and whined out of exasperation, “Byrrrrd!” He casually looked down, as if
saying, “It's your own fault.” I fished out the majority of the glop. Whatever
bits remained were burned off with a dry run. I use that same toaster
today—with no ill effects—mind you.
Within his first months of life, he crapped on my forehead while I was
sleeping. Even in Byrd's youthful days at the Ravenna apartment, he had a
marksman's aim. Early mornings, while waiting to be fed, he began to wait
for me to rise by perching on the curtain rod above my bed pillow. On a
late August morning, the weather was warm and I felt like I was sweating.
As I drew the back of my hand over my brow, my perspiration felt rather
slick. After realizing that Byrd was perched directly above me, I woke rather
quickly. After washing, I moved the bed a safe distance from the wall.
He crapped on my telephone. As my eyes popped open to an early
morning call, I noticed that Byrd sprang simultaneously from his perch on
my telephone. The first ring of my old, heavy Westinghouse must have really
jolted Byrd from a morning doze. I laughed to myself. It was about time that a
good joke was played upon Byrd. I rolled out of bed and grabbed the phone
receiver. A slick, sticky solution adhered to my hand. In the end, Byrd got me
Most often, Byrd laid a minefield on the floor. A cold, slick sensation
awaited my bare feet if I wasn't completely mindful of my surroundings. I kept
several boxes of tissues within easy reach as first aid to his anti-personnel
engineering feats. Regular vacuuming and rug scrubbing were always in
order. Some of his droppings had to be wiped up within a short period of time
in order to prevent staining, such as those on porcelain and wood surfaces.
Dealing with Byrd's droppings tested my patience and humor.
However, we were both bachelors. Jokes and cleaning up became part
of the daily regimen. I dealt with it as needed. If humans can put up with
diapering infant children, how much less of a hassle was handling Byrd.
And after all, Byrd was my baby. I did get angry at times, especially when
he would occasionally let his bowels loose on my walls during a fly-by. That
always bothered me because of the permanent discoloration. I couldn't stay
angry long, though. Byrd had a way of looking at me—cocking his head and
staring with one eye—that melted my heart. I'd simply touch up the wall with
a bottle of typewriter correction fluid, and then, forget about the situation.
Regardless, steady bowel movements, consisting of white liquid with a
dark-colored, solid interior, were an indicator of good avian health. Byrd, true
to his species, Turdus Migratorius, was blessed with health and regularity
throughout his life span.
I sat on the front room floor, trying to keep him warm by holding him close to my chest. I stroked
his feathers gently with my free hand and with the side of my face.
Times that I Hurt Byrd
I vividly recall—probably too vividly—the times that I hurt Byrd. I still feel the
regret that accompanies thoughtlessness, impatience, and the worst of all:
Never afraid of the camera, Byrd pauses for a photo in late 2004.
The times when Byrd let out a painful squeak were perhaps better
than those times in which he felt pain but didn't make a sound. A shrill squeak
or a sudden muscle tightening let me know when I physically hurt him. Only
after a period of reflection did Byrd realize the sincerity of my actions or the
innocence of my errors. At other times, he was hurt but did not vocalize or
tense at all. In these cases, only after a period of reflection did I realize the
depth of Byrd's hurt. Byrd's feelings and moods couldn't be discounted. He
had that component, just like any other complex, living being.
Some of the times that I hurt Byrd were during needed care of his
claws and beak. I learned how to trim both through Stroud's Digest on the
Diseases of Birds. However, without practical experience, I did err. Although
the majority of all trimmings went fine, I trimmed a claw too closely when
Byrd was about 5 years old. I felt his muscles tense at the exact moment of
the cut as I held him in my left hand. I should have cut the claw in a better lit
area in order to discern the separation point between the nail and the quick.
My mistake resulted in a bleeding nail. Fortunately, I cauterized the nail with
an incense stick within minutes of the incident. According to Stroud, although
bird blood clots quickly, the toenails are an exception. A main blood vessel
courses through them. Clean cuts have difficulty clotting. Byrd displayed his
anger after I released him. He flew to another room and stayed there. He
forgave me within hours, though, and once again, began to follow me around
the apartment.
Another unfortunate incident occurred as I was pulling newspaper
from the bottom of Byrd's cage. I should have been more careful. He was
much older and was slow to respond that day. Although I was inching the
newspaper from under him, he didn't move, content to ride the dirty newspaper.
A claw slid beneath the head of a tack that held down the newspaper. The
nail lodged and ripped off. Once again, I had to cauterize the toe. This time, I
used the a touch of a red-hot, wooden match. That toenail was deformed for
years following the incident. I should've stopped pulling the newspaper when
Byrd didn't move out of the way. An old bird, just like an old human being,
may not want to move at times.
Byrd's beak was never a problem. I constantly monitored its growth,
fearful that both top and bottom portions would grow to an overlapping
configuration which could complicate trimming. As a result of my awareness,
I only needed to slightly trim the tip of the upper beak that normally grew
to overlap the lower portion. Only once or twice within Byrd's life did the
lower portion require a very slight trim. Of course, he squirmed during beak
and claw care. As Byrd aged, he whimpered and fussed a bit more as he
was being held. In his youth, he didn't fuss at all, completely confident in