The day that Okie came to stay!
by Rick Paul
Ara Macao - Scarlet Macaw
My wife and I live in a small town in central Colombia. I am a retired American and Marce is a Colombian school teacher. We live in a relatively secluded place that is considered a paradise by those who visit us. There are 24 rustic homes here and all have beautiful wrap around patios. When we first moved to our house we built several bird stands to feed the array of wild birds. To a bird lover it would bring tears of amazement to be here in the morning to see the 10-15 different varieties’ of birds comingle and chow down. The evening feed is the same. The colors of birds and the different sizes are amazing. It is common for us to come home from shopping and see some of the residents taking pictures or just standing and watching the birds. We make no attempt to contact or control them. We just put natural feed out and enjoy the show.
About 2-or 3 months ago I saw a parrot fly over the house a few times. Never landing, just making a couple of fly over’s and then off the parrot went. Last week we went outside to begin the morning feeding and there was the parrot sitting on one of the bird stands eating a banana. My wife went to the bird and offered another banana and some papaya that we grow. Since that time the bird has never left our house. Because there are other animals around especially at night we decided to see if she would let us take her in the house at night. To our amazement she cooperated with no problem.
(Please note: Neither of us have any idea of how to take care of a bird of any kind.)
The next morning I came and took her outside to her place on the bird stand. I then began to build a perch on our outdoor patio and put some toys there that I made. She took to the stand like it was a second home. Since this was all going to easy I began to worry about what was going on here. So I decided to gather the bird up and take her to a person in our town who is an expert on birds. He has his own vet practice dedicated only to the care of birds. When I walked into his office his eyes opened up like a Christmas tree. He asked where I got the animal. I told him, "No where, it just came to our house a couple of days ago and I thought I would bring him to the vet to see if the bird is sick or injured." Also, I told him I had no idea what kind of bird it was or how old. The vet told me it was an Ara Macaw about 12-15 years old. The underside of her wings had been clipped a long time ago and there is evidence that she may have been mistreated because her feathers were not as in as good of shape as they should be. Also, he felt told us that she was probably a very domesticated bird.
The vet then told us a few more things about the bird and advised us not to do too much more to her for a while. “Just take it easy with her.” We have decided it is a female for now although we know it is very difficult to distinguish. We have built her several perches, but she chooses only to stay on one, she can fly, and she is just starting to “talk” to my wife a bit. We have a landscaper that comes to our house to mow the grass with a ‘weed eater’ type of machine that makes a loud continuous noise. She appears to love the noise and gets bothered when he stops. We named her 'Okie' because she has a dominate red features that stand out. 'Okie' is a nickname for people who come from my home state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma is an Indian name for ‘land of the red’ so it suits her fine.
Some other things about Okie: we do not cage her. She can come and go as she pleases. Yesterday she flew off to a neighbor’s house for some reason and I just walked over and put her on a stick and she climbed on my shoulder and we walked home to the perch where she stayed all day. We feed her a variety of fruits. We have about 10 different kinds of fruit trees that grow on our property. She likes seeds and it seems like she has never had many of them before. Almonds are her favorites. She likes to nip at me when I walk by her on the way to the back yard area, but never to hurt. She also likes to preen my hair sometimes. It is obvious that she is a domesticated bird because of the clipped wings, but no one has come by or put out any kind of word that she is missing. There is another Macaw that came by to be with her for several days, but that bird does not come around anymore. I have tried to get the bird to stay with us but the other bird is shy of us and won’t come near.
Basically, we leave Okie alone. Once in a while we try to do some things with her, but back off if she gets upset. We also have a 6 month old Jack Russell Terrier dog who is very jealous of her and makes it obvious that she does not want Okie around. So we keep them well apart.
Today, I am going to build her a swing to see if she will like her new ‘toy.’ I try not to introduce too many things to her at once, but I do let her know that we are here and want her to stay. Okie and Marcie are enjoying their little talk fests and they seem to be getting longer and longer. We have decided that Okie is not our bird and belongs to our community. Anyone can come by and see Okie and take her picture which she does not seem to mind. We tell the children as much as we can about Okie so they can have a better appreciation about animals.
So, that’s the brief story about Okie and how she came to live with us. We do not know how long we will be allowed to have her…it is her decision and not ours. We have looked up afew thing on the internet but are reluctant to put a lot of money into Okie until we are sure she will stay around. I will not cage the bird or try to restrict her ability to move around in any way. She belongs to everyone and if she chooses to stay with us for a while we will consider it a special blessing.
Your thoughts and comments are welcomed.