The day that Okie came to stay!

by Rick Paul
(Armenia, Colombia)

Ara Macao - Scarlet Macaw

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.

Comments for The day that Okie came to stay!

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Sep 11, 2009
by: Linda

Thank you so much for writing. This is a wonderful story, and Okie has found some wonderful people in you and your wife. I used to live in Texas which is just south of Oklahoma and am VERY familiar with the term Okie. They actually talk kind of funny too! I now live in Tennessee, and they also talk funny!

What you are doing with Okie is good. She IS a bird who was once someones pet. If they either abused or neglected her, she then chose to leave and find another home which sounds like it is yours.

Her diet sounds good, and the only thing I would add is a high quality pellet. Harrison's is a very good organic food and Tracie carries it out here. The Macaw will need the large grind. I think she will like it, and it will be a good addition to the fruit and seeds she is now getting.

You are VERY fortunate to have an Avian Vet so close to you and take Okie in at least once a year or more often if she becomes ill which will look like she is tired all the time and/or stops eating as well. The other issue that may come up in time is breeding. It looks like she would have already gone through all this at her age, so I would not worry too much about it. She will have male admirers, and some of them may be smaller than her, so not to worry here either. If you notice her mating with a bird more her size, then you can build her a nest box out of a reamed out tree log secured to a post on your patio where she would be safe. They need to be about three feet tall, wide and the interior needs to be roomy enough so she can get in and out easily without huring her eggs if it comes to that. She is a young girl in parrot terms, so this could happen with one of the Macaws. The Macaw family will interbreed because they are all the same Family just different types within the family.

One other thing is that Scarlett's DO NOT LIKE CHILDREN. They are okay if the children keep their distance, so make sure any visitors have their children well under control. For older ones, you still have to have them keep their distance. I've had Scarlet Macaws, and if you read up on them, they are the ones most likely to be closer to their wild ancestors in their behaviors. I received some very nasty bits from mine when I did things like try to "show" people how well trained she was. She and I kissed from time to time--dry lips barely touching her tongue. I told some visitors one day that she and I do a "trick". She opened up my bottom lip, and it required stitches. She laughed very loud, and all my guests did too! Never "kissed" her again.

Can you write to us from time to time about Okie and post a picture or two now and again? This is a joyous story, and we thank you for being such kind, loving people. May God Bless You Always!


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