January 31, 2013 @ 6:00 PM

Buckley Unleashed 

Gonzo’s legacy, before he became ill, was to teach a little trick to my Blue and Gold Macaw.  After many years in our home, Gonzo decided it was great fun to sneak out of the food and water bowl doors of his cage.  He would wait until I removed them for cleaning or filling and then proceed to squeeze out and climb up to the top of the cage.  With him, that wasn’t a problem.  He was happy to sit quietly on the outside of his cage…his world…to supervise the household comings and goings.  What I soon came to realize, was Buckley, the B&G Macaw was watching and learning from Gonzo’s ploy. 

Our Buckley is not the brightest bird in the flock so I was quite amazed when one day, I found him outside his cage walking about the room. For those of you with a mischievous Macaw, you know that a Macaw on the loose without supervision can be disastrous…to your curtains, your carpet or anything of momentary interest to a large inquisitive, big beaked bird.  Buckley had used Gonzo’s technique to slide out of the unlatched door.  I quickly scooped him up, to his dismay, and placed him back in his cage.  I then hid around the corner to see if it happened to be a one-time accidental escape or if he really understood that he could slip through the door. 

He went right to the opening and popped out.  Buckley is an average bird of Macaw size, weighing in at about 3lbs however the bowl door is not that large. It was comical to watch him maneuver through and I could tell he was feeling clever and a little naughty because he was vocalizing and blushing, as these birds often do when excited.  Ok, so mom learned to shut the bowl door when prepping food! 

Not to be deterred and relishing his new taste of independence, Buckley began playing with the latch of the closed door and within minutes figured out how to unhook the fastener!  Uhh-Oh….this could be trouble. I placed the empty bowls back in.  He then began manipulating his T-shaped tongue around the bowl to unlatch the door. Unfastening, pushing out the ceramic bowls, and roaming the house while I am away at work are thoughts I didn’t want to entertain.  I could easily visualize my baseboard woodwork reduced to piles of toothpicks or the havoc he would cause with the other birds…or heaven forbid the ruin of my kitchen cabinets!   

You see Buckley has a fetish for the kitchen cabinets.  There must have been something in his past, some association with the cabinets that triggers his longing to climb up from the bottom cabinets and walk along the countertop. He pulls the drawers out one by one using the lower one as a step to the next drawer until he reaches the top.  From what little I know of Buckley’s history, he was purchased as a little bird from a pet store by a young man.  We were told the man was a wanderer and that he owned an RV and traveled the country with Buckley as companion for two years or so. I can’t imagine the limited space in an RV allowing for a large cage needed for such a great bird.  When trying to understand his behavior, I wonder if he might have slept in the sink or was permitted to play on the countertops.  I will never know.  He was given into the care of the young man’s brother and stayed with him and his family for a couple of years.  Then back to his original owner, and back again.  While purchasing seed at a local pet store, I got wind of this family searching desperately for a home for their Macaw. The family was making a life changing move to New Orleans so the husband could work in the construction trade following the aftermath of Katrina.  The family needed the income however the move would not allow them to include a parrot in their new surroundings. 

So we arranged to meet Buckley.  He was in a large cage with few toys but comfortable enough for his hefty size.  His fresh food diet was less than satisfactory, consisting of bologna, donuts and chips.  I remember thinking…poor Buckley…he’s in for a shock…a strict diet regimen if he comes home with me!  Buckley was bonded to the husband in the family and the wife was terrified of him.  She was very surprised when he accepted a treat from my hands without taking a chunk of skin with it.  He was cage aggressive, not uncommon with any parrot, and when he was brought out and allowed on the floor, he puffed up and rushed me, retreating quickly.  It was his way of protecting his territory and his flock of humans. 

I brought him into our home a few days later.  It was about two years before he fully acclimated to his surroundings.  He is still cage aggressive, but will step-up from his cage for some one-on-one time.  He allows scritching on his terms, and I must always be conscious of the little telltale signs he uses to say….don’t mess with me now!   He is my “Watch Bird”.  With a scream that can be heard in the wild for 3 miles, he doesn’t hesitate to use it when a “bird killing bunny” comes within window view, when a car pulls into the driveway, when someone is walking by the house, when we have a guest that he knows he can scare the heck out of with his yell or when his favorite crush leaves the room (Scott, my son-in-law).

Perhaps Buckley is much brighter than I give him credit for.  He is now tackling the removal of the small carabineers that I’ve placed on all the door latches.  I’m hoping he will give up for lack of success and if not, I may conceivably have to find another means to contain my big, loveable Macaw.

*Click on the link and watch Buckley and one of his favorite toys…a cardboard box!  He can destroy a box or phone book in a matter of minutes!