Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Humanity is for the birds...

I  usually try not to read too much into our pets when they do something which mimics human behaviour. That's known as anthropomorphism - mis-attributing human characteristics to animals or even to non-living things. It can hurt our animal friends when we come to expect them to "think" like us.

This was too much to ignore, though. It was very funny and a little bit scary at the same time.

Congo African Gray 
Used with permission (^)

I couldn't sleep last night, so I stayed up late and ended up watching an episode of a documentary series called Life After People^ on Netflix^. The series is about what the world would look like if humanity ceased to exist. How long it'll take for roads to disappear; how long it will take for animal populations to normalize, how buildings will crumble and fall, etc. All very interesting in a creepy sort of way.

Amazonian parrot

One of the people interviewed said that even 100 years after humanity disappeared, the world would still have spoken language thanks to parrots which had been taught to speak. Parrots live a very long time and can pass on learned behaviour (like speech) to other parrots. Showing footage of parrots in flight, the voice-over said that since parrots don't have an evolutionary use for human language, it would eventually disappear.

 Blue and Gold Macaw

My bird had started watching from her perch across the room as soon as the parrots first popped onto the screen. Polly is smart enough to recognize other birds and has preferences when it comes to whatever might be on the screen. She's comically self-centered and her knack for observation has allowed her to figure out how to get attention by exploiting things she's seen. She drives the dog nuts by duplicating the sound of the doorbell and meows whenever the cat walks by. She can mimic Dan's sneeze precisely.


So it came as only a tiny bit of a shock to hear her laughing manically as soon as the documentary voice-over announced that parrots would be around to speak long after humans are gone.

Apparenty, Polly is really looking forward to the end of human-kind.

 Macaw, possibly a Catalina

Let me take a moment to say that none of these birds are my bird. I'm posting pictures of these pretty birds because my bird doesn't like it when you stick a camera in her face and we don't antagonize her needlessly.

My parrot was rescued when her previous owners, who loved her dearly, could no longer keep her. She'd started mutilating and had plucked nearly all of her feathers out due to stress and boredom - her previous owner's lives had changed and they no longer had time for her. She looked like a raw, plucked chicken when we got her, but she looks fine now. It has taken us years and a lot of work to persuade her to stop mutilating herself.

She's still moody, grumpy, and bitey, though. She makes a point of trying to bite anyone who gets too close to her, and her bite causes a lot of damage when she's successful. Some parrots have the strength to break through broom sticks - think of what they could do to a finger.Think of what they could do to a child's hand.

I wanted to add this last bit of information for two reasons:

1. Parrots are a life-long commitment, and that commitment should never be made lightly. The lifespan of some parrots can equal or exceed those of a human.They require a tremendous amount of attention, much like a child. But unlike a child, parrots never outgrow their need for attention.

2. If you're reading this, have educated yourself about parrots, and are considering parrot ownership, please, pretty please, consider adopting a parrot who needs rescuing. They aren't hard to find; Craigslist (^), local shelters, and AvianWeb Adoption resources (^) and good places to start. None of us want to contribute to the serious problem of over-breeding when there are so many parrots who already need "forever homes".Needless to say, never adopt a wild parrot. Many parrots which commonly exist in captivity teeter on the brink of extinction in the wild. The Hyacinth Macaw is one of those:

Hyacinth Macaw
used with permission (^)

It would be terrible if this beautiful bird  existed only in captivity. 

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