My Life, With Birds (Volume 1)
All Three of my Little Monsters
Why Write My Life, With Birds?
My starting disclaimer (you can skip this if you already share your life with a bird): Birds are a wonderful addition to your home, and while I highly encourage people to have a bird as a pet, I'd like to say first and foremost that these are NOT "starter pets" like some people think. If you are going to get a bird, know that it is a 15-50 year commitment depending on what subspecies you get, and they are highly-intelligent animals, have the intellect of smaller children, and need just as much attention as children. If you're not ready to commit, do not buy a bird - you can do more harm than good, as birds are that smart, and they will have PSYCHOLOGICAL DAMAGE due to being abandoned. I've seen it happen, thanks to friends who've rescued abandoned birds, but I'll get into that in another section. DO. YOUR. RESEARCH. Before you get one, study it. It will make your life so much easier in the long run if you want a feathered companion.
Now down to the nitty-gritty:
Lately I've seen so many other bird articles out there lately - they're amazing stories, they fill you with warmth, tell you how great these animals are. And they are that great.
But, realisitcally, that's not all. They can also be menaces, they can make you sad, and they can make you laugh - birds aren't limited to just "aw, man's best friend" like dogs - and for some people their personalities can be too much.
Don't get me wrong, I love my feathery children, as I refer to them, but there are those days when I feel the cold slide of a moist poop roll down my leg while they're chasing each other around the apartment that I wonder what I was thinking.
In general, birds are amazing creatures, and I wouldn't change my decision to bring them into my home for the world...as much as I threaten to fry them up some day.
Each "breed" generally has their own personality quirks, volume levels, and mischief quotient.
What I want to write about is the real life of birds, living with them, watching them, and interacting with them.
My mother was a cat person. My father was a dog person.
I grew up thinking that birds were filthy, disgusting creatures - usually you saw them on the news in cages with inches of feces on the floor tray, losing feathers, picking feathers - all of the destructive behaviors when people hoarde birds and mistreat them.
Then I started working at the Automotvie Shop with my best friend's aunt as a boss. Her family and mine had all been pretty close since I was four - when I met my best friend and her year-younger sister in kindergarten. I still know them today, and even though I'm living in another state, I think about them all the time. They are one of the two things I miss from the place I grew up in.
I called her my aunt ... might as well have been, I called her neices my sisters. My aunt kept birds, which I didn't understand, because she didn't seem like one of those crazy people you saw on the news - indeed, she wasn't (well, not in that way). After I started working with her, she asked me to house-sit while she was on vacation - feed the cats, change the birds' water, check on the koi she had in the pond out back. Why not?
I actually started really enjoying birds. And all of her cages were easily cleaned - you just pull the tray out at the bottom, remove the liner, put another one in, clean out the water dish, scrape off the empty seed shells at the top of their food dishes so they can get to the fresher food, and you're done. Watching tv on her sofa, listening to them quietly chattering away.
The Day I Met the Love of My Life
I'd been wondering what it would be like to have a bird of my very own. Maybe I could save up for one. Just something small and easy, like a parakeet.
The universe had other plans.
In October of 2007, my day started out as normally as every other day. It was a weekday, so I got up, had a cup of coffee at home, got dressed for work. I got into my car, stopped at starbucks along the way, and brought my frappuccino in lazily to work a mere five minutes before my shift so I could settle in before the day got really crazy.
And then I heard this sound coming from the front office where my aunt was. It was a whistle...my aunt was whistling. Bent down over her desk whistling.
As I went in to say good morning, I noticed something was off immediately - there was blood on her desk. Not a lot, but enough to concern me.
Then I saw him, and I realized it wasn't her blood.
There on her desk was a small-sized cockatiel, sitting on her day planner with bleeding wings, trying to relax.
I believe a "what the hell?" was the first thing out of my mouth.
Here's the story, as I tell it to everyone:
My co-worker found him under his van first thing this morning, three a.m. in the middle of Inglewood, California, huddling for warmth on a balmy California morning that had a slight chill to it.
A stray cockatiel.
He scooped him out from under the car so he didn't run him over and, since the little bird was homeless, he brought him along with him. Since he knew my aunt kept birds and she'd be in that day, he brought her along to see what she thought would be best for him to do with this poor creature.
But he clipped his wings before anyone else was there - alone, and still tired, he accidentally clipped the wings too far down and straight across - not only NOT accomplishing taking the flight out of the bird (since they were clipped too evenly, he could still fly), but accidentally hitting the blood feathers as well.
By the time I came into work, the bleeding had almost stopped, and my aunt was harboring the injured, fugitive bird on her desk (my scissor-happy co-worker felt so bad about clipping them wrong, he wouldn't touch the bird for fear of hurting it again, and every time he looked at him, he had an apologetic look in his eyes).
She told me what had happened, and I went over to say hi to the little guy. He seemed to perk up a little bit with the attention. My aunt had me put him in the back room of the office, where it was quiet and dark, so he could relax and not get too scared or stressed out, being within closer hearing range of the machines working out on the floor when the guys got to work. I did, and we made sure he had food and water, and as soon as I turned off the lights and shut the door, we both heard it.
He chirped at me, as I was leaving. I didn't understand bird language at that point, and I had to get to work as customers started filtering in for their oil changes and whatnot, so I kept going.
All throughout the day, though, it was the same thing - check on the cockatiel, examine his wings, turn the lights back off and shut the door. Chirp.
It was getting towards the end of the day when my aunt and I were looking more closely at him. He had a bum foot, all of his toes were twisted slightly from his toenails not being clipped in quite a while, if ever. His feathers were dull and kind of beat up looking. He wasn't in great shape. She determined he probably wasn't taken very good care of as a baby, not given the proper vitamins and minerals, and had either gotten out or been let go. People do that sometimes. Either way, he probably hadn't seen a home for a while.
Then she turned to me, as the cockatiel started chattering away at me, just talking my ear off.
"I have a spare cage, you can come by after work and pick it up," she said.
I lived in an apartment. I had lived in the same apartment so long that it was still rent-controlled. My landlord hated us because he could be charging much more for that apartment if we weren't there. I couldn't chance it by taking a bird home.
But my aunt was persistant. "Come by and get it after work. Trust me. What are you thinking of naming him?"
Naming him? I shouldn't even be considering taking him home, but his little grey eyes were just so piercing as they looked up at me. Wasn't she supposed to take him?
"Yeah, I think he'd be happier going home with you, he already likes you."
He likes me? When he could have a 'bird person' and other birds to live with, he..likes ME? He chose me...
After some deliberation and a few factors I won't name here (it's boring), I came up with a good Shakespearian name from one of my favorite Shakespearian plays - Orsino.
The Skinny On 'Tiels
Personality: generally laid-back and easy-going. When they want attention, they're not afraid to let you know, or ask for a head scratch. Some of them can be a little noisy, but Orsino's the quietest bird in my house. Except when he can't see me and he wants to see me, then he screams "mom!" at me. A little clingy at times. Easy to handle and train.
Bite: Not too terrible, and rarely ever given unless startled or injured. Unless you get one from a pet-store, where they're usually ignored all the time, and never end up trusting humans.
Mischief Quotient: Moderate. In the first month of having him, I lost four pairs of earrings to his tiny beak. If I'm not careful, he'll chew through my headphone wires or a receipt.
Trainability: fairly easy. I taught him to wolf-whistle, and he picked up the sound of my old phone texting (the beeps as I hit the keys), so now he's always 'texting' me. He's also picked up things from the lovebird since we've had her.
Volume Level: low to moderate. Depends on the bird.
The End of Volume One
This is just one in a series. I'll introduce you all to my other two birds next time. I hope you enjoyed the story of how I met Orsino, he and I have been happy together ever since. And, he was the catalyst as to how I'd start living my life, with birds.