Dogs bark, cats meow, and hamsters squeak. But birds can mimic Star Wars “pews,” make fire alarm sounds, and ask how you’re doing.
Dr. Laura Kane, a professor of criminology and sociology here at Capital, is the owner of a talking bird named Charlie, who she’s had for about six years.
As a kid, Kane and her family had five cockatiels, and she always wanted to have her own bird as an adult. While studying in southern California to obtain her Ph.D, she visited a bird shop called Omar’s Exotic Birds. This is when Charlie came into her life.
“I came in and I got to handle all the birds, and my little guy was the one I selected,” she said.
Charlie is a type of parrot called a caique. Charlie’s expected lifespan is about 30 years, and other birds are known for having long lives as well. For example, the ground-dwelling parrot known as a kakapo can live for a whopping 95 years in the wild, and a scarlet macaw can live for 75 years in captivity.
“You have to be able to dedicate a large amount of your life to that pet,” said Kane. “You also have to be willing to figure out what to do with the bird in the event that you pass on before it does.”
Of course, another unique quality of some birds, such as parrots, is their ability to speak by mimicking sounds that they hear.
Out in the wild, parrots use their vocal abilities to communicate important information with other flocks. In domestic settings, parrots are naturally inclined to develop their collection of noises based on the things that they here around them. Some sounds that a parrot picks up can get very annoying though.
“I lived in graduate housing when I first got him, and they would do fire drills. So he can make those noises,” Kane said.
A fire alarm isn’t the most pleasing sound to hear, but Charlie is in the process of growing a cool collection of sounds. He can imitate the “pew pew” blaster sound from Star Wars, and he can say “how are you.”
Charlie also has a cute way of communicating with Kane. Whenever he is looking for her, he says “yoo-hoo,” and she responds with the same phrase to reassure him that she’s there.
For people who are thinking about buying a pet bird, Kane has some important things to consider before a purchase. Birds can be fun and playful, but they can also get very loud.
“Charlie is a loud one. He’s very cute, and very playful, and does all the fun things, but he’s also super loud.”
Something else to think about is the possibility that the bird you buy might have bonding issues with you. As mentioned earlier, parrots are very social creatures that can easily grow attached to some people and not others.
“What if you buy the bird, and the bird doesn’t like you? What if it instead bonded to your roommate or your spouse?”
Kane also stressed her concern in regards to the illegal smuggling of birds, and the importance of knowing where exactly your animals are coming from so that you can make an informed purchase.
“Charlie was not an inexpensive pet to purchase, but at the same time, I wanted to put my money towards an organization that I felt was not doing harm,” Kane said. “Just like how people smuggle drugs, they smuggle birds. Consider how poor of a life that would be for the bird. That’s just something I would consider when making a pet purchase.”