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Subject: Seed Spitter

Management sends a memo to African grey, Parker, congratulating him on his trick for getting rid of sunflower seeds.

Patricia Sund

Seed Spitter, Memos to Parker & Pepper

Memo: To Parker & Pepper
Dept: African Greys
From: Management
Subject: Seed Spitter

Parker, isn’t it wonderful when people come up to you at the bird store or an some event, and they give you a treat? Sometimes people are so thrilled to meet you that they bring you gifts. For some reason, people inevitably want to give you sunflower seeds.

Now I realize you take issue with this, and you are probably the only parrot on the planet that doesn’t enjoy them. Instead, you seem to prefer almonds, walnuts and tiny bit of cheese as treats. However, most people don’t realize you aren’t just a run-of-the-mill grey and have more refined tastes when it comes to your preferred snacks.

You are far more interested in my delicious, imported, Icelandic yogurt called Skyr, or sampling a bite of my omelet or insisting on a sip of my freshly squeezed vegetable juice than sunflower seed. We seem to be turning into a regular little gourmand, aren’t we?

However, many people who don’t know you think you are just like any other bird that would give their left wing for a bit of sunflower seed. Trying to explain this seems fruitless, but I am happy to compliment you on your preferred method of dealing with this conundrum.

You are far more interested in my delicious, imported, Icelandic yogurt called Skyr, or sampling a bite of my omelet or insisting on a sip of my freshly squeezed vegetable juice than sunflower seed.

You have developed a great technique, which you’ve modified from those times I have tried to get you to spit something out and you want to keep it: You stick it under your tongue so it is unseen even if I try to pry your beak open. I ask you to give the item to me, and you’d rather hold it your mouth and shake your head, as if saying, "Nope, mine!” Pliers couldn’t get something out of your mouth if you aren’t willing to give it up.

You do the same with the sunflower seed. You politely accept it from the admiring human, and hold it under your tongue until the person isn’t paying attention, looking like butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth. Once your admirer’s back is turned, it’s, "Pih-tooey!” and it flies out of your beak like you were spitting tobacco juice in a coffee can.

The first time I saw you accomplish this, I couldn’t stop laughing. A subtle move, yet charming in its technique and timing. It is correct, polite, and it doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

Your way of handling this is undoubtedly masterful, and I am simply stunned at your sensitivity toward these people who bring you these appreciated, yet undesired, gifts.

Observing you pull this off is a remarkable bit of "sleight of beak.” Penn and Teller couldn’t do better, and it inspired me to solve the problem. I always have almond bits available should someone want to reward you with a snack. Occasionally, I’ll allow you to accept a sunflower seed just to watch you perform this maneuver. Parker you can be a real terror, but it’s moments like these that make me delighted that you’re in my life.

— Management 

Previous Memo: Food Beard

Read more memos here.


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Posted: April 10, 2014, 1:15 p.m. PDT

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