Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Osama Bin Laden's Parrots: Parrot Lore in Pakistani Art

This has got to be the weirdest parrot story we've encountered so far this year. If ever! A new painting by a young Pakistani artist named Amir Raza features Osama bin Laden staring out at an army of shadowy figures. Each carries a machine gun and has the head of a parrot. This from an article posted on of all places, describing the boom in Pakistani art coming out of Pakistan's most violent decade in history. This violent decade has become a boon to Pakistan’s artists, with prices of paintings, number of art galleries in major cities, and frequency of exhibitions all multiplying.

Which got us to thinking. What the hell do parrots have to do with Osama bin Laden? Or Al Qaeda? Or even Islam for that matter?

The parrot heads look suspiciously like Indian Ringneck, or Rose-ringed parrots, the only species of parrot endemic to Pakistan. Actually, four species of parrots: Alexandrine parakeet (Psittacula eupatria), Rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri), Slaty-headed parakeet (Psittacula himalayana), and Plum-headed parakeet (Psittacula cyanocephala).

We know little about Indian Ringneck parrots, except that they seem to have a fearsome reputation for such a small package. Indian Ringnecks apparently are ravaging Burma, and terrorizing London. Seemingly the perfect parrot to figure in Al Qaeda lore. Thankfully there are no naturalized flocks of Indian Ringneck parrots in the United States outside of Bakersfield, that we know of.

As far as we can tell there is little in the way of parrot mythology associated with the religion of Islam, not surprising for a religion that came out of Arabia. Google was not much help. We couldn't find any reference to parrot lore in Islamic tradition. We did find references to bird symbolism in Islamic tradition on a website called

The unknown bird symbolizes the Archangel of Death; a traveller; labour; or a man’s actions or deeds. Big and ferocious or rapacious birds are the kings, chiefs, prominent people, scholars, and rich people or those who make a good living.

Possibly the parrot motif in Amir Raza's Osama bin Laden's Parrots painting symbolizes Al Qaeda fighters as angels of death. We'd love to ask Amir Raza what his painting means. Unfortunately Amir Raza seems to be the Michael Jones of Pakistan. When we Googled the name we came up with pages and pages of Amir Razas.

If anyone has any insight into parrot lore and mythology in Islam, please let us know.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Illustrated Parrot Dictionary: Bliss


noun \ˈblis\

Definition of BLISS

: complete happiness
: paradiseheaven

Example of BLISS

Our Congo African Grey parrot Arua blissfully enjoying her bath

We're having a contest. Send us your photo submissions for our Illustrated Parrot Dictionary. If we like them we'll publish them here. And you'll receive a Parrot Cafe sweatshirt or tee shirt (sorry, size Large only) and a bag of our 100% Parrot Friendly coffee (our choice, but it's all good.) Email submissions to All submissions become property of The Zen Parrot. Drink more coffee! You can sleep when you're dead.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Seattle Crows: Toad Junior Model 2013

Mr Toad hanging out with our Greenwing Macaw Roxanne

We moved into our Ballard home in North Seattle in 1999. We set up a play stand out back for our Greenwing macaw and Diva parrot Roxanne. After a year or two we noticed a particular crow hanging around Roxanne. The crow was notable for one straight toe on its left foot, so easy to spot. We named the crow Mr Toad. Mr Toad seemed particularly interested in Roxanne. He would perch on the fence along Roxanne's play stand, and just sit and watch Roxanne. Her colors must fascinate him. Some times he would sit on the play stand waiting for Roxanne to come out.

Some time later we realized that Mr Toad had a Mrs Toad. A sleek and good looking lady crow. Then one summer the Toads showed up with a Toad Junior. Then every summer after they would show up to introduce the current model Toad Junior to us. And needless to say, every summer we look forward to meeting the new Junior.

Closeup of Mr Toad's toe

The Toad Family: Mrs (near) and Mr Toad, with Junior (farthest)

Juvenile crows are very needy. Very hungry. And very loud. Some are down right obnoxious. It must be tough being crow parents. Some years Junior is more obnoxious than other years. Last year was the worst of the bunch we've seen. Loud, hungry, needy, and obnoxious. Especially at 6:00 am outside our bedroom window. We wondered how the parents managed. Toad Junior Model 2013 is actually sedate by comparison.

The Toads hanging out on Roxanne's stand

We love looking out for the Toads each and every day, and we know that the Toads look for us. They usually sit outside the house and call to let us know they are there. Usually to get fed. We put discarded parrot food out for them to eat, along with the pigeons. We probably have the best fed crows in the city.

Toad Junior Model 2013

Mr and Mrs Toad, along with Toad Junior, visited us for brunch once again today. We're confident that Mr and Mrs Toad will continue to visit us, and Roxanne, each and every day. But we also know from past experience that sooner or later Toad Junior will simply disappear. As he grows up, he will eventually take off on his own to establish his own territory, and his own family. We wish the Juniors would come back to visit, but they never do. We'd love to know how they're doing.

Mr Toad often comes by the back yard just to hang out with Roxanne. Or just to hang out waiting for Roxanne to come out. We figure the Mrs must be out shopping. Or something. We know that one day Mr Toad will simply fail to show up. Crows are reputed to have a lifespan of twenty to thirty years, so we hope the Toads will continue to visit for years to come. It will be a sad day when they finally disappear.

Every once in a while we find an object on our back steps. A nail. A button. A piece of glass. Some trinket like that. We've never seen them do it, but our best guess is that the Toads drop off these tokens as appreciation for feeding them. We like to think so anyway.