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.
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