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Charlie the Alexandra ringneck parakeet might belong to Mia, but the fields of Netherton belong to him. Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

Meet Charlie, self-styled ‘community pet’

The Hauraki Plains village of Netherton is home to farmers, families, and a parakeet with wanderlust. 

Charlie, a two-year-old Alexandra ringneck parakeet, is a socialite, poking his beak in at doors and windows across the area. Owner, 10-year-old Mia Schulte, and parents Dean Schulte and Amy Danyali, are used to his roaming tendencies. 

“It’s been a hell of a journey really, we’ve met a lot of people through Charlie,” Amy said. 

“Lots of people have ‘claimed’ him, it happens all the time. He’s had quite a few names. [A neighbour] named him Chico; he’s got the name Brendan… I do get a little worried, but less now that he’s got [a] ring around his leg with my phone number.” 

When the hand reared fledgling joined Mia’s family at six-weeks-old, he was already full of personality. 

“He’s incredibly intelligent,” Amy said. “He will mimic what you’re doing. He’s picked up ‘hello’, ‘whatcha doing’, ‘good boy Charlie’, and he calls the chickens as well.”

It wasn’t long though until Charlie decided to widen his social circle. 

“He got outside and we got all worried,” Mia said. 

The taste of freedom left Charlie wanting more: even clipped wings didn’t stop his forays into the world. 

“He’d just circle around the house… it became a regular thing because he didn’t want to be inside. So we were like, ‘what’s the harm?’ And then all of a sudden it just got wider and wider.” 

Luckily, Charlie prefers his own bed, heading for home as soon as it nears dark. 

“He doesn’t like staying out at night – he wants to go in his cage, that’s pretty normal for them,” Amy said. 

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On the rare occasions Charlie doesn’t make it home, he’s usually at his ‘second home’ down the road with a neighbour.

Occasionally, someone will mistake him for a wild bird and keep him in for a few days, but Amy said most people in the area know where he belongs. 

“In the morning we’ll let him out, he’ll have a feed and a fly around and he’ll do everything with you; he’ll sit on your shoulder and get ready with you,” Amy said. 

“When he wants to go outside, he starts screaming at you. He’ll do a little fly around and then he’ll come and land on the porch… Then he does a big squawk and you know he’s going to take off.” 

Next it’s off down the road to assist the neighbour with milking, and he’ll often stop in at the local businesses as well. 

“He goes on the honey truck and… sits on their shoulder while they do the beehives,” she said.

“He started going as far as Ballance, the fertiliser place, and he sits on their shoulders while they’re working and says hello to everyone as they come in.” 

Charlie’s latest haunt is nearby Netherton School, where he has made a game of perching on parents’ cars and peeking in on lessons from the treetops, much to the delight of the children. And Amy has no doubt he will continue to search for friends across the neighbourhood. 

“He is incredibly friendly, and he is harmless. He’s never hurt anyone,” she said. 

“You can just flick him off if you don’t enjoy having a bird on you; some people don’t. And if you ignore him he will go away. [But] he’s such a character and he just wants love.”