A Feathered Valentine: When the Object of Affection is Not Human
A bird-lover was interviewed recently and her fond memories were captured for this article. An emerald green conure flew freely throughout the owner's house for the fifteen years she had him. She proudly never clipped his wings. Only during flight could his crimson and saffron under-wing feathers be glimpsed. The owner's son dubbed him Spyro, and the owner went along because she loved her son.
To Love a Biting Bird
The white-eyed conure is a member of the parrot clan, about four times bigger than a parakeet but only a third or a fourth the size of a macaw. If a person is in the market for a feathered friend to be cuddly with, a wild-caught conure is not a good bet. If, however, a person likes the idea of a fiercely independent and standoffish creature with a piercingly loud caw, whose digestion produces a mixture of white and green poop the consistency of soft toothpaste, and who gnaws on wood in door, window and picture frames, then this is the pet for him. You are always interested in knowing about the Vet Pricing. One should be concerned with it!
This particular bird permitted exactly one person to touch him, and then only on his beak. Any finger trying to stroke his feathers was bitten, sometimes drawing blood. The owner always closed her eyes before kissing him on the beak, but he never once attempted to nip at them. The occasional drop of blood on the nose was the worst of it. Unlike other conures, the "clowns" of the parrot world, Spyro didn't hang upside down or sway to and fro. She conjectured that he may have never gotten over his surprise party at being captured and taken from his flock.
Spyro only allowed two more forms of human contact. He was perfectly happy to step off his perch with his no-kidding claws onto her finger pointing like a gun in child's play held level with his breast. He could be ferried about on a finger. Spyro's only trick was to fly across the room and land on the top of his owner's head, where his talons got a purchase on her hair. That, plus beak-stroking, was all this wild creature would permit.
A Princely Perch
Every lovebird has to perch on something his talons can grasp, whether he can fly or not. Spyro's indoor tree was perhaps the most skillfully crafted bird environment ever cobbled together from spare parts. A tripod of broom handles, about four feet high, made a solid base. Affixed to their point of convergence was a 2 1/2 foot circle of patterned linoleum, remnant of a kitchen floor makeover. In the middle of the circular poop-catching linoleum was a vertical branch of hickory with other branches screwed in at angles. Hickory is a very hard wood and this conure with his onerous beak never was able to eat all the way through even one of the branches, although he tried for years.
The perch was a key feature in an otherwise tasteful, immaculate middle-class living room. Food and water were in 3" deep trays in his traveling cage on the floor. Wood-framed art was removed to a room he didn't enter because his chewing significantly reduced their professional appearance.
"The purity of a human's heart can be quickly measured by how they regard animals."
The day after the owner broke up with her boyfriend, a bad week at work and a then-undiagnosed mild bipolar condition, she did something she'd never done before. She left the front door open. The bird had never attempted to fly outside. He'd often flown past the door on his way from one room to another.
That was the day Spyro made a break for freedom. Perhaps he just wanted to get away from all the emotional misery. The owner's heart wrenched in her chest as she saw him veer in flight and go like an arrow out the door. She ran out calling to him. A neighbor spotted him high up in one of the many oaks and conifers surrounding their rural house. The owner called and called. The conure was in the wild for the first time since he was caught somewhere in Central or South America.
He was surely stunned and disoriented by the fact of endless sky above and an infinite number of perches on the horizon. Gone were the locatable food and water supplies. Unknown entities, also unclipped, chattered and flew all around.
He may have lasted one, two or a few days. It's not impossible that he found sustenance, or that a hawk didn't get him. He most likely enjoyed freedom with a thrilling feeling of mortal terror and abject delight before he succumbed to one of the dangers.
About 50 of his green feathers had been saved in a colorful box over the years. It was customary for his owner to include one in greeting cards. Twelve years later she still has them. They show no signs of disintegration.