From the day he entered my home, Byrd's curiosity freed him from the
restraints of his box. Very few of my best memories involve Byrd in his cage.
His life was one of discovery, companionship and the love that results.
Byrd enjoying a bath. Photo taken in 2004.
Byrd was out of his cage at as much as possible. I get antsy during
extended periods of time in the apartment and must get out to see friends,
a movie, have dinner, shop and such. Byrd felt the same way. Occasionally,
I would enter my apartment complex to the distant sound of high-pitched
squawking. On those days, I knew that Byrd was infected by cabin fever. He
wanted to stretch his wings and explore. His wings were never clipped. He
was a bird with a sleek body designed to fly. Why would I frustrate him?
The apartment was fertile ground for an inquisitive mind. When I pulled
my chair to the computer, Byrd stared at the screen from my shoulder. He'd
jump to the top of the monitor for a closer look, then glide to the windowsill
when the outdoor scenery lured him away. If a plant were on the windowsill,
real fun began. Byrd would start digging away with his little beak, plucking
a leaf or stem to sample the taste. At a sharp clap of my hands, Byrd would
dart away, dirt covering his beak. After a quick neck twitch, hurling most of
the soil particles to who-knows-where, he'd conveniently finish the hygiene
task by wiping his beak on the rug. Then, it was time to take flight again. If
I heard scratching from inside of the kitchen trash basket, the noise usually
wasn't the working of an emerging poltergeist, but Byrd mining for food and
After escorting him out and covering the trash, I would try to keep him
entertained. I'd place a plastic cube of multicolored paperclips or my seashell
full of coins on the floor. Byrd would throw the paperclips all over and pull
every coin from the seashell. Following play, he'd run off into the kitchen for
a while, perhaps to hunt silverfish. Silverfish, much quicker  than spiders,
were a more exciting challenge. Later, I'd hear him singing in the bathroom.
The acoustics may have been more pleasing to his ear. Sometimes, he'd be
content singing from the bathroom floor. Other times, Byrd liked to project his
voice from the height of the door.
When he quieted, I usually set out a soup bowl of hot water on the
kitchen rug. Byrd enjoyed his daily baths. He developed a bathing ceremony.
First, he'd hop around the bowl repeatedly. Then, a beak dip to test the water,
followed by more circling the bowl. After finding the perfect spot on the lip
of the bowl, he'd jump onto that particular spot, wait a second, jump back
to the floor, and again, dance around the bowl. After finding another perfect
spot on the lip of the bowl, he'd jump to that spot, wait a second, slide in,
jump back out, and flick his feathers a bit. The dance would begin again; but
around the fourth time, after jumping upon the side, he'd slide in and sit still.
Finally, a rollicking bath began. Byrd would submerge his head and shake
it like a tambourine beneath the water. The churning water rolled over his
back feathers. The wing flicking began next, spraying bursts of water in all
directions. When he emptied half of the bowl, Byrd would lift off with furiously
beating, brick bat wings. After preening himself on the kitchen counter, he
completed the ceremony on the front room windowsill. Byrd would extend his
wings, spread his feathers and dry himself in the warmth of the sun.
After all of this activity, Byrd was raring for a meal. I could not sneak
into the kitchen without Byrd hot on my trail. As I'd open the refrigerator, Byrd
was already on my shoulder, anxious for a glimpse of the tasty treasures
within. Once, he jumped into the refrigerator. I closed the door after he
settled on the top shelf. When I opened the door a few seconds later, he
darted back to my shoulder. He never flew back inside, but would hungrily
stare into it from a safe distance. When I began to prepare his meal, cutting
fruit and perhaps a few small pieces of meat, he'd perch on my hand and try
to snitch a sample. If he grabbed an item as large as a grape, I had to chase
him until he dropped it. Otherwise, he wouldn't enter his cage for a while
and his droppings would increase substantially. Usually, I could transfer Byrd
from my hand to my shoulder during meal preparation. Depending upon his
hunger, those transfers could not only be numerous, but accompanied by
angry “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-bah” squawks. When his meal was ready, I'd
have his bowl in one hand and him perched on my other hand. His beak
followed the bowl like a retriever pointing out a rabbit.
When the bowl was placed in his cage, Byrd hopped inside to quickly
pick out his favorite morsels. He typically threw his food all over the cage
and snacked upon the crumbs later. I have no idea why Byrd was such a
messy eater. His many wayward food particles necessitated a vacuum to
be kept beside his cage for daily rug cleaning. When his bowl was empty,
Byrd pushed it from one corner of his cage to the next. Although the bowl
was weighted, he was strong enough to shuffle it around, probably trying to
dislodge every crumb of food. I kept him in his cage for 2 to 3 hours following
his meal.
Byrd's cage time wasn't too boring. He had a variety of toys. He
enjoyed rolling and throwing modestly-sized household items, such as a
toothpaste cap, shiny pennies, an eraser and pen caps across the floor of
his cage. Other items that kept him occupied included rubber and plastic
bugs, a mirror, and a white, plastic parakeet mounted on a spring attached
to his perch. Byrd frequently napped next to this white parakeet, occasionally
pecking its tail to make it bob to-and-fro. I wonder whether it reminded him
of Pinky. My mother also brought little toys for him, such as plastic balls,
rubbery balls with long spines and a doll house telephone that he liked to
hold in his beak. She bought a synthetic nest at a garage sale that must have
been used for a craft project. I tied it to a perch and used it as his toy box.
Byrd liked to pluck out all of the toys, drop them to the cage bottom, and later,
scatter them across his cage. Therefore, weekly toy washings were required.
If a rubber animal or a small object was placed upon the kitchen table while