MAY 2002

In the garden

It is now 6 months later. Opie is now much more relaxed and trusting. There are still occasional setbacks, during which he gets scared for nothing - those crows landing on our deck, geese flying - but these are less and less frequent. Overall, he is adjusting to his new life very well.

While for the first several months he was scared of moving around in his cage, spending most of his time in a single spot on his favored wooden perch, recently he became more and more interested in exploring his surroundings, and we now find him in different places when we come back from work. He started to take an intense interest in his toys about one month after he arrived. Opie loves his toys, especially his plastic and wooden ones, and has many of them. He has several variety of foot toys whom he likes to pick from a little basket, chew on for awhile, and then drop and move on. He spends endless time on his gym chewing on them, oblivious even to food, reducing them to splinters in no time (that beak...). The contrast with our Jardine, Reggie, is very striking: while Reggie gets bored with a toy after a few minutes and moves on to the next one, Opie is totally focused and does not let go until the toy is "killed". Intense is the adjective that best describes him, followed by head-strong. Boy, is he stubborn. (That must be a constant with Poicephalus parrots. Reggie is too.) And when he does not get what he wants, or is not taken where he wants to go pronto, he bites... not too painful if with the back of his mouth, but exquisitely painful if he gets you with that pointy part of his beak. He is very rumbunctious, has to explore everything, and be with us all the time. He clearly favors Daddy, with Mommy second-best, whom he cleverly manipulates to get to his favored person. Oh well....

Yes, he bites, but I think this is not malicious. He is still pretty much insecure and can go back to fear-mode pretty easily. Besides, I do not think he knows yet about our fingers - that those wiggling juicy worms are actually attached to us... Another situation when he bites is when he is molting. All those pointy feathers must feel like someone is poking him on the back, and he takes revenge on the closer finger. He has this habit of diving down from our hand on the nearest shiny toy, and when he loses balance and falls, he punishes us by biting. We are working on his biting problem. The secret is to distract him with a toy, a song, or just by doing something silly. Favored tricks are "Got your nose!", "Pickaboo!", or "Opie on the luge", when he gets to fly around upside down on Daddy's hand.

He is our clumsy boy, affectionately nicknamed "The Big Bopper" because of his bumbling and tripping around on those stubby little legs but enormous feet. And at 358 grams, he is a big boy! He is extremely fond of fruits and nuts, and he is built for those - with that powerful pointy beak that is perfectly adapted to scoop out the flesh. We have a ritual after dinner. Both Opie and Reggie get an almond and they get to pick it out of a jar. While Opie dives into it and grabs the very first one, Reggie stands on the jar and searches around, checking for cracks and for the tastier one (in her mind). You can see those two different personalities at work here.

And just like little kids, they covet each other's stuff. Every chance he gets, Opie climbs on Reggie's cage and goes inside to check out her toys. He runs around biting everything, all while making sure with the corner of his eye that she is not looking. They have exactly the same cage and most of the toys are the same, but no, what the other bird has is definetly much better. The grass is always greener in your neighbor's cage...

Opie has become quite the cuddle bug, but on his own terms. His favored is to stand on Daddy's arm or lap, with both Daddy and Mommy tickling him - four hands skritching his head, neck, and chest. He juts his head back, closes both eyes.... aaaahhh, nirvana! He could stay like this for hours (and all night to avoid to go to bed).

Opie has an exceptional talking ability. In the 6 months he has been with us he has developed quite a vocabulary (click here for a list). He carries on convoluted conversations with himself using different voices - a low-pitch one for my husband's, a high-pitch one for me, and a third one which must be his. He scolds his toys when they do not "behave" by telling them to be good boys, to step up, etc. He has demonstrated that he understands what the words really mean and the tone of his voice is always in sync with the meaning and the context. For example, one time Reggie was lunging at him from a little too close. He backs up, looks at her in utmost surprise, and with an offended tone of voice says to her "....good boy!". He meant, of course, "be a good boy" or even "I am a good boy, what do you want to hurt me for??". Another time he was on Daddy's forearm. My husband was moving plants and had both hands occupied so he said to Opie "Shoulder! Shoulder!" to tell him to go up his shoulder. It was the first time Opie heard this command. A puzzled Opie looks at Daddy and "?!?.....Step-up!!", like if Daddy did not really know what he was talking about, but he, Opie, instead did.

He is also an excellent whistler and makes up his own complicated songs, so melodious to rival with an opera composer. Daddy answers from the kitchen and the two of them engage in a duet. Many times we just stand outside the door to listen to his music.


With Daddy With Reggie Primo piano

June 2002 June 2002

June 2002 June 2002