Everyone around town knows this playful parrot
Lucky, a Congo African grey parrot, was 10 days old when Ricky and Jackie Payne of San Leon acquired him in 2001. Today, Lucky is one lucky bird.
“He looked like a pinky mouse when we got him,” Ricky Payne said.
Breeders usually don’t let birds go until they’re fully feathered at 6 to 7 weeks old, but the breeder felt confident the couple would mother him properly, Ricky Payne said. Jackie Payne dutifully fed Lucky with a syringe night and day.
Lucky has a vocabulary of about 30 words and imitates many sounds, the Paynes said.
“He quacks like a duck, barks like a dog, mimics cell phones and smoke detector tones, the sound of a garbage truck backing up, and has two favorite unmentionable words that he will repeat over and over if in the mood,” Ricky Payne said.
Lucky’s day begins about 6:30 a.m., when he lets out a whistle to be taken off his perch to go to the bathroom. “They don’t potty in their roost, because in the wild their predators know where they’re roosting; it’s instinctive,” Payne said.
After a morning buttered biscuit, Lucky starts his daily routine by chasing Payne’s feet while Payne is readying for work. Then Lucky hits his toy box for a playful few hours.
In the evening, Lucky sits at the kitchen bar, interacts with his family and enjoys dinner, which often includes his favorite meal of chorizo and eggs. But a fresh shrimp is always a treat. Eating off Ricky Payne’s plate is the norm, however.
“He likes to play the paper towel game when I’m in my recliner,” Payne said. “He throws it off the bar, I pick it up and throw it back until I have to hide it to end the game.”
Not housebound, by any means, Lucky goes out regularly with the Paynes.
“We take him on some errands, like going to the bank, grocery store, hardware store,” Payne said. “Everybody around town knows him by name.”
Lucky once visited Johnson Space Center, where Payne is in charge of electricians for Mission Control Critical Power Division.
“I used to own a shrimp boat and Lucky went out with me frequently,” Payne said. “He not only kept me company, but was very entertaining.”
By 9 p.m., Lucky whistles and flaps his wings, indicating it’s time to retire to the bedroom where he sits at the foot of the bed, then goes to his unlocked cage for a good night’s sleep.
Birds like Lucky have pretty long lifespans — some can live to be 65 years old, often outliving their owners.
“He most likely will outlive us,” Payne said. “My sons will have to draw straws to see who gets him.”
In the meantime, Lucky continues to entertain the Paynes each day.
“We have each other’s backs,” Payne said.
Did you know?
There are two species of African greys: Congo African grey and Timneh African grey. There is little difference in the color, except the Timneh is darker and has black streaks in its red tail feathers. Both species have equivalent IQs.