Yes, it really is possible to bond—truly, madly, deeply—with a bird

Yes, it really is possible to bond—truly, madly, deeply—with a bird

From the moment little Coco hopped onto our collaborator's hand, the connection between man and bird was obvious for everyone to see.

May 24, 2019 By John Geary

I'd enjoyed strong relationships with my cats in the past. And even with my father's dog. But birds? Well, to me, birds seemed different, not something human beings, with our propensity for 4-legged furry critters, could easily connect with.

How wrong I was.

My wife really hit it off with our first African grey, Nikki. But he didn't trust males much and although Nikki eventually accepted me, if truth be told, we never really bonded. It was a fateful day, then, when I went to the pet store to buy some Christmas treats for Nikki and I met a little, 4-month-old Congo African grey. He stepped right onto my hand and that was it. I was smitten. After a few weeks going to the store every day, the strength of our connection was obvious and we brought Coco home.

That was 18 years ago.

Love finds a way

While I'm working in my home office Coco doesn't merely sit about on his play stand or in a cardboard box. No, he climbs down, walks over, and jumps onto my lap. He immediately gravitates towards me and, no matter how often we put him back on his cage top or perch, within minutes, Coco's back at my side!

Ka-boom! Woo-hoo! Whoop!

He's an expert vocalizer who loves to imitate the sound effects I make. Ka-boom! quickly became one of Coco's favourite expressions, after we watched an old Jonny Quest cartoon. He reels out Woo-hoo!—in his best Homer Simpson voice—but only when my team scores while we're watching a game! He also loves to climb the stairs and throw stuffed toys down for me to toss back up, exclaiming Whoop! every time. And we've made up our special songs, like “You won't see nothing like the Mighty Coco Puff!” (based on Manfred Mann's “Quinn the Eskimo”) and “The Coco Puff theme song” from Roger Ramjet).

True empathy

Our connection goes beyond activities and singing. Coco seems to sense whenever I'm sad or out of sorts. Lately, I've been struggling with a knee issue that will require surgery. I've been limping around the house because of it. Coco seems to understand. He flies over to my knee as if to cheer me up and makes a mournful wailing sound: Oooahhh!

In fact, at night, it seems there's no other place Coco would rather perch than on my knee, standing on one foot, dozing, eyes closed, head turned around, beak buried in his feathers while I watch late-night TV. Who enjoys it more? Coco or me? In my opinion there's no feeling in the world like having a bird trust me enough to feel safe sleeping on one foot on my lap.

Every day's an adventure

With Coco, every day is full of love and adventure. There's always another game to invent, another new toy to explore, another challenge for me to invent. Because if I don't, Coco will—that's the real nature of our bond.

Gallery: Coco's life at home.

Photos credit: Personal collection.

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