Monday, July 06, 2009

Notes and Screeching

Another maintenance cycle has turned. I flew a shorter than usual flight today in order to land before the next phase check was overdue. An airplane is not any riskier to fly when it's ready to go into maintenance than it was 25 hours earlier. It tends to leak or burn a bit more oil and there may be a few other things that rattle, but on average I am certain that the last flight before scheduled maintenance is safer than the first flight after such maintenance. That's not even counting the fact that I'll be landing with extra fuel because of the shortened duration.

Then a propos of nothing, just flying along, there's a really horrible noise. I turn off my iPod to listen more closely, and it goes away. It turns out that the base line, played through the left earbud in stereo, from The Beach Boys Surfing Safari sounds exactly like a cavitating fuel pump. A fuel pump cavitates when there isn't enough fuel in the tank for it to pump, or when it's so turbulent that the line unports. It's not a good sound to have in ones left ear during flight. I'm removing that song from my in-flight playlist.

After landing I help tear the panels off the airplane for the inspection and then we go over to a house belonging to one of the engineers. He mentioned that he has a parrot, which I asked to see. I'm disappointed that it isn't a big colourful African parrot like a red or blue macaw. I didn't know that the category of parrot was broader than just those birds. His is a cockatiel cockatoo. It looks like a giant lovebird, white with a hint of pink and yellow. He has it because someone asked him to look after it for a year while he went to Africa. It's been nine years now and he's never come back.

The bird doesn't seem to talk or imitate sounds like the birds I think of when you say "parrot." It just screeches. but it's friendly and lets me pet it. It stepped onto my hand, when I offered it. It's fun to pet a bird. They are simultaneously the descendants of the dinosaurs, and man's inspiration for flight. This one sits on my hand, gripping with his scaly feet, and lets me preen him. When I was a kid I used to find bird feathers on the ground and carefully align all the barbules together, marvelling at how the invisibly tiny hooks held them together, converting scraggly disarray into one continuous smooth vane. I always wished I could do that with my hair.

The bird seemed to like it a lot when I bobbed my hand up and down, exaggerating the movements of my hand by stretching and crouching, like someone pumping on a swing to go faster. Then it walked up my arm (yes my bare arm, and yes with claws, but fortunately even a big bird is a lot lighter than a cat) to my shoulder where it sat for a while before launching into the air and flying over to the owner's shoulder. I washed my hands and arms thoroughly when I got home. I hope parrots don't carry salmonella or something. The scratches completely vanished after only a few hours, so it looks like he didn't break enough layers of skin to leave a welt.

Meanwhile the latest news is that we're going to Alaska next, "but don't buy charts yet."


jinksto said...

Actually the are in the family Cacatuidae and are essentially a miniature Cockatoo. True parrots are in the family Psittacidae. That said both families belong to the order Psittaciformes which are parrots. So in an interesting biological twist, the Cockatiel (genus Nymphicus)is a Cockatoo so is a Parrot but is not a True Parrot.. aint science grand?

For what it's worth I have a Cockatiel and always refer to it by that name. Like you, I usually only consider the larger "True Parrots" to be parrots.

Of course, when referring to mine I just say "Kiwi" which is his name. :)

Grant said...

I regularly volunteer at the World Parrot Refuge near Coombs on Vancouver Island. While parrots are fascinating animals, they don't do well in captivity.

This Excellent report tells the tale pretty well...

If anyone wants an excellent visit, fly into CAT4 (Qualicum Beach) and give us a call. We'll come pick you up.

Sarah said...

I just listened to Surfin' Safari... I'm not hearing it, but maybe it's the earphones/buds. My laptop has lousy bass.

I love birds, but doubt my cats would tolerate them. Maybe later. Parrots are so long lived, intelligent and demanding attention I hesitate to get too interested. I feel a little sorry for the captive parrots I do see. They look so awfully bored.

Cockatiels are cool. No doubt you've heard about Snowball, the dancer.

steve said...

When i was a kid, a friend in the Merchant-Navy returned from a trip with a large cage containing a grey and pink "parrot"There was also a sort of "handcuff" attached to a chain the attachment was a threaded rod with a thumbwheel...the rod was split, half on each jaw, such that the jaws clamped round it's leg and the wheel runup to lock the two halves together.

"Snooky" thought it highly entertaining to peck at it and remove it....ever seen a smug parrot?

The disease that they carry is Psittacosis....apparently it's not nice at all, but it never entered our thoughts in the '50's.....Don't remember Quarantines back then, either!

Amusing and highly intelligent creatures.....It has been suggested that this was a Galah, the seaman being an Aussie, it sounds plausible.

Scott Johnson said...

Parrots and Cockatoos are actually in different families (psittacidae vs cacatuidae), and the size of the bird you're referring to makes me think it's probably a cockatoo, not a cockatiel. If it had both pink and yellow coloration, it was probably a moluccan cockatoo.

Cockatiels are very small, generally the size of "parakeets" (budgerigars). They are the smallest members of the cockatoo family.

Cockatoos are very clever. They're not the best talkers, but they do vocalize. Moluccans, in particular, are probably the loudest domesticated birds in existence. I spent a lot of time working with a couple of moluccans this spring.

Was this the sort of bird you saw?

Aviatrix said...

Yes, Scott, that's what it was. I didn't listen properly to the iel vs oo ending, and assumed it was the one I had heard before. I call the miniature version with this kind of coloration a lovebird. At least I described it well enough for you to figure it out. And I fully believe that it's the loudest bird around. Boy could it screech.

He said it was originally kept in a cage, or put in a cage at night and showed how clever it was in unfastening clips or in the case of one, just snapping it with its beak. It grabbed me with the beak at one point, but clearly not with its full strength.