By Mary Tucker
Betty Little, of Fall Clove has what I call “A Wildlife Sanctuary.” She puts out corn for birds and small animals that come around. A domestic goose has been staying overnight on her porch, flying to a pool of water in the brook nearby and staying there during the day. A family of 4 or 5 squirrels living in her woodpile take advantage of the pail of corn outside the side door, used to replenish the corn left on the pond. This morning one of the squirrels appeared in her kitchen; came through a very small crack along a window frame and promptly left. A flock of birds flies outside the house picking up stray pieces of corn.
In the kitchen, Betty has a huge birdcage housing a beautiful parrot. How did she come to own a parrot? Anthony, a neighbor, asked her to take care of his parrot for a week while he went to the city to visit his mother who was ill. The week went by, then another, and another. No one came for the parrot. Inquiring about Anthony, who had been working in the area, she was told that he had left for “parts unknown.” No word came about what to do with the parrot. Betty decided she would keep it and calls the bird Antonee in honor of its former owner. Antonee could already say a few words when he was left at Betty’s. Betty started teaching him more words. The parrot now has a vocabulary of over 10 words. He says “hello,” “come in,” “bye-bye,” “who is it?” and sings “Row, Row your Boat.” Betty cleans the cage carefully each day as parrots are very susceptible to cleaning and air freshening products, then relines the bottom of the cage with clean newspapers. Antonee is fed commercial bird food; he also likes to eat toast with jam or jelly after dipping it in his water container. Betty hangs a folded sheet of white paper on one of the side bars of the cage. Antonee takes it in his beak, tears it apart, drops it, then picks the pieces up and chews them.
No one suggests that parrots understand the words they use, but the time the owner spends teaching new words creates a bonding experience that both owner and bird enjoy. Betty tells me that despite the extra work involved, she enjoys having the bird around. Antonee cleans and preens himself, walks on the sides of the cage and hangs upside down from the top. It seems Antonee is always doing something different and amusing.~