GREENMOUNT -- "Helloooo, sweetheart," said the guest speaker to the delighted crowd.
The words emanated from a bare-eyed cockatoo. Puff, a snow-white and chatty bird, surveyed the children from its perch and asked, "What are you doing here, you silly bird?"
Puff and Basil and their owner, Marlene Brown, came to North Carroll Library Wednesday to entertain and teach children about beautiful birds.
"I came to hear about birds that are almost extinct," said Chris Piper, 8.
In the wild, macaws and cockatoos are endangered, said Brown, who operates Animal Companion Care Center in Owings Mills. The birds in the shop do not come from tropical rain forests. They have all been bred in this country.
"I like birds and I wanted to learn all about them," said Jessica Worden, 6.
Basil, whose head and body were vibrant red, also greeted the children. The feathers turned a bright turquoise on the bird's wings and blue on its long tail.
"He's a green-wing macaw," said Brown, with a smile. "Everybody see why?"
While the large bird shuffled from Brown's left to right shoulders and tried to grab the chain around her neck, curious children bombarded her with questions.
"What does Basil like to eat?"
"Would you believe pizza is one of his favorites?" said Brown.
However, she was stumped with "How come pirates like parrots?"
Basil occasionally offered a comment of his own, captivating the audience with "Hieeee!"
The parrot's vocabulary also includes "woof." A previous owner had a dog, and Basil picked up a few canine sounds, said Brown.
"He knows how to ring like a telephone, and another of my birds says 'hello' to him," said Brown. "I have a noisy house."
Brown put a squawking and indignant Basil in a large carrier cage and introduced Puff. Bobbing its head and flapping its wings, the cockatoo called itself "Wittle Wuff."
"He can't say his p's and l's," said a child.
Brown said Puff is the most outgoing of the seven birds who share her Hanover, Pa., home.
She often takes him to the pet store, where kids line up to watch him perform.
One little boy worried about flying feathers, lining the library floor.
"Not to worry, they will grow back," said Brown. "It's normal for birds to lose feathers."
Not to be upstaged, Basil stuck his large hooked beak out of the carrier during Puff's performance.
"Did you know Basil has a black tongue?" another child asked.
Jack Gribble, 6, had many questions. He wondered if parrots lay eggs or build nests. Can they climb poles or eat wood, he asked.
"I didn't know parrots could kiss," said Jack, as Puff planted a peck on Brown's lips.
Many of the children offered bird tales of their own. Some are building birdhouses to attract birds to their yards.
Brown also debunked an old wives' tale.
"Don't be afraid to put a baby bird back in its nest," she said. "Its mother will still take care of it."