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July 15, 2006

The Bird Whisperer -- UPDATED

Well, I wish. This story has just begun. [scroll down for update]

It's been one of the hottest days of the year in So. Cal. and it's still over 90 degrees outside.

About 5:30 pm, in spite of the heat, husband and I take tall cool beverages and sit on the back patio. It is a green oasis filled with plants -- two ficus trees, ferns, herbs, roses -- with some comfy seating and even a chimenea. We look across the backyard lawn and spot in the shade of a large mulberry tree a very white and out-of-place bird. A cockatiel.

I'm pretty much a cat person and what I know about birds is only from a few people I know. But I've rescued other animals, so I approach him slowly, talking and watching his body language. The bird is blinking, not trying to flee and swaying a bit. He looks in distress and with the 101 degrees at the time, I go get a pie plate to fill with water. Merely turning on the hose rouses the bird and he skitters across the lawn to get to water before I even finish filling the pan.

All I do next is sit on the ground near the water and talk to him softly and constantly. I offer him some bird food I keep for my wild bird feeders. He delicately munches some then starts to walk around me until he walks across the patio to where the hose lies coiled near the house. He finds it to his liking, his claws easily grasp it, and he settles down for a nap.

Now I'm really worried. He's still on the ground and there are neighborhood cats that might prowl through and he is going to be easy picking. So I run to my 'puter to seek advice (a shout-out to my Cotillion sisters, God love them!) while husband gets in the car and canvasses the neighborhood for any signs advertising lost cockatiel or seeing if anyone is looking.

As sunset approaches I'm told I need to get the bird inside, and either the bird is tame enough to hop a ride on my finger, or a light towel thrown over him will let me move him. I have a cat carrier and I clear out the first floor bathroom that can be his place until I can get hold of a bird rescue organization.

I then sit for another hour talking to the bird and trying to coax him into my hand. He dances back and forth on the hose, eats from my hand and as I move to capture him, he stretches his wings and flies up into one of my ficus trees.

And there he roosts right now. Six feet off the ground, perfectly camoflaged in the heavy, dense greenery. Mockingbirds nested and successfully raised a family in that tree two years ago, so the bird is safe.

I've filled two shallow pans of water for him and when morning comes I will try again to capture him.

Damn, Cesar Millan makes it look so easy!

UPDATE He spent an uneventful night roosted in the ficus. I spent yet another hour talking with him to gain his trust. He would let me get close but refused offers to get on my finger. I got the stepstool, a towel and he didn't fuss as I draped the towel over him. A couple of squawks as I removed him from the tree, but now he's safe -- and cool! -- in the bathroom, perched on the [lowered] shower curtain rod. It will be his space until I can locate a rescue organization for him.

Last week I got kittens from the shelter, this week I rescue a bird. What critters does next weekend hold for me?!

Posted by Darleen at July 15, 2006 09:27 PM


- Definately someones pet Darleen... One of the maintainance guys in my apartment complex keeps them. Has a parrakatiel, the larger of the parakeet group, (emerald green), that rides around on his shoulder when he does chores or goes shopping, and the complex manager has a Cockatoo, think Baretta, that she lets out every day in the garden, to get some air and talk to all the passers-by. One thing I learned from him, since I'm not familiar with bird raising, is you never ever let a bird sit on your head. Always on your shoulder or you hand/arm. They immediately assume dominance if you do that, and become impossible to train or control, or so he says.

Posted by: Big Bang Hunter at July 16, 2006 09:29 AM

If you like rescue, find the nearest rescue place and see if they offer classes, or know someone who does. My wife did so in Vacaville and not only learned a lot that she's already applied, but had a lot of fun. For liability reasons they usually don't allow kids, though my wife, who could sell refrigerators to Eskimos, managed to get my ten year old daughter in on some of the training as well. We've had a variety of birds and small mammals, but the Raven who stayed for 8 months was the most interesting.

Posted by: epador at July 20, 2006 09:43 PM