I Needed a Bird Like I Needed a Hole in My Head


Gran gets paranoid a lot–it’s typical of people who have the disease–and the last thing someone with paranoia needs is an accomplice. Luckily for us, she has an African Grey parrot, who she has had for about 22 years. Birds mate for life, so if they do not have a mate, they become attached to one person; therefore, Cody is Gran’s bestie for life. Large parrots can live for 75-100 years, so they are generational pets. This brings me to my  PSA: think twice before getting a parrot.

Ok, rant over. Actually, African Greys can be pretty sweet compared to other parrots like cockatoos and macaws, but it still depends on the temperament of the individual parrot. Even a sweet bird can pry one of your fingernails off. (Note: Surprisingly, I lost no hair in the above incident.)

Birds are quite messy, but Gran is still pretty good about cleaning his cage. She’ll sweep up the seeds around his cage with fervor, all the while complaining that “I needed a bird like I needed a hole in my head. I’m going to give him back to Rob.” Then she’ll carry on attempting to feed him twenty times a day and the cycle starts all over again.

African Greys can master a range of vocabulary and sounds, and can mimic people exactly. At Gran’s, Cody made sure that I didn’t do anything out of line. For instance, Gran hates when I cook in her kitchen, so I would sneak out whenever she was focused on something and attempt to quietly pull out a skillet. With my backed turned, Cody would then say in her voice, “What are you doing?” and I would hit the ceiling.

These birds also have intelligence comparable to a five-year-old child. Cody also knows whenever she is talking on the phone to her boyfriend and he calls out, “Joe…Joe!” When she is peacefully sudokuing, he’ll cry, “Joe…” to remind her that he is gone. Then Gran will follow with, “See? Cody misses Joe too.” Unfortunately, even though parrots are highly intelligent creatures, he’s unable to comprehend the full context behind his words, although I do believe he probably misses Joe too.

Parrots like to listen to their owners and others speak so that they can pick up new things. Whenever you want them to speak, they are typically quiet, particularly around strangers. We moved Cody in with us and I thought he would be traumatized in a different environment, but he has adapted well. Within days he learned the unique sounds of our house, and he is comfortable enough around all of us to yell out all his favorite phrases.

Despite their merrymaking, I believe even parrots need some peace and quiet, although I’ve never read anything to confirm this. Once, while still at Gran’s house, Gran was talking nonstop-“what’s on our agenda?; I was raised on a farm; look at the trees”– and the tv was on full blare. She eventually decided to “go pester Marge,” and I told her to go on up. When she finally closed the front door behind her, I heard Cody let out a noise that resembled a huge sigh of relief.

Maybe it’s not the constant noise he needed to escape but the dementia.







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