The House is Alive with the Clucks of Toe Humping


Oh, Zoe. Where to begin with this bird?

She has decided that it’s breeding season, and intends to get it on as often as possible. Her toys no longer scratch that itch, so she has moved on to feet. Mostly Yongi’s feet, but mine will do in a pinch (or rub, in this case). As soon as Yongi gets her off her cage for play time she’ll run down his leg and starting wining and dining the toes. She’ll even jump from his leg to the floor if he’s not fast enough to move his leg. For those who have never seen a parrot courtship, this means lots of wigglenecking to bring up only the most delectable bits from their crops to share with their intended. In short, she pukes on our toes and then humps them.

This isn’t quite as gross as it sounds–while unpleasant, bird vomit (or “gurge” as we call it) is not nearly as smelly or liquid as mammal spew. Mostly it’s a few moist seed chunks that smell a bit spoiled. Not fun to extract from between one’s toes, but not as bad as it gets either. The humping is also better than one might fear because it’s less, ah, intrusive than other pets’ activities. There’s nothing to pop out, parrots don’t have external genitalia. Their mating logistics involve what has been described as a “cloacal kiss” (and before you go thinking that would be a great band name, apparently it’s already taken).

This brings up another point about dear Zoe. She said a clear “Zoe! Pretty girl! Skronk!” last night, but we honestly don’t know if she’s a boy or girl. We could pluck a feather and send it to the lab or pay the vet to check for gonads with a special scope, but it’s really not worth the effort. Parrots are much easier to deal with than children: not only do they live in cages, but a little gender confusion doesn’t result in years of pain and therapy for all involved. It’s a matter of convenience, really, as Piepmatz already had a lock on being the “good boy” of the house.

So how does a parrot hump, lacking external genitalia? Any way it can! Zoe will go to absurd lengths to get a leg up on our feet and position her abdomen on the toes. Then the clucking begins! After we recover from the shock (we go barefoot in the house), we try to distract her. For while, we’d encourage her to wander around on the floor to explore the living room. For parrots, exploring means putting everything within reach in the beak. If it’s soft enough, chew a piece off. If it’s too hard, chew longer. That picture is the third time in one night she put her head in the VCR.

All of the various things at floor level kept her distracted for a while, until she spotted… shoes! After all, the next best thing to feet are the things in which feet go! She’d wiggleneck a bit for the shoes and then cluck some more. The first night she did this, Yongi was able to lure her back by saying, “Zoe! Come here!” He still tries it, but it hasn’t worked since. Most of the time the best bet is to make fart noises. Raspberries, Bronx cheers, however you call them, that’s Zoe’s favorite noise. Lacking lips, she has no idea how to make the sound herself. Often she’ll come up as close as she can to the face to see what weird magic we’ve got. Recently she has started making a sort of buzzing sound that might be her attempt to blow a raspberry.

After her adventures in the Land of Shoes, she’s usually fine for the rest of the night. Sitting on my knee or on my shoulder, she’ll seductively blink and made a sound like a rolled R. I’ll do my best approximation, and we’ll go back and forth like this for the rest of the night. Other favorite call and responses are variations on her name and singing songs. After 45 minutes it’s back to the cage for snacks and a drink, and to unwind before bedtime. It’s a hard life that Zoe has!

  1. #1 by Milla on May 27, 2006 - 4:11 pm

    Well, if she declares it so, she must be!

    Sounds like a fun pet. =)

  2. #2 by patita on May 27, 2006 - 4:55 pm

    It’s true, I’m not going to argue with her!

    She’s a great pet, because she’s not like a pet. She’s more of a little roommate who has tricked me into giving her a room and full board (and maid service) at no charge. They are fantastic companions. Right now she’s eating in her cage and making little raygun noises. Pieps says, “feep!” every few minutes.

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