Thursday, April 13, 2006

Peanut is having to teach us about himself. When he first arrived, he had to explain about his concern with stepping onto a bare hand. When I asked him to step-up from a secure location, like his cage, he would bite-pinch my hand with increasing force. Interestingly, he's willing to step-up to a bare hand when he's away from his cage, like when he goes "walk-about" on the kitchen floor. Since then we have discovered that he is more willing to step-up from his cage onto a towel-covered hand. If I take him from his cage with a towel-covered hand, he's willing to step-up onto my bare hand right away.

This evening he had to teach me that he likes scritches, and (so far) can be trusted to not hurt me. We came home late in the evening, and I sat at the kitchen table to check my e-mail. Peanut stood at the door of his cage and made clear to me, somehow, that he wanted to be out. It didn't seem to be enough for him to crawl up on his cage: I knew I was supposed to ask him to step-up. He quickly responded, and when I sat down with him he moved directly to my shoulder. To my surprise, his head brushed against my face once or twice, and when he had my attention, he put his beak down against my shoulder, clearly asking for scritches. He stayed like that for several minutes as I worked over the feathers on his head and neck repeatedly.

He has made it fairly clear that he likes to be on my shoulder and, unlike Charlie, he has not caused any injury from this position yet. After a time he took my finger in his beak and "looked over" my fingernail, perhaps indicating that he wanted the scritching to be firmer or more to the point.

There's so much yet to learn!

In the last few days we've begun to introduce some choice new phrases. He likes to repeat "You're a mess!" whenever the broom or vacuum come out. We use the opportunity to tell him "You're a treat!" We also say "You're gorgeous!" in a New Joisey accent, because that's something we had begun with Charlie just before Peanut moved in. He likes to say "What?", which is probably his favorite expression, and that gives us reason to think of alternatives. I'm hoping he can pick up "Where am I?" and "whatcha doin'?" and "Excellent!"

I feel so ignorant! My parents modeled parenting and being married for me, and so I came into those relationships with some expectations and skills that were learned behaviours from my childhood. I don't "know" how to take care of such an intelligent bird. I don't understand how to be the companion he needs, how to get work done while he's nearby or on my shoulder, or how to deal with poop rolling down my back.

Peanut, or Ping as I'm starting to call him, (he makes several ping-like sounds, including one like a smoke-alarm with a dying battery) is very different from Charlie. When Charlie is out of his cage he demands my attention in a very in-my-face way, and he is eager to get to my shoulder, after which I can expect him to lacerate my ear. "Attention" for Charlie means a continual sequence of posturing, pinpointing, loud whistles and words, interspersed with screeches. I'm pretty sure Charlie is jealous, and having the other birds in the house means that he wants some kind of behavior from me that I don't understand yet. It has gotten even worse this week, as I'm likely to bring Peanut out when Charlie wants to be. If I let them both out, Charlie will defend the spaces he has claimed, such as my shoulder and his play place. Charlie will fly at Peanut as if to land on his back, and Peanut gives ground. So in order for me to interact with Peanut, Charlie must be caged, even beyond his basic insistence on being in my face.

I have Peanut sitting on a cockatiel-sized play place. It's near to me, which is good, and the crossbar is rounded, rather than the tall/narrow bar he uses on his cage. However, the space is clearly not large enough for an African Grey. It's just got to do until we find something bigger and better. A moment ago Peanut climbed down the ladder of this play place and reached out toward a magazine William was reading. It was a long reach, and he didn't connect. But he overbalanced, and a second later he was lying flat on his back with the ladder in his feet. He looked like Soleil, who seems to enjoy playing like that. I said "Oh dear" in a soothing way, and took hold of the ladder, which gave him enough leverage to climb to a more dignified position.

One thing that surprises me is that when Peanut steps-up for me, he makes a gurgling sound that's hard to describe. It's not exactly water going down a drain, but somewhat similar.

I fear I could continue on this subject for hours, but sleep and other basic necessities must tear me away. Perhaps I can continue later.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Charlie and Soleil have a guest for the next several weeks, and perhaps much longer. (Here's hoping!) Some dear friends from our church have an African Grey that they brought back from (guess where) Africa. Now that their children have grown and the house is empty all day, the bird needs companionship.

Peanut is already being fun for us. Our favorite interruption so far is that he says "What?" at the most perfect times. He also says "Hello?" and a few more words. He sits shockingly still, in contrast to Soleil and Charlie. And he is far more quiet. Both of our birds shriek for attention, but Peanut just sits on top of his cage and says a few quiet words now and then. What a contrast!