Monday, August 13, 2012

Okay, about bird poop . . .

I keep threatening to talk about bird poop, so here it is, finally.  I think that the way you feel about bird poop depends on whose poop it is.

Right now, I'm listening to a raucous chorus of seagulls, a ubiquitous presence where I live.  At this time of the year, they sit on the rooftops and squawk mightily.  Over the years, I've gotten some nice pictures of them:

I took this in Bodega Bay, California, which everyone knows from Hitchcock's The Birds.  A juvenile seagull is challenging an older one for space to land, but the older one isn't having any of it.  I kind of like the little one in the middle at the bottom.  He's cute.

Though they're not my favorite bird, they're okay and very easy to photograph.  But if you're sitting in an outdoor restaurant, they can be extremely annoying and will come right up and snag a french fry if you're not paying attention.  And they poop mightily.

This rock near a local lighthouse becomes absolutely encrusted with seagull poop over our long rainless summers, until it's white, and it takes the winter rains (which often don't get going until November or so) to get it back to looking rock-like.  They don't just target rocks, though -- I've been struck a glancing blow by seagull poop, and a woman I work with was hit straight on and stood there, shocked, with poop down the entire front of her blouse, in the middle of a work day.  The eeewwwwww factor of such a hit is great.  It was disgusting.

Still, they're very photogenic and always available to pose, and they draw people who love to feed them, like this man.  They're okay, as long as they don't bomb me from above.

So how can you feel okay about bird poop, as I suggested above?  Well, for a long time I owned companion birds, a pastime that culminated in our sharing our home with a Moluccan cockatoo, a magnificent creature whom I loved for years (and still do, but I lost her in the divorce).

This is not my actual bird, but since they all look alike, this picture will do (I wasn't doing much photography back then).  We got her when she was 10 months old, her name is Tybbie, and she's now probably 11 or 12 years old, a mature bird whose somewhat wild teenage years are past.

You're taking a bit of a chance, getting a Moluccan, of which there are three genders recognized -- male, female and "supermale," the ones that are the flock leaders.  Supermales can be extremely aggressive and are powerful enough to break a finger or your nose, if they attack you.  Since the gender of a cockatoo isn't apparent until a couple of years down the road, when you can tell the gender by the eye color, you really don't know what you're getting if you buy a very young bird.

We completely lucked out with Tybbie.  She turned out to be female, and a gentle giant of a bird -- to this day, she has never bitten anyone out of anger, only in play, and we were careful not to play aggressive games with her (like teasing her with fingers).  She is calm and just fine with strangers, even little kids.  I know their moms look dubious when a kid asks to pet her, but she was always sweet.  She's very affectionate, and I spent many an hour at the computer with her nestled on my chest.  She learned a few words ("good girl," and "I love you,"), and she would poop on command (if you want to control where/when she's pooping on a social occasion, for example).

Are they loud?  Oh, you'd better believe it -- they can peel the paint off the walls, when they get going.  But we never had a neighbor complain about the noise, and Tybbie wasn't very noisy.

She loved to torment the dog, an older Lab, and would lean down off her perch and gently bite Amber on the tail, and would play fight with her.  Large birds are kind of like dogs, in a way -- they are very affectionate, extremely loyal, would defend you in a moment if the situation arose, and Tybbie could tell when the car came in the driveway, and would happily squawk until you got into the house, just as a dog would.  

Wow, this has turned into a very long post!  I actually have a lot to say about birds, and might return to it at some point.  But to go back to the poop thing, many is the time that I went out of the house not realizing I had a poop trail down the back of my shirt, and when someone would point it out, I would have to smile, because after all, it was Tybbie poop.  :)


TexWisGirl said...

i like your seagull photo. and tybbie sounds beautiful and sweet. yes, companion birds can be very affectionate and demand to be near you, just like a dog or cat might. :)

Marilyn said...

Your post causes me to reminisce about my Amazon yellow nape parrot. We had him for ten years but due to changes in the family I had to give him to friend of a friend. He was so much fun. He talked very well and likrd to sing if he heard a female voice singing. Couldn't carry a tune though. He liked taking showers with me. But he could be very loud and screechy! He also spoke Spanish. Or maybe I should say he also spoke some English! Just like a little child....

Elise Ann Wormuth said...

They can be wonderful companions, really. Tybbie loved to go into the shower, too! You have to really trust a bird to get into the shower naked with it :) You're pretty vulnerable!

Mrs4444 said...

Your photos are beautiful, and I enjoyed the bird stories :)