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Green Acre #383: Three Birds and a Garden

Cooper, with his/her backdrop of toad lilies. / Photo illustration by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

COOPER’S TAIL is filthy. Their feathers are more gray than white.  I don’t know how this happened. I created an attractive little pool in the cage. So far, no interest. Maybe as it gets hotter . . . 

Notice my reference to Cooper as “their”? My first stab at this personal pronoun business. The sex of parakeets is unknown until they are about 6 months old. The nose bit turns blue for boys and tan for girls. Cooper’s is neither—sort of bluish tan. So, intersex?

Cooper, or Coop, for short, is a parakeet, a budgie. The whitest parakeet I’ve ever seen. This is a description, not a political statement. They is not (are not?) an albino. Their  eyes are black not red.

Can I just switch off between the sexes? This personal pronoun bit is awkward. I won’t get into whether birds can even have personal pronouns, as they are not persons but miniature dinosaurs.  

He was one of three budgies My Prince bought me for my birthday before last, so she’s about a year and a half old. If his sex was going to show, it would have done so by now. 

There were just three in the cage at Petsmart or Petco or wherever. The other two birds, Bossy and Buddy, a pair of beautiful blues, were clearly a couple, but if we took them, this white bird would be left on the perch . . . which was just sad. Like ostracizing him. God knows what that would do to her psyche. So we decided to take all three. 

As it happened, just as we’d paid and were leaving the store, a woman raced in to buy a parakeet for her son’s birthday. The only thing the child wanted, and she had called the store and, Yes, she was told, they had some . . . 

We slouched away, feeling kind of lousy. Not only did we ruin this kid’s birthday, we could have made a few bucks. 

Anyway, naming. Coop’s name was settled before we left the store. Being the world’s whitest parakeet, she was named after Anderson Cooper, who I consider the world’s whitest man (without being albino and also not a political statement). 

We took the three birds home and let them loose in the greenhouse/solarium off my office, where the notion was they’d wing about joyously amid the tropical plants I nurse through the winter and I could watch their amusing little stunts from my desk. This is how it was with an earlier pair, tragically lost. So, I had reasonable expectations. 

Instead, Bossy spent all of his days, from the moment he entered the house, determined to bust loose. Buddy helped. Savages. It was horrific.

Coop, the outsider from the beginning, had a little corner that she gnawed. On chilly evenings the trio would snuggle on a perch, but other than that, Coop was a loner. 

Doesn’t much like me, either. He screeches maniacally when I get too close.

And then Buddy died. And Bossy died. Don’t ask, it was traumatic. 

Coop was left. At this point, which was a few months ago, and inspired by the wreckage of the walls (which Bossy had pecked away at trying to get loose), The Prince decided to begin his long anticipated project of rebuilding the back porches—taking down the existing glass panels and extending the upper level from halfway across the back of the house to the full 20-foot width. 

This meant caging Cooper, which does not please him/her. Them. But the weather is mild so Coop spends the days on the back porch loudly yakking with passing birds. No one visits, which is sad. Perhaps one day one will. I know of at least one escaped parakeet in the neighborhood; perhaps that one will find its way to us. 

Meanwhile, Coop watches me in the garden. 

Ah. At last we get to the garden.

Today I’m planting a patch of toad lily (Tricyrtis ‘Sinonome’), a plant I did not know I wanted—needed—until our friend Karen offered some up from her front yard. Toad lily, which has strappy foliage and canes covered in late summer with colorful spotted flowers that resemble small orchids, not only likes the shade, it adores the shade. And this is the gift I give my plants: a shade that becomes deeper each year thanks to the wingspan of the kwanzan cherry that we stupidly planted about a decade ago. 

Toad lily is also extremely hardy, drought resistant and deer resistant, and spreads, and spreads, and spreads. Which is why Karen gave me a small bucketful. I believe they’re purple.

One more thing. 

How do you wash a feral parakeet’s tail?

3 thoughts on “Green Acre #383: Three Birds and a Garden

  1. Jean — recessive budgie? (where do yours fly? I feel so bad for caged Coop – if only I knew he’d stay in the garden). I’ve tried squirting but he reacts like I’m assassinating him — will try again. THANK YOU for the kind words too. S

  2. Jean Gudaitis says:

    I fill a mister with warm water for my free range budgies. They have gotten used to me squirting them now. Put some letuuce in the bathtub you gave them and they might use it.
    I think Cooper is a recessive budgie. His cere may stay that color, or thereabouts.
    I am crazy about toadlilies, too! Thanks for years of humor and inspiration. Your garden is so lovely and reminds me of when I lived on The Hill.

  3. Maggie Hall says:

    As usual got a kick and a laugh out of this week’s offering…& as you decided on Cooper being a “her,” what are you trying to tell us about Anderson?

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