Monday, May 9, 2011

Introducing Vinnie & Shakira

Shakira and Vinnie
Vinnie just raised her beak from the hibiscus and spat a chunk of bark mulch a third her size onto the floor.  She's digging holes again.  All day long she's either digging up the dirt in the greenhouse pots or shredding the inside of the pretty little white bird house we bought her some weeks ago. There is a strange ecstasy lighting her beady eyes as she works.

Sometimes she naps and you think she is dead, but no she is resting. Soon she will begin again.

Vinnie is our female parakeet. Shakira is her mate. Shakira's day flaps between cheering Vinnie's deconstructions, trying to lure her out of the birdhouse, and attempting to consummate their relationship.  

This is all a very loud and messy business; and very unlike my previous bird experience minding Omega and Alex, also known as the Hartke-Webbirds, last summer. Omega and Alex spent their days in a large and airy cage. Vinnie and Shakira roam the greenhouse.

I assumed this would be charming. Instead, another whim has gone awry.

The Coming of the Birds began last December.

Oh baby when you talk like that...
Admiring an antique wire birdcage at Ginkgo Gardens, our charming little local garden shop that mixes such with the gardenias and pansies,  I suggested to Monica that we buy it for daddy for Christmas, figuring I could convince him it was for him. She found this idea a bit shabby.  Instead she (secretly) bought it for me.

When Monica returned to Austin, which she currently and inexplicably calls home, The Prince and I had a what to do with over the cage and concluded that we needed a bird. Off we went to Petco or Pet Smart or whatever it's called and sat on the floor in front of the cages for an hour, watching the parakeet activity.  He was surprisingly involved.

Vinnie and Shakira (though at the time we pointedly referred to them as "those two" ) were clearly a pair. Vinnie would hang by her beak from a set of brightly colored hoops and twisting herself around would look for appreciation from Shakira -- who obliged with grating squawks and fluttered wings. Then they'd sit together on a branch and make out.

Shakira was the peacock of the pair, a very pretty bird. Mostly a soft shade of green but with a blue-tinged tail. 

Vinnie, however, was a hesitation. She is not a pretty bird. In fact, she is the homeliest parakeet I've ever seen. Her beak is horny, like an old toenail with a mild case of fungus, and the always rumpled looking feathers on her back are a truly unattractive green. A glaring shade that hurts the eye.  Kind of a florescent spray paint green. There are tiny buggy-looking black dots on her head.  

She is called Vinnie after Vincent, the beast in the old TV series Beauty and the Beast. (Shakira got his name because he goes wild listening to Hips Don't Lie).  We didn't know we had the sexes crossed until their nose holes or snouts or whatever you call them changed to their mature color -- males are blue, females tan. 

While we weren't getting his attraction to her, they were obviously in love and clearly couldn't be parted.  So we took them home where they sat quiet and shivering in their cage for a couple of weeks.  Really boring. 

Then I thought, why not...let them loose? It's a greenhouse-solarium! What could be more natural than a pair of parakeets fluttering colorfully about? And since a screened door is the only separation between this room and my office, I'll add some extra enchantment (distraction) to my days.

They were so timid at first, sticking their skinny clawed feet out the cage door as if they were dipping those toes in a freezing bath.  I hung their food and water on the outside of the cage to force them out to eat and drink. At night I'd carry the cage downstairs and we'd spend the evening en famille. Just me and The Prince and out sweet little birdies watching House or a film on TCM. Though Shakira was skittish, Vinnie would even eat from my hand.  It's already hard to remember those days.

Now they sleep in the branches of the hibiscus and when they wake they shred its leaves and toss dirt about, then they swoop, perching here and there, shitting as they go. It's late spring now so there are birds outside the window. They converse through the screens about who knows what. 

About mid-morning, Vinnie goes inside the birdhouse and begins to scritch scritch at the thin wood, chipping it away and heaving the shavings out the openings (which she has enlarged to better suit her healthy girth).  Every so often she'll look out for Shakira, who's nervously pacing and muttering.

Then they'll kiss.  And she might come out for a bit and they'll get really heavy into the kissing, with eyes rolled back and trembling and so forth and he'll try to climb on top of her -- a very funny looking process that involves kicking a leg out sideways and trying to slide over her back--and she'll knock him over.

That's a trick she learned from Omega, when the Hartke-Webbirds vacationed here over Spring Break. Shakira was making some adulterous moves on the blue-feathered goddess and ... Oops. But that's another tail.  

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