About 10 years ago, I had mostly finches, cockatiels, and parakeets in my flock. I wanted an African Grey or maybe a macaw but knew I didn’t have the funds to care for one at that time. I hung out at Yahoo groups for bird interests, learning all I could about various larger birds. That is probably where I picked up my attitude that even a little bird needs lots of cage space.
One day, I read a post from a man wanting to find a new home for a sun conure. He lived north of me at a reasonable day-trip driving distance. I talked to my husband, who agreed to rehome the conure, then got the directions and fix a date and time with the owner.
We learned that Zazu, the sun conure, had belonged to the man’s wife. She passed away a year before, and the man hadn’t had the bird out of his cage in all that time. So he made the decision to rehome him. I thought I had a good chance of creating a relationship with Zazu as he had been with a woman most of his life. He was, we were told, only 5 years old and male by DNA testing. He had a rickety cage that I knew would have to be replaced soon. But it fit in the back of our small car. We packed him up and drove home.
Zazu didn’t talk but he did laugh a lot as we drove. He hung on to the side of the cage closest to the front window and watched the traffic go by. I tried to talk to him and pet him through the cage bars. Mike also talked to him and assured him he would be fine.
We got him set up at home, where I promptly took him out of his cage to sit with me. He promptly bit me. Dang it! From that day on, he was more Mike’s bird than mine. He would sit with Mike, take food out of his mouth, and in general be a good bird for my husband. Well, that’s the way things sometimes go.
About six months later, I took on the job of organizing the annual bird mart for my bird club. I loved this task and did it for several more years, but because our club is small, it’s nearly impossible to get enough volunteers to make everything run smoothly. In any event, Free Flight in Del Mar came as a vendor and one of the birds they had for adoption stole my heart. Sunny was ten years old then, a sun conure who had been given up because her original family had gotten too old to care for her.
I put my hand out for Sunny to step up. She stepped up and began to rub her beak against my thumbnail, rapidly. She was “feeding” me. We paid the money and she sat on my shoulder the rest of the day. No one could believe she had not lived with me for a long time. This bird was my girl.
Not only that, she got along with Zazu like they were made for each other. They were a match made in California, a younger male with a sweet female. They were often observed preening each other, feeding each other, and perching close together.
Gradually, Sunny took on some of Zazu’s personality, becoming bitey and less willing to step up. This happened partly because whenever I approached the cage, Zazu would push up next to me, wag his head back and forth in a threatening manner, and make loud warning calls to scare me away. He’d nip at Sunny if she got too close to me. I stopped taking her out and she stopped diving into my cereal bowl. She loved bananas and any cereal floating in milk. She even loved scrambled eggs and oatmeal.
I never planned to breed them because, at the time, I didn’t have anyone lined up to hand feed the chick. I still worked full time and couldn’t do it. But Sunny had other plans. She scared me so bad the first time she laid an egg. The process nearly killed her.
I found her one morning lying at the bottom of the cage, cold and hardly moving. Zazu, for once, let me get to her without attacking. I dosed her with calcium and put her in a hospital cage in a quiet room. I said goodbye to her because I had to go to work and I didn’t have much hope that she would still be around 8 hours later. Surprisingly, she was still alive, still breathing and acting very weak. In three days she was eating on her own and seemed to be recovering. I couldn’t believe how scared I had been to lose her.
Over the years, Sunny laid a few more eggs but never had such a hard time as that first one. I observed her mating with Zazu, so I knew there was a possibility that her eggs could hatch, but no matter what kind of box I gave her, nothing happened. She would get tired of playing mom and abandon the nest.
Over these ten years, Zazu pretty much stayed Zazu. Mike stopped getting him out so much and Zazu stopped letting him recently. I should have known there was a reason for that.
A month ago, I was at my computer writing when I heard a thump from the living room. The sound could have been one of the birds lifting a dish and letting it clatter back down. I went to see what happened but found the green cheek conures on the floor. I thought they had caused the racket and put them back on top of their cage. Only later that day while I was feeding and watering did I notice the still body of Zazu on the floor of their cage.
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Heartsick, because I hadn’t noticed him when he fell off his perch, when I might have been able to do something for him, I picked him up and rocked him, sobbing. Even though he’d never been my bird, I still loved him and didn’t want him to go yet. Besides, he was younger than Sunny. He should have lived longer. I begged him to come back to life.
Of course, that could not happen. I waited to tell Mike until he got home from work, not wanting him to hear the news when he couldn’t be home. We mourned the loss of one bright little soul that had enlivened our flock.
I’m hyper-aware of Sunny these days. She’s now in a smaller cage that is perfect for her and has a sleep tent that she loves. She will come take fruit from me. She’ll step up and sit on my hand or shoulder. She even fed my thumb for a short time. I do not want to think about how few years may be left to us to enjoy each other now that she has become tame again. I’m glad she had the chance to be a mate like in the wild. But honestly, it’s a joy to have my Sunny Girl, my Sunspot, back in my life.
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back next Sunday.