Free as a bird, but bus firm wants to cage him 
Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 3:23
City Parrots in Conflict, Lorius garrulus - Chattering Lory

A DOG is man's best friend, it is said - but a remarkable bond between one parrot and its owner would give any pup a run for its money.

Michael Burdette-Deakin, who lives in Newmarket, can often be seen around the town and in Cambridge with his feathered friend Houdini perched on his shoulder.

The parrot - which is a rare yellowbacked chattering lory - has regularly travelled with Mr Burdette- Deakin on buses and in cars during the eight years they have spent together.

But Stagecoach, which provides bus services between Newmarket and Cambridge, has now found itself in a dilemma over whether Mr Burdette- Deakin can continue to board its buses with bird in tow.

The 49-year-old was recently told by a station supervisor in Cambridge he would no longer be able to travel on buses unless the parrot is caged as it may distract the drivers - but Mr Burdette-Deakin refuses to put the 14- year-old bird behind bars.

Mr Burdette-Deakin, who is registered disabled due to a degenerative spinal condition, said the toilet-trained bird is "not in the least intimidating", adding: "I could not count the number of people that are pleasantly surprised to see a bird as free as mine and yet does not fly away."

The inseparable pair have what Mr Burdette-Deakin describes as "an amazing bond" - Houdini has even been known to "get jealous" when his companion is on the phone.

"The thing is Houdini screams when confined to a cage, which would be far more disruptive to the driver."

Mr Burdette-Deakin, a self-taught web programmer, is currently studying for a degree in computing.

He often travels to Cambridge to use the university faculties and to Bury St Edmunds to visit his son.

Mr Burdette-Deakin has offered to use a harness on the bird - but Andy Campbell, managing director of Stagecoach Cambridgeshire, said a member of staff would have to go and view the harness before this can be deemed an acceptable solution.

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