The birds….

Somewhere along the way my awareness of birds and their behaviors increased dramatically. We never had pet birds in our home. Although there was one time when my older sister went to the local ‘Grants’ dept. store and came home with a bird in a paper bag. She had no cage, food, toys or supplies- just a bird in a bag. Once my mother became aware of its presence she put all of us in the car, drove to the store and made my sister return it. It was not until much later that my parents allowed birds in the house, but by then I had grown and left home.

I married at what would be considered a young age,  by today’s standards, and had our two children in our first few years together. As most couples do, we struggled financially, but managed to survive. One of my sister’s was working in Manhattan and had mentioned a co-worker had a pet bird they needed to re-home. After what seemed to be an eternity the bird finally came to live with us in Upstate NY.  To me he was the most beautiful bird I had ever seen! (Of course, he really was the only one I had ever actually had in my possession or been near.) It was named Nikki and he/she was a beautiful Cherry-headed Conure. [We never did find out if he was a she or a he.] After Nikki was with us a short time I found out just why he had to leave his previous home- he screamed incessantly! As a result of his loudness, he had eventually been banned to an upstairs bedroom, which is why he had to leave. In addition to the noise level, he was not tame. My lack of knowledge and experience was obvious as any attempts to remedy these issues were fruitless.

It has always seemed irrational to me, as a human, that the hand (literally) that feeds one would not hold any weight in developing an avian relationship. But there in lies the problem even today. While we attach the word ‘pet’ to our feathered friends it does not translate as one would imagine a pet dog or cat. Pet birds are still wild animals with innate behaviors that are still being deciphered, thirty years after Nikki came to live with us. No matter how well I provided food, housing, baths and attention, Nikki was not swayed. He remained obstinate. He wanted nothing to do with me or any other human in our home. It was discouraging. I knew I could give him what he needed if he would just give me a chance. No such luck. One day I took Nikki, in his cage, outside. It was a beautiful early summer day, with a mild breeze. I don’t know what possessed me to do so, but I let him out of his cage. Within minutes he realized he was not confined by any barriers and took flight. He flew up into a tall oak tree and kept going higher and higher, then on to a neighboring tall tree and so on. I could hear him and at times see him. However, both his sounds and my visual sightings eventually ended. There was no way I ever could have gotten him back down. I left his cage out for days, but never saw Nikki again. I felt guilty and grieved for my own loss for the relationship that could have been and my feathered friend that was now happily free. That ended our 1+ year ‘relationship’.

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