On a certain birthday, my sister Trish received a parakeet from her in-laws. As much as she and I enjoy watching birds, neither of us had owned one. Nor wanted to.
There were so many questions? What kind of cage to buy? What to feed it? How to determine if it was male or female. Do birds require shots and visits to the Veterinarian?
To answer these, she did what any former schoolteacher would do: studied.
The first action following her research was to name the bird Bluebell and purchase a male to keep the little female company. Smitty made himself right at home in the little bedroom converted to office.
They are not people friendly. They do venture out of the cage to fly around the room while the office door is closed. That, as well as Chirping along with their personal radio, eating, bathing, and grooming pretty much describes their lifestyle over the past years.
Hence, Trish was surprised one morning to find a tiny egg sitting in the food dish. She wasn’t prepared to have a bird nursery, so she discarded it. As the days went by, she found more eggs.
Trish reluctantly purchased a nesting box and gave in to Bluebells resolve. There were at least two dozen eggs laid, but she only allowed the bird to keep five, four of which hatched. Even then, she was apprehensive about the responsibility of chicks. She need not have worried; Bluebell was devoted to her eggs and much more to her chicks. Trish provided extra nutritious treats to sustain the worn out little mother.
The baby parakeets grew quickly and the time came to find them new homes. It was a distressing event for birds and for Trish. She was giving her babies away.
The first two became gifts for an elderly man who was eager and delighted.
One was happy and settled in quickly. But the other bird refused to eat or drink, huddling in the corner of its new cage. By the second day the old gentlemen was certain the frightened little bird would die.
Then something unusual happened: The other young parakeet began to pick up food and hop over to his traumatized sibling and feed him. The new owner watched in amazement as the little bird assumed the roll of mother. Within hours after the sweet intervention, both were enjoying the toys, chirping, and exploring their new home together.
Meanwhile, back at my sister’s house, Smitty is locked in a separate cage so that Bluebell can have a little rest. Or, perhaps the little rest is for Trish. Motherood is exhausting.