Life With Feathered Friends

Thursday, January 23, 2014

When I was a little girl I used to visit my grandma Adams who lived near a railroad track and the levee.

A couple of doors down from her house was an old brick house with a long wide front porch.

I was intrigued by the house for a couple of reasons.

First, I noticed that people entered the house by climbing through a window.

I thought that odd and mystifying.

I asked my grandmother why they did that. She said she thought they had the door blocked with a piece of furniture or else the door was stuck.

She seemed to think that crawling thought the window was a normal thing. I didn't, but that wasn't the only thing that aroused my interest.

It was the large parrot.

Ever so often a woman would bring the caged bird onto the front porch and leave it there.

I had been told that the Amazon bird would say, "Polly wants a cracker."

I would stroll, ever so slowly, past the house hoping I could hear the bird talk.

I could hear it chatter but I couldn't understand what it was saying.

Maybe that's when my interest in birds was piqued.

For many years after I left home, I had a myriad of parakeets that I tried to teach to talk.

I succeeded with one in particular.

His name was Petey. He had a large vocabulary that I taught him.

He often came out of his cage and sat on top of it. He had numerous toys that he played with; a ladder, a swing, a yellow plastic bird, and bells that jingled.

It seems the parakeets lives were short-lived no matter how well I cared for them.

Then along came Mack, the Amazon parrot.

I learned from a pet store owner that Mack was a lilac crowned Amazon. He was fully grown although he was small. But that's the nature of the breed. They do not grow as large as the usual Amazon bird.

Mack came into my life quite by chance.

My husband and I had attended a funeral and afterward we went to the home of the deceased member's family where friends and family members had gathered. There was much milling around, conversation going on in several different rooms.

I heard someone say something about a bird that was in a building outback.

I wondered what that was all about. I asked to see the bird.

I was told that the bird was captured after it was seen perched in a tree near the house.

It was coaxed from the tree with a soda cracker held out to it.

My friend's family didn't know what to do with the parrot now that it was captured. The bird was being kept in a cramped makeshift cage. The bird had mostly green plumage but the lilac crown on its head was most striking.

My friends said, "It's yours if you want it."

I definitely wanted it.

They were glad to hand the bird over to me when I offered to take it.

(Yes, I tried to find the owner but to no avail.)

Thus began a 10 year saga with Mack as a family member.

At first, he tried his best to take a plug out of my hand, refusing to sit on my finger.

I quickly learned to wear heavy gloves while I tried to tame the recalcitrant bird.

Eventually, Mack began to trust me He would perch peacefully on my finger, nibbling instead of biting my finger.

Then one day the bird took a liking to my husband. He preferred his company to mine.

He would perch on my husband's shoulder and chirp happily.

My husband built a large wire cage for the bird and we kept him in the living room near us.

Once we traveled to Florida and took the parrot with us. He was content, riding in his travel cage, chirping in his new surroundings.

After my husband died, Mack transferred his affections back to me.

I took care of Mack until debilitating cancer left me unable to care for him.

It was a difficult decision, but I decided to give Mack to a woman that I knew would take care of him.

She already had several parrots. So she agreed to add Mack to the menagerie.

For several years I lived a birdless life.

But now there's Baxter, a male parakeet given to me for my birthday.

He has settled-in in the new cage my son bought for him at Christmastime.

It has taken some adjusting but he's beginning to warm to his new house.

Probably the addition of a bird as a family pet is less trouble, less caretaking, than that of a dog or cat.

Yes, the paper lining must be changed daily, and the bird must have seed and fresh water at all times. That's about it for the daily care.

For Baxter's comfort, I did cover his cage during our extremely cold winter nights recently.

When he decides it's his bedtime, he climbs onto his swing and becomes quiet.

When I cover his cage, there's not a peep out of him until morning when I remove the covering.

Then it's time to chirp, flap, ring his bell and greet the new day.

It doesn't get any better than that.