Backyard Chirper

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An inspiring story of a man and his bird

Any birder can tell you that birds are extremely intelligent animals. We’ve seen zebra finches show thoughtful social behavior and New Caledonian Crows use tools to solve problems.

However, we’ve also seen some birds exhibit the ability to truly hold a complex and meaningful relationship with human beings.

A few weeks ago, a fantastic radio show that offers an array of unique stories about science called Radiolab produced a great piece about a man’s relationship with his pet bird.

Jim Eggers suffered from a crippling case of bipolar disorder with psychotic tendencies and homicidal thoughts. He had a very difficult time calming himself down when his tempers flared.

All that changed when he rescued an African Grey Parrot who he named Sadie. At first, when Jim was trying to relax, he would verbally tell himself to calm down and then Sadie would mimic him. Her pleas, even if they were just imitations, helped him tremendously.

Sadie demonstrated a much higher level of thinking when she told Jim to calm down when she noticed he was getting upset. Sadie now has the ability to detect when Jim is getting really angry and helps him calm down without him telling her to.

According to law, birds cannot be considered “service animals,” despite Sadie’s knack for cooling Jim’s temper. That hasn’t stopped Jim from taking her everywhere.

This is just one example of how birds establish meaningful relationships with people. Birds are tremendously smart and can be taught to respect and even help humans.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.


  1. […] surprise that owning a bird offers a similar therapeutic escape from the stress of everyday life. An inspiring Radiolab story I wrote about a few weeks ago (which you can hear below in case you missed it) emphasized the symbiotic relationship between […]

  2. I just watched a special about this guy on Animal Planet. Heartbreaking, but in the end it looks like he’s going to be okay. Seems like a nice enough guy. =)

  3. Thank God African Greys live a long life because when this bird goes, it’s going to be a tragic loss for Mr. Eggers.

    Having been given parents from hell, Jim Eggers found the ultimate compassion with an animal.

  4. […] Sadie is able to spot the signs that her owner is getting angry, and she instructs him to calm down. By telling him that everything is okay, Sadie helps Jim to avoid destructive behaviors. So he carries her everywhere in a specially adapted backpack.[3] […]

  5. Random but I’m trying to re-home an amazing bird but he is only a guys bird ! He is located in Durango Colorado asking a re homing fee if anyone knows of a really good bird connection site please comment below thank you !!!!

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