Adventures in parroting

Carrie J. Sidener and her Quaker parrot, Simon.

I have to confess something.

The hectic pace of life over the past few months has left me spending less time at home binge-watching Netflix while my little green Quaker parrot begs for head scratches than Simon would like.

Simon, though, is a social little parrot. He would much rather tag along with me in his little travel cage than stay home alone in his condo cage, listening to top 40 music and ignoring his toys. At least that is what I think happens when I’m gone.

So, when possible, I drag Simon along with me — as evidenced by the pile of parrot food lining the back seat of my car.

He’s traveled to my father’s house for Christmas, he spends time at the office when it’s quiet and sparsely populated, and he regularly visits a house with children.

In each of these places, he’s made friends. Sometimes Simon sits quietly beside me, content to nap or preen his feathers. Other times he whistles to attract the attention of favorite individuals wherever we happen to be.

Unless distracted, my little feathered friend never wants me out of his sight when we are away from home. I equate him to an ankle monitor and I’m on house arrest — venture too far out of his line of sight and he calls out over and over until he can see or hear me again.

Simon joined me at the office recently on a quiet workday. Content to preen and nap while I typed, Simon’s presence virtually was unknown unless one happened to walk up to my desk.

So, of course, there are no witnesses to verify my next account. Distinctly but quietly, as I read intently over my work, Simon said my name. Carrie.

I looked up from my work and gazed into his tiny brown eyes. He got what he sought — my attention firmly on him. Simon stared at me for a moment and then bobbed his head excitedly.

It seems unusual for Simon, who prefers to whistle instead of speaking, to say my name. Unusual enough my father was quite skeptical until I pointed out how much time Simon has spent with children and colleagues — the two groups who say my name quite frequently.

Simon is the first parrot in my life to learn my name and I find it even more surprising since I have only heard him say “good boy,” and “stop it” in the almost three years we’ve been together.

He is a bird of few words.

The quaker I cared for before this Simon was a prolific talker but he never learned my name. He had a beloved pet sitter who tried every time she saw him to teach him to call her by name. After a while, she decided perhaps Lori was too difficult, so she worked on teaching him her last name, Snow. But it never stuck.

She managed to teach him to say “thank you,” though, which he would yell angrily at me if I failed to put a treat in his bowl. Somehow, I don’t think that is how she intended him to use the phrase.

What will Simon learn to say next, I wonder?

Sidener is the special publications editor for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5539.

Sidener is the special publications editor for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5539.

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