Visit 3 – the dark side

During the 20 minutes I was interacting with Olive through the bars of his cage, there was another middle aged guy (now I’m middle-aged again, that’s been gone for kind of a while – parrots make me feel young).  This guy had just been part of the educational workshop upstairs.  He seemed very interested in Oliver and had lots of questions.  He paid very little attention to the five or so other birds in the room, mostly just looking over my shoulder at Oliver.  “That’s my bird!”  I didn’t actually say the words, but they popped up so loud in my head that he might have heard them.  The primal quality of my territorial reaction startled me.
Oliver in cage - 12-15

Then Nicole came in with adoption information for him and me. “I don’t have the actual application form – you’ll have to print that out from the web site.” I heard him say, “If I get the application to you on Tuesday…”  My mind started to race: “Bastard!  He’s going to steal my bird out from under me.  I’m going to print out and complete the application tonight and bring it back tomorrow.  Never mind the one-hour round trip.  No mind all my other plans that already added up to a full Sunday.  Somebody will be here -somebody’s got to feed the birds.”  Then he left.

I tried hard to be nonchalant, chatting with Nicole – I’m sure I didn’t pull it off.  “So it sounds like he’s decided on a bird.”  “Yeah.”  “What, uhh, bird is it?”  I was sure that Nicole was going to say, “Oliver – I’m sorry.”  “Moses – he’s in a placement that isn’t working out.  The woman needs to give him back.  Fred and I went out last week to meet Moses and Fred is sure that’s the bird for him.”

Have you ever felt absolutely sure of something, something disturbing, and then suddenly found out that you had totally been making up a story – and a story that tormented you?  It can be very disorienting.  That’s what happened to me.  It took me a few minutes to get it back together.  What helped me do that was that I blurted out to Nicole exactly what had just happened, we together had a good laugh at human folly – then she told me an almost identical story about herself – and also picking out a bird!  It was very freeing.


“Who’s the best bird?” Visit 3 – 12/15

“Oliver is – that’s right, yes you are. You’re the very best bird.”  I may have used these exact words today with Oliver, who clearly is the best bird in the whole world.  I went to Phoenix Landing today intending to tell Nicole and Ann about my desire to foster Oliver. Here are some great things he did today.

  • After the two hour workshop on Parrot Behavior (“Why did my parrot do that?”) – which was really very good –
    Bethany and Kiwi
    Interesting, informative workshop, pretty bird, pretty girl – overall a pretty good investment of two hours.

    Nicole, Oliver’s caretaker and my host, said “I gotta take care of one thing, then I’ll be down.  You could visit for a while with him still in his cage.” No way did I want to do anything else.  In the 20 minutes that Oliver and I visited before Nicole came down, he did some cool things.

    Oliver in cage - 12-15
    “Birdie wants out!” Oliver is still too shy with me to talk – which they say he does a lot – but I’m sure this is what he would say :).
    • He ignited right away at the sight of me.  He clearly remembered me and was excited to see me.  He paced back and forth in front of me, looked intently at me, put his beak right up against the bars – trying to get to me, it seemed.  (The Phoenix Landing staff keep warning us in these seminars not to project our feelings or reactions on these birds, not to assume we know what they are thinking/feeling or why they do something – to be a good little researcher and keep coming back to the behavior.  But, staying humble around we don’t really know, there still is some value in speculating – if only to remember that there are always reasons for any problematic behaviors, and usually reasons that involve something we did.
    • He kept looking at me very intently.
    • He did a behavior that my friend Bob said was usually a sign of them being interested in you: fluffing up their feathers.  He did that a lot.
    • It pretty obviously was stressful to him to not be able to get out of the cage when he wanted to come see me, but in his frustration he did a couple of interesting things.  He only “screamed” (apparently a bird behavior technical term) twice – and for these reasons (I think):
      • The first time – after interacting with Oliver a lot for maybe five minutes – I had moved 20 feet away from the cage to have a conversation with another guy.  “Hey, what are you doing over there?  Come back over here by me!”  (What do I know? But I think that’s how it went down.)
      • The second time, I was standing right in front of him – with my nose buried in a bird magazine article about eclectus parrots (him). “Hey dummy, what are you doing reading an article about me when you have the real thing standing right here!?”  He wanted my complete attention – I think.
    • He spent a lot of time on my shoulder.

      Oliver on my shoulder 12-15 closeup
      Even having just been with Oliver, I find this photo breathtaking.  He is so beautiful!
    • He engaged in some of the same flattering but problematic mating behaviors as at Visit 2.  Problematic – to be interrupted or there can be very difficult consequences (see tomorrow’s post) – but still very definitely moving towards me.

So many people told me they wanted to hear how this visit went – and wanted photos! – so I am putting this post up sooner rather than later.  There actually were some other more challenging aspects to my 4-hour visit to Phoenix Landing, but I’ll save them for tomorrow’s post.


“Tomorrow” (to the tune of West Side Story)

Tomorrow – Saturday, December 15th – is only a day away!  Tomorrow I go to my second two-hour workshop on parrots at Phoenix Landing Parrot Rescue!  This in itself is exciting, but after the workshop I see Oliver for all of the third time in five weeks – and the first time lasted 3 minutes!  (The second time was two hours.)  Could it be possible that I love him already?  I think that for me it was love at first sight.  I don’t know what’s going on in that beady little mind of his.

Where did I learn that expression?  Where did I learn to think of birds that way?  “Birdbrain”: annoyingly shallow or stupid person”.  Here’s one artist’s rendering: birdbrain

I’ve got a lot of unlearning to do.  Maybe that’s part of why Life brought the two of us together.

What if I were to learn to see birds as truly intelligent?  What if I came to view them as in some real way our equal?  What if I believed that the only real limits on Oliver’s intelligence are limits I dream up in my mind – or ways I’m too lazy to exercise and stretch his mind?  What of there were no limits on our relationship: in our mutual respect, mutual trust, mutual challenge?

So what will happen tomorrow?  Any of this?  Will he even remember me?

I decided yesterday morning – “decided”? – no, it just became obvious to me that it was true…that I’m ready to “foster” Oliver.  (With the Phoenix Landing sanctuary, fostering is always the first step towards adoption.)  After five weeks of dithering around: “I don’t know why I’m not ready to foster, but I’m not – even though I know he’s the bird for me, and I’m his person.”

Linda McLean with female on head
Linda and a female eclectus in Australia – where, with the Solomon Islands, they come from.  There were huge flocks flying free – and one female who decided she liked Linda.

In a Facebook conversation on this topic, Linda McLean said “Go ahead, take your time – I think Oliver has already made up his mind.”  Linda is pretty savvy about parrots – maybe he has.


I have listed in a couple of places what this blog is about:

“It’s a story of aging and retirement, parenthood, adoption, birds, parrots, animals, the kinship of all life and following our inner light no matter what crazy direction that leads us.”

I left something out: love.  Interspecies love.  Love between man and bird.  A kind of love about which we know very little – which I heretofore did not know existed.  Are birds capable of love?  I did not know.

We know about love between person and dog, though we are still continuing to learn.  See this about the pitbull-human connection.  They are the most misunderstood dog breed.  bunnies

One writer (who i can’t trace back – do you know the quote?  Tell me the source) said “if you give a parrot everything they want, they will return it to you tenfold in love and devotion.”

Oliver, on our first real visit, perched himself on my shoulder and started to give my ear little nibbles – unbelievably gentle for such a big, hard beak…how is it even possible for him to do this?  So tender – I’m making it up that this is tenderness, but what else?  Is it not affection?  A little precursor to love…a form of love?

camo kiss

I’m starting to get some clues to what has been so mysterious to me in my quest for a parrot.  Is it not the burgeoning of love – for reasons I don’t understand?  Is this the reason that my heart has been opening to everyone connected with Oliver – Ann and Nicole and Jennifer?  Is this the reason I have been so preoccupied with Oliver, since our first mini-encounter (3 minutes) with each other?

This could maybe explain my oscillation between moving towards Oliver and then pulling back – my reticence about claiming that I intend to foster and then adopt him, even when it is as clear as the nose on my face. parrot head

I’m afraid to love!  I know this.  I’ve known this for a long time.  Love makes me happier than anything else.  Opening my heart is what I want more than anything else in life – and it scares the shit out of me.

This realization may make my ongoing process of getting to know Oliver clearer, maybe easier…as I craft my questions for Visit 3 – and then have that visit, in three days – as I go through this whole courtship.

As I write here for you, keeping this in mind may cause the whole process I’m going through to come into clearer focus.  I’m falling in love – and just maybe Oliver is too.

Visit 3 (December 15) Questions

  1. Can I take a bunch of photos? (I’m writing a blog here, people!)
  2. Can I get a phone number, so I can reach y’all more directly than the current email?
  3. Are the roads out there in the country too icy?  (“Yes, don’t come today – visit Oliver after the workshop on Saturday.”  That’s four more days – OK, I can do it.)
  4. When is the toy making day?  (cheap parrot toys!)toys
  5. How will I know if Oliver has chosen me?
  6. How will I know when I am ready to foster Oliver (always, at this adoption center, the first step before adoption)?
  7. What’s holding me back?UNCERTAINTY road sign isolated on white
  8. Now that I am writing all this, am I going to slow the whole process down to make it a good story :)?
  9. What’s involved in them approving my request to foster Oliver, when I make that request?
  10. Will I need to get a “play stand”?  play stand(Nicole has indicated that the center would “probably” provide a cage.)  Just how expensive is this going to be?
  11. Is adopting a parrot even financially feasible for someone on a limited budget?
  12. Oliver looks really solid, really hardy compared to some of the fluffier parrots.  Are eclectus parrots especially healthy? (less likely to get sick or need a lot of expensive vet attention)  For what can I use my regular vet – who I love and who “sees birds”, but is not an “avian vet”?

    What helps a parrot stay healthy?

Visit 2 (December 4) – How it went

At roughly two hours, this was my first significant visit with Oliver – escorted by Nicole, the vet-tech caretaker.  Oliver is very bonded to her.  He started by letting out several “screams”: happy to see her and the onset of feeding time? disturbed by the presence of a new person?  This behavior repeated only 3-4 times in the last 90 minutes of the visit.

Nicole warned me that he is kind of a bully with other birds – and I did see that behavior when he and another parrot were released from their cages and Oliver flew over to him.  Not attacking but nudging – pushing the other bird around.

aggression 6.jpg
This is more aggressive than I saw Oliver be with another bird.  He more literally pushed the bird around.

I non-intrusively offered my hand for Oliver to step up on.  Nicole said that’s not desirable because he might try to masturbate on my hand – a no-no.  Sure enough, later – when Oliver was up on my shoulder, I stretched out my arm for him to climb down and he went right to my hand and started to rub himself on it.  We needed to “re-direct” – to offer him the half-hula hoop to climb up on (no negative reinforcement here – not even the word “No”).

Early in the session, when Oliver was on Nicole’s shoulder (not yet coming to me), she pointed out to me his chewing behavior.  “He’s regurging – regurgitating his food to feed it to his mate – that’s what they do.”  Ooh, makes me feel all romantic just thinking about it. “We’ve got to redirect him.”  Late on, when he had decided he liked me, he did this several times with me.  regurg

Oliver spent a lot of time on my shoulder, which both of us liked a lot.  He gave the tenderest nibbles, with his big beak, on the back of my ear – very sweet.  When it was time for me to leave, he didn’t want to come down off my shoulder.  Nicole said this was a common challenge.  She got him down for me, but I obviously am going to have to get good at doing it for myself.


  1. We’re sure over the hump – oops, Freudian slip.  The mating behavior is problematic, but Oliver has definitely decided that I’m a good guy.
  2. Although I relaxed more as the visit went on, needing to be so vigilant about mating behaviors kept me off balance.
  3. When Oliver would flap his wide wings to fly onto my shoulder, brushing them against my face, this was very impressive and would also set me on edge.  Was he “flying at me”, which Nicole said he had aggressively done with the husband at the last home?  Answer: no, not aggressive – just making his way to my shoulder.
  4. I have been pre-occupied with him ever since.  I did get one photo of him sitting on his cage, which I have not managed to download on to this blog site.  I did download it to Facebook and now have a lot of my friends cheering me on.