Thursday, January 8, 2009

Meet the Staff

I like to joke that i have an office staff of two working for me. They work for peanuts of course, since my secretary is my African Grey Parrot, Tallulah Belle, and my research consultant is my Moluccan Cockatoo named Samantha.
There is something weird about naming parrots. Tallulah is a boy, and it may seem strange that he has a girly name but trust me, this is almost standard issue with parrot owners. It seems that we name our new pets as soon as we get them, and then, after a while, curiosity gets the better of us and we take our birdies in for a DNA test and lo and behold, find out we've switched the sexes. We could have sworn that Tallulah was a girl, for no good reason other than we wanted a girl, and so my husband had named him when he was about two months old. The test came back and we were shocked, shocked, shocked that we had misrepresented him, and possibly created a sexual identity crisis for life. Until we joined our local parrot club and met several other misnamed birds. African Greys are particularly hard to distinguish between the sexes - for humans, anyway - I'm sure the birds have absolutely no problem out there in the wild where the favorite pick up line goes something like "So, do you fly around these parts often?" But we've met an Emma (male), Fred (girl), and Peabody (girl). (By the way, ours isn't wild caught, he's captive bred, we absolutely believe in letting the wild fly free - more on that some other day.)
Samantha, our cockatoo, is very girly, though her former owner swore she was a boy because she had a "male energy" and had named her Billy. I know Billy could be boy or girl and she was just hedging her bets, but we got smart and gave her the DNA test before we named her. One point for us.
And so the two of them work for me. Tallulah perfectly imitates the ring of my phone, and even answers it with "Hello? Yeah? I'm doing fine, yeah, yeah, okay, here's Judy." all with the proper pauses. Then he leans over the side of his cage and calls me over with "Judy, Judy, Judy, Judy, Judy, Judy" until I thank him by paying him with one of his favorite pine nuts.
Samantha is a little more complicated. Her species is known for being a "velcro" bird, which means she loves to be held, and will emit bloodcurdling, earsplitting, heartstopping shrieks if you put her back on her perch for even half a minute. Because of this, i find myself usually writing with a cockatoo on my lap, her head pressed against my chest, practically cooing with happiness while i try to type over and around her plump little feathered body. Lunchtime simply means i share my lunch with her, she will consent to sit on her tabletop perch in the kitchen and graciously share whatever i'm eating at the moment. Favorites include scrambled eggs, corn muffins, french toast, meatballs, and radishes. I hate radishes, and she can have them all, as far as I'm concerned. The good thing is that her bedtime is at seven, mine is at eight and i get a whole hour to myself before i put my head under my wing and get to sleep.
fly free!

1 comment:

Rebecca K. O'Connor said...

How funny! I've never really thought about this, but you're right! A lot of my parrot clients have had misgendered nomenclature. *grin*

I suppose it's a reflection of my personality that I immediately had my birds sexed so that I could address them with the right pronouns asap. Their names, Ty and Loki are pretty ambiguous, but there's still the issue of the pronouns....