Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Items not referred to in the manual...

The manuals tell you what they like to eat. What they should eat. What they shouldn't eat. What chemicals are dangerous to them. What to do if they injure a blood feather. How often to clean their houses. That they need indirect sunlight and exercise time, toys, and companionship. They tell you that the males will flaunt themselves a bit in wooing a mate. The females are a bit diva-ish. They will talk if you keep at it. They can learn tricks if you wish to take the time and they seem open to it. That you will become one of the flock. And so on...

I've gone through several of these manuals. Not word-for-word, mind you. But there are some things I guess you just need to figure out for yourself. They don't tell you, for instance, that if you start with one bird and it learns to talk that once you bring home a companion bird it will most likely revert to mainly bird-talk. Within the 10 months that Tori had come home to live with us he had developed a pretty nice vocabulary. "Hello", "Hi!", "Tori, Tori, Tori", "Pretty Bird", "Tori is a pretty bird", "How was your day?" and "Hello Sweetheart". And a few others that we couldn't quite make out. Amazing.

Once we brought Pumpkin home, however, Tori reverted to mainly speaking bird talk. After all, he didn't need to converse with me in my language anymore. He does still say "Pretty Bird" and "I love you", so all is not lost. And, in fact, has taught both of those phrases to all of the other birds. I think they say "I love you" a lot. Joe claims that only I can hear it. Hmpf!

Tori and I had a pretty strong bond. When Pumpkin came along that eased for a while. He still loved me, but there was a real birdie for him to hang with now. He and Pumpkin would talk to each other, preen each other, feed each other, disagree with each other. They would play with the same toys, and bicker about who got to eat out of which food dish. I was handy for treats like broccoli and carrots. Eventually, Tori came back 'round, and Pumpkin started to hang out on my head and preen me.

They don't mention in the books how a bird might have a good time all on his own. It took me a few views to realize what Pumpkin was doing with the big ball of rope fringe on the playgym. He was enjoying himself, and how. Oh, my. I called Joe into the room - "Honey? Is he doing what I think he's doing?" Joe's eyes got wide, he said "Oh my God!" and quickly left the room. I guess so.

For a long time it seemed Pumpkin was the only one doing a drum solo. No big deal, right? I talked to Kay at the pet shop. She told me a few stories of very "happy" birdies and their human companions unhappiness with their selection of "happy places". The shoulder, a balding head. I guessed that I was lucky.

Tori likes to keep me company sometimes. He'll sit on my arm, shoulder or hand for what seems like hours. He'll chatter, preen, nap, demand my attention. Sometimes he likes to pick at my teeth, which is another story for another time.

But, one day, he was sitting on my hand, chattering away, and the next thing I knew he seemed to be getting very excited. He was running back and forth across my lower arm and the back of my hand. His feathers were standing upright, he was chattering wildly. Pecking at my fingers. Nipping at my fingernails. What was going on, I asked him. He kept pulling at one of my fingers. Pulling it upward towards him, then chattering at it and pecking at it. Next thing I know he's feeding my fingertip seeds. And, then..."Honey, could you come in here a minute?...Is he doing what I think he's doing?"...Joe stops dead in his tracks..."Oh...my...God!" And makes a mad dash for the living room. I guess so.

This happens off and on for a few weeks. I resist the urge to yell at Tori and tell him "No." After all, he's just doing what comes naturally, and he's not harming anything, or anyone. He's happy. He's expressing his love for...my hand. Hmmm...

One evening Tori stops over for a visit and eventually begins his dance while I'm working at the computer. I only partially pay attention. Before I know it he is going all-out and rubbing himself madly. One wing expands, then the next. Both wings stretch out and wrap around my entire hand. All the feathers on his back and neck are standing upward. He is in rapture. He extends his entire body, and then sits upright. Now quiet. He blinks at me once or twice. Then begins to grind his beak in contentment. Eventually he leaps to my shoulder and sits there for a while, grinding his beak. Letting out a soft twitter of happiness now and then. Then Pumpkin calls, and he's off to play.

This was not in the manual. Probably a good reason for that.

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