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The many talents of Taco the parrot

Staff writer

Don’t bother asking Barry Guinn’s Amazon parrot if it wants a cracker. “Taco” prefers peanuts.

Guinn said peanuts are one of the bird’s greatest passions — the smell, the taste, the salty reward.

Guinn used peanuts to help motivate Taco to learn to speak salutations like “Hello” and “Goodbye,” phrases like “Here Kitty, Kitty,” interjections like “Yee-Haw,” or more tender sentiments like, “Pretty bird,” and “I love you.”

Even without lips, Taco dishes out kisses, too. However, Taco reserves his beak for Guinn alone.

“Parrots like Taco really only bond with one person,” Guinn said. “But Taco likes Molly (Smith) and the kids.”

Smith said, “Taco likes me because I feed him, but I’ve never held him.”

“He’s smart enough to know not to bite the hand that feeds,” Guinn said. Taco eats a variety of seeds but seems to relish every peanut.

“He washes them in his water dish sometimes,” Guinn said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Peanuts are also a reward for a song well sung.

“He will usually finish ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ if you sing it to him,” Guinn said. “He knows ‘How Much For That Doggy In The Window?’”

Taco only performs if the mood strikes him, Guinn said, but the parrot also knows the “Wee, wee, wee” part of ‘This Little Piggy.”

At 24, Taco is middle-aged in parrot years, but he recently added a word to his vocabulary.

“We weren’t sure if he could learn new words but he’s started to say ‘mom,’” Smith said. “My kids yell ‘mom’ all the time.”

Guinn said it takes multiple repetitions for Taco to learn something new, but when he gets it, he really gets it right.

“Kids are mesmerized by him,” Guinn said. “Taco doesn’t just imitate the word. He also copies the inflection of the person who teaches him.”

Smith said Taco’s rendition of “mom” sounds somewhat similar to the way her kids scream it.

Last modified Dec. 3, 2015

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