[JP Lund was my roommate from freshman year in college. We got along just fine, but were on different paths in life. He was a music major while I had just retired from rock ‘n roll at the tender age of 18. After college our paths never crossed until very recently when he signed up to become a Silverback. He publishes a blog, too, and this is his most recent post You can read more at jplund.wordpress.com.
I suggest you watch the video below for a few seconds, then use it as a soundtrack as you read through the rest of the post. SB SM]
“Our cockatiel, Tony, had died in January, 2020, after a long life. In late October, we finally went to the Bird Shop. We brought home a Sun Conure. We named her Bijou.
Bijou was over a year old, fully grown, and used to people when we got her. Her flight feathers had been clipped, which greatly hampered her flying. Occasionally, she would furiously flap her wings, but quickly loose altitude. It was comical, but also pathetic. It upset her. Birds need exercise and like to fly. After her feathers grew out a bit, we tried coaxing her to fly a short distance, but she was unwilling to try. Sometimes a sudden sound would startle her, and she would instinctively leap into the air, fly around, and usually land near where she took off. After this happened a few times, each time with slightly better results, she gained confidence. In the end, she would fly on her own to get where she wanted to be.
We had a cage in the corner of my office, and an old tree branch above it. During the day, she would be perched on the branches above the cage. At night, we put her inside the cage, where we know she would be safe. In the morning, she would shriek for attention when she heard us up and about, and then we would go through our morning ritual. I reached into the cage, and she perched on my finger. I then held her over the trash basket and said “Gimme a poop; Poop!”. She soon learned that after she pooped, she would get a treat, a piece of dried fruit or walnut. Usually, she did not poop in her cage overnight, and thus her first effort of the day was a big juicy one. This was pretty much the extent of her training.
Bijou spent a lot of time perched on my shoulder. She would groom me, treating my hair as she would her mate’s feathers. She particularly like the hairs coming off the back of my ear lobes. Once, I trimmed these, bowing to my wife’s wishes, which left Bijou without her usual hair to grab. So she nipped my ear, drawing a bit of blood.
Knowing she was a tree animal, we did not attempt to potty train her, past that one morning poop, so I had a special wardrobe of old shirts that I wore when I was carrying her around. She liked to chew on things, and she especially liked to bother the decorations on the t-shirts. I have one that used to feature a portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr., but now, his face has so many wholes that it is almost unrecognizable.
The cats, though they hunt birds in our little back patio, understood that this was a pet. We felt that we could completely trust them, while we were watching, and did our best not to leave them in the same room with the bird when we weren’t watching. They would occasionally express some curiosity about Bijou, but I never sensed a threat.
Feathers grow, and feathers fall out. When she first started molting, I just discarded the feathers. After a while, I was bothered by throwing such beauty away, so I started a feather collection. I took a picture. A few days later, I took another picture.
After I put these on Facebook, someone suggested that a crafts person might want to make use of them, and I started collecting them with purpose, keeping them in this little plastic box. I eventually found someone willing to take them; she passed them along to someone else. Currently, I have another collection to give away, shown here.
Sun Conures are from tropical forests. Bijou loved showers. She always seemed to have itchy new quills growing. My wife Footie gave the best showers, as you can see (video). Eventually I got skilled enough that Bijou would tolerate my attempts.
Because of the pandemic, I spent a lot of time on Zoom: family gatherings, community council meetings, committee meetings, the Americas Section Meeting for the Friends World Committee for Consultation, even unprogrammed meeting for worship. I tried bringing Bijou with me to these. People seemed to enjoy her presence, her little antics, except when she started shrieking. It was often remarkable how quiet she would be, until the meeting started, or until I had something to say. She seemed to notice when I thought that what I was saying was important and she picked those times to add her voice to the proceedings. Often, Footie would come and remove her, or I would retreat to a different room. There are now a lot of people who know me as the guy with the bird.
Sometimes, I would practice the piano with the bird on my shoulder. She would occasionally shriek, but soon this started working ok. In the Minuet from Suite Bergamasque, there is a sudden loud chord. The first time we went through this together, she was startled by the big chord, and flew a little circle around the room. Finding no good place to land, she came back to my shoulder. After a while, she got used to this passage, and the big chord no longer bothered her.
I recorded the Prelude from that same suite with the bird on my shoulder for a talent show that was part of an extended Zoom gathering. Despite the pianist’s obvious flaws, I thought the video came out quite well.
Sometimes, Bijou didn’t ask for attention first thing in the morning, so when it happened one morning, I paid little attention. Then it happened for the second day in a row, and when I got her, she did she have her usual morning giant poop. Later, she didn’t even accept a treat: she took it in her beak, and tried to grab it with one foot as usual, but didn’t seem steady on one foot. She eventually just dropped it. Of course, it was the weekend. We took the first appointment we could get with the vet, which was for Tuesday. That Monday evening, I had a Zoom meeting and she stayed quiet the whole time, snuggling against my neck. The next day when the vet examined her, he discovered a ruptured air sac. They kept her over night. They called the next morning to tell me that she did not survive the night.
I retrieved the remains, and buried her in the front garden, next to our house. I covered the grave with a stone full of local Ordovician fossils. This little private ritual helped me grieve. As does writing this description of our time together. She was just a pet, with us for less than a year, but you want such things to matter. Footie and I will miss her. Even my Zoom companions will miss her.