I have a special interest in smart bird stories like the one recently where a small Quaker parrot warned a babysitter that her two-year-old charge was choking. The bird kept screaming and calling “Mama baby” until the babysitter came back into the room to find the child already blue from lack of oxygen. The babysitter used the Heimlich maneuver and the child is now fine.
Then there’s the story of the African Grey parrot in Japan. Police found the bird sitting on someone’s roof, and they took him to a veterinary clinic, where he told the staff the full name and complete address of his owners. When the police checked this out, they found that the people at this address had indeed lost their parrot.
We also have a smart bird. Ours is a Yellow Headed Amazon, and this kind of bird is known for its ability to mimic human speech. For some reason this bird has decided to mimic me, and when he talks, he sounds almost exactly like I do. Some day I should take the time to write down a list of the words and phrases that he uses. I do know that the number of words and phrases would be in the hundreds, and as other parrot owners will agree, this bird doesn’t just say words… he knows WHAT he is saying and what the words mean.
He tells us when water comes to a boil in the teakettle, when it starts to rain or snow outside, when the dogs are doing something they shouldn’t do, and when someone drives into the yard. When he sees something that frightens him outside, he calls to one of us by name, followed by “Quick! Quick! Come quick!” He can even be a little manipulative by continually asking, “Don’t you love your little bird?” in a plaintive voice, or saying repeatedly “It looks good… I would like some,” when I’m cooking something and don’t offer him enough tastes. He sings opera and hymns in a beautifully clear voice and even combines lyrics to make up his own songs. He greets us at the beginning of every day with a cheery “Good morning!” and when someone leaves the house, he asks where they are going… often asking if it will be to the store or post office.
During the summer we have many, many severe thunderstorms and the weather radio often sounds the severe weather alarm. Each time he calls one of us by name to tell us about the alarm and is only reassured when he is told that everything is OK, it was just a test.
We got him when he was just a few months old, but we think he suffered some abuse before he came to live with us. He was very quiet for several months, and when he did speak he said “Bad bird… shut up!” and a few other phrases that showed us he wasn’t cherished in his previous home. It is a source of great joy to us that he never says those things any more… now his vocabulary is full of phrases like, “I’m such a good bird,” “You’re so sweet,” and “I love you mama!” He has been a part of our family for over fifteen years now, and I can’t even imagine how silent and empty this house would seem without his happy little voice… or how much I would miss hearing him call when he thinks he’s being ignored… “Want to talk bird about it?”