Little Richard


Written and photographed by Emma O’Brien

Richard came into my life rather unexpectedly, after he was dropped off at a friend’s veterinary practice by someone who found him in their garden. Despite attempts to find his owners, he was never claimed, so I volunteered to give him a home.

Richard’s favourite things

I’ve never owned a bird before, let alone an African Grey parrot, so learning how to care for and handle Richard has been a steep learning curve. He and I bonded from the start; sadly I can’t say the same for Richard and my boyfriend. Once we’d gotten to know each other, I learnt that handling him without being bitten was easy if I gave him some food to hold onto whilst I got him into and out of his cage. This technique has saved many a finger from being savaged, although Richard does take great pleasure in taking new people by surprise with a well-timed bite.

Richard is obsessed with food, particularly peanut butter on toast; his cage is near the kitchen and whenever I use the toaster all I hear is ‘hello’, ‘helloooo’, ‘hello’, until I share some with him. He’s also started to copy my laugh as well as some of my expressions (luckily not the curse word variety) – his favourite one is the scream I made when he once bit my arm, which was a very loud ‘oooowwwwwwwwwwwwwww’, which he follows up with a cackling laugh. He often hangs upside down and runs through his entire vocal repertoire for added entertainment value. Richard is a real character and such a joy to share my life with.

Adopt don’t shop

On a more serious note, I am in no way condoning keeping birds as pets by giving Richard such a rave review. Had he not been in need of a home, I wouldn’t have given any consideration to getting a pet bird; the fact is that they belong in the wild, not kept in cages in our homes. If you are considering getting a pet bird, there is a great parrot rescue centre in Edenvale called Brainy Birds, where you can adopt one without contributing to the massive damage the avian pet trade has on wild bird populations. Parrots are very challenging pets to keep and you will be amazed at the number of birds that find themselves unwanted and in need of new homes as a result.

Richard shares the house with our other adopted African Grey, Selma, and five doggie siblings, so it is a little bit like living in a zoo, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.