My goodness, I wrote this in mid January… Anyway here it is. So the festive season and supposed summer holidays rushed by in a blur of cold and rainy weather, chores, unscheduled maintenance and more and more chores. We had close to 100mm of rain! But now we have a case of culpable homicide and another of voluntary manslaughter on our hands.
In order to cope with the heat and the long sunshine days, I went out and bought a 50m lead so we could temporarily put our sump pump into the duck pond and at least get the water flowing through the bio filters, until the suppliers got back to work to send us a replacement solar pump, which packed up just as summer started. Those long outdoor leads aren’t cheap I can tell you. It worked well for about 4 days and we had a nice flowing stream through the filters and into the pond. The ducks and us were all happy. But then it started tripping the power – as in the entire main switch, everything! And right about the same time, the pool’s UV filter sprung a leak as well as the pond’s bio filter outlet. Nice, right when nobody is available to fix them, and if you tamper with them yourself, they’re no longer under warranty…
While that’s enough cause to murder someone, that’s not what these cases are about. No this is way more serious. It involves a certain breed of bird: Neophema, an Australian genus with six or seven species. They are small parrots differentiated by patches of colours, and are commonly known as grass parrots. The genus has some sexual dichromatism, with males having brighter hues. (Adapted from Wikipedia).
So about 2 weeks ago we found Rica (the adult female Neophema we had) dead on the ground. Her chest feathers were a little ruffled but other than noticing it, we made nothing of it. She was a good flyer and a very alert bird, so we thought she must have had a fright and maybe flew into some obstacle (there are many sticks serving as perches in the aviary.) A very sad day indeed – she was a beautiful little specimen, and a pretty scarce one too.
In the meanwhile we had another heart-attack when young Pokey (my son’s hand-reared baby cockatiel, with supposedly clipped wings) suddenly decided she could fly one day while he was carrying her on his shoulder to the house. She flew over the pool, over the school fence and luckily back into our vegetable garden, where we caught her again. So we bought a little carry cage so my son could carry Pokey safely between the house and the aviary.
Then 3 days ago I went in the aviary on a routine visit and I found Rico (the hand-reared baby Neophema male) sitting hunched up in the food bowl. Now Rico regularly sat in one of the food bowls – he eats often and a lot for such a small little bird. I went closer to pick him up on my finger, as I often do. Great was my shock to see his whole front chest covered in blood and he was too weak to climb on my finger.
So we rushed him out of there, washed his chest (what a delicate operation), put Echinacea on to fight any potential infection and put him in the small carry cage. Thank goodness we had the carry cage! So Rico is now recovering in the study where I spend most of my working day. Maybe he’ll learn some interesting words! He’s recovering quite well – he’s eating, drinking, climbing around and even started climbing onto the little swing.
But the problem is, we can’t really release him back into the aviary. The guys at Victorian Bird Company, where we got them from, reckon it’s definitely an attack by one of the other birds. The family reckons we must get 5 more Neophemas, as they are flock birds, and he will be protected through sheer numbers. But he may just get attacked again and potentially fatally, as his one wing was initially clipped so severely that he still can’t fly… So he can’t escape any threat quickly. Besides, Rica was fully mobile and very alert, and she got taken out. So maybe there’s a killer on the loose!
But how do you determine the killer without putting Rico or another bird in as bait? And again, it may be fatal and it may happen when you’re not there, then you would lose a precious little life and be none the wiser. I’ve noticed if I sit there and observe them; it seems as if their behaviour changes. They seem to become quite a lot more subdued. It’s as if they know they’re being watched.
Now I have to say Rico is not the brightest bird. When I sat there one day he literally tried to push the two princess parrots (about 4 times his size) out of “his” food bowl. There are 6 feeding stations, dumb bird! Anyway they graciously made way for him. However, I did see one of the budgies deliberately bump him off the perch. Because Rico can’t fly, and his wings were cut very unbalanced (before we got him), he does crash violently sometimes, so he may just have crashed initially. But of course there is a bit of jostling going on between the birds from time to time, but it’s more like friendly territory banter than serious attacks – well what we’ve seen.
So up to now, present time, between sessions in the aviary and sessions in the carry cage Rico has recovered OK. He still can’t fly as his wing is slow in growing back its feathers. So he still crashes occasionally. But he firmly believes “I can fly…”.
To be continued. Shortly.