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Presidential Parrots & Birds - A Brief History

Posted by on 2/22/2013 to Newsworthy & Celebrity Birds
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Almost all of the 43 presidents, from George Washington to President obama., have had at least one pet. Information is sketchy so we tried to aggregate all the facts we could find about presidential pet bird ownership

George Washington (1789 -1791) Had Polly the parrot which was actually Martha's. George didn't like the bird - apparently the feeling was mutual and they kept a close eye on one another when in the same room

James Madison (1809 -1817) Dolly Madison owned a Macaw that out lived both of them.  When British troops set fire to the presidential residence during the War of 1812, she heroically rescued the parrot as the fire was engulfing the White House.

John Quincy Adams  (18251829 Louisa Adams, wife of this president, known at the White House for her silkworms, also owned a parrot during her husbands term. 

Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) Pol the African Grey parrot had bought as a gift for his wife Rachel. Unfortunately, Rachel died, and the President had to take care of Pol himself. Pol was taught to swear and screamed curse words at his funeral. The African Grey had to be ejected from the funeral ceremony when he started cursing in both English and Spanish, all learned from the president! 

Zachary Taylor (18491850) Had a canary Named Johnny Ty

James Buchanan (18571861) Had an eagle

Rutherford B. Hayes (1877 - 1881) Hayes had four Canaries with clipped wings. It's said one regularly spent time between one of his cats paws (in a a good way)
 

Abraham Lincoln (March 1861 - 1865) Mr. Lincoln was well known for his fondness of animals in would rescue them a regular basis - Here's one account: Oh, said he, when I saw him last (there had been a severe wind storm), he (Lincoln) had caught two little birds in his hand, which the wind had blown from their nest, and he was hunting for the nest. Hardin left him before he found it. He finally found the nest, and placed the birds, to use his own words, in the home provided for them by their mother. When he came up with the party they laughed at him. Said he, earnestly, I could not have slept tonight if I had not given those two little birds to their mother Kenneth A. Bernard, Glimpses of Lincoln in the White House, Abraham Lincoln Quarterly, December 1952, p. 168. 

Thomas Jefferson (1891 - 1809) Had a Mockingbird he bought for five shillings from one of the slaves of his father-in-law John Wayles. In 1803 Jefferson paid $10 and $15 which was the going rate for the price of the "singing Mockingbirds". The person he bought them from saying the birds knew American, Scottish and French tunes and could imitate all the birds of the woods. 

He took one of them to France where the bird learned more sounds that added to his American repertoire. Because the trip to Europe trip took a month the bird learned to imitate the creaking of the ship's timbers. 


A memorandum book indicates that Jefferson had at least four mockingbirds, "Dick" being his favorite. He retired surrounded by his mockingbirds.


Video - Northern Mockingbird Singing
Video Mocking bird imitating sounds

Ulysses S. Grant (18691877) Had a parrot - not much else is known

Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897) Had several canaries and mockingbirds belonging to Mrs. Frances Cleveland

William McKinley (18971901) Had a Double Yellow Headed Amazon parrot named "Washington Post" who would finish whistling the songs McKinley started whistling like Yankee Doodle Dandy

Theodore Roosevelt (19011909) The Teddy Roosevelt-era White House was crawling with pets, including roosters and parrots. Once the president wrote to Joel Chandler Harris, author of the Uncle Remus stories, that he wasnt so keen on his son Teds pet macaw a Hyacinth named Eli Yale Eli is the most gorgeous macaw, with a bill that I think could bite through boiler plate, who crawls all over Ted, and whom I view with dark suspicion.
 

Warren Harding (192123)  Had a Canary named Bob 

Calvin Coolidge (19231929) - Had Nip and Tuck, canaries , Snowflake a white canary, Old Bill a Thrush, Enoch a Goose and a Mockingbird, name unknown.

John F. Kennedy (1961 - 
1963) - Had Robin, a canary,  Parakeets named Bluebell (after a famous racehorse) and Marybelle

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963 - 1969) - Owned Lovebirds  


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