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More pictures of Ranzo --click here!

Ranzo the Red-Bellied Poicephalus
Mr Feathers, Ranzo Ray, Perfect Bird

September 7, 1999 - May 9, 2007

This page is frightfully out of date, but still captures much of our feelings about Ranzo.

The Adventures of Ranzo

Ranzo, our frightfully energetic and good-natured red-bellied poicephalus continues to grow and increase his vocabulary. He's a relative of the African Senegal Parrot and he keeps us very busy. Ranzo has made appearances at several performances in California, eastern Washington, and New England. Last year he accumulated over ten thousand 'frequent flapper' miles in our VW camper. He loves simple little toys ranging from a Snapple bottle cap, to a bit of rawhide with beads and knots.


Ranzo's morning starts in a leisurely fashion. Since we keep fairly late hours we try to be quiet in the morning so as to let Ranzo sleep in as long as possible. William is usually up first, makes his coffee and then goes to his basement office to get some work done. Felicia tends to stay in bed as long as possible but at last a quiet whistle will come from under the cage cover and this prompts a bit of call and response. When Ranzo feels this has gone on just about long enough he will often say, "Dere's a bird," in a tentative, questioning voice. Felicia responds with, "There IS a bird!" and go down from the loft to open curtains and at long last uncover the cage.

Then there is a moment better shrouded in privacy (though it does involve a word that Ranzo knows and uses appropriately) after which he is stepped-up out of his cage and the day has truly begun.

First, before anything else, even Felicia's coffee, is the bird's breakfast. Beans, rice, corn, hot peppers and crumbled corn bread, plus any greenery that's available, is heated briefly in the microwave, tested for hot spots and then brought to the cage with another bowl of fresh water. Ranzo gets very excited about this process and will often make the beep of the microwave at exactly the same moment as the buttons are pushed. Sometimes his pitch and timing are so perfect you have to check to be sure that you actually pushed the buttons! How he does this, from across the room and with us between him and the buttons, is a mystery.

Once Ranzo is busy eating (or rejecting) his food Felicia gets to make her coffee. Once made, she might go online and catch up on email or do other indoor activities but at last it's time for a shower. shower bird

At least four or five times a week Ranzo joins in for the fun. He gets totally drenched and seems content to stay in the warm water forever, even longer than Felicia! He looks very funny with his feathers soaking wet. You can even see his little pink birdie ears- holes in the sides of his head which we are careful not to get water in. He blinks and blinks and waggles his tail and his feet get very warm and relaxed but at last he gives a shake or two and it's time to come out of the shower and shake off properly. He likes to sit on the shower curtain rod and bask in the warm air while whoever he showered with is finishing up. Then he sits on a towel rod and gets a q-tip to play with while waiting to go back to his cage.

Ranzo is quiet while he dries off and preens himself back to perfection but once he's groomed he's busy again. He might have a snack of apple or almond or parsley or dandelion leaf, or he might find that piece of food he rejected from his breakfast earlier is now aged enough to be attractive.

Felicia sets up his "tree" (a branch of madrona donated by a friend) so that he can go from the cage to the "tree" to the dining table (covered with a vinyl tablecloth from the local dollar store) where his toy box (emergency travel cage) is located with all sorts of things to play with, or more likely, reject. Apple on a skewer is hung from the "tree" and almonds are hidden in unlikely places. A few sunflower seeds are put in a puzzle toy- which Ranzo figured out in about three seconds, by the way, so it's no challenge for him to get them out!

Ranzo plays hard, gnawing on wood or metal, throwing toys or food scraps off the cage or table with great determination, laughing his cartoon laugh, saying, "Step up," as he steps up onto a perch or banging a favorite bell into submission, often while muttering his version of William's name. He likes to have company and Felicia will sit at the table and try and do things, such as garden planning or what-have-you, which guarantees an inquisitive parrot trying to steal pencil or paper or just demanding to sit on the hand that was going to do something important so that it can't. Cats are not the only experts at keeping people from doing things with their hands!

There are games to play, such as Where's the Bird? which is played with a small green towel, or Gonna Get You! which results in much running around the table and tickling of wing-pits, or variations on the No, Don't Want That theme which involves rather a lot of aggressive toy flinging. There is also Flapping, almost flying while clinging tightly to an outstretched hand (a big favorite), or turning upside down either on the table, the floor, on a perch or on a hand sometimes with a toy or sometimes not.

bird & mouseHe likes to climb up on top of this little stuffed mouse, hold on tight, flip himself over on his back, and wave it around in the air.

Besides the "tree," cage and table full of toys and treats there is a splendid view of the garden, neighborhood and mountains to entertain us all, including a bird feeder right outside the window.

Mostly he ignores the birds outside, though the blue heron that glides through nearly every day makes him take notice. He seems to recognize that the little birds, typical red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, swallows, purple finches and even Canada geese are no threat but the heron always gets his attention even at quite a distance.

the hawk pouncesLiving out in the country presents an element of danger and adventure for parrots. Last spring Ranzo went leaping off the top of his bird house with a mighty squawk. While returning him to his cage top next to the window I noticed a good sized hawk lying spread eagled (or is that spread hawked?) on the deck. The hawk systematically checked out his wings and tail one at a time and then soared back to the tree tops still puzzling over that remarkably tough little parrot.

Around 3 pm or so Ranzo quiets down and might take a nap on a high branch or do another round of preening. This is a good time to find out if he might like his head skritched (a technical term) or maybe another snack to hold him until dinner time. Sometimes he just likes to sit on his high branch and practice his noises and words and whistles.

Dinner for Ranzo comes around 4:30 or so when another round of beans and other goodies are warmed up and offered for his perusal. When our own dinner is ready he is always given a sampling of whatever is safe for him to eat.

Finally it's time for bed, usually about the ish of 9. Dinner dishes are taken away, fresh water is provided, extraneous toys and perches are removed and a few head skritches are offered. Then the cage is partly covered, Ranzo is induced to step-up (sometimes a ticklish thing when he's tired) and settled on a perch. The door is closed and latched and the rest of the cover put on.

There might be a few noises, a bell might be rung once or twice, or we might hear some quiet beak grinding, but soon all is still and Ranzo's day is over.