As an intern, I came to Pandemonium virtually clueless about birds. There is no sense in denying it; my job was to help with communications, and my bird knowledge was less than impressive. That’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate birds as creatures. I was thrilled for the opportunity to work with them. It simply became more and more apparent to me as the weeks passed that I had a lot to learn.

One of my very favorite lessons is on the unorthodox side.

It was morning, and I’d somehow managed to arrive at work ten minutes earlier than planned. This already was momentous, and I decided to celebrate by spending the extra time with our parrots. A few squawked “hello”s and excited “I love you”s were some of the few things that could make me forget about beeping horns and early morning road rage.

I had been speaking with Amigo, a Mexican Red-headed Amazon, and Beakman, a Blue and Gold macaw, when from behind me I heard a quaint but clear “hello.” It was RJ, our newest Catalina macaw, calling me over.

I easily obliged. RJ didn’t typically show impatience to talk to me, and at the time I hadn’t had the chance to really bond with him. Aside from my lack of experience with him individually, there is something ultimately charming about RJ. He’s a goofball, and does whatever he can to make you laugh. Usually this meant attacking the rope toy in the center of his aviary, shaking it violently, and doing his best to tear it off. I laughed the first time I saw this, and ever since destroying the toy has been his number one priority whenever I’m within eyeshot, simply because he knows that it makes me laugh. And when I stop laughing at that, he’ll break out in dance.

Another thing that I love about RJ in particular is that he has a wonderful habit of agreeing with me. On the best occasions, I’ll be passionately talking about something near him and when I finish speaking he will conclude with an excited “Yeah!” And really, it’s not often that a person gets that excited over something I’ve said.

So when RJ went out of his way to call me over, I was flattered. When I got over to him, we simply looked at one another for a few moments. Seeking to ease the awkward tension, I took a drink from my coffee. RJ watched me do this, stepped over to his water bowl, and joined me in having a morning beverage.

My heart melted. I knew many stories from Pandemonium of the humanity in birds, but this was one of the first times that I’d gotten to experience it myself.

While I was digesting this excitement, RJ threw up in his own mouth, chewed up the half-digested bird pellets a second time, and then swallowed the vomit down once more.

And the best part? I swooned.

Nothing could have been more flattering for me. When a bird regurgitates, it is attempting to feed you as it would its own kind. This is a sign that the bird loves you.

Think of it as one of those nights when after a long, difficult day, you come home to a delicious dinner laid out for you by your caring mother. This is what RJ had done for me. The bird version may not be as pretty, but it is just as meaningful. Eating together is something that families do, both in human social structure and bird social structure. In essence, I had been confirmed as one of RJ’s family members. And even if it makes you a bit queasy to watch, it is the ultimate compliment from one of our feathered friends.

By Brittany Webb, Pandemonium Aviaries Intern