try and see this dream become a reality. I hope you will all join me on this journey, and more importantly I hope you will all realize the blessing that each day you spend with your own parrot brings you.