Other Animals
African grey parrots, African greys, grey parrots
Griffin (left) and Athena (right) arriving at the B&B; eating snacks at the B&B. Images courtesy of Dr. Irene Pepperberg

Not too long ago, the apartment in which the parrots were residing needed some repairs— repairs extensive enough that we really didn’t want the birds fully present for the duration. None of my research associates nor lab managers had living quarters where we could easily move the parrots, even temporarily, and I have too many physical limitations these days to be able to care for the birds properly myself for any length of time. However, one of my lab managers volunteered to take Griffin and Athena to an AirB&B for the long weekend—Thursday night so the repairs could start early Friday and Saturday and Sunday so that the apartment could air out before the birds returned.

What Could Go Wrong?

Sounded simple, right? I mean, I travel all over the world for weeks at a time with just a carry-on and a large personal bag … and these are two small parrots. And I have friends who take their birds with them on trips without much ado. Well, the first problem was finding a place that accepted birds. “Pets” seemed to mean dogs and/or cats exclusively. I’m not sure what damage the owners thought that a supervised bird could do to a relatively small area that would be worse than that which could be inflicted by a large, four-legged critter, but every option close to the lab immediately refused to accommodate us.

We eventually found a lovely bed-sitting room rental in the farmland that surrounds Concord—a good hour’s drive from the lab. Ah well… Next came figuring out what to pack. Their travel backpack, of course. And some T-stand perches and food bowls. And night-time travel cages. And floor mats, cage liners, all their fresh and dried foods, ice packs to keep things from spoiling during the trip, vitamins and minerals, a first aid kit; what about their breakfast perches and the wooden stools on which we sometimes place their food bowls? And of course their toys.

Packing for Parrots

I truly can’t remember what all we brought, but the gear filled most of two cars, plus a third car that brought them! It took quite some time to unload and set things up, all while keeping Griffin and Athena occupied and calm throughout. Not a simple task; Griffin kept telling us, “Wanna go back!” and we were sure he meant it!

It was really difficult for me to leave them there with my lab manager, even though they both have very strong bonds with her, and I knew I couldn’t really help and would be in the way if I stayed. I don’t think she or the birds got much sleep that entire weekend.

At one point, Griffin spooked and fell off his perch, which sent Athena flying around the entire space; she ended up crashing—thankfully, on the bed of all places! But they did eat, and preen, and everyone survived and returned without any major issues. However, it was only a short time later that we had to move out of that apartment for good, to a new place that we hope will be more conducive to research and easier to maintain.

Griffin has had a particularly difficult time adjusting to this last move—I wonder if the stint at the B&B makes him think this move is also temporary, even though this time we’ve set up their living cages as well as all the other familiar furniture, and we are maintaining their normal routine. All I can say is that it is very clear that my birds do not like change!

Clearly, those friends who travel with their parrots have acclimated their birds to accept that change is not an issue, and I supposed they began when their birds were young so that travel was just a normal and interesting part of life. And, although Griffin has moved many, many times, and even Athena has now moved several times, “short-term travel” appears to be a very different category; moreover, this latest move seems the most difficult. Fingers crossed that they will soon settle in!

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