Twelve years ago on Valentine’s Day, a little green parrot with a blue head and bright eyes emerged from his shell into the great, wide world. Three months later, an unsuspecting woman (me) wandered into a bird shop and walked out with him. The decibel level in my house has never been the same.
Louie is my blue crown conure and the most photogenic member of our family. He’s also the loudest, even compared with the bedlam that ensues when Lacy and Tanner, our dogs, announce the arrival of the UPS man, who probably thinks we’re crazy.
Polly wanna cracker!
Louie actually does like crackers, but they’re not his favorite food. Obviously he loves seeds (especially sunflower seeds and quinoa), and he’ll do anything for a sip of your orange juice. He also enjoys hard candies like peppermint sticks and spicy cinnamon bits, which make his foot sticky. In fact, Louie eats just about everything I eat, with the exception of chocolate and avocado, two things that are highly toxic to birds. (So if you take your parrot to a Mexican restaurant, don’t share your guacamole with him.)
I learned right away that Louie believes he should be invited to every meal. On his very first day as my bird, we had lunch together – well, that’s how it turned out, anyway. I was eating lentil soup at the breakfast bar when he marched over to my bowl, stepped on the rim, and dunked his beak into it! He’s been my daily lunch date ever since.
It’s fun to watch him eat, especially long, stick-shaped foods like green beans or fries. He’ll grasp it in his foot like a little sword, alternating between nibbling on one end and waving it around to tantalize the poor dogs, who can be found eagerly hanging around under his perch, waiting for him to drop it. Birds are very messy eaters.
Some of Louie’s tastes are a bit gruesome. Here he is with Lacy and Mia, lining up for a bite of hardboiled egg.
Even more unsettling is his outright cannibalism.
This bright, inquisitive creature is absolutely fearless at unexpected times – he once charged down the hall to bite Mia the cat on her toe. Mia, it should be reported, was so surprised by the assault that she dashed under the bed. I guess having that can opener for a mouth instills a lot of bravery in Louie! But he also has his phobias. It frightens him terribly if I’m wearing a hat or gloves, and he flips out when he sees the stepladder. He often becomes upset if he finds something unfamiliar in his cage, so I have to introduce new items gradually.
However, there was a recent incident when I had to make a sudden, unauthorized change to his cage decor. I was cleaning it one afternoon and realized I’d run out of newspaper to line the bottom, so I substituted some colorful gift tissue, which was the only thing I had. Here’s what happened:
Louie’s toy box
Louie doesn’t like standard bird toys. No birdie swings and mirrors for him! I’ve read that parrots’ intelligence and emotional needs are similar to those of a three-year-old child; I can verify this is a good assessment. And that’s not all he has in common with toddlers. Louie chooses the same kind of toys. His favorites?
- Bottle caps: It’s a game for him to throw bottle caps from the top of his cage for us to toss them back. Sometimes Tanner finds them for us.
- Ropes: We discovered this purely by accident. Chewing is a natural behavior for birds, and Louie is a one-bird demolition crew! My brother-in-law built him a little wooden perch on a stand, which is his favorite place to hang out, but he literally destroys the ground he’s standing on when he chomps through all the wood! So my husband Ret started wrapping the base support with cotton rope as a barrier. Now Louie plays with the silky, fraying ends of his rope, preening the strands like it’s his girlfriend’s hair.
- Boxes: Louie loves boxes. Besides chewing them up, he likes to walk inside them and laugh, just to hear his echo. Sometimes he simply hangs out in his little box “house,” or plays peek-a-boo with me by hiding inside the box and popping out again. He’s a nut.
And anything can be a perch.
Kiss your parrot today
I love this little character. He’s seriously high maintenance, but he’s also full of personality. Parrots tend to bond with one person, and for Louie, it’s me – he’ll perch on my shoulder, whisper in my ear and preen my hair to show his affection. His sweet nothings are mostly parrot gibberish, but to me, he’s saying, “I love you,” something I haven’t been able to teach him to say in my language. (Otherwise, he has a pretty good vocabulary for a small parrot.)
Louie has been patiently waiting for me to wrap this up and play with him, so I’ll sign off for now. Kiss your parrot today, or if you don’t have a parrot, kiss someone else who talks too much, and say, “I love you.”
And if you’d like to read more about Louie, click here.