Ken Firkey has his own version of man’s best friend. Instead of a dog, Firkey has a tiny bird which sits on his shoulder as he runs errands or drives around town.
The bird is a green-cheek conure, which is a small parrot. Firkey says it weighs just a few grams.
“She’s great company and she’s really smart,” said Firkey of his bird named Harley Sue. “She’ll sit on my shoulder for much of the day and she’ll fall asleep on my shirt. I have her spoiled but that’s my own fault. It’s like having a kid.”
Firkey takes Harley Sue on trips around town. She will sit quietly on his shoulder as he goes into the post office or newspaper office to conduct business.
As for the bird’s diet, Firkey says Harley Sue will eat almost anything.
“She eats what I eat,” he said. “She likes coffee, juice, corn, and mashed potatoes. She eats everything, but not much in the way of meat. She just sticks her tongue out to get a taste of it. She doesn’t eat much.”
Harley Sue is not talkative, although Firkey says she has occasionally rattled off a complete sentence. He said she has a number of facial expressions and is very possessive of items in her birdcage.
Harley Sue is 21 and Firkey has owned her for 17 years. Typical life expectancy is 25 to 30 years. Firkey says he takes her for annual check-ups at a veterinarian in Nashville.
“Sometimes I have to have me time,” said Firkey, who is retired. “So I’ll stick her in her cage and do my own thing.”