Terry Trammell who owns nine parrots educates children and their parents about his parrots during a science fair at Harbins Elementary School. Trammell holds his panama amazon parrot named Merlin. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
Man who collects parrots
Terry Trammell of Dacula who owns nine parrots educates children and their parents about his parrots during a science fair at Harbins Elementary School.
LAWRENCEVILLE – “Jasmine is a pretty girl. Jasmine is a pretty girl.”
There may be squawking, squealing, chirping, clucks and an occasional whistle. And then:
“Run Bubba run. Run Bubba run.”
It’s another day at the home of Terry Trammell of Hamilton Mill. The Lawrenceville Water Resources construction manager cares for his menagerie of nine brightly colored parrots found in Africa, Australia and South America. What started 12 years ago as a desire for a talking bird has evolved into a lifelong challenge in the training of exotic birds other people can’t handle.
“I like finding birds people tell me they can’t do anything with,” said Trammell, who’s been nicknamed “The Bird Whisperer.” “They’ll say the bird won’t touch me. You just give me a little time and I’ll show you they will. It just takes patience, you trusting them and getting them to trust you, it’s working together.”
Trammell, his son Chase, 10, and the birds have visited science fairs at Mulberry and Harbins elementary schools for five years. Trammell said children are fascinated by the parrots and enjoy hearing them talk and perform tricks.
“I’d love to go to more schools or scouting events,” said Trammell, who’s worked for the county 19 years. “I like talking to kids about the birds because you can’t go to Zoo Atlanta and see this variety of birds. I’ve got birds from three continents.”
Trammell’s flock includes two cockatiels named Dobie and C.J., two red-sided eclectus’ named Jasmine and Jellybean, a blue and gold macaw named Jasper and a senegal named Pepper. Merlin is a Panama amazon, Shadow is an African grey and Arky is a green-winged macaw, the second largest-parrot found in the world.
“Parrots are great pets,” said Trammell. “But they have short attention spans and get bored easily. So you have to give them toys to play with. I give them a toilet paper roll hung on a rubber strap and they’ll play with it all day.”
Trammell said he bought his first bird, Shadow, because he wanted a talking bird and heard the African grey has the largest vocabulary. It turned out to be his only bird that doesn’t speak and the only one he doesn’t take to schools.
“People buy birds because they want one to talk, but there’s no guarantee that bird will ever talk,” Trammell said. “Don’t buy a parrot because you want one to talk. Buy a parrot because you want to take care of it.”
After getting his third parrot, Trammel’s wife, Sandy, warned if he got another bird, she would get a pot-bellied pig. He went online and started shopping for pot-bellied pigs.
“I was going to stop that argument right then,” he recalled with a laugh, “because I knew I was going to get another bird.”
Trammell has bought three of his nine parrots. The others were given to him by a friend who is a north Georgia breeder. Jasmine was given to him because it had a deformed spine. Pepper had not been held for 14 years but Trammell had the bird sitting on his son’s shoulder within hours. And Jasper was given to him after becoming addicted to watching TV and screaming when the TV was turned off.
“Ninety percent of bird problems are owner problems, not bird problems,” Trammell said, “Because they reward bad behavior.”
He also said most people don’t realize parrots have the life span of humans and can live 60 to 80 years. As a result, people get tired of them.
“People don’t realize when they buy a parrot that this could be a pet for two or three generations,” Trammell said. “So they get passed around a lot … But once its mine, it stays. I don’t take it to resell or give away.”
Trammell trains birds by discovering their favorite food. They’ve eaten blueberries, spinach, nuts, pizza, oatmeal, cornbread, chicken, grits, beans and cereal. Favorites include bananas, popcorn and hot peppers.
“They can have anything,” Trammell said, “except nicotine, alcohol, avocado and chocolate.”
The birds are kept in separate cages and Trammell clips their wings and claws and washes them in a shower. He also said they have different personalities. Jasmine is the most talkative, Shadow likes to wave and Jasper raises his wings, throws things and shows off.
The four smaller birds are kept in his den and the larger birds are housed outside. He looks forward to returning home from work each day to 15-minute training sessions with each bird. His backyard birds call out “hello” when he approaches, “bye bye” when he leaves and “Run Bubba run” when he lets one his dogs out. In the house, Jasmine and Jellybean chirp “Jasmine is a pretty girl” and Merlin says “night night” when he turns out the den light.
Other than that, he said, the birds are usually quiet.
“When they wake up in the morning, they’ll talk back and forth at each other for about 15 minutes and do the same thing at night after we cut out the lights,” Trammell said. “But if a visitor walks in they’ll scream. And if anyone comes in the yard, those birds are better than any watch dog.”
Trammell said he had parrots before his son was born and Chase enjoys caring for birds and accompanying him to the 20-minute programs at science fairs.
“He was born into the birds” Trammell said of his son. “And he’s 100 percent daddy’s boy. He loves the outdoors. Anywhere I go, he goes.”
Trammell said he won’t breed parrots because of time required to hand feed them in their first four months of life. But he said he may consider it after retirement. In the meantime, he plans to add another bird to his flock.
“I still have an empty cage,” he said. “I’ll have to see what I can find.”