African grey parrot shows off unique artistic skills with 'one-of-a-kind snowflakes'

(Humane Society of Ventura County)

Smokey, an African grey parrot under protective custody at the Humane Society of Ventura County (HSVC), is showing off his unique and creative skills just in time for Christmas.

You see, Smokey makes beautiful, custom paper snowflakes with his beak. It takes him just a few minutes to chew through one of his custom designs, according to Humane Society adoption counselor Josephine Maxson who says all of Smokey's snowflakes are one-of-a-kind.

(Humane Society of Ventura County)

Maxson says she discovered Smokey's special talent when she was cleaning out his cage and "noticed the artistic look to the shredded paper in there." She was decorating the Humane Society's lobby for the holidays at the time and decided it would only be fair to include Smokey in the process and put his paper-shredding skills to work.

“These snowflakes make great ornaments, and they’ve brought us so much joy this holiday season,” said Greg Cooper, the HSVC’s director of community outreach.

Many of Smokey's snowflakes are on display on the Christmas tree in the shelter's Visitor Center lobby.

Humane Society of Ventura County in Ojai, Calif., Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. (Greg A. Cooper/© HSVC 2019)

Smokey arrived at the Humane Society of Ventura County's Ojai shelter in March after being rescued from a family being investigated by HSVC officers. He now lives in a large cage under the care of HSVC staff.

The HSVC says grey parrots are known to be highly intelligent, with vocabularies often exceeding 100 words and performance at the cognitive level of a typical 4 to 6-year-old child in some tasks. New studies show they can learn number sequences and associate human voices with their faces.

“Smokey is very smart, and he has quite the vocabulary,” Maxson said, adding, “He can mimic the sound of our phone ringing, a dog barking and the theme song to ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.’ He also can say his name and ask to be taken for a walk.”

The HSVC has begun to make Smokey’s snowflakes available to the public for a $10 donation. Each snowflake is signed and dated with Maxson’s help. All donations collected from this limited series will go toward the daily operation of the Humane Society of Ventura County.