A Christmas Remembered:
Parrots Have Feelings Too

By Jon Hazen

Our blue front Amazon parrot is amazingly persuasive. And I have learned respect, great respect in fact, for the power of a parrot's personality.

It appeared that Sweet Pea, our two-year-old parrot, had bonded to me. I worked with her learning phrases and handled her as much as she would allow. So it made sense that she liked me. Occasionally though, she would lash out with her beak at the oddest times and I quickly learned to avoid her if she got 'snakey'. I had been bitten enough times to know she could really clamp down if this was her intention.

It just had not occurred to us that Sweet Pea was at her worst when we had guests. She would get excited, hold her wings extended, flash her eyes and you can believe I knew better than to handle her then. Yet I did not put two & two together until the Christmas of 1985. It was then I learned her snakey moods were motivated by a wide streak of jealousy.

For Christmas my wife and I had rented an A-frame on the beach north of Lincoln City to be joined by my parents and brother for a long holiday weekend. We brought Sweet Pea along because we thought she would enjoy the new surroundings. Like all birds, she had great powers of observation.

Well, she observed plenty, alright. She saw me giving my attention to "strangers," hour after hour. I greeted her a few times the first day, but never approached other than to say "hello" or drop a piece of nut, cheese, or other tidbit into her dish. She sat on the top of her large cage, eating and watching. Unknown to me, she was also plotting her revenge.

At mid-morning the next day, we were all in the main room of the cabin, reading the paper, watching the surf, and having coffee. I noticed Sweet Pea watching me intently. She caught my eye and started to dance on top of her cage, one of her ways of inviting my company. I got up and as I approached, she cooed and fluffed her feathers...another signal of friendship.

"Step, Step," I said and she stepped onto my hand. I cooed at her and she echoed me. I brought her close to my face and continued to speak softly to her. I loved this intelligent, friendly creature. I brought her near my cheek.

Without warning she struck like a cobra, burying her powerful beak into the soft flesh of my right nostril. Simultaneously she fastened herself to my hand with a tenacious clawed grip and began to furiously beat her wings. I gargled something unintelligible, staggered, and tried to remove her from my face. I struggled to extend my arm, but her claws and beak had the strength of an eagle combined with the leverage of a bolt cutter.

There were shooting stars and rainbows throughout the room as my eyes rolled and filled with tears. I heard voices exclaiming in Spanish, English, or Russian. The room tilted as I broke the death grip on my nose and put the bird back on her cage.

"Are you okay? Are you okay?"

'I'm okay," I denied as I wobbled up the stairs to the second floor bathroom to see if there was enough left of my nose for a good plastic surgeon. It was a long way up those stairs and down the hall, miles maybe, but I was able to remain conscious most of the way. Staring into the mirror, I wondered who the guy was with bloodshot eyes and crimped nose.

I washed my face, took two aspirin and dabbed at my gashed flesh with a tissue. I wondered how the Indians of the Amazon prepared parrot.

Season's Greetings

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    Salem Oregon Community Guide
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