We saved our daughter from a restaurant in Valle de Angeles. She was trapped in a cage which wasn’t much bigger than herself.
Sorry, I should be more clear. She isn’t actually our daughter. I was mind-fucking you. Plus, that introduction is a great prompt for a thriller set in Tegucigalpa. She’s actually the white-fronted amazon parrot we adopted called Frida. You would have known that had you read the previous post. Keep up!
We actually spotted her in July or August. The cage’s perch was a surplus. It came up to Frida’s chest as she sulked at the bottom of the cage with her sibling, sick of passers by (mainly little grubby oiks) sticking their fingers in the cage. Pamela saw how taken I was with them. I gave the birds half the rice from our plates which is strange for me because I never waste food – unless it’s sopa mondongo (tripe soup). I recounted over the meal about my childhood, having an avairy with budgies, cockatiels and quails, the exotic calls in the garden throughout summer and the politics of where to put the nest boxes during mating season. I missed them. It has always been my dream to own a giant walk-through avairy with a desk where I can sit and write. All the birds would be rescued, living in peace, a bit like the avairy in the Nature Centre in Birmingham, which is coincidentally where I did my school work experience 22 years ago. A pipe dream, maybe, but at least I have a start with Frida.
We went back to the restaurant in October. We asked about the parrots and before we knew it, the owner was naming a price. They must haved flogged her sibling, and when I saw Frida for the second time, her feathers were ruffled and she looked distressed, being kept in a cardboard box. Amazons, I have learned, hate sun, as well as dark spaces. I asked how old she was and they said about three months, but I guessed she was about three months old when I saw her three months before then, so in short, I’ve little idea what her age. I’m taking their word for it and guessing she was born in June 2016. The previous owners also believed she is female. Many parrots are sexually dimorphic, and the only way to determine the parrot’s gender is by a DNA test, which was the case with my brother’s African Grey. To put it short, the restaurant owner didn’t look like the type who would bother splashing the cash on a DNA test for a parrot he wanted to flog ASAP. So Frid-a could well actually be a Frid-o. We won’t actually know until it reaches sexual maturity in a couple of years. Apparently the males get very aggressive – sex-pests so to speak (funnily enough, a lot like Honduran men) – but Frida shows no signs of this, no matter what Pamela tells you. My wife has also got it into her head that Frida hates her and is extremely jealous. I’m beginning to see more symptoms of jealousy in Pamela, however. Frida just seems to want attention. It is true that female parrots warm to men more, and she can get a litle clingy, refusing to leave my shoulder while riping chunks out my t-shirt. But she is very sociable when people come to the house, showing off her great climbing skills and array of curses.
Going back to when we took Frida, I can’t tell if she is contraband, poached or bred legally, but I had my suspicions even before the owner put a black bin-liner over the cage and wanted us to leave ASAP, but I did feel a fair wedge of criminal guilt.
Going back to climbing, it is the only way Frida can reach high spaces. It seems the former owners clipped her flight feathers too close to one of her wings, which seems to have stunted the feather spouts and nerves. They pretty much hacked right into it. Usually the feathers grow back within two to three months but we’ve had her for four months and there’s no sign. The ordeal must have given Frida a considerable amount of trauma, because for the first couple of months she’d get hysterical if my finger went anywhere near that side of her body. Pamela sometimes calls her Maleficent, on the count of her power of flight being taken from her, as well as possessing something of a scandalous soul. In sad irony though, Frida Kahlo wrote a diary by the title of Alas Rotas (broken wings). The name seems even more fitting.
Frida (the parrot) has chilled quite a bit now and has learned to flap herself short distances. She also climbs the curtains. We came home the other week to find she wasn’t on top of her cage and we couldn’t hear her usual excited squeak when we entered the house. We went through all the rooms checking but nothing. I was beginning to think she had escaped, somehow, geniusly, despite all the windows being shut. We then found her in the back room upstairs on the curtain rail, changing from silent mouse to squawking mocking hysterics within seconds.
No. Don’t feel too sorry for her. She parades around the house on my shoulder like a hitch-hiking monarch. I am merely the chauffeur of the flock, that passes fresh fruit while she lounges like a Goddess upon her heavenly cage. She has her favourite food everyday, she flirts with the neighbouring pet parrots, she mimics the dogs in the neighbourhood and starts off howling matches between the two American Bulldogs living opposite, she pinches my ear and pulls off my glasses and then runs off, she has her own Instagram page (#FridaVerde321), she cacks on my newest and favourite shirts, and she vandalises the joint when she has food. She is, by and large, a thug.
On the subject of clipped wings, it is one of the most controversial issues in parrot ownership. Sod that, in pet ownership. I’m often at loggerheads with myself about this. The animal rights activist in me says it’s wrong. Parrots, like most birds, are meant to fly. It’s in their DNA and it’s God’s will; evolved from dinosaurs (a Veloci-Frida – sorry for the shit pun) to do just that. Clipping wings is metaphorically breaking a bird’s arms. I would one day like to see Frida flap her wings and fly. Seeing her stretch her wings out and being unable to use them properly is a source of guilt, especially when flocks of parrots fly overhead and she calls out to them but can’t join them.
The more selfish part of my brain says, suffice to say, they should remain clipped so we can continue to hand-rear her. It would have been nigh on impossible to tame her without it. Having done some research on the topic (my parents gave me a fascinating parrot book for Christmas), it’s not just the feathers that need to grow back, but also the building of flight muscles. This can be anywhere between two to six months, then a few more weeks to regain their flight coordination. Needless to say, parrots are very prone to injury during this period. Seeing her flop out the window into the path of a hungry dog, cat or rat haunts me (excuse my girly dramatics, but I speak the bloodiest truth).
Frida has also become very consented and lazy. Any DNA which taught her to search for food has been replaced by sulking squawks if she doesn’t get it fast enough. When she first came to me, she would climb my entire body to get to my shoulder. Now she waits to be carried up. Yes, most of this is my own fault, a submissive victim in this abuse of dominance, but I don’t think she would survive long in the merciless wild. I take her out in the garden so she can gnash on the weeds and plants, get a gist of the wild, but she usually comes right back to me, whining like a toddler.
It’s a hard decision I’ll have to make at some point. As I said, she’s part of the family, but at the same time, she is a bird: She deserves to fly. I don’t know how many generations back her family have been in captivity, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she or her parents were poached from the wild, which is sad.
She seems happy, though. And that’s good enough for me for now.
Do you know what I love about owning a pet? Even though they bully and manipulate you for food, to give them attention and clean up after them, they are a symbol of purity. They haven’t corrupted minds like we humans, that have learned to discriminate our neighbour for their nationality, race or politic. It’s an unconditional bond and they help you, as much as you care for them, through good times and bad. It’s such a wonderful, honest relationship (while Frida’s there looking at me write this, as though I’m a naïve idiot, ripe for a good peck of the ear).
I remember when we brought her home in the car. I had no idea what breed she was or what we were letting ourselves in for, basically conmitting all the sins to pre-pet ownership. We hadn’t a cage, food or knowledge of her breed’s personality. I clawed through some basic information and learned she was from the Amazonas family. You cannot imagine my thoughts when I read they had a life-span of 40 years. I was expecting 15 at the most. Fuckkkkk. They could be aggressive with bi-polar attitudes. Fuckkkkk. They need lots of social interaction. Fuckkkkk. They shit everywhere. Fuckkkkk.
Yes, all the above fuckkkkks are true, and I did feel nervous and duped. Four months on, however, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If she lives till forty (I’ll be 77; scary thought), I’ll be happy. It’s the start of a blossoming friendship.