The Tale of the Princess Houdini

tags: , , , , ,

Sophie, a female Solomon Islands Eclectus parrot, Eclectus roratus solomonensis,
who looks just like my own Elektra.

Image: Courtesy of Denise and Dave Bell/Eclectus House.

As you might have surmised by looking at the image credit above, I still have not managed to get a picture of my companion, a female Eclectus parrot named Elektra, that pleases me enough to share it with you. Even though I don't have an image of her that is good enough to share with you, I do have a story about Elektra to share with you, thanks to the urging of one of my readers who met me recently and who was amused when I told this story to her and her daughter.

Have you ever noticed how most (all?) of our pets manage to earn themselves a nickname or two after the've lived with us for awhile? Some pets, in fact, manage to earn themselves a nickname before we discover their proper name. One such example was my own pet parrot, the gorgeous hawk-headed parrot named Orpheus, who started out life with me as "Pipsqueek". Silly name, I know, especially for such an ebullient, affectionate, although sometimes silly, parrot.

But looking at the startlingly beautiful and elegant Eclectus parrot, you might think that such a dignified bird would never earn a nickname, that only a proper name is appropriate for her. Well, this is not the case for Elektra. The first nickname she earned was "the Princess" -- for reasons you probably can figure out on your own. But Elektra has also earned herself another nickname .. and this one took some effort on her part; "Houdini" or sometimes, "some sort of Houdini".

Elektra is an intellectual parrot who really enjoys puzzle toys. Puzzle toys are made of indestructable plastic with hidden chambers that contain either food or smaller (and easily destroyed) objects, or consist of long three-dimensional maze puzzles that require the parrot to herd bits of food through small passageways until the bird can finally access and eat them. Elektra's tastes are expensive; I spend a fair amount of money trying to find and purchase new puzzle toys for her to think her way through.

But not all puzzle toys are expensive, as Elektra reminds me from time to time. For example, one of her favorite passtimes is to break out of her cage through its hinged feeding station doors so when I come home, she is standing proudly on top of her cage, looking innocent, after having chewed up the papers at the bottom of her cage (thereby making a huge mess), or having destroyed something else that I wish was still intact, like a stuffed toy bird.

For reasons known only to her, Elektra has recently decided that she will resume her escapes, which worries me because she enjoys terrorizing Orpheus when I am not around to monitor her behavior. Because her feeding station doors cannot be padlocked due to their shape, I have been taping them closed with duct tape. The tape cannot be seen due to the shape of the doors. Since there are three feeding station doors on her cage, she has plenty of escape points, so I taped all of them.

The first night after I'd taped all the feeding station doors, I came home from the library and opened all my birds' cages to allow them the freedom of my apartment, as usual. Immediately, Elektra climbed out of her cage but instead of sitting on top of her cage and asserting her social dominance to everyone, she climbed over to one of her feeding station doors and closely studied it for approximately one minute before she began chewing up the duct tape.

To say the least, I was impressed that she would know that there was a reason that the feeding station doors would not open and that she did not forget this and that she made investigating this her top priority, that she knew there was another side to the same door to investigate and that she would spend the time necessary to study the situation before responding accordingly.

So I am curious; what behaviors have your pets shown you that were somehow surprising or unexpected? As an added bonus, tomorrow morning's streaming video shows another example of a very interesting behavior by a pet, so check back to see that!

More like this

tags: Eclectus roratus solomonensis, parrots, pets, birds, avian, behavior Sophie, a female Solomon Islands Eclectus parrot, Eclectus roratus solomonensis, who looks just like my own Elektra. Image: Courtesy of Denise and Dave Bell/Eclectus House. As I had mentioned earlier, I am playing host…
tags: Eclectus roratus solomonensis, parrots, pets, birds, avian, behavior Sophie, a female Solomon Islands Eclectus parrot, Eclectus roratus solomonensis, who looks just like my own Elektra. Image: Courtesy of Denise and Dave Bell/Eclectus House. I am playing host to a surprise house guest (…
tags: National Pet Week 2008, companion pets, birds, parrots Odysseus, screaming his fool head off. Yellow-bibbed lory, Lorius chlorocercus Image: GrrlScientist 2008 [larger view]. Okay, as I promised yesterday, I am going to write a series of articles about parrots as pets. Even though I have…
tags: Deroptyus accipitrinus, hawk-headed parrot, red-fan parrot, pets, birds, avian, parrots Adult red fan (hawk-headed) parrot, Deroptyus a. accipitrinus. (Adults of both sexes are distinguished from juveniles by the creamy white spot on the forehead and the orange ring around the pupil of the…

Whatta bird! And she's still fairly young, isn't she? You may have met your match. rb

Oh, this is great! I`m accually going to stop lurking and post something for the first time ever! Please be nice, english isnt my first language so expect grammatical errors and/or spelling mistakes. Here it goes:

Me and my girlfriend at the time had two bunnies, one female that was named "Vilse" ("Lost" in english, with was quite fitting since she was accually wild, as in born in the wild, but thats another story) and one male that was named Casper (That we saved from a petshop that didnt have a clue about how to take care of their animals). We would let them run around on my parents lawn as much as we could and they seemed to like their life with us, even if Vilse being wild and all had a tendency for biting and other bitchery.

Anyways, it was fall and my parents needed help with the raking so me and my girlfriend thought, hey why not. We started raking and let Vilse and Casper loose. It was ideal, we could keep an eye on them and do my parents a favour at the same time.

When i was done with another pile of leaves, Vilse came by. I said "Hello Vilse, what are you up to?". She looked up at me and then at the pile of leaves that was about twice her height. she seemed quite interrested and stood up on her feet to get a better view of this enormous hill right infront of her. Then i got an idea and picked her up and dropped her in the middle of the pile. And she went wild! she ran around in circles , jumping randomly, just going berserk! Leaves where flying around her, she made more random jumps ( these jumps can best be described as if the rabbit gets a jolt of electricity. Supposedly its a sign that they are having fun) and she continued until the pile was flattened. She stood still for a moment, catching her breath. The she proceeded to walk around, inspecting the leaves all over the place, obviously planning something. Then she took her forepaws, placed them on some leaves, and pushed them into what used to be the pile. She was accually raking. I helped her and when we where done, she stood up on her feet and looked at me. She really wanted to be dropped in the pile again. This continued two or three times until she got tired and just laid down on top of the pile.

How i miss that little grey princess:)

By Christian Eklund (not verified) on 03 Jan 2008 #permalink

what a great story, christian! thanks for sharing, and your english is better than at least a few americans' english, even though english is their only language.

Sorry, I can't match Christian's story. The only thing that Jack (AKA the beast - you're right about those nicknames) does that's surprising is that he sometimes doesn't scratch the bottom of the sofa.


The family cat would meow a lot to get peoples attention when she wanted something.

The cat would go into a hallway where my father kept his bicycle and meow very loudly. I went to the cat and picked her up. The cat then started to reach for my father's bicycle, so I moved towards the bike. Once I got close enough the cat started to scratch the handlebars that had foam rubber handgrips like they were a scratching post.

The cat saw the handgrips and wanted to scratch them, but knew it couldn't reach them. She called someone over to pick her up so she could reach them.