Saturday, October 16, 2010
Budgie update #1
Meet Pebbles (very close to actual size).
Pebbles has been with our family since August 5th. We picked her/him up at a large chain pet store after spending a couple of hours watching all the budgies in the pen. He beat out an albino that Julia named Marshmallow, and several other birds with striking plumage. Pebbles seemed to be the most sociable bird of the flock, running from one friend to the next, grooming and chatting them up. The sales assistant caught Pebbles in a net and unceremoniously dumped her/him into a box so that we could bring him/her home.
Young budgies are pretty much impossible for non-experts to sex, so as you've probably guessed, at the moment we don't know whether Pebbles is a he or a she. By the age of six months or so, the cere (the band above the beak where the nostrils are) turns brownish for a female or remains blue for a male. One of our earlier budgies, Sunny, turned out to be a female after we called her a him for the first six months of her life, and she was a victim of gender confusion for a long time after that. We have no idea what Pebbles is, though I'm guessing he's a he. Time will tell.
For the first few days at our house, Pebbles was pretty shell-shocked. Imagine, life with thirty friends like you in a two metre square pen suddenly turned into life in a small cage with five large monsters encouraging you to "Come out of the box, Pebbles. Come on Pebbles! You can do it!" He wouldn't come out, so someone finally tipped him out of the box. Then he sat on the floor of the cage for a day, and eventually moved up onto the apple tree branch we had carefully prepared (read: baked in an oven for an hour) for him.
He certainly didn't seem to be the same budgie we saw at the pet store. Huddled on his perch, barely moving, he flinched every time someone walked past. If a bird flew past the window or he saw a car drive by, he would start budgie-yelling (scolding at the top of his lungs like sandpaper on cement) and flapping his wings, inevitably ending up on the floor of the cage. On the second day he was with us, someone opened the cage door, and he saw an opportunity for escape... but with clipped wings, he didn't get far. He ended up sitting on the rungs of one of our oak kitchen chairs, and the only way we could get him back to his cage was for me to gently close two hands around him and move him. My girls were very upset about that, saying I was destroying his ability to trust us, but what was the alternative?
He bit us fairly often for the first month. My girls absolutely loved our last budgie, Buddy, who was a very gentle, funny and playful character. They began to despair of ever being friends with this biting creature. Pebbles just couldn't compare to Buddy. To my girls' credit, though, they kept on trying to befriend Pebbles, sitting beside his cage with the door open, chattering to him, slowly winning him over and becoming his new "flock" of friends.
Pebbles is now trained to sit on anyone's finger or shoulder, and I swear he's talking. As I had my coffee this morning, I sat beside the cage and opened the door, and he jumped onto my finger saying, "How are you?" At least, that's what it sounds like. I also heard, "Pretty bird," and "I love you." I've been trying to teach him to say, "Hello, my friend," but he doesn't listen to me -- just chatters constantly in garbled budgie jargon. He listens to Suzanna, though, as the phrases I heard are the ones she's been repeating ad infinitum. Right now the two of them are playing with a jingle ball, and he's lovin' her up. Proof that with a little love and kindness, almost anyone can be won over.