I am a crazy bird lady. Luckily, I have a crazy bird man as a husband, and we keep our parrots and finches and other winged creatures in happy harmony. Lots of people look at us and wonder how the bird craze started. Well, it’s like this . . .
I had a friend who adopted a puppy, and then had to go out of town for 6 weeks of job training. I happily took care of her sweet little Sheltie, and as a thank you, she purchased a cockatiel for me from the now-defunct Ramona Bird Farm. I decided I wanted a cockatiel due to their small size, easy care, and friendly dispositions. I got to know them when my niece started keeping them.
I also had a friend whose parental unit raised zebra finches, and I spend many weekends watching them in her aviary. They were so quick, and had a sweet little call, I was in love, and soon obtained a pair of finches. The finches were given a wicker basket nest and materials, and soon had three rosy eggs in the nest. I was excited beyond belief. But apparently so was the male zebra finch. When the eggs hatched, he began attacking the hen and keeping her away from the babies. As she sat limply in the bottom of the cage, I decided to take her out and keep her in a separate cage. Well, I was a novice. Someone said to me, why didn’t you take the male out? That would have worked, probably.
In any even, the weather turned really cold, the female expired, and the male didn’t feed the chicks or sit on them. They soon followed their mother out of this world. Sadly, I disposed of the hen and her babies, and decided not to breed any more at that time. But something really wonderful happened. The overly excited male, Don Quixote, became very used to me and didn’t flutter or become startled when I came to the cage to freshen food and water. Being a novice, I didn’t know how awesome that was. But after he passed on, some years later, I got another pair, and had to deal with their panicked flights around the cage if I even looked at them!
I had the cockatiel for 21 years. I remember going to the bird farm and choosing him because he was within the budget set by my friend. He was parent-raised, not hand fed, and therefore $20 less than the next cage full. The clerk pulled him out of the cage, and was ringing up the supplies when I asked if he could tell the sex of the bird. Without ceremony or benefit of clergy, the clerk stuck a finger up the bird’s vent, which is the anal opening on a bird. This action was much to the bird’s displeasure. “It’s a male,” he said, and went back to ringing up the order. I learned later that the female bird will usually have a wide, curved pelvic bone, while a male will have a shorter span with a point to it.
I named the bird Palafox, because I was working as a temp file clerk, and had seen the name and , well, I just liked it. Palafox settled in to a happy routine with a good-sized cage and seed, and leaves from the peach tree in our back yard. But he never liked hands. I could not reach into the cage, could not pick him up. If he came out, he would climb on a shoulder if one was offered. He loved to inspect ears and eye glasses, and even learned a trick. My roommate at the time would open her mouth, and Palafox would look around inside her mouth. Cute.
Cockatiels are flock animals, and since we were not home for many hours of each day, I wanted to find a companion for him. Also my niece was breeding tiels and budgies, and had good luck with them. So my sister gave me one of my niece’s birds, a pretty yellow cockatiel which is the color mutation called lutino. Her name was Chipper, but I changed it to Paradise, as that was another name I had seen in the files at my job. I like patterns.
Palafox hated her at first sight. He may have been better off being a singe bird after all, but Paradise was here to stay. I had hoped that once their hormones kicked in, come spring, they would get over their mutual dislike, but no. Come spring, Palafox relieved himself on a fork in the natural perch in the cage, and Paradise back her vent into the pointy corner of a seed cup. I guess that was the bird equivalent of a dildo. Safe sex was not what I had hoped for. But short of finding some bird porn and showing them the films, I didn’t know what to do. And they didn’t seem to care one way or the other.
I never felt that if you owned birds, you should not own cats. And my roommate and I got kittens shortly after I brought Palafox home. My kitty, Hunter, was a beautiful black and white kitty, mostly white but with black ears and a black tail. As a kitten, he stuck his nose into Palafox’s cage, and received a nasty bite on that nose. From that time on, he wouldn’t even look at the cage or the cockatiels. Of course, we were careful to not have the birds out of the cage when the cats were inside, so there were no dangerous situations for any of the animals.
That was nearly 30 years ago, and since then I got married, raised two children, and began to acquire birds to stave off the empty nest feeling. We have African grays, conures, cockatiels, rosy bourkes, love birds, doves, button quail, parrotlets, society finches, canaries, and, oh yes, zebra finches. Paradise left this world after only a few years with me, but Palafox lived to be 21 years old. He had a few more cage mates, but never really accepted that he was a bird, like they were. He continues to hold the record for long-lived birds in my flock.
I hope you will come back and read more stories about my sweet birds.