They were a cute couple, those lovebirds. Sporting deep blue feathers and black heads; they were almost identical looking, except that the male was a bit plumper. They were known collectively as the Nummers. We never even bothered to assign them individual names. Sitting together side-by-side on their perch with their little birdie torsos touching is how they spent their days.
One morning I looked into their cage and discovered Mr. Nummer’s corpse lying on the bottom, motionless. Odd, he had been the more robust of the two. In the days that followed, it surprised us to see that his feathered widow was chirping so happily. Maybe one reason was because she was able to jump down to eat whenever she felt the need, now unencumbered by her late partner. She seemed a little too happy—did she do him in, we wondered.
We kept her at one end of the kitchen by a window. She would listen intently and respond to the birds outside, but cower every time we got near her cage. Every morning it was the same routine. When I leaned down to feed her she squawked and fluttered about frantically. She didn’t like us and consequently, we grew to avoid her.
On the other hand, our two cockatiels, Jack and Angie, thrived on our presence. They seemed to have bonded with us. Our initial plan of breeding them was thwarted when we discovered they didn’t really get along with each other well enough to co-habitat, but seemed to enjoy each other’s company from the safety of their own adjacent cages.
When we moved to another house we set up all three birds in the sunroom. It was then that I realized how clever Ms. Nummer could be. I came home from work one day to find her cage door wide open. After falsely accusing my innocent husband with negligence, it became apparent that she had figured out how to pull up the latch on the cage door. She was gleefully flying back and forth between the two cockatiels’ cages, stopping occasionally to peck at their hanging toys. She wants to play with them, how sweet, I thought.
I was soon to be proven wrong.
I added a clothespin onto her cage door as an extra security measure. She soon figured out how to open that, too. After doing some online research I learned that lovebirds, given the chance, have been known to peck off cockatiels’ feet and even worse. They are territorial and aggressive. My attitude towards the diminutive blue-feathered creature soured. I moved her cage farther away. But the worst was still yet to come.
My husband and I had gone away for a couple of days, but unfortunately our get-away wasn’t as rejuvenating as we had hoped. We had both caught colds, accompanied by sore throats and hacking coughs and couldn’t wait to get back home to collapse onto our respective couches. The minute I opened the front door I could hear squawking and loud chirping emanating from the sunroom. Ms. Nummer was flying around and Jack was walking gingerly on the slate floor. Not only was the lovebird’s cage door wide open, but Jack’s was too. His water dish was tilted downward, empty. White cockatiel feathers were everywhere. Not only had the evil one opened her own cage door, but also she had managed to open Jack’s. Had she been terrorizing him the entire time we were gone? The scenario could have been much worse. I shuddered to think about it. Jack was clearly famished and made a beeline for his food after I got him back into his cage.
“She’s not fit to be around man nor beast,” I bemoaned to my husband.
“I could let her loose outside,” he offered helpfully.
Would an animal shelter even take a bird that was not only unfriendly but also now quite unattractive since she had managed to pull out a good portion of her feathers? I wondered. Meanwhile, my girlfriend had emailed me a holistic medicine tip: Diffuse lavender oil near her cage to mellow her out. How about liquid Valium? I silently berated myself for even harboring such a thought.
Finally, I called the local bird store where I had purchased our small flock. Upon hearing my tale, the owner commiserated, “Lovebirds can be nasty.” Now she tells me. “But I know a breeder who will take her,” she continued.
At last, I picked up the lovebird’s cage and headed for the door, and the cockatiels danced as their terror was carried out into the light.