Longreads

Accompanied by intimate portraits of birds and their owners by photographer Miisha Nash, for Topic, bird enthusiast Karen Abbott recalls her beloved, quirky, slightly devious African gray parrot, Poe, who passed away of heart failure at the very young parrot age of 18.

I have never wanted children, but I’ve always wanted birds—a realization that dawned in December 1997 in the unlikeliest of places: Las Vegas’s MGM Grand casino, where my husband and I were celebrating our first wedding anniversary. One afternoon, in between rounds of $5 blackjack, I wandered to a lobby and discovered a long perch supporting a dozen parrots—scarlet and hyacinth macaws, eclectuses and lilac-crowned Amazons among them—riotous bursts of red and blue and yellow and green, a preening, chirping string of jewels. I’d owned birds since childhood, a succession of mild, low-maintenance parakeets, beginning with a pastel beauty named Jake who rested on…

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