Zuma is a 18 year old Brown Headed Parrot who came to me in May 2010. He was in pretty bad shape when I picked him up: so hypocalcaemic that he had a neurological twitch and his beak was translucent and broke off in chunks when his vet put the speculum in his mouth to get a choanal swab; feathers dull and lacking a lot of the colors they should have had; feathers, beak, and feet covered in layers of nicotene and candle wax after 15 years of living in a house with chain smokers who burned dozens of scented candles at a time to try to cover the smoke smell (the waxy residue still wasn’t gone after the vet techs bathed him with Dawn dish detergent multiple times); lime green poop, which I thought indicated liver failure but it turned out came from the artificial dyes in the Walmart seed mix he’d been eating his whole life; terrified of hands.
I had to give him an entirely new life:
* A new name, first and foremost. Zuma means “surprise” in an African language, although I can’t remember which one. I was looking at languages in any of the countries that Brown Headed Parrots are indigenous to, and found that “zuma” rolled off the tongue nicely. “Surprise” because I wasn’t expecting to get another bird, but his situation was dire enough for the snap decision.
* A new cage. His old one was orange from the nicotene and wax, which wouldn’t come off no matter how many times I scrubbed it.
* A new diet. For the first month with me, he ate non-stop. He’d pick out the orange foods from the chop’n’freeze first (high in beta carotene, which he sorely needed), then the beans and leafy greens (high in calcium, which he also sorely needed), then he’d systematically eat everything else.
* A new paradigm: learning that hands weren’t harbingers of terror and that he had agency in his life, the ability to choose.
I taught him how to forage and take baths, and his health rapidly improved. I also taught him to step up, but he was never overly fond of me, and certainly never sought out my attention. We lived together harmoniously albeit somewhat distantly, as he was far more interested in reducing any and all cardboard into rubble than being friends with me. Which was fine by me. As long as he was healthy and happy, I didn’t think he needed human interaction all that much.
But then, the next year, my partner moved in, and Zuma fell instantly in love with him. They became best buds from the get-go, and they trust each other completely. I was happy that he finally had a friend, and let them do their thing. Interestingly enough, Zuma has recently started seeking out affection and interaction from me as well. It seems that his friendship with my partner has opened the doorway for us to become friends as well.
Zuma’s favorite things are eating, reducing cardboard to rubble, and cuddling with my partner. He also enjoys swinging himself on his boing and putting himself to bed in his happy hut as soon as the sun goes down.