Sad parrot who refused to talk and plucked out own feathers after death of owner finds his voice (and swear words!) again in loving new home!

Sad parrot who refused to talk and plucked out own feathers after death of owner finds his voice (and swear words!) again in loving new home!

african grey parrot showing plucked feathers on neck © RSPCAA parrot was left so depressed after his owner died that he started to pluck out his own feathers and refused to talk, except for sadly whispering 'goodbye' to RSPCA staff.

African grey parrot Jesse was taken in by Ashley Heath Animal Centre, in Dorset, after the sad death of his owner. It soon became clear to staff that he was struggling with grief and his sudden change in environment.

Parrots - who learn to speak by hearing words and mimicking them - often have large vocabularies. But nine-year-old Jesse refused to speak, except for occasionally whispering 'goodbye' to RSPCA staff, and even started to pluck out his own feathers, leaving staff very worried. 

Behaviour and welfare advisor Hannah Hawkins said:

The team noticed one day that Jesse had plucked out some of the feathers on his chest and had made his skin red and raw. We wondered if he was sick or had a skin issue that was making him uncomfortable but it soon became clear that it was grief and stress that was causing the plucking.

He'd come into us after the death of his owner and we believe he'd been in the same home for his whole life and was much-loved so it's not surprising he was struggling after such a sudden change. He seemed lonely and depressed after such a loss.

The Dorset staff decided to reach out to the RSPCA's network and seek advice from Kent's behaviour and welfare advisor who has her own African Grey parrot.

"We take in a lot of birds such as budgies, canaries, lovebirds and poultry, but we don't see a huge number of larger parrots," Hannah said. "We knew we needed to get Jesse into a home environment as quickly as possible to ease his stress. We made sure Jesse got lots of attention and additional enrichment to try to help him while Jacque helped us to screen potential homes to find the right match. And we found that when Rachel got in touch!

Jesse went off to his new home, in South Wales, in February. He's settling in well with dog behaviourist Rachel Leather, her family, and their two dogs and five cats, where he has a large cage and free flying time. Rachel said: "He's only been with us for a short time but I can't imagine how we ever existed without him!

african grey parrot in cage © RSPCA"I'd always wanted a parrot but I'm very conscious that birds should be birds, who can fly, and I never wanted to feed into the breeding of birds for captivity; it just doesn't sit right with me, ethically. I'd accepted the fact that I'd probably never have one, unless it was possible to rehome a rescue parrot. When I became aware of Jesse I was blown away; it felt like the perfect opportunity. 

"He has settled in so well. Feather-plucking can be a difficult habit to break but he has some feather re-growth so that's a good sign. He's also started to play with his toys, interact with his foraging wall, and is even grinding his beak which is a signal of relaxation and contentment. 

"The fact that he's talking is a really good sign. I was surprised at how chatty he became because the staff at the centre said he was really quiet and had only said one word - 'goodbye' - a few times. It's heartbreaking to think that's all he'd say after suffering such loss."

Rachel, from Aberdare, is helping Jesse with his fear of hands and is desensitising him to being handled in a gradual and positive way; like you would with a dog. And as his confidence grows, the parrot becomes much more cheeky, and potty-mouthed! 

"Within 24 hours of being home he was nattering away to himself," Rachel said. "His personality is really coming out! He just makes us roar with laughter! He loves to make fart noises, make jokes and swear! His language is awful! 

I think he's lived with a dog called Wellard in his previous home, or watched a lot of EastEnders, because he calls both of my dogs Wellard! He also says: 'Jesse's a good boy' and then occasionally replaces that with: 'Jesse's a good girl' and laughs!

jesse the african grey parrot inside his cage © RSPCAThe cheeky parrot has learned that Rachel's partner calls her 'Babe' so shouts 'Babe' to get her attention and then tells her to 'F***k off'!

"When I tell Jesse that he's funny he responds with: 'Yes, f***ing hilarious!'," Rachel added. "He even watches my partner play Playstation and laughs when his character has died.

"From a cognitive point of view it's really complex, he obviously has some sort of understanding of the game and how it works. As a behaviourist it's absolutely fascinating and really has reignited my fascination with animal behaviour. 

"I cannot wait to watch him grow in confidence and personality, and develop as he settles in more. We absolutely love him and it's going to be a wonderful adventure with him joining the family!"

The RSPCA urges anyone thinking of owning a pet bird to consider adopting one of the many unwanted birds that are currently being cared for by the animal welfare charity. Potential adopters will need to be able to demonstrate that they have the knowledge and the correct set-up for the particular species before they can take a rescued bird home. Staff at our centres can help with providing advice on care.

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals, like Jesse, please make a donation online or call 0300 123 8181.