BONGO MARIE Deals with Ornithophobia
by Sally Blanchard
In 1985, I moved back to California in the middle of winter. I left Wichita on the first of January during an ice storm. A friend and my Airedale, Tigger, came with me on the drive but I left my five parrots with a friend until my new house was ready for them. About a month later I flew back to Kansas and then brought the birds home with me on the plane. My double-yellow heads, Paco and Rascal and my yellow-collared macaws, Bojo and Jobo traveled in pet carriers on the same plane but Queen Bongo Marie flew in the cabin with me.
I was seated with Bongo underneath the seat in front of me when a woman sat next to me. A fairly loud voice from beneath the seat exclaimed, “Hey, what’s going on? Who do you think you are?” It had the unique vocal characteristics of an African grey parrot but the woman was looking around to see where the voice was coming from. I smiled and explained that it was my parrot talking from under the seat in front of me. The woman was suddenly panic stricken. She started yelling and jumped out of her seat crashing into the people trying to put their luggage in the overhead compartments. I immediately pushed the flight attendant call button. I think the woman who sat down next to me had seen Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds one too many time. She was a genuine ornithophobic and wanted to leave the plane until I volunteered to take Bongo Marie and sit in the very last seat on the plane. I had to promise the incredibly frightened woman and the flight attendant that I would not let Bongo out of her carrier, which I wouldn’t have done anyway. To my knowledge, Bongo had never flown by herself or on a plane before and didn’t ever fly again. She was very talkative during the entire flight. The people in the back of the plane really enjoyed her conversations.