Friday, May 22, 2009
Amazing African Greys
By Linda Costello
Explore the diaries of daily life with large birds.
Photos courtesy of Linda Costello
African greys are smart, fun and entertaining parrots.
Muggsy is an African grey that is comfortable lying on her back.
My African greys, Muggsy, Mitch and Phinny, are so smart, fun and entertaining. Muggsy will hang upside down from my fingers like a crazy gray bat, play dead or she’ll perform her special “Exotic Drink” trick for anyone who will watch.
I pretend to pour a tropical drink, using a rum bottle, and then I “top it off” with something very exotic — my parrot Muggsy! I hold up the glass with Muggsy in it as if toasting someone and I say “Cheers!” It's hilarious! Muggsy obviously enjoys it, too, because she laughs, which makes everyone crack up.
Muggsy is an African grey that is comfortable when lying on her back. She'll even let me toss her in the air like a fuzzy gray football.
I have a cute picture on her lying in a kitchen scale. The caption for it should be, “Guess my weight and win a fat lip!”
Once, at the vet’s office, she even performed her trick of “playing dead” by lying still in my hand, with her head hanging down. Talk about clowning around! I told her there is a time and place for everything and this was definitely not it!
Mitch, on the other hand, prefers to play with his children’s toys. He has learned to ring the bell on his activity box when asked. There is a picture of him doing just that in the March 1995 issue of BIRD TALK.
I always laugh as I watch him lying on his back, playing with his toys! One day, he gave me a scare when I walked into the room to find him lying there, not moving. Thankfully, on a closer look, he was just lying back and enjoying his toys!
All of the African greys like music, as long as it is played at a good, head-bobbing pace. I buy them CDs of silly children’s songs to sing along with, or I will play one of their favorites like "Surfing Bird" by the Trashmen, or Muggsy sings, “Bird, Bird, Bird, Bird is the Word.”
Old McDonald is another favorite. When I sing the first part, “Old McDonald had a farm, and on that farm he had a ...?” Muggsy will chirp in at the right time with “Bird!” Sometimes she'll just sing “E-I-O” to try to get us all started!
She has been with us for going on 21 years now. She never ceases to amaze me.
She even has a sarcastic side. My husband, Ray, calls me Linda Lou, so sometimes Muggsy will holler, "Linda Lou," stretching the syllables out into almost a yodel! I have to laugh at a bird that has a witty sense of humor. And who would believe it unless they happen to be visiting our house and hear it with their own ears?
Four-year-old Phinny, our third African grey, has been with us several months. He is a happy bird that talks, sings and whistles songs. He lost his first home due to a tragic accident that befell his former owners.
He is not used to being handled, but he is adjusting and learning to accept more handling as time goes by. I think watching the other African greys interact with us is a big help.
I am on a lot of bird-related e-mail lists, and I will never forget September 7, 2007 at 1:24 PM when I opened an email about the death of Alex, the African grey parrot made famous by Irene Pepperberg, who died at 31 years old.
I've pointed many people to the wonderful work being done at the Alex Foundation [http://www.alexfoundation.org/]. It has allowed many people to expand their awareness and see animals in a different light.
Dr. Pepperberg's work was and is amazing to me, as is the ability of my own African grey's to learn.
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