Saying goodbye is always a difficult thing. There are those people that you’ve really grown fond of, and are going to miss deeply. There are those people you didn’t realise you would miss until you actually said goodbye. There are those people that you are not going to miss at all. And then there’s the bird.
The story of the bird starts a long way back. You may remember my blog from 2 years ago, when I mentioned our pet pigeon, Itchy. At the time, Itchy and I were not the best of friends, and he made me doubt my potential parenting credentials. Sadly, my relationship with Itchy did not get any better, and as he became more aggressive and started attacking me when I tried to give him food, we knew it was time to send him back to “the farm”. I thought our birding days were over.
I was wrong. It wasn’t long before my bleeding heart husband surprised me with…….a pet parrot. Surprise! Not just any pet parrot, an itty witty baby parrot that was clearly ripped from its nest too early and then paraded around the hot streets of Honiara in a cramped wooden cubicle in the name of income generation. Sadly, this bird didn’t last long enough to receive a name: we found the poor little pet dead in his cage after just three days. With self-esteem in my parenting skills hitting rock bottom, I thought this event would finally cement our bird-less future.
Wrong again. It seems my husband’s compassion for birdlife knows no bounds. In February last year he surprised me with yet another pet parrot. The same size as the first, cramped in the same small bamboo cage and dehydrated in the hot sun for the same time, I didn’t really foresee a bright future for this one. However, unlike me, Manyoni was determined to make it work.
I shouldn’t have been surprised then when I came out to the verandah and found Manyoni with the bird nestled in his hand, feeding it masticated food directly from his mouth. This continued for weeks. Oral hygiene became the number one priority in our household from that day on.
Clearly his devotion was having the desired effect because the bird started to grow. Realising that it may be around for longer than I thought, we decided to give it a name: Kara, meaning Parrot in morovian – one of the Solomon Island’s languages. While the morovian word, Kara, is gender neutral, the English version is not. Given the fact that we had no idea what sex our baby bird was, poor Kara grew up in a very gender-confused environment being labelled she, he, and it.
Despite this, he/she/it continued to grow, and then started to attempt to fly. Now, I have never attempted to learn to fly (barring leaps off the verandah when I was a child), and it became clear that it can be a little scary, even for birds. Whenever I was cradling baby Kara, she would try to break free, resulting in her almost falling. Her response: a big poop. Clearly, this built up an association and she just commenced pooping every time she tried to fly, and every time I came near. Yep, that’s class A parenting right there.
Despite the shaky start, Kara did begin to fly. She flew into walls, windows and people. It was around this time that we observed her becoming lethargic and unable to lift his head. Given its recent flying attempts, we thought that perhaps she had misread his ability to stop when flying towards a cement wall, and had injured itself. Sadly, Kara just got worse and one morning I went onto the verandah to see her lying dead on the floor. Unable to bear the sight of her, I found a sheet to drape over his lifeless body. As I did so, it let out a squawk. He wasn’t dead!
Manyoni, the doting Dad, decided to take her to the vet in a final attempt to prevent our third bird murder. The vet prescribed milk and antibiotics to be administered through a syringe. The doting Dad did so, every few hours as required, even during the night. Within just a few hours, our baby Kara bird had risen from the dead. She began lifting her head, then he began walking, and within days, it was flying around and smacking into walls once again. It was a miracle! Hence she was dubbed the baby Jesus bird.
That near-death experience helped us all bond as a family, and I began to take my parenting role more seriously. Every day, we spoiled Kara with an unreasonably huge serving of milk, rapidly depleting my personal rations. We celebrated when she spoke her first (and only) word: Kara. She became playfully aggressive, flying on top of our heads and squawking in our ear, occasionally doing a happy poop while there (trying to get that stuff out of dreads is not easy!).
The most exciting thing was watching our little gender-confused bird grow into a juvenile superbird with its own personality. Some days, she would just stand on her perch and do a side-to-side dance, with or without music. Other times, I would catch it contorting itself around the cage, with one leg holding herself from the roof, and his other leg and beak lifting up two separate coconut shells (like some sort of prisoner, body building thing).
When released, Kara would run along the swinging clothesline, like a stealth army commando; or she would just swing upside down like a wannabe bat. The cutest, for me, was when she would try to bathe himself in the teeny tiny drinking bowl (because if we gave it a bigger bowl he would just tip it over), making her looked like a drowned rat. All of this was possibly a result of psychosis from being in a semi-permanent state of solitary confinement, but we found it endearing.
Much less endearing was when she would make a rapid attempt to fly over our heads into the house, which ultimately ended with me breaking my ankle in an effort to turn and catch her while on the edge of a step. We won’t dwell on that.
With such fondness for our miracle bird growing, it was sad to have to put her into foster care during our month-long visit to Africa. However, Kelvin is the biggest bird lover I know, so I knew she would be in safe hands. Indeed, when we arrived back in Solomon Islands, Kara was doing well, so we didn’t feel the need to collect it straight away.
As Murphy’s law would have it, that night Kara disappeared. We are still yet to determine if it was a case of birdnapping, or if Kara had just got smart enough to let himself out of the cage, but poor Kelvin was beside himself. (I, personally, thought it solved us a lot of problems). In contrast, Manyoni had a sense that that was not the end. Indeed, after three days, Kelvin found Kara happily perched on the shoulder of the neighbour’s child, and she was quickly returned to its cage and into our care. The miracle bird strikes again.
Whatever had happened with Kelvin, or with the neighbour’s child, had changed Kara. For the first few weeks after his return, she was the most placid and pleasant bird-child I had ever encountered. I thought, perhaps, that she had finally reached maturity. But I was wrong. Sombre Kara was clearly just a mask for the fully aggressive Kara that would come soon after (which makes me certain it has something to do with our parenting style).
However, with only a couple of months before our Solomon adventure was to come to an end, we also had to find a new residence for our multiple-personality child. As in many cases, relieving yourself of a burdensome pet can be easily achieved by sending them to “the farm”. This is exactly what we did, except that we sent her to a real farm – Modi’s farm – in a new, bigger cage, surrounded by trees, dogs, and other parrots in cages to talk to.
Prior to our Solomons’ departure, we visited her there and he has settled in well and started talking more (Yep, we clearly were the worse bird parents ever). It was an epic parenting adventure with our miracle gender-confused multiple-personality baby Jesus bird. May she/he/it one day spread its wings and fly.