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Welcomes, introductions, and explanations

Eva Sargent | May 14, 2008


Welcome to my first blog entry, wherein I explain how I got mixed up in this parrot business, and about the perplexing and somewhat intimidating alien who lives in my house now.  If you've read my bio, you've got the short version - long time conservationist, working for Defenders of Wildlife in Tucson, short time parrot owner (two weeks today).

When I was in college, I desperately wanted a parrot but slowed down just long enough to figure out that I was short on patience, commitment and resources.  Years later I was working at Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, in a tiny office with two screaming macaws posted permanently outside my door.  I not only didn't want a parrot, but figured that anyone who kept macaws was clearly insane. 

Then a couple of years ago I found myself in Mexico watching wild thick-billed parrots with Jamie Gilardi.  Defenders of Wildlife had teamed up with World Parrot Trust to support thick-billed research and conservation, and Jamie and I were at the Madera (Chihuahua) nest site, talking to the field team and looking at thick-bills.  I'll admit right here that I'm a closet bunny hugger- despite years in the zoo biz, and the respectable objective veneer that comes with a PhD, if there's a lemur to be hand fed or an elephant to be hosed or a tiger cub to take corny and potentially dangerous pictures with, I'm first in line, and will knock over little kids to get there.  A baby thick-billed parrot needed to be banded, and I was the woman for the job.  I held this little thick-bill, one of very few of its kind hatched that year, and all of a sudden I was in love with parrots again. This is obviously dangerous - I admired thick-bills in flight, I heard their laughing calls, and I was determined that they would someday return to their former haunts in Arizona and New Mexico - but hold one and smell its dusty sweetness and you start thinking crazy thoughts about having a parrot of your own.

So what's a thinking conservationist to do?  I knew I didn't want to support breeding more pet parrots, because so many ended up unwanted.  At every zoo where I'd worked, people called begging us to take their birds, because they screamed or bit or simply acted like parrots, rather than docile dogs or indifferent cats.  On the long drive back from Madera, Jamie told me about parrot rescue.  I found my local avian rescue organization the next week, took the required care class, and in short order I was in love with a Mexican red head named Clarita, who preened my hair and whispered in my ear.  A few days later she came to my house to meet my cat, a Bengal named Rocky. 

In class they said they'd adopted out over 500 parrots and never had a problem with a cat, but they can't say that any more.  Rocky was determined to have fresh parrot for lunch, and it was all I could do to hold off Rocky, stuff poor Clarita back in her carrier, and send her out the door.  My heart was broken, but not nearly so much as it was as six weeks ago, when the remarkable Rocky, a cat like no other, went off to his next incarnation.

So I was back in parrot class, a year and a half after my first try.  I went into the quarantine room with high hopes, but there was no whispering amazon of my dreams, just a biting mini macaw, a lovely but loud conure, a plucked cockatoo, and a blue and gold macaw with the testosterone-soaked name Turbo.  The rescue angel got Turbo out of his cage and he stepped onto my shoulder (I know, say what you will, but I walk with crutches so I don't usually have a free hand or arm for a perch).  He settled down, spoke softly in macaw, and after awhile rubbed his face on mine (You're still worrying about him next to my face, aren't you? Me too, but let's stick with the happy meeting here).  Boy, was I in trouble, because I knew my first ever bird was about to be a macaw. 

Since I've completely disregarded the bloggers' guideline to keep it short, I'll write about our adventures settling in next time.  He seems perfect, but isn't this the honeymoon period I read about?  I have given him a proper name: Pyewacket. 

Oh, one other point from the blog guidelines: these posting are my own, and don't in any way represent the views of World Parrot Trust.  Believe me, if this were written by WPT, it would be more scholarly, and twice as interesting!

Come back soon - Pyewacket and I are just getting started.