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. ••EndFragment