Acquired: Pet store
Posted Jan 22, 2015
As a child, my Dad had a lovely yellow canary called Harry. His mother had loved yellow canaries and he thought Harry would cheer her up when she moved close by and was in poor health. Dad felt ambivalent about caging a bird, so let Harry free. My 7 year-old self was horrified and tearfully called him a murderer and placed an ad in the local paper. As luck would have it, Harry was found and captured about 5 doors down and was returned to civilisation, unruffled and indeed, un-murdered. Harry was joined in soon after by "Pludge", a green male canary formerly known as Errol. I'm not sure why I called him Pludge, but Harry was very impressed with Errol/Pludge and promptly laid some eggs. Once they had hatched, Dad built the newly-wedded couple (Harry now named "Harriet") a nice outdoor aviary using a converted wooden shipping crate, complete with coconut-shell nests and sliding feed-doors. He included zebra finches and quails and all was lovely until the quails started disappearing one-by-one and a Tasmanian Tiger Snake was one day found snoozing in the bottom of the aviary with a quail-size lump in the middle. Being sympathetic to the local wildlife, Dad fashioned his own snake-catching loop-stick and spent 3 hours chasing it around the quarter-acre backyard. Look up tiger snake - it's not a shy or docile thing. Dad then released it in some bushland behind a local park, where a picnicking family looked on with a disapproving look at the wriggling bag in Dad's hand. "Kittens, mate?" said the father. "Put your hand in and find out!" Dad replied.
Anyway, this has nothing to do with Stan the cockatiel, other than to set the background for me wanting a bird when I left home and moved across the country to go to University. I missed my horses, dogs and cats but living in student accomodation, a bird seemed more sensible - and experience had shown they could also be a little exciting! Stan was the cutest, shiest little thing as a half-grown bird, and took hours to come out of his box into the cage. He gradually grew bolder and took me on as his human. At the time, I was living as a live-in student at a veterinary practice and one of my jobs was to answer the after-hours calls. Consequently, Stan's first mimicking was that of a telephone, and he was so successful that the vet would come rushing in yelling "Get that phone", whereupon Stan would cackle to himself and say "Hello? Hee hee". I didn't know that birds could giggle, but Stan certainly could. He loved to wolf-whistle, sing "Yellow Submarine" and "Teddy Bears Picnic". Stan followed me into married life and loved to sit on my shoulder grooming my hair and flying free around the living room each day. He even came on a holiday to Tasmania, and travelled very well, although prior to departure, I could hear him wolf-whistling down in the hold from where I was sitting in the passenger cabin.
I made the mistake of moving Stan outside to a bigger aviary with some feathered friends I had inherited, and one of them had psittacosis. They all passed away rapidly, including Stan. I was so very, very sad. Truth be told, he should have stayed inside in his old cage, where he was quite happy. I could sometimes hear him at 3am singing his entire repertoir from the aviary, which I think was his way of asking to please resume his former life inside with lots of human attention. :( I'm not sure I would own birds again, as like my Dad, I don't feel very comfortable seeing them caged, and it was such a shock seeing them all deceased in one fell swoop like that. I think birds, like fish, probably need quite a bit of expert know-how and careful management - they are not as simple as they look. However, if I was to ever get a bird, it would definitely be a cockatiel, or "weero" (as they are known in Western Australia). They are cute, funny, tame and easy-to-train (I believe) and fairly robust / long-living with the right care (don't shove them outside with a bunch of other birds!).