Thursday, May 28, 2009

On the chopping block

It’s time to revisit the continuing story of “my big bird cage.”

About 3 months ago I got rid of the last of my "fancy birdies" keeping only my less colorful but far more lively little finches. First to go was the eye-catching yellow African love bird. I gave that mean little bugger to my girls. It was pretty, but it was mean, mean to the other birds, a regular ruffian in fancy feathers.

Once the yellow African bully was banished, the pair of gray cockatiels put themselves next on the chopping block. I say that because once free of persecution from the African, irony of ironies, they took ov
er the love bird's role as “cage meanies.” They usedtheir superior size and beak power to lord it over their smaller less aggressive cage mates.

At first the two grays were actually quiet harmless in their new roles as the cage's king and queen tyrant. After all, they were too slow and ungainly compared to the quickly flitting finches to be much of a threat at first. But, their days became numbered as soon as they began to threaten the baby finches.

I tried hard to keep my baby finches cockatiel-free and safe, but everything I did proved fruitless. The
cockatiels, especially the female, became obsessed with not only the babies, but with the finch nests as well. Seeing this made me decidedly uneasy and overprotective. Of course, I sided with the finches.

For some reason the female cockatiel began to display nervous behavior, such as flapping awkwardly back and forth in the cage for no apparent reason, or she'd perch restlessly, moving side to side while squawking loudly. I thought she might be yearning to nest herself, perhaps prompted by all the finch nesting activity, but unlike the industrious fi
nches the cockatiels didn’t seem to have even an ounce of engineering ability when it came to nest construction.

So, in an attempt to provide an artificial nest for the cockatiels I hung a fruit basket, large enough for the cockatiels, high in the corner near the protection of the porch eaves. All the birds curiously inspected it, including the cockatiels, but the cockatiel hen evidently didn’t find it suitable as a nest. Instead, she and her mate picked away at the basket fibers in that destructive way that all birds seem to have.

I had already hung four beehive-shaped baskets under the eaves from hooks for my finches to use as nests, but they were soon put off from doing so when the cockatiels began to poke their big ugly heads into the basket openings. Their bodies were too large to climb in, but they destructively reached in with their beaks and pulled out the bits of grass nest thatching that had been earlier emplaced by the busy finches.

In an attempt to keep the cockatiels from molesting the beehive nest baskets I even laced long barbs of wire into the cording all over them, which made them look rather prickly, like strange cactus beehives with metal spines. This mostly worked in that they could no longer simply crash-land onto the nests, but even so they would still find a way. The cockatiels weren’t hard-working in nest construction, but they certainly were tireless when it came to seeking their destruction.

I’d fi
nally had enough on the day I caught the big gray female with her head deep inside one of the two nesting boxes. To do this she had had to fight her way through all the tricky obstacles I’d put in place to keep her out of them. Only one box was occupied by a pair of nesting finches, and inside that box were two tiny freshly hatched nestlings. When I entered the porch and saw her craning her head deep inside the nesting box, evidently trying to get at the babies within, I came unglued. I ran yelling over to that corner of the cage and slammed my hand loudly on the grill work separating us. She hardly took any notice of me at all. I had to go all the way around and into the cage to get her to stop her attack.

Enough was enough, the sight of my innocent little finch babies being physically menaced by the big gray pigeon-sized cockatiel was more than I could bear. Within the day both cockatiels were gone. I gave them away to Eddy’s family.

While I was in the bird-purging mood I also gave away the parakeets. They didn’t go after the finches, but I found them boring; all they did was perch, eat and occasionally make ugly screeching noises.

No, I’m strictly a “finch man” now. You can have the larger birds with their colorful feathers; give me finches any day! Finches aren’t content to simply perch and eat—finches do things; they mate; they nest; they fly expertly, almost as well as hummingbirds; and they raise their young. In other words, THEY LIVE, and all right there in front of your eyes…


Ed Abbey said...

Almost everyone that I know who has a bird or birds, either have one or all the same kind. I think I understand why now.

Back in the day, my parents used to have fish and evidently they are just like birds. When you remove one bully, another one steps up and soon you are down to just one fish.

Anonymous said...

I missed this post. I think it's adorable that you love the finches the most. Adorable and telling. xo