By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN The Winsted home of Mike Quast and Sue Bollman is a bit like the Wild Kingdom with the antics of two parrots and six cockatiels.
This Herald Journal Staff writer might even claim hazardous duty for being bitten by the African Gray parrot, Ashley, shortly into the interview.
But every bird was fascinating to watch, each had their own personality, and some were definitely jealous of the attention others got while they waited their turn to show off their tricks.
Before starting their feathered family, Quast, a 1975 Howard Lake graduate, had only observed birds outdoors, but did enjoy watching them.
Bollman, a 1975 graduate, grew up in a home with parakeets, and later, after she had moved out to live on her own, her mother had cockatiels, and a macaw named Coco.
“She could teach them anything,” Bollman said.
The couple began raising birds about five or six years ago when Bollman, a veterinary technician, began finding birds that needed a good home.
The first to arrive was a yellow-pied cockatiel, who they call PB (Pretty Bird).
Pretty Bird had been found in the clinic parking lot in Chanhassen where Bollman worked at the time.
When no one claimed him, she brought him home.
Pretty Bird “has quite the personality,” Bollman said.
“He loves company. If he knows I am in the bathroom, he is in there. I have a little mirror on the counter top in there and he will sit and look at himself in the mirror on the vanity or anywhere for hours.”
A gray cockatiel named Sam was next.
“One of the girls at work had him, and found that he was too noisy,” Bollman said.
“Sam likes Mike. He likes men and that was one of the reasons the girl didn’t want him anymore. He didn’t like her and she was the one who took care of him,” Bollman said.
When Sam wants Quast’s attention, his chirp is piercing.
“We hung wallpaper in the bathroom one time and it took us eight hours,” Bollman said. “Sam sat on Mike’s shoulder the entire time and compensated for his movements up and down.”
Sam can say “pretty, pretty, pretty bird” and he tries to sing Jingle Bells.
Cockatiels Cheddar and Bree were next. They are a pair of bonded mates, Bollman said. Again, the birds came from the clinic where Bollman worked.
Cheddar hadn’t been well when the couple first brought him home. He was found to be very anemic, requiring a blood transfusion.
Following the transfusion, Cheddar has been just fine and keeps his eye out for Bree making sure she is never too far away.
Bollman has three cats, Sonny, Twelve, and Hooch. When the birds first came home, the cats were curious. Once they had checked out the cage, observing what the birds were up to, they walked away and have never bothered the birds again.
The next cockatiel was brought home by Quast.
Quast drives truck for Vitran, and had learned about the bird while he was on his truck route.
The white cockatiel, named Snowy, needed a home because his owner had cancer and wasn’t able to take care of him any longer.
“Snowy hasn’t been handled much so we pretty much leave him alone,” Quast said. “He does well.”
In 2006, Bollman’s mother died. About a year before her death, she had given her macaw parrot, Coco, to another couple to care for.
On the day of her funeral, Memorial Day weekend, Bollman called the new owners of Coco and asked to see him.
“They had said, ‘if you are ever in the area, you should stop in and see him,’” Bollman said.
They visited with Coco and when they were ready to leave, Bollman mentioned they would be interested in taking Coco if they ever decided they did not want to take care of him.
Two days later, the couple received a phone call telling them they could pick Coco up he became bird number six and their first parrot.
“One of the biggest things is that everybody is kind of afraid of him (Coco) because he bites,” Quast said. “It took awhile for us to get used to that. You have to be careful.”
Coco loves to play ball. He can catch a Wiffle ball in his beak and if he misses it, will say “Where’s the ball?”
He also likes to say “Oh, sh*t,” Bollman said. “He knows when to say it, too.”
“If I drop a hair brush in the bathroom and he is not even in the bathroom, he will say ‘Oops, oh sh*t,’” Bollman said.
His vocabulary is up to 70 or 80 words, but when he is jealous he likes to just keep saying the word “hi,” and rings his bell for attention.
Coco takes a shower with either Bollman or Quast. He sits under it and raises one wing and then the other.
“He is drenched when he is done,” Bollman said.
Their seventh bird is an African Gray parrot named Ashley. Both Ashley and Coco are about 11 years old. They can live to be 40 or 50, Bollman said.
“Ashley needed a home,” Quast said. “We fostered her for about six months.”
When the couple first brought Ashley home, her feathers around her neck and down her chest were bare.
“The bigger birds stress easy,” Quast said. “They need attention or they tend to pluck themselves.”
Ashley’s previous owner had left her home alone for long periods of time and she wasn’t given a healthy diet.
When her diet was changed and she got the attention she needed, within three months, all of her feathers were back.
“She is very mellow,” Quast said.
“She is a clown,” Bollman said. “She tells Coco to ‘knock it off,’” Sue said.
“But she mimics sounds more than she talks,” Bollman said. “She does the microwave, telephone, cell phone, alarm clock, dogs barking, zipper on my make up bag, and she meows like a cat.”
Ashley plays dead, likes being petted and hugged, and takes a bath in her cage only when the vacuum is going.
The last bird, so far, to be added to the menagerie, is Gracie, a gray cockatiel.
Bollman had been talking to a woman at the clinic about her dog and could hear Gracie whistling the theme song for “The Andy Griffith Show” in the background.
Bollman told the woman how cool it was to hear the bird whistle like that.
“She said, ‘you sound like you are interested in it and I need a home for it,’” Bollman said.
Not being able to turn the bird down, Gracie came home to Winsted.
All of the birds keep the couple very busy.
“The cage papers have to be cleaned every day,” Bollman said.
“The cages need to be cleaned a couple of times a week,” Mike said.
“You have to wash down the whole cage and all of the toys, and you vacuum all the time,” Bollman said. “Our kids think we’re crazy because of all the birds,” Bollman said.
Truthfully, we are trying to scale down because it is a lot of work,” Quast said.
“It is a lot of work and it is just not fair to the birds,” Bollman said. “You have to give everybody a lot of attention.”
So, which bird would they give up?
“I don’t know,” Quast said. “I like them all. I couldn’t pick one out.”
And Bollman feels the same way.
“We have talked about it many times and it would be really hard to give up any one of them,” Bollman said.
“Those guys do wait for us to come home,” Quast said. “They all start when they hear the garage door open up, and then Coco will say, ‘hi, hi, hi.’ When you walk in the door, Sam and PB (Pretty Bird) are right there,” Mike said.
Important things to know about pet birds
“You have to remember, they are not just a decoration in a cage,” Bollman said. “They need time and attention.”
“When you have multiple birds, it is harder for them to learn things,” Bollman said.
Ask yourself, does the bird fit your way of life? If you are a vacationer, you have to find someone to take care of your bird while you are gone and that could be stressful for them, according to Bollman.
Birds need quality food like vegetables and fruits that can be bought in pellets.
“Seed to a bird is like candy is to us,” Quast said.
The parrots chew on everything.
“We forgot to latch one of the doors and Ashley got out and ate part of the vacuum. She chewed the belt and the bag and part of the plastic holder on the vacuum,” Bollman said.
A parakeet is about $50, cockatiels approximately $100, a macaw like Coco about $1,000, and for a pair of blue and gold macaws, the cost is about $25,000.