Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

The Parrot Who Owns Me by Joanna Burger Ph.D

parrot owns
This is a book for someone who really loves birds and wants to know more about them through anecdotes and scientific facts brought to life. It’s mainly the account of Tiko, a Red-lored Amazon parrot, who was adopted by the author as a thirty year old after his original caretakers, a pair of elderly sisters, died. Though Burger has had other birds as pets, including parrots, none have brought as much insight and feeling of rapport. She goes into great detail about Tiko’s behavior, which can be both amusing and alarming. She is sensitive to his moods and stress triggers, which to a certain extent, rule her life, hence the title. It also refers to the fact that Tiko views Burger as his mate and in breeding season he builds nests and attacks her husband, Michael. At other times of the year, Tiko and Michael have whistling duets.
The author and her husband are biologists, whose field research has taken them around the world, including remote jungles and beaches during hurricanes. The latest project as of the book’s writing was measuring the amount of pollutants, specifically lead, in wild birds, using their molted feathers. Tiko expands their understanding of bird activity, in groups and with their mates, such as the incredibly strong bond within flocks which allowed hunters to kill such large numbers of birds as the extinct passenger pigeon so easily. Dr. Burger also discussed poaching and the horrifically cruel methods used to capture wild parrots for the pet trade.
Reading this book shows that having a parrot is not something to be entered into lightly, they are complex birds needing much interaction, lots of exercise and a varied diet. And they are long lived, with a lifespan comparable to humans (Tiko is still alive and is now 50 years old). And as he shows, they can be little feathered tyrants, but also a very rewarding companion.

Villard Books 2001 246 pp. ISBN 0-679-46330-5 available in ebook and traditional formats

Jackie has drawn and painted several different kinds of parrots. You can see some of her other subjects on her wildlife art page here

3 comments on “The Parrot Who Owns Me by Joanna Burger Ph.D

  1. rosyb
    April 15, 2013

    I have never liked the idea of people keeping birds in captivity. It just feels wrong. Aren’t parrots so long-lived people often leave them to relatives in wills?

  2. Jackie
    April 16, 2013

    If birds are left in small cages all the time, it’s wrong. But if they are safely allowed out and have a lot of healthy interaction with their humans, I don’t see any difference in keeping birds as pets as dogs or cats or gerbils. It’s the quality of care.
    And yes, most parrots are long lived, that’s why I underlined what a big commitment it is for people thinking of getting one. The book also does that. And parrots aren’t the only long lived creature as pets, turtles and some fish are too.

  3. Pingback: Wild parrots learn human language from escapees | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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