BFFs: Best feathered friends
From target and speech training to spinning, freshman Rana Zaky trains and tames her birds to do different types of tricks. Zaky started at the age of thirteen, and she’s been doing it ever since.
After finding out that her two younger brothers were allergic to cats, Zaky didn’t know what pet she could get until she saw a bird at Petco and realized that she could own a bird. However, she didn’t know how to take care of a pet bird. After some research, she realized that, just like a cat or a dog, she could take care of it.
“It was kind of a shock to me when I saw that birds could be trained and play with you,” Zaky said. “At the same time, I was a little bit nervous because I didn’t expect that you could train them, and I was scared about trying it and doing something wrong.”
At the beginning of 2018, Zaky got her first bird, a parakeet. With the help of her brothers, Zaky named her parakeet “Midnight” after his blue and white feathers.
“When I first bought a bird, I was beyond excited. At first, I was really impatient because he wasn’t tame or anything. It was kind of disappointing to know that something’s scared of you. But at the same time, it was really, really exciting,” Zayk said. “On top of that, I felt really cautious because my brothers and my family would crowd around him and that would cause a lot of stress. But, after a while I started becoming more patient as I started watching a little bit more. After he was tamed, I just fell in love.”
By watching videos from YouTube channels such as Flock-Talk and Marlene Mc’Cohen to inspire her, Zaky began to take care of Midnight. By familiarizing herself with the birds’ natural instincts, she learned some tips and tricks, such as closing her eyes around birds to convince the birds that she wasn’t a predator. Midnight began to display his trust around Zaky by closing his eyes back at her.
“At first, I didn’t believe that that would work. But then I tried it, and it was a really exciting moment in our journey together because it just shows that he trusts me a lot even though he wouldn’t have let me handle him back then,” Zaky said. “He still does it sometimes, if he wants reassurance. [When] something scares him [or when] he wants reassurance, he’ll close his eyes first, and expect me to do it back. Every time he does that it just feels really cute and nice to have someone do that.”
Recently, Zaky got her second bird, a green-cheeked conure. Originally named “Teak,” Zaky discovered that Teak was a female through her hormonal behaviors, such as Teak’s head bobbing, causing Zaky to change her name to “Tiki.” Starting with basic target training, Zaky has taught her birds to fly, not bite and speak on command.
“You feel a sense of accomplishment when you teach them to do something, especially when it’s something that takes a lot of time because birds take some time to train,” Zaky said. “They’re easy to train, but it requires a lot of work to train them.”
Along with taming and training her own birds, Zaky not only gives advice to people online through various online forums such as Tailfeathers Network about how to train their birds, but also has a YouTube channel, Life of a Birdo, in which she posts videos giving advice to fellow bird owners.
“I saw all these bird youtubers, and I didn’t realize that so many people had birds and actually needed help with their birds,” Zaky said. “After [starting to post comments] on the forum and actually seeing that I was helping people, I started watching all these YouTube channels and people making videos about their birds, so I ended up deciding to make a YouTube channel. Maybe one day, it’ll be well-known and help a lot of people out there.”
Now, Zaky continues to train her birds, along with her friends’ birds. She also continues to post videos on her YouTube channel, in hopes that her videos will help other people.
“It’s really sweet because you get all this love from them and part of training birds is that you also strengthen your bond between them,” Zaky said. “It’s really nice to know that I have two little companions with me.”
By Flora Lei, Arts editor
Photo courtesy of Rana Zaky