A Little Green Parrot called Peanut.

The Ungrateful Peanut

The first time I saw Peanut he was lying motionless in the middle of a road in the suburban neighborhood where I live. Like an oddly green leaf among a drift of brown and gold, his tiny body lay vulnerable and still. The brightness of his green plumage is what caught my eye. I pulled over and stepped out on the road, crunching through the leaves towards him. Not a twitch. Not a stir. I crouched beside him, amazed at his beauty and saddened at his death.

Or imminent demise.

For apparently he was not dead

I spied a faint movement and gently scooped him up. I tucked him against the front of my shirt and felt the warmth of his small body next to mine. One beady, black eye flickered open briefly and then shut again.

Poor, sweet thing. I guessed he had been hit by a car and was dying. At least I could spare him from being run over, or attacked and eaten alive by predators.

I cradled him against me and made my way back to the car. I could give him a peaceful place to die.

He must be dying

Having spent a number of years living in South Florida, I was accustomed to seeing these small parrots flying in rowdy groups or hanging out like bright green beads strung on the black ropes of overhead power lines. I enjoyed watching them, amused by their squat bodies and noisy, busy lives. Now, as I held this still, warm body close to me, I felt a sense of honor, sadness and sweetness entwined.

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From Deathbed to Convalescent

I drove home slowly and tucked him carefully in a shoe box with holes punched in the lid. I gently touched his tiny green head with the tip of my finger, whispered goodbye, and placed him on a high counter out of reach of my cats. I was determined not to fall in love, my typical response to the numerous strays I have rescued over the years. I expected he would be dead by the time I returned and could do without the heartbreak.

A few hours later I pulled that little coffin towards me and lifted the lid. Miracle of miracles, my little guest was wide awake, on his feet, and clearly unafraid. He squawked loudly. I jumped and laughed.

My little guest was a Quaker or Monk Parrot, native to several South American countries. They’ve flown wild in South Florida since Hurricane Andrew and the pet trade set them free. My guest had a broken leg and was severely dehydrated. For a small fortune a local bird doctor gave him nutrients and antibiotics and set his tiny leg in an even tinier cast. She clipped his wings so he could not escape while his leg was healing and provided directions on his care.

I called him Peanut, and as I observed his diminutive, stocky frame, miniature cast leg held out at an awkward angle, I knew that despite my earlier resolutions, my heart was lost.

“My heart was lost to Peanut.”

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Decibels of the Deaf

I borrowed a bird cage from a friend and arranged a gnarly stick across the bars for a perch, although until his cast was removed he was literally grounded and spent all his time on the floor. During the day I hung his perch on the verandah outside, so he could enjoy the breeze and the sights and sounds of the birds in my garden. At night I would place his cage on that same high counter, away from the cats, and covered with a large towel.

I loved having him stay with me. The only challenge was the decibel level of his screeches. Although they seemed more conversational than anything else, rather like a deaf old man simply unaware of how loudly he spoke.

“He would eye my cats scornfully, puff up his little chest, and strut past them like a small general inspecting his troops.”

I can’t remember now how long he stayed with me, other than at the time it seemed like he had been with me forever, and I hoped he would never leave. Eventually his little leg healed, and his wing feathers grew out. Sitting at the open door of his cage he would flap his wings into a blur of green, building up his strength and stamina.

He had a healthy appetite and loved his daily bath. I would place a shallow dish of water on the bottom of his cage, and he would squawk loudly and waddle over to squat in the middle of the dish, flapping his wings exuberantly and spraying water everywhere.

He appeared quite happy to sit on my fingers or shoulders and displayed a rather horrifying absence of fear for cats or people. He had his bath on the verandah table sometimes and afterwards would hop onto my lap, waddle to the edge, then make his way down the chair leg, claw over beak, until he reached the floor.

He would eye my cats scornfully, puff up his little green chest, and strut past them like a small general inspecting his troops, emitting an ear-splitting shriek should they dare set a paw in his direction.

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Letting Go

He would ride my shoulder majestically as I completed chores around the house and garden, paying particular attention when we walked to the bottom of the garden to refill the bird feeder for my garden birds. He would cock his little head to one side, and eye the Blue Jays with his shiny back button eyes.

Then one sunny day as we walked back from the feeder, he flapped his elegant, freshly grown wing feathers and took off. With barely a backward squawk he was gone.

My initial reaction was horror. Where was he? What if he wasn’t ready to go yet and couldn’t find food? What if he got lost trying to find his way home? My shoulder and heart felt empty.

“Sometimes we just have to let things and people, even green feathery people, go.”

Then it dawned on me he had stayed on his own terms, long past the time he needed for healing. I had shut him in his cage at night but only for his own protection. He was ready to go, so he left. My job was not to hold on, but to appreciate the time we had, the opportunity I had to help him, and then let him go.

Sometimes we just have to let things and people, even little green feathery people, go.

Peanut never came back to say hello, and although occasionally some parrots would visit my birdfeeder, I had no indication that any of these birds might be Peanut. I still see little green gatherings of Peanut’s cousins and other relatives around the neighborhood, squawking and shrieking as they flutter through the blue sky. It makes me smile when I think of Peanut, his puffed-out chest and that magnificent strut.

I wish him well wherever he is.

Snapshots from a South African Safari

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