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.

Dooley vocabulary update

Just recently we heard a strange noise being made by Dooley.
It took us awhile to figure it out, but then it was obvious.
It’s the sounds of dominos on the dining room table being shuffled by swirling them around. Very intricate clicking and grinding sound. It’s amazing.

In this video Cynthia says “What do you say?” and he says “I love you Cynthia.”

For sure he knows she is Cynthia. And he knows that saying that gets him a pistachio.
He perks up as soon as the jar is opened.

He does other amazing things. If I pick up my keys from the counter he knows how many seconds (on average) it takes me to arm the house alarm and makes the EXACT sound at almost the exact time I arm it.

He also knows that in the evening when the lights go out that it is evening. He says “Good night”…and in the morning he says “Good morning”…

He replicates the sound of my pager to get me to come visit him.
He replicates the sound of the phone ringing, both cell and cordless.
He makes the sound of the microwave when he wants popcorn or we are heating anything up. He chastizes the other bird when he gets too loud.

His ability to associate one event with another is uncanny.
I can start a phrase he knows and he finishes it. He doesn’t have to start at the beginning.

His phrases include:

Yarr! me name be Dooley
Yo Ho Ho and may variant with extra ho ho ho’s
I’ll get you my pretty (followed by an evil laugh)
I love you (for me)
Pretty pretty Cynthia
Cookie, cookie, cookie, cookie, cookie (and on and on when he get’s excited)
It’s Zippers! (the other bird)
It’s Zippoo (a name he made up for Zippers)
It’s Zipper-zu (the name I made up for Zippers)
Hey Zippy! (enthusiastic like Cynthia says when she comes in the room).
Hi Dooley (very deadpan the way Cynthia says it after she greets Zippers)
Zippers and Cynthia (two names he put together for when he see Cythia and Zipper together)
What’s all the hubub (2 second pause) Buuuuub!
Whistles the theme from the Simpsons
Laughs at the jokes in the Simpsons even though there is no laugh track. Like he knows comedic timing.
Want a scritchim
Want a tickle
tickle tickle tickle
I’m a bad bad birdy. Sometimes adding extra bads for emphasis
Honey! (like when I call out to Cynthia)
Makes a kissing sound (no lips)
Makes the sound of a dripping faucet
Makes the sound of the garbage truck backing up
Makes the sound of the sprinkler hitting the window
Makes the sound of a hammer pounding a nail
Meows like a cat
Wolf whistles
Quacking like a duck
A perfect replication of my belch (unfortunate)
A perfect replication of my sneeze (not so bad) always in pairs, just like me.
Makes up his own songs using variations of do doot doodle dooty and often appends zippers, zippoo, cynthia or cynthiaaaaaaaa at the end.
Makes up his own humming songs.
Makes up his own whistling songs.
He’s working on some several more things but they are not discernable yet. Although one of them sounds suspiciously close to the choral “ahhhh” beginning of the Simpson’s theme song and another sounds like it’s going to be “Honey, I’m going to the store. Can I get you anything?”

His favorite foods include ritz crackers, pizza, pasta of any kind, Mcdonalds french fries, scrambled eggs, chicken, apples, grapes, dried peppers, cheetos, biscuits, apple pie, waffles, pancakes and donuts. Most all of which he holds in one claw while balanced on the other.

When eating a pistachio he pops half the shell and uses the other half like a bowl to keep crumbs from falling away. Then he dunks the other half and uses it like a cup to drink the remaining salt.

He’s only about 8 years old now and will live to be 60-70. So who knows what he’ll learn in the coming years.

Long overdue Dooley update

Dooley is most talkative in the morning before he is fed or gets his morning treat. He’s been saying “good morning” quite a bit and using his nick name of “Doodlebug” which I call him now and again. It’s hard to describe but it sounds like “Good morning dootle-buuuug.” He goes real low in tone on the “buuuug” part. He also says “Dootle-bug treat-um” and “I love you treat-um.”

This morning he was making a new sound and I could not immediately place it. Cynthia recognized it after a bit.

You know the choral “aaaaaaahhh” at the very beginning of the Simpsons theme song? Yup….

I fear where this is going….

Dooley and the ice cube

My apologies to those who have already seen this…but I am moving the Dooley posts from the old blog to this one.

There are things one must consider when owning an exotic pet, not the least of which are their dietary needs. Foods that are necessary to sustain your pet are essential in the promotion of good health and mental well being.

Take Dooley, my African Gray parrot, for example.

Many of us enjoy the french fry but do you know where french fries come from?

That’s right! AFRICA!!

African Gray parrots are sustained on a steady diet of french fries which grow wild and plentiful in the deepest jungles of Africa. French fries contain essential vitamins and minerals not found in any other food. That is why it is important to supplement Dooley’s diet with the occasional McDonalds french fry.



Another little known fact about African Gray parrots is that every winter they migrate to Antarctica to feed on life sustaining ice collected from the glaciers. While it has not been determined the exact nutritional benefit of ice it is known that an African Gray parrot that is deprived of ice for long periods of time will become irritable and “beaky”.

Sadly, Dooley was not raised in the wild so was never taught the proper way to eat ice and, as a result, struggles with the concept.



Dooley takes the ice cube from the water bowl.

Left foot, cold.

Right foot, cold.