Posted Oct 08, 2014
I was a tween when I got my first bird, Esquire, which I think is a good age range if you're mature. Esq was very social when we got him- preening faces, begging for whatever you were eating, asking for head-rubs, and he loved sitting on shoulders or anywhere up high for long periods of time. He also loved to sing to himself in the mirror, or to the birds nesting right outside the window. We kept his wings partially clipped. Trimming his toenails usually resulted in a good, firm bite and a gnaw if you weren't careful.
We were able to train him to step up, and he was sort of good about coming when called, but we couldn't get him to learn words. You could say a word or phrase to him, and he'd mouth as if he was trying to figure it out, or was just happy to be acknowledged, but after many months of training, he had one garbled phrase in his lexicon - 'birdie bird', and the traditional wolf whistle. As the years have gone on (and they live for 20 or so years), we have come to find that he sometimes mimics my mom's 'big' laugh, but it's still not very clear. In his extended age my family is in agreement that he's not as spry as he was, sometimes he misjudges a landing, or just spontaneously falls. He's gotten progressively more aggressive and shut-in (more on that). At one point, sharing dinner with him on the table, or bringing him into the shower was common. He's always been a bit stubborn, but it all got worse with the introduction of -
Lil Ugg. We bought her from the same breeder, because we though a companion might be good for him during the day when we were out. Even though we brought Esq to the breeder to best pair him with a friend (and they seemed at least somewhat compatible), they shortly seemed to develop a weird love/hate relation. He would drop his head before her, to signal he wanted to be preened, and maybe she wasn't hitting the sweet spot because sometimes he would snap his head up and peck at her face, then assume the preen position again, and repeat. Ugg was always a little skiddish. She wasn't nearly as social as Esq, and if you separated them, she would shriek and attempt to get away, so nail and wing trimming became tricky very quickly. She also never learned to speak or mimic.
We had hoped that the flock would grow with the addition of Lil Ugg, but the exact opposite happened. They sit around like a just-barely tolerant bitter old couple, and abhor human interaction. After a couple years, Ugg started getting nesty, and they became almost totally reclusive. Esquire would, at times, be outright savage. They took up nesting on the bottom of a bookshelf near the cage, despite our attempts to move them to somewhere safe (Ugg always a predilection for walking on the floor, maybe because she was so skiddish and hysterical when she flew; she almost always crash-landed) If you don't see them in the cage or their climbing tree, you could expect Esq to run out from the nest and bite your feet. Another weird aspect of the love/hate cycle was when Ugg was nesty, she would sit in the nest and make 'come and get it' noises (?), and Esq would always steer clear of her. At these times he almost was his old, social self. Then in the evenings, when we assume she was resting, he would... relieve his sexual tension on things like the food dish or a stick on their tree, and make disturbing noises. There have been a couple eggs over the years, but never have they been fertile.
I don't know what happened. I guess pairing these two was rotten luck. To be honest, I would have liked to have tried out other birds with Esq, but my parents though Ugg was a good match. There are now two aged, neurotic, cranky birds living in their house, that can barely be interacted with. I think if you want multiple birds you need to get them at the same time, otherwise keep a single bird, a single bird. But like I said, maybe it was just bad luck.