DURHAM — It is best to watch your language at The Birdie Boutique.
Many chatterboxes hang out there, and few are shy about repeating what you say.
Open the door of this "Parrot Lover's Paradise," and a simple "hello" to the person monitoring the store turns into a chipper chorus of "hello" and "hi there."
On a warm, dreary Friday, Dee Dee Duggan sat behind the cash register inside the green 1920s-style house stocked with birdie toys, vitamins, snacks, T-shirts, clocks, jewelry, gift bags and cards.
Inside nearly a dozen floor-to-ceiling cages was an exotic exhibit -- macaws, cockatiels, African grays, Quaker parakeets and more.
For the past 14 years, owners Missy Ripple and Dr. Greg Burkett, an avian veterinarian, have lived a dream for the birds. Literally.
They sell them, heal them and take care of them when owners take short or long trips.
Tiki Godfrey, a Quaker parakeet, will be at the boutique for several more months until its owners return from Iraq.
Cosmo, a white umbrella cockatoo owned by Josh Oros, prattled on as Papagai, a blue-fronted Amazon, in its 40s, shifted nearby on a perch.
"Hello." "Hello." "Hi there," Cosmo squawked. The crested bird, known for its loving personality, snuggled up to the cage, nuzzling for a head rub.
Spot, a magnificent scarlet macaw, watched from across the room. As Cosmo begged for more attention, the rainbow-colored parrot belted out a throaty scream.
Duggan, 27, a nursing student who has worked at the store for the past 13 years, recognized the plea.
"You can definitely see jealousy," Duggan said. "Sometimes it will come out in a cry or a scream, sometimes biting and sometimes they will pull out their feathers."
The wild talking birds, by many accounts, are similar to other two-legged creatures testing their wings and new verbal skills.
"Having a cockatoo is very much like having a 2-year-old all the time," Duggan said.
They repeat what you say.
They demand lots of attention and can pitch a fit around bedtime.
"When I leave at night," Duggan said, "I turn the lights out and they all scream. Then it's silent."
Staff writer Anne Blythe can be reached at 932-8741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.