Just before I fall asleep I’ll ask myself what I learned that day. Usually I come up trumps. (It needn’t be a big, impressive thing- just something new.)
Let me explain. (But first, a little background...)
BB Birdie is very different from Gray and Daffy. She was hand raised from infancy by a couple who showed her much affection, and who took the time to interact in meaningful ways with the little budgie. She loved them, and when they had to part with her to move to a faraway land, my younger daughter Lisa and her husband Peter, who knew nothing about budgies, agreed to adopt her. First, though, there was an introductory period, where they visited, and got to know her. The couple explained what games BB enjoyed, like tug-o-war, and ‘lets sing together,’ and taught them how to keep the bird healthy.
It was a good fit. BB took to Lisa and Peter right away. When she would occasionally droop, or go silent from missing her first family, they took care to smooth those times with lively conversation.
Gray and Daffy, though, were ignored in their formative years. Oh, they always had food and water and clean cages, but no steady, meaningful human contact. Lisa and Peter adopted them a few months after obtaining BB, to provide her with companions, but these budgies aren’t ‘tuned’ to humans, or to other birds. They might fly toward her, or me, but will rarely land, and almost never chat. They have habituated to each other, and prefer to spend almost all their time close together inside the big cage, though the door is open much of the time. In there they feel safe. Secure.
(Children thrive on the same sort of contact, especially during the first three or four crucial years of their lives. If they don’t experience this warm, affectionate connection they’ll tend to be more solitary as adults, and less able to adapt to change.)
BB is such fun to learn about, and from. When Lisa came to visit a few days before leaving for Italy, she taught me, by example, how to interact more fully with the tiny bird.
Today I tried two of her techniques- with great success!
I bought a bunch of green grapes, plucked one off the twig, diced it into tiny sections, put the grape bits onto a tablespoon and took it to the bird room. BB flew to my shoulder, chirping a welcome. I settled in my chair and put the grape-full tablespoon to my lips, then made gentle ‘yum-yum’ lip-smack noises. BB watched me happily nudging the spoon, and so ran down my arm straight to the grape offering. We were beak to mouth, sharing. She loved the fruit, and loved being so close to me. She actually gave a kind a purrrrring sound to show her contentment, and approval of this new treat presented properly. (I’d offered budgie-approved fruit before, but on a flat plate set down on the table. It was ignored. Nobody was even curious.
BB, annoyed that I didn’t understand ‘Ugh,’ had even nipped me.
I’d finally given up.)
Now Gray and Daffy watched BB feasting, but would not come over to investigate. It isn’t who they are. New experiences, especially with a giant, tentacled human, don’t tempt them, even when a favorite food is presented.
Nature vs. nurture: so much of an animal’s early experiences with or without its own kind, and the ability to accept and adapt to environmental changes as they grow older, have to do with the latter, I reckon.
After BB had feasted on the grape she flew into the cage to settle on her perch and preen. So, with everyone ‘landed,’ I played ‘In Paradisium,’ from Faure’s Requiem Mass. All three birds froze, shut their eyes, and Listened. That glorious music, sung solo by a boy chorister, with three other boys harmonizing in the background only at the end of a long musical sentence, with no orchestral accompaniment, enchanted them. (Birds love sounds in higher registers. Beethoven, for example, tends to pounce and growl in much lower, more powerful tones, which would certainly unsettle them. So, I wouldn’t play his work.)
When Faure’s masterpiece finished, they kept their eyes shut and remained silent and still, absorbing the experience. Ten minutes passed. Quiet still reigned.
Lisa says they fancy J.S. Bach, and even sway to his musical rhythms while they cheep along, so tomorrow I’ll offer his more delicate compositions.
Sharing is such fun!