Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Featherheads

Admit it. He's cute!

I have birds. 
Zebra finches, to be exact.They are easy to take care of, make cute little-bird sounds and are infinitely entertaining to watch.
I love them. It is a love affair that has been going on for eighteen years, now.
It all started innocently enough. I was directing a play that required caged birds as part of the premise. A local bird shop loaned us a canary, two doves and a finch.
 A cute little finch with a smart polka-dot waistcoat, red cheeks and a black and white striped tail.
During the days, not thinking it wise to leave our little rent-a-birds at the theatre, I brought them home with me.
One day, while I was in the other room, I could hear a cheerful little song. Rising and falling notes that sounded almost as though someone were swinging on a tiny, rusty gate. (A tiny, rusty, musical gate.)
I thought it was the canary, noted for their singing.
Entranced by the sound (and yes, I meant to use the word 'entranced'.), I hurried into the room, and stopped beside the canary cage.
The little yellow bird turned and looked at me.
And the little notes kept on.
Could canaries still sing if their beaks were closed?
My knowledge of birds was truly woeful.
I moved to the next cage. Two sweet doves blinked at me sleepily.
The third cage.
And my little maestro was revealed. Singing his little heart out.
My heart was captured.
He was my new - 2 ounce - Jose Carreras.
Later, onstage, when all the other birds were frozen with fear as the spotlights of the theatre shone on them, I heard that same little song.
Miraculously, with people spouting lines and charging back and forth across the stage, my little finch still found the courage to sing.
That was it. I couldn't part with him.
Fortunately, my husband agreed and, at the end of the play, when the other birds were returned to their shop, Peter stayed with me. (Peter finch. Has a sort of ring, don't you think?)
Soon after that, I decided that my little Peter needed a little mate.
And so Polly, she of the beautiful white feathers and similarly striped tail, joined our household.
She and Peter immediately set up housekeeping and a few weeks later, Piggy popped out of the nest. Followed shortly after that by Pepper, Poppy and . . . Percival? Pat? Plethora? Preamble? Pancreas? (I'm ashamed to say I've forgotten his name. I do know it started with a 'P'.)
They quickly outgrew the cage that had seemed so large only a short time ago.
My husband made them a new cage. A large cage in the shape of a grain elevator.
And my birds became a permanent part of our lives.
They are constantly busy. Constantly doing 'birdy' things.
Constantly entertaining.
One can almost hear the conversations as they alternately groom each other, or chase one another madly around the cage.
"Yes. Right there! That's the itchy spot. Oh get it! Get it!"
Or . . .
"Stop that racket!"
"But it's the same song you were singing five minutes ago!"
"I don't care! I don't like you singing it!"
Or better yet . . .
"What are you doing in my cage?!"
"I live here!"
"Well, who said that could happen!"
"What are you talking about? I was born here! To you!"
Or the ever popular . . .
"I don't like the way you look!"
"But I'm your son, I look like you!"
"Don't change the subject!"
In all the years of raising them, I have only been able to touch them when they first leave the nest and haven't quite gotten the knack of flying. Even then, I can only touch them for an instant.
I quickly pick them up, band their legs and let them go to become another cute, busy, easily-panicked member of my little finch society.
It's the one thing I wish I could change.
Well, that and the mess of torn newspaper and scattered feathers and seeds that constantly litter the floor beneath and around their cage.
I've tried taking them to task for this, using the same forceful, penetrating words as those I used in raising my children . . . you little monkeys! Clean up this mess!
They never listen.
Wait. Neither did my children! Sigh.
My private elevator.

10 comments:

  1. Funny how a chance set of circumstances can get us so involved in something we never would have dreamed of.
    I bet their beauty is worth the mess.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I do love birds. And we are lucky enough each year to be able to hand feed some of the King Parrots who visit.
    And my smile stretches my face each time.
    A friend was given finches by her boyfriend. They lasted much longer than he did. And were better to look at too. Less trouble as well despite their incontinence and seed flinging ways.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Loved the story and I have had a bird or two. You do weave a good tale.
    Hugs!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Awww…I love your little feathered friends!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love songbirds. We don't have many in Australia, our birds make noise, but very few actually sing. In all my life, the first time I heard a singing bird was just a few weeks ago when a thrush landed in my front yard, up in a tree so I couldn't get a clear look.
    My mum used to keep zebra finches and a couple of other types along with all her other birds; canaries, lovebirds, budgerigars, many others I don't remember and a sulphur crested cockatoo, before it became illegal to have them. Her back yard was lined on both sides with aviaries.
    I really like the look of the cage your hubby created there. almost makes me want to get a finch or two, but I fear Angel would eat them.

    ReplyDelete
  6. they are really cute and if it wasn't for the mess (and our two cats) I'd be tempted to get some too :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. They bring such joy with their songs! Lovely Diane!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I had finches when I was a teenager! I remember one time after daddy died an insurance man came to our house to talk to momma. It just so happen that my finches escaped their cages and this great big man in a three piece suit was standing on a chair in my bedroom trying his best to catch one for me! I thought my mother was going to kill me!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Now you have made me want a finch! Your little guy is really very cute!

    ReplyDelete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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