Monday, December 28, 2009

Quicksilver Parrot's Tongue and The Christmas Bow

The presents have been opened and while the humans are tidying up, Quicksilver stealthily puts one foot on the table, just a little as he knows he's not allowed on the table, and leans slowly in toward an enticing stray Christmas bow. The camera clicks.


Well, it is Christmas after all, and we want everyone to be of good cheer and definitely merry, so I tell him it's alright and he can look at the bow. Besides I've been attempting to get a photograph of his tongue and this just might be the item to do that with.

Given permission he continues his lean and gently drags the bow toward him with his beak. You can't really see it here but already his black tubular ever so slightly tapered chubby dry tongue is shooting forward touching a spot, retracting an eighth of an inch and then touching another spot every second or so. After all, one has to get loads of sensory information about the bow first before deciding it just might be quite the ya ya to rip it to shreds.

A parrot's foot being scaly, and in Silver's case basically built for climbing and/or holding things, it isn't exactly the most exquisitely sensitive of sensory inputs. Very sensitive to pressure and positioning but it misses out on the finer points Plus being that his oral orifice is surrounded by a horny curved beak for prying food off things, there is some input there but not nearly what we have in our lips. Just keep in mind a beak is groomed by scraping it on bark or rocks and barring that, a dremmel tool, so not exactly a precise sensory instrument either.

And that is where Silver's tongue comes into play. He doesn't use it for manipulating sound by placing it in different parts of his mouth in the way we use ours while talking. His double larynx expands and contracts forming "whistles" that can be English words, the sound of clicking ice cubes, running water, or the smoke alarm. In fact he can talk quite well and still crunch seed with only a little muffling if he is talking and eating at the same time, His tongue is very sensitive. It does some moving of food around in his mouth but his other use of it often reminds me of a finger exploring new items in the environment. Touch, touch, touch, touch, touch.

It is dry. In fact his whole mouth is dry as a parrot hasn't in mouth saliva but rather has a couple of slime glands in his throat that lubricate food on the way down. In fact if he manages to beg chewing gum or hard candy from a human he'd really prefer it was moistened up by their mouth first to start dissolving the sugar otherwise he can't taste it.

Look at his expression. This is an engrossed parrot. If you look carefully at Silver's beak on the right side you can see a bit of his charcoal tongue coming out the side to feel the bow.
Sam drops a pan lid in the kitchen and Silver almost takes off in a hasty retreat. I tell him it's alright.

Reassured, he goes back to bow investigation. See the gray undulation the rear of his slightly open beak? That's his tongue still poking away at the bow.
Interestingly Silver didn't decide to dismantle the bow. I was very surprised. After he'd exhausted the tactile aspects of the bow he laid it down very politely and went off for further festive adventure.
Of course perhaps the bow avoided parrot mutilation because he knew that an attempt at shredding might just be found wanting in the behavior department and he isn't a dope. Silver knows that breaking the rules when the enforcer is standing right there eyeballing him is just plan dumb. You wait until no one is looking and then you shred the bow.
Donegal Browne


Courtney Holland said...

Hi! I love your story! I belong to the Arizona Aviculture Society and I am the editor of the newsletter. Could you give me permission to reprint your story in our December newsletter?
Courtney Holland

Anonymous said...

Hi! I love your story! I belong to the Arizona Aviculture Society and I am the editor of the newsletter. Could you give me permission to reprint your story in our December newsletter?


Donegal Browne said...

Hi Courtney,

Absolutely you have my permission to use the post in the newsletter. The more the merrier. In fact as this post went up in 2009, I'd forgotten about it and very much enjoyed reliving that particular Quicksilver adventure myself.

Take care of yourself and "RubyParrot"! :)

Best, Donegal