Byrd was out of his cage, he usually flew off with it, whether the object was
intended for him or not.
Care had to be taken not only with the toys provided, but with small
objects left about the apartment. Stray objects had to be large enough that
they could not be ingested. Once, Byrd passed a rubber band through his
system. I noticed him pluck it from his backside and drop it into the kitchen
sink from his perch atop an open cabinet door. Afterward, all rubber bands,
strings and small items were kept in drawers to ensure Byrd's health.
Although apartment living kept him adequately entertained, the object
of Byrd's most curiosity was me. He always had to know what I was doing
from the time that I woke to the time that I went to bed. At sunup, he flew into
my bedroom and sat on my chest. If my arm was uncovered, he perched on
it. Acutely aware of even the smallest of moles and skin imperfections, he
pecked at them until I twitched violently enough to send him vaulting to the
windowsill or nightstand where he sat watching me or singing sweetly until I
After I rolled out of bed, he followed me into the bathroom. As I shaved,
he perched on my shoulder, once ticklishly inserting his beak into my ear.
After a splash of my razor in the sink water, Byrd would jump to the sink. He'd
attempt to hop in, anxious to splash, too. I blocked Byrd on many occasions
from bathing in soapy water in order to prevent him from burning his eyes.
After emptying and quickly rinsing the sink, I would open the faucet to a thin
stream of hot water. Byrd would jump onto the back of my hand and I'd place
him beneath the water stream. The water stream would burrow a part in his
back feathers until it penetrated to his skin. Because of a bird's high body
temperature, Byrd enjoyed very hot water. He would settle on the back of
my hand, spreading his wings and opening his beak to expel extra heat. A
minute or so later, he'd jump out, shake his feathers and jump back onto my
hand for more bathing. When the sink water was a couple of inches deep,
he'd splash. He insisted that I keep my hand beneath his feet for support.
When he was soaked, he fluttered from the sink to the top of the bathroom
door. From the door top, he'd shake his wings until they were dry enough for
adequate flight. The vigor of his shaking left small down feathers clinging to
the nearby wall.
During my writing workdays or weekends, he'd shadow me for most
of the rest of the day. If in his cage, he'd watch me from the highest perch or
from the cage floor corner closest to me. If outside of his cage, he'd sit on my
lap or peck at my toes from under my desk as I worked at my computer. On
breaks, I would scatter more toys about the front room rug. Some days, I'd
attach a string to a plastic bug and pull it across the floor while bird grabbed
at it.
When darkness fell, Byrd flew to his cage, settling inside or on top of
it for a night's sleep. If I worked into the night, the dim light of the computer
screen didn't seem to bother him. Byrd was content that I was next to him.
And after a day of watching him explore his world, I was content, too.
The last time that I had held him this way, he was a speckle-chested baby, sleepy after filling his
craw with worms.
Byrd Glop
Freedom has its consequences. Acceptance of those consequences was
my way of fully accepting Byrd.
Byrd sitting atop my black couch. He probably crapped on it as he observed me taking this
photo from my desk in1994.
As a baby, Byrd defecated in his box or on the kitchen table as I fed
him. As he matured, my main course of action to control the whereabouts of
his bowel movements was to feed him in his cage and keep him there for a
couple of hours following his meals. That restricted the placement of about
75% of his droppings. The remaining 25% remained elusive.
I was able to capture a good portion of his freestyle droppings through
the astute placement of newspapers and trays. One of the most beneficial
placements occurred on the front room windowsill. I positioned an old,
gooseneck, desk lamp there—a perfect perch for Byrd while he viewed the
outside world. Then, I placed a tray beneath the neck portion, the area which
Byrd spent most of his time. I also placed newspaper in Byrd's favorite places
to sun himself. He usually jumped on the newspaper and sat there with his
feathers puffed out and his beak open until he was satisfied with his daily
dosage of sun. At times, Byrd seemed to accommodate me, too. He perched
on the trash basket beneath my desk, using it as an enormous toilet.
I wasn't so lucky in other cases. The top of my black, vinyl couch was
one of Byrd's favorite places to relax. Since the front of my desk touched the
back of the couch, Byrd could watch me work from that vantage point. By the
day's end, the couch was streaked in a clumpy white design. Often, I didn't
clean up right away. Heck… we were both bachelors and bachelorhood gave
me the option of cleaning up at will. After a couple of days, that couch was
pretty crusty. He liked the arm and the seat, too, with similar effects. Even
after thorough cleaning, the couch retained ingrained, white patterns and
ended up in the dumpster. We never missed that couch. I just rotated my
desk to face the window and kept a box of tissue within arm's length. As I
worked at my desk, Byrd kept an eye on me from his windowsill lamp, my lap,
my desktop, the feet of my desk chair or the floor at my feet.
Byrd liked to settle in other places. As a result, he crapped on
everything I owned: my television, guitar, computer monitor, light fixtures,
molding above doors and windows, picture frames, curtain rods. A couple of
times, Byrd surprised me with his variety.
He crapped in my toaster. One morning, I left an overhead kitchen
cabinet door open. Soon, Byrd perched there. As I pulled out the toaster,
that little devil crapped directly in the toaster slot. I just looked up at him