This article is near and dear to my heart, and I suspect after reading it you will agree this is a pet peeve that has been silently ripping your soul, too. How many of us have had birds for a couple of years now? How many of us are new bird owners? Whatever category you fall into, I’m sure that you have noticed by now how birds are changing, or have changed your life. The fact that your once immaculate carpet now crunches underfoot from strewn bird food from your feathered companion is a testament to the fact that you have, indeed, gone bird crazy.
People that aren’t "bird people" just don’t get it. To outsiders, birds are just animals that scream, fling food, poop, and generally create a bad headache and mess. I’m sure we have all experienced that blank look that you get when you proudly announced you just brought your latest little bundle of feathered joy home. That kind of "what on earth did you do?" look of befuddlement and amazement. Oh yes, you know the look I am talking about. I’m sure the look was followed up with the question of "why"? Or, if you have particularly nice friends, a more "oh, that’s nice" type of response may have followed.
Now, inevitably, you’ve introduced your friends to your new roommate, right? Maybe you did it in a nice beat around the bush "do you want to have dinner at my place" type deal. You proudly introduce parrot to human, and vice versa. You point out the cleanliness of the brand new cage (although we all know that won’t last long), and how smart your bird is for waving on command. Then, IT happens. Oh, you know what I am talking about. This is the part where your friend, caught in cute little animal mode, crouches in front of the cage and starts muttering those cringe inducing words. “Does Polly want a cracker"? "Is Polly a good birdie?" "Can you say Pretty Birdie? Polly want a cracker?”
Of course, your new avian companion is too intelligent to stoop to such level to reply to such questioning, and continues to sit on the perch ... mute and unmoving. Your friend turns to you and shrugs, and then asks that one question that every bird owner knows comes next ... “Does it talk?” You may sigh, shrug, and fruitlessly try to explain that yes, the pretty bird (whose name is not Polly) does indeed talk, but has a funky voice that can be hard to understand. No, the bird will not talk on demand. If you want to see a bird talk on command, go to Youtube. Otherwise, just please appreciate the bird for what it is and let’s get back to dinner.
If my birds could verbalize like humans, I am sure one of the first things they would ask is “why does everyone refer to me as Polly?” I’ve been half tempted to teach them to say “no cracker, thanks” just to see the reaction of the person posing such a question. I don’t know where that whole phrase started, but as a bird owner it sure grates on my nerves. It’s right up there with the whole trying to explain the "parrot thing" to people. You know the conversation, it normally goes something like:
“You have birds?”
“Yes, I have (insert amount of birds here)”
“WOW that’s cool! What kind is it?”
“Is that a type of parrot?”
“Yes”. (By now, the person is looking somewhat pleased with themselves that they identified a real live parrot).
“What kind of parrot?”
“An.. amazon?” (haven’t we been here before?)
“I mean, what color?”
“Green and blue.”
“Oh- so it’s a PIRATE parrot!”
“*sigh* no, not exactly. Those are macaws and they have long tails….” (watch as the person slowly loses interest in the conversation)
“So it’s not a pirate parrot? What about those margarita parrots, are those macaws too?”
“Yes, those are macaws too.”
“Oh. I really like those birds.”
Of course, you know how the conversation continues from there. Further segways into the so-called "pirate parrots", what pirate owned what parrot, why an amazon isn’t the same thing as a macaw, and doesn’t whatsthatbrand (you know, the one that uses a macaw in their advertising) make a good vodka.
Perhaps nothing irks me more as a bird owner then my intelligent animal being dummied down to a simple dog-like species that will do tricks for a cracker. (I mean, of course, my caiques just might jump through hoops for a cracker, but that’s not the point). Perhaps it’s the tone of voice used when people start melting into that "polly want a cracker" ooze of utter stupidity. Like they have such low expectations for the animal, because it’s just a bird. Lets reiterate the point: it’s a bird. Parrots are one of the most intelligent creatures we keep as pets today. Their capacity for understanding and learning is right up there with dolphins and other highly intelligent and respected animals. If Polly could talk back, Polly would tell you that a) his name is not Polly and b) he doesn’t want a cracker, he wants a foot massage and a glass of your finest sparkling water.
Or not. But hey, Polly isn’t the one doing the talking, is he?