Several birds, especially parrots, can learn to say hello. My Amazon, whose photo is on the front page of this blog, likes to say, “Hi, Maynard!” whenever I first see him for the day.
But sometimes we say goodbye. Something Maynard has learned to say if he wants something to go away. Whenever Mike or I find a bird that for any reason has died, we say goodbye for the last time.
Now and again, we part with birds under happier circumstances. I have sent birds off to live with such people as a cancer survivor who was alone, a young child who was painfully shy, a disabled adult whose social contacts were limited, and a teach who used zebra finches to divert inner city teens from other scary pursuits.
Selling birds helps keep the flock fed and well. I sold all my parrotlets to someone I let through an ad on Kijiji. She loved the wee hook bills much more than I did, and was so excited to absorb the whole group. That was a nice day.
I also had three violet love bird fledglings hand fed but under-socialized for sale. All were bought by a friend who buys and sells birds for a living. The last time I talked to her, she still had them with her because they were so cute. And that pretty much explains why I don’t do more breeding and selling than I do. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
One of the first clutches of cockatiels hand fed by a friend and socialized with his roommate’s help included a lutino (yellow) male that Mike promptly named Creamsicle. Creamy was slated to be sold to my bird club for the opportunity drawing table. The club wanted both of the cockatiels I had, one in January and one in February. Since Creamy was such a sweetheart, I held him back and put his sister on the table first.
Creamy has a wonderful personality, very sweet, and very eager to be with people. I sat with him on my shoulder and loved that he would put his head into my ear and sing. Not so loud that his song hurt my ears, but very nice and an adorable affectation. He does this no matter if he is on my shoulder or Mike’s. Creamy loves everybody. By the time the next club meeting rolled around, Mike put his foot down. Creamy stayed with us, and has become one of the birds I show to guests who want to hold a bird. He’s just a member of the family and can’t be sold.
The club didn’t mind. The person who had won Creamy’s sister had not been able to bond with her, and put her back on the table for February. Almost as if it were fate, my hand-feeder friend won her, and was thrilled to have her back. They are still happy together.
I have already told the story of Jordan, and her return to the man she wanted to be with. I have a friend whose neighbors suddenly aquired a cockatoo. The beautiful bird had plucked her chest bald and had all the apprearance when I saw her of a sad creature. Her owner of many years passed away not long before this. She was one of two birds the man kept, and to make it easier to rehome the cockatoos, the family decided to split them up. If they had been cats, it’s possible no lasting negative behavior would have resulted. Even dogs might have better handled so much change. But for a parrot with the intelligence equal to a -year-old human child, losing two family members at once created insurmountable depression, insecurity, and self-destructive behavior.
When we do say the final goodbye to one of the flock, the little body is preserved in our freezer. Yes, we do our best to conceal the corpsicles from visirots. Once we have a good pile (and luckily it may take up to a year to do that), we plan a special date like a solstice or an equinox, or Samhain or Beltane. On that date, we set a fire in the backyard fire pit and send the little bodies off as clouds of smoke.
I tried at first to keep track of the individual birds – Nora and Elliot, our black head gouldian finches, Miss Tick, my adopted budgie who took to breeding eagerly; Chico, and elderly cockatiel who was bonded to another male, both brought to a bird club meeting in hopes of finding a good home for the boys. But for the most part, the pain of losing them limits how much I want to remember the day.
The more years I spend sharing my home and my life with feathered family members, the more goodbyes gather in my memories. I’ve had to down-size in the past, and due to economic fun and games, I have to face the possibility that we may have to move. If that happens, I will be saying goodbye to all but a handfull of the flock. That will be the most heart-breaking goodbye for all of us.