Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A New Friend

I’ve grown up with pets all of my life.  We’ve had dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, salamanders and frogs living in our St. Charles house all at the same time.

I’d had a pet of my very own before—a teddy bear hamster named Fuzzy—but considering I was a middle-school kid at the time, it was pretty impressive that I managed to take care of him.  Fuzzy lived to the ripe old age of four, and after him, I didn’t really think I’d have another pet of my own until I moved out of my parent’s house (which still hasn’t happened yet…).

However, the week before Christmas this past year, I came home after an evening of caroling to a big surprise…
Unbeknownst to me I was about to meet a new friend! 
Caring for birds has been part of my life since 2009.  I love working with the birds at World Bird Sanctuary, and it gives me great satisfaction to work with them every day.  Because I work so closely with birds on a daily basis, I never considered getting a bird of my own—after all, I have dozens of them at my disposal every day.  There are WBS staff members that share their lives with parrots.  From Cathy Spahn’s African Grey named Simon, right on down to Lisbeth Hodge’s Green-cheeked Conure named Jazz, many of the staff have opened their hearts to our feathered friends.  I certainly didn’t expect to count myself among them.

Apparently, my parents had other plans….

After caroling that evening, I wandered upstairs to go to bed… and there in my room was a large white cage sitting on my desk.  Inside that cage was a little blue and white Budgrigar  which many people call a parakeet.  I called downstairs to my parents, “Hey guys? Why is there a parakeet in my room?” My parents revealed him to be an early Christmas present, obtained from a breeder near our house. From the get go, I was enamored.  I decided to name him Mr. Bingley, after one of my favorite characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

At first, he seemed overwhelmed by all of the big, scary humans who came to ogle him.  He would not step on my finger, and he did not like to come out of his cage at all.  He was also virtually silent.  I was worried for a while that he would remain scared of humans for a very long time… but after a week or so, he started to bloom.
 He's even accepted the family dog as part of his flock
Now I play music for him when I have to leave the house, and have discovered that he likes to listen to Mumford and Sons, as well as Jack’s Mannequin.  How do I know?  He tweets and chirps incessantly when songs by those two bands come on (of course, he could just be vehemently protesting these songs, but unless I learn how to speak parakeet, I’ll never know). 

Mr. Bingley started out very afraid of coming out of the cage.  But now, he sometimes won’t go back in it.  His flight feathers have grown in beautifully, and he loves to fly in circles around my room, chirping as he flies.  He also gets ‘call of the wild’ moments, when he chirps and whistles very loudly, and hops all over his cage.  He will also preen your fingernails if you hold them up by his beak. 
Mr. Bingley sitting on one of his favorite perches
But by far his favorite thing to do, now that the outside world isn’t so scary anymore, is to sit on my head or my shoulder while I’m on the computer.   In fact, at this very moment he’s perched on my head as I type this blog (allowing a bird to perch on your head or shoulder is not for all birds, and at WBS parrots only perch on our hands).

Though unprepared as I was for a pet of my own, I wouldn’t give Mr. Bingley up for the world.  He makes me smile, makes me laugh, and reminds me that happiness can come from anywhere… even a little ball of feathers.

Submitted by Emily Hall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

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