During my 18+ years of working in a retail pet store, some of my most memorable adventures involved different types of birds. One of the stores had a big pet supplies promotion with a special on Parakeets. To set up the promotion, we had to place about 50 Parakeets in a 75 gallon open top aquarium filled with plastic tree limb perches. The idea was to let the customers see how cute and tame the Parakeets were and to encourage handling. To set this up, we had to trim the flight feathers of the fully flight capable Parakeets we had in stock. I was working in the aquarium department and suddenly saw a Parakeet go flying by my head. I was a bit surprised but not too worried. About 3 minutes later another Parakeet goes flying by. Now I am intrigued but was busy catching tropical fish for customers and could not follow-up. Suddenly two more Parakeets go flying by and I made my way over to the Small Animal and Bird section of the store. I found two fellow employees catching Parakeets out a large flight cage and then trying to clip their flight feathers. As I walked over another Parakeet managed to slip their grip and fly away. It appeared that about every third Parakeet was making its escape into the wilds of the store. I calmly suggested they move to the smaller supply closet to trim the feathers to make it easier to catch any Parakeet that got away. Now we had to go on safari to try to catch the Parakeets on the loose! We were armed with bird nets and set about to catch our elusive prey. The store had over 30,000 square feet of retail space with lots of convenient hiding places and was full of customers who found the whole thing funny. We caught all but two before the end of the day and planned to try to capture them the next day. I came into work in the morning and was setting out bird seed to all the birds when I noticed one of the loose Parakeets calmly perching next to a Yellow Head Amazon Parrot in its cage. As soon as I approached the Parrot’s cage, the Parakeet flew off into the store. I finished feeding all the animals and tropical fish and went back to the Bird section to get the bird net. I look over and there is the Parakeet perching next to the Parrot like he was her big brother. The Parrot looked amused and even was willing to share some of its seeds from its feed dish. If I approached too closely to the Parrot cage the Parakeet would fly away to some unknown location, but within 10 minutes it would be back in the cage with its Parrot buddy. I finally caught the Parakeet by moving the Parrot cage into the supply closet and when the Parakeet returned, I was able to close the door before it could fly away. I gave serious consideration to taking this particular parakeet home but was too busy with my tropical fish to have time for a bird. (For those of you keeping count, the second Parakeet was captured after it flew into the 75 gallon full of the other Parakeets.)
Flights of Fancy
During slow times in the store, I would often find myself standing in front of the Finch flight cages being amused by their constant back and forth flying from one wooden perch to another. I think I like the Finches since I tend to be a collector. There were always several different types of Finches in our cages: Society, Cut Throat, Blue Headed Nuns, Zebra, Spice and Gouldian. The constant action and flurry of colors was mesmerizing. The most amazing part of the Finch population was the breeder who sold us most of our Finches. He had converted a two car garage into an aviary with multiple Finch nests and there were hundreds of Finches in constant motion. He had a van with several flight cages and would drive to the store to see what we needed. I usually went out to his van and would tell him which Finch pairs we wanted. He would suddenly reach into a cage and 9 times out of ten immediately catch the pair we wanted!! It usually took me about 5 minutes to catch a pair out of our smaller cages and this guy could catch them in mid-flight! And did I mention that this guy only had one arm!?! Truly amazing! I was lucky enough to visit his aviary several times before he had to shut it down to move out-of-state.
Pick Pockets and Other Mischief
When I owned my own store, I would often try to have Grey Cheeked Parakeets on hand for sale. This bird looks more like a Lovebird or even a small Conure, but has always been called a Parakeet. I liked the bird because it was almost always totally tame the minute you got it and would rarely try to fly away even if the wings were not clipped. This allowed me to simply place one of the Grey Cheeks on my shoulder and go about the store waiting on customers buying other pet bird supplies. Sometimes the customer would not even realize it was a live bird until it moved and then they were always entranced and wanted to handle the bird. (I think you can see how this was a great selling promotion for me!) The friendliness of the Grey Cheek usually meant they rarely stayed at the store for more than a few days, but one time I had one I kept for several weeks as a “store” pet. This bird we named Pancho and had the run of the store, usually hanging out on the check out counter or on one of the employees. I had Pancho on my should one day and he decided to walk down my back to get to my rear pocket. I didn’t think anything of it until a few minutes later when I felt my checkbook slip out of the pocket. I think Pancho wanted to make a purchase with my money! Suitably amused, Pancho climbed up my back and down my arm to my watch. I thought to myself “well he cannot hurt it” and no sooner did I think that than Pancho calmly pulled the crystal right off the watch. One of his other favorite past times was to sit on my shoulder and “sample” everything I was trying to eat. His last trick was to grab and run off with any dollar bills we placed on the counter as change. I never did figure out what he wanted to buy. Needless to say it was a sad day when a customer finally begged to take Pancho home and I relented. Sadly, Grey Cheeks are now an endangered species so the few you see for sale are captive breed. I still have the chewed up check book cover and think of Pancho when I pull it out of my pocket.