Friday, December 26, 2008


We spent Christmas at my parents' house, which means we also spent time with their cockatiels. Every time I see these guys, I remember how much fun they are! Unfortunately, they are far too often overlooked, which is a shame because they might just be the perfect pet parrots, if parrots must be pets. There are so many in rescues, unwanted, looking for a family.

About two years ago, my parents adopted Jack and Jill, a former breeding pair of tiels that had been turned into the rescue where we volunteer because the breeder's daughter had developed allergies and she was getting out of the breeding business.

The rescue where I volunteer will not normally adopt out a pair of opposite-sex birds (as there is such an overpopulation problem already), especially a proven pair! However, these two were extremely bonded to each other, and it would have been cruel to separate them. My parents agreed to provide them a home for the rest of their lives, without allowing them to breed.

Jack and Jill do not like to be more than about two feet away from each other. If this happens, they frantically whistle and call back and forth until they are reunited. When they were learning to fly, one of them (most often Jack) would take off and land somewhere. He didn't yet have the flight skills needed to return to Jill, so the two of them would call, frantic, until a human intervened and brought him back to her. They have since become proficient fliers, and manage to almost always stay very close to each other. It is so sweet to watch, and reinforces in my mind the importance of allowing birds to be birds.

Here is a close-up of Jack:And one of Jill:Jack is much more adventurous than Jill in all aspects except food. When a new toy is placed in their cage, he runs over to investigate. After he gives it the OK, Jill will play with it. When they were breeders, they had only a perch and nest box in their small cage. It was amazing how quickly they took to toys, multiple perches, and the freedom to fly around the house!

With food, it's Jill who first tries it out, and if she likes it, Jack will have a taste. They were on an all-seed diet, which has been greatly expanded at my parents' house.

One interesting quirk about them, which makes us laugh every time, is how much they love it when drawers are opened. They get so curious and excited and must go and check it out. They had both been on their cage when my brother opened the door in order to change the CD. I told him to pull out the shelf with the DVDs on it in order to provide the cockatiels with some excitement.

Jack immediately flew to the door and showed interest in the DVDs -- on the far right side, you can see Jill also showing interest in the DVDs:Then, he made the short flight over and started investigating, yet again, the DVDs (several of the covers have cockatiel bites out of them!)Several months ago, they added a third cockatiel to their house. I didn't take any pictures of him, unfortunately. His name is Birdie, and he's a 26 year old tiel. He was surrendered to the rescue because his family had redecorated their house and he no longer fit in. He needed a retirement home, and my parents had an opening, having just lost their quaker.

Unfortunately, he has an old wing injury and will therefore probably never be able to fly. We're hoping that once his flight feathers grow out, he will be able to glide down as he sometimes tries to imitate Jack and Jill when they take off, but he lands on the carpet instead of taking flight.

He loves spending time on my dad's shoulder and one of his favorite things to do is walk around the kitchen table and solicit attention from everyone. We were playing cards over the holiday, and he'd sometimes get in the way of the pile during his wanderings. He has a wonderful whistle that he frequently emits, especially when he's happy. I don't know how much longer we'll have him around, but he sure brightens our lives with his presence now! I don't know how anyone could have disposed of him!


Beloved Parrot said...

Cockatiels are such wonderful, wonderful little parrots! Like a cockatiel expert told me once, cockatiels have everything people want in a parrot -- only in smaller package.

Plus the poops are easier to deal with.

My little yellow cockatiel changed my life -- and still hasn't finished training me.

Meg said...

It is always an amazement to me that people can overlook tiels. They are, (no offense intended for other bird species!) without a doubt, the bird closest to being a perfect "pet" bird. I do not think any bird species make great "pets", but tiels come closer than any of the others.

I am glad your parents adopted a pair. So many times I hear people, even supposed rescue advocates, say that breeder birds and bonded pairs do not make good "pets". That, in my opinion, is nonsense. Maybe they are not the bird(s) for everyone, but they make wonderful companions!

Mary said...

BP -- I completely agree. As much as I love all of my birds, and none of them are going anywhere, if we had to do it all again, I think we'd stick to tiels.

Meg -- Yet again, I agree with you. As much as I love my birds, there would be so much less suffering in the world had humans never taken them into our homes. Tiels really seem to be among the best able to adapt to the unnatural living conditions we impose on them (captivity).

Their pair has far exceeded their wildest expectations. They rather thought they were doing a good deed and taking in birds that wouldn't want human interaction, but wouldn't get much pleasure out of it themselves (I hope that makes sense). But, they do solicit human interaction (for example, they only eat pellets when they are hand-fed to them and will often briefly land on them while flying around). They are among the happiest captive birds I've seen.

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