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Zena, a green-winged macaw

December 19, 2005

Zena: Always happy to entertain

She doesn't live in South or Central America, nor does she travel in a flock of 10 to 30 birds scouring the rainforest canopy looking for fruits and nuts to feast on. What Zena does is sing, dance, pose for pictures and generally act like a human.

&

She&

s actually a huge camera hog,&

said Zena&

s owner, Kate McDaniel.

As Zena lifts one bird foot to wave to the camera and sings along to Van Morrison&

s &

Moondance,&

it&

s hard not to laugh at the two-foot-tall parrot. However, this is not a good idea, as McDaniel said Zena is somewhat of a sensitive bird, and frightening her could cause her to become shy and quit her antics.

&

She&

s her own person,&

McDaniel said. &

I can&

t get her to come out and sing and dance.&

While Zena is not a professional performer, she does go on hour-long tirades of one-sided conversations and song. Living in McDaniel&

s Ashland home with a cockateil, a conure (both birds), three cats and a gigantic dog named Liffy, Zena has plenty to entertain her day and night. The macaw turns 4 years old in January, relishing another year with her second human owner. Zena has been with McDaniel for 2 1/2 years.

As her previous California owners wanted to breed Zena with a blue and gold macaw, they had little use for her when she decided she did not want to mate.

&

She was not interested in that bird at all,&

McDaniel said.

— — — Zena&

s personality is usually in high gear when people are around.

According to the San Diego Zoo&

s Web site, macaws generally partner up until one of them dies. This is called a pair bond.

&

The pair reinforce their bond by preening each other&

s feathers, sharing food and roosting together,&

the site reads. &

Most macaw pairs breed once a year, and the female lays her eggs in a nest inside a tree hollow or in a dirt hollow on a cliff face.&

As Zena does not have a parrot partner, McDaniel is her partner. The two spend at least an hour together every day &

roosting&

and talking. Zena even kisses McDaniel&

s neck with her bird tongue, which is apparently a sign of compassion.

&

When she kisses you, it&

s like a real soft shammy cloth on your neck,&

McDaniel said. &

But the kissing on the face is kind of one of those &

145;don&

t try this at home&

type things.&

Beyond the cuddling relationship, McDaniel sings to Zena, &

Zena the ballerina, she&

s the singing parrot princess.&

As Zena&

s favorite music is usually a 1950s female singer or the Grateful Dead (McDaniel is a big dead head), she is usually just content doing her thing in the cage McDaniel calls a room.

Zena says &

hello&

when the phone rings and strikes poses every chance she gets.

Since most macaws are rainforest birds and like to play in the water, McDaniel takes Zena in the shower regularly, where she comes out of her shell and sings.

While many of Zena&

s relatives who live in the wild have been killed or displaced through habitat destruction in their local forests of Colombia, Venezuela, Panama and Trinidad, she has enjoyed a life of luxury.

According to information from the San Diego Zoo, the Spix&

s macaw is believed to be extinct in the wild, the indigo macaw is at &

critical risk&

status and the blue-throated and red-fronted macaws are endangered.

As McDaniel babies her precious parrot, she spends the rest of her time working as a freelance clairvoyant &

talking to people who have passed.&

She said the work she does is kind of like that of Allison Dubois on the NBC TV show &

Medium,&

except McDaniel doesn&

t work for the police. She is hired independently mostly by people who want to connect with family members who have passed away, she said. Working from home allows McDaniel plenty of time to hang out with all her pets. Since macaws can live up to 50 years, McDaniel plans to spend a lot of time with Zena in the near future.

&

They&

re definitely a lifetime commitment,&

she said.