The Many Meanings of Parrot Rescue

A parrot in need is a companion indeed.

The Many Meanings of Parrot Rescue

“Rescue” can mean several different things and it doesn't always mean swooping in and saving an animal from abuse and neglect. 

We acquired our first bird, or rather he acquired us, when he turned up in the yard at our bird feeder. We live in Illinois and a green parrot is not a common visitor to bird feeders. Hubby and a friend were ripping out our bathroom in preparation for a total remodel and I had fled the premises to hide out at my parents' house, out from underfoot. I hadn't been there half an hour when my phone rang and it was Hubby, telling me to come and do my Dr. Doolittle impersonation because there was a parrot on the roof insisting on lodging. 

By the time I got home, said parrot had moved to a tree, and I spent quite a long time coaxing him out of it. He was more than willing to come to me, but he did not like hands. Not one bit. Based on my childhood parakeet experience, you offer a bird your finger to step up on. When that didn't work, I was at a loss. Finally I said to him, “I can't reach you any other way. We need to find a low branch and you can get on my head, okay?” 

He was agreeable, and together we looked until we found a twig and I stood on tiptoe and he edged his way down the twig until he was on my head, and I headed for the house. He stayed on my head the whole way, and I went inside after Hubby had locked the dogs in the basement – we didn't know what they would think of a green parrot on Mom's head – and then we looked at each other. Now what? We didn't have any place to put him. So we transferred him from my head to Hubby's and I made a mad dash for the pet store for a cage and food and toys. I got all the wrong things because the last bird I'd had was years before, but when we got the cage home and offered it to the now-named Clyde, he was so grateful to have a place to sleep and food to eat that he didn't complain a bit. It took a lot of internet searching to determine what kind of parrot he is (Quaker) and what to feed him (NOT what I'd bought) and that the cage was far, far too small. In spite of diligent asking around the neighborhood and watching the lost and found ads, we never located his former home and people, so here he still is. With a bigger cage and proper food and several siblings, now. Because Clyde's appearance at our bird feeder started a feathered avalanche that ended (?) with the advent of Rocky 'Too four months ago. 

We were so enamored of Clyde, who has quite the personality as most Quakers do, that we got a parakeet (Bonnie, RIP) from the pet store a few months later. Then an internet forum friend told us about Jade, another Quaker, who had been left behind in the house next door to hers when the people moved. They “couldn't” take her with them. They had had her since she was weaned and had brought her home from the breeder at the same time my forum friend had acquired her Quaker, who had significant medical needs at this point and that made it impossible for her to take Jade, she said. She was buying the empty house for her adult son and daughter-in-law, and in the meantime, had left Jade in it, and visited several times a day to check on her and keep her company, but in between, Jade was alone, locked in a cage in an empty house. 

Clyde liked Bonnie, but the feeling wasn't mutual, and I thought that I couldn't sleep at night unless I rescued this poor bird from her situation, and maybe she would be company for Clyde. It was an all-day excursion to drive three hours to this house and when we arrived, we discovered that Jade was not a bit like Clyde. The former family had once doted on her and played with her but at some point, and we don't know why, they had locked her in her cage and ignored her except for food and water and minimal care. We don't know how long she was in that situation. And then they moved away and left her behind. She was not about to sit on a finger, and we couldn't even touch her cage to move it without being severely attacked. It was not easy, but somehow we toweled her, got her into a carrier, dismantled her cage and loaded it up and started for home. She spent the whole three hours home trying to chew her way out of that carrier and alternating between shrieking her displeasure and trying to bite me through the mesh window. 

We got home at last and put the cage back together as quickly as possible, and then put the carrier inside and opened it to let her out. She recovered almost instantly, popped out to sit on her perch, checked to make sure her food and water were full, and flew over to meet Clyde. He was not pleased. Not in the least. And yes, now I know about quarantine, but then I didn't. 

That was January 2009, and Jade was 4 ½ years old. She talks a blue streak and some of what she says sounds like she heard a lot of arguing. Some of it is in a little girl's voice. Some in an adult voice. Some in a uniquely Jade voice. Much of it includes her name. She loves the sound of her name. 

However, interacting with Jade is almost exclusively verbal. To this day, she won't step up and an offered hand is soon going to be a bleeding hand. She chomps and she chomps hard and she aims to maim. The act of cleaning her cage the first several months meant that I always had bruises and bloody wounds on my hands and arms. I learned to keep my face and head averted so she wouldn't gouge out my eyes. You wouldn't think a three-inch tall bird could do that kind of damage, but you haven't met Jade. I tried everything. We both did. We bribed. Strangely, she will take a treat with the utmost delicacy and gentleness from our fingers and say “thank you” as politely as you please, but try to touch her or her cage or her stuff with that same hand and all bets are off. 

After months of grim determination on my part and constant pleas with her to “let Mommy clean your cage, Jade. PLEASE let Mommy clean your cage!” we finally came to an armed standoff. She will sit on her swing and bob her head madly and boss the job and I am allowed to change her paper and take dishes away to clean and refill them as long as I do not disturb her toys or her perches in any way. Occasionally I am allowed to wipe down the perches (not the toys) and the cage itself. This has been an ongoing process and we still have days where she decides to change the rules.

She loves attention. Sit by her cage and talk to her and she'll have the time of her life. She'll fly over and sit nearby on someone else's cage or a community perch and talk a blue streak. Just don't try to touch. 

Over the years, baby step by baby step and always at Jade's pace and discretion, we've progressed to the occasional landing on my shoulder, where she usually chomps my ear or pulls my hair and immediately flies back to her cage. She will lean forward on her perch and if she's fluffy and whispers “kiss kiss,” I know it's safe to let her nuzzle my chin (where there's a little less potential damage) and on very, very rare occasions, she has let me kiss her. But I never know when it's a kiss day and when it's not and if I try it on a NOT KISS day, I get a chomped lip. She will let me touch her beak and her beak only and I have to wait to be invited. I can't stroke her beak. I can't touch her head. But I can briefly touch her beak with the tip of my finger. In the mornings when I let everyone out of their cages and kiss most of them good morning, Jade will fly over and preen my hair and make a sound of her own invention that, for lack of any other way to put it in print, sounds like “whee hee!” and means she is feeling cheerful and happy. 

She invented a game where she bangs one of her many, many bells and I say “whoo hoo!” or “good girl!” and she lifts her wings and bobs her head. Jade loves any toy that makes noise but she loves bells most of all. She has far too many toys and nearly all of them include bells, but because I can't touch her or hold her and she won't sit on my knee or shoulder or hand, I want to make sure she isn't bored. 

After Jade, we acquired two tiels (plus one at Rainbow Bridge, RIP Greta), another budgie, a pigeon, a starling and of course, Rocky. The pigeon lives in the room with the small parrots. Ringo Starling lives in the spare bedroom because she wouldn't be safe with the parrots. Maggie the Pigeon Queen barges around and takes what she wants and is not intimidated by the parrots. Rocky holds court separate from all of them because they wouldn't be safe with him. It's a juggling act. 

None of the birds likes Jade. She tried to make friends with Clyde off and on for months and he rejected her repeatedly until she gave up. He is the only bird she defers to. She bullies the others. She goes into their cages and eats their food and plays with their toys and they know better than to argue. My budgie, who thinks he's an eagle, worships the Quakers and often sits on Jade's cage, and he's the only one allowed to do that. None of the others, even Clyde, would think of being that bold. And Jade will sometimes grab Benjy by the tail, hold him upside down and shake him. She's just as likely to do that as to allow him to sit there. But Benjy is nothing if not persistent and he keeps going back. 

So Jade has no friends and only verbal interaction with humans and spends most of her time on or in her cage, even though her door is open from breakfast to bedtime. It's her own choice. I talk to her. I try to play with her in the limited way she allows. The first year or so I tried to gently nudge her to be a “normal” parrot who wants to step up and sit on a shoulder and so on, and finally we concluded that what you see is what you get. We have to play by Jade's rules. She may never, and probably will never be a sit on your shoulder bird. But we love her and she seems happy, and that's what matters. 

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