CHONGO'S GREAT ESCAPE PACO’S CLEVER DAD
By Sally Blanchard
I have been absolutely devoted to Amazon Parrots for over four decades. For most of my life, I have loved and watched birds but my fascination with parrots started in my late twenties. At the time, I earned my living sculpting birds out of rare hardwoods and met a wood carver who had about 30 or more Double yellow-headed Amazon parrots. Bill and Wilma Fisher set their birds up for breeding but none of their parrots except Chongo and Charo had cooperated yet. My 43-year-old Paco was their first baby and the Fishers did an incredible job raising Paco and the babies that came along later.
In retrospect, I am sure the reason the other birds had no chicks before Charo and Chongo was that the Fishers had allowed their birds to choose their own partners. This was before either surgical sexing or the much safer DNA sexing methods had been devised. The Fishers had placed birds together according to which birds seemed to like each other. It was not breeding season and most of the pairs they put together were actually buddies of the same gender rather than a heterosexual pair.
When the Fishers went out of town for the weekend, I would feed and check on their parrots once or twice a day. The Amazons were housed in a very large workshop area with timed lighting. One afternoon when I came to check on the birds, I could tell before I even entered the house that something was very wrong. The sounds just weren’t the same. Instead of the normal clucking sounds, it sounded like a raucous party. Once I opened the door, it only took me only a minute to realize why. Chongo (I was told this meant monkey, certainly an appropriate name for this Amazon) had taken the bolts out of the aviary he shared with Charo (Paco's Mom), and it had collapsed allowing them to escape. Then, evidently, the clever Chongo had gone around the room undoing several other cages and other birds probably let more out. Almost everyone was out on top of their cages or someone else's cage. I have always thought the pleasure sounds of Amazons sounded like laughter and everyone was indeed laughing loudly as I entered the room.
As I attempted to put the cages back together, the party continued with what seemed to me to be continuing laughter at my feeble attempt to round up everyone and put them in the proper cages with the proper partner. Although I knew several of the birds well enough to know who they were, I wasn't as familiar with others so I did the best I could. Luckily the Fisher's had established relationships with all of their parrots and stick trained them.
When the Fishers returned, they found that I had created several new pairings who seemed very happy together. But then all the Amazons were returned to their “proper” cages and mates. A year or so later when surgical sexing became possible, the unproductive pairs were tested. Most of the "pairs" were the same sex and it turned out that I had put several true pairs together after Chongo’s escape and the raucous Amazon Party.