Summary: Seventeen years ago, when she adopted a neglected, orphaned thirty-year-old parrot named Tiko, the internationally renowned ornithologist Joanna Burger entered one of the most complex relationships of her life. Sullen and hostile when he entered Dr. Burger's home, Tiko gradually warmed up, courting her during mating season, nursing her vigilantly through a bout with Lyme disease, and for a while even fighting her husband for her attentions. In time theirs was a relationship of deep m
utual trust. The Parrot Who Owns Me is Joanna and Tiko's story, as well as the story of the science of birds, and of parrots in particular. Woven into the narrative are insights and fascinating revelations from Dr. Burger's worknot only about parrots, but also about what it means to be human.
Summary: Seventeen years ago, when she adopted a neglected, orphaned thirty-year-old parrot named Tiko, the internationally renowned ornithologist Joanna Burger entered one of the most complex relationships of her life. Sullen and hostile when he entered Dr. Burger's home, Tiko gradually warmed up, courting her during mating season, nursing her vigilantly through a bout with Lyme disease, and for a while even fighting her husband for her attentions. In time theirs was a relationship of deep mutual trust. The Parrot Who Owns Me is Joanna and Tiko's story, as well as the story of the science of birds, and of parrots in particular. Woven into the narrative are insights and fascinating revelations from Dr. Burger's worknot only about parrots, but also about what it means to be human. ...show less
Edition/Copyright:02 Cover: Paperback Publisher:Random House, Inc. Published: 05/14/2002 International: No
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Chapter 1: In Springtime His ThoughtsTurn to Love My parrot, Tiko, didn't court me until five years into our relationship. I knew how attached he was to me, but it came as a complete surprise when one morning in early April his behavior toward me suddenly changed. I found his diminutive brightly feathered self on my bed, insistently poking his head under my hand to solicit preening. In the past, he'd had the good manners to perch on the banister outside the bedroom, patiently watching me sleep and waiting until I stirred before coming in for his ritual morning preening, which had typically lasted five to ten minutes. That morning Tiko gently picked at my cuticle and fingernails with his tongue and beak for two hours while I drifted in and out of sleep, dreaming of jungles, jaguars, and brilliantly colored parrots flitting through the forest canopy. After breakfast, bleary from interrupted sleep, I started work. I'm a biologist, a professor at Rutgers University, and my specialty is ornithology. Tiko is a Red-lored Amazon, a distinguished member of a widespread Central American species. He has taught me a tremendous amount about bird behavior, but that's not why I have a perch for him in my home office. I enjoy his company, and usually he's a most considerate companion, valiantly standing guard over me, a silent sentinel, occasionally emitting a warning cry to protect me from the hawks he sees circling outside our picture window in Somerset, New Jersey. But that spring morning, Tiko flew from his perch in my office, landed on my computer keyboard, and stomped over the keys, forcefully nudging my fingers away from their task. Even pinyon nuts, his favorite treat, did not deflect his desire; within moments he was back at my side. He began to make low mewing and moaning sounds that I hadn't heard before, while gazing pleadingly into my eyes. When I looked away, his mews and moans intensified until I reestablished eye contact. He gently nipped me with his beak-a kind of parrot kiss called ''billing''-which I recognized from observing wild birds. He put his head flat against the desk, exposing his neck and hiding his beak. I massaged the creamy skin on his nape, through feathers that are a pale sagebrush color tinged with electric blue. His skin is softer than a newborn baby's and very warm to the touch. Exposing his nape is a gesture of complete vulnerability: hawks and other predators target it for the kill. After a few days of this, my husband, Mike, who has a Ph.D. in biology as well as being an M.D., and I suspected that Tiko was exhibiting classic male courting behavior. Our suspicions were confirmed when he began to scour the house for nest sites. He inspected the dark tight spots beneath our armchairs, couch, and television, behind books in the bookshelves, between the file cabinet and the daybed where I work in my office. Silent and intent, he spent only a minute or two in each place before flying back to stomp over my keyboard and nuzzle my hand. I knew my parrot and I were close, but just how close, I was about to discover. Tiko finally chose the narrow slot under the credenza for what turned out to be ''our'' nest. The credenza is made of reddish cherry wood, about five feet long and waist high, with three low doors that open to cupboards, and drawers for silverware and napkins. Its bottom is a scant two inches off the floor. Tiko scrunched almost flat on his stomach to slither underneath it, and huddled there for long periods. God knows what he was thinking. When I ventured near, he gave a guttural cry. ''Hi, sweetie! What are you doing?'' My voice held the lilting tone I would use with a five-year-old child. Even though Tiko was entering middle age-thirty-five years old in 1990, when this occurred-he responded well to being talked to and treated like a child. And, as we'll see, his behavior and intelligence were remarkably like a precocious
''[A] brilliantly observed memoir . . . an unusually thoughtful book . . . Bottom line: A literary coo.'' People ''[Burger] sweeps readers into the fascinating world of avian biology, behavior, ecology and conservation.'' Newsday ''One of the warmest, funniest and weirdest memoirs of the year . . . This book is a must-have for bird-lovers and a fun read for everyone else.''Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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