When you spy a parrot on someone’s shoulder, you might expect an eyepatch and a peg leg to go with it. Petaluman Bill Gurney is not a pirate anymore than the bird in question is a maritime fashion accessory. Rather, Sidney, a white peach-colored Moluccan cockatoo, is the main attraction of a weekly love-fest in downtown Petaluma.
Every Thursday, Gurney takes Sidney on a stroll. And every Thursday, people flock to pet and snuggle the the 26-year-old bird, easily making Sidney Petaluma’s most beloved Millennial (sorry twenty-somethings, but “bird is the word” today).
And, unlike “dog years,” bird years and human years are the same. But don’t let our shared temporality lead you to believe our species share similar ways of perceiving the world. And it goes beyond a “bird’s eye view.”
“He sees ultraviolet, he has GPS, he can talk, he can whistle, he can copy almost any noise,” says Gurney of the kind of tech specs that would inspire envy in an iPhone. Plus he can fly. Yet, Gurney is quick to point out, Sidney is “Pretty much a dinosaur. He’s been doing that longer than we’ve been on the planet.”
Thanks to a bevy of new fossil evidence, it’s commonly accepted that modern birds evolved from a group of dinosaurs known as maniraptoran theropods. These were small carnivores not unlike the digitally-created velociraptors in “Jurassic World.”
Sidney, however, has a much friendlier disposition – no “Polly wanna cracker” entreaties are necessary to get his attention and there is no need to watch your fingers around his powerful beak. Sidney is a lover, not a biter.
“He’s quite a lover. He loves attention. He’s been from preschools to senior lunches,” Gurney says of Sidney’s multigenerational appeal. Indeed, outside of Acre Coffee in downtown Petaluma, heads turned, children ooed and awed, and Sidney affectionately cavorted with more than a few passersby of all ages.
Sure, a dog can fetch your slippers, a cat can do whatever cats do, but this parrot looks you in the eye, says “I love you,” and then wants to spoon all night long.
“He makes friends everywhere and he really seems to enjoy it,” says Gurney. He offered a young woman the opportunity to have Sidney roost upon her shoulder and she had no trouble embracing her inner aviphile, wryly saying that she has “Bird problems” and is “obsessed with them.” Sidney was happy to indulge her obsession and immediately began canoodling.
“He loves to kiss and cuddle,” says Gurney. “That’s what Sidney does. He’s made so many people’s days just by connecting.”
Hey, Petaluma, how do you connect, you know, besides sharing digital birdcage liner on social media?
Daedalus Howell is the author of Quantum Deadline, a darkly comic sci-fi crime novel, set in Lumaville. Also, you’ll never believe the strange goings-on at DaedalusHowell.com.