Sunday, June 13, 2010
Beeper, Beeper, Wherefore art thou Beeper?
Please note the absence of a comma between the last two words of the title...this is a small hobbyhorse of mine, which I will climb onto and trot about a bit, if you will let me.
Okay, when Juliet said Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? she did not mean where are you, my dear, shading her eyes and looking around from the balcony, despite all the high school productions we've all seen. She was in fact asking why the heck he had to be Romeo, as opposed to some nice Joe Green (little musical in-joke there, thanks to those who got it, this means you, Stefi), and then their lives would have been so much easier. A lot less dramatic, in fact there wouldn't have been a deathless play. No feuding families. Well, deathless in one sense. Plenty of death in the other. In fact if the suitor had been Joe G., the Koolaid would never have put in an appearance....
So about Beeper, the current parakeet of the household. Wherefore is he Beeper? He's Beeper because he says it all the time, and responds to any beeping sound that goes off, microwave, clothes dryer, phone charger, he's fine with them all. And in spring he polishes up his repertoire as the outdoor birds tune up, and we get an entire concert of robins, Carolina wrens, chickadees, and beeps inserted here and there at will, he being pretty good at improvising.
Which reminds me that the other day I saw a book in the new books section of the libe on How to Improvise!!! which struck me as funny, like a solar powered flashlight or something.
Back to Beeper. He is the last of a long line, or flock, of parakeets I have rescued and bred over the last couple of decades. His parents were Opal, a jewel like bird like an opal, hence his name, and Harriet, widow of Peter Wimsey, named for Harriet Vane,and well named as it turned out, since she was a highly intelligent bird. William and Mary were my first birds, William a gentle little guy who didn't have a long life, Mary a feisty character who would bite me as soon as look at me. And those little beaks pack a terrific punch.
Mary eventually, old and tired,died in my hands, but her last act, after fixing her beady little eye on me, was to give my thumb a savage bite! she died as she lived, and I really honored her for it, while putting bandaids on my thumb before I took her out to lay her to rest under leaves out near the marsh. I always leave my birds out that way, just the way it would be if they were wild bred, under a few leaves.
People who talk lightly of bird brains ought to be lucky if they have them. Parakeets are highly intelligent birds in a tiny package. They can solve problems, create games for themselves, organize each other, accept what they can't change. More humans could stand to be like them!
This is one reason I've rescued a lot of them since they were in situations where they were handled with outright abuse by people, usually men, who can't stand the constant chirps, or with ignorance, usually well meaning people who have no clue that what they're doing is wrong, Opal and his two sibs for instance, being out at a fleamarket in the winter, unprotected.
The reason I could let them fly free in the condo without fearing a population explosion was that most of them, though sold as young birds to unsuspecting people in pet stores, were in fact failed breeders who for one reason or another could not reproduce. Harriet and Opal I knew were excellent birds, and I could keep a limit on the numbers having only a single breeding pair.
They love a wide variety of foods, practically everything you like they like! and one of the favorite things all of my parakeets have gone for is a big leaf of romaine lettuce, dripping wet and hung where they can bathe in it, throw it at each other, play with it and finally eat it. An all purpose food.
And they like a wedge of apple clipped where it won't fall down when they eat it. Not pears though, they don't like the graininess. And never should they be given perches of cherry or other soft fruits, since they chew on perches and the fruiting woods have various toxic materials in them. Broccoli, raw, is nice, since they pick individually at the tiny little sections, great entertainment.
They need toys, and Mardi Gras beads have been a big item around here. Also fluffy stuff they can pull at and chuck about. And strings of plastic circles they yank on making a terrible racket.
I used to have all my birds, varying to a max of nine to the current one, flying free, and Harriet sinply took over the flock. She literally showed them how to fly around the room without crashing into mirrors and windows, the usual doom of indoor birds, and sorted out quarrels, and established the pecking order, literally. She kept them all safe and away from open doors, and could be relied on to round them up to sleep in cages at night. And she was good about not letting the cockatiel be bullied by the energetic little parakeets.
She and Opal had three families, which she hatched on top of the fridge, two of which families went to very nice homes, and one I kept and installed in HP's house in the time we were not together, but I had visiting rights.
I have always had rescued cats along with birds, and never had any problem with them. In fact they all seemed to realize this was their last stop, and they'd better get along. Annabelle, cat of my heart the way Kerry was the dog of my heart, and EH the cockatiel of of my heart, actually acted as a kind of hall monitor of the birds.
When a bird gets in trouble, stuck or lost, it falls totally silent, a survival mechanism, but not very useful in the house. So if someone went missing, Annabelle would get me and trot over to where she'd last seen the missing person. Often this was near the sofa, and if I upended it, I'd find the shaking little bird stuck in the springs and waiting for help.
One of my other cats, the Boud which is now my screen name in her honor, was great friends with the cockatiel, letting her nibble on her nose, purring all the while. Interspecies friendship. While refusing to play with her own feline sister, Victoria!
Beeper is now the ripe old age of about 10, we think, we all tried yesterday to figure it out. Much older than he looks, but he's had a nice life. For several years he had a nice emotional bond with his aunt Eleanor, she way too old to egg, but they had a nice sex life all the same. She was his cougar! May-December.
Birds are an endless source of anecdote, I'd better stop now before you doze off, and entertainment for people lucky enough to have them without sneezing all the time.