When you are alone, a creak in your otherwise hushed room gives you shivers of fear. The movement of shadows in the corner becomes as haunting as the howl of hungry wolves, and you don't know whether to call out or stay silent. Then, you notice that the window is open, and the noise was only the wind rustling the curtains. You close the window and curl up on your couch with a blanket and something to read.
BIRD TALK readers shared some of their eerie tales, and others shared their most heartwarming moments. So, check to see if the windows are closed, curl up close, and enjoy their stories. If the silence starts to scare you, just call out for a reassuring chirp from your birds.
Parrot Story 1 – A Voice From The Past
By Mary Cecilia Ellis, Kentucky
Five years ago, our daughter gave us a precious gift for Christmas, a Timneh African grey parrot named Scarlett. She was 6 months old and eager to learn. She brought so much sunshine into our lives. We were both retired, and we were able to spend a lot of time with her.
Scarlett learned to talk very quickly and bonded with both of us. However, my husband, George, was her favorite.
A couple of years ago, my husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He worried so much about my future and wanted to be certain that I would be able to keep Scarlett and our calico cat, Princess. He asked me to spend more time with Scarlett so that her bond with me would grow. I sat with her each evening, as he always did: giving her treats and head rubs, and talking to her before she was covered for the night.
George passed away in March 1998. One morning, in April of 1999, after I uncovered Scarlett's cage, I heard her say, "I love you," in my husband's voice. It was a bittersweet moment.
My husband always called me "Ceil." Since the day Scarlett said, "I love you," she will often call, "Ceil, Ceil," until I answer her. Then she always adds, "I love you," in my husband's voice.
I can't tell you how much I love to hear her say this. We were married for more than 51 years, and I feel he is still with me through Scarlett. As long as I have her, I will have a part of him – his voice.
Parrot Story 2 – Sleep Tight
By Terri Rahner, Arizona
My fiancée died January 21, 1999. We raised Beaker, our 2-year-old red-throated conure, together. One of Beaker's fears was to be locked in his cage at night in the dark.
My fiancée, Doug, always worried about Beaker if we were not home by dark. We would put him to bed in a covered basket on top of his cage. Doug taught Beaker to wolf whistle, and Beaker used it to call or identify Doug. After Doug's memorial service, three days after his death, I was later than I expected, and I realized I would return after dark. I was worried about Beaker, but I knew there was nothing that I could do. I had locked him in his cage.
When I got home after dark, Beaker was sound asleep with his mate, Jamblaya, in their basket. I woke Beaker by calling his name, and I asked who opened the cage. Beaker made the whistle for Doug over and over, bouncing up and down, as if Doug was still in the room.
I held up a picture of Doug and asked, "Did Daddy open the cage?" Beaker whistled and bounced, and tapped at the photo of my lost love. To this day, Beaker will whistle and bounce suddenly, as if Doug had walked into the room. I like to think that he has. Maybe birds see more than we give them credit for.
Parrot Story 3 – Constant Companion
By Julie Anne and Tommy Stilwell, New Hampshire
BIRD TALK has always recommended that we try to adopt handicapped birds. Well, we had a non-handicapped bird adopt a handicapped person.
In April 1991, I was a passenger in a small car that had a head-on collision with the wheel well of a pick-up truck. My seatbelt didn't work properly, and the accident gave me a ruptured disk and very weak legs. My husband, Tommy, has always been very good about helping me, but he works during the day. I stay home. I do the best I can with the chores, but inevitably bend or move the wrong way, thus straining my back. Ouch!
Enter Diamond Sunshine. February 16, 1996, at exactly 6:22 pm, the fourth and last of our Cherry Lace's eggs hatched. From the beginning, Diamond Sunshine was a bit unusual. He didn't like snuggling with his older siblings in the incubator. He preferred his rubber duckie or a tissue-covered human hand, even the hands of strangers.
Diamond Sunshine's first improvement to my life was removing the word "shy" from my vocabulary. Prior to his 2 month birthday, because he was being hand-fed, he would ride around with me all bundled up, with his rubber duckie, in my iced-tea pitcher. It was impossible not to make friends with him. Even non-bird people wanted to know everything about him.
Diamond Sunshine helps me with my chores around the house. I no longer strain my back if he is perched happily on my shoulder. If I bend wrong, he loses his balance and I get an ear chewed. I work slower and get more accomplished because of him.
He is basically potty trained, so he is allowed to help me in the kitchen. (He helps as long as nothing is hot, sharp or plugged in.) He loves exploring new foods. Measuring cups and spoons usually get launched onto the floor. All unopened cans get sung to or lectured to, in cockatiel.
Diamond Sunshine also helps me with errands that are outside of the house. After he outgrew the iced-tea pitcher, my husband bought him an acrylic carrier weighing only 8 pounds. The carrier has a clear window in the front.
Diamond Sunshine helps me at the bank, pharmacy, craft store and dollar store (the last two are his favorites). When he is with me, I have to walk slower so I do not dislodge him from his perch. This causes me less pain, and I am able to get more accomplished.
We never make it through a store unnoticed. This is usually because the "odd white box" that I am carrying is usually singing at the top of its lungs. Quite happily, I might add. All the cashiers know and love to see him. He flirts up a storm with everyone. Most of the cashiers even remember his name. They inquire about him when he is not with me, too.
I can barely remember my life before Diamond Sunshine. I can't imagine my life without him. He's a remarkable little fuzzball who was willing to adopt a handicapped "mom," something I will always be grateful for.
Parrot Story 4 – Stealing Darby
By Greg and Lorri Null, Oregon
About two years ago, my wife, Lorri, and I lived in a large apartment complex in Denver, Col. We had purchased a blue-crowned conure before moving into our new apartment. We named the bird Darby, and Darby developed a strong bond with my wife.
One night, Lorri went to the store and, when she returned, Darby was gone. Our apartment had been broken into and Darby had been the only thing that was stolen.
We called the police, and they told us that they didn't think we would ever see Darby again. Lorri was crushed.
I told Lorri not to worry. I told her that Darby had probably been taken by someone who knew that we had her. The thief had to be close, and I was confident that, because of the strongbond between Darby and my wife, they would be reunited.
I set out to work. I put notes describing Darby next to the four clusters of mail boxes for our apartment complex. I also went door to door with Lorri, asking if anyone had seen or heard a parrot. No luck.
After three days, I found that the note by one of the mail boxes had been taken down. With Darby's picture in hand, I concentrated on the apartments near that mail slot.
After knocking on several doors, I heard a parrot squawk that sounded very much like Darby, but no one would answer the door. I went home and got Lorri. When we arrived at the apartment where I had heard the parrot, Lorri stood at the door and called Darby. The bird inside started screaming her head off. We called the police and Lorri got Darby back. Lorri held Darby to her chest and walked back to our apartment while Darby kept saying, "Hello." It was a very touching reunion.
Parrot Story 5 – Far From Home
By Julie Floyd, Florida
We purchased Budd in February 1995. He is a wonderful bird. He wakes up in the morning singing. One morning, I went to check the mail. I had on a heavy jean jacket, and without knowing, he flew onto my back, and I walked out the door. Then, off he went. My family and I tried to call him back, but he flew away with a flock of doves.
While he was gone, we would hear him around the neighborhood. Our neighbors put out food for him. He loves barbecue, and we found gray breast feathers on the grill after dinner one evening.
Months went by, but there was no Budd. Our other birds (we have several cockatiels) didn't know how to act without Budd. He was the center of attention. One day, at work, I was asked to help answer phones. It is a busy medical facility, and I struck up a conversation with a patient waiting to make an appointment. I heard birds in the background, and I asked about them. The patient said, "The funniest thing happened ..."
A cockatiel had landed on her son's head in their yard two days before. I told her that I had lost a bird and I described Budd to her. I asked her for the number on the leg band, but she said the bird would not let her look. I asked her if my family could come look at the bird. She said, "Sure, come on over tonight."
I was excited, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. That evening, we met at her house, walked in, and the cockatiel was in a cage with six other cockatiels. My husband reached for him, and the bird walked right up to him and climbed up on his shoulder. I said, "Hey, Budd." His crest stood up as if he knew who I was. Then he started to whistle.
Tom taught him a certain whistle, and, as soon as Tom began to whistle, the bird began to copy him. I asked to see his band ... It was Budd!
He had been in the wild for 17 months, through two hurricanes, cold weather, storms – you name it. The woman who had found him lived on the other side of a large, open bayou near our house. He must have been tired after flying all the way across it.
He is home now, safe and sound. He can sing like every bird out in the wild and can even call a squirrel to the window. He has gotten used to the other birds again, and they seem much happier to have him home.
Parrot Story 6 – The Green Parrot Murder
By Steven Mayo, New York
The case of the Green Parrot Murder is remembered by New York police as one of the most unusual on record. At first glance, the crime resembled a run-of-the-mill robbery gone bad. However, the solution to the crime is unique in the annals of justice.
The story began on July 12, 1942 at the Green Parrot Bar on Third Avenue. In a tough section of Harlem, the smoke-filled and dimly lit bar was littered with 20 woozy patrons, the owner, Max Geller, and his green parrot.
The Green Parrot was actually a popular community landmark due to the talkative, exotic bird. Old-timers would often encourage an unsuspecting visitor into offering the parrot a cracker. If they were expecting a grateful response, they were in for a big surprise. Upon receiving a hand-out, the bird would let forth a torrent of curses he learned from the unsavory characters that hung around the bar.
Late in the night on July 12, a shadowy figure walked into the bar and shot Geller to death. When the police arrived, they found him behind the bar in a pool of blood. They could not find a single witness to the crime; everyone insisted they were too far away to see who did it. A few, however, acknowledged that they had seen a man with a gun, heard a shot and ducked. The question was: why had Geller been killed? Was it a botched robbery or premeditated murder. No one could be sure. The green parrot that was kept on a perch behind the bar had yelled, "Robber, robber, robber!"
The parrot was obviously a quick learner. He must have heard his owner, Geller, cry out "robber" during the attack and repeated the sound. The case was assigned to detective John J. Morrisey. Solving the case was slow-going; no one in the bar would admit to having seen the murderer, if indeed anyone had, which was common in that section of the city. The only evidence the detective had was that a robbery was attempted, and the owner of the bar had been killed.
The case went unsolved for almost two years, slowly fading from memory. Morrisey, however, would not give up. He would return on occasion to the neighborhood in hopes of digging up a new clue.
Then one day, he got one. While requesting a witness, he learned that in addition to cursing, the parrot had also been taught to greet regular customers by name.
Detective Morrisey returned to the Green Parrot bar and tried to teach the bird new names. To his surprise, the parrot took several weeks of coaching to learn a new word. Suddenly, Morrisey realized it was impossible for the parrot to learn a new word after hearing it only one time. The bird must have been saying something else other than "robber," but what? If he wasn't calling out "robber," who's name was he saying? Could it be Robert?
Detective Morrisey arrested a man named Robert Butler a short time later. Butler, a regular customer, had vanished a short time after the murder. He was found hiding out in Baltimore, Md. Butler was the only patron the parrot greeted by the name Robert, and it was he who the bird had identified as the murderer. As it turned out, he had not tried to rob the bar, but simply shot Geller in a drunken rage when he was refused a drink.
Robert Butler is so far the only person ever to be convicted of murder because of the speech capabilities of a parrot. He was sentenced to seven to 15 years in Sing Sing.
Parrot Story 7 – A Father's Gift
By Deb Stineback, Indiana
My father shared his love for birds with me when I was very young. He bred show and racing pigeons – at least the ones my sister and I didn't turn into pets.
Dad got much enjoyment watching my pair of pet cockatiels named Jack and Jill. After he was diagnosed with cancer, he vowed that he would get a pair just like them when he got better, which he would will to me when he passed. Dad never got well enough and therefore never got his gift to give me. Or did he?
One year to the date of Dad's death, Jack and Jill's first and only clutch had a "peeping" egg. That evening, within the same hours that I had last spent with dad, I watched and treasured the arrival of "my gift." Jack was a proud father and sat on the remaining eggs, but he didn't want the baby under him. He pulled out the fuzz on top of its head.
I called the breeder I had gotten Jill from, and she offered to help me hand-raise the chick because Jack and Jill were unstable first-time parents. She kept him for a few days, and then I took over as mom. I fed him diligently around the clock, which required taking him to work with me. After two days, I knew something was not right, so my friend took care of him again. None of the remaining eggs hatched, which made the survival of this little one even more important. The next morning, I received the news that the baby didn't make it through the night. I was devastated and angry. How could this precious gift be taken away?
But my mom put it all into perspective. She said these loving and wise words: "Maybe your dad needed him more than you."
Parrot Story 8 – Remembering Loco
By Marilyn Oliva, New York
When Flapper joined our family 7 1/2 years ago, Loco, our Doberman Pinscher, was the only pet we had. Flapper and Loco hit it off from the beginning. Flapper was only 5 weeks old, and Loco was one of the first family members that he saw on a constant basis.
Flapper grew up to be the boss and kept Loco in his place. Flapper blamed him for every bit of mischief that he got into by saying "Loco, no no, bad boy." Most of his vocabulary was about Loco because they were together all day while we worked. Flapper barked and growled and sometimes acted like a dog. I always believed that he thought he was a dog instead of a bird.
Loco was on medication for seizures, and every morning Flapper would say, "Loco's gotta have his pill, c'mere Loco," followed by "Good boy" and "Wipe your eye," because Loco usually needed his eyes cleaned. He would not say any of these things until the next morning. He was constantly saying "Good boy" and giving loud kissing sounds. He would say, "Wanna get the little squirrelies," "Get that Ball," (followed by the squeaky sound the ball made) and "Wanna go out?" He would sit in the window, and when he saw Loco in the yard, he would say "Theeeere's Loco," as well as many other commands and comments.
Loco became sick last May at the age of 11 and died in mid June. Flapper is only just recently getting out of a mourning stage. He doesn't say any of the things he used to say, and he hasn't since the day I dragged Loco on a blanket from the living room to the bedroom where he died. Every once in a while he'll say "Loco's gotta have his ..." and then he will stop, as if he remembers that Loco is no longer here.
At about 4 am on May 24, while he was in his cage, covered, in our darkened living room, he suddenly started saying all of the things he used to say. He went on and on for about 10 minutes going through his entire Loco vocabulary and then went back to sleep. I keep a journal, and when I checked the date from last year, I found that May 24 was the first day that Loco was really ill, unable to walk and in need of the veterinarian. It is now May 25, and Flapper has not repeated any of these words since.
I now wonder if it's possible that he was dreaming and Loco appeared in his dream. What else could have made him speak this way? It is almost the one year anniversary of Loco's death, but I haven't mentioned him or said anything about him out loud. I guess it's possible that Flapper picked up on my feelings or possibly is having his own feelings. I guess it will remain a mystery, and I'll never know just what is going through the mind of my little feathered wonder. But it is pretty spooky that he would choose that day to suddenly speak all his Loco words.
Parrot Story 9 – The Messenger
By Tamara Hanley, Illinois
We lost our home to a fire on Friday evening Nov. 3, 1995. Thirty-five of my best feathered friends died in the fire. I was not home to even try a rescue. My husband and I were out for the evening, and when we came home, my birds were all gone. The fire department determined that the fire was caused by a defective fan motor in a floor fan. (Please remember to turn off and unplug fans when you are not using them.) The firemen were able to rescue two cats and our dog, but the parrots died from the smoke immediately. I still love them all and will never forget them. I now have more feathered friends to care for again.
The next evening after the fire, my husband and I were trying to protect what was left of our belongings by taking turns watching over the house through the night. We could not board up all of the missing walls, etc., and we still had to finish an inventory and clean up for insurance purposes.
It was my turn to stand guard that evening at 3:30 am. Leaving the motel where we were staying, and heading across the parking lot to my car, I saw the most amazing sight! A great horned owl sat on the roof of my car. He was sitting completely still and watching me. As I approached my car, he just sat there, staring at me with huge liquid-looking eyes. As I got within 15 feet of the car, it slowly took flight, circled the lot, and took off toward a grove of trees. Later, sitting in front of the remains of my home and thinking of my missing companions, I remembered that owls are the messengers of the dead and departed souls. I think that the owl was the spirits of my birds, and they were telling me they were all right and in bird heaven. Now, every time I see an owl, it brings back good memories of my past bird friends, and it reminds me of the happy times we spent together.
Parrot Story 10 – A New Family
By Julie Hedges, Kansas
In November of 1997, I went to a local pet store to shop for some bird toys to give my budgies, Kelsey and Spencer, for Christmas. Even though I wasn't looking to buy another bird, I looked at the birds they had for sale. One that really caught my eye was a blue Indian ring-necked parakeet. I had never seen one before and was really struck by its beauty. The ring neck came right over to me and even let me pet her a little. She was 5 months old at the time.
From that first encounter, I was hooked. I went to the shop every weekend for the next few months to see her. She seemed to remember me from visit to visit because she would literally cry whenever I left. Of course, this made me feel badly. I'd almost start crying, too.
The conditions at the pet store were not very good. The area where the birds were kept was very dirty. She had little food to eat and no toys to play with. But I could tell she was a healthy bird, despite the conditions. So I started doing some research on ring necks to see if this bird would fit in with my budgies and me.
In January of 1998, I made the decision to buy her. I had to use my credit card to purchase her and a nice cage, but I was convinced this bird needed me. I called the pet store to say I wanted to buy her and told them to hold her for me. They asked if I was the one that had been coming to see her every week. When I said yes, they said, "Oh, good. We didn't want anyone else to have her!"
I picked her up on January 24 and immediately took her to my avian vet for a checkup. The vet loved her from the start, and she received a clean bill of health. I took my new baby home where her new cage and toys were waiting. I named her Cameron.
She was already fairly tame, but I started working with her immediately to get her bonded to me. It didn't take long. She is now a vital part of our family. I don't know what I did without her. She goes everywhere with me. She sits on my shoulder while I work on the computer and while I do chores. She's curious and loves to be a part of everything I do. She's very affectionate and especially loves to snuggle. She's very entertaining and now can say "hello." She does several different whistles and even purrs like a cat!
My two budgies seemed to welcome her right away and weren't really affected by the new addition. They all look out for each other. When my budgies' swing falls down, Cameron yells a little to let us know that it needs fixing. I've never let them all play together because Cameron is so much bigger than they are. I'm afraid she would accidentally hurt them while playing.
Owning Cameron has brought so much joy to my life. I've never regretted my decision to get her. I couldn't wait to get home from work to see her. She has been such a strong influence in my life that in July of 1998, I quit my job to start a pet-sitting service that specializes in caring for birds. It is now a year later, and my service is very successful. I have Cameron to thank for the inspiration.