Saturday, July 7, 2012

Training Your Parrot to Talk: Our Congo African Grey Arua

Our female Congo African grey parrot Arua is not normal. We say that as a compliment. Arua is intelligent. And she is multilingual. She is smart for a parrot, and she's smarter than many people we know! But surely most African grey parrot people say that about their African grey parrots.

Arua is a rescue parrot. She came to us speaking both Polish and English. Unfortunately she has pretty much dropped the Polish words and phrases, except for one: Apuka. We don't speak Polish, so no reason for her to continue speaking Polish to us. Except for that one word that she favors. Apparently apuka is Polish for a mischievous little elf. That Arua certainly is!

Arua lived with a Polish fellow in Spokane, Washington, across the state from us, for years and years, which is where she picked up speaking Polish. Sadly this fellow up and died one New Year's Eve several years ago. No one figured it out for three days until a friend of his living in the Seattle area alerted an acquaintance in the Spokane area that he wasn't answering her calls. She drove across the state, picked up the parrot and brought her back to her home in Edmonds, outside of Seattle. Not knowing what to do with a Polish-speaking African grey parrot, she posted the bird on Craigslist. Fortunately we were the first people to respond to the post!

We quickly learned that we had a very talented and very multilingual parrot on our hands! Not only did Arua speak Polish and English, but dog and cat, as well as several avian dialects. In no time at all she was speaking Chickadee as well as any Black-capped Chickadee in our back yard.

Early on Arua established that she could communicate her basic needs with us. We quickly figured out her word for food: Hot. She knew that water was Water. Whenever we made coffee she would pipe up: You Add Water? At some point she stopped calling food Hot and started calling it Apple instead. As she settled in, she got insistent: I Want Apple! Then she got demanding. If we didn't fix her meals fast enough to suit her, she demanded: You Done Yet? If she wanted seconds, she would blurt out: More Apple! When she got really impatient, she would climb down off of her cage, waddle into the kitchen, and park herself at our feet demanding: You Done Yet? Talk about working under pressure! Recently she started asking, usually after she finished her meal: Done Yet Add More? meaning she wanted to know if we still had more birdie meals to fix.

Once Arua got really settled into the household, she started bossing the macaws around. Whenever the Hyacinth macaw Princess Tara, or one of the Blue and Golds, Bubba or Aboo, acted up, she would scream out: Tara! Tara! TARA! Or: Bubba! With Aboo, she would demand: Stop It!

Arua quickly learned the names of all the other parrots, Tillie, our demure Timneh African grey, her favorite; Princess Tara, Bubba, Boo; Cracker, our Ruby macaw, and Roxanne (or Rox) our Greenwing macaw and Diva parrot. We are pretty sure she knows the name of our Goffin's cockatoo Kid Kadra, but she absolutely refuses to say his name because she out and out hates that parrot!

Recently Arua demonstrated her linguistic abilities by saying her first Two Sentence phrase:

You Want More? That Was Good Apple!

This followed a particularly satisfying dinner of parrot mac and cheese. She knew we were sharing in the meal. She wasn't asking for more food for herself. She was letting us know it was okay to partake of more ourselves! Not only is Arua one bright parrot. She's also very polite!

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