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Blind lovebird seeks visually impaired cage mate...Blind lovebird seeks visually impaired cagemate...

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Shoelace has a number of feathered friends in our house (1cockatiel, 1 budgie, 1 canary, and, formerly, 2 lovebirds), Bobbin,(now demised) apeach-faced lovebird went blind and was seeking a cage-mate. This is her story.

I recently bought a bird that appeared to have a minor handicap, of one overgrown eyelid.I saw it get picked at by its healthy sighted cage mates and felt sorry for it, had anempty cage at home etc...

So I get "Bobbin" home, feed her, talk to her, get her toys, put her cagenear (but not too near) my talkative parakeets. A few days later it becomes clear Bobbinis very sick so I take her to the vet, who gives me general advice (turn your apt heat upfrom 75 to 80-90--which incidentally boils my poor tropical fish in their tanks) and eyeointment. Despite regular care the infection is so virulent it blinds both eyes over a fewdays. (her left eye looks normal, but is only able to see light and dark) Now I have abird that lives in terror of me and my q-tip of ointment, and who can't see to boot.Lovebirds aren't exactly talkative, so talking to her doesn't cheer her, I've beat back herinfection with fruit juice-laced antibiotics, and regular doses of Mozart and Strauss on alittle tape player I bought her when she went blind, but I think she'd be happier withanother bird around. Problem is I expect a sighted bird would just harass her. So Ipost to every bird bulletin board in vain for is a person looking to get rid of ANOTHERblind lovebird, or a person in my own situation who has a lovebird who was blind whowanted to adopt Bobbin. I found no takers.

December 1997. Bobbin still had no cage mate offers, but she has improved.I've found that regular playing of those New-Age tapes that include bird calls withcalming music (like "Songbirds at Sunrise") makes all my birds get perky andnoisy, including Bobbin. Bobbin is now a noisy bird, especially when I turn on mycomputer and she hears the "Microsoft Sound" start up. I download aLovebird noise from a web site, and rig it so that I can make it squeak from mydesktop. Now when she hears my computer start she squeaks at me to make the noiseand than squeaks in reply each time I push the button. I've also planted her a mini-forestin her cage, taken to moving her perches, rolly-nest and food (each 3 weeks or so,) andgiven her lots of climbing stuff to play with. She has to root around in the"jungle" to get her grit, and explore the rolly nest, the jungle and her dishesto find her favorite treats. The result is she is much more interested in life.

Alas, this Spring I'm obliged to work 12 hour days up at the U, so she gets depressedand lethargic because there is no tape playing or computer playing all day while Iam gone. Bobbin stops squeaking, stops eating, and again looks on the brink ofdemise. Finally I risk buying a sighted bird, the smallest, timidest little yellow andDutch blue baby bird I can find. I put him in Bobbin's cage, go off for my workdayand pray that they don't eat each other. I return 12 hours later to see the babygently grooming bobbin's head. In the days that follow, the baby, now calledButtercup, figures out Bobbin can't do certain things, due to her limitations, so hestarts doing tasks I didn't even know needed being done: like shelling the smaller seedsfor Bobbin. I had always assumed that bobbin just preferred big seeds and ignoredthe rest. Buttercup now performs a whole series of care giver tasks for Bobbin, andBobbin is a new bird. Climbing and dangling about upside-down on the roof of thecage, squeaking with Buttercup in bird shouting matches with the two budgies across theway, chewing apart her rolly nest with vigor, and eating a well rounded diet. LaterI get two finches Hook and Snap who live in another nearby cage.

Now all the birds are bigger, and getting stir-crazy, and bored with their toys. I sense that more room and more stimuli are needed. My boyfriend, Chris, and I workfor several weekends on making a 2' x 3' x 4' cage. We cover the bottom with gritand river gravel, insert tree branches and artificial nests, and put all six birdsinside! After some territorial conflict between the Budgies and Lovebirds, all iswell, and everybody has fun interacting, flying about, and playing with one another's toysand nests. Bobbin, as biggest bird, despite her vision problems, is Queen of thecage, and climbs everywhere, eating everything from everyone's dishes. The finchesattempt to nest, despite Snap's probable maleness. The Budgies periodically raisehell, to the delight of Shoelace, who will sit on top of the cage to watch, getting ALL tobe very quiet for a while. Buttercup lately shows a male tendency to mount Bobbin,so baby birds maybe the next wrinkle in this avian soap opera?

CatBirds&fishShoe&bobbin.jpg Shoelace and Bobbin. Shoelace has anartificial tree made from a foam Ionic column with plants growing on top from which shecan watch Bobbin. While Bobbin had sight, she was not in the least bothered byShoelace watching over her, and was part way to bonding with the cat instead of me becauseof my evil Q-tip wielding ways. Shoelace longs to eat the finches, and occasionallydisplays more interest in the parakeets than they feel comfortable with, but she won'tharass Bobbin even when Bobbin is out of her cage. One day I came home to findBobbin had escaped from her cage and was blindly walking around the living room carpetunder the very nose of Shoelace on the couch, with Shoelace calmly watching her! Mytheory is that since Bobbin no longer flies like a bird, Shoelace doesn't think she isedible.

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Ceenie and Zilly

, the blue and green parakeets. They indulge in constant conversation andacrobatics.

Ceenie andZilly The parakeets' cage at night.

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I don't have any good photos of the Zebra finches, Hook (male) and Snap (?). Snap was very interesting since he/she wasn't clearly one gender or another. Zebrafinches usually have clear, obvious markings, but Snap was marked about 80-90% like afemale, 10-20% like a male. Snap was also smarter and more fearless than Hook whenhe/she was allowed out. Whatever Snap's gender, he/she was a superior finch. Hooks, by the by are "male" (in costume terminology), eyes and bars are"female". Snaps, in contrast, come in both male and female types, and itis often difficult for a beginner to distinguish between the gender of male and femalesnaps.

Hook and Snap went the way of all finches, and I moved up to a pair of femaleCockatiels: Blondie, a pure yellow one, and Trotsky a paranoid pearl grey onewho laid eggs like a chicken.I also got two more lovebirds, Squeakand squawk, one of whom died in a freak accident with his cage a few months later.

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Trotsky went the way of all birds quite suddenly one day after we had heralmost two years, and she is

buriedin the garden, along with the mouse, Lillith, that got out of her cage toplay with the cats (not bright).

The cage is kept open so that the flighted birds can fly around our computerroom when they are bored. However in the cage, Bobbin incidentally was the dominant bird,able to chase the others by feeling their location through vibrations on thecage walls with her feet. In normal circumstances she never left the cage.

Recently Buttercup simply dropped dead one day with no warning (according toour summer house sitter) then shortly thereafter, Bobbin, who never leaves thecage, wondering where her cohort went, decided to go out of the cage looking forher mate and disappeared. Most probably the house sitter forgot to latchthe screen door on the back porch, and she blindly managed to wander out and geteaten by neighbor cats. Very sad to come home to find our two favoritebirds were dead.

Now the remaining 3 birds live in the one big communal cage where they have fun drivingeach other nuts.

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A Graduating student also left her rats with us after moving toNYC.

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Another student had us cat sit her 20 lb beast,"Jessie" whose two main attributes are Buddha like calm, andconstant appetite.

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Another student gave us two "very old" male hand trained ring neckdoves.

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Photoalbum2000garden3Mvc-014f.jpgWithin a month they delivered ample proof they were nothing of the kind: to wita new baby dove, which will be named in honor of the late lamented Trotsky, asTrotz2.

PhotoalbumChristruckMvc-008f.jpgAll three doves lived with the three love birds, two parakeets and the cockatielin the huge cage. The baby bird was born there. Apparently, contraryto every book on bird breeding we have read, these doves prefer the communalcage, and didn't start breeding until they were with a bunch of wacky, noisyparrotlets.

After the doves produced yet another offspring, we found parents and baby anew home with somebody who wanted to breed doves. Trotsky2 we kept.When Zilly the green parakeet died, Ceenie, the blue one decided to bond withthe dove instead. This went from a friendly bonding to a kind of heavyduty sexual harassment a few weeks later. At first we tried separating Ceenieout to another cage, but he kept squawking trying to communicate with Trotz.Trotz reciprocated, driving us nuts. So we began the "Parakeetliberation program" where we let Cennie to live on the outside of the cage(he had to avoid the cats, but he does that pretty well), so he could be closerto Trotz. This went ok for a while, but then the lovebirds wanted outtoo. One day they did just that, not only getting out of the cage, but outof the house and into the yard. Buttercup we managed to lure back with thesound of Bobbin's voice, but Squawk was never seen again.

So we repaired our screen door, built landing perches on the doors (to catchbird droppings) and let any bird who wanted to fly free do so about twice aweek. The dove, Trotz, stayed outside the cage nearly all the time, andwas abysmallystupid about the cats, but was too big to catch for our little cats. Ceeniewas kept in most of the time, but let out regularly till he started driving Trotznuts with his amorous advances (Trotz was also male, in addition to being threeor four times the idiot parakeet's size). Finally we found a new home for Trotz,where he would be safe from horny parakeets.

Another cockatiel became ours when bizarrely, a mysterious man came to ourdoor, asked me if I had a cockatiel, and when I said I did, handed me a largecardboard box with another bird in it. This bird has survived the yellowone, (as well as Ceenie II, another elderly "gift" parakeet who diedafter a rather unsuccessful but expensive bit of surgery). We call him"Fuller" after the door to door brush salesmen of our youth. Sowe are down to 3 birds now, a cockatiel, a parakeet, and a canary, all given tous since we seem to have developed into a retirement home for unwantedbirds. The canary actually stays in a separate cage since it is soarthritic and non-aggressive it would have a lousy time in the communalcage. The two present communal birds loathe getting out of the cage, so wedon't have fly-overs anymore, but they do enjoy sitting in the spot near thewindow and shouting rude bird noises at passing ravens who reply in kind.

"The Costumer's Manifesto"
by Tara Maginnis