Few students on Eckerd’s campus can say that their pets were originally obtained as research subjects. Sophomore Grace Halvorsen, a communications and psychology major, found her two Black-Capped Conures this way, and they have been a part of her life ever since.
As her majors suggest, Halvorsen was interested in researching the cognitive ability and interpersonal relationships of animals, specifically birds. During her junior year of high school, she found Jo and Charlie and they have been her beloved companions since they were 3-months-old.
“They are good permanent companions, but they are certainly a handful,” Halvorsen said. “I became a 16-year-old mom.”
Three-year-olds Jo and Charlie are quite the characters. Halvorsen has no problem telling them apart, although they do seem extremely similar at first glance.
“They learned how we exist as a flock, and they have their own individual personalities,” Halvorsen said. “Charlie’s very interesting. Jo is very independent and very talkative. Charlie has terrible posture. I have no idea why. He’s always hunched over while Jo stands very tall.”
Black-Capped Conures (Pyrrhura rupicola) are native to high altitude areas in South America. Also called Rock Conures, they are found in mountainous habitats, and are more quiet than other common domesticated birds.
However, according to Halvorsen, her birds are still pretty loud.
“These two especially love to talk,” Halvorsen said. “They need to be the center of attention all the time. If other people are talking, they have to be talking and get involved. Jo often talks over me.”
Jo especially is very articulate, and can say many words and phrases like “chicken,” “step up,” “Charlie” and “hey birds.” He also sometimes goes over to the window and has conversations with himself or the other birds outside.
“They can say ‘gimme kiss.’ It sounds like a little gremlin is saying it,” Halvorsen said.
Jo and Charlie have very interesting taste.
“Jo’s favorite thing to play with is pill bottles. I spent all this money on their toys and they like paper towel rolls and pill bottles,” Halvorsen said.
With her busy college schedule, Halvorsen doesn’t have as much time to study her fine feathered friends. However, she is grateful that they became a part of her life, and hopes one day she will be able to study them again.
“I really don’t do anything without them,” Halvorsen said. “If I’m doing make-up they’re on my shoulders. They love folding laundry with me and by that I mean they just make it more difficult. They sit on my lap or chest while I’m watching TV.”