Wednesday, December 8, 2021

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People & Pets

Love at first squawk


IMG_0697Michelle Conkling’s Des Moines home contains many animals, but perhaps the most exotic of them all is a 10-year-old Congo African grey parrot named Kanoni.

Conkling and her husband purchased the bird from a now defunct pet store when it was 2 and have had it ever since. The bird’s gender wasn’t known but they refer to Kanoni as a female. It is not uncommon for bird owners to go their pet’s entire lifespan without knowing.

The big question is, can it talk?

“You would be amazed,” Conkling says. “We laugh that she was really good practice for us having kids because she will repeat things.”

Conkling and her husband have a 4-year-old girl and 1-year-old boy.

“She’s only sworn once, which is amazing,” she adds.

When it happened Conkling immediately left the room, as she did not want to encourage the behavior. With a lifespan of up to 80 years, she thought a bird that swears like a sailor would be problematic.

Most of the talking Kanoni does is mimicking. It’ll bark like the family’s two dogs, a basset hound and a Labrador, or their neighbor’s terrier. It mimics Michelle and her husband, too, even their tone and inflection, which has sufficiently freaked out many a babysitter.

The African grey parrot’s skills encompass much more than talking. As the famous Alex the African grey parrot proved, the species could differentiate between colors, numbers and other similar concepts. Some can complete puzzles.

Kanoni is a 10-year-old Congo African grey parrot.

Kanoni is a 10-year-old Congo African grey parrot.

Kanoni roams freely in its corner of the dining room. It has a large cage it climbs in and out of, but it cannot fly. Unfortunately its previous owner clipped too many of its wings, and in the eight years Michelle and her family have had it they still haven’t grown in correctly. Michelle hopes that with time, she’ll get to see Kanoni fly.

While Conkling thoroughly enjoys Kanoni now, she was skeptical of birds at first, having never owned one previously. The idea of getting a bird was first brought up by her husband, who had Indian ringneck and quaker birds growing up. However, her first encounter with Kanoni quickly changed her mind.

“When I picked her up the first time, she went up my arm and cuddled in my neck,” she says.

It was then that Conkling decided the bird was coming home with them. Many birds tend to gravitate toward one sex or bond with one person, and Kanoni’s person was Michelle. They coo at each other and give little kisses.

While the bird may have been her husband’s idea, Kanoni has become hers.

“I told him ‘I can always get rid of you, but I have to take care of the bird!’ ” ♦


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