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Wednesday, June 11, 2014


My family did not have a lot of pets when I was growing up.  We had three dogs at different times.   The first one we left behind when my dad was transferred from New York to California.  The other two became inconvenient and ended up going to a farmer.  My mom was not big on pets.

One Christmas a year before I left for college, my dad gave mom a bird.  It was a small green parakeet in a cage.  My mom who was not crazy about pets grew very fond of that bird.  She named him Charlie Bird.

I have heard that some parakeets can talk, but before Charlie Bird I never heard one say more than “Hello” and that would take a lot of coaxing.

Charlie Bird could talk.  Charlie Bird could talk a lot.  I don’t know why the caged bird sings, but I do know the un-caged Charlie Bird talked.  Charlie had a free run of the house.  His cage was generally left open.  He could be found one of two places, perched on a mirror preening his fine self, or perched on mom’s shoulder.   Usually it was on mom’s shoulder cozying up as close to her mouth as possible while she repeated phrases for Charlie Bird to learn. 
Not mom, but it could be Charlie Bird except for the color thing

Charlie Bird eventually learned over one-hundred different phrases.  He started with,

“Hello, my name is Charlie Bird” followed by, “Pretty Bird” “Good Morning” and a few more.  When my brother visited from the Navy he was greeted by Charlie Bird with “Attention, Lieutenant Hagy.”

Charlie was a great bird.  If we wanted him to go into his cage, all we had to do was honk his squeaky toy which was in his cage and he would fly in and vigorously defend his turf.

Before I left for college, I told my mom it would be really cool if Charlie Bird could imitate a parrot.  I suggested she teach it to squawk just like a pirate’s parrot,

“AwkAwk, piecesofeight AwkAwk, piecesofeight.”

For the next six weeks mom drilled this phrase into Charlie Bird.  Apparently mom was concerned that she be very exact with her pronunciation, as if Charlie Bird wouldn’t understand what she was saying.   Hell if you dropped a spoon around Charlie Bird often enough he would imitate the clang.  Pronunciation was not his weak suit.

When I came home from college, mom let me know the bird learned the pirate parrot phrase I suggested.  I thought this was really cool until Charlie Bird went through his repertory.  When he came to his new phrase this is what I heard.

A W K,  A W K,  p i e c e s  o f  e i g h t!    A W K,  A W K,  p i e c e s  o f 

e i g h t!

Not a squawk, but repeated with perfect slow and deliberate mom diction, Charlie Bird was one cool parakeet, but he made a wimpy, sissy pirate parrot!

Oh well, he was mom’s bird. 

Charlie Bird lasted eight years, old for a parakeet.   I was not around when he passed.  I’m sure mom took it in stride; she was very stoic about death.  She had seen a lot of death in her family and Charlie Bird was only a bird.

She buried him in a shoe box under a concrete bird bath.

I miss that parakeet, he was a great bird. 


  1. I had one of these! Barry the budgie (what we call them in Australia) was my pet when I was 11, until we moved country and I had to give him to a friend. He was amazing. He learned lots of phrases and sounds, including things he wasn't supposed to learn but just heard a lot, like my mum yelling at the dog "no, get down!". He flew round the house and sat on my shoulder or under my hair, and he was fantastic. I loved him and still think of him occasionally.

  2. I'm happy Charlie got a marker. My mom bought us a parakeet for a pet. Judy Bird. Interesting they need last names. It lived an eternity.

  3. What a delightful post. I would have loved to meet Charlie Bird. And talk with him too.

    I'm also sure your mom missed him something awful, she just didn't let on.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  4. Fun post. I seem to remember writing a story where our dog Cody, returned to the shelter, was adopted and went to live on a farm. I think you scoffed at the idea of "Going to a farm" being what parents told kids when their pets actually suffered a far worse fate. Maybe that wasn't you, but another "cranky." I hope your dogs DID end up on a farm.

  5. The closest I got to a pet bird was the one that flew down our chimney, landed on the lazyboy, and pooped. He exited the house soon after that.

  6. we had parakeets, too. they became more my father's pets. they'd hear his slippers start shuffling down the hall and would greet him with tweets and whistles. :)

  7. I had a friend in Mexico who owned an African Gray parrot, which is known for its ability mimic human speech. Once my friend had to go on a trip and asked a friend to house-sit for him. Unbeknownst to him the sitter hated cats and my friend owned one that came and went in and out of the house. When my friend returned home, the parrot was going through his repertoire, as he did every morning, when suddenly he burst forth in the house sitter's voice "Get out of here, you goddamned cat!"

  8. Awe - - - what fond memories you have. Thanks for sharing. This is such a well written sensitive post that I feel like reading it to my grand kids.

  9. Very nice.

    My sister has a parrot -- that imitates her German Shepherds. :-)


  10. Sounds like the wimpy faux parrot made a great pet. Astounding Charlie said so many different things!

    We had parakeets — for about a month. I'm an animal lover but I just couldn't get past the itsy bitsy feathers that got everywhere. Plus, I'm more of a cat lover than bird lover and my cats would have LOVED to munch those poor parakeets. A friend was happy to take the pair off my hands. (I wonder if she ever got them to talk.)

  11. There must be something about women and parakeets. The only pet we ever had that my mom could tolerate was a green & yellow bird named Perky. Oddball that I am I once gave a college girlfriend a white parakeet (albino?) for Christmas. That idea crashed and burned. Win some, lose some.

  12. I had a student who said his family rushed to hide their bird when the preacher dropped in, because they didn't want him to find out that they sometimes used inappropriate language in their home. Talking birds are narcs like that, I suppose.

  13. Birds are interesting pets. Our family bird is a parrot who now lives with my son. He is nearly 30 years old and doesn't talk as much as he used to, but still says "Hi, Scott" in perfect imitation of the voices of the various people he has lived with.

  14. I can't comment anything about birds as pets, but your post today reminded of this story:

    Late one night, a burglar broke into a house that he thought was empty. He tiptoed through the living room, but froze in his tracks when he heard a loud voice say, “Jesus is watching you.”

    Silence returned to the house, so the burglar crept forward again. “Jesus is watching you,” the voice boomed again,

    The burglar stopped dead in his tracks. He was frightened. Frantically, he looked all around the room. In a dark corner, he spotted a bird cage and in the cage was a parrot. He asked the parrot: “Was that you who said Jesus is watching me?”

    “Yes,” said the parrot.

    The burglar breathed a sigh of relief, then asked the parrot: “What is your name?”

    “Clarence,” said the bird.

    “That is a dumb name for a parrot,” sneered the burglar. “What idiot named you Clarence?”

    The parrot said, “The same idiot who named the rottweiler Jesus.”

  15. My mother also had a green parakeet by the name of charlie bird. This must be common:-) He did not talk but he would imitate the sound pac man would make. I blame his death on myself. When I was small he was always kept in the living room in his cage. When my father went to third shift and would sleep during the charlie bird would keep him up. He was moved into my room. I want to say was a preteen by then. I had gotten to where I would have to cover his cage at night to get him to be quiet so I could sleep. One night I covered the cage up in my room and set him beside the window. It got cold that night. Really cold and I woke up the next morning to a dead charlie bird. Probably my fault. I will never forget that.

  16. Awww sweet Charlie Bird. :) We had budgies (all named Vicky - we only had one at a time) when I was a kid and I loved them dearly. Apparently the first one was a talker but I was too young to remember her.

    Frank's sons have Lucy - an Amazon Grey Parrot. She's a hoot. She imitates a pop can being opened, the beeps of a microwave and she calls out "Jacob!' - the younger (and very popular) son - whenever the phone rings. She'll also call "Frank? Where are you Frank?" He'll reply "I'm right here, Lucy" to which she'll hiss "You be quiet!"

  17. I love pets. We have many pets in our house. They are good companions for us. I used to spend lot of time with them. It makes our mind to feel relaxed!

  18. My mum had budgies in a big aviary in the yard, none of the learned to talk, but the lone cockatoo in a bigger aviary learned to imitate mum calling for the kids to "get back in here and finish these dishes".

  19. When I was young, my grandmother had a small bird that talked--I can't remember what kind. I DO remember that it sounded jut like her--Jewish accent & all!

  20. Dogs, cats, goldfish, parakeets, iguana - we've had a lot of pets! (ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

  21. Replies
    1. Nils is right, we had a pony but moved from Oklahoma to Long Island and the pony went to an actual farm, my Aunt Nancy's, Nelson's mom. The pony's name was Nancy, it was changed to GiGi.


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