HORNER’S CORNER: Of bossy birds and burkas

They said there would be an adjustment period when I inherited my brother's parrot. They were right.

They said there would be an adjustment period.

I tried to keep that in mind as I picked myself up off the floor Saturday night.

It had been a lazy day and yeah, I admit it, I fell asleep on the couch. So what?

Well, evidently somebody got too scared to fly back to her cage when it got dark.

She was tired, so that somebody decided she needed to be carried across the living room to her cage so she could go to her little bed.

The carrier being asleep, she obviously had to wake him up — and the best way to do that was clearly to jump off the back of the couch onto his peaceful, sleeping face.

One thing I’ve learned about parrots since I adopted my brother’s bird is that they don’t have little balloon feet on the end of their legs.

“Cheep!” she said.

Translation: “Stop thrashing around and yelling. You’re scaring me. I need a ride. Let’s go.”

She’s a bossy girl, but I love her, so I’ve done my best to adjust and tried to learn parrot as fast as I can so I can do as I’m told.

It’s not easy. Parrot is far more nuanced than eel. When Mister Wiggles communicates with me it’s always pretty much the same: “Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.” Ttranslation: “Feed me.”

It’s different with the bird. When I come home, she’ll chatter away a greeting that has far more meaning than any wriggling eel could ever hope to communicate.

I’m not used to such complexity in my private life. I’m a bachelor.

I’m used to coming and going as I please. No longer. It’s part of the adjustment. I can walk wherever I want and she’ll be happily clucking away on the fish tank, but the second I head for the door I’ll hear, flutter, flutter, flutter and then she’ll be on my shoulder.


Translation: “So where do you think you’re going?”

I’ve learned a lot of other things about parrots, too, such as just how far a single strawberry can be spread in the few minutes you’re not paying attention.  Apparently parrots bite off a chunk, chew it and then flick the remainder away until the whole area looks like it has some form of unfortunate skin disorder.

I named her Micah, after my deceased twin brother, Michael, who used to own her. That’s just her official name though. In our private conversations I just call her Cheepie, Cheeps or Cheepie-Cheep. Those conversations are simple and pretty repetitive.

“Hey Cheeps,” I’ll say, “Who’s a pretty bird?  Yes you are! Yes you are! Hey! No! Don’t do it! Don’t poop on me! No! No! Awwwww …”

That’s another part of the adjustment. You can’t housetrain a seven-year-old parrot. They just go whenever the call of nature  takes them.

Yeah, I get it. If I could fly around like a bird I would probably be the same way. But I can’t and so I’m not.

I’m chasing a bird around with a paper towel in one hand and a bottle of cleanser in the other.

The other day I was shopping for couch-top doilies. Who ever does that?

It’s not just the furniture, either. It’s me, too.

She really just doesn’t care. If I’m not careful I’ll end up looking  like Radagast the Brown from The Hobbit.

Yeah, she has a lovely big cage, but there’s no way I can keep her in there all the time. That would be cruel – clearly not what she’s used to.

Bossy, dirty, sometimes loud and did I mention bossy? But she’s also surprisingly cuddly — something I would never have imagined in a little bird. She’ll put her little green head next to mine and snuggle and I instantly forgive her for everything. So I adjust.

Don’t be surprised one day to look in my window and see someone walking around in a full burka. No, it won’t be a Muslim fundamentalist. It will just be me. Note the parrot on the shoulder.




Neil Horner is the assistant editor of The NEWS and a regular columnist.



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