I was at my place of employment last week when some customers came through pushing their greater sulphur crested cockatoo in one of those cool bird strollers. I dropped everything I was supposed to be doing and went over to greet them. The owners could barely get a word in as their bird gave me a detailed description of his day, his family’s day and the whole history of the universe starting with the big bang. The chattiest bird I have ever met.
As I walked back to my work, I overheard a customer say: “That’s the most ridiculous contraption I have ever seen. Can you imagine spending money on something so frivolous in this economy??” I quietly said: “But the bird was so happy to be out and about.” The customer shot back with: “That’s my point! IT’S A BIRD!”
I could feel the eyes of my co-workers on me as they waited for me to launch into a lecture about bird’s rights. I did not. I never once pointed out the error in her thinking as she bought a $450 gown to wear to the Captain’s ball on her upcoming cruise; a necessity in these hard times, I’m sure. But, the customer is always right. Even when they’re wrong.
I share a wonderful relationship with my co-workers. They accept me for who I am and simply regard my thing for birds as an eccentricity. In return for letting me be me, I don’t bore them with bird related conversation. When I am asked why I love parrot so much, I have learned to keep my answers short: “They’re beautiful.” “They’re funny.” “They’re smart.” Anything more than that results in glazed-over eyes and a polite “Excuse me. I think I hear someone calling me.”
If I were able to hold the average Joe’s attention for long enough to give the real reason that I love parrots, I would probably find myself at a loss for words. What DOES make a bird person tick? Why do we put up with the noise, the mess and the expense? Why do we struggle to find the answers to the myriad of problems we face? Why do we care so deeply?
For me, it’s the personal and spiritual growth I have experienced in the company of birds. Even as I sit here in front of a computer, in an air conditioned house, they make me feel in touch with nature. I think the thing which strikes me most deeply is the ongoing battle to communicate. The idea that two completely different species of beings would expend so much effort trying to find the means to express themselves is deeply touching to me. As life changes, so do the tasks in finding a meeting of the minds. Then one day, you look your bird in the eyes and know you both understand. There’s nothing like that feeling.
Running a close second is my need to obtain knowledge about them. I know I will never reach the point where I say to myself: “I have learned enough. I can be an exceptional bird owner knowing what I know now.” This is not good enough for me. I will always be searching to learn more and, fortunately, advances in science keep me well stocked with opportunities.
The noise? The mess? The expense? Whatever.These minor inconveniences are trivial in comparison to what I gain everyday because I am fortunate enough to share my life with parrots.
What drives your passion for birds?
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.