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This page is frightfully out of date, but still captures much of our feelings about Ranzo.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