Junior and Ginny Grimmett of rural Florence have owned numerous parrots, but Zark has outlasted all of them. The bird has lived with them for 26 years.
The couple got a big surprise about a month ago when they found out the African grey was a female, not a male as they had supposed.
Junior was downstairs and Ginny was upstairs when Junior called, “Come look! Zark laid an egg!”
Sure enough, Zark was rolling an egg around on the cage floor. Two days later, she laid another egg, but she hasn’t laid another one since.
“It was a shock,” Ginny said. “We still have a hard time calling ‘him’ a ‘her.’ But I think she has mellowed out a bit.”
They purchased the parrot when it was 6 weeks old. Ginny took care of the bird almost like a human baby, wrapping it in a blanket, sleeping with it, and feeding it baby bird food from a spoon. She took it along to work so she could feed it regularly.
Zark was pretty quiet for the first six months or so, Ginny said, but then began to talk. She taught her the song “This Old Man,” substituting “give the bird a bone,” for “give the dog a bone.” She also taught her the nursery rhyme “This Little Pig.”
She’s picked up a lot of other words and phrases.
“She makes things up,” Ginny said. “We sometimes don’t know where she gets them.”
One time, Zark fell off her perch and landed on the floor of her cage.
“Whoops! You’re OK,” Ginny told him.
Ever since then, whenever Zark accidentally bumps herself, she says, “Whoops! You’re OK.”
Zark’s cage has a bell and a chain of plastic rings that she likes to play with. Ginny said she can get pretty noisy.
When the couple sits down to eat, Zark gets angry and starts banging the bell around, demanding “whoose,” her word for food.
They feed her bits of hamburger and chicken. Her favorite food is spaghetti.
Zark speaks the cats’ names, Roy and Rox. She calls Junior Daddy and can hear him coming home from a long way off.
She loves to ride in the truck, Ginny said, and sometimes says, “Go bye-bye?”
Sometimes when Ginny is upstairs in their open balcony bedroom, Zark gets her attention by saying, “Want some clean water, toots.”
Whenever Ginny goes outside for a while, she tells Zark, “I’m going outside. I’ll be right back,” but when she is leaving the farm, she tells her, “I’ll be back later.”
She said Zark knows that means she will be gone a long time.
Ginny said she has to be careful to gauge Zark’s mood when she is around the bird. She is known to bite once in a while.
Ginny said she sometimes has considered getting rid of Zark because taking care of her takes time and she is noisy. She sometimes emits a piercing sound.
“She needs attention from you,” Ginny said. “You are her flock, really.”
The Grimmetts wonder what will happen to Zark when they are gone. Parrots are known to live 60 to 80 years, and she could outlive them.
“Zark likes Junior,” Ginny said. “She likes to groom his hair and drink his Mountain Dew. I like her company. We talk together and sing together. It’s probably like having a 4-year-old around all of the time.”
The Grimmetts moved from El Dorado to the family farm northeast of Florence in 1991. Junior is a construction contractor.