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The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship
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The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  454 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Seventeen years ago, when she adopted a neglected, orphaned thirty-year-old parrot named Tiko, the internationally renowned ornithologist Joanna Burger entered one of the most complex relationships of her life. Sullen and hostile when he entered Dr. Burger’s home, Tiko gradually warmed up, courting her during mating season, nursing her vigilantly through a bout with Lyme d ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 14th 2002 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2001)
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I read this book as part of my library’s summer reading program. It’s not normally a book I’d pick up, but turned out to be really interesting. An ornithologist at Rutgers, Burger writes about the volatile and loving relationship she has with her parrot Tiko. Like any good storyteller, she starts with a story about how Tiko courts her, building a nest under a credenza and then cooing to get her to put her hand in the nest, at which point he gives her affectionate nibbles. It’s a little gross and ...more
Sep 27, 2007 Melanie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Nature/bird lovers
OK so I own this great collection of Nature DVDs and one of them is all about parrots. My BF and I were laughing our asses off, tears streaming down our faces watching it. These birds are fucking hilarious. Long story short, I went to Arlington's Town Day a few weeks back and made out like a bandit at the Library Sale. This was one of the books I picked up for like a quarter. I found it educational, touching, and amusing. If they weren't such a huge pain in the ass, I'd totally buy a parrot. But ...more
An amazing story of the relationship between a parrot and his "woman." It's touching, funny, and educational. I'd love to have a parrot, but I'd have to think about an endowment to provide for the parrot at the end of my life. They live a long time.
Aug 27, 2007 Susie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Animal lovers
Shelves: goodbooks
This is probably one of my all-time favorite books. I'm a sucker for animals, and relationships between animals and people. This book had me laughing and crying, and I've re-read it at least twice. The bird is hysterical with a strong personality.
Very weird little book that I read long ago. Sort of creepy because of the sexual attitude she has toward her parrot. Plus she lets the parrot be mean to her husband. Amazon reviews from irate parrot owners say she's abusive to parrots. The book would certainly be fun to discuss. Should reread it to see what I think of it now.
Karen Chung
I'm a sucker for books on humans connecting with other animals - and this one was really really good! Highly recommended.
Tiko the parrot has a strong personality. So much so that (embarrassing as it is to admit) I found myself feeling annoyed and resentful toward him. He was so willful and badly behaved! He held grudges! He threw tantrums! Got into vicious confrontations with her husband over her affections! Of course there is also the closeness and love between Tiko and Joanna. In fact, a little too close - I found myself wondering why on earth she encouraged his mating behavior, to the point where she would acce ...more
I gave this book a three star rating because I would have liked more about Tiko and Dr. Burger's interaction and a little less of where she went and what she was researching at the time. The information about the parrots was good, but almost not enough. I am glad that my two cats are not as destructive as Tiko is with his nest building to impress Johanna. I wish there would have been some pictures of the birds that she talks about, not just the picture on the front cover of the book.
This is a behavioral biologist's story of her relationship with an adopted amazon, interspersed with discussions about her research and work with environmental agencies.

She allowed her parrot to dominate her life, to the point that her husband is attacked when she pays attention to him, and her husband can't even open the refigerator without being dive-bombed. The author and her husband are perfectly willing to live like this, with the parrot always in charge.

Her tale is fascinating, but surely
Written by a well-known ornithologist, it's the story of how she build a relationship with a scarred parrot suffering from the loss of his two human companions and long-term home. I'm enjoying the book for funny anecdotes and parrot information but I have to say, the scientific tone and detours, while interesting, tend to make the reading a little dry. Derails the story a bit, though interesting findings.
I became too annoyed by the author to finish this book, though I've had a thing for parrots ever since seeing a documentary about Irene Pepperberg and her work with Alex, an African Grey. The author of this book is an ornithologist, as is her husband. Their mutual interest in birds goes a long way to explaining how they adapted to life with a parrot who considered the author his mate and her husband an intruder. For the 5 or 6 months of the year when the bird was in courting mode, they could bar ...more
This is a remarkable story, or rather memoir. The friendship Joanna develops with Tico the parrot is amazing, and the time she puts into it is even more so. It is a book that I would recommend to any bird enthusiast, but the average person may not enjoy or understand it as well.
Nona Williams
I loved this book because of the respectful relationship the author has with a parrot she adopted, a parrot born into captivity that couldn't be released to the wild. I believe it is cruel to keep a bird in a cage for the amusement of humans, and I strongly oppose the parrot trade, and those are reasons I loved this book. I agree wholeheartedly with the author when she says, "There is no such thing as owning a parrot. You can't have a parrot as a pet. A dog, certainly, a cat maybe, but a parrot, ...more
I loved this book. It was a funny, honest, and very informative account of what it's like to by owned by a parrot. I am owned by a parrot but she is not as demanding as Tico. I will admit my parrot is more high maintenance than any other animal that has been a part of my family. Being owned by a parrot is not for everyone. Anyone considering it, should really examine their lifestyle and ability to commit beforehand. It is definitely not the same as bringing home a cat or dog, it is a much more i ...more
Katie Chaney
"Warning"! "There is no such thing as owning a parrot. You can't have a parrot as a pet. A dog,certainly, a cat maybe, but a parrot, never. Quiter the contrary, you are the pet, and parrots vary in their ability to make good masters. Be warned, being owned by a parrot is not for the faint of heart." Joanna Burger.
So true! and what better way to learn about a parrot than from a parrot owning ornithologist! Loved the humor and honesty in this book. I learned more about the behavior, care and keepi
My impression was that Joanna is a very self-centered individual, because she spoke too much about her accomplishments and not enough about her bird which was, after all, the main character of the book. Also, I was surprised to find out that she was allowing her bird to eat so much of potentially harmful human food. After reading this book, as a parrot owner, I think very highly of Tiko, but think much less of the author than I did before.
Jan 16, 2008 Pattie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who has a bird
If you have ever owned a bird, or think you might want to own a bird, you have to read this book. It details the author's life with a parrot who thinks she is his mate, and how she manages her little menage a trois (Burger, her husband and a jealous parrot) The added plus is that Burger is an experienced ornithologist, so in addition to the personal narrative, she brings a deep understanding of birds and the way they live in the wild.
This was an interesting book. Burger is an ornithologist so she provides information on scientific studies that explain some parrot behaviours. Owning a parrot is a life long commitment due to their longevity. Anyone thinking of buying a parrot should read this book first. Parrots' quirky behaviours are very entertaining, but it takes a special person to provide a parrot with what it needs to be happy and healthy.
Jan 25, 2008 Rochelle rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who owns a bird.
Recommended to Rochelle by: Vicki
Shelves: nonfiction, animals
This was a really fun book to read. It is not only about Joanna's relationship with the parrot Tiko, but also about bird behavior all over the world. She also parallels bird behavior with human behavior in ways that I did not find too far-fetched. Not a heady academic read, but I found myself learning a great deal about birds. I don't know if I will ever look at my two birds the same again.
Really enjoyed this story of a biologist and her parrot, Tiko. This woman's husband is a saint--Tiko decides the author is his "mate" and at times refuses to let her husband near her. LOL Reading about Tiko's exploits was a lot of fun but I sure hope I never have a parrot decide I'm it's mate---this bird was more trouble than most children, and he never grows up!
David Ward
The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Dr. Joanna Burger (Random House Trade Paperbacks 2002)(636.6865). The author adopted a thirty-year-old parrot; over the years they developed a remarkable relationship. This is the bird book for anyone who is thinking of getting a bird. I like this choice of subjects. My rating: 7/10, finished 2003.
Aug 09, 2010 Allison rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: bird lovers
This was an entertaining memoir of a ornithologist and her parrot that gave good insight to the level of commitment required to own a pet parrot and the strong bond that can form between parrots and their featherless friends. Plus there was other interesting bird information as the author has spent most of her biology career researching birds around the world.
Apr 18, 2012 Loopy marked it as not-for-me
Shelves: bird
I'm searching for books for a parrot nut I know and this one seemed perfect until I read another reviewer's comment about the author accepting the bird's semen deposits as he considered her mated to him ..... uh, no, I won't be getting this book. Maybe other readers didn't really think much about it because it's a bird, not a cat, dog etc? Blech
What a wonderful story! I have a completely new understanding and appreciation of birds - what amazing creatures! Joanna is a great story teller and able to so clearly describe all her interactions, not just with Tiko, at times I thought I was there with her. A really touching story for anyone who loves birds - and those who don't!
I hadn't given it much thought before but after reading this I know I do not want a parrot. Living with Tiko often seems like living with a particularly clever, willful three-year-old. Who bites when he doesn't get his way. If you are interested in birds though, both Burger and her husband are ornithologists and I did learn a lot.
If you love birds, specifically parrots or conures, this book is for you. This is still one of my favorite books of all, specifically because it taught me about the relationship and bonds my parrots and conures have developed with me. In addition, this book is filled with very funny moments that made me laugh pretty hard.
A fun, fast true story about an ornithologist who adopts Tiko, a badly behaved, thirty-year-old parrot. While I loved reading about Tiko and the way that Burger eventually won his trust, this book did sort of emphasize what I've always rather suspected -- I would not be well-suited to keeping a large parrot as a pet!
Similar to Wesley the Owl. Story of a bird who considered his owner his mate. I loved the story where he sat by her and groomed her hair while she was sick. Animals are amazing creatures.

I am looking forward to the day when the lion will lay down with the lamb. Imagine what it will be like then!
The title says it all.

And it's not just any relationship either, it's a menage-a-trois between two mammals and a creature more closely related to the dinosaurs than to them, who has his own view of the world and his own priorities.

If you like parrots, at all, I'm sure you'll like this book.
I loved this book. It has a wonderful blend of personal owner/bird relationship as well as scientific information about birds in the wild. As a bird co-habitor it explained a lot about how my owner behaves.
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“Tiko has taught me, a sometimes headstrong and often ferociously independent woman, the importance of interdependence, the importance of taking care, and the importance of being cared for. It's a necessary part of being human and being connected to the world around us that we realize and acknowledge our vulnerability and the vulnerability of all creatures, and that we act in accord with that knowledge. It is critical that we allow the empathetic and altruistic part of ourselves to be the guiding force behind the way that we conduct our lives, whether we give to those less fortunate than ourselves, take care of the magnificent creatures that share our world, work tirelessly to preserve native habitat or separate each strand of an unruly mass of hair so gently that we do not wake our loved one as she sleeps.” 4 likes
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