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Birds are sweet, quirky critters. When you start really looking at them—their prehensile flexible feet, their useful beaks, it’s not hard to believe they’re living dinosaurs, Parrots are smart, funny—and particular enough to remind you of your friends with finicky felines.
Our little dinosaur, Mango, is a yellow-sided green cheek conure, with a personality that’s far bigger than his wee 10-inch body (half of which is his glorious red tail). If you’ve ever seen the movie, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, about a flock of parrots that live together in San Francisco, you’ve seen conures—just bigger ones.
A lot of learning to manage a parrot is—opposite of what’s natural with mammals like dogs or cats. Early on, for example, we learned that parrots enjoy drama. So that loud “No!” you might use on your dog? Might have the opposite of its intended effect on your bird who’s ah, exploring the taste of your finger.
He’s lived with us since he was a wee bird. We brought him home to our downtown one-bedroom apartment in 2006, then moved with him to a house with a yard in West Seattle. At 14, he’s lived with a German Shepherd and hosted a few other dog friends, road tripped with us as far as Eastern Oregon (he’s got a travel cage), and boarded frequently at what we call the “Birdie Motel”—Denise’s Parrot Place, where they take excellent care of him.
Having a bird in your life inevitably gets you funny comments and double-takes—and sometimes a cry of delight when it’s a fellow parrot parent.
Contrary to popular pirate imagery, one of his favorite spots to sleep is in the crook of my elbow while I’m typing (although he does love my husband’s shoulder).
He likes to inspect things, like fruit…
Or whatever it is you’re doing, like home improvement projects.
He’s quite used to drives (windows locked!), whether it’s a road trip, to drop him off at boarding, or to his vet at the Bird and Exotic Clinic of Seattle.
It’s important to keep parrots busy, by providing them with toys to engage them and materials to shred. And a healthy diet is key. We feed him Harrison’s organic food, supplemented with the veggies and fruits we eat. When he’s not playing, shredding wood, or snacking on his perch…
He’s keeping his feathers in tip-top shape…with other feathers. Preening like this is just one of the amazing ways parrots use their feet to grab tools. Here he’s using the fine tip of his feather to scratch himself and encourage new feathers out of their sheaths.
He also loves to help me work. His typing skills still need a little fine tuning though!
We’ve been grateful to have Mango be a part of our lives for so many years (sources vary on their lifespan, but I’ve read up to 30 years). And while birds have always been a favorite animal of mine, he’s made me appreciate extra the wild birds outside as they go about their business.