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Jessi tells the truth about sharing life with Chopsticks the Quaker Parrot who can mimic so well. When he's not saying adorable things, he's not as cuddly as it might seem.

Episode inspired by the the number of people who said they wanted a Quaker parrot like Chopsticks after watching his mimicking abilities.

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Welcome back to Animal Wonders, I'm Jessi, and I'm going to tell you the truth.


Some of you may know Chopsticks, he's a Quaker parrot that lives at Animal Wonders. He serves as an ambassador for his species by teaching at schools and teaching about himself. He's also pretty good at mimicking.

(Jessi sneezes, Chopsticks sneezes)

He's a pretty neat guy and I love that I was able to rescue him and give him a good home. We have a lot of fun together.

So here's the truth: our relationship isn't always rainbows and lollipops because he's not a one dimensional character. What needs to be kept in mind is that not only is he an individual, but he also brings along all the natural instincts of his species. A quick summary of Quaker parrot natural instincts: they are very vocal, active, social, intelligent, and territorial. They live in huge flocks, they build elaborate three room nests, and they defend their space valiantly.

When you bring this spunky species into a human home, it doesn't change their instincts, it just changes how these instinctual behaviors are presented. They bond closely with their human, they manipulate and destroy everything they can, and they protect their enclosure with everything they've got. So how does all of this translate to reality?

It means that Chopsticks and I never have a dull moment in our interactions because he's a unique representation of his species. He's very territorial of his enclosure, it's a fact that most people that have Quaker parrots have come to know. This means that I have to be aware that if I stick my bare hand in his enclosure, he's going to aggressively lunge at me and most likely bite.

I know being territorial comes with the package, but for his physical and mental well-being, he needs to come out and play, so I've learned to manage the situation in a positive way. I present a stick for him to step onto and when he lunges and bites the "intruder," he's not doing any damage to me and I can safely get him out of his enclosure. What how I move the stick to get him to step onto it. I don't let it linger in front of his beak for long, I slowly but deliberately move it towards his chest. This movement gets him to step onto the stick instead of just biting it.

Once he's out of the space that he feels obligated to protect, I can then ask him to step up onto my finger. He can now focus on other things like a treat that I'm gonna give him or what adventure he's gonna go on. Often times, when someone sees a video of a parrot being adorable and amazing, they think all parrots are like that, or at least have the capability of being like that. While some parrots are ridiculously awesome and cute, they're not always like that, and they're often highlighted in videos because they're exceptional.

Every parrot is an individual and they won't necessarily be what you see in a video or read on a website or in a book. Parrots are intelligent and highly emotional animals. Their personalities can change over time, or their mood can swing up and down daily or seasonally. A few months ago, Chopsticks couldn't get enough of our time together, he was so vocal and he worked endlessly to perfect three new phrases, we laughed together nonstop and he readily took seeds from my hand.

Now, he's extra territorial, he hates other people, and he'll actively harass their hand like a competitive sport. If I have a visitor over, he'll work really hard to put on a show, flirting with me while they watch,  but if I try and interact with them, he'll lunge at me as well. Once he's out, he's been biting me if I don't let him do everything he wants to do, but even though he's been a bit of a booger lately, I still love him because he's being Chopsticks and I'm OK with that. And that's what it takes to be a good parrot companion: unconditional love.

My point is, the reality of having a parrot as a companion isn't always what it looks like from the outside. It's often a challenge to care for an animal that isn't that perfect picture you had in your mind. The videos of Chopsticks being adorable are true, but here's another truth: he can be kind of a jerk sometimes, and personally, I think this makes him even more awesome.

So here's to chopsticks being a multi-dimensional character, and here's to all of you who share your lives with dynamic animals and love them for who they are. If you'd like to go on an adventure with us every week, subscribe to our YouTube channel Animal Wonders Montana. If you have a question for me throughout the week you can find me on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. Thanks guys.