Fly High, Mr. Zippers

Mr. Zippers passed away this afternoon after a heroic fight to cheat death which began back in July.

We thought he had made a full recovery, but he began to show signs to the contrary right after hurricane IKE. I suspect the stress of that event and the days that followed were probably too much for him.

We adopted Mr. Zippers in 1999. He came to be a beloved pet and member of our quirky little family. Ultimately, he was Cynthia’s bird. Mr. Zippers hated me and tried to bite me any chance he could.

Still, I loved that little guy.

We both did.

Mr. Zippers will be sorely missed.

A Spoon Full Of Sugar

Part of the recovery process for Mr. Zippers is medication. Antibiotics and some vitamin and nutritional supplements…

Yes, those are syringes but there’s no injections. They just make it easier to administer the medicine which is given orally. Which, as you might imagine, has it’s challenges when it comes to a small green parrot.

The first step is to subdue the patient

Fortunately when Mr. Zippers is incapacitated in this manner he will bite just about anything that comes within beaking distance. Including a syringe full of medicine.

The Indestructable Mr. Zippers

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Last Sunday we noticed that Cynthia’s Quaker Parrot, Mr. Zippers, was acting strangely. He was not eating his favorite breakfast treats (Cheerios, or as we call them “Zippy-O’s”) and he was very lethargic.

His condition seemed to worsen as the day went on so I called the vet to see if they could see Mr. Zippers that day and they got us in around 3:00 pm.

The doctor on duty said that they would run some tests and keep the bird overnight. The next day the doctor called and said that the ultrasound showed his liver was abnormally large but detected nothing abnormal in his blood and fecal tests. He was still not eating and was being tube fed to make sure he stayed nourished.

I called Tuesday and the doctor said there was no real improvement but suggested they keep him for observation for a few days. She said it could be a tumor and that they could do a biopsy. I said “no thanks” as it seemed too extreme. I talked with Cynthia and we both agreed that Mr. Zippers should not suffer and she asked that I call the doctor to discuss options.

When I called on Wednesday there was a different doctor on duty and he sounded more optimistic. He said it looked like Mr. Zippers liver had shut down due to some event or another, but that he thought given a few days he might turn around but that there was no way to tell for sure.

I told the doctor to keep going and called Cynthia who by this point had resigned herself to the fact that Mr. Zippers was gone. I explained that I had not pulled the plug yet and gave her all the encouragement the doctor had given me.

On Thursday I called to check in and there was a THIRD doctor. She said that while she had not seen his condition previously that he did seem “feisty” and may have actually eaten a little food on his own. On top of that she indicated that Mr. Zippers managed to bite her pretty good. To me, this was very encouraging and when I told Cynthia that Mr. Zippers had bitten the doctor she smiled for the first time all week.

On Friday when I called again, the doctor from Wednesday who seemed so encouraging was back on duty and he said things seemed to be turning in Mr. Zippers favor and he thought we could pick the bird up on Sunday. He explained that while Mr. Zippers was not eating a whole lot, he was eating on his own and hoped that by sending him home he might get his appetite back.

We thought maybe we were just giving him too many fatty treats, but the doctor said he thought the diet was fine and that something just triggered a shutdown of his liver.

Well, we picked him up Sunday afternoon and the doctor explained the situation and they showed us how to administer the medicine he needed and sent us home. When we took Mr. Zippers from the pet carrier and put him in his cage he fluttered his tail quite happily and proceeded to eat a Zippy-O.

As of now, he seems fine. I think he definitely cheated death and so does Cynthia. In fact, Cynthia wrote a poem commemorating the experience:

Zippy we thought you was a gonner
And that you was gonna die
But ya screwed up all your courage
And you beaked death in the eye!

Sounds a bit like a Rudyard Kipling poem, what with the colloquial styling and all. At any rate we are happy to have Mr. Zippers back home. A bit poorer, but happy. Dooley also seems happy to have his friend to talk to.

Barcelona – Wild Parrots

We were walking toward the Sagrada Familia doing some sightseeing when I heard a VERY familiar bird squawk.

It was the squawk of the Quaker Parrot (aka Monk Parrot) which is the type of bird Cynthia owns, the one that hates me.

We walked into the park and sure enough, up in the tree was a Quaker Parrot

As we looked around we saw more and more of them in the park.

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They were EVERYWHERE! All up in the trees and waddling along the ground competing with the pigeons for food.

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And I am sure they all hated me, just like Mr. Zippers. Just look at them…

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Apparently there’s a very large colony of them in that park. I saw at least 4 or 5 dozen birds and one giant communal nest.

*pictures 1, 2 & 3 courtesy of Cynthia and her excellent telephoto lens.

Mr. Zippers in his hut

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Mr. Zippers has a fuzzy hut in his cage. It’s where he sleeps at night. Our friend Beth was over for dinner one evening and upon seeing Mr. Zippers in his hut she exclaimed:

“Your bird lives in a pot-holder!”

Before turning out the lights for the evening, we like to make sure Mr. Zippers is in his hut so he doesn’t struggle to find his way in the dark. He seems to know it’s bed time when I say “Load the hut!” “Zippers, load the the hut you little green butt!” at which point he grumbles and then enters into the hut and then pokes his head out to give me one last squawk before bedtime.

Cynthia has been unable to get the bird to enter his hut by using this command but he does it every time for me.

Odd since Mr. Zippers hates me with a birdly passion.

The other bird

We all know Dooley. He’s my Timneh African Grey parrot. I’ve had him for nearly 10 years and he’s my buddy.

Alas, Dooley is not the only bird in this house.

About 5 or 6 years ago Cynthia decided she wanted a parrot of her own. We shopped around and considered Amazons and even looked into getting a scarlet red female Eclectus. After much consideration we decided that these birds might be a bit too intimidating for her due to their size. Our friends at Adventures in Birds suggested a smaller bird and told us about the Monk Parrot, also known as a Quaker Parrot.

This sounded like a fine bird but they did not have any ready for adoption at the time nor did they have a clutch being raised.

As we were leaving one of the shop keepers said “What about Mr. Zippers?” and Cynthia turned around and said “Mr. Zippers? What ABOUT Mr. Zippers?” You could see it in her eyes that she loved the name.

They introduced us to Mr. Zippers and told us the story of how he came to be named.

As Mr. Zippers was being raised and hand fed the caretaker of this particular bird managed to botch a batch of the feeding formula. Traditionally you prepare the formula in a bottle while it sits in a pot of water over a flame.

The keeper was unable to prepare it in this manner (for reasons I don’t recall) and proceeded to heat it in the microwave. This resulted in a formula that was, unbeknownst to the caretaker, scalding hot on the inside and only warm on the outside.

When the formula was drawn into an eye dropper and then fed to the young Quaker chick it scalded his crop and did some severe damage. Being the humanitarians they are they took the young injured parrot to the vet and had his crop stitched up to repair the damage. The end result was a baby parrot with stitches in his neck that looked like a zipper which led to the name.

They did not know if the bird would ever talk and at the time he was still being hand fed. Cynthia is a bit of sucker for a hard luck story (which explains our longevity) and decided she wanted to adopt Mr. Zippers. The folks at Adventures in Birds agreed to let us adopt Mr. Zippers and arranged for us to collect him in a few weeks, once he was eating solid food.

When we brought Mr. Zippers home we were thinking here’s a nice, sweet birdy who will be Cynthia’s little green companion. He’ll sit on her shoulder and eat tasty treats and nobody will care if he can talk or not because he’s a sweet little guy who’s had a rough tough life of toil and strife but now has a home with a loving couple who will care for him for the rest of his little green life.

Fast forward a few years.

Mr. Zippers can talk!
He can say “I love you” and “I’m a bad bad birdy” and he sings a little song that Cynthia made up that goes:

“Handsome little Zipper-zoo!
Just a bird
Yes he is
A baby bird”

He clucks and whistles and he just adores Cynthia. Yes, he’s completely devoted to Cynthia.

And as much as he loves her, he HATES me.

This is pretty much all I see when I look at Mr. Zippers

That is 120 grams of the most spiteful, beaky, hateful little bird I have ever seen in my life! I am a giant of a creature to him. I could crush him like a bug but he could give a hoot. He will come for me with his beak wide open just itching to chomp on me and cause me as much pain as he can. He is absolutely FEARLESS!

When I walk across the room his head follows me with his beak wide open as if he’s just hoping I’ll fall into this open maw. If I kiss or hug Cynthia in his presence he gets infuriated and squawks and hisses until it stops.

That bird hates me with every fibre of his being.

But he loves Cynthia and she loves him.

I pray to God he never gets loose lest I find myself being angrily beaked to death in my sleep by a one bird version of Hitchcock nightmare. In fact I better make sure his cage is secure before I turn in tonight.