So there I was, heading out to my car one cold November day in Maine. I honestly cannot remember where I intended to go, because, as it turned out, I never got there. As I crunched across the gravel parking lot behind my apartment house, my attention was drawn to a splash of bright neon green on the side of my sedate tan-colored Pontiac T1000. When I got closer, I was startled, shocked, amazed, befuddled – the neon green splotch was actually a BIRD sitting on my side-view mirror. Not just any bird, though, and definitely not a Maine bird. It appeared to be a smaller version of a tropical parrot. Mind you, I was not an expert in birds, tropical or otherwise, but I was pretty darn sure that a bird like that was not normally a Maine resident (at least not outdoors). I was also sure that it would never survive the upcoming Maine winter. So I decided that it was up to me to rescue it and then try to find where it came from.
Fast forward – there I am in the parking lot a bit later, brandishing a double-ended whitewater kayak paddle in the general direction of the bird, in the futile hope that it would climb off my mirror and on to my paddle. I have NO idea why I thought this strategy would work. (I think I was the “bird brain” that day.) The little green mini-parrot just huddled closer to the car window, attempting to evade the blade of the eight foot kayak paddle. Finally, I wised up and ditched the paddle and walked oh so slowly to the car, with my hands stretched in front of me.
In fact, I walked smack dab up to the car window, reached out, and gently cupped the little bird between my palms. I think he was relieved to be rescued from that kayak paddle!
After carrying him upstairs to my apartment, I dug out the Yellow Pages (this being well before the days of wide-spread Internet use) and looked up the nearest pet store. Not having any pets of my own, I had never noticed that there was one right around the corner from my apartment building. I called them up and described my little feathered house-guest to the nice man who answered the phone. He informed me that I had made the acquaintance of a peach-faced lovebird, a species definitely not intended for outdoor living in northern climates. It must be an escaped pet.
Off to the pet store I dashed to purchase the bare essentials for hosting a peach-faced lovebird while searching for its rightful owner. “Bare essentials” turned out to be a fairly extensive collection of items (although not nearly as extensive as the “bare essentials” for a free lizard from an elementary school science class, but that’s a topic for another day). I came home with a small cage, food and water dishes, bird seed, a bird toy, a book about lovebirds, and probably other paraphernalia that has slipped my mind.
Then I posted “LOVEBIRD FOUND” flyers on all the light poles around the neighborhood and also took out an ad in the local newspaper. And I waited for a call from the lovebird’s owner, who was sure to come forward to claim the missing pet. And I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Until finally I had to accept the fact that no one was going to come and get this little fellow.
So another trip to the pet store ensued to acquire items for the long-term support of a peach-faced lovebird, starting with a bigger cage, more toys, and stalks of millet, apparently the birds’ equivalent of caviar. And I read that lovebird book cover to cover.
I learned that lovebirds are very social and require lots of companionship and attention. No problem – it was so much fun to watch D.C. (his new name) explore all the nooks and crannies of my apartment.
His favorite place was the bathroom – he loved running water. He would sit on the faucet handle and watch me brush my teeth. Then he would jump down in the wet sink and investigate. One day I got the bright idea to turn the water on a trickle for him, and he adored it – he splashed around under it, fluffed his feathers, shook himself, and generally had a blast. From then on, the sound of a faucet was certain to get his attention, and he took birdie showers practically every day.
D.C. also loved to watch television with me. I would sit with my feet up on an ottoman, and D.C. would perch on my sock-covered toes and listen hard for the sound of any T.V. birds chirping, singing, or otherwise vocalizing. For this reason, he preferred nature shows! His own vocalizations were frequent and quite loud. The book said that in the wild, lovebird flocks would disperse over several square miles to feed, keeping in touch with their “contact call”. I had no trouble believing that D.C.’s contact call could be heard two miles away. He was one noisy bird!
Another of D.C.’s favorite things (not counting running water, National Geographic T.V. shows, and millet), was junk mail. Yes, junk mail. He liked to shred the edges of it with his oh-so-sharp beak until he had ripped off long shreds of paper, which he promptly tucked under the feathers on his back, repeating the process until he was festooned with so many shreds of paper that he looked like some kind of bizarre cross between a peacock and a newspaper. I found out later that this is how lovebirds carry material back to the nesting site. D.C. never attempted to build a nest; he was just satisfied with the shredding and festooning process. So every day after I sorted my mail, all the junk mail was slid between the bars of D.C.’s cage for his (and my) entertainment.
I will never know just how that entertaining, friendly little bird came to be sitting on my car mirror that cold day in Maine. I am just glad that it was MY car he chose to sit on.
Sources — Barron’s Complete Pet Owner’s Manuals, Lovebirds; Dirk Van den Abeele, Lovebirds: Owner Manual and Reference Guide
Digital Content — CM Kits Ageless Beauty, Baby Boy, It’s a Boy, Enchanted Spring
Fonts — Just Gotta Smile, CF Urban Life, Fancy Schmancy, AR Christy, Eurocaps, Castellar