Cooking and eating through a new culture

Bird Brain

There is a new member to our little family: Loli.

This was completely unplanned. Now, I have always had birds. They are incredibly fascinating to me and I can sit and admire them for hours…spoken like a true biologist. But the truth is, when I went for my biology degree, the ornithology professor had died and they never back filled his position while I was there, so I concentrated in mamalogy instead. Everything I have learned, I learned on my own.

Then there is the other side of my career: owning birds. They do not make good pets. Aside from parakeets/budgies, canaries, and a few species of finches, most people do not have the time or ability to take care of birds, especially parrots. Social, sensitive and equipped with a powerful beak, most parrot owners refuse to interact with them once they get bitten. And all parrots will bite you at one point or another. Trust me, I have the scars to prove it. Secondly, all parrots are protected under international law. Why? Because of illegal pet trade and smuggling. FYI: nearly 90% of illegally smuggled birds die in transport under horrible conditions. I would love to buy every single bird I see in the markets. But rest assured, there will be more back the next day.

All of my parrots have been rescue birds. All had some disability and some more severe than others. My most beloved parrot was neglected so badly that his wings literally atrophied from lack of use because he was kept in a cage too small for him to properly exercise. My vet said she had never seen anything like it in her career. He passed after 15 years. Happy years he would not of otherwise had. As hard as I tied to rehabilitate another parrot, he self mutilated himself to death and died of secondary infections. To have a single bird alone in a cage for hours upon hours can literally drive them insane to the point that they self mutilate by pulling their feathers out or even chewing off their toes. My last parrot was taken from a home of hardcore smokers and she literally stunk of cigarets for months until she molted. She is still happily alive and the main reason I went back stateside. I truly believed I had everything required for her importation, but vet services in Costa Rica was asking for certification on diseases that don’t even exist in the US. It was a down to the wire decision and I was not willing to risk the life of my parrot because one sentence did not translate properly.

I just wanted a canary. Really. Just like I wanted “something different” and ended up in Costa Rica.  I missed having the antics of a bird in my home, even just a small one. Every once in a while I would hear the sweet song of a canary come from a home I would pass and I missed my feathered friends. As luck would have it, I found an ad and called. My canary guy sounded legit and I was interested and then he said, “I have a parrot too. That I will give away to the right person.” Hmmmm…a free parrot? I had visions of a neglected, insane, feather plucking screamer. I was skeptical. Rafa on the other hand, was, “Yeah, we’re picking up a parrot today.”

The guy had lovely canaries. And he had Loli, a red-lored amazon parrot. And Rafa was right. I was completely smitten. Loli was bright and vivacious and lovingly cared for. Her only issue being a bum foot that works well but not good enough to survive in the wild. Her owner admitted seeing her as a tiny chick in a market and bought her up. Circumstances being what they were, he and his family had moved into a smaller home, leaving Loli outdoors, which is fine in Costa Rica, but she had also been visited by the neighboring hawk. She was no worse for wear but her future seemed rather uncertain, until now.

Birds are very cautious and I have let Loli get use to her new surroundings. Believe it or not I shipped a huge parrot cage down, thinking it would be Lily’s. We shared some papaya and a peanut butter and guayaba jelly sandwich. All good relationships take time and trust and we are taking it slow. She is incredibly sweet and I feel fortunate to care for her.

This morning over coffee, she let me scratch her head. Yes, I am very fortunate.


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