Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My thoughts on timnehs...

About a month ago, I posted my thoughts on caiques. I've since decided that I will post my thoughts, experiences, and observations on the different parrot species that share my life in the thought that someone considering getting one of these other birds as a pet may stumble upon them and it may help them in making their decision. As always, these are just my thoughts and experiences and am in no way claiming to be an expert!

When we first decided to get a parrot, about 7 years ago, we did a lot of Internet research and ended up narrowing down our choices between a mini macaw (Hahn's or Noble) and a Timneh African Grey. We were leaning towards the grey when we found a breeder with whom we clicked and that had timnehs available -- the decision was final! I sometimes wonder how our lives would be different had we gone with a macaw.

In any case, I still believe that a timneh was about the perfect choice for our personalities and lifestyle. We wanted an intelligent bird that was fun-loving and that would bond to both of us. And that's what we got with Max. That's not to say it's all been wine and roses with her. She has some feather destructive issues that I will address in a future post. She can be needy, noisy, nosy, destructive, and so much more. She is a wild animal living in our house.

My comments will mostly be based on Max, but I have dealt with probably about 10 timnehs that have been surrendered to the shelter where I volunteer over the past few years, and have found many similarities in their personalities.

Max is very much in tune with the goings-on in our house. Nothing gets by her. She follows Thomas and I around the house, commenting on our lives. These comments can be words (saying "want some" when I place my hand on the refrigerator door), noises (making a swallow sound when I take the first drink out of a glass), or movements (moving her wings and body around when I put a shirt on in the morning). Even when she looks deep in thought playing with a toy, she'll let out a kiss sound if Thomas and I hug each other, or make the squeak sound when I open a door that has long since been oiled.

Because she is so intelligent, I worry all of the time that I am not providing her with enough mental stimulation to keep her sane and happy. I am constantly searching for new ways to keep her mind and body occupied -- clicker training, foraging, flying, etc.

Max is scared of very little. I've read that many greys are afraid of new things, but that's not the case with Max. When she sees a new parrot toy, she flies over to investigate. She loves bathing and will buzz me if I turn the spray bottle to another parrot before she's done. It breaks my heart to see scared, phobic greys surrendered to the shelter because I know what their potential is. The good news is that with patience, time, love, and understanding, these greys can turn around.

Although Max does slightly prefer me, that is shown only in small instances such as when I go upstairs she flies to me unbidden, but will not follow Thomas. She is equally tame to both of us. I know that all parrots can bite (and certainly have received my share of bites from other birds, including other timnehs), but Max has never bitten anyone. We actually wonder whether she even knows how to bite (we hope that's the case!). When she gets angry, she'll stretch her body out and quickly bring her beak down (like many birds do when they bite), but she just hits my hand with a closed beak. She doesn't do this very often, though. She'll also express her anger by buzzing one of us. By "buzzing," I mean that she flies quickly at us, just over our head, and pushes off of our head with her feet. It's very strange.

Sadly, many greys are purchased by people who want a talking bird. Although most greys will say at least a few words and some have a prolific vocabulary, that is not a good reason for acquiring a new pet. You can't have meaningful conversations with them -- they aren't friend-replacers! The novelty quickly wears off, and the bird often finds himself neglected in a back room because he wasn't as entertaining as the owners had hoped. I've seen this more times that I can remember (and not just with greys).

Keeping a healthy, well-adjusted grey is hard work. The same can be said for most other species of parrot, but is particularly apt with greys. Because of their intelligence, they require tons of mental stimulation. While Max isn't as destructive as many cockatoos or macaws, she regularly goes through toys that need to be replaced. New research is showing that greys may be particularly susceptible to heart problems due to an inadequate diet and a sedentary life, so diet and exercise are also major concerns.

I go back and forth as to whether my favorite bird is the timneh or blue-and-gold macaw. This may seem surprising that I didn't put caique on the list, nor do I own a blue-and-gold macaw. I guess the edge goes to timnehs since Max is such a stellar representative and she lives with me.

Lately Max has been flying over to me while I read the paper and pushing her head into my hand so that I'll give her head pets and scratches. Thomas came home last week and interrupted one of our sessions, whereupon he commented on how disheveled she looked.

Here she is, trying to get in on the action of cooking dinner by hanging out at the sink. This morning, she was throwing the lizards' food on the ground as I was cutting the endive. She is very nosy and wants to know what going on and, more often than not, be involved in the process.
I feel like I haven't adequately described Max or what it's like living with her. Although I love her madly, there are days where she absolutely drives me nuts. For example, when she won't stay out of the garbage can or eats the seal on our freezer door (she knows she's not supposed to do these things and does so for attention -- if I don't notice her quickly enough, she starts saying "hello!" in her super cute voice). I suppose the updates I post here are also important components for getting an understanding of that.

In summary, in the right, bird-appropriate home, I think that timnehs are among the best choices. Even better would be to work with a rescue and find one that chooses you (there is one at the shelter where I volunteer right now and it is so hard to not bring him home as his personality very much reminds me of Max). But only in a home committed to providing the best care possible for the duration of the bird's life, as with any parrot.


Stephanie said...

I love the picture of Max with the pepper. So excited!

DweezelJazz said...

Great post! Thank you. So much of this rings true with my experience of Jasmine, our african grey. Very precious, loving little beings who can be very mischevious and are incredibly intelligent.