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His Majesty, the Bird
by Therese Park

 

Once I had compassion for all caged birds. I even considered their owners a heartless bunch. Since I became a bird owner myself last fall, I see things quite differently. Now, I am more compassionate toward bird owners than those noisy, obnoxious feathery critters.

My eight-month-old parrot's name is Sparky but I call him His Majesty, because he considers me his subject rather than his owner. His wings are clipped, but he has freedom. His cage is open 24 hours a day, and there's no curfew. He can stride in and out of his “castle” whenever he feels like it. He squeals powerfully, too. “Pirrrrit, pirrrrit, pirrrrit” until my ears hurt, ordering me to bring his food and water, change his cage, and demanding treats, which he feels he deserves. Unlike ordinary birds, His Majesty isn't satisfied with the store-bought feed, but likes everything we humans eat--Cheeriors, crackers, grapes, salad (no dressing, please), and mango, to mention a few.

He has some annoying habits: He tries to save his own feet when he wants to walk around the house, but likes to hitchhike, preferably on my shoulder. I didn't mind it at first, but after his claws dug into my skin and he stained my new blouse with you-know-what, I don't let him anymore. He likes to chew on things, too, my fingers or watchband or necklace.

One thing His Majesty can't stand is boredom. He likes to play with things that are thought-provoking and entertaining. Two or three times a week, I buy him a new toy. He particularly loved a palm-size electronic keyboard I had bought for him at Wal-Mart, but he broke it. It had eight white keys and five black ones and he played it over and over, making interesting melodies--biting every key and poking the gaps between them. No musical instrument can stand such abuse, as you know, and sure enough, in less than a week, the keyboard gave out its last sound that still rings in my ear.

Afterwards, His Majesty screeched so loudly that I made another trip to Wal-Mart and brought him a toy cellular-phone that rings and chirps like a real one. His Majesty was enthralled with it, turning it on and off, on and off, for hours, but he didn't like it as much as he did the keyboard, for its mechanism was too simple to operate. He tossed into his water bowl on the same day I brought it home.

From his caretaker's point of view, Majesty is a messy eater. You'd be amazed how fast he can shuck a sunflower seed without even using his claws. Shelling a peanut is no problem, either. Holding it with one foot (or hand), he bites the shell off piece by piece until the floor is covered with bits of peanut shell.

By contrast, he is a picky housekeeper. He has a playhouse on top of his cage where he plays hide-and-seek alone. Anything I put into it, toy or food, he throws out. Keep it neat and clean, is his order.

Over all, he and I have something in common. Like me, he watches TV when he has nothing else to do. Just the other day I found him watching a circus, hanging upside down from his wire-cage door and swinging back and forth, imitating the performers on the screen. He likes nature shows, too, especially the ones about birds. Chattering and babbling something I can't understand, he tries to communicate with his kind on the screen.

Sometimes I wish he wouldn't squeal so much and make less mess, but he challenges me to think and see the world from a bird point of view. I think I'll keep His Majesty.

 

February 8 , 2005