Civil Engineering

Just a Girl and her Bird(s)

August 12, 2015 in Civil Engineering, Staff News

Gina Graves, Civil Project Engineer Those of you who know me, know that for many years I had a pet cockatiel named Tucker. Tucker passed away two years ago on Memorial weekend at the age of 15 ½ . He should have lived 20-30 years.

tommy and huckleberry

Tommy & Huckleberry. 12 weeks old.

After a week of silence in my home, I couldn’t take it and drove out to a local aviary. I picked out two baby cockatiels. They wouldn’t be fully weaned for another week or two. The yellow one is Huckleberry (a pearl cockatiel) and the black one (a white face cockatiel) is Tommy.

Baby birds are fragile. Their inner systems are so small and intricate that you have to be observant of their weight and breathing. Into the 2nd month being home, Tommy got an infection and eventually died after a two-day stay at the vet’s office in a medicated incubator.

Huckleberry was lost being by herself and would call for Tommy to come join her. Huckleberry and I went back out to the aviary to get Huckleberry a friend. Sawyer came home with us that afternoon.

Birds have to be groomed like most pets. If you don’t file down or trim their little nails it’s all you can do to hold them. Those little toenails begin to feel like sharp hypodermic needles. You don’t realize how sensitive your shoulder is until moments before a nail trimming! I also trim their flight feathers. Cockatiels are very strong fliers so trimming their flight feathers does not prevent flight but prevents lift. So they can fly down off the kitchen counter without dropping. My little guys know they can fly and if something scares Sawyer he can fly upstairs to my bedroom with trimmed flight feathers. Needless to say, I am extremely anal about open windows and doors. They need grooming about once a month. So back to the aviary we went to get a grooming.

I could have an aviary and handle baby birds but I couldn’t handle the percentage of little guys that don’t make it – a reality my heart couldn’t deal with. While my birds are getting groomed my roommate, Grace and I are playing with other baby birds. Grace finds two that she has to take home – Apollos and Jack. I find another white-faced baby like Tommy that I name Scooter. Three more babies get groomed and the five birds come home.

I am pretty sure that Jack and Apollos are from the same clutch, brothers. They can’t be within 3-inches of each other and not be touching each other – i.e. fighting. They beak fight all the time and when they aren’t they preen each other. I have seen one climb the cage next to the other one and the lower brother reach out and nip at his brother’s feet. I have also seen one standing at the top of the cage watching the other crawl to the top and just when he’s almost there the one on top hits him in the head with his beak – doink! But when one of the other birds gets fed up with them and goes to tell them what for – they have each other’s back. Just like human siblings!

the crew

The family

Another visit to the aviary and Duke came home with us. I am learning to trim their nails and cut their wings. Ha Ha! Six is enough. As it turns out the six boys actually turned out to be four boys and two girls (Huckleberry & Scooter). Huckleberry has laid 2 clutches of eggs. The second clutch I gave back to the aviary and her babies are available now.


Duke & his tennis ball.

I have shower perches in my shower. When it was just Tucker it was really easy. Now, not so much. It’s a real chore! So, I take my shower and then I put them in two at a time and with a squirt bottle give them each a shower. Most of the time, they love shower time, they dance around on the perch with their wings up, ducking their heads under their wings until they are soaked! Then they spend the next two hours preen each feather until they are dry and puffy. If it’s cold out I will blow-dry them so they don’t catch a chill. These little guys love the blow-dryer. They line up on the edge of the counter and strain to stay within the warm forced air!

Seeds for birds are like donuts to us. In the wild they eat berries, bugs, leaves, grain, etc. Babies are picky eaters. So far, their main staple is acini de pepe pasta. Shaped and sized like BBs. Perfect size for cockatiels. When I get home from work I fix them a dinner plate. They love scrambled eggs (I always tell them it’s no one they know!); rice vermicelli, angel hair pasta, spinach leafs, kale, fresh dill sprigs, sugar snap peas (hulled) and soy beans (hulled). We are still working on other vegetables like zucchini, carrots, and different beans (hulled). No matter how great of a plate I make for them when I sit down with my plate, here they come! They have to see and taste what is on momma’s plate. Some foods are very toxic for them. Avocados are deadly to birds as is onion and garlic.

scooter and sawyer

Scooter & Sawyer

After dinner its play time and cuddle time. They go off and play and each one at some point comes over and climbs up to me to have their head rubbed and belly kissed. They protest when I pick them up as if they were babies and cup them in my hands to give them kissies on their lil beaks – don’t be fooled, they are loving every minute of it! Watching a TV program in the evening means sharing my recliner with all of them. After all, momma is not doing anything so she’s available to scratch our heads! Come 9pm they start getting squawky and it’s time for bed. They have a night-time cage in my Master Bath off my bedroom. That way if they have a night fright I can get to them fast.

jack apollos and huckleberry after shower

Jack, Apollos & Huckleberry after a shower.

Cockatiels are very social and then need to be in the middle of every activity. I’m very cautious to recommend birds as a pet for young children unless the child has done a lengthy bit of research and understands just how much attention and care these little guys require. Nothing breaks my heart faster than to hear of a lonely forgotten caged bird. I do have a life outside my home but the babies only have me. You are forever responsible for what you have tamed. I have my moments when they seem like so much work and then they randomly fly to me for a head scratch and the momentary frustration is all forgotten.