When you imagine putting an animal on a leash and taking it for a walk, a parrot is not what usually springs to mind.
But one 25-year-old from Sussex is doing exactly that with his pet bird – and becoming one of Worthing’s most talked-about pet owners in the process.
Curtis Fullman takes his blue and yellow macaw Rhaegar – named after a prince in the Game of Thrones television series – out for exercise at Pond Lane Recreation Ground, Worthing, keeping him on a leash and on his hand until it is safe to fly.
The fashion design graduate at Northbrook College has spent years training his pet to ‘free-fly’, and he encouraged other parrot owners to train their birds to do the same.
He said: “It would be nice to meet up with some other parrot owners in Worthing and show them that their parrots don’t have to stay in a cage the whole time.”
Curtis, from Durrington in Worthing, got Rhaegar in September 2017 when he was just a four-month-old chick, from a family who had him from birth but could not look after him anymore.
He began by teaching him simple tricks like saying hello and rolling over, and by August 2018 Curtis had found a group based in London which taught owners how to train their birds to fly and return to them.
This gave the aspiring designer the confidence he needed, and by January Rhaegar was ready for his ‘walkies’.
Curtis said that since then, they had received a lot of attention from fellow pet owners.
The animal lover also has a pet dog who he called ‘his world’, but added that the bond between parrot and owner was closer than dog and master.
He said: “Dogs always want to please you, but birds are very self-serving, so if they give you love and affection, they have chosen to do that.
“Rhaegar is quite naughty, cantankerous, cheeky and playful, but then he has this loving side too.”
While Curtis advocates free-flying for parrots as it improves their health, Rhaegar has also helped him with his own health issues.
He said: “I have struggled with anxiety since I was very young, and for some reason Rhaegar is the one thing I am able to talk about more confidently.
“They are fantastic companions, not just pets. If you treat them right and train them right, they will want to be with you all the time.”