Shy Ernie – How One Bird Changed an Entire Household

or, How a Trip for Bird Seed Turned into a Parrot

I recently acquired a new parrot — he’s called a white-capped pionus. The author of Parrots for Dummies, Nikki Moustaki, has this to say about Pionus:

“The pionus isn’t the most popular parrot — it’s often outflashed, outcolored, outtalked, and outnumbered by many of the more commonly kept parrot species.”

I didn’t know anything (and I mean ANYTHING) about parrots. I have 6 finches which I bought myself for my birthday. They’re lovely and wonderful.

finches
The Finches in their new cage

One day I went to the local parrot rescue to see their price on finch food. I stepped into the back and was looking at a bright  blue Indian Ringneck (it’s a bird). I can’t explain what happened next.

Somehow Ernie, from behind me, got my attention. Now lest you think that was easy, there are at least 30 birds back there shrieking. If you have never heard parrots scream, go find some and listen; they’re ear-splitting! Among all that, quiet little Ernie spoke to me. I turned around. He sat there quivering, and looked at me sideways. Get me out of here.

I spoke to him a few minutes and left–but you know the rest. I kept going back, and being drawn to him. Everyone at the rescue said “He doesn’t like me!” yet when I picked him up, he went straight up to my shoulder and snuggled, giving a cackly little purr when I scratched his head. I filled out an application and ordered a cage.

parrot
Ernie, White Capped Pionus

My husband was, um. Less than ecstatic. I won’t even go into the ‘discussion’ we had. But I asked him just to go look. “Yeah, you can tell them to cancel the cage order,” he snorted.

Off we went.

But at the rescue, someone had let Ernie out of his cage. “He doesn’t like me!” both people present chorused. I picked him up and he snuggled up on my shoulder. My husband looked at them, at the parrot, back at me. “O-o-k-ay-y,” he said, getting the picture: Ernie had picked me.

parrot after bath
Ernie after a bath

We brought Ernie home. He is shy, afraid of everything. At 18, the only  owner he’d ever known went into a nursing home. He then went to the parrot rescue, and now a completely different household. Everything new is a monster, and his wings are clipped so to “escape” he flies to the floor where there really are monsters (two dogs and a cat).

He shakes and quakes. I’m simply letting him be, and twice a day giving him rides on my shoulder. We play piano (he sways, and occasionally quacks softly), watch tv, surf the Internet. I sing to him a lot. There was that one day when I took him out on the screened porch but he flew into the pool. I jumped in for a rescue; that will be our last time swimming!

Pionus aren’t the wonderful talkers some other parrots are. They have low, rumbly voices that only a mother can understand. He will occasionally say “Good morning, Ernie,” and once he said “NO NO NO.” One day I mumbled to myself, “oh, goodness,” and I can’t promise he said it, but the inflection and the right syllables were there. Mostly he is silent.

I’m learning everything I can as fast as I can about parrots. We’ve bought as many toys and equipment as any parents of a first newborn child. I’m cooking for him, which makes for conversations like this:

Me: Are you hungry?

Husband: Yes! And what you were cooking smelled wonderful, what is that?

Me: That’s for the birds. You can have a sandwich.
Ernie is exploring foods he apparently has never eaten. He likes it steamed or cooked; he likes orange food; he flings cauliflower.

I’m crazy about him. Totally, unequivocally nuts over this silent creature that I don’t understand.

Stay tuned.

 

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