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Thursday, March 4, 2010
"Not" The Perfect Parrot

By Amy Baggs
Follow Amy's adventures in A Day In The Pet Bird Store.

When people hear about parrots, they envision brightly colored feathers, the ability to speak, funny antics, long tails or maybe loud squawks. Just like us, some parrots are not always perfect.

Rowan, the red-bellied parrot 
Rowan the red-bellied parrot might be missing toenails, but not personality.

Parrots might look different to our eyes in many ways. Feathers can tell a lot about the bird. Some birds may not be stimulated enough or might be scared of the constantly barking little dog next door and they might over-preen or pick their feathers to the down. Very active and playful birds’ feathers could look scruffy because the birds are running around, jumping, banging into perches and breaking feathers. My first bird did not have a nice tail until it was almost 2 years old! The great benefit with feathers is that the parrot will molt them out and new ones will grow in.
Unfortunately, some parrots have disabilities that won’t change or improve.  A few babies might be missing nails or toes. Sometimes when the parents are allowed to hatch eggs, either the mother or the father might bite off a nail.  Some babies that are raised together might get a bit voracious after being hand-fed and take a nip out of their roommate’s digits. I am not really sure why this happens.

My red-bellied parrot, Rowan, is missing three nails on each foot. Before I brought him home, I thought I should treat him with kid gloves. Omar told me not to treat him any differently than a bird with all eight nails. Oh my gosh – he is so active! I bought him a big cage, but now I know I should have gone for the large multi-leveled mansion. He hangs upside down from one foot chewing and ripping wood off some toy or another. He has demolished four ladders, three comfy perches and numerous toys. One of his favorite toys is a rubber-ducky like pirate-parrot with bells. He chews off the beak, wings and toes. Our nursery mom, Kim, says he is getting payback for his parents taking his toes!

Oh, and he only has one tail feather right now because he is so active! New ones will grow in soon.

Another malady that may affect parrots is crooked beak or scissor beak. There is no sure cause but there are some theories. Feeding techniques, egg incubation, nutrition or heredity might have a hand in why the beak grows crookedly.  Keeping the beak groomed will not correct this but will make it easier for the bird.

Even with scissor beak, Eunice the caique goes after what she wants.   

Samantha, a co-worker at the store, recently took home Eunice, a baby black-headed caique parrot. She is Sam’s third caique. Eunice has scissor beak but that does not stop her at all. She eats all the time! Whenever she is in the store, her beak is deep in a bowl or covered with Mom’s Nutty Noodle soak mix which is one of her favorites. Eunice plays with Sam’s other caiques and preens like a normal parrot. Like most caiques, Eunice loves to rub her beak on anyone’s shirt, usually wiping off food on a clean piece of clothing.

The other day at work, while she hung out in her little area, Eunice noticed I had something in my mouth and decided that she should have it or at least see if she liked it.  Eunice leapt to my shoulder, scurried right up to my mouth and started begging and trying to put her beak in my mouth.  But I kept turning my head away from her and her mom rescued me – I mean her – and told her “No, no You-You!”  This little girl is fearless; I have seen photos of her riding Sam’s black lab around the house!

Even though these birds are not perfect, they are priceless in our eyes and hearts. Their personalities are so cute and funny that this makes up for their disabilities. Next time you see a parrot with a crooked beak or missing toes, see them in the same way as the birds with all the toes and straight beaks.

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"Not" The Perfect Parrot

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Reader Comments
Great story!
Mike, Columbia, TN
Posted: 3/21/2010 5:57:07 PM
Amy, your stories are heartwarming, passionate and fun. It's easy to see how your love of parrots has led you to working in a bird store and helping others make discoveries through your experiences. Keep writing... keep sharing... keep smiling.
Carolyn, San Juan Capistrano, CA
Posted: 3/15/2010 7:12:51 PM
Loved the story! I had my tiel "kee-kee" for 22 years and a deformed right foot never slowed her down. I would never let a minor physical imperfection stop me from getting to know (or accepting) a bird.
Stell, Buffalo, NY
Posted: 3/9/2010 6:53:18 AM
What a great story.Love checking out your web site keep up the great work. Cruz ( my 22yr. old sulphur crested cockatoo) @ I love checking out your stories.
Andrea, Crystal Springs, MS
Posted: 3/9/2010 5:08:56 AM
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