The glass is half full

By David Dickson

Talkative parrots can be a riot when it comes to the vocabulary words and sound effects they decide to use. Some of them will burp, sing songs or even toss around swear words with reckless abandon. They tend to zero in on phrases and noises that bring them the most attention.

With that framework in mind, Nicole, a new African gray parrot at Best Friends, has an ace in the hole in terms of getting noticed. One of her favorite routines is to call out, "Bombs away!" and then follow it with a high- to low-pitch screeching sound of a descending missile.

Yeah, she manages to turn a few heads with that one.

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Jacque and Casey

Nicole is one of six new parrots at the Sanctuary. These six came from three different homes in the span of a month or so. There’s something quite special about this group. Though they range in age from 20 to 30 years, they’ve never lived in more than one home before. To have only had one home at their age is pretty incredible. Most parrots who come to the Sanctuary at their ages have already had several homes.

The most apparent thing that sets this group apart is how friendly they were toward people right from the get-go. You see, they’ve only ever known positive experiences with humans. Contrast that with a bird who has been tossed around from home to home for a couple decades, often ignored along the way.

"These birds expect good things to happen," explains parrot manager Jacque Johnson. "People mean good things to them." It often takes a fair amount of time for the talented caregivers at Best Friends to win over a bird’s trust. Not so with these six. Here’s a quick rundown of the new arrivals.

Nicole, the bomb-dropping African gray, has an impressive 200-word vocabulary that she’s not afraid to use. She’s happy to pull more of the spotlight in her direction any way possible. More impressive than her vocabulary is how much she enjoys and trusts the people in her life.

Casey, a blue-and-gold macaw, is another bird who likes to use sound effects to get noticed. He has one trick in particular he hopes might go over well with the many cat lovers out there. Walk up to Casey and say, "Here, kitty kitty," and he responds with a perfect meow! Hey, he’s no dummy. He knows how many people adopt cats. Why not aim for the best of both worlds?

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Lucy

Lucy, a military macaw, loves music. Play or sing a lively tune, and she’ll start bobbing and dancing along. You can tell she knows how to have fun!

Bobo, another African gray, has a feather-picking habit. Feather picking can be a tough nut to crack because there are so many different reasons a bird may develop this behavior. At Best Friends, though, the caregivers have a number of tricks up their sleeve to help, and they plan to try every last one of them to help Bobo.

Ashton (lead image), another blue-and-gold macaw, is something of an escape artist. You might be surprised how capable parrots can become at puzzling out latches, gates and whatnot. Some parrots have even been known to unscrew doors and other cage mechanisms from the inside out. Ashton keeps his caregivers hopping with the Houdini antics. At the same time, he’s so loveable you can hardly stay mad at the guy! One of his favorite games is to play peekaboo with his head under a wash cloth.

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Taz

And that brings us to the last of the six. Taz, a severe macaw, is friendly, so long as you’re a woman. Some parrots are funny that way. They’ll pick one gender over another. In the family Taz came from, he spent 30 years avoiding the husband in the home, but he enjoys the company of women just fine. Another interesting detail about him is that Taz came to Best Friends in the first place after another severe macaw was adopted. Everett, the other bird, also didn’t like men. The way Taz sees it, he’s simply carrying the torch now.

Though these six birds came to Best Friends from varying backgrounds, they all have one important thing in common: They’ve each been lucky enough to get an incredible headstart in life. The obvious problem for pets who can live a human lifespan is the tendency to outlive their families. These birds are, at most, middle-aged.

Nicole, Lucy, Bobo and Ashton have already found their forever homes, while Taz and Casey are still available. With birds this friendly, it doesn’t take long to catch someone’s eye. Which is a good thing too - Jacqueline has a few more super friendly birds headed to the Sanctuary shortly. "When their people get too old to care for them, they need a place to go." For the lucky ones, when space permits, they get the expert care that the Parrot Garden has to offer on their way to their next forever home.

Come what may, however, these six will have a home at Best Friends as long as they need one, or if they ever need to come back again in another 20 years. (All adopted Best Friends animals return to the Sanctuary if they ever lose their adopted homes.)

"They’re all very sweet," adds Jacque.

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Resources!

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Photographs by Gary Kalpakoff and Molly Wald