Pondering A Pionus


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It looks like we will soon be leaving our little apartment for a proper house, with a decent amount of space and some land - much better than living here. We're not exactly sure of the timescale, but are presently hoping to be out of here by the end of the year, maybe sooner if all goes to plan. We had been giving some thought to getting another bird (or birds) since late last year, but came to the decision that in this little place, with a baby due, it would be too much to take on. Once our living circumstances change, however, having more birds will be much more feasible. I was actually quite interested in keeping and probably trying to breed smaller birds once we have more space and are properly settled in there - but these would likely be as aviary/outside birds, though we might decide to have a few little ones as house pets too. At present, however, we are mainly thinking about whether we want to get a larger bird (medium-large) as a pet in the near future, and which species would be most suitable in the circumstances.

We did come quite close to getting a pionus before we decided on our conure girls, as they seemed to be among the best apartment parrots. I was actually leaning towards one myself, but the wife decided that she preferred conures, so they are what we ended up getting! We are considering them again now, but I thought it might help to pick the brains of others on here at this stage, as I know there are quite a few members around who have experience with the pionus family.

We would ideally prefer a bird that:

* Will not be over-bonded to just one human and will be capable of getting along with the whole family, without having too many problems with jealousy.
* Has a relatively calm and steady personality and is not easily panicked or likely to bite without warning.
* Is independent enough to keep itself occupied when necessary without expecting a human in constant attendance (this can be a problem with the girls at times, and we don't want another who shrieks at us merely for not looking at her for five seconds straight, as Dido is prone to do - it will probably be easier though to raise a less spoiled birdy if there is more space so we are not constantly nearby!!).
* Has better mimicking ability than our little conures. We don't need a bird who will gleefully mimic every sound it hears when young though, or there is a danger that we will be hearing loud baby waahs ever after! She doesn't do it all the time, but can be very loud when she does, and I can imagine something like an Amazon happily copying loud baby cries and repeating them over and over in the years to come, which is one reason why we are not seriously considering them right now. A bird who is moderately good at mimicking and not likely to be overly loud when it does it sounds about right (obviously we realize that perfect birds do not exist in this world).
* Will get along reasonably well with our existing birdies - or at any rate will not show so much jealousy or bird aggression that it is likely to go and pick fights with them. I'm aware that the way birds react to each other can't always be predicted in advance, but I'm wary of species that are known to frequently show aggression to others - as our little crimson-bellied conure is unlikely to back down from a fight, no matter how much bigger the other bird is, and we don't want anybirdy to end up getting hurt.
* Will not be extremely noisy in general. Noise is not such a factor in a house where the neighbours are not too close as it is here. However, constant loud screeching could be annoying, and a preference for mimicking loud noises likewise, especially because there will be a baby around who is trying to sleep, so we would prefer a bird who doesn't do these things too much.
* Responds well to training. Since I've had decent success with training our little conure girls considering my rank amateurishness at birdy training and their short attention spans, it would be nice to get another bird who was at least as responsive as they are.

How far do these characteristics sound like the pionus that people on here have known? They generally seem like birds who have characteristics close to what we want at present. In some sources, however, I've seen that there may be potential for them, for example, to show aggression/jealousy towards other birds, and to be sometimes unpredictable, especially when hormonal, so I would be interested to know what experiences others have had with them, both good and bad.

The only species that are usually available here, by the way, are the Dusky, Maximillian's, and Blue-headed pionus, so if we get one, it will be one of these three species. My favourite is probably the Dusky, though since they are one of the more rarely kept species, I've found it hard to uncover much information specifically about them. Some of what I have found suggests that they may be one of the more problematic species, behaviour-wise, but I really don't have much to confirm this. If anyone here has actually kept Duskies, or knows someone who has, I would be particularly glad to hear from them - but all pionus information will be gratefully accepted at this stage!
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Michael Reynolds

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I have never owned a scaly headed, Red vented. Maxamillion or otherwise known as the pionus parrot but I have looked after two. they are extremely intelligent and I would say they are closest to amazons in there behaviour and ways. both I looked after where very tame but nearly as load as my amazons when wanting attention. a lovely bird as a member of a home


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@Michael Reynolds - I've heard mostly good things about the Maximillian's pionus, so that's a useful additional piece of knowledge. I don't think noise would be a massive issue so long as it wasn't happening all the time, hence why I was wondering how independent the pionus tended to be. Perhaps, more specifically, how the average pionus compares to one very spoiled little conure who I think may have been given to us a bit too early in her life.

Dido isn't too bad compared with other parrots in terms of absolute volume level, but her apparent belief that she can't do a single thing to occupy herself unless we are there to watch her, and the constant squawking and cheeping she does to try to get us to look at her, can get a bit wearing at times. I"m still working on this with her and I think the demand level is very slowly reducing, but I don't really want to have to deal with such persistent attention-seeking from a new bird when there is also a baby around who really does need attention! Apart from anything else, the little pest likes to yell her head off at me for leaving when I leave the room to put the baby to sleep (which is of course precisely not what will help the baby to actually go to sleep!). Our other bird, Vivi, is normally fine about us leaving her, because she will happily occupy herself by playing with toys, eating, etc, till we come back. A birdy with something closer to Vivi's more independent, laid back, and playful personality would be ideal, I think, especially if it enjoyed scratches a bit more than she does. I know you can't guarantee anything with individual birds, but it's still good to know what the tendencies for the various species are. I'm not looking too seriously at golden conures at the moment, for example (which I would still love to get some day), mainly because I know they are birds which can be very needy and demanding of attention, which wouldn't really fit our current situation!

Michael - how are the Maximillian's as talkers and mimics, do you think? I've heard that they are among the better talkers of the pionus, and that the blue-headed tend to be a bit quieter, or at least less inclined to talk. Have you looked after any other pionus species to be able to compare them? I"d be interested to know how their behaviour compares with the Maximillian's, given what you said.

Michael Reynolds

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they can talk but not so much of a large vocabulary and the calling is normally in the morning and evening. they are very good birds to keep and I know the ones I looked after are not destructive and very friendly. Sorry I have never had the opportunity to compare them with other pionus


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@Roz - just wondered if you had anything you'd like to add here. I know Kobe can be quite difficult, but how commonplace do you think his behaviour is compared to other pionus?


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How exciting to be moving to a house with much more space and land, Ararajuba!

I've known quite a few different species of Pionus over maybe 11 years on mostly US forums. It seems that on average males are usually the more fiesty and difficult, but I know some females who are too. Sally Blanchard once said that male Pi’s have larger testes than other parrots, for their overall size which could account for their fiesty ways at breeding times. Kobe's behaviour is definitely not in the minority. When I first researched Pionus I was advised by an American Pionus owner to go for a female.

As for differences in character between the species, Russ Shade, one of the current leading experts on Pionus, says, “what we concluded after years of observation is that there do not appear to be any consistently appearing species-specific behaviours in captive Pionus, with the possible exception of White-capped” and Dusky.

White-capped and Dusky have a reputation of being headstrong or feisty – particularly adult males. Female Pionus are usually more gentle, but this doesn't mean that males don't also make excellent pets. I know two Dusky hens pretty well, both belonging to very good friends... one is much more independent and fiesty than her "sister" a White-capped Pi. She is moved around on a basket handle. The other belonging to my other friend is also fiesty - she had male partner who died maybe 6 years ago - he was even more fiesty. Interestingly this latter friend has a lot more parrots... Amazons, Greys, an Alexandrine and some Quakers - it is a couple of others who are more problematic with attacking each other. I think the Dusky keeps pretty much to herself but is also ok about getting some attention from my friend. Both these friends love their Duskys.

I think the first 3 requirements can easily be met by early socialisation and encouragement to play on his/her own etc. If you get a baby then it might integrate more easily with your existing family. Most Pionus are very quiet, but I know of one or two people who complain about how noisy they are... screeching. Kobe is extremely quiet. He used to be noisy up until about the age of 2 years old but it was to get attention from me so I taught him to call in English instead. Ray Dorge, a Maximilian’s breeder in Canada says that males are usually better at talking and females better at tricks. This seems to be true, with male Maximilian’s and Blue-headed top of the talking league. However, some choose not to talk at all preferring to imitate whistles and other sounds. Kobe has a huge vocabulary - I've only come across maybe two Pionus who say as much as he does. I think one was a Blue-headed and the other a Maxi's. I don't think I know of any Duskys that talk - I can double check. Kobe was beginning to talk from about 4 - 5 months old. He was so chatty in his first week, I rightly guessed he was a boy.


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@Roz - Yes, we're certainly looking forwards to the move! The only problem is that construction of the house didn't actually begin yet, and there are plenty of ways for delays to happen, so we can't put a very precise timeline on it, but it should be much better than living where we are now in most respects, so we just have to be patient. It seems the Pionus usually breed here in around August/September, though, so we really need to start deciding now whether we want one soon so that we can reserve a chick of the right species/sex in time. I daresay the breeder will be able to hold on to the baby for a while if construction takes longer than expected! We weren't really considering an adult in any place as there is little to no parrot rescue here, and there are very few larger tame adult parrots for sale except the odd Amazon.

Anyway, plenty of really interesting information in your post, so many thanks for taking the time. It looks like we will have to be very careful if we do go for a Dusky.They seem to be birds with strong personalities who will probably need careful handling and training to get the most out of them. I had heard about the White-capped pionus being more feisty, but wasn't sure if this held true for Duskies too. It seems that, between the species' known characteristics and the temperament of the males, a female might be more suited to being the kind of family pet we want, or otherwise one of the more placid species! If it's not too much trouble, it would be nice if you could find out whether the ones you know of can talk at all - not the most important consideration perhaps, but we're trying to find out as much as possible at this stage. I think we would have a slight preference for a bird that preferred talking to screeching, at any rate - other things being equal!

A couple of questions occur:

How much of the time does Kobe spend in a very hormonal state? Is he fairly predictable when not hormonal, or would you say that some degree of unpredictability is a constant with him? Also, when hormonal, is he constantly more aggressive than usual, or is it more the case that his mood can change swiftly and become aggressive?

I would also be quite interested to know a bit more about how large his vocabulary actually is and what kind of things he says - I know the pionus are not really renowned for their speaking ability, so I'm curious to know what a talkative pionus with a large vocabulary is actually like, even if we are unlikely to end up with one as good as him!


I hv a dusky pionus aged abt 2? not exactly sure as i took over from someone. gender unknown too as the dna sexing result is not out yet. so i will address as a him for the time being. he is a chubby stout looking fellow who loves food !! esp fresh diet. if he needs a refill, he will let you know by his loud vocal ! most of the time he is quiet and play independently but occasionally will squawk loudly. comparable or even louder than my wbc. i love their musky scent !!! just like my amazon. very very addictive.


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Leia is a 13 month old DNA-sexed female Bronze Wing. She's still young and hasn't hit puberty, so things could change. I've only had her for six months so again, I expect things to change - not least because I have yet to be bitten

Temperament-wise, she is sweet and steady. She occasionally has a strop but it's easy to tell when she's in a mood because she struts with her feathers raised, wings slightly out and lowered, and tail fanned. She interacts with me and my parents regularly, and will step up for all of us. She's happy with ambient attention - her cage is in my study and at the moment I'm mostly working from home so in there most of the day. She's happy playing with her toys (currently hanging upside down on a pine block toy and chipping bits off) and doesn't need my constant attention. She does call a bit if no one's in the room with her but she can hear things going on outside the room, and she will squawk if I'm on the phone. She gets about three hours out of the cage a day and usually spends this time with me.

She doesn't talk but as it was never a priority for me, it doesn't bother me in the slightest. I seem to be picking up Pionus though, completely unintentionally...

I wouldn't say she's a nervous bird but she does take time to make up her mind about people. It took about three weeks for her to accept headscratches from me and I was very careful not to pressure her, but to allow her to come to me on her terms. I worked on target training in this period, then moved on to asking her to step up onto a rope perch, then, as she became more comfortable with me, to step up onto my clothed arm and finally my hand. She will now fly to my hand while she's out and she loves headscratches - she'll ask for them by bowing her head to me, and, if I scratch in the wrong place, will move my fingers with her beak.

Overall, she's a delight but ask me again in two years when the hormones have kicked in!


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Sorry to be slow in replying @Ararajuba

When hormonal, Kobe's mood changes very swiftly. I try not to make eye contact at these times as I find it can make things worse. He's at this kind of heightened state for sometimes as much as 6 months of the year... most usually 3 - 4 months or it could even be twice a year. He started very early at about 2 years old. It has been better these last two years. BUT that might be because I am trying to change my own attitude towards him. When we moved house 2 - 3 years ago I was hugely stressed and I noticed Kobe became worse. Right now I am working on keeping calm around these times and it is having a good effect. He still flares up but usually calms down if I try not to go too close to him and have no eye contact. If it is bad, then I have him step up on a hand held perch and move him sometimes to another location or sometimes into his cage. It's just annoying how I have to plan how I move about the house so as not to upset him. If I'm in the kitchen preparing their breakfast and he's on the boing just outside the room, it is difficult to walk past him to check on the Amazons every now and again. The journey back to the kitchen is worse as I am walking towards him. He usually makes a horrible squawk and lunges as I duck right down to pass him. Likewise if he's on top of the fridge wo betide me for attempting to open the door to get something out of it. I think in each case it is because I am encroaching on his perceived territory... he owns a lot of territory! :biggrin: I find it interesting that there are times that he's always perfectly ok... at night sitting on my knee and playing with me. I can kiss the top of his head and we have good fun. In the last couple of days I have had him out first thing as I uncover the Amazons. I used to avoid this as this would be an attacking time, but he loves exploring the playtop of each cage as I uncover them and is fine about being kissed, so I discovered this morning. So my take on "hormonal times" is that through my own adverse reaction at times it has made things worse. Now that I am working on my own behaviour, he is getting better. I just think things are more complicated than saying that a bird is "hormonal". Whew... that was a big paragraph and actually has helped me talk through what I am doing wrong.

As for speaking I was trying to collect a list over the last couple of days of things he has been recently saying. He speaks in context...

Hello (if I find him some place he shouldn't be)
How are you? (first thing in the morning when I take the covers off his cage)
What you doing? (being silly)
You're a funny old thing (when he's in a relaxed mood)
Very,very special, aren't you? (when he's calm and relaxed)
You're gorgeous (when he's calm and relaxed)
Boy oh boy oh boy (excitable or expressing delight at scrambled eggs)
Yum yum, very yummy (if he really likes a meal)
Is that yummy? (again at mealtimes)
Munch! (when he's hungry and wants feeding)
Thank you very much (used to say it when I gave him a nut... forgetting now!)
How've you been doing? (relaxed mood)
Boobie, boobie boobie Boooooooo! (still calls for my budgie Boo who he loved)
Very, very hot (when I'm drinking tea)
Yeah (in answer to a question I ask him)
Do you want a little skritch? (this actually means if you come any closer you will lose your face)
Up, up (poisoned cue - I avoid saying this now - I poisoned this cue before I learned about force free animal training)
Kobeee (relaxed mood)
Huh! (relaxed mood or answering a question)
Weeee (when he wants me to play the "wee wee wee all the way home" game when he hangs upside down and I skritch his tummy)
Couscous (or might be kiss kiss - he arrived saying something like this so I have kept it up)

Laughs like me
Sound of tearing tape
Sound of running water
Beep of phone going back on it's cradle
Microwave beep (this is what he uses if I've been out of the room too long - it drives me mad!)
Tuneless whistling (how I wish I had taught him tuneful whistling instead!)

He has a shrill alarm call if the postman comes to the door. Other than that he's silent.


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I forgot to respond on this thread before - pretty sure I was meaning to, but there wre probably some baby or house distractions, or something! Anyway, a belated thanks to everyone who's posted for the informative and interesting responses.

@Roz - quite an impressive vocabulary he's got, especially since so much of it is in context. This reminds me of our little conures actually - they don't speak much (and know several words and phrases that they won't say for months at a time, till we think they've forgotten all about them, whereupon they pipe up and prove us otherwise) but a large proportion of what they say does seem to be used consistently in particular contexts, so I'm fairly sure they have a good idea of what they are saying.

What you said about the poisoned cue was interesting. Mrs A appears to have done something similar with "Step up!" to Dido when she was young, which we think was due to her learning from some online sources the technique of reinforcing step-up by pressing on the bird's thorax with a finger of the other hand, then doing this with Miss Beaky on quite a few occasions when she didn't really want to step up. I never did this, but she often became angry with me too, and inclined to bite, when I used the phrase "Step up!", so I began to suspect after a while that the command itself had acquired negative connotations and stopped using it. "Come on!" or just my hand or finger presented for her to step on (since she knows what this means) seem to work perfectly well now, and without her displaying any inclination to bite. (I do wonder if the old command would still make her angry, or if she's forgotten it now, but my hands have requested that I not make the experiment, thank you!)

It seems the local pionus are breeding around now, and many are currently sitting on eggs. We will probably be moving around the new year IF we don't get more delays and problems with the new home, so this seems like decent timing so far as the aquisition of a new young bird goes. We might be better off getting one from the present batch too, or we may have to wait over a year for more to become available, since pionus are not one of the more popular types of parrot here. We talked to the breeder we acquired the girls from recently, and he expects to have available all three of the species mentioned earlier, so long as their eggs actually hatch.

He also has these interesting birds, which we are considering along with the pionus - the Yellow-faced parrot, Alipiopsitta xanthops. They are moderately popular as pets here, and he informed us that despite their Amazon-like appearance, they are generally much closer to the pionus family in their behaviour, so they would probably make a viable alternative. Here's a picture for those who are interested. So far as I know they're rare in the US/Europe - I doubt many people here will have seen them:



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That's exciting @Ararajuba !! Does the breeder have any opinion as to which species might be better for you, your family and flock? Since he bred your girls he might have some valid thoughts. I have never heard of Alipiopsitta xanthops - just been Googling them. Yes, they look remarkably similar to Amazons and even have the Amazon colouring on their tails when spread. Interesting how they are meant to be similar in personality to Pi's maybe coupled with Amazon when older.

Absolutely re the poisoned cue... it has probably been paired with an aversive (pushing the finger into the bird's chest) - just like I did with Kobe's step up years ago. Like you, I changed the verbal cue but really the presented hand is visual cue enough so I don't usually bother saying anything. Because the step up is now positively reinforced (even having the choice to step up is a primary reinforcer) he will usually walk towards my hand and step up no problem.

Looking forward to seeing which species you choose and why. :)


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@Roz - He essentially said the following: he hadn't noticed much difference between the three pionus species, beyond individual appearance; their common features were that they tended to be relatively calm and quiet birds who were disinclined to speak much (he described this as being "lazy" about speaking, due to being rather lazy in general!); were typically quite affectionate towards humans and easily kept tame; and overall made good pets as long as you didn't expect excellent talkers, as they were not likely to speak that much. I think people here are usually not so much interested in detailed character analysis of their pets as they tend to be in English-speaking countries though - he was probably trying more than anything to highlight the differences between them and the Amazons, which are what most people think of here as "typical" parrots.

He thought the Yellow-faced parrots were very similar to the pionus in all these respects, and much more like the pionus overall than the Amazons they resembled in appearance. They may be slightly louder (and with this more inclined to talk), though a small flock they at the local zoo (which holds mainly native species) has been very quiet and tended to stay at the back of the aviary whenever we've seen them - quite a contrast with the boistrous and assertive nearby Amazons who come to squawk and chat to visitors! They seemed a little more shy than the pionus we saw there, in fact, as they were less inclined to come and look at us, though this might have just been due to the individual birds being wilder. Apparently the wild birds (we actually live within their natural range, and wild ones can occasionally be seen near where we are moving to!) are very shy of humans and difficult to spot in nature. I would say they are close in size to a blue-headed pionus, but they have a very stocky body and short tail, so would probably be heavier. One respect in which they seem more like Amazons is that they have extremely powerful beaks and seem like they can be heavy chewers - I've seen one tearing strips off a thick chunk of tropical hardwood with little difficulty. I know Pionus can chew, but I don't think they have quite this sort of beak strength, which must be (at least) equal to the Amazons.

It seems more likely that he will have only the three pionus species this year though, as his Yellow-faced breeders abandoned their eggs soon after laying infertile ones. Unless he has others that might potentially breed or they try laying again, that will be it from him for this year; however if we really wanted them there are quite a few other breeders who keep them, and these should have babies available within a few months as they breed at around the same time as the pionus.
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Well, if we do get a Dusky pionus it is unlikely to be this year. The duskies of the breeder mentioned earlier only hatched one baby this year, which, as he told us rather apologetically, was already promised to someone who had been waiting three years for one. He seemed rather disappointed, as he had presumably hoped to be able to offer us one too. I'm not certain that anyone else has babies at the moment. There are a few other breeders who appear to keep the species, but no-one who we have actually managed to get a response out of is actively breeding them at present. It seems they may be less regular and productive breeders than the other two locally available species, which perhaps explains their higher cost and relative scarcity (and why someone would have to wait three years for one!).

Additionally, he said that his Blue-headed pionus (he seems to only have one breeding pair) had infertile eggs, so there won't be any of them either. We can however find these elsewhere if we want one without too much trouble, though as they are not our preferred species, we are still waiting for news about his other birds for the time being. He still has sitting a pair of Yellow-faced parrots (who he is hopeful of getting some offspring from this time) and two pairs of Maximillian's pionus. They are all close to their due hatching date, but have stubbornly refused to budge from their nests on his last couple of attempted inspections, which he is hoping is a good sign! He's already been having problems lately due to recent attacks by Africanized honey bees (he's just lost several small conures to these nasty mutant winged menaces) and doesn't want to stress his sitting birds any more than he has to, so will be keeping an eye on them over the next week or two and getting back to us if there is any news!

Strangely he seemed uncertain about the price of his Yellow-faced parrots (I think they are one of his more recently acquired species, so maybe he didn't sell any yet), but implied that it should compare favourably with his Amazons and would be closer to the price of his pionus (which are usually quite a bit cheaper than Amazons here), so it looks like they will be affordable if he has any, despite being a rather uncommon species. He's got an unusual lutino mutation of this species too, but I bet any lutino babies will cost substantially more than the normal ones. I think I would have a slight preference for the Yellow-faced parrot, all else being more or less equal. I like the Maximillian's too, however, and he seems to have two unrelated pairs. Since his price for these is fairly good (they are among the cheaper parrots of their size here in any case), a pair would likely cost around the same as a single Yellow-faced parrot, or not much more, which raises the possibility of getting not just one parrot, but a pair which could potentially be bred in future.

This is quite tempting when I was already interested in trying to do some small-scale breeding after our move, though I hadn't really considered starting with larger and likely more challenging birds like pionus (would take them several years to be old enough in any case though, so I doubt they would end up being the first to breed if I acquired some smaller birds afterwards). I'd have to look into this more however, and probably consult with the breeder, if I think of going down that route. I'm not at all sure at present whether pionus that are kept as pets would make suitable breeders, or vice-versa!
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Hi I have just joined up and happen to be interested in getting a PIonus parrot and l woiuld ike to know if you found a breeder you can recommend to me .

Michael Reynolds

Regular Member
Unfortunately Ararajuba is in south America he may even have them flying around in the wild out side his home, Mind you if he dose know a good breeder it will give you a great excuse for a lovely holiday, that if you do not mind a little traveling Ha Ha @Brayark


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I think it may be a bit of a problem I'm not sure if it even possible to visit a breeder who lives in the same town at the moment lol I wouldn't risk plane's until they have a cure or I have survived getting it lol
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