Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Aviary Comes to Visit

Normally Duloc Manor has a good bit of animal life. Three cats and a quaker parrot make for a lively mix. But for this week it's a bit more like an aviary, or perhaps a zoo. Friends of mine headed off to D.C. for the inauguration, so they dropped off their two eclectus, two cockatiels, and one sun conure, as well as their little dog. Truman has stayed at their place while I'm on vacation, so now it was his turn to play host.

If you're not familiar with eclectus, they are parrots that act more like puppy dogs. All of the birds are trained to wear diapers, so they can pretty much wander around (I diaper Truman occasionally, but most of the time he hangs out on top of his cage so he's usually naked).

The Ekkies, two brothers named Milo and Otis, had no trouble settling in at all. For the first day, to allow them to get used to the place, I set up a "play zone" inside a large dog cage, complete with bird gym, toys to chew, and the like, and put it near their cage. They moved back and forth between the play area and their home base, having a lot of fun as you can see in the photo below:

Meanwhile Roscoe the dog, who is very old and deaf but still lively, had some sniffing time with the cats. Tooncinator was hiding under the bed as usual, discussing the state of the world with the voices in his head, but Farquaad and Stitch had to give their visitor the once-over. They like to sniff him thoroughly, then find a way to ensure that they're higher than him at all times, like lying on the coffee table. They'll read down and bat him with a paw as he goes by. They never claw him, but I guess it's just a dominance thing.

Unlike Truman, who stays up till the wee hours with me, the aviary goes to bed around 5:30 or 6. I cover them and move them into the front room, where it's relatively dark and quiet. By 8 a.m. they are rarin' to go, so I give them their food and move them back out into the family room a little later, opening their cage doors so they can run or fly around.

On Day One, the conure and tiels were rather flightly and didn't want to come out much. On the morning of Day Two, they were still the same way. Hubby and I diapered the Ekkies so they could wander around and left the other three closed in since they huddled in the back of the cage when we opened their door. The Ekkies promptly exerted their dominance, climbing to the top of the other two cages to play "King of the Mountain":

Truman's cage is on the left, but you can barely see him because he's hiding in his hut. The other three are on the right.

Later, with Milo and Otis on my shoulders, I opened the other cage door and the conure, Zazu, suddenly decided that coming out is fun after all. He flew right onto my arm, and the cockatiels followed in a feathered explosion. Now they seem to have decided that their new habitat is okay, even tho' there are two predators lurking around. Stitch pretty much ignores them. Farquaad would dearly love to eat them, but he knows all bird life is off limits. That doesn't stop him from creeping along, trying to be sneaky, before I noticed and yell at him. Then he gives me the innocent "I was going to do anything" Puss-In-Boots eyes.

Right now, the biggest challenge is keeping the two big guys from stealing the smaller birds' food. They love to sneak into the other cages and start feasting. It's like keeping an eye on two active toddlers. They both have a wide vocabulary, which they tend to say in my friend's voice. It can be a bit disconcerting to hear "her" saying, "Hello!" "Hey, Otis!" and "Peek-A-Boo." The conure talks, too. I've heard him say his name and one or two other things. The cockatiels will whistle songs when the mood strikes them, but mostly they just whistle randomly.

It's a bit like "Wild Kingdom," but the birds are a lot of fun. Truman is slightly jealous but not too much so. For the most part, he just goes through his regular routine except when the Ekkies try to sneak up on him. Then he does a bit of growling, not that it intimidates them in the least. I always thought Duloc Manor was lively with the usual resident critters, but once the menagerie is gone, it's going to seem like a ghost town!

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