Monday, December 12, 2005


it is so woefully human to want to train things. to make them little replicas of us. such is the case with the little parakeets my daughter recently acquired. one is a white, ecru, lavendar aptly named orchid. the other is an aqua blue named chyna (aka. mr. feisty).

having read parakeet books and training books, she informed me the way to make these birds talk (although they are not talking at all, merely mimicking), is to separate them. to keep them apart during the training process.

these are young birds. striped foreheads and all. they call to each other when not in the same enclosure. and i know capturing birds and enclosing them is cruel to begin with, believe me, i hear you. but i do not make any claims at perfection or having even approached some semblance of it.

watching the maneuvering of birds, the logic behind their separation, while reading works of fiction on native history had me thinking about how these means of training have run through the ages. somehow i don't think dominion included bits, bridles, and cages, but that is another issue for another time.

yes, i kept thinking of indian boarding schools. and couldn't help but ache when chyna would call for orchid or they would sound just to hear each other, unsure of what was happening only that their counterpart was missing.

my girl asks me,
can't we train them to talk?

and i reply,
let's just let them be parakeets.

something in me wants them to not learn mimicry. not to make them little models of humans and thereby establish their worth. they have value because they are.

we have learned, they fly away from us when they are not together. in order to keep them on our arm and get them accustomed to our handling, if we just hold them both on the same hand, they have the comfort of being together. and, i'm learning to speak a bit of parakeet, whistling calls in return. they appear content, as am i, to see them not being little humans.

when i first tried to write this post, i got called away to a funeral. since then, a full eleven days have passed and most recently my girl and i went to the caldwell zoo in tyler (more on that later), but at the end of the day, we found a little wild bird walkabout enclosure. we entered. some fifty to seventy-five free flying parakeets and cockatiels were in there. they would dive bomb your head and swoop by your ears. my kind of exhibit. (my first thought was, bet they don't try this with the lions.)

we left after oohing and awwing, only to return one last time. that time the birds kept flocking to our feet and nibbling on our tennies. we purchased seed sticks (glued seed on popsicle sticks).

i held the stick curled around over my chest. in short order i had about six parakeets walking all over my chest and arms. and a small flock on my tennies still sampling the goods.

it was utterly delightful.

i know i wax melancholy most often, but not today. i'll leave you with that sense of sheer joy i had feeling like jane in disney's tarzan with birds all over her up in the canopy. it was the best day i'd had in quite some time.

1 comment:

Deborah said...

I love budgies. I have two, one with hardly any feathers from the "waist" down, so he looks like he's wearing a green topcoat and no trousers, just naked tiny "chicken legs".

Then a younger one, and like your daughter, I want to train it.

I had a trained budgie when I was a kid. She used to sit on my head, or land on the edge of my bowl of ravioli and help herself. Gosh they are fun like that.

As for caging these birds, training them etc. Would they be better off in the wild? These guys couldn't survive for one minute in the Canadian wild.

They probably wouldn't survive in the Aussie wild either.

They love their cage. The one who can fly always returns to it voluntarily and doesn't like to have it out of sight.