Pet of the Day

December 22, 2002

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Charlie, the Pet of the Day
Name: Charlie
Age: Six and a half years old
Gender: Male
Kind: Green rumped parrotlet
Home: Wisconsin, USA
   Charlie is a rescue bird that I was given back in mid-June. Our neighbors, after seeing all of my other birds outside (in cages) on the deck commented that their mother had a "parakeet" that had been shuffled around within their family for its entire life... six years, six different homes. She not so subtly hinted that if I were to ask for the bird, her mother would have no problems with giving it up as nobody wanted or liked the bird. So, I said I'd take him.

    Our neighbor warned me that he was feather plucked, given his past situation that didn't surprise me. When Charlie came home, I knew he wasn't a budgie before I even saw him. I heard him singing as I walked in the door after work and knew right away that he was no budgie. The "parakeet" was, in fact, a parrotlet! Charlie's life up until he came to me had been nothing short of sad. In his previous homes, and this has been confirmed even by the people who had him last, he was:

  1. Neglected
  2. Yelled at every time he made noise
  3. Shut away in back rooms and forgotten for days at a time
  4. Had his cage hit repeatedly, and often, with a rake to "teach him" to be quiet and behave.
  5. Had been physically hit if he'd bite or protest
  6. Had a diet consisting of moth infested seed (they gave me a 'free' bag, which promptly went into the garbage), and ZuPreem Fruitblend pellets so old and stale they were white.
  7. Lived in a tiny cage with two feces encrusted dowel perches and one toy that was much too large for him to even think of using
At some point in his life, he lost 75% of a front toe on his left foot, and about 50% of a front toe on his right foot. Nobody will tell me how that happened. He also has an old beak injury that prevents him from closing his beak all the way; our neighbor said that probably happened when the young kids in the house would "play" with him. "Playing" with Charlie consisted of manhandling him, throwing him into the air and trying to catch him, hitting him to watch him "freak out", and hitting his cage to make him panic. Lovely kids, no? These children ask to see Charlie every time they visit our neighbors, I allowed them to do so once (not handle him, just see him), and when I saw the sheer terror that entered Charlie's eyes and body language when those kids showed up, that was the first and last time they were ever allowed to see him. When he started screaming at them, one of the kids asked me, "Why don't you hit him when he's being bad like that, you have to teach him who's boss!" It was very hard to be polite in asking them to leave at that point.

    At his last home before mine, if he wasn't incessantly shrieking in monotone, he would sit still with his head bowed and not move or make any noise unless it was to cringe into a corner. The only other thing he'd do is pull his feathers out, for which he'd get scolded for being an "ugly, nasty little thing".

    Charlie brightened up almost immediately after coming here. He was moved to a larger cage, given good perches, appropriate toys, was never yelled at or hit, got good food, and for the first time in his life saw a vet. His plucking did turn out to be behavioral, and stopped as soon as he was in an environment where he had mental stimulation and wasn't living in fear. Unfortunately, he has been plucking most of his 6 years of life, and will be bald over large portions of his body for the remainder of his life as the feather follicles have been destroyed over large parts. His chest, part of his neck, his first two primary flight feathers, most of his legs, and his back are all bald.

    Charlie also used to cringe or start shrieking at the mention of his name; now he hops to the cage door and sings whenever he hears someone say "Hi Charlie!", and you should see him just puff up with pride whenever he's called "pretty boy"...after years of being called an "ugly, nasty little thing", I'd be glad to hear "pretty boy!" too!

    Charlie is now one of the sweetest, most well adjusted birds I've got. He was kept near a window at one point, and learned to mimic over 30 different wild bird tunes. He loves to sing, and will sometimes sing for 3-4 hours non stop when he's in an exceptionally good mood. He is not able to step up due to his missing toes (he can't get a steady grip on fingers, parrotlets are tiny birds..he's just 4 inches long and about 22 grams), but he is more than willing to be scooped up for cuddles and kisses. Charlie does not bite. He's beaked a couple times, but has never bitten hard enough to cause pain, even though he's capable of doing so. He still doesn't like hands coming at his cage, or near his food dish, but he no longer attacks or panics when I go into his cage...he just moves to a far perch and yells at me.

    He's also very sociable, for a parrotlet, when it comes to other birds. Parrotlets can be aggressive, territorial birds and it's usually not recommended that they be allowed to play with other hookbills. Charlie does exceptionally well with my cockatiels and budgies; he very much enjoys sharing plates of warm veggies with all of the birds on the big communal plate, and shows no signs of aggression there, or on the play tree...although if anyone comes too close to his favorite swing they'll get an earful.

    Charlie just reinforces in me that rescues are the most rewarding type of pets to have. They know you've saved them, know you love them, and know they'll have stability and security with you...and they never stop showing it. My other birds are very loving and very sweet, of course, and they're all wonderful, but with a rescue you get a special kind of love. ^_^

    Charlie will have a home here for the rest of his life.

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