Matilda is a female Eclectus Parrot who co-habitats with my parents. Given the status of animals in my family, I guess that makes her my sister.
The Eclectus is native to the Solomon Islands, Sumba, New Guinea and nearby islands, northeastern Australia and the Maluku Islands. One of the many characteristics that I like about this type of parrot is that it has extreme sexual dimorphism and it is the FEMALE that is prettier. That is not the case with most bird species (think, for example, of the Cardinal and the Painted Bunting). In contrast to Matilda’s beautiful reds and blues, the male Eclectus is almost all green.
Matilda is about 14 inches in length and is now just over a year old. She was raised by a breeder and hand fed. My parents “adopted” her when she was six months old. The life span of an Eclectus Parrot can be fifty years. I have assured my parents that, if need be, Matilda is welcome into my family.
Eclectus Parrots often learn to talk. Matilda is not there yet, but it is clear that she is getting closer. She makes noises and strings them together, as if she is trying to communicate with us. She is very clearly an intelligent bird. Matilda will take food from her dish, put it in her beak, climb up to her perch, and use her foot to eat the food. It is unusual for birds to use their feet like this.
She is very loving and gentle. My parents have had birds before, including a Senegal Parrot, Virgil, when I was in law school. Virgil was very pretty and engaging, but I was always wary of him as he would bite and not let go – and trust me, it hurt. Matilda is not a biter. When you hold her, she will very softly “chew” on you, using her beak. It is her way of being loving – and it is very gentle. She likes to nestle under your chin, while chewing on your fingers. Eclectus Parrots are known for their beauty and serenity.
Matilda lives a good life. She has a cage with plenty of room and numerous toys that are changed out several times a week.
She also has a jungle gym on top of her cage and she loves to be up there to play.
Matilda goes for walks and on bike rides with my dad. She goes in this backpack, strapped on his back.
Matilda loves to take showers.
If the weather permits, her favorite place to dry off is out on the back deck, where she can watch her relatives in the bird kingdom.
And then there is Matilda’s diet. Matilda eats better than most of us. All of her food must be organic. (As an aside, all chemicals need to be removed from her environment – including non-stick cookware as it emits a chemical in the air that is toxic to all, but can be fatal to something of Matilda’s size.)
Eclectus Parrots are communal eaters. When my parents eat, Matilda wants some of their food – and she gets some, provided that it is healthy. For breakfast, my mom will cook for Matilda – often quinoa, brown rice, goji berries, and part of a scrambled egg, all organic. Her lunch is chopped up fruit – lime, kumquat, peach and banana (again, all organic). For dinner she will share some of my parent’s dinner, such as pizza, pasta and salmon with sweet potato. At all times, she also has food dishes filled with organic pellets, which consist of vegetables and fruit.
If the weather is nice, everyone dines al fresco on the back deck.
As an animal lover, I find that my focus is often on the more “conventional” pets such as dogs and cats. Matilda is a wonderful reminder to me of the depth and variety of the incredibly intelligent animal kingdom with whom we share our world.