The Bird Bath

Naomi and I have had a love-affair with parrots since 1994 when we acquired Daisy, a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, and Gus, an African Grey. We've had budgies as well, but parrots are a lot more fun. Indeed, I think over the years, the parrots have been the pets that gave us the more entertainment. Back then we were living in a big old victorian terraced house in Bury with nice big rooms and had the space for two large macaw cages for them. I also built an aviary for them in our back garden, and they used to love being out there when it was warm, chatting with passsers-by (Daisy in particular). We had a couple of apple trees in large containers in our back garden as well, and the parrots loved clambering around them.

In 2005 we moved to a semi-detached house in Urmston, that didn't have nearly as much room and we had to downsize to one parrot. Gus stayed and Daisy went to a new home, but we have many fond memories of her and the two of them together. Gus is still with us after a couple of other moves over the last ten years. He's now a middle-aged 22 years old and still loves to potter around the front and back gardens when we're out there enjoying the sun (a comparatively rare event in Ayrshire: British Summer Time takes on a whole new meaning in Scotland, and normally takes place on a Tuesday in July!).


We bought Gus as a fledgling and at that your age he was incredibly affectionate. He would sit on my shoulder, gently nibbling at an ear lobe, grooming what was left of my hair and even fiddling around with my lips. Similarly he was very easy to handle as long as you didn't fiddle with his wings too much (He's was always sensitive about those after being rather savagely wing-clipped by a Vet when we first bought him).

He started beeping and whistling at a fairly early age and soon had quite an impressive repertoire of sounds. He soon graduated into speech as well and would delight us with an occasional concert at Rochdale Road if we were sat next door. He has a maestro's whistle, complete with tremelos, and learns tunes from Fur Elise to Coronation Street with ease.

At this time we still had Daisy, the sulphur-crested cockatoo, and the two of them had their cages in the same room so they could keep each other company when we weren't in there with them. We used to take the two of them literally everywhere: For walks in the local park, to Naomi's parents in Scotland, and down to my parents' house in London, onto the narrowboat Rambling Rose and to dog shows (Naomi was into competitive dog obedience at the time).

We even taught Gus some phrases specifically for dog shows, such as "Hey! You with the dog, COME HERE!" and "Woof Woof! I can bark, can you fly?" which he still repeats to this day (along with such classics as "Phooooawww, MINGER", "ZOOOOOEEEE" (Our second poodle, now dead, who used to get terribly confused and rush into the room thinking one of us was calling her), and Want a brew?.

Gus went through a period where he was quite aggressive and would happily nip at anything that came in range, but in recent years he's mellowed out again. He has his cage in a strategic position in our computer room, but it's also next to the hall so he can keep an eye on all the comings and goings in the house. From there he regails us with a constant stream of chatter and songs. He always comes up to the corner of his cage last thing at night to get a scritch on the top of his head from me. Parrots can live up to 50-60 years so we're looking forward to Gus being our companion for a long time yet.


We also bought Daisy as a fledgling. Like Gus, she was very tame back then, but a little more careless of what her beak was doing. She was better at flying than Gus and Naomi started teaching her to come to her from her perch, something Gus struggled to emulate because his wings were badly and unevenly clipped (by a vet, not us) and he tended to fly like a jumbo jet with no engines and only one wing!

Daisy learned to do tricks and Naomi would have her doing acrobatics around a wooden stick. She was, however, very LOUD! Daisy only had one volume (she was Australian, after all). She learned to say things, but in a fairly raucous manner. If we were watching TV next door of an evening, Naomi would eventually tell me to put the birds to bed, and I'd go in, say "Night Night", turn the lights off and shut the door. After a while, as soon as Naomi uttered the fateful words "Go and put the birds to bed", Daisy would shout "Night Night Daisy" :).

When we moved to Urmston, we realised before the move that we'd only have room for one parrot and so Daisy was sold to a pet shop. I miss her antics, but life is a tad more peaceful since.



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