Mike Linville has a way with birds.
Some of his clients call him “The Bird Whisperer.”
Linville, owner of Bird Grooming by Mr. Mike, makes house calls to trim beaks, claws and wings on parrots. It’s a unique job with a clientele that’s known for high intelligence and sometimes arrogant attitudes that are occasionally displayed through colorful vocabulary.
“I would say more than half most definitely have an attitude,” Linville said of the parrots he grooms.
The 45-year-old Havelock man said he is usually spared four-letter words from the tongues of the macaws and cockatiels he grooms, but he has become used to a little bit of beak.
“Folks, when they call me, they are convinced that I’m not going to be able to do anything because they’re so used to getting bit,” Linville said. “I just dive right in there. It doesn’t matter what horror stories I hear. Before the end of the session, I’m playing with their beak and kissing their beak and I basically don’t have a fear of getting bit. When I leave, they look at me with disbelief and shock.”
Recently, Linville groomed three blue and gold macaws and an African Gray parrot at Holly Briggs’ house in Havelock.
One by one, Linville wrapped each bird in a towel, something he calls a “towel burrito,” calming the bird to a degree so he can go to work filing claws and beaks, and snipping wings.
“When they’re under the blanket, there’s very few words. It’s more squawking and wiggling,” Linville said. “I would rather that they wiggle when they are underneath the towel. It lets me know that things are still OK.”
Some of the birds are fairly calm about the procedures, but others resist.
“They just wiggle and fight the whole way through,” Linville said.
He said Briggs’ birds seem to recognize him.
“The last time I went over there, as soon as I pulled the towel out of my bag, all of their wings went up in the air, the three macaws and even the African gray,” Linville said. “It was funny. It was real quiet when I went in there, but as soon as that towel came out, it sounded like a jungle.”
Linville learned how to groom birds from a bird store owner in Phoenix several years ago. He’ll handle macaws and the cockatiels but doesn’t do smaller birds such as finches and canaries.
He recommends that birds be groomed about once every three months.
“When a parrot’s claws get too sharp, it’s very uncomfortable to handle,” Linville said. “When that happens, there is really no way of handling a bird, so I encourage folks to get them groomed.”
Linville will work on a bird’s beak as well as feathers.
“When it comes to the beak, most of that is cosmetic for me except for taking off the tip of it, so if they do bite, it’s not going to be as bad,” he said. “Sometimes people are afraid their parrot or bird is going to fly away, and it’s very possible. If they get a very minimum of flight feathers, they could fly away and they could never see their pet again.”
He said birds can be unfamiliar pets, but with proper care and grooming, they can be just like one of the family.
“We know all about cats and dogs, but we all need a refresher course on how to coexist with our parrots,” Linville said. “As far as the claws go, it’s very important if you want to handle your bird, to keep those trimmed down.”
One of his favorite birds to groom is the African parrot. Briggs has one named Chewy.
“That bird is the most intelligent parrot that exists,” Linville said. “You don’t even have to teach it to talk. It just picks up on its own.”
Linville brings along his own bird, Pickles, a miniature or severe macaw, to do grooming sessions. He said Pickles is a little arrogant, telling anyone that she’s No. 1 and the best looking bird around. Linville’s had the bird for 11 years.
“Pickles is so docile that she rides piggy back when I ride my bike and she stays right there and loves every bit of it,” he said. “When I go to the beach and places, I have been swarmed by people wanting to get close to Pickles. It’s actually unbelievable how people respond to a parrot. I tried to do the Beaufort boardwalk thing one day and I didn’t make it 10 feet into the thing because I got swarmed and I never moved.”
To reach Linville, call 773-1730.