Seattle's Child

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pet birds

Dimitri, 3, with his two caiques. (Photo by Joshua Huston)

Family Pet Contest winner: Wings of love

An Everett mother and son raise two caiques while fostering other birds in need.

Maria Josephine Idris points out that pet birds can be a great idea for children. “I love having them around because it teaches respect, boundaries, empathy and compassion,” she says.

Her son Dimitri, who just turned 3 in January, knows how to be gentle with the birds and is used to the noise that parrots can make. His mother was raised with pet birds as a child and now the Everett resident is active in rescue, helping foster parrots through her connections with two rescue organizations in Oregon.

Dimitri is photographed here with his pets Trombold and Lada, who are caiques, members of a small, highly vocal parrot species found in nature in South America’s Amazon Basin.

These caiques, about a year and a half old, were hand-fed as babies, raised by Idris with very early exposure to Dimitri.

“They can fly, but they don’t want to fly because they’d rather be with us,” she says. Caiques are known for their fun, clownish behavior, and they love human attention.

“Trombold and Lada are the only ones [we have] that we hand-raised, because I want something that I can handle myself.”

The caiques are gentle because they were hand-raised, says Idris. “They’ve been with us ever since they were babies.”

Because the birds spent their babyhood with her and her son, “they’re really close with Dimitri,” she says.

When she was a child, her family raised falcons, outside with gloves, and she has learned it’s important to know bird body language.

Unfortunately, a lot of people have had to give up pet birds during the coronavirus pandemic.

Idris is a fan of a two-month waiting period for anyone committing to adopting the pets, to avoid impulsive bird-buying decisions. “People want birds for Christmas and now they’re rehoming them,” says Idris. “That’s the biggest problem right now.”

Some of the increased need for rescue this past year is also due to the steep cost of pet bird care, says Idris.

“A lot of people rehome their birds because they cannot keep them because of the upkeep of the money, from COVID actually, so usually they’ve had birds for a long time and they can’t keep them anymore, because it’s too expensive,” she says.

Even though people are drawn to parrots big and small because of the potential of having a bird who talks, Idris warns that’s not a good or well-thought-out reason to get a parrot, especially since they don’t all speak, and because the talking species can have a tendency to be more aggressive.

“I would say don’t get a bird if you just want them to talk,” she says. “I would not get a bird that talks, because usually those birds are the ones that are problematic” for owners.

The type of parrot she does recommend for families are conures, since they’re less apt to become attached to just one person than are other parrots.

“They’re family birds,” she says.

The caiques are fed a diet that’s “a lot of vegetables, grains, fruit, melons” and they’re now big enough that Dimtri doesn’t have to help hand-feed them.

But in a funny turn, Dimitri might have his eyes on a pet that’s not avian at all.

When asked what his favorite animal was, what was his enthusiastic reply?


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About the Author

Jillian O'Connor

Jillian O’Connor lives in Seattle with her husband, two sons and a dog named after the Loch Ness Monster.