“I never heard of Eclectus.” was my response when the parrot breeder suggested the species. I was looking for a small to medium sized bird who was fun, friendly, pretty, and adaptable. We spend three months of the year on the road in a motor home and over the years have reduced our doggy population from a dozen to one. A lively parrot seemed just the right addition to the family.
And finding the right breeder was important. After twenty-five years of breeding show dogs, I knew the screening process necessary. First, I scanned the ads in Bird Talk. I wanted aviaries I could visit, which meant ones I could get to in a day’s drive. And I was only interested in breeders who didn’t conduct lot sales to pet stores. My breeder had to care enough about his/her babies to place each one carefully in an individual home. Then I wrote an introductory letter to each, telling them about us, our household and lifestyle, and the characteristics we were looking for in a pet bird. Phone calls followed the letters and we arranged our first visit.
In the week between her suggestion and our first opportunity to visit her aviary, I scoured the book stores and petshops for books which included this lesser known species. When I found only a smattering of conflicting information, I turned to the Pet Forum Libraries on AOL, checking out a variety of parrot species, but finding nothing on Eclectus. Finally, among the current Bulletin Boards, I was able to locate folks who owned and lived with Eclectus parrots. I read everything available. I learned that Eclectus don’t pair-bond in the wild and so would be less likely to exclude my husband or myself as the bird reached sexual maturity. I also discovered that Eclectus scream less and bite less than many varieties of parrots. And while affectionate, they aren’t as needy as Cockatoos. The clincher was one owner’s description of male Eclectus as the Golden Retriever of the bird world. That I could relate to.
When I arrived at the selected aviary, we were instructed to wash our hands and then introduced to some of the kindergarten birds of several species who were looking for loving homes. Many were cavorting in two huge play yards while others ate or napped in the surrounding cages. Everything was CLEAN and the birds appeared healthy and bright-eyed. The breeder brought out a male Eclectus and several females and ushered us into another quieter room where we could chat and play with the birds.
I wasn’t disappointed. “Kelly Green,” a one year old male, sat on my hand or my husband’s, accepted tickles and pets, and generally made his gorgeous self very agreeable. But we wanted a baby. And that meant getting on a waiting list and waiting for eggs to be laid, hatch, and the chicks to be hand-raised. That turned into two months of waiting for the first eggs, another month for the second clutch, and another month before the breeder was sure she had males; then two more months before our baby boy was weaned. We spent that time reading all the books on parrot behavior, training, diseases, feeding and keeping up with the Eclectus bulletin board. We also bought cages–one for home, one for travel–and began investigating play trees and gyms.
Finally it was time to visit the baby birds and let one of them pick us. I couldn’t sleep the night before. What if neither wanted us? The chemistry had to be right. Dogs believe the lyrics to that old song, “Love the one you’re with,” and will fit in with almost any family. We didn’t want to force ourselves on a bird, we wanted to be accepted as friends. As it turned out, I need not have worried. While one of the boys simply disdained both of us, turning around on our hands and showing us his back, even flapping away in rudimentary flight, the other fell in love. We didn’t have to guess. The second chick stretched and craned his neck, peering at our faces. He beaked our fingers, played with a hand toy, squawked inquiringly when we spoke to him, and finally fluffed out his feathers and relaxed companionly on our hands.
The next few weeks will drag long and slow until we can bring Jazz home. His cage is set up, his toys are waiting. We even have a supply of his favorite pellets waiting in the freezer. And the breeder is teaching him his name.