Companion Parrots

In the Wild

Making a Difference

Parrot News

Special Thanks

Home » 2009 - Issue 2, In the Wild, Issue

The Parrot Whisperers of Amorentia

By Howard Blight


A truly remarkable thing happened on the Amorentia Estate, near Tzaneen, in the northern part of South Africa.  Howard Blight tells the story.

Early this year, a farm labourer, Johannes Ramadikela, found an endangered Cape Parrot flopping about on the ground near his house. He caught the bird and placed it in a box, noticing as he did so, a very nasty crack on the top of the bird’s beak. It had obviously flown into something.

Our office clerk, Maggie Bopape, brought the arrival of this visitor to our attention, and Johannes was duly summoned!  He arrived, clutching the frightened bird around its neck. The animal had clearly flown into an overhead electrical cable, with the evidence of the collision quite visible.

I took the bird in a towel to avoid being bitten, and while talking out loud to it, as we do to the elephants, I placed it on the office settee. I talked to it in calm, coaxing tones, with the very best intentions.  All animals understand and respond to tone and intent in one’s voice - as do people.

As if the bird had the understanding of a four year-old child, I wooed and encouraged it, offering it an understanding of my wish to help. Within five minutes, it began to relax, and it’s eyes softened. I offered it a pecan nut. It took the kernel and nibbled on it - and then it spoke to me - in parrot - thanking me. It chirped quietly, and we all looked at each other in amazement.

I relaxed my hold on the towel, and Wynand named it “Joe”. The bird crawled out of its towel wrapping and jumped up onto the arm of the chair.

Joe was wet and still shivering, with cold and fear.  While continually talking out loud in gentle, soothing and inviting tones, telling it what a good boy he (guesswork) was, I slowly and gently offered him my hand. Without a moment’s hesitation, he lifted one claw upwards and as I motioned my hand towards his chest, he stepped up.

“What a clever boy” I encouraged. I very slowly drew the bird towards my face, inviting a close eye to eye interaction. He then spoke again, interacting with me as I whispered his name. “Hello Joe - you’ve had a rough time.”  He whistled quietly and replied - I’m sure - in parrot: “Hello”

I motioned the now quiet, calm bird towards my shoulder and he hopped on, shook himself and started to preen his sodden wing feathers. He shook his tail and whistled softly again, while snuggling in behind my neck, and very gently nibbled my ear. I was truly enthralled. We were friends; and this is were Joe spent the rest of the morning; quite content while I walked around the office, talking on the phone and continuing my dialogue with my new pal.

Joe was put to bed that evening in an old parrot cage, with water, fruit and nuts for dinner.

The following morning I found Joe flying around the office; dry and in good spirits. He sat on top of the door.  I offered him my hand and after some encouragement, on he climbed. He was chirping and whistling as Cape Parrots do when they fly over our farm on a daily basis.

Johannes had been given a financial reward for saving an endangered species, and Joe had been given a second chance.

We escorted Joe the Cape Parrot outside and he sat on my hand for perhaps two  minutes.

Joe then flew into the upper canopy of a large pecan tree near the office complex. He whistled and called, and to our collective amazement, within four minutes, his parents flew in, and much chatter and conversation ensued.  We knew he was a youngster, as he was not yet showing his full plumage.

Dad stood by while Mom questioned her son as to where he could possibly have been for two days and nights. “There was a loud bang and my beak hurt, Mom. The kind people whispered to me, and helped me. You won’t believe it but I sat and chatted to them and slept peacefully in a wire cage last night. It all seems like a dream, Mom. They whispered in a very inviting, gentle tone of the voice, which helped me recover. This morning the people offered me the freedom of the skies again and here I am. Thank you people!” Joe squeaked, and then the three birds exploded into the bright morning sky, circled twice and headed back to their Wood Bush home.

The Parrot Whisperers of Amorentia all stood absorbed, silent, amazed and utterly fulfilled.

The Amorentia Estate is located near Tzaneen, in the Lompopo  Province of South Africa.  Howard Blight farms on the edge of a high-canopy rainforest, where these Cape Parrots live, feeding mainly on the seeds of the Yellowwood tree. They also feed on the pecan nuts of the Amorentia Estate.

The Cape Parrot who flew in from the wild

Howard is one of the founders of the organisation Elephants for Africa Forever (EFAF), the aims and objectives of which are essentially to tame and train wild African elephants - which might otherwise have been culled - for numerous tasks and disciplines by using the bilateral ‘ask-and-reward’ principle: ask an elephant to do something and then reward him with food. This process has afforded him additional invaluable insights, at close quarters, with elephants both wild and tame.

He is also the the author of An Elephant Bloodline, a dramatic narrative, recording a 100-year history of South Africa’s Kruger National Park through the eyes and minds of two elephant families, denoting accurate anecdotes of elephant family life.

An Elephant Bloodline by Howard Blight
Published by Rra Thohoyandou Press
ISBN-13: 978-0-9584969-1-9

blogs from the field - parrot conservation in real time