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Increasingly my only companions of daily life, Parakeets cope with life with me
Pets surely are an essential part of human environs, especially in citified life of glass, steel, hard rubber tires and concrete.
Especially for me, growing up without siblings nor much contact with relatives, rarely living in one place a whole year during my youth. My pets were my siblings, best possible the world could provide. Pets have included dogs, cats, a rabbit, lizards, horned toads, white rats, fancy mice, even daddy-longlegs (harvester) spiders and little tan German cockroaches in some places in later years, who picked me as co-habitator of residence spaces. A Masked Bob White Quail lived with me as companion during the first months of living without my wife; I had raised Bob White Quail and Pharaoh quail, original eggs given me by my father who also raised them, but they lived outside and were not exactly pets; but the one I had removed from cage as it was killing other quail and so needed a different living space, and in my despair only my house was available. Like the raccoons who came by at night and put on a show for some handfuls of cat food each evening there in the canyon cabin home, in 1972. But in the endless apartment life of the post-divorce decades, pets were usually not allowed.
My oldest grandson, Forrest, had a pet parakeet he called Captain Flint. When he went away to school he gave the parakeet to his mom, who by then had divorced and re-married. The parakeet lived with my daughter and her second husband and their children and cat for many years; I was visiting them one time when they were going to have to move to an apartment in another town where work was, and gave Captain Flint to me, in his cage. By then, nobody knew how old he was, maybe he would not survive the thousand miles trip in the car with me, as I returned home after giving a conference presentation.
Captain Flint was "a tough old bird" (as some also call me) and he took the road trip well, ever busy keeping his many cage toys in line in between keeping track of the busy things happening outside as we cruised down the desert highways. He seemed to not notice his new surroundings in my little apartment, he had been through too many moves to let it bother him, he was boss in the cage, and he was ever proving it to the many bird toys in there, mirrors and dangling bells and trinkets.
Here is Capt Flint while traveling with me from Dia's place in New Mexico to my home in California, in 2002. Traveling in a car seems quite OK to him, although I hear him fall off his swing perch in the night as car goes around a turn, and he flaps around in the dark until restoring his position. (For more photos of this trip, see:
I saw Captain Flint as an unwilling bachelor, like myself, and unlike myself (who depended on women to decide I was worth mating with, which they tragically were not doing) he could be provided with a mate from the local pet store. So I walked to the Glendale Galleria, and after looking at the cage full of parakeets for awhile decided I could not tell which were girls, so I asked the pet store folks to pick a female to sell to me. Handed me in a closed carton like goldfish are sold in, I headed back the half mile on foot to my apartment, bird box in hand. However, this bird was not like Captain Flint, she was letting it be known from the word go. As i carried the box gently down the sidewalk, an unceasing series of angry squawks came from the box, mixed with jumps and jerks of the box, she was going to tear that box apart, no one was her boss, and she was going to prove it. Finally arriving at my apartment, I put her in the cage with Captain Flint, imagining love at first sight. What happened was that the new female came out fighting and took immediate ownership of Captain Flint's cage, and treated him as intruder in her space. Captain Flint was an old bachelor and his efforts to keep everything in line infuriated his new companion so he spent a lot of time picking himself up off the cage floor. She was on the attack so I had to go buy another cage, put her in it. Meanwhile she had brought some diseases and Captain Flint had to survive the illnesses, but he did so. Meanwhile, his supposed bride was totally discontent in her new cage, ever wanted back in Flint's cage. By this time I decided that I was no better matchmaker for parakeets than I was for myself. Nonetheless, I now had the responsibility for the lives of these two critters sharing part of my residence.
Captain Flint and Squawk together in same cage, in my Sunland apartment.
Squawk and Capt Flint
Squawk and Capt Flint in my Sunland apt
I had lost my job to the aftermath of the 9/11 fracas, and had to move to the cheapest apartment I could find in the LA area, up in the desert mountain valley area of Sunland. The two birds clearly pined for each other, yet I was und=convinced the female would behave, and Captain Flint was just now getting able to use the foot that hand been mangled in previous encounters with her. They spent all their time looking at each other in their other cages. So eventually I put Cecile (the name I gave to the new female parakeet) back into the cage with Captain Flint. She immediately took ownership of the cage, and resumed henpecking Captain flint, but at least most of the time they behaved, except when Captain flint would be macho to one of the cage's toys, Cecile would knock him off the perch; he learned not to be macho anymore.
When I went of trips, I left them with a friend, who named the new bird "Squawk" for her usual language, and the name has stuck, "Cecile" almost forgotten. The female parakeet does not seem to care if she is called Cecile or Squawk, so long as she is fed and that everybody knows that she is boss around here.
My friend Carol well cared for Squawk and Flint when I was on trip in 2003
I did not realize that Squawk was not yet old enough to mate, and so was ever rebuffing Captain Flint's advances. I had hoped to have some progeny by Captain Flint before he passed on, but Squawk was having none of that, too young though full grown. He spent much of his life fairly immobile, no longer able to keep up his prior incessant business keeping all the bird toys in line as he had always done before Squawk came into his life. Sometimes Squawk knocked Captain Flint off his perch, apparently simply because he happened to be standing where she want to pass through; and one time he did not get back up. When it was clear he had passed away, i picked him up and put him on top of the cage, in my grief. Amazingly Squawk's behavior changed, was ever trying to get Captain flint to get back into the cage with her.
Squawk took months to get over the loss of Captain Flint. Meanwhile, I now had a bossy female parakeet to cope with, and no little Captain Flints either. A very aggressive female parakeet, by the way, one of the bossiest beings I had met. Yet she was a pet, my responsibility to provide for and nurture.
When my part time paid job at the museum ended, I could no longer to afford to live even in the lowest rent apartment in the LA county, the real-estate-investors having driven the prices of living space incredibly high without having improved the housing one iota (obviously were not following the "price increase equals work applied to create value added" principle), and fortunately then with my son Paul's help was able to move to a house way north in Ephrata, WA, with help from all the kids in the down payment. Squawk in her cage in the passenger's seat, rode with me on the over thousand mile drive, but unlike Captain Flint, she had never seen much outside of a few rooms, except for short trips to be cared for my my friend Carol while I was on trips. But Squawk is a smart gal and after a couple hours hanging on in her cage to the bouncing around of the car, she looking at me while clinging to her favorite mirrored perch, as if to say what the heck is going on with the world anyway, when suddenly I heard her making a loud racket; she somehow had figured out that the cars and trucks and cars whizzing past were something out there and she was watching them and making endless commentary on it all, which lasted much of the rest of the 27 hour drive.
Months later, Capt Flint has passed away; and later Squawk and I are on the way north to Ephrata, WA.Squawk begins her journey into the vast world, on the road from Sunland CA to far northward. Squawk does not yet recognize the outer world.
Squawk sits on her mirror perch, something not going quite so jiggly as the rest of her world right now.
At a rest stop along the road.
Squawk has discovered that cars and trucks are moving around out there and deserves here commentary about them.
In her new home in Ephrata with me, she seemed to change behavior and it seemed she was looking for a man in her life. No pet store in this place, however, but I kept trying to find where a pet store with parakeets could be found; one was said to be in another town, far beyond my normal exploration range at this point. Anyway, finding mates for parakeets was not a skill that I had learned adequately yet, I felt.
Stability, in her familiar cage but in a different house, far north of where before.
In my house in Ephrata, here is Squawk, sitting on my finger, after she had been exploring the house and too tired to find her way back home on her own, allowing herself to be carried there.
A year or so later, I was out in garage when one of the neighbors who normally avoid me as if I were some monster, called me over and she and her man gave me a cage with a parakeet in it, which they said they had found on their front porch and had been living in their big tree along with the quail that lived there; but they were afraid their cats would get the bird when it came on the front porch, so they caught it and put it in the cage, they had heard I had a parakeet and was this one it, escaped? No, but they gave it to me anyway, as their cat was determined to get at it even in the cage.
Tweety Bird, gift from neighbors Sharon and Randy
Tweety on the loose, stranger in a strange land again
I put the new bird, which the neighbors said they had named Tweety as it looked like a yellow canary more than a parakeet, it was a young bird. I put Tweety in cage with squawk and soon Squawk had crippled Tweety so he could only use one foot, like she had done to Captain Flint at first. Much turmoil and so I put Tweety back into the cage in which he had been given me by the neighbors. Tweety took half a year to be able to use both feet again, but eventually little by little he could use it; life is not easy when one is a bird with no room in which to fly and only one foot and a beak with which to clamber around with, but he managed. He also spent all his time looking at Squawk like she was his lost love and family combined; Squawk ignored his presence most of the time, though his cage was inches from hers. Eventually I opened her cage up again, so she was free to move outside, as I had done before Tweety came into her life; she would go over and climb around Tweety's cage, and eventually stopped trying to bite his toes when he tried to get close to her. After a few weeks I opened up Tweety's cage; he could fly better than Squawk and could escape, I thought, if necessary, if not trapped in a cage. And to my surprise, next I saw them both in Squawk's cage, sitting watching me from the same dowel (which are used in place of tree branches in the cages) and so that is the way they live these days. Tweety seems to be an immature male, I think; and clearly has his eye on Squawk, and not just to get out of her way when she is bullying around.
Squawk and Tweety waiting for me to turn the light out, past bedtime.
The next morning, Squawk and Tweety are on top of Squawk's cage, and are making short flights from there.
Poor Captain Flint is no longer around, the one which came to me originally. Some life continues on anyway, kinda like my own life. Yet I found myself with responsibility for a female bird instead of a male bird, and now seem to have a male and female, of sorts. These little lives and their marital struggles do provide activity in my lonely mateless bachelor's life, as i do my best to husband them as I did my former wife before she went on to greater conquests. So the birds help me express my urge to nurture life. Yes, it is a weird nurturing; Squawk is indeed a female but looks and acts more like a miniature Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur than like a wife for me. So, this is the way life is for me now. Maybe the world is trying to tell me something.
An Escalator Hi page titled ParakeetsinmyHome by J E D Cline started on Sunday, May 11, 2008 7:50:01 PM US/Pacific
Copyright © 2008 James E. D. Cline. Permission granted to reproduce providing inclusion of a link back to this site and acknowledgment of the author and concept designer James E. D. Cline.