‘Birds of Eden’ is a paradise of its own making. The towering trees, the beautiful greenery and humid climate provides a sanctuary for many of the birds that live here. Many used to be pets. Each have their own story to tell and it’s a bird I meet here that captures my heart and makes me consider the consequences of having a bird as a pet.
An African Grey Parrot lands closely to me. From my very limited knowledge, I believe him to be a Timneh Grey. He doesn’t have enough red to be a Congo Grey. He has reacted to the calls of ‘pretty bird’ and myself talking to the birds as I pass by. The African Grey is considered to be one of the most intelligent species of parrot. Clever with mimicking and talking, it is an easy avian for bird enthusiasts to fall in love with.
His head moves as though he is dancing. He’s happy that someone is paying attention to him. This is typical of an African Grey. Whilst they don’t appreciate too much of a hands on approach, they love to be social. I can’t help but think of how strange his surroundings must seem to him. He’s not used to being free, able to fly where he likes and not able to socialise like he presumably did with his past guardian.
I learn of his habit of ‘imprinting’. The best way to describe this parrot’s suffering is likening it to a break up. His quick responses tell me he was a pet. He has imprinted before, presumably on his owner. It’s easy to guess his story. For reasons unknown, his owner has given him to Birds of Eden. He will be adapting to being back amongst his fellow birds, re-adjusting to less human contact. When I try to walk on, he follows me closely. It’s when I enter the area where the bigger birds live that he decides to stay put.
When his pupils dialate, he is showing me he is uncomfortable. This happens most when larger birds fly near him, or he feels overcrowded. It seems bizarre that he feels more comfortable near humans, which indicates he is a relatively new arrival. It doesn’t take long for him to warm to me, as he stands on one leg. It takes a little longer for him to summon the courage to stretch, which these parrots only tend to do when they are truly relaxed.
Parrots are able to live for up to ninety years. This poses a problem for people who keep them as pets. It’s highly unlikely that an owner will live the same length of time as the pet. Pet birds are often left in wills but it’s hard for a bird to imprint again.
Birds of Eden works hard to help the birds in its care. A worker I speak to knows the names and the stories of the birds well. Two are near the door leading to the exit. She tells me the names and speaks of them with endearment in her voice. She is passionate about the animals here, it’s clear to see. If there is anywhere a bird can find a new, better home, it’s here.