was bred and hatched in Texas. He and Diane Fulton
fell in love at first sight at Kookaburra Pet Store
in Dallas, and he went home with her as soon as he
was weaned. Diane named him Mithrander, which means
"Gray Pilgrim," and was the name the Elves
used for Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings.
His human companions like to think that
Mith is pretty special, even for an African Grey Parrot.
However, African Greys in general are extremely smart
birds. Researchers believe that their intelligence
is up there with that of dolphins, gorillas, and chimpanzees—which
isn't bad, when you consider that their brains are
about the size of a large almond. Mithrander has never
been trained—he has picked up his language skills
the same way a human child would, by imitating his
family. His human companions long ago lost track of
how many words he knows and uses appropriately, but
it is somewhere over 200. He uses complete sentences,
too, just like the human members of his family do.
Some of Mith's more common sentences and phrases include:
- Water? Do you have water? Need water?
(said when his or another bird's water bottle
is nearly empty)
- What a pretty bird you are! Yes, you are!
(said to other family members)
- Step up! Come to me, come to me? Step
up! (said when he wants to be picked up)
- Thorin! Thorin! Sit! Good dog! Sit! Stay!
Staaaaay! Good dog! (said often to Thorin
the Doberman, who completely ignores him)
- Crate! Yoshi! Get in your crate! Crate,
Yoshi! (said often to Yoshi the dachshund,
who completely ignores him)
- What does the cat say? The cat says "Meow!"
(and so on for the dog and the chicken and
- What if the cat says "Woof"?
(he came up with that one on his own)
- Fritz! Phone! (yelled up to Fritz, our
teenager, whenever the phone rings)
- Do you wanna treat? Is that a good treat?
- Don't throw it! (said to Prospero, the
Blue and Gold Macaw, who likes to throw
- Oh! You THREW it! (said also to Prospero,
when he ignores the previous order)
- Wanna-wanna-wanna-wanna-wanna . . . (said
when Prospero, whose main interest is food,
starts asking for treats)
- I can say "Hello." Can you say
"Hello?" (said mostly to people
- Bye-bye! Have a good day! I love you!
(said when the human members of the flock
- You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?
I'm the only one here. You talkin' to me?
(his DeNiro impression, and one of the few
phrases he was actually trained to use)
Mith is quite musical. He sings a few
songs, including some he has made up, and whistles
quite a few tunes, including the first few bars of
The Star Spangled Banner.
Mith is very fond of the humans in his
family, and takes an interest in the other furred
and feathered creatures he shares his home with. His
speech becomes more uncannily like John's every day;
soon, it will be hard to know which one of them is
talking. He does a dead-on imitation of John on the
phone. He is very affectionate, especially with Diane.
The humans in his life make sure his environment is
stimulating, and that he's kept in good health. Greys
have the reputation of being timid and nervous, but
Mith fears only one thing: an empty laundry basket.
For some reason, he seems to regard that as the natural
enemy of the African Grey Parrot. Other than that,
he likes to explore pretty much anything in his environment,
and takes particular joy in shredding any papers he
finds. He is never out of his cage unsupervised, and
is far more protected than he realizes.
African Grey Parrots have a life expectancy
of 60 years or so. Mith's human companions expect
to enjoy his company for the rest of their lives,
and have provided for him in their wills.
Mith likes to spend his evenings on
his boing (the coiled rope perch, seen in the picture
above), hanging out with the family, and watching
TV. During the day, of course, he works on his computer,
plays with his toys, and keeps a close eye on the
other members of his household.