Cah’ya (technically chah-HI-yah, but her nickname is KIE-ah) is a 5 year old Aru Eclectus who came to me in August 2008. Like Bayu, her species is from Indonesia, so I named her the Indonesian word for “light”. I got her from my friend Scott at Old World Aviaries. Scott is an excellent breeder who fully fledges and socializes his babies, but she was, to use Scott’s euphemism, “a wild one.” For some reason, socialization didn’t really seem to work with her. It partially could have been because she had constricted toe syndrome in all four of her back toes when she was a young’n, and ended up losing three of the four, the surviving toe being stunted. But there are plenty of babies with constricted toe syndrome who don’t end up with the behavioral issues she had.
First of all, she was, bar none, the most hyper bird I’ve ever worked with in my life. She would put Caiques to shame. She never stopped moving unless she was asleep. She was also freakishly smart. Within a month of getting her, she had learned to solve the most complicated foraging puzzle toys I could find, so I couldn’t keep her toys stocked fast enough. But most troublingly, she was unhandleable–unlike any of Scott’s babies I’d ever met before. If you made eye contact with her, she would have a mega-super-duper-King-Kong meltdown: she’d throw herself on the floor and/or start attacking anything – a blank wall, a perch, even her own foot – for hours on end. I’m not exaggerating: hours. She was five months old when I got her. I don’t know if you know anything about baby parrots that age, but they don’t do *anything* for hours on end (other than sleep, of course), much less functionless repetitive behaviors. She would also scream for hours on end, whether or not anyone was present. Having worked with children with autism spectrum disorder in college, a lot of her behaviors seemed autistic to me. After consulting a couple of board certified avian vets, one of whom was also a board certified veterinary neurologist, we concluded that autism was certainly a possibility.
So, I set about the laborious and seemingly futile task of trying to change her behavior. That was when I joined PBAS and got some good advice and instruction, but some of it required thinking outside the box, following my instincts, and not necessarily going with what I was learning. And it paid off: 9 months in, she stepped up for the first time. A year and a half in, she let me touch her. Now? I can do anything to her.
And boy, did the pendulum ever swing. She is now my neediest bird, defying every female Eclectus stereotype. She loves being touched. I can grab her head and stretch it out, kissing her on the neck beneath her beak. I can scoop her up and flip her on her back. I can flip her upside down, so she’s hanging from one finger. She likes to cuddle as close to my face as possible and stick her beak in my face for kisses. I’ve created a monster: an endless black hole for affection and attention! Ok, ok, so maybe I’m being just a tiny bit hyperbolic, but you get the idea. 🙂
She also has a pretty impressive vocabulary, especially for a 5 year old, but unlike Bayu, she talks all the time and indiscriminately. She really likes the sound of her own voice; that’s for sure. She’s just a girl who likes to do everything to excess.
Cah’ya’s favorite things to do are talk ceaselessly, destroy foraging toys at record speeds, and velcro herself to me. She also enjoys showing off her flying skills and performing hostile takeovers of all the playgyms.