THIS 13-YEAR-OLD has a way with birds, particularly parrots.
In a family that specializes in birds and owns a Glen Burnie bird shop, young Jack Rolland has been handling them "since I was very little. They were always there and I had to grow to when I wasn't afraid," he says.
Since age 8, he has handled any kind of bird and makes the tough ones seem easy. And he sounds a little like the sly fox as he discusses his secret of getting a mean bird out of its cage for grooming. "I try to trick 'em. I talk to them and get them climbing up the cage, then I reach in with a towel over my hands. I grab them up around their head with my right hand, and with my left I wrap the towel all around them and bring them out. This way they won't panic and hurt themselves."
Jack's parents, Darlene and Melvin Rolland, noticed his ability with birds when he was just a toddler.
"He would walk around the birds in our house and we'd hear him cry out 'Buddy Boy bit me,' but he would go right back to the parrot and although he got his share of bites, he'd never back down. Yet he was always gentle and never abusive," says his mother.
In 1985, Melvin Sr. and his brother, Scot, opened a bird shop called Parrots Plus at 700 Crain Highway in Glen Burnie.
Although they carry most birds, Melvin says, their specialty i parrots, including the yellow napes, blue fronts, red lords and the largest of all parrots, the macaws. They also carry cockatoos. "We are best known for our tame parrots," he says.
Jack works in the shop. On Saturdays he grooms birds most o the day. Helen Cash of Towson took her yellow nape parrots Chico and KiKi to be groomed, and Cash was amazed at Jack's handling of the birds.
"Chico is very smart and talkative but I'm afraid of him and never touch him," she explains. "So, when I saw this very young boy start to reach in his cage I screamed, 'Don't let that child touch him,' but as fast as anything, Chico was out of the cage and I was astounded."
Jack says, "I've been bitten a lot. When I was little it hurt but now the bites, mostly bruises, don't hurt so much. My hands have gotten older," he says.
His father says, "Jack's hands are always in some state of healing.
"The handling looks easy but it takes experience and determination. Most owners won't train their birds, they let the birds train them," he says.
"If an owner reaches toward a bird but pulls his hand away if the bird lunges toward him, that bird will keep lunging because birds are smart. Yet, if that owner has determination and does not pull away but keeps reaching forward . . . he will push him off balance. A bird will not fall but will automatically step on the hand that is pushing him. Also, a bird will be the first to give in when a person is determined," says Jack's father.
The family lives in Pasad. Jack will enter 8th grade at Chesapeake Middle School next year.