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December 11th, 2013 ~ Vol. 83 No. 48
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Looking Back - John Kinnear
A Bizarro Christmas
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
John Kinnear photo
Haida and Jonah checking out Christmas leftovers.
Picture this if you will. I’m going back to 1997 and the scene before me was one of absolute carnage. The after effects of what appeared to have been hours of relentless and malicious destructive attackswere strewn everywhere.

Bits and pieces of things once intact lay about in a grizzly disjointed mess.

In one spot lay some mud tires literally ripped from the rims of a bright yellow dune buggy. Not far from the tires were the mangled remains of the buggy itself; its roof torn clean off. Nearby was a curious sight, something that appeared to be totally out of place with that observed so far. It was a baby's plastic entertainment center with the little bell ripped off, the squeaky toy button shredded and the metallic mirror bent like a pretzel. The baby's toy appeared to have been deliberately ruined and cast aside indifferently.

Everywhere in this scene there were things damaged and mangled. Scattered about was a mixture of splintered wood, the remains of a partially eaten orange, pieces of colored plastic, a broken chain and chunks of shredded and stained cotton rope.

In yet another area an even more macabre scene met my eye. Laying face down was the torso of a soldier with shell casings scattered around him. His limbs had literally been torn from his body and lay in grotesquely twisted positions nearby.

By now you the reader must be saying to yourself: "Surely he must be describing a scene from some bizarre Hollywood flick.” Well it was from no Jason Returns type movie my friends and it was the type of scene I had seen all too often. It was the result of the random, destructive behaviour of a creature known as "Ara macao" a member of the psittacine family.

The particular psittacine responsible for ransacking the aforementioned items was known to us who lived with him as "Haida". Haida was a magnificent "scarlet macaw", undoubtedly the most spectacularly coloured parrot in the psittacine world.


The items he had so wantonly wrecked were only kids toys, castoffs picked up at garage sales to sate his destructive soul. His intelligence and curiosity required some form of entertainment ( in our absence) and so hard plastic toys like G.I. Joes and toy cars were made sacrificial lambs to this "jaws" of the bird world.

His jaws were actually a large hooked bill which was an impressive sight to all that beheld him, albeit at a distance! It had a crushing power rated at well over 2000 psi, which made those Christmas Brazil nuts (i.e. previously mentioned as shell casings!) crack open effortlessly in his mouth. Haida came in handy at Christmas as a nutcracker but often times he would not surrender the prize. And I was loathe to argue with him!

You might ask at this point: "Weren’t you afraid he would tear your ear off or crush a finger"? Well, not really, because Haida was also a sweet, affectionate bird who knew his and our limits. He was bonded to us and had taken his rightful place in the family or so it appeared. He was a very entertaining fellow and once you had adjusted to his 120 decibel outbursts at the fresh air fanatics jogging by the house you might have found his vocalizations and raucous laughter quite hilarious.

He along with our other macaw, a blue and gold named "Jonah" had their own bedroom complete with cages and swings. The days were simple ones for them, spent free in their room eating, sleeping, preening and occasionally hollering my wife Lorraine's name demanding her attention.

Some found our commitment to live with and care for these two "goofball wrecking machines" a bit overwhelming. Cleaning up their room after all things presented to them have been chewed, split apart, dented and otherwise mangled was no easy task.

But there was another side to these spectacular birds, an intimacy and special bond that we shared which made cleaning up after and food prepping for minor inconveniences. Christmas time was one of wide eyed fascination for Jonah and Haida. The Christmas tree was one tree that was definitely off limits but Christmas dinner was as much a special event to them as it was to us. What these little cannibals can do to a turkey leg is beyond description.

For sixteen years we shared our lives with them and kept them safe and healthy. Then in 2007 we realized that while we held a special bond with them it was not in their best interests. They were wild birds after all and while they loved us both they longed for the companionship of others of their own kind as does pretty well every animal. So we surrendered them to a rescue facility on Vancouver Island known as the World Parrot Refuge and continue to support the facility annually to ensure that they and hundreds of other rescued psittacines are kept in a healthy, natural and safe environment.

These days the Kinnear household is a safe haven for long coated Chihuahuas and a spectacular rescued wild cat that spends her days torturing the dogs for sport and snoozing by the fireplace. From all of us in the Kinnear family comes a wish to you the readers for a warm and merry Christmas and good fortune in the New Year.
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December 11th, 2013 ~ Vol. 83 No. 48
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