Yes, TV is full of heavy-duty John Kennedy specials this week. (The "American Experience," 9-11 p.m. Nov. 11-12, is especially good.) Scroll down to the previous blog and you'll see a list. For a moment, however, let's talk parrots.
On Wednesday, just before two more Kennedy documentaries, PBS has "Parrot Confidential." Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
At first, the idea seemed promising: Anyone can have a dog
or cat; why not get a parrot?
The “Baretta” TV show (1975-78) had one. So did commercials
and nature shows and more.
“Suddenly, you too can own a parrot,” said Allison Argo,
whose “Parrot Confidential” airs Wednesday on PBS. “And the breeders just
jumped on that.”
That started to peak in the mid-90s, said Marc Johnson, who
has a Rhode Island bird sanctuary. “For about 10 years, over five million baby
parrots were put into the market every year.”
And then reality struck. Some birds evolved for activity,
flying 50 to 100 miles a day. In lieu of that, they want constant attention;
without it, they might damage themselves or people.
“They’ve got very loud contact calls that in the wild serve
them well,” Argo said. “They yell out across the forest.”
Or, if they’re ignored, across the condo. “You put that same
noise level into somebody’s apartment or home and suddenly there’s hearing loss
going on,” Johnson said.
For some parrots, ownership is a fulltime job. Ask Lavanya
Michel, who took Dolly into her Santa Barbara, Cal., home 16 years ago as a
“Anything I do, I have to do with Dolly,” Michel said,
“unless it’s after 7 o’clock, when she’s asleep. I could go to a movie (then),
but can’t go to the store or anything (during the day). I take her in the car
and leave her, like five minutes in the car. Most places are not very
On half the days, Dolly is taken to a shop while Michel does
chores. At home, she can be bright and fun.
“I have a friend that had a little dog and (Dolly’s) not
crazy about little dogs,” Michel said. “So we heard her say, ‘You’re stupid,
stupid, stupid and I don’t like you,’ to the dog.’”
But what happens when Michel is no longer around? Parrots,
after all, tend to live 80 to 90 years.
Some groups try to re-introduce parrots to the wild; others
have small sanctuaries in their homes or bigger ones nearby. Johnson started
Foster Parrots, which tries to find new owners; he and his wife also have their
sanctuary for the unadoptable, but that’s full and it’s expensive. “We ask
people to put $1,000 a year, for the life expectancy of the bird, into some
sort of endowment.”
Dolly, at least, is doing fine? “Dolly is a very happy
girl,” Michel said. “And I’ve spoiled her rotten …. You have to just pretty
much dedicate your life to (her).”
“Parrot Confidential,” 8 p.m. Wednesday on PBS’
“Nature” (check local listings).