On Facebook, where I live, my 500 plus close, personal friends are posting something they are thankful for every day in November. I thought about it, but between keeping the flock clean, fed, and watered, and writing a thousand words a day for NaNoWriMo, I am just going to throw my list up here, and be done with it.
1. Affection: Parrots have so much love and affection to give. If you are lucky, you will be the object of their affection. But even if that affection is directed at another bird or person, you can smile and enjoy the interactions.
2. Devotion: I’ve come out in the mornings to find a bird who didn’t make it through the night for one reason or another. That bird is rarely alone. Especially if the bird was part of a bonded pair, the surviving mate will be there, often trying to attract my attention. They don’t exactly understand death, but they don’t let it stop their love.
3. Colors: I am always amazed at the variety of colors birds come in. Our pink bird gets lots of attention, she’s a rosy Bourke parakeet. The sun conures, naturally, get a fair share of gawking due to their spectacular plumage. But even Beeby, our half-moon conure, has incredible iridescence to his green feathers, each edged in dark green. And our Amazon has the most beautiful tail colors when he spreads it out.
4. Appreciation of Wings – We do trim our birds’ wings if we are going to take them somewhere or if we need to get to know the bird a bit. It’s really difficult to tame a wild bird that can fly away from you when it wants to. But I always regret taking away that thing that makes a bird a bird, the ability to fly. Except for Beeby, who is psycho and will kill us in our sleep given half a chance.
5. Study of eggs: Eggs as tiny as finch eggs, or slightly larger dove eggs. Still not as big as chicken eggs, but made the same way. People are curious about how eggs get fertilized, so I explain that the hard calcium shell doesn’t develop until the last stage, right before the hen pops it out into the nest. Eggs have air sacks, but are also porous so that air can get in. Three days after the egg appears, if it is fertile and going to be a baby bird, you should be able to hold it up to a cool light and see tiny red blood vessels developing.
6. Knowledge of Diet: Simply, birds do not eat only seeds in the wild. A seed only diet will shorten the life span of a bird and possibly cause them medical issues. Yes, birds love seed, it is high in fat and is candy to them. I don’t believe birds should be given only pellets, that’s not natural either. The best diet is variety, some seeds, some pellets, lots of fresh vegetables, some fruit. Fresh water and lots of love.
7. Value in Weeds: You don’t need acres of land to grow special vegetables for your flock. If you have dandelions, you have a treat. If you have grass that has gone to seed, if you have milk weed, if you have just about anything that grows that is green and sometimes has seeds, you have great food for your flock. You can always check a web page that tells you what is safe for birds, but take it with a grain of salt. The Australian birds thrive on eucalyptus, but it’s often listed as toxic for birds.
8. Messages in Eyes: Watch for pinning, which is when the pupil contracts to a very small dot. If the pupils are large and relaxed, usually the bird is calm. Maynard, the Amazon, has such large eyes that you can easily see the changes in his emotions. But he is a very gentle bird. Full of bluffing and threats.
9. Lizard Ancestors: I’m not going to argue theology, here. I have watched baby birds and listened to their calls for feeding. Lizards.
10. Baby Birds: Sweet little lumps of fuzz and helpless dependence. So very loveable.
11. Nests and Nest Boxes: I love to see birds trying to build a nest in whatever is in their cage or aviary. Love birds, depending on their species, will place strips of leaves or paper between the feathers on their back or tail, and carry them in that manner to the spot where the nest will be. Our proven pair of violet lovies wants to nest so much that they threw all that icky seed and pellets out of their hopper and crawled up from the trough to start building a nest. Nest boxes are a joy in that they can be cleaned and reused, but a frustration in the amount of room they take up inside or outside the cage or when you need to store them. Why doesn’t someone make a collapsible nest box? There are plastic nest boxes that can be sterilized in a dishwasher, but the ones I have seen are usually for smaller birds, finches or parakeets.
12. Cleaning Duties: Thankful for cleaning? Yes, really. I have so much fun teasing the sun conures with the vacuum cleaner hose. I’m evil, it’s true.
13. Special Needs: Nothing warms my heart more than seeing one of our many disabled birds living a good, happy life. When she’s not mad at me for bringing Maynard into the house, Bo Dangles is loving and likes to have her head scratched since she has no toe nails to scratch herself.
14. Sunlight is their clock: Yes, they do get up with the sun, but they also go to sleep with it. Except for the birds who have artificial lights for various reasons, they are as regular as clockwork. And there is a whole schedule for light with canaries to stimulate breeding, because they are that attuned to seasons and sunlight.
15. Songs: Canaries sing, sometimes the females as well as the males. Cockaties have their own little songs, very repetitious. Male zebra finches have their own trumpeting calls, and a son will sound similar to his father, but not quite. The parrots are capable of learning human songs, so we often sing around them. Music does sooth the feathered breast.
And the second half will be posted next week. See you then!