Byrd showed affection throughout his entire life span by following
me around the apartment. Wherever I stopped, Byrd would be at my feet,
usually gazing up at me. If I sat down, I would hear fluttering wings, feel his
little toes on my knee, and once again, find Byrd's eyes gazing up at me.
After acknowledgment, he hunkered down and made himself comfortable,
as if sitting on a nest. When he wanted to make himself more noticeable, he
flew to my shoulder or to the table at which I was working. If I was on the
floor with a book or newspaper, Byrd would sit beneath the reading lamp,
soaking up the radiated heat.
I enjoyed his affection, even when it complicated my tasks. Quite often,
he insisted upon sitting on the newspaper which I was reading. I just turned
the page when I was ready. Scratching noises and rustling always followed.
After Byrd emerged from the newspaper, he usually shot me a disgusted
look, then would move a short distance away. When he sat on a book that I
was reading, a few kisses on his back or a gentle nudge with my nose would
send him ambling to a nearby location. If Byrd was on my forearm as I wrote,
I continued to write as he bobbed to the rhythm. He usually hopped off to a
short distance away or flew to the windowsill of the same room, content to
monitor me from a new location.
Byrd took advantage of me when I napped. When he wanted to play,
and this was well into his sixth year, he would pull at my clothes and hair as
I lay on the floor. He braced himself with his stick legs firmly embedded into
the carpet as he pulled with his beak and jerked with his neck. Since he was
having such a good time, I let him continue. When he wanted to nap with me,
he would settle into a spot in the middle of my chest. If he simply wanted to
watch me as I napped on my bed, he perched on my big toe or the windowsill
next to my pillow. Every now and then, he would sing quietly, as if it was now
time for him to sing me a lullaby.
At times, Byrd and I could carry on a conversation. He had a call of
“who who whoo-oo, who who.” The last two “who” vocalizations increased in
pitch. When I recognized the pattern, I sneaked in the last two “who” sounds
before he finished. The first time that I did this, Byrd looked me up and
down. Maybe, I stole his thunder or ruined the punch line of a melodic riddle.
Soon, he began to just sing the first “who” sounds and let me complete the
sequence. Sometimes, I would begin the sequence and Byrd would begin
the sequence again. Very infrequently would Byrd complete the sequence
by adding in the last two “who” sounds when I sang the first four sounds.
Perhaps, he wasn't smart enough to do this. Then again, perhaps it was
beneath his dignity.
In contrast to Byrd's sweet songs, he could bellyache when matters
didn't go his way. A sharp squawk of “ba ba ba ba ba ba baa” could follow my
block of Byrd's beak as it thrust toward a plate of pasta or the absent–minded
lighting of a room in which he was sleeping. This “ba ba” sequence could add
up to well over a dozen when he was on a real good burn.
Byrd's attention could turn devilish. He rattled me with a habit that
developed as quickly as it ended. One day at the kitchen sink, as I raised a
cup of water to my lips, the cup exploded in my face. As I recovered from
my startle, Byrd sped away. I realized that he had attacked the cup! Looking
up from the water-splotched kitchen rug, I yelled, “Byrrrrd!” What was going
through his mind as he attacked the cup? I figured this to be a one-time
occurrence, so I refilled the cup and raised it to my lips. With swinging claws
and spearing beak, he attacked again! I was angry—why is Byrd doing this?
What's his motivation? The cup was plastic, plain, blue. I drank in front of him
for years without a response of this insane magnitude.
His behavior continued for days. When I was aware, I hid while drinking.
For me, this was difficult. I drink water throughout my waking hours. When
my guard was down and I drank reflexively, he attacked with devastating
surprise. All of my yelling and fussing had no affect upon this crazy behavior.
I noticed him lean a slight bit toward me as I reached for the drinking cup.
He was not only fixated upon it, but transferred his frenzy to any cup that I
brought to my lips. I entered a cycle: vigilance when I remembered, relaxation
when I became preoccupied with other matters, and then anger when Byrd
surprise attacked again.
After a few days, the eureka moment occurred. I stopped fighting
him. With a firm grip, I raised an empty cup to my face in front of Byrd
and let him attack. An orange and brown streak pounced upon that satanic
cup with rabid fury. Then, he darted off. I walked to another room, but still
within Byrd's view. I raised the devil's cup to my face, and as Byrd catapulted
toward me, I ran to the kitchen before he could contact the cup. Byrd hit the
air brakes and stalled to land upon a dining room chair. I peaked around the
a corner, raised the cup. Byrd darted toward me again. I ducked into the hall
before Byrd could reach me. Once again, he braked so hard that he stalled
before landing on the floor. I peaked around corners repeatedly as I raised
the cup to my lips within Byrd's view. We both had fun as Byrd chased me for
20 minutes. I raised the cup again. No reaction. My calm Byrd was back. He
never relapsed, either. Apparently, it was just an oddity that he had to work
out of his system.
He had another bad habit, perching on my nose as I slept. Once,
he pecked me in the eye as I suddenly woke. (Although I noticed a very
small indentation in my eyeball, no medical care was required since eye
tissue heals like skin tissue.) My startle response was so strong that he
never landed on my nose again.
Byrd had other interesting mannerisms. He noticed anything out of
the ordinary. If I had a bandage on my finger, he pulled at it. When a marker
protruded from the pages of a book, Byrd plucked it out. Being an avid
reader, I can't remember how many times my page was lost.