Two weeks ago, our beloved Quaker parrot Calypso flew over the Rainbow Bridge.  

Our precious Calypso….aka Fuzzy, Satan, Jerkface…

He was the smartest, meanest, funniest, nastiest, most spiteful parrot I ever knew.  And I adored him.  Dearly.  

It’s taken this long for me to talk about it.  Or write about it.  Without tears streaming down my face. 

Nope. I’m still crying.

I am shattered. He has been a huge part of our lives for 22 years.  We adopted him as a baby for my daughter when she was eleven.  The two were inseparable.  She weaned him and taught him so many things.  I know he inspired her career as a zoologist and a lifelong love of birds.  

His vocabulary was extensive, and he used words in context. At six weeks he asked, “What doin’?” and I would answer him.   He said, “Hola” or “Hi” to greet us, “Bye-Bye” when we left, and blew us kisses and played “Peek-A-Boo” every day.  

As the garage door opened, he’d chirp at our return.  

He called me a “Fat Little Chicken.”  When I told him to speak for himself, he’d say, “I’m a Cute Little Leprechaun!”  

He yelled, “Let Me Out!” when I closed him in his cage, and “Night Night” at bedtime when I covered him for sleep.  

He would switch from cuddly and loving to biting your face off in a nanosecond.  But when you were sad, he would say, “Awww!” and reach for your cheek and wipe your tears.  He would sell his soul for yellow squash or whipped cream. He loudly expressed his displeasure with any change to his routine. But he’d also purr like a kitten when wrapped in a blanket, letting you scratch the pin feathers on his neck.  

He loved running through all the animal sounds:

“Turkeys say Gobble Gobble Gobble.  Chickens say Buck Buck Buck BaBUCK!  Ducks say Quack Quack Quack.  Roosters say Cock-a-doodle Doooo!  Puppy Dogs say Grrr Ruff Ruff.  Kitty Cats say Me-owww!”  

My mother taught him the songs “Mares Eat Oats,” “A Bushel and a Peck,” and “You are My Sunshine.”  Mom’s been gone for twenty years, but every time he’d sing those songs I’d smile thinking of her.   

He had his own style of This Little Piggy:   “…this little piggy had BIRD SEED!  But this little piggy had NONE. NONE!!!  But THIS big fat green piggy cried WEE WEE WEE WEE WEE!  All the way home!”  

And he sang his version of the theme song from Cops—“Bad birds, bad birds, watcha gonna do?”  

The past two years I’ve watched him slow down.  He slept a lot during the day, and his feisty personality had mellowed.  He survived a stroke five years ago, and his health (and diet!) had improved much since then.  Seeing him age, I’ve known in my heart this day was coming. But I just cannot accept it now that it’s here.  

I will miss him forever.  I’ll never hear that wonderful voice of his again.  There is an empty space where his cage once was, and looking there hurts me to my bones.   I’m in a fog of pain, and I know this wound will take a long time to scab over.  

They’ll be no more “Ooo, yum yum!” when I give him a treat.

They’ll be no more “Awwww” when he knows we are sad.

They’ll be no more “Thank you!”s when we give him a kiss.

They’ll be no more “Ow ow ow!” when I stub my toe.

They’ll be no more “Go go go!” when I’m watching football.

They’ll be no more “Ah Choo! God Bless You!” when I sneeze.

They’ll be no more “Scary!!” when the Halloween decorations go up.

No more maniacal laughter when we’re happy.

No more yellow squash flung against the walls.

No more screeching when I put my shoes on, knowing I was leaving and he had to go in his cage.

No more alarm calls at tin foil and saran wrap.

No more griping when I move the furniture or dust the blinds.

No more squawks when I come home, reminding me to open his cage.

No more complaining that we’re keeping him up past his bedtime.

No more hysterics when he sees the ironing board.

No more smoochy kisses when he hears me get up in the morning.

Even with two other parrots in our flock, there is a deafening silence in the house.   I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

Fly free, my cantankerous, ferocious, brilliant, beloved Calypso.   

You’ve taken a chunk of my heart with you. 

So You Want To Get A Parrot

Reilly and Orchids

Yellow Nape Amazon

So you want to get a parrot. You saw one at the zoo, pet store, on YouTube, whatever.  It talked and danced and made you laugh.  It was adorable!

Okay.  I get it.  You want a parrot.  But before you plunge right in and bring one home, consider these handy tips to see if you’re ready.

Take out a twenty-dollar bill. Shred it with a scissors.  Repeat with a new bill once a week for 6 months.  If this doesn’t bother you, you may be ready.  Parrot toys average that price and last about a week.  Parrots need lots of toys.  Lots. Of. Toys.

Next, invest in an antique cherry Chippendale side chair.  Every couple weeks, take a hacksaw and slice a few chunks out of its legs.  If you like that “distressed” furniture style, you might be ready.

Now grab a screwdriver and get on your hands and knees.  Crawl along the perimeter of the room the parrot will call home.  Gouge large areas of the baseboards at various intervals. This will approximate how the woodwork will look after your parrot gets loose and explores.


Golden Conure

Still interested?  You just have to have a parrot?  Because they dance and sing and say funny things? Fine.  Withdraw a thousand dollars or whatever the bird costs.  Set it aside.  Flip a coin.  Heads?—You win! Your parrot can talk.  Burn the thousand dollars.  Tails?—You lose! Your parrot doesn’t talk.  Burn the money anyway.  Not all parrots talk.  There are no guarantees.  Love the bird, not the ability.  If you only want something to talk to you, buy a different kind of Amazon—an Alexa Echo will suffice.  It will save you money in the long run and spare the poor parrot the neglect inflicted by a disappointed owner.

So you still want a parrot?  Great!  Go buy a bag of quality parrot pelleted food.  Grab a handful and stand where you plan to place the cage.  Toss pellets all over the floor.  Then spend time cutting up pieces of fresh apple, grapes, squash, banana, carrot, etc.  Fling food, especially the soft squishy bits, on the wall.  Allow it to dry and harden.  Scrub off without removing the paint while keeping your language fit for young children to hear.  Remember, parrots can mimic—usually what you don’t want them to say.

Calypso with orchids

Quaker Parrot

If considering a small parrot, place your finger on the kitchen counter.  Using a sharp object of your choice—the open end of a paperclip works—jab yourself hard enough to draw blood, simulating a minor bite.  Do not cry out; do not swear.  Birds love a strong reaction and will repeat the behavior if they like your animated response.

If you want a larger parrot, complete the step above.  Then place your bleeding finger into a vice.  Squeeze until your eyes water.  Do not cry out; do not swear.  Remain calm and remove your finger from the vice.  Admonish yourself for not understanding the vice’s feelings, and resolve to better learn how to read the vice’s mood.

Now if you want a cockatoo, especially a Moluccan Cockatoo, stop reading this and go smack yourself in the head.  Still interested?  Then you’ll need to ramp it up to Level 5 Prep. Drive to your nearest international airport.  Park nearby, and sit underneath the runway flight path.  And no cheating—you can’t wear earplugs.  When the 747s approach, enjoy the sound when they descend to a thousand feet.  A Moluccan Cockatoo’s scream is only about ten decibels less.  If you can stand this daily for hours on end, you may be ready.  But don’t say you weren’t warned.

Binky Bird Moluccan Cockatoo

Moluccan Cockatoo

So you still think you want a parrot?  All right. You’ll need help for this one. Ask a small child to sit where the cage will be.  Now take out random things—the ironing board, a yardstick, a balloon, aluminum foil or saran wrap—whatever.  Each time you hold a new item up, the young child must flap his arms and shriek at the top of his lungs.  Most parrots are flock animals.  They scream to alert others of danger.  And that ironing board looks like a mortal predator.

Sound like fun?  Are you all in now?  I didn’t think so.  Maybe it’s time to visit that dog or cat rescue.

But if you really are in—if you truly still want a parrot—if you are willing to share your life with a feathered companion, possibly for the rest of your life and then provide for it in your will—then consider carefully what kind of home you can offer one of these brilliant creatures.  Find the right bird for your lifestyle.  If you choose to buy, purchase one from a reputable dealer.  Better yet, rescue a poor soul that has been abandoned at a shelter by someone who didn’t quite think it through or sadly became too ill to care for his friend.

Birds have been my lifelong dear companions.  I’m the first person to admit how much they have enriched my days.  I hope I’ve enriched theirs.  But I’ve seen the other side–the abandoned, neglected, wretched souls who’ve lost all hope and now self mutilate for lack of care.  No bird should suffer this just because someone thought it was cute and purchased the creature on a whim.

You think you want a parrot? If you truly are willing to provide a quality diet, safe enclosure, toys and enrichment, avian veterinary care, a lifelong commitment, and lots of love, you are ready.  Good.  I hope so. Because I know that out there is a parrot who wants you.

Hyacinth Perus

Hyacinth Macaw