Feathered friend

— Wheth­er she's at home or tak­ing a stroll in her Castor Gar­dens neigh­bor­hood, Tami Whit­tock al­ways has Win­ston on her shoulder. The small par­rot is a col­or­ful char­ac­ter pop­u­lar with a lot of folks around town.

Tami Whit­tock, Castor Gar­dens, with her bird Win­ston. Win­ston was trained as a ser­vice an­im­al after Whit­tock suffered trauma from an ac­ci­dent, she now nev­er leaves home without him.


Tami Whit­tock doesn’t go any­where without Win­ston. The little guy is her con­stant com­pan­ion.

And, he’s a pretty com­mon neigh­bor­hood sight, too, she said dur­ing an in­ter­view in her Castor Gar­dens home. People who see Whit­tock and 4-year-old Win­ston while they’re out and about al­ways stop to say hello.

“A lot of people know him,” Whit­tock said. “People ask for him.”

Of course, it might be hard to miss the brightly colored bird as it makes the rounds of stores and res­taur­ants com­fort­ably perched on Whit­tock’s shoulder.

Win­ston  is more than a pet, Whit­tock said. He’s a ser­vice an­im­al, much like a guide dog in that she re­gards him as in­dis­pens­able.

Win­ston’s ser­vice though is purely emo­tion­al.

“His pur­pose is to com­fort me,” Whit­tock said.

Be­fore the last year or so, Win­ston was just one of many pets Whit­tock kept in her Ker­p­er Street home. She has cats, dogs and snakes, too. Win­ston was a gift, she said.

But then Whit­tock was in­jured in an ac­ci­dent, had sur­gery and even more sur­gery.

Whit­tock was home­bound for a while and de­pressed, very de­pressed. She trained Win­ston to be her com­pan­ion.

“When I was home­bound, noth­ing would pick me up like this bird,” she said, nod­ding to Win­ston as he ducked un­der her long dark hair.

Win­ston is a small par­rot called a con­ure, Whit­tock said. He’s a jandaya con­ure, a long-lived spe­cies nat­ive to north­east­ern Brazil, she ad­ded. Win­ston, who was born in Flor­ida, is very light and can barely be felt when he hops onto an out­stretched arm.

Whit­tock said some of her neigh­bors are Brazili­an and have told her they’re fa­mil­i­ar with Win­ston’s spe­cies. They’ve seen birds like him in the wild, she said, but they told her the con­ures they’ve seen get much lar­ger and have much bright­er col­ors.

Win­ston is no slack­er when it comes to col­or, though. While he sits still, plenty of col­ors are no­tice­able. Most of his plumage is green, but his breast is or­ange-red and he has a yel­low head. If he lifts his wings, even more col­ors can be seen.

The bird, which weighs a little more than 5 ounces, can live to be 35 years old. It eats seeds, fruits and nuts.

Win­ston’s wings are not clipped, Whit­tock said, yet the bird nev­er flies. She’s tried to en­cour­age him to fly around, but in­side the house or out­side, he is con­tent to perch on a fa­vor­ite toy or strut around on Whit­tock’s shoulder, oc­ca­sion­ally peck­ing at a zip­per.

The bird is a mim­ic, Whit­tock said, but he is not or­din­ar­ily loud. He’ll softly say, “hello,” when Whit­tock’s phone rings. Last week, Win­ston en­joyed be­ing pho­to­graphed, but he wasn’t very talk­at­ive.

“He screams if I’m up­set,” Whit­tock said, adding that he gets par­tic­u­larly vo­cal when near kids.

“He gets very ex­cited when he sees chil­dren,” Whit­tock said.

“He loves people, and people are at­trac­ted to him,” Whit­tock said, but she ad­ded her little friend is very pro­tect­ive of her.

Ex­cite­ment, though, isn’t Win­ston’s usu­al style. He re­tires daily in the early even­ing, sleeps for more than 13 hours and takes a nap in the middle of the day.

And, since birds will be birds, Win­ston will leave some drop­pings now and then. Not a prob­lem, Whit­tock said.

“I have some cam­ou­flage shirts,” she said. ••


You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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