A Birdís Eye
"Feed me, no me. Iím first, no Iím first. Move over. I want some more." Shove. Scramble. Jostle. Stomp. "Donít push me!" Teeter, totter, stumble, flap, flap, no place to
hang onto; out she goes; too immature to fly. Falling! Crash!
A whack of hardness on her breast knocks her breathless. Stunned she gasps for air. Moves as best she can; the dirt; the blinding sunlight. Sheís cold; Sheís frightened; then a black figure, a flurry of wings, the shrieking of, squee, squee, squee, sharp blows to her naked body. Her feet throbbed. The ground is flecked with blood; more shrill shrieks, ree, ree, ree, more horrible hits; then "Get away, get off, shoo", the black shape leaps away, the screams rise, fade away, an unfamiliar shape casts a shadow over her, a curious sensation, being lifted.
"Ah. Itís dark again, warm." She doesnít move, canít move; feels softness, rhythmic beating.
"Where am I? My back hurts; momma, where are you, poppa, my brothers, my warm bed? I wanta go home." Then strange sounds, sounds she doesnít recognize, sounds she had never heard before:
"There, there, be still; so young, so small. Where do you live, whoís your momma, where do you belong, in which nest?"
All the dwellings are identical; there must be twenty or more, built of mud and straw with one front entrance lined up like tenements. The original builders/owners, the mud swallows, have moved away, this is the second wave of occupants. Rent is free, shopping for food is nearby. Inquiring at each would be useless; perhaps, one less mouth to feed in these demanding times could be, alas, an instance of good fortune for a large family in distress.
"Itís not safe to put you into the wrong house; youíd be pushed out, youíll have to come home with me, to my house; there, there, youíre safe little one, Iíll take care of you."
My bird Momma always said that I was the littlest but the smartest of the five in the nest. Mommas know their children. My brothers are big strong but she favored me, the little girl one. But, it was always so hard to get my full share of the food. Thatís how it goes with so many big boys. Daddy favored his sons. He didnít leave me out but thatís how it went. The boys were all over me when it came time for food. But they did keep me warm. It was just so hard to get to the beaks at feeding time. I was stepped on getting only leftovers, scraping the bottom of the croup for what was left from the findings of the day. I would like to go to sleep full just once.
And thatís how it happened that day that I fell out of the nest at feeding time. I was rescued from the Brewer Black Bird, adopted by a new momma, in a new home, lots of food, different but good. Now I was sleeping alone warm, comfortable without being under the bottoms of other bodies. I must say that there was not a feather around me like my first momma fluffed up over us, but the coziness is good.
About now I should tell you that I am not the greatest thinker, I just learn fast. The new words that I use and you will read are a result of hearing new words in a new language; I apply them here in my story as I relate to you this grand and continuing adventure. My human momma will do the typing. Now back to the events right after my rescue:
I remember: the bleeding places on my naked back hurt. I felt a soothing something on my back, the pain faded away, being placed on a soft yellow thing, I learned it was called a towel, put in a green nest box, a strawberry basket, covered up like in a baby in a blanket. I was all but invisible. There was warmth beneath me that drifted up to surrounded me, a heating pad, but I was hungry, I was so hungry, wanted the beak to come feed me. No beak. I was starved:
Something was touching the sides of my beak, a beak? No. Without thinking opened up, the warmth slid down my gullet. Not like bird mommaís cooking but I was so hungry. I opened up wide, more warm food drained down into my croup. Each time I opened up more good stuff was there for me. I didnít even have time to peep "me, me". At last, my croup was bulging. I must admit to being full. I was so sleepy. And that was that. My beak shut, all became dark, warm, no pain. And into an out-of- this-world sleep hearing new sounds as I glided off.
I had a dream; birds dream too, it was not too awful. There was papa feeding momma who would be feeding my brothers, I was waving, they got smaller and smaller faded away. I was leaving my old home to find a new life, in a strange land with a strange big new momma. Bye, bye. Was it a dream? A dream turned into a reality.
I had to give up much of the wild bird ways. Accept another way of life, a new set of actions. I had to adjust to being one of two, not part of the big flock. Of course, I didnít know all this at first. I learned to love my new way of life, boy was it different. Such as:
I learned that no longer did I have to rely on the big flock point of view. I wasnít doing something just because others did it. I could be me without fighting for it; falling into line following some unnamed leader. I could eat when I wanted, sleep when I was tired, fly where and when I desired. I canít say it was easy. Momma said it was my unconscious collective memory that kept getting in my way, whatever that is. Momma explained that it was all of me from forever. So now I had momma as my flock of one.
One day I did want to learn more about myself: All I knew was that I was a bird.
So I asked Momma, "Who am I? Where do I come from?" This is what she told me:
"You are a sparrow, little one, not the fancy kind. There are one-hundred and forty types of you that cover the earth. Your ancestors came from Europe, Africa, and Asia; were loved so much that early settlers to Australia and the Americas had to bring you along;" I didnít know about all these places but it sounded impressive.
I was so excited even though momma said I am named the common house sparrow; how thrilling to be a part of a family so loved and well-known everywhere.
Momma said that was enough for me to know for now. She promised to tell me other stuff as I got older. That I would be better able to learn more of my story in small bits and pieces.
She told me that I should be proud to be a sparrow. I already was but now I was even happier. She said that I have been in literature and paintings. I really didnít get it, that is, what momma was reading to me. But she said that when you ask a teacher what time is was, she will tell you how to build a clock, and momma used to be a school teacher. But I listened to all she said. There are a few examples of what she found out; Theyíre at the end of my story.
Momma let me know that our greatest success lies in our skill to use new habitats. Habitats momma said were like homes. Now that was a beakful of a new word for me to learn. But this thought takes me back to my adjustment to humans and my special human momma and her home. Notice that my human vocabulary is improving. Momma doesnít speak to me in baby talk, explains that use of words is important. She is always teaching.
So, I became accustomed to being caged part of the day and all night. It was a nest where I was safe. Of course, I had no choice. In the beginning I could not even hop around, sparrows hop, not walk with one claw in front of the other. Momma said that some birds walk: sea gulls, parrots, doves, pigeons, pheasant, flamingos. I can only list these few names from a long list she rattled off in her eagerness to school me.
But now, back to my own story:
At first I had to wait to be picked up fed and cuddled. Then I began to get the hang of it, hopping to the edge of my green bed, then jumping out, bouncing around the towel at the cage bottom. And finally hopped to my different perches and fluttered a bit, something like an exercise to strengthen my wings. I learned that there was a covered warm spot under a skinny, funny shaped perch at the left top of the cage. It was covered with a heating pad. I spent a good part of my day, napping, especially after eating, in this warm, dimly lit safe spot.
All of my perch places were different; long ones, short ones, big ones, tiny ones, all sorts of shapes, colors. I asked momma about this. She said that they come from different trees; that the main one that is across the center of my cage is of Manzanita. It is a beautiful red:
And that the low short one across the back near the bottom is made of all sorts of colored stuff, I learned it was braided threads. You will see it later on in pictures of my cage. It was easy to hang onto. What became my feeding perch is across the front where the door lifts up and slides to the top. It is just right for my little feet. It is a hard wood from the Eucalyptus. Momma said these are trees native to Australia that were imported to the United States by Senator Thomas Bard of California in the late 19th century.
They are fast growing. Countless kinds occur in their family tree. They are everywhere. Something like my big family of sparrows.
There are many other small twigs on the floor that let me go from tiny hops to little flights. I could hop all over the cage, up down, across from perch to perch. Big shot me!
As I got older I found, what momma called millet. There was always hanging millet stalks, millet on the floor, on my towel outside the feeding perch place. Millet is a very little seed easy for me to crack open and digest. It was my favorite thing to eat. The other great seeds come from the supply of wild bird seed that is for the feeder in the backyard and finch food. Finches are little like me, tiny. They are a close bird relative. My cage dish was filled to the top.
Finally, I began to take flights from one side of my cage to the other. It was a long way. Well, fifteen inches was a long way for baby me. Then I learned to go from the bottom towel in the cage out to the towel in front of the cage then to the top of the outside cage area. I found that the covered corner warm spot at the inside top was also warm on the outside. I would cuddle there watch the action in my room, listen to music, wait for food and mommaís company.
Next came my shot at flying to momma at the computer desk. It was not the flying that was the hard, birds just fly. Momma says thatís what feathers are for plus our light weight hollow bones. She added that we have a complex anatomy too. I didnít understand complex anatomy, so momma showed me pictures. I still donít understand but I listen to her, I like the sound of her voice.
Momma says that there are a few birds that canít fly. She showed me this picture of the ostrich who is a feathered non-flier, poor thing.
But I was learning how to measure my distances, land where I had aimed. This was the test. It took me many days, many clumsy tries at it. I would fly over, miss my spot, fly back, circle and go at it again. I didnít know how to stop where I wanted. Momma, always caring about my progress, began to give me flying lessons. She was once a flier herself, in an airplane, of course. Humans donít have wings. She held me in her hands aimed me back to my cage, a distance of five feet. We did this over and over until I was spot landing. Going the other way took me over a week to perfect. It was a grand day when all on my own, I landed on her shoulder. "Come to shoulder, come, come" in a voice full of animation and encouragement. It was on this momma perch that I taught myself to perfect my talent for begging for goodies.
Anyway to go on: I found all sorts of other perching places in our room: the bottom rung on the stool under my cage area, I taught myself to jump from one rung to the other to the top, I perch in mommaís chair when she is out or on mommaís chair to wait for her return. I perch here when she is sitting in it. I found that when I climbed up the book bag I could see bits of myself in the shine of the brass door knob. I went to test my view of all my room from here and finally this perch. I fly here when I hear the dogs barking.
Being as smart as I am, it didnít take me long to figure out that when I heard, "Birdie, Birdie, Birdie" I knew it was time to eat. To the shoulder I went for new taste goodies. It was from mommaís fingers that I learned to select what I wanted to eat at that special moment. If it was something I did not want I gave a sad peep, she understood and put something else in her fingers.
It occurred to me, I could have great control. Momma feeds but I could select where I wanted to eat. I hopped around to my choice. She would follow me around. When I stopped jumping around I opened my beak in came the formula. The game was on. I would go to the top, the corner, right and left, the bottom of the cage, catch me. Now, if I got to the outside top, I would stop open my beak, the food went in. I would shake my head and throw food all over. It was a mess momma had to clean.
It took her over a week to figure that I was the tail wagging the dog. She caught on, would tap the perch that was for feeding and wait. I would wait. She would wait. She put the food away left. I tried her out several times in one day and thought better of it. If I wanted a full tummy it was going to be on the feeding perch of her choice. We did agree finally that so long as I was in the safe area I would get fed. But by this time I had almost outgrown the bottle.
Out-growing the dropper bottle is a difficult exercise in willpower. I loved my bottle but I sorta wanted to eat on my own. Momma fed me but wanted me to learn to be more self-sufficient, new word, perhaps ready some day to be in the big wide world without her protection and our close coming together. I planned a gradual withdrawal... Each day I would eat less from the bottle more soft foods and seeds. One day I planned to take one last drop. That day came I took what I thought was that last swallow. I busied myself scurrying around the bottom of the cage, on the front towel, at the computer keyboard picking on my seeds and bits of bread. I couldnít do it, cold turkey. Not that day; in fact not for lots more days. I went to mommaís shoulder, cheeped, jumped around, pecked at her neck, and flew back to my feeding perch. I allowed her to feed me four big portions.
She knew that birds eat 1/3 of their body weight each day. She said that birds are high energy creatures. A fat wild bird is unheard of. She understood my need to wean myself, only offering me my formula when I asked. I showed momma that I could drink from the water dish. By this time I was feeling quite independent, well, sorta like, but not ready for any other world. This was home, my new way of life. I didnít have to hustle around competing with a multitude of hungry birds, fight for food.
Momma gives me another food that is in really tiny grains, it has some thin black seeds in it, delicious. I pick them out first.
One morning momma was eating her breakfast fruit from a bowl. I flew to her shoulder to show her I was hungry. She placed a tiny piece of pink something on her fork reached around to offer it to me. What a good taste. She called it watermelon.
I showed I was a good sport about trying new food. As I grew older I would find all sorts of stuff to eat at every spot I visited: by the computer, next to the keyboard, on the mouse pad, on the top and bottom towels, on the rug beneath the cage. I found cooked bird food of rice and barley, bread crumbs, fruit, seeds, cooked corn, beans, apple, even strawberries; pieces of oranges, all fresh momma said were from her garden. The leftovers are given to the wild birds that are outside.
If I pecked at her hand it was no telling what I could get in the form of food. If I pecked at her arm there would be food, peck on her fingers, food. And I am very neat, if I drop any of the pieces I clean up after myself.
My next big food discovery was cooked fresh peas. The color attracted me but the covering was so difficult. I pleaded with momma, as usual she understood, squeezed the soft center out for me. I couldnít get enough of these good looking, good smelling, great tastee round things. I carried them to the top to the computer monitor and ate, ate and ate. Peas for us became an early afternoon eating tradition.
Momma says that fresh corn from the garden is next. So this yellow food was brought in, corn, corn and more corn. I could practically bathe in the meal. So good!
Eating is one thing. Bathing is another. Sparrows are known to enjoy dust baths. I couldnít get the hang of it. Momma put a low dish in my cage filled with sand. Dirt to clean dirt off of my feathers? Nuts to that. So, I though that a dip in the water dish would be a better choice. My first bath was a mess. I leaned over, checking the distance to the water with my beak and kurplunk I fell in. I quit this activity for a little while. I didnít tell momma about this slip. There I was on the computer monitor pretending that nothing had happened. She knew when she saw that some of my front feathers were wet.
When I finally took my first real bath it was in a low green dish, warm water, just right for my size.
At first I jumped from one side of the bath dish to the other back and forth before getting in. then wetting my head, fluffing my wings before at last getting my feet wet and then my whole body. What a delight to flutter around, throwing water all over the cage, perches, floor, towels. Then up I went to my cozy warm spot in the cage dry off, preen. I am so clean so warm.
I havenít told you about "pooping" a rather delicate subject. I must explain to you that being mostly a seed eater my droppings wet at first then dry out and can be brushed off without staining a thing. Good thing, I am not nor will I ever be potty trained. She has a screen cleaning gel for the computer monitor. She doesnít scold since she knows all about pooping birds.
Then one day I discovered Iím not the only gorgeous bird in mommaís life. Sonnie, thatís her name I discovered, who spends nights in a cage in my room says "good morning baby bird, hi Birdie" at the start of the day. In fact, I found out that she named me. I really paid no attention to her or cared to before we met one day on Mommaís shoulder.
I had no idea who Sonnie was or her connection to my Momma until this day. There was this big gray bird sitting on my shoulder, making loving sounds kissing, turning upside down clinging there with affection, trying to feed my momma. Well, that had to stop, so I bounded over to my shoulder perch. This mass of feathers did not move, just looked at me said "birdie, birdie, birdie." I canít speak like that! I flew over her head, and landed on her back. Iím telling her to move over; she didnít even know I was there.
So I jumped to the top of the Mommaís arm area just a bit lower, then to her finger, this big bird looks at me; that was all, she looks down her big beak, cocked her head. "My name is Sonnie, whatís yours?"
So what! I dared to get closer and managed to give her a move over peck. "Pretty bird, baby bird, I love you, its OK baby birdie."
Now how can one be so nasty when another is so kind? I flew over mommaís head jumped to the other shoulder; there was enough love for the both of us.
Each of us had needed to be Mommaís favorite; we made our peace; special times for her and special times for me. She was happy in her home here. I decided to make this my home too.
From mommaís shoulder, Sonnie said to me, "You know there was another sparrow named Babe, who came into our lives she flew around the house. She came into the front room in the evenings, swooping around our perch. She teased us a lot when she circled around us. She shared the end of the day with momma, just like we do.
"Then she was no longer a part of our family. Mommy never shared with me the details of her going missing. You sure look like Babe. Will you be with us for a long time? Beau and I have been with Mommy, I call her Mommy, for many years. We came when we were babies. Oh, when I say we, we includes Beau. Youíre welcome here." I never thought Iíd be talking to an African Gray but her words about Babe troubled me. She was so expressive when she said "other sparrow gone missing." And "you look like her". Iím not going anywhere.
I was going to ask Sonnie about what she had just said but before I could say anything about what she meant about Babe gone missing and my looking like her she chattered on. I certainly wouldnít interrupt her, not with my good manners. I was curiously worried.
"And for years we have been raising baby African Gray babies ― not mine!
"I really enjoyed having little ones to visit. Just visit; like grandchildren, here and gone.
"Thatís it. I am not interested in being a mother myself. Iím dedicated to my human mother and have no interest in getting close to another bird. Momma birds are confined to a dark nest box, for months, dependent on my food from the boy bird; sitting on eggs, feeding the young and all that. No thanks! I am a career bird.
"Being a mother is a noble career, under appreciated to say the least but itís not for me. Iíll stick to life as a pet. I canít even imagine what being in the wild would be like. Hey Birdie, will you stay with us or go free? After all youíre a wild bird."
Thereís another Gray bird in the house. Momma said he was a bit stand offish. It was a while before I met him. He is called Beau, Sonnieís brother but five years younger. I was finally introduced to Beau. And let me tell you that what momma said before about his being stand offish, wrong, wrong, wrong. He is aggressively jealous. While I didnít get the word before that momma used to describe my feelings, now I really get it.
He came in perched on mommaís shoulder. I was fooled for a moment thinking it was my pal Sonnie. That was until I noticed that he had a fairly good set of feathers. Momma said "this is Beau, Birdie." OK. One Gray is like another Gray. Wrong again. Since I had already jumped on mommaís other shoulder I was immediately shocked, Beau marched over and pushed me off, or I jumped just in time before he could get me. Momma said, "Now, Beau, be a good boy, this is Birdie, be nice." He wasnít having any part of being nice. I flew above his head and landed on mommaís arm. He came down and I mean fast from the shoulder. Momma didnít need to do anything, I jumped to the monitor. He glared at me. "Beau, I love you." says momma. No matter the attention he was getting, no way was he going to like me. I tried to explain to him that I was a tiny part of mommaís space and time, which is only half a truth. But what did he know? Probably a lot. He would have no piece of peace like Sonnie and I had. The only piece he wanted was of me. Well, you canít win them all. Birds of a feather may cling together. We werenít of the same feather. I went to a high perch and kept out of his sight. Momma was not expecting one of her children to be so nasty to another. Momma told me that he should have been an only child. He even has quarrels with Sonnie about nothing in particular. I asked Sonnie about his hot-tempered nature. She told me that her only defense was to wait until he wasnít looking and grab one of his feathers and pull it out. I noticed that he had quite a few missing feathers. I now know why he was showing a bit of a bare chest and who was responsible. So momma didnít bring him into my room again. His time with momma is in the front room. He has his special morning time with momma, sitting on her shoulder while the morning chores are done. One of Beaus favorite games momma says is to pretend shock when he sees an object like a ladder, broom, duster; like he hasnít seen them before all his ten years. He squawks and crashes down to the rug. If no one is around to lift him back up he marches down the hall looking for a someone to help him. At times, momma told me he manages to get into the back bathroom or hide in the closet.
And yes, Momma told me about the Babe, her other rescued sparrow. She would fly over the Grayís who were stationed in the front room perching platform and tease them with "I can fly, you canít" Momma clips their wings so that should a door be left open they would not escape. Momma said that domesticated pet birds donít last long in the wild. They donít know how to find food, home base, or to steer clear of enemies.
There is a beautiful film about the wild parrots on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco that shows parrots in the humanís wild. Momma and I watched it together. They had a human daddy who helped them get food. If one was hurt he fixed it up. Every now and then pet birds end up escaping into the wild. Other times wild birds like me end up living a life with good people.WWW.Utube,com/watch?V=10MiVruHmpa
This next event happened sometime later when I was a more experienced bather and Sonnie and I were let out of our cages. Sonnie went to get attention on Mommaís shoulder. Since I enjoy ducking into Sonnieís cage I decided to take it one step further. I jumped on her drinking dish, sampled the water, fell in head first and flapped out in a hurry. Sonnie didnít seem to notice or so I thought, but when I jumped on the computer monitor in front of her and fluffed my wet feathers before preening. She looked up at me said "quit it!" And I thought I was so clever. She is so smart.
In case you donít know about preening, it is a method of grasping a feather with the beak and running it from my skin to the tip of a feather, squeezing off the water, along with dust and dirt.
The Babe shared all of her adventures in the outside world with momma. She had inside and outside privileges. I donít want to even think about this possibility for me. My in and out is from my always open baby cage to my safe and sound room. It is enough. Momma said that she visits Babeís grave in the fern garden that is on her path of daily chores. I didnít know about the word grave. Momma told me it was a place to go to be reminded of wonderful memories. She said she talks to Babe about me, the blessing that I am. The promise that they made to one another long ago kept.
Momma told me that Babe would bathe every day after she was outside with the wild ones. Momma said that it was a dirty and dangerous world out there. That living was uncertain no matter where.
I listened to momma as she read to me a beautiful story about a pet canary. She said it was written by a world famous author, Katherine Mansfield. Itís kinda sad at the end when the canary is gone. But it mostly tells about love, something like my love for momma and her love for me. Momma explained that great love and happiness can be that way. Read the story on Mommaís Web site.WWW.deathdyinggriefandmourning.com # 77
Momma and I have fun. She goes to the Internet bird calls site and plays me the sounds of other wild birds and the sounds of my own family. She doesnít want me to forget my native language plus she said that being bi-lingual in California was a real plus. I love listening, practicing sounds while I eat snacks at the side of the keyboard, or sitting on her hand while she was typing a story or doing work for her Saturday class.
Momma wanted to include the sounds of the sparrows in our story. You can go to the Web site:www.allaboutbirds.org. Click on sparrows and hear the sounds for real.
I finally discovered that when the chirping is played I could jump on the speaker and listen intently. Very exciting! I could talk the talk.
At times momma says that perhaps this is too much for me to handle, the sound of the wild and the new life I have. Iím not going to worry, what do I know about the wild? I only know my joy with living with momma almost since I can remember with only a bit without her as my momma. That is except in my unthinking stuff that I donít think about on purpose it is just there in my behavior
At times I feel sorta sad when I hear the wild sparrow sounds. So does Momma. She asks me if life with her is enough, of course it is.
Momma read to me that I have a set of simple songs: one of a series of cheep or chirrup notes. I finish my song at times with a chatter call, or sound out a wheezy wheea, chatter call and I have a flock call. Momma says that boy will use his song to tell of his acquiring a nest or a girl to express her need of a boy friend. Weíre quite gender oriented but still egalitarian, now those two words are new for me. Momma says gender means usual old ways and egalitarian is like being free to be who we want to be.
More About Resident Birds
I forgot to tell you something that momma told me when I took my first bath: Now I understand what she was telling me about other birds in the house. Sonnie and Beau take showers, too big for a good bath in their water dish although they give it a try every so often. They throw water all over the cupboards and floor. Sonnie likes to take showers with momma. She sits on the soap dish and waits for her sprinklings of water.
On their perch there is food, water and wood toys that momma makes which they chew up into tiny pieces. And they enjoy their human company. Sonnie has a few sips of coffee each morning with momma that washes down her toast with peanut butter. At 10:00 Sonnie always reminds them that "it time for coffee."
They get special cooked food, fresh fruit, and tea and cookies for lunch time dessert. At Martini time in the evening they are served their Martinis which for them is a dish of pine nuts. Sonnie starts calling "time for gin" at 5:00 pm. Both Sonnie and Beau share the human food served for dinner. "Sonnie wants" Sonnie speaks for Bea like she was his lawyer. They like to munch chicken bones, lamb bones, noodles, both soft and crunchy, potato chips, bread crusts, anything from mommaís plate.
I hear really different bird calls during the day from Sonnie and Beauís parents Orson and Tootles. They live in an outside aviary with another pair, Fritz and Maggie. Momma says their names when they call.
Momma shared with me that Tootles and Orson have four eggs in their nest box. Last year their four eggs were infertile; she was hopeful that these would be holding babies, they werenít. Momma hand raises the baby African Gray babies. She brings them in when they are seven days old. Thatís why she knew how to save me.
Momma explained to me that The African Gray is the smartest and best talker of all the parrots. She told me all about the most famous African Gray Alex and Dr. Irene Pepperberg. The African Gray has a fabulous history, sometimes quite sad. I have included what momma read to me at the end of my story.
When Company Comes
One day we were going to have company. Momma took a close look at my cage and home base area. That was that. My little corner of the world had to be cleaned from top to bottom. First she took out the bottom tray and emptied the spilled seed outside in the wild bird feeding spot. Outside went the cage where it was hosed and left it to dry in the sun.
Next, off came all my covers, eating towels, hanging millet, clips. The cloths went into the washer. And this is when I got confused. Where was I supposed to go? I flew all around the room, perched on the office chairs, sat on the keyboard, jumped to the floor. I was quite upset, no familiar room, furnishings.
Finally, the clean towel was spread on the table. My cage was lifted up to the usual place. Everything was clean and fresh. My seed dish was filled to the very top, water dish fresh, new bath water. I was home. I took a nap up in my warm corner.
The Donald Visits
Momma sent my story to her good friend and teacher, Donald; itís not finished, but she wanted him to look at the technique that I am using. He called from Italy, where he is on vacation. I am proud to report that he likes it. I shall continue reporting my life as a bird with my flock of one and at times two. Iíll tell you more about the other momma later.
Well, one day he and his wife Patty, another grand friend came over for a visit. While he and momma were reviewing my story I listened to the needed correction, additions, clarity and proper presentation. Oh, so thatís how itís done.
And while Donald was in our room, I placed myself in a position to listen but not be too obvious with my presence. I did not want to scare him. He was so intent on being soft spoken. He must have realized that new voices kinda spook me. His voice was so much deeper than what I was use to hearing. But, momma wasnít alarmed so I wasnít either. He showed us how to divide our entries into chapters, to add and enrich certain event.
I say us since momma tries to edit my taped dictation as best she can. So we have been working on my story every day to tidy up my dictation.
I have a sense of humor, momma says. It is a teasing kind: Momma holds out her hand, "come over to momma, come, come." I understand perfectly well what she wants. I fly over and circle and fly back. I do this over and over finally landing on her finger. Sometimes it just for a second; other times I hop up her arm and stay awhile. I jump up to the top of the monitor. I love to chase the mouse arrow from my position at the top of the computer monitor.
I will fly to the floor peck on her toes, perch on her toes if she raises her foot up, then to the shoulder, peck at her neck, pull at her hair, and bounce down to the keyboard, and to the top of her head. Mommaís got the serious look. She didnít want me to move away for the picture taking. I was beginning to get wise to the cameraís sight and sound. The flash is so bright so blinding.
I even sit on her hand while she is typing. I usually get a kiss on the beck for this. I pretend to object to the kiss. Wild birds like me are not supposed to like being kissed or cuddled, part of our, momma says, primordial legacy; new words, meaning really old memory, but my world is not the wild world any more. I feel so secure and safe here.
The first time that I saw another sparrow, I didnít know that it was me. I flew to the end of the room to a bright shinny wall to see this sparrow and bam fell to the carpet. I was stunned for a moment then hopped around looking in the direction of the object that I had hit. There was that other sparrow hopping around on the floor too. I raised my head to get a better look. The other sparrow did the same. How funny. I flew up, it flew up. How can that be? Well, momma said it was me, my mirror image. It was me, that other sparrow. I wondered would I ever see more birds like me that were not me, me, me.
After seeing myself, I got curious about me. Were all of meís so little? Did we all look the same?
It was time momma told me to know more about my family. Hereís what I learned from the pictures she showed me on the Internet and described to me: My daddy would have a black bib, white cheek, a chestnut mantle around a grey crown, and chestnut-colored feathers on the upper wings; quite distinguished. My bird mom is rather plain, like me, with a dingy-gray breast, and a streaked back. Five inches is all of me, Daddy would have been larger, up to six inches so would momma be larger over five inches, I must be the smallest sparrow ever.
Momma added that we like seeds and insects, I already knew that, but she said that we will poke around for any food, will happily eat anything in small quantities. Interesting too is that she says that we donít mind living so closely with humans, that we do live well from their successes. I am proof that this is quite true.
Iíve told you about my meeting with Sonnie. Thereís more. One day Sonnie was in her cage, put there after she bugged momma so much while cavorting on the shoulder, kissing her, grabbing her glasses. Momma was trying to write an E-mail. Gee, I was having such a grand time myself, teasing Momma, jumping on the shoulder, pecking at her, flying around her head; I wanted to play some more.
So, I perched on a gray wool sock that hangs on Sonnieís cage.
She uses it as a chew toy when she is bored. Momma hoped that this would distract her from feather chewing, it hasnít. She chews on her feathers and the sock. Momma says this feather chewing is common for grays. Momma says no one knows why this trait is more common with Grayís then other parrots. Maybe it has to do with sexual frustrations, bugs, itchy dry skin, poor diet, a high strung nature, extreme intelligence and boredom. Ask Grays they will say, we donít know."
But, anyway, I was pecking on her sock she came over pulled it away from my beakís grasp. I jumped to the top of her cage area pooped on the night cover, this is a new place for me to fly to, a bit higher then I am accustomed, and chirped at her. "I can go in, I can go out, I can go all around, I can fly, ha, ha, ha." Well, momma started to laugh, Sonnie said, "Sonnie wants out, be good girl, promise, here I am; birdie, birdie." Momma took pity, opened the cage. Sonnie got on her offered finger, but instead of the shoulder she moved her out to the perch platform in the other room. "She can bug her brother," says momma. Sonniesí cage door was left open; I bet you know what I did . . .
In I went, took a drink from her dish; checked out her seed bowl, nope those seeds are much to big for me at my tender age, stood on her precious chewing sock, got on her perch, put on my smug face and chirped up a storm. What fun.
Now, donít get me wrong, I like having Sonnie as a room mate. I know she is a bird, birds have feather therefore Sonnie must be a bird, but having momma all to myself, whatís the word? Momma calls it jealousy.
Momma shared with me that the Babe always liked to find high places to perch. When she was just one month old she managed to fly to the model airplane thatís on display at the top of a high cabinet.
She didnít know how to fly down. She peeped to be fed there. Momma fell for it; so momma got on a step stool, climbed onto the counter top and fed her up there. Babe liked to be high and survey her world. She also sat on the window sill, talked to the outside birds.
Momma told me that one day she decided to take Babe to the outdoor aviary to get her ready for the outside bird world. On the way there Babe squirmed out of her hand flew off. Momma waved called after her, bye, bye, be safe, and went back to her room. Later that day momma was walking among the fruit trees heard the voice of a familiar sparrow calling.
It was Babe, who was perched on a low limb. She followed momma, jumped on her finger, into the house they went. She talked momma into a deal. She left the room during the day but returned in the late afternoon, came in through the open window. This was the pattern for Babe until her untimely death. I had trouble with the meaning of the word, death. Momma says that death means you are a memory. Iím staying in my safe world. Not yet willing to be a memory but a real thing, to touch and hold.
Unlike Babe high flying and perching high was not my first choice. That came much later. I liked to jump on the carpet to scrounge for seeds and goodies.
I am a ground bird; the Babe was a sky bird, far more adventuresome than I; Iím not ready to go out into another bird world, at least, not yet. It sounds too scary. Iím staying right here in my room. I asked momma how" big is my world?" "How big do you want it to be?" "This big is just fine." "Then this is the size of the world." I consider myself a home bird, happy in my own familiar habitat. See I got to use my new word habitat already.
I am so interested in my surroundings. I want you to get the whole picture.
There are books all over the place. I have not been interested in books yet but perhaps as I mature I shall. Momma showed me this picture of Babe liking to help
momma read. It took me a while to get onto books.
Pictures, pictures, pictures all over my room: horses, momma with her airplane, momma during her surfing times, momma with her students, her family, friends. You see them in many of the pictures momma has placed in my story.
I met my stepmother one afternoon. Stepmother is what Sonnie calls her. Momma calls her Bev. She is, as I found out, the mother that makes all my current foods: she scrambles my eggs, cooks my bird food, cuts up my fruits and vegetables. But, one day momma was out. I was a bit lonesome and this pretty woman with golden hair is at the computer in the room that is part of my room.
I took a chance. I flew over and landed on her shoulder. She just kept on with her work, but she didnít chase me away. I pecked at her hair, so much different then mommaís, stayed for a long time. She is so calm, accepting. I liked her. Itís a nice place to be when mommaís not around. And, boy, do I ever like her cooking.
I have a new bird language that my wild family would not recognize.
When I hear or see something that I feel is a danger I have a growling chirp. When momma comes into the room I have a welcoming chirp. I hear the dogs barking I have a snarling chirp. I have a temper chirp too when momma does something I donít like. I donít like it when she shakes out her clothes. Too much stuff that is moving too fast.
When I go into my cage for a snack I have a whispering chirp, I didnít want momma to know that I can eat without her.
But, I knew where to get the best of the best, I donít let on that I know. Momma might change her ways.
I have even taught myself, what momma calls, a peeping song.
I am a very busy bird. How would I ever have had the time to hunt for food for myself?
I surprised myself one day while I was playing on the keyboard while momma was using the mouse. A bit of tiny moving black went across my line of sight and beak. I went for it found it delicious. I had no idea that I could be of use to my momma, getting rid of insects. I have a useful job. Iím more than a spoiled rotten kid. This became a part of my day, finding and eliminating insects. Another time funny, tiny moving black things marched into my sight, it was late one afternoon. I just followed the line and filled up on them. They were delicious. Momma was not too happy with the situation put some small white square things around, sprayed some stinky stuff on the floor and walls, so that ended my, what she called, the amazing ant adventure.
I was sure that I was doing my part in keeping the, what momma says, is the balance of nature. And here I thought I was just being a helpful me.
I decided on my own to not to be in my cage at night. I had to do some thinking on this. Momma knew how to call me to her finger, "up, up, up" place her other hand over my body; cage me before dark. What if, I thought I didnít come to the offered finger; so one evening I got to a perching place that was just a bit higher then momma. She canít get me here I thought, wrong. I ignored her command. She got up on a chair and got me.
So the next night I did what I had never tried before.
I flew up to the air conditioner that is above a tall bookcase. She pleaded with me to come down. "Birdie, Birdie, come to mom and all that." No, I had made up my mind I would stay out. So, there I was left to take care of myself. Sonnie was put to bed in her cage. Momma left the room, closed the door.
Aha, down I flew, cuddled up on Sonnieís cage cover and slept the night there. Momma had put a tiny night light on just in case I got lost during the dark hours. It was good. From then on I was trusted to be out of my baby cage most of the time.
I found a new snug sleeping place, momma put my favorite yellow towel there, I am very comfortable and secure. Behind me are pictures of momma with her old friend from childhood as they are now and when they were children. I have no idea why this place felt so good but here I am ready for the night. I go to bed early like the old saying says.
At first, this flying high like the Babe was new for me and absolutely restricted to my night escapes. Until one day: I woke up one morning feeling quite different; I had this urge to travel to other parts of my home. Every time momma left our room she closed the door behind her. One particular morning, the door was not closed all the way. I flew to the top of the door, squeezed out. I was on my way. Momma was not quite ready for me to have house privileges. She cornered me in the bathroom. Later when the door was left open I didnít feel like leaving my room. I was finding so many great places to explore, things to do, games to play, and toys, momma gave me all sorts of toys. I was not sitting around being bored, complaining that there was nothing to do. My beak was my exploring tool, I beaked at everything I saw. Sounds of beak to wood, beak to metal, beak to glass, beak to counter top crevice, beak to whatever. If something moved it was gone in a flash.
I found I could fly up to Babeís place in the red airplane. Exploring was my new style. I even took naps on the lower wing.
I begged momma to put food up there, no way she told me. But she couldnít outdo me for being creative. I carried goodies up there myself. She had to climb up to clean up the few crumbs I left. She says she wants no more invitations for ants. Thatís too bad, I enjoy ants.
I learned to pick up small items. I give them to Momma as gifts when she is at the computer. Sometimes it is only a piece of paper from the mess Sonnie makes in her cage, it doesnít seem to matter to momma what it is, she always smiles and rewards me with some goodies to eat. I eat from mommaís fingers, not because I have to but I like it.
In the late afternoon momma and I have cheese and wine, I only get the cheese.
One day, at wine and cheese time momma was so deep into her work that she was eating away at the cheese. Not offering me my bites. I had to rush down to her and peep my way into my share. I was just in time. She was just about to eat the last bite. That only happened once.
I have my own pile off toys too:
And then there was the day I dropped my favorite green toy. It just disappeared after I dropped it on the desktop by the monitor. Momma moved, lifted, shook out towels, no toy. She was about to give up. I was bouncing around cheeping, telling her that it must have fallen to the floor through the space behind the counter top. Momma got a light and crawled to the back area, among the wires and dust. I was right, there it was. I was happy having it back among my treasures.
I continued to explore. The room is mine. Ah! The thrill of discovery:
Mommaís surfing trophies are fun to ride. I look at her pictures of Rabbit her surfing
teacher, her friends and family. I learned that high was good.
I discovered flowers. Ah. So attractive. I had to explore. A petal here a petal there. I found that they had a few hidden bugs, which I really enjoyed. Of course, I didnít tell Momma that her flowers were buggy. That would be rude. I really enjoy being helpful, even when she doesnít know. That is I think she doesnít know it.
I couldnít figure out, how Momma knew where I had been and where to look for me. Oh, thatís it. She spots where and what I spot. The telephone, the lamps, the pictures on the walls, the pictures in frames, a book or books if I have been really busy, the counters, television, the bulletin board, couch, bookcases, keyboards, mouse pads, you name it. I had been there, done it.
When momma leaves the room she always says, "Iíll be back, be a good girl." And when she comes back, "here I am. Come to momma, Birdie, Birdie." I fly to a high place for my wait. Of course, I have my snacks without her. But one day she left, "be a good girl, Iíll be back." I waited and waited and waited. I got so hungry that I flew down and had to eat all by myself. Even step-momma did not come in. I was so lonely, where was my momma? The music played as usual, but no momma. I played with my toys but it wasnít as much fun alone1. I took a bath. I jumped to Babeís red airplane. So I got to the highest place I could find. I pouted. When she gets backÖShe did and gave me the usual greeting like nothing had happened. "Iím back."
She dumped her book bag on the floor, put down her purse, turned on the computer and left the room. Maybe to feed the dogs, I donít know. Now I was angry. Nothing for me. So, there would be nothing for her. How dare momma ignore me and for so long. When she returned, at long last, I ignored her. "Come to momma." Uhhh uh, not me. "Come to momma, birdie, birdie." She pleaded. I sat on my high place and made not a move. Sheís going to pay. After all, momma did not even apologize. Maybe she doesnít understand. Iíve got to do something. Momma was working at her computer. I flew down and around her head. Chirped and chirped. I flew back up and away. I kept this up for a long time. Why didnít she figure out my upset? She stopped her typing, turned around and looked up to me. I finally heard her say, "Birdie youíre angry with me for leaving you for so long. Iím sorry." She got it! I warmed up to her just a bit by flying to the monitor. She smiled. I wasnít going to let her off too easy right then. By the next morning all was forgiven. I was hers again, she was mine. I spent the next day in her sight, on the top of the monitor, on the platform under her monitor, on the food towel next to the keyboard, on my toy box area, on the keyboard, on her shoulder, in her lap. I wouldnít go far from her. She explained to me that I had to learn to be alone once in a while. If this is how house birds live, Iíll have to do it. And then:
One day I took my nap on mommaís shoulder. This was a first for us. Sonnie was in the other room, it was just past my breakfast time of scrambled eggs. I jumped to her shoulder; folded myself into the gathers of her robe for a nap. I had another dream:
First I heard the chirping sound of the flock, cries like strangers, sort of; it was not easy to make out all their words. I looked up to long shadows, the light, bright sky covered with a noisy crowd of birds like me, I wanted to join them but felt tied to the ground. I closed my eyes, the ground felt warm. The wings murmuring like the music human momma plays, cries of come, come, be free, fly with us. One bird swoops down, lands next to me, "little girl of mine, I love you, come back, join us." I whisper, yes; shouted, no.
Then I heard, "Youíve got mail." Awake, I was back home. From a dream you can go home again. I was happy, hungry, my one and only momma was there. I jumped into her lap and begged for food. Feeding is our first true tie to one another. Iíve got her trained; whenever and wherever I chirp, what to momma sounds like "Pretty, pretty, pretty" she places food within my reach. I eat where I want, what I want.
Even though my food is placed all over the room, I like most of all to have momma feed me tiny morsels from her fingers. Alas, I must come clean I canít resist picking up dropped crumbs from the carpet. I truly am a ground girl, but not always. Itís a genetic thing momma tells me. A what? She says that genetic means that it is everything that comes with me. I have a good life. Babe wanted both worlds, one is plenty for me so far.
I am spending more time in front of the mirror. I like seeing the only sparrow I know. What would life be like with other sparrows? Perhaps I belong in the wild. Some mornings I wake up feeling different, restless. But, as soon as momma comes in, all is OK again.
I know that she wants only good for me.
It will be one day at a time for us.