Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Mistress of Misfit Pets, Part 2: Birds

Green parakeet aka budgerigar from Wikipedia

Considering how much I love birds now, it wasn't always so. As a child I had a green parakeet, which my mother occasionally let out of his cage to fly around (and once sucked him up in the vacuum cleaner—thankfully it was one of those old canister models, and we found him alive inside, though pretty traumatized, poor thing). I wasn't too enamored with this bird, preferring to look for my own critters in the wild.

When our oldest son was about a year old, someone gave us a blue and white parakeet, and for some reason we named him George. We should have named him Grumpy, because he was not friendly. I think he must have been the source of the phrase, "bite the hand that feeds you." Usually when he molted, he'd lose a few feathers and they'd grow back. But after several years of healthy, grumpy living George lost almost all his feathers at one time, and no matter what I tried—topical meds, food supplements, etc.—he remained a pitiful, almost naked parakeet.

George got out one day when one of the boys left the door open, and we never saw him again. I imagine he either thrived in San Antonio and his bird leprosy was cured, or he was a quick meal for a hawk or cat.
Only known photo of George, the misfit parakeet

I didn't get another bird until my Zebra finches, which I named Cheeky and Pumpkin (who appear briefly in my novel, Leandra's Enchanted Flute). I wanted to see if they would lay eggs, so I bought a nesting basket, which they ignored. Pumpkin preferred the purple gravel dish, and promptly laid three eggs. 

The blind, featherless babies were fascinating to watch as they changed dramatically from day to day. Unfortunately, two birds were noisy and messy enough, but five were just too much for our little house. A local assisted living facility had a large aviary for their residents, and one day while my homeschool band was performing for them, I noticed there weren't many birds in this large space, so I asked if they would like five more residents. They were thrilled, and I brought Cheeky, Pumpkin, and their three now grown offspring to live in this wonderful aviary with new bird and human friends and plenty of room to fly around, compared with their cramped cage.
Cheeky, whose personality matched his name
The 3 offspring and their purple plastic "nest"

As much as I love birds, I plan to observe them in the wild from now on. I have two feeding stations and bird baths—one in the front yard and another in the back. My resident Carolina wren, whom I call Songcatcher of course, sings to me from the front feeder almost every morning.

I guess sometimes nature needs to stay outside, where it belongs.
One of many Carolina wrens who have called our yard "home."

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