Tuesday, July 4, 2006

The Newest Family Member

You never know what is going to flutter down from nowhere, land at your feet, and steal your heart...

Last weekend, my son was out, wandering around our apartment complex, looking for something to do on yet another muggy summer day, when he found a new friend...or perhaps, this little friend found him. A dark grey & white cockatiel with a bright yellow head and orange cheeks flew down from a rooftop, landed on the ground and walked right up to Daniel. It climbed onto his outstretched hand and rode his shoulder home.

I was, all at once, surprised, dismayed, and intrigued by our feathered visitor. We already own a cockatiel named Maxie, a sweet drab-colored hen who loves nothing more than cuddling, kisses, and neck scratching. She creates noise & mess enough and yet, there we were, suddenly hosting another bird. It posed quite a dilemma: one bird is really all I feel equipped to handle but as Daniel argued, there really was no leaving it outside. Cockatiels are domesticated birds (everywhere but their native Australia) and they don't last long on their own in the wild. In addition, there are several rather vicious children that roam the complex, all of whom have a reputation for torturing anything they can get their hands on. It seemed somewhat fortuitous and wondrous that this lost soul chose my son to approach. I did insist that Daniel post signs asking people to call and identify the foundling but other than a gentleman looking for a wayward yellow parakeet, no one came forward to claim him. And so, in an instant, we were adopted by Milo (as we have named him.)

Milo is very different from Maxie. Besides being at least four years Maxie's junior and dressed in much more flashy feathered finery, Milo is not as personable. He will climb onto an offered finger only when he sees fit and otherwise will peck and nip until the human flees to protect tender flesh. In the first day or so, Milo ate and drank as if he had been on his own for weeks. When he wasn't hungry or thirsty, he slept, balancing on one leg and head tucked under his wing. In general, he tried to stay out of Maxie's way, who seemed both annoyed and excited to have a new companion. The guidebooks say that cockatiel hens establish themselves as the dominant half of a cockatiel partnership and Maxie wasted no time in proving the experts right. She is content to eat, preen, and now, after a period of cautious introduction, even sleep next to Milo. However, the minute Milo strays into her personal space, she warns him off with a hiss and a half-hearted nip at his tail.

Milo spent a week slowly adjusting to his new home and roommates. His days were fairly uneventful and we simply let him be, admiring him from afar and donning a garden glove when we needed to move him and he was being stubborn. And then, Milo decided he was happy and rediscovered his voice, much to our astonishment and delight.

Female cockatiels are generally not singers. Maxie is no exception; her vocalizations are limited to short, sharp shrieks. In the first week of Milo's residency, that was all we heard from him as well. And then, one morning, he began to sing and chatter and entertain. It seems obvious he has had training. Daniel and I were treated to "pretty bird" followed by a devilish wolf whistle, monkey noises, water dripping, low growls, a chattering sound, a hawk's call and little tune that sounds oddly like the Rice-i-Roni commercial ditty. Milo mixes his noises around, recombining and rearranging as he pleases and aside from the shrill hawk's call that could shatter glass, it is all extremely amusing. In a way, we feel honored that he would decide to share his talent with us. And so, plans are underway to fund a new, larger cage and clean-up/caretaking chores have been assigned. Milo is home.


Kari said...

Isn't this the way with pets? Often they find you, rather than us going out looking for them. I am so glad it was your son who found Milo and they obviously felt safe with each other.

Looking forward to more stories from this pair.

Kari x

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