This is a bird love story to show they aren’t just flying machines but have profound emotional lives. In 2003, a woman asked me to take a cockatiel she’d found. The girl I named Maggie was one of the most traumatized birds I’d ever rescued. Free flight is the best way for traumatized birds to get back their sense of power & they love to fly so I make my home bird-friendly. Maggie never let me touch her but would sit behind me & nuzzle my neck. She also didn’t connect with the other birds–a reflection of her suffering since cockatiels are quite sociable birds.
Sometime later I was in the Hmong market across the street from me & heard a cockatiel screaming hysterically. The vendor said the bird was inconsolable after his mate was sold. The man had clipped the bird’s wings so short he was almost disfigured. Such an ignorant man should not have the bird’s fate in his hands so I bought him. I named him Jacques-Pierre because such a sad unfortunate fellow deserved a fancy name. Little Jacquie couldn’t fly for a long while because of his wings but he flourished at my house where cages are for perching, not for captivity. In one of life’s magical moments, he fell in love with Maggie perched all by herself. To see two once miserable birds in the throes of love was its own reward. I don’t breed birds but didn’t interfere with Jacquie & Maggie canoodling. It would have been messing with love. After about a year, Maggie, who still wouldn’t allow me to touch her, pecked on my foot. She had suffered a prolapse laying an egg & was coming to me for help. She died from an infection after surgery to repair the prolapse & a fortune spent on special medical treatments. Jacquie was bereft & grieved a long time, as birds do. They don’t do better with grief than humans do. But he lived & being a little fellow who couldn’t live without love fell for Annie, another traumatized screaming bird I got from the Hmong market.
After we moved to Texas, Annie & Jacquie had a baby named Rocky born with splayed feet. I tried various devices to correct his feet but little Rocky rebelled so I removed them at night. One evening I went out & put them all to bed, including Rocky in his box near Annie & Jacquie. When I returned, I found Rocky had gotten out & unable to land got stuck in the coils of the refrigerator, where he died. Annie & Jacquie spent months on top of that fridge wailing for their baby.
Jacquie got sick so I reluctantly took him to a vet when my remedies didn’t improve his condition. The vet didn’t know what was wrong with him & threw all sorts of meds at him; the vet tech dropped him on the floor. Jacquie was terrified & died in my lap while I was driving home. I pulled off the highway & sobbed. I’ve never again taken my birds to a vet. Annie died about a year & a-half after Jacquie.
This is a video of Jacquie tending to Rocky from November 2009. Jacquie died November 18, 2010. They all live in my heart. Humans don’t do any better with grief than birds.