We’ve all heard the terms “birdbrain” and “bird-brained”. They are applied to people who are slow to think or are stupid. The terms are quite derogatory and can surely be applied to the birds themselves. However, I’m not sure that these words can aptly be applied to parrots. I know that all parrot owners think their birds are brilliant and capable of thinking and saying wonderful things. It’s like the parents of human babies coming to work and telling you of the meaningful things their 6-month old did the night before. Most of us have a tendency to roll our eyes and say “Yow…sure!” Well, Pat and I have actually come to the belief that parrots can express real thoughts.
Our friends, John and Ollie were going on vacation and needed someone to birdsit their parrot, Highpockets. Their friend who normally took care of that was going to be out of town also. We knew that John had Highpockets over 25 years and would be quite worried about him so we agreed to let him stay with us. It worked out fine and over the years we took care of him a number of times.
The first time John brought Highpockets over he gave us a thorough briefing on how to take care of him. He concluded by telling us how he liked to whistle at girls, sometimes sang opera, and sometimes spoke Spanish. Yes, I know, this is where we all roll our eyes and say “Yow…sure!” Proud “parents” just can’t resist telling you all that cute stuff they believe to be true.
The first couple of days were pretty normal with no events to traumatize the parrot or us. Pat and I were watching TV in the living room with Highpockets sitting on his perch. Pat went to the kitchen and got some grapes she was chilling in the refrigerator. We were enjoying the grapes and both of us had commented on how good they were. I said “I wonder if Highpockets likes grapes?” Pat says “I don’t know?” A few seconds later, Highpockets chimes in with “I like grapes.” We almost fell out of our chairs. To think that the parrot could actually process information and correctly respond to it just about blew our minds.
We had a dog named Herbie that loved to play with the kids. Herbie was half Airedale and looked it with that Airedale hair and he was smart as a whip. The kids would throw balls and sticks and he would fetch though once in a while he would grab the item and run off just so the kids would chase him. One day they were all out in the back yard playing. Russ threw a stick and Herbie was off like a streak of lightning to fetch it. I guess Herbie thought it would be more fun to run off with the stick so h he took off around the yard. Russ is running after him and yelling “Stop, Herbie!” Doug and Terri had joined in but they were yelling “Run, Herbie!” Meanwhile, Highpockets is on his perch in the living room and can see all the action in the back yard through the picture window. All the commotion gets Highpockets excited and he starts bouncing around on his perch and yelling “Run, Herbie, run! Run, Herbie, run!”
At first, we thought it was kind of cute, the way Highpockets was attracted to our daughter, Terri. Later, we decided his demeanor was that of a stalker or a dirty old man. When out of his cage he would follow her and he looked pretty sinister when he did it. He would walk along at an even pace with the tips of his wings crossed behind him and look just like a little old man with hands clasped behind his back. Terri would be trying to get away from him and if he succeeded in cornering her he would give out a fiendish little laugh. Highpockets scared the heck out of her and to make it worse he even bit her toes. Sometimes when Terri would go into the bathroom, Doug would get Highpockets out of his cage and place him outside the bathroom door. When Terri opened the bathroom door to come out, her nemesis would be waiting there to confront her and would give out that fiendish laugh. That rotten bird was relentless and would stalk her until she would shut herself in her room or go outdoors. She hates parrots to this day.
Parrots make a lot of noise. At bed-time, you put a cover over their cage and being in the dark they will go to sleep and stay quiet until the next morning. Pat and I have always gotten up early so when Highpockets was visiting we would uncover his cage early in the morning. Some days he would sing and jabber at the top of his lungs and wake the kids up and drive us nuts in the process. One night before going to bed we talked about the noise problem and how nice it would be to get up and have a cup of coffee without listening to all of that. We decided that after getting up we would leave the cover on the cage and hope that Highpockets would remain asleep and we’d have some peace and quiet. The next morning, Pat and I woke up about the same time and got ready to go downstairs. We remind each other of our pact to stay quiet. We come down the stairs as quietly as we can and tip-toe across the living room. Just as we get to the kitchen door we hear this tentative little voice coming from the cage…”Is anybody there?”
Okay…you can roll your eyes all you want. Pat and I are convinced that parrots can think and reason. Just thinking about it and remembering these incidents makes the world seem like a lot more fun.