Pet of the Day

August 5, 2008

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Maci, the Pet of the Day
Name: Maci
Age: Four year old
Gender: Male
Kind: Indian Mustached Parakeet
Home: Pottstown, Pennsylvania, USA
   Maci was purchased at a pet store and was actually more than I was interested in buying at the time. My intention was to look at a Budgie or two, but when I walked into the aviary, there he sat, on a perch by the door. The room was filled with birds, but he managed to catch my eye. He was only three months old, bright green, with a little gray on his head and a carrot orange beak.

    As I walked past him, he tried getting onto my shoulder. I thought this was cute and moved closer to accommodate him. After climbing up, closer to my ear, he settled in for a stroll around the room. They say that you don't pick your pets, they pick you and in this case, I'm sure it was true. Not wanting to make a hasty decision, I waited over a week, stopping in daily to see him before making up my mind to bring him home.

    It wasn't until after I got Maci home that I started to read up on the care and feeding of birds. I knew about Budgies because we had one when I was a child. Parrots, even small ones, require more than I initially thought. I wasn't just a human with a pet bird. Although I do provide all the care for the birds, they see me as part of their flock.

    Having to work every day left Maci all alone for much of the time. When I came home, he was too demanding for attention. We needed a bigger flock. I found Bailey and Bingo at a local animal shelter. They were only 4 months old. After giving the Budgies time to adjust to their new home, I introduced them to Maci. It wasn't long before they were in and out of each other's cages and getting to know one another. They learn quick and the Budgies realized that where ever they settled in for the night, was the cage they were locked into for the next day. No one wanted to use the smaller cage anymore! Wanting to give them the best 'home' possible, I got them a new habitat the summer of 2006. It's 48" x 48" x 24", filled with toys, ladders, bells, full-spectrum lighting and assorted perches. Maci has calmed down so much with the addition of the Budgies and the bigger cage.

    None of the birds are clipped anymore and are allowed to fly around for extra exercise. Maci still likes to be with me most of the time, but enjoys his cage time, too. Bailey is very outgoing and seems to be bonded to Maci. He wants to do everything Maci does and follows him everywhere. That has made it easier to handle Bailey, because he sees Maci being held, too. Bingo is a 'Nervous Nellie'. He will not step-up on my hand, but I have managed to get him comfortable on a hand-held perch. He has made some progress in the last couple years, but it is slow.

    Maci does talk, even though it's not always clear what he's saying. To get attention, he says "Hi, how are ya?". When he wants a taste of whatever I am eating or preparing, he'll say "What is that?" or "Want soma that." He also says "Bye Bye" and "Oh Boy" when he gets a treat he really enjoys. Early on I taught him "Good Boy". I added "very" to the "good boy", but he mixed the words and says "Good Very Boy" instead. If I scratch the back of his neck, he makes a throaty sound when asked how that feels. There are a few more things he can say relatively clear, but there is even more that I don't understand. I talk to him all the time and he'll sit on my shoulder and softly chatter in my ear. It isn't something that sounds remotely like what a bird would sound like. In fact, the friend of a neighbor could hear Maci though the door one day and asked if I had a small child. Jeff told her it was a parrot and she couldn't believe it. I think Bailey could be a great 'talker', but he will not listen to me. Instead, he mimics everything Maci says in addition to his own wonderful bird songs. Bingo must have no interest in the human language at all. He isn't very vocal to start with and confines it to squawking most of the time. Even with my eyes closed, I can tell one bird's voice from the others.

    Not long ago, we had a terrible storm. It was later in the evening. The wind was howling and the rain was hitting the windows hard. There was lightning and thunder. All three birds left the cage to sit on my shoulders, Maci and Bailey getting as close to my neck as possible. It was one of the few times Bingo would willing sit with me. We sat like that for over an hour. When the storm passed, I gently returned them to the cage for the night. Do they trust me enough to keep them safe? I hope so, because they mean the world to me.

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