~Written by Jude Vickers~
When my husband told me his cousin had given us a bird I was somewhat less than thrilled, having had a mean parakeet when I was in grade school. I told him I didn’t want a bird, we didn’t need one, and we were not taking it. I reminded him that we lived in the woods, with hundreds of birds in a dozen varieties flocking to the feeders right outside our windows year round. We could enjoy them from a distance and I saw no good reason to bring one into our home. I even argued that having an animal pooping inside would set a bad example for our dogs! Then Les explained the reason Wendy had given us Paco, who I would later learn was a Solomon Island boy, was because the bank had foreclosed on their home. The place they were moving was smaller, and while they could make room for her cockatiel’s cage, there was no place for Paco's bigger one.
Les then went on to explain that Paco didn’t warm up to just anybody but when he stopped by Wendy’s on his trucking route, Paco always came right to him. Les had also seen other truckers with parrots and thought that since his Great Dane had gotten too old to get in and out of the big truck that Paco would make a good traveling companion. He assured me that Paco would only be home with me for a little while, while my husband figured out the logistics of having a bird in the truck.
Reluctantly, I began to accept the fact that we now had a bird. I asked Les when Wendy would be bringing it to us and was told we would have to go get him; that started my complaining all over again! Finally the big day came; Saturday, June 28, 2008. It was a 140 mile ride to Wendy's during which I was still trying to see the upside of having a bird. When we got there her place was chaotic, but we all took a moment to gather in the kitchen. As Wendy began to tell me about Paco, the most gorgeous bird flew past me and landed on my husband's shoulder. Green has always been my favorite color and I had never seen a living creature so vibrantly green!
“Oh!” I exclaimed as I put two and two together “That’s the bird we’re getting?”
Tears filled Wendy’s eyes as she nodded, and my attitude toward having a bird turned completely around. We watched my niece share her scrambled egg and toast with him as Wendy’s family told us all they could about Paco. They had rescued him some years earlier from a woman who’d long been tired of him, and Paco apparently hated Wendy. While he seemed to have no problem with the rest of the family, Paco would dive-bomb Wendy when ever he got the chance. It was Paco's obvious affection for Les, and my well reputed way with animals, that made them pick us for his new family.
Before long it was time for the guys to load Paco's cage up on the back of my husbands’ pick-up truck. Inside, Wendy gave me a Ziploc baggie full of seeds and brightly colored fruit shapes that she said contained all the vitamins and supplements Paco needed to stay healthy. Soon everything was all loaded up but before we left there was one more thing Wendy wanted to do; clip his flight feathers. Paco had been fully flighted at her house but Wendy was concerned he might try to escape from our unfamiliar place and trimmed back the first four feathers on each wing. I figured she knew what she was doing, but oh it made Paco mad!
All we had for transportation was the Chihuahua sized kennel that didn’t quite fit behind the front seats of that Ford Ranger. We did a little improvising to make it work before Wendy toweled Paco and brought him out. Then we all hugged good-bye and my dear cousin cried her eyes out as she watched us go. Paco was very mad but soon settled down and started looking out the back window; wherever he was going he knew the cage he’d always had would be there too. About halfway home, I was surprised that Paco turned and began looking where we were going instead of where we had been. Les and I decided that was a good sign.
At the house, we brought the cage in then toweled Paco to bring him in. He went willingly into his cage, undisturbed by our dogs; a Great Dane named Mack and a Pit Bull–Rottweiler mix named Josie. Mack seemed more interested in the cage; it was even bigger than him! Josie was fascinated with the bird, sure we had brought it home for the sole purpose of entertaining her. Josie loved watching the birds on the feeders, as well as all the forest life around us, and could hardly believe her eyes that she had what we began to call her own personal live bird tv.
Then my husband had to go back to work, leaving me home with Paco who was one mad little bird. Paco didn’t know me, he missed his family, and he was very upset about his wings. As I tried to find a way to relate to this new creature in my care, it soon became clear that Paco and I had something in common; we'd both had our primary mode of transportation taken from us. Where Paco had had his wings clipped, I had lost most of my left leg in a motorcycle accident some years earlier. From my wheelchair, I pointed that similarity out and began promising Paco that when his feathers grew back I would personally make sure they were never trimmed again. I commiserated every point I could about the similarities in our situations, and Paco soon began listening. I could almost see him making connections in his little birdie head as I talked.
Things began to improve as Paco realized I was not his enemy. As he warmed up to me Les began to realize that he’d lost his potential trucking buddy, but Les was not terribly surprised by that turn of events. He was pleased that Paco and I had become such buddies. And Paco delighted me daily; before my accident I had been an attendant in Michigan's state run psychiatric hospital system. I had spent years observing behaviors and found Paco’s antics to be so much more entertaining! Knowing nothing about birds but a whole lot about behavior training, I began searching the internet for information on Eclectus Parrots. There was a lot of information out there, a lot of conflicting and ambiguous information. In all the listings of birds and their sizes, I could not find an Eclectus listed anywhere!!!
Then I found a site called Land of Vos. While I didn’t know what ‘Vos’ meant, I recognized the green guys pictured there. I was amazed at the color differences between the genders, and awed at the beauty of a pair. Then I noticed a link to something called The Eclectus Connection. While I’ve never been much into forums and confused by how some of them post information, I sent an application anyway. Carolyn soon welcomed me to TEC and it didn’t take long to realize I’d hit the jackpot of ekkie information! With a few changes in my approach, and in Paco’s diet, we all became a whole lot happier.
I’m not exactly sure how long I had Paco before I began thinking about finding a companion for him. Birds are, after all, social animals. And TEC often cross posted birds in need of new homes, but they all seemed to be half the country away. Then a poor, plucked and neglected Michigan hen showed up… but that’s a story for another day.