Therese Park

His Majesty, the Bird

Once I had compassion for all caged birds. I even considered their owners a heartless bunch. But since I became a bird owner myself last fall, I see things differently. Now I am more compassionate toward bird owners than those noisy, obnoxious critters who have nothing but bundles of feathers.
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 cheeriors, crackers, grapes, and mango, anything that people eat as though he had been a human in his previous life.
He has some annoying habits: He doesn’t like to use his own feet when he wants to walk around the house but prefers riding on my shoulder. I didn’t mind it at first, but after his claws dug into my skin and 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, anything he could lay his beak on.
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. He played it over and over, making interesting melodies--biting all eight keys and poking the gaps between them. No musical instrument can stand such abuse, and sure enough, in less than a week, the keyboard gave out its last sound.
His Majesty screeched so much afterwards that I made another trip to Wal-Mart and bought 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 I could tell that 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 your 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 neat housekeeper. He has a playhouse on top of his cage, in which 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.
When he has nothing else to do, he watches TV. One 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, 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.

The Kansas City Star
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