No, this is not the promised picture of Youki, not yet at least. He's still too shy to stay out of the shadows long enough to get a picture when someone is close to his cage... and we still need batteries for the camera. But this is a picture of a Timneh African Grey, the type of bird that we think he (or she?) is. Youki is still a young bird, as evidenced by the downey feathers still on his chest and stomach, and we are all throroughly enjoying his addition to our family.
We feel he is making great strides, and starting to become comfortable with our family, although removing his blanket, feeding and watering and cleaning the cage still make him quite nervous (and he's not too shy to let us know). He also doesn't appreciate it when taller family members approach the cage, growling to warn us. I was surprised to learn that parrots "growled."
But most of the time, he is comfortable when the girls sit around his cage and read, (sometimes reading aloud to him), enjoys family meal times, when we are all there in the room eating at the table, but no one approaches too closely, when the kids are watching a movie (he especially likes episodes of MacGyver and the light saber swishes on Star Wars) with lots of intriguing noises and sounds for him to listen to. But his hands down favorite is the sound track from "Prince of Egypt," or other theatrical music. Then he sings, squeals, squeaks, whistles and performs gymnastic tricks as he climbs all over his cage, even hanging upside down from his roof.
He also likes to dismantle the straw roof to his cage (maybe he wants more light?), as piece by piece, he's slowly taking it apart. We figured he learned this behavior by watching King, during the time that their sejours here overlapped. King ate the roof (a thatch made out of millet stalks or straw) to his hangar this Spring/Summer... This has nothing to do with the subject of Youki, but we think it was just the challenge of pulling it down plus the fact that we kept some of his feed stored on the roof that enticed King to first slowly dismantle and then rapidly consume his roof. But back to the subject at hand - Youki pulls the silver spray-painted straw out stalk by stalk, plays with it then throws it on the floor. And yesterday, he stuck his head through the top wires of the cage where he'd made a whole big enough for him to peek out. It was quite funny to see his head poking up through the roof and looking around. It could have been our imagination, but he seemed quite proud of himself for all the squeals and giggles this particular behavior elicited from the girls. That dovetails nicely with everything we've read so far on African greys: emotionally, they tend to act like a 2-3 year old, often doing things just for attention or reaction from those around.
We are learning that earning his trust will take time and patience, however. He was not a hand raised baby accustomed to the love and care of people from his earliest days, like the parrots available for purchase in the States. Instead, his first contact with people was probably when he was snatched from his nest, thrown in a cardboard box, shipped in the back of a truck over horrible roads to Niamey, and then tossed in a tiny cage near the little market where we buy fruits and vegetables with nothing more than a handful of peanuts for people to stare at him and kids to poke sticks at him until we bought him and brought him home.
Rebekah is working hard to earn his trust - we all hope for both of their sakes, that day will come sooner rather than later.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Photo of Timneh African Grey copied from the Animal Company web site.