Friday, October 31, 2008

Bird Sense

Today's Bizarro is brought to you by The Power of the Prominent Profile, by Richard Rostrum.

My wife and I foster a lot of rescued animals of a wide variety of species. We've had countless dogs and cats, many chickens and roosters, pigeons, lambs, goats, calves, a seagull and a raccoon. We keep these wayward critters in our apartment in Brooklyn for anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, until we can find them permanent homes where they will be cared for and not eaten. One such traveler on the underground railroad was an umbrella cockatoo.

He was the kind with the big headdress, like an Indian Chief in an old Hollywood movie. Since the original rescuer didn't know his name, we called him "Sitting Bull." There was much about Sitting Bull to love: he was beautiful, danced a little to most songs but like a tightly-wound teen on ecstasy to one particular Siouxsie and the Banshees' song, strutted around our apartment like he owned the place repeating the phrase "I love you," and sat on my shoulder as I worked.

Perhaps most notably, however, was that he was the only creature I've ever met who liked me more than he liked my wife. Normally, people merely tolerate me because my wife is so much fun to hang out with. But Sitting Bull–god love his dandered heart–thought I hung the moon. That was the good news. On the other side of the AP wire report was that he not just preferred me over my wife, he hated her with a passion. I honestly believe he wished her dead.

When he was perched on my shoulder watching me draw and she would approach, he would snap at her viciously. If she sat down in the same room as me to watch TV or read a magazine, he would methodically scuttle down the side of my chair and begin walking robotically across the floor toward her, repeating his mantra, "I love you," like a wind-up toy. Without giving away his intentions until the last possible second, as soon as he was within striking distance, he would lash out at her foot with a chomp that would shatter steel.

His beak was a formidable opponent, not one to be trifled with. Like a James Bond Villain's henchman, he could render a rigid piece of metal unrecognizable in minutes. He once got hold of one of those stiffly-coiled car keyrings, the sort you need a crowbar to wedge your key on or off of, and turned it into a dented, crinkled spiral in the blink of an eye.

Since he found my wife so objectionable, we considered finding him another foster home before she lost a finger or the end of her nose. The final straw was one afternoon when she brought me a sandwich at lunchtime, carefully tossing it onto my desk and ducking away quickly, before Sitting Bull could swipe at her with his tomahawk. From his usual post on my shoulder, he snapped at the air in her direction and missed, which frustrated him to he point that he turned to his other side and took a large chunk out of the first 3-dimensional object he could reach. Which was my ear.

Sitting Bull eventually found a home, but it bears noting that ideally, parrots do not belong in captivity. They are highly intelligent, most are captured in the wild and crated here cruelly, like slaves of old, and none like spending their life in a cage. As our species seems not to have noticed, millions of years of evolution has designed birds to fly. Taking that option away from them is as cruel as attaching a snorkel to a dog and forcing it to live in an aquarium.

If you're considering getting a bird of any kind, read up about them first. Then don't do it. Unless you're going to adopt one of the thousands of abandoned birds that people give up every year after they realize how expensive and difficult it is to keep a parrot, which may well live longer than they do.

If you want something pretty around the house that is easy to care for, this is a good alternative.


derekamalo said...


no animal or human should wish another animal or human death

see jeremy/mike duffa comments

by the way haoppy halloween

Penny Mitchell said...

Thank you so much for plugging the Gabriel Foundation! Most of the birds they have were purchased on a whim in a pet store by people who had NO FREAKING CLUE what they were doing. Parrots communicate with each other by screeching. The bigger the bird the louder the scream. Most people have no clue what they're in for even in regards to the noise, much less with how bonded a bird can become to one person, and one person only. And you obviously understand how difficult it can be to live with a creature with a stalker-like attachment, when that creature can easily take a finger off.

I have a domestic dove. A friend of mine caught wind of a dove breeder who had a baby with a crippled leg; she couldn't sell the crippled bird, so she was going to put it in the freezer and freeze it to death. This friend was calling everyone she could think of who might be able to take the bird. I'd never had a bird in my life, but that shit does *not* happen on my watch.

I was told he was a male so I named him Winston, after John Winston Lennon. Winston was about six months old when "he" started laying eggs. ;-) The vet told me that doves, like nearly all "domestic" birds, DESPERATELY need mates or they'll be utterly miserable. The mate doesn't have to be another bird. I am TOTALLY Winston's mate. She is completely bonded to me, and loathes my husband with the fire of a thousand burning suns.

She limps when she walks but flies beautifully. She's about eight years old, which means she's quite old. I pray for, oh...30 more years. That would be good.

Jeremy said...

A friend I had in High School had an African Grey. Very smart, very pretty bird, but he was very frustrated with sitting in a cage all day. We would try to trick people into petting him by putting his head down like he wanted you to rub his head and then quickly sit up and bite your finger.

I felt bad for the bird because no one seemed to pay much attention to him. I think he was bought as a novelty.

My wife wants a Scottish Terrier. We saw one at Scamps once but we refuse to give them any business because of their high prices and cruel setup for animals. I went in there once and saw a puppy laying in his own feces and even licked it a few times. We are always checking local shelter listings and Craigslist for one to adopt.

Unknown said...

penny: that's a really sweet story.

As for parrots and cockatoos... this has only hardened my feelings that they're neat to watch, but not in the house. They definitely seem to have a sense of humor, but in my experience it's a sometimes cruel sense of humor, making them more human than I want in a pet. I really don't feel like I need a pet that will torment me when I get home, because it thinks its funny to see its owner pissed off.

Jezzka said...

my favorite was when you guys fostered cleo and she had her first litter of 9 little pitter poos (yes, i call kitties, pitty poos, don't ask me why, i just do). so so so cute. i still remember wd-40, he had the weakest little legs!!!

you guys had the greatest names for them. they were too cute for words. i remember they would come out from under the dresser after feeding and scrambled out onto the floor in every direction, like it was a free for all. i just wanted to swoop them up and hug them all!!

i should dig up the photos i took and send them to you, gosh back in 2004, how time flies...

meow, meow, meow. :)

derekamalo said...

rhode island pet shops sell scorpions, tarantulas, hedgehogs,prairie dogs,sugar gliders,poisonous insects,wallabies,alligators, crocdoiles...

one of only states that allow these animals to be sold as pets youd have a ball at creatures creatures creatures

whats the dealwith the woo stock sanctuary anywas to hang out with you wed have to be willing to clean shit can do

doug nicodemus said...

happy halloween!

HollyBerry said...

i don't have a witty bird story... and i am sad about that.

i'm glad there are people like you and your CHNW (and some people who visit this blog) in the world who care for such animals. i don't have the means (or patience) to do it myself, but it warms my heart to know other people do. thanks for being awesome to the little animals!

Anonymous said...

Right on, Dan! These and most other creatures, were not intended to be domesticated. Keep bringing good information to the public!