For the love of parrots
Kitted out in black T-shirts, carrying camera tripods converted into bird stands and their feathered friends calmly roosting on their shoulders, as the members of Oman Parrots Fans Club trooped in, families gathering at Rose Garden for iftar looked on curiously.
Moments later, when the club members get busy setting up the bird stands and settling the birds down under a gazebo, there are other onlookers – the feline variety – that salivate at the prospect of sinking their teeth and claws into the plump, well-fed birds.
The attention and unfamiliar surrounding make Faris al Zadjali’s one year old cockatiel - named Pikachu – nervous, prompting it to hop off the stand down to the grass. It’s the opportunity a resident cat of the garden was waiting for. Before Zadjali or anyone else realised it, the cat had seized the moment, making a dash with Pikachu lodged between its teeth. Alerted by the squawks and screams of the other birds in attendance, Zadjali gave chase scaring the cat to run for its life and release Pikachu. Zadjali walked back with Pikachu miraculously unscathed, only its feathers ruffled. “It’s not time for iftar yet, so the cat let Pikachu be,” Zadjali announced, as the other club members sighed in relief before going back to grooming and pampering their birds.
The Oman Parrots Fans Club is an offshoot of the Bird Fanciers and Pet Lovers Association, and as mandated for all organisations and clubs, is registered with the Ministry of Social Development. The club started two years ago and currently has close to 60 members of various nationalities.
Describing the objectives of the club, Marwan Khalil Zeynab – an active member spearheading its activities – said, “It is a platform to share experiences of breeding, grooming, raising and taking care of new birds. And more significantly, we want to popularise the hobby of keeping parrots.”
Among other birds, he has a Galah cockatoo named Fluffy who Marwan has raised for free flight. So Fluffy can fly away, if it decided to, and has to be kept on a leash on outings like this. A civil engineer by profession, he has been keeping birds since he was a little boy and knows the characteristics of various parrot species and subspecies.
Identifying the other birds in attendance, he points towards Abdullah Rahim’s six month old Eclectus parrot called Nara. “There are very few species of parrots in which you can distinguish a male from a female. In the Eclectus parrot, the male of the species are green while the females have red, purple and blue plumage,” Marwan informed.
At the events the club is invited to present shows, it also helps dispel myths about parrots. “Chillies don’t make parrots talk; you can feed them chillies once a week. Avocado is poisonous for them, while tomatoes are acidic,” Marwan said.
The club’s shows present the parrots up close and personal to guests, allowing them to pet and cradle them, breaking any fears anyone may have of them. “Our shows help people understand that parrots are as good as and even better pets than dogs or any other animals kept as pets,” said Rubeesh Rashid, a member of the club based in Sohar.
The club has been regularly involved in the activities of orphanages and the Association for the Welfare of Handicapped Children. H H Sayyida Hujaija bint Jaifar al Said, chairperson of the association, recently invited the club to present a show at Kempinski Hotel Muscat for special needs children on the occasion of Qaranqasho. “Our children love the parrot shows. The club has consistently supported our activities. The therapeutic effect of birds and animals on physically and mentally challenged children is a well-searched subject.”
While that is an established fact, parrots’ cantankerous and noisy nature is also well known. Ali al Hadi, a banker who has a three year old Blue Fronted Amazon parrot called Bluey, said the noise and decibel levels of these birds can drive every owner at least once in their lifetime on the verge of getting rid of them. “We club members all have stories of incidents at home when we were instigated by our wives to sell off our birds. But then they themselves plead with us later not to do so,” admitted Sami al Musallam, another member of the club.