Exotic Bird Exhibits Rare Artistic Skill

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An African grey parrot under protective custody at the Humane Society of Ventura County, Smokey is a rare bird indeed, with a unique talent: making beautiful, custom paper snowflakes with his beak.

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An African grey parrot under protective custody at the Humane Society of Ventura County, Smokey is a rare bird indeed, with a unique talent: making beautiful, custom paper snowflakes with his beak.

According to HSVC adoption counselor Josephine Maxson, it takes Smokey just a few minutes to chew through one of his custom designs. True to their natural inspiration, all of Smokey’s snowflakes are one-of-a-kind.

Maxson said she discovered Smokey’s special talent recently as she was cleaning out his cage and noticed the artistic look to the shredded paper in there. She was helping decorate the HSVC lobby for the holidays at the time and decided to put his paper-shredding skills to work.

About Smokey
Smokey arrived at the HSVC’s Ojai shelter in March, after he was rescued from a family being investigated by HSVC Humane Officers. He now lives in a large cage in the HSVC lobby under the care of staff.

“It’s great to see Smokey contributing to our holiday cheer here at the shelter,” said Maxson, who said that Smokey has been a favorite there from day one: “His talkative personality entertains staff and guests.”

Grey parrots are known to be highly intelligent, with vocabularies often exceeding 100 words and performance at the cognitive level of a typical 4- to 6-year-old child in some tasks. New studies show they can learn number sequences and associate human voices with their faces.

“Smokey is very smart, and he has quite the vocabulary,” Maxson said, adding, “He can mimic the sound of our phone ringing, a dog barking and the theme song to ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.’ He also can say his name and ask to be taken for a walk.”

These days, Smokey’s been immersed in his art, creating dozens of snowflakes, many of which now adorn a Christmas tree in the shelter’s Visitor Center lobby.

“These snowflakes make great ornaments, and they’ve brought us so much joy this holiday season,” said Greg Cooper, the HSVC’s director of community outreach.

The HSVC has begun to make Smokey’s snowflakes available to the public, for a $10 donation. Each snowflake is signed and dated – with Maxson’s help. All donations collected from this limited series will go toward the daily operation of the HSVC.

Founded in 1932, the Humane Society of Ventura County is a compassionate-care shelter dedicated to the protection and adoption of animals in need throughout Ventura County. An independent nonprofit organization, the HSVC relies on the financial support of individual donors and organizations to operate. For more information, visit hsvc.org.

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402 Bryant Street in Ojai

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