Tour Guide to a Parrot

When I was living at a small municipal airport and volunteering at the local, privately owned flight museum, we had a very unusual visitor one day. A man came in with an African Gray Parrot in a cage. He asked to have a tour of the museum. It was a quiet day, and I didn’t have any more grease spots to clean up, so I agreed to do the tour.

This fellow told me his parrot was very intelligent and was afraid of airplanes when they flew overhead. He wanted the bird to see what airplanes were, so he could point to one up in the sky and the bird would know what it was like up close, and hopefully not be so afraid. I had heard of Alex, the famous African Gray who was able to speak cognitively and even do some basic reading and spelling, so I was willing to give it a go.

So I took these two people through the museum, both human and avian. As I would to a young but bright child, I patiently explained what the airplanes were, what they were used for, how people rode in them, and pointed out various details to them. I even had them come up into a helicopter we had on display so I could show the bird what flight controls look like. I showed the bird how some of the old warbirds had folding wings, like he did, and how the landing gear came up inside, sort of like how his legs came up when he flew.

During the whole tour the parrot was calm, interested, looked at what I was pointing to. He didn’t squawk or fuss. When I talked about the airplane wings, I saw him stretch his own wing a bit, looking very thoughtful as he did so. The parrot’s person was thankful to me for giving the tour, and I came away from it with a story I’ll never forget.

 

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