At the aviary

This is Opie, the latest addition to our flock (which includes also Reggie, our Jardine parrot). Opie is a Cape parrot, or technically and more exactly a Poicephalus robustus suahelicus . The word Poicephalus comes from two Greek words meaning different head , since all the members of this genus have heads of a different color than the main body. The word robustus is Latin for "large" (more like "stout", although I do not think Capes are stout at all!), while suahelicus is the name of the subspecies, one of three. Capes are rare parrots in captivity as well as in the wild. They originate from Eastern Africa, where unfortunately they are becoming an endangered species due to illegal trades and destruction of their ecosystem.

Opie hatched on September 12, 2000 at a breeder facility in Texas, where he spent the first year of his life with other birds and little contact with humans. He really needed a home, so we adopted him. He came to live with us on November 17, 2001. Thus, contrary to Reggie, Opie was already an adult when we adopted him.

The first thing Opie did when we opened the carrier, after the 5 hours trip on the plane from Austin, was to growl at us. Not a happy parrot's sound for sure. Indeed, he was very scared. It took us three hours that day to get him out of the carrier and into his new cage. He did not move, nor did he want to eat or drink any of the food we offered him. After an early bed, the next morning we found him in exactly the same spot. He was a very frightened parrot, and a Cape statue for the next few days. We knew this was going to be the case: after all, it was like he had been shipped to Mars on a rocket!! He has a lot to get used to - new people, new environment, new sounds, new cage; no wonder he was confused. And he used to be able to fly freely and be around many birds at the Texas aviary, while all of a sudden, his wings are now clipped and there are not many birds anymore. He even tried at first to take off but landed miserably on the floor; this contributed to his depression. The contrast with Reggie, who was adopted as a baby and who bonded with us immediately, could not have been more dramatic.

However, Opie is an amazing little boy and after a few days he was already getting better. He is making huge progress every day. We are working hard to win his trust. We spend a lot of time just sitting by his cage, reading, talking to him in a low, soft voice, letting him watch us sleep. We always approach him with "submissive postures" - avoiding eye contact, hands behind our backs. Since he is still afraid to come down from his high perch, we had to raise his crocks to allow him to get food and water. He is now eating regularly, and catching up big time! He likes almonds, grapes, pears, and Harrison's pellets (we counted he crunched down over 50 pellets in one hour one evening...). Not too big on veggies yet (at least the ones we offer him), although he will nibble some from our plate. He is starting to climb around his cage and chew the wood toys we hanged for him. He is asking more and more often to come out of the cage, and is now stepping up nicely on our fingers when invited, staying on our hands longer and longer every day. He is very curious, and enjoys going around the house (we play "real estate agent" with him) and observing everything we do. Sometimes he forgets he is still afraid of us, and climbs all over us to see more closely what we are doing, especially if we are handling neat, shiny things or treats for him. He lets us tickle his neck, but only in the morning after he wakes up.

Opie is not making many sounds right now. He chuckles when he is content, and has a unique call when he wants to come out of the cage, which Reggie is now imitating (she figured it gets our attention!). We heard him cough, with a very realistic and clear sound. However, Opie can talk, and he talks in context. The very second day after he arrived, my husband went up to his room to have dinner with him. When he saw the plate, he became all excited and jumped on the edge of it, took a bite, and said "Very good!".

He is a very friendly bird. Seeing him so depressed, alone in his room (in quaranteen by vet's orders), I decided to introduce Reggie to him. When he saw her from a distance, the Cape statue suddenly came alive. The door of his cage was open; tip-toing to the very edge of it and brightening all up, he looked at Reggie and said "Hello" to her...a very friendly, lets-play-together Hello...Unfortunately Reggie tried to attack him (ah, che diavoletto!). Poor Opie! He just wants to play....

Although Opie just came to our family, we can already see the difference in personality between him and Reggie. Opie will be the cuddly, affectionate, calm kid while Reggie is the funny, clownish, independent tomboy.

We are so thrilled Opie came to our lives. We know it will take some time before he trusts us completely, and that we have a lot of work ahead of us to win him over. But we also know already that it will be worth every second of our time and every ounce of our energy. He is such a sweet, intelligent, sensitive little boy. (He does not know it yet, but he stole our hearts...) Here are a few of his very first pictures. We will post more information about Opie as our relationship develops. Stay tuned!

May 2002 update plus more pictures

Opie (1 year old) during his first week with us

Shoulder Preening Eating

Looking up Eating Smiling

  • Parrot Links:
  • Reggie's page - Opie's big sister
    Cape Parrots - The (unofficial?) Cape page

                                                                           This page last updated:   November 27, 2001