This is the third part of the story about how Arwin, a Crimson Wing parrot parakeet, came to Pandemonium Aviaries. Arwin died in early April. To commemorate her life and explain why her death means so much to me, I'd like to share the full story of how she came to Pandemonium Aviaries and what she taught me.
In my previous blog about Arwin, I described my "success" at finding her a companion.
The search for a Friend for Arwin
By: Michele Raffin
On the long drive home I extolled Arwin’s virtues to the still nameless Crimson Wing male. “I can’t wait for you to meet Arwin. She’s gorgeous. She has charm. She is great a flier so you two can take long flights together. The aviary I’m going to put you in, once you are out of quarantine, has a great view of the mountains and the sunset. You are going to love her.”
I can’t whistle worth a darn and I’m an even worse singer, but that doesn’t stop me from doing both when I am in the car with a new bird. I figure that even if they don’t like what they’re hearing, it must be comforting to know that they can do something better than me. It seems to keep them quiet or put them to sleep, either of which is preferable to thrashing around a carrier and potentially hurting themselves. As I drove home with Arwin’s new friend, I hummed every romantic song I could remember including the Wedding March.
I never put birds out into an aviary at night. I want them to be able to find food and water easily so I provide these in the carrier if it’s dark outside. At the first sign of light, I brought the Crimson Wing male to the aviary complex that had the quarantine aviaries. Arwin also lived in this complex.
My confidence that I’d made a good match wavered as I approached the aviary complex. Arwin was so selective in respect to housing and food, she was certain to be even more choosy when it came to a mate. This new Crimson Wing possessed none of Arwin’s well manicured looks. His feathers were tattered. He looked as if it had been months since he’d bathed. He resembled a bachelor who’d just finished drinking his way through his fortune and wasn’t happy about the prospect of becoming sober.
This match is not going to work, I decided. He’s going to see Arwin, decide to shape up, work out and eat right and it will all be in vain. She will take one look and hate him. They both are going to end up alone.
There was no way I could get him a better wardrobe or argue with Arwin that it was this guy or no guy. I did the only thing that came to mind. He looked like a pauper so I named him Prince. Sometimes birds, like people, grow into their names.
I opened the door to his aviary, put the carrying case inside, let myself out with only a hand sticking in so that I could lift the top of the carrier and then quickly close the door before Prince escaped.
Arwin, as usual, had approached the front of her aviary when she saw me enter. She stood quietly on her food dish waiting for me to dish out breakfast. However, when she saw that I had a carrier in hand, she flew to the wire door to watch what I was doing. The moment that Prince flew out of the carrier, her eyes were riveted on him. She completely forgot that I existed. All she could look at was Prince.
I followed my normal routine. I opened Arwin’s aviary door fully so that I could step inside instead of merely opening a smaller feeder door that I use with many of the other birds. Instead of flying to my shoulder like usual, she flew out of her aviary straight to the one that housed Prince.
The emotion emitted by both birds was palpable. Arwin was more than smitten. She seemed simultaneously transfixed and energized. She clung to side of his aviary and stared at him as though she was a groupie in the presence of a rock star.
Prince was equally charged. He repeatedly flew at her, but it was not an amorous advance. He had the bearing of a warrior in the presence of an enemy. There was a savageness about his attacks that was frightening, at least to me. Arwin was too much in love to care. Gone was any semblance of propriety. Shewanted Prince with every fiber of her being. The fact that he would have probably killed her had she not been protected by stainless steel wire did not daunt her in the least. If she could have found a way to squeeze through the aviary wire, she would have. This scene was repeated every time Arwin managed to escape from her aviary. She only perched on my shoulder to trick me into thinking it was safe to leave the door ajar. I finally gave up entering her aviary and starting using the feeding door to give her food. Her pursuit of Prince matched the intensity of his rejection of her. He would bite her toes as she clung to the wire side of his aviary. I once had a bird die because of a ripped toe nail that got infected. I didn’t want to lose Arwin in this way.
Prince had been at Pandemonium for more than a month, but there was little change in his behavior. I now understood why he had been so given to me. This bird was an angry bird. He probably had been yanked from the wild, taken from his family, and who knows, had maybe even seen his children or his wife killed in the process. While birds like this often retain their fear and dislike of humans, they almost always are able to relate to other birds. Prince appeared to be that rare bird who simply cannot adapt to living in captivity. Once again, Arwin had been given an unsuitable option for a mate.
Arwin, however, was smitten. She either didn’t notice or didn’t care that Prince seemed to hate her. If any thing, his rejection fueled her resolve to win him over. One day I was in the process of placing food through the feeder door in his aviary when I felt a determined, sleek body squeeze between my left hand and the feeder door. I must have left the feeder door in Arwin’s aviary ajar just enough so that she could work it open. I would have marveled at her ingenuity had I not been so afraid for her safety.
I opened the door to Prince’s aviary wide so that Arwin could get out. Both birds remained inside on separate perches. Prince had adopted an aggressive stance; Arwin sat calmly with all of the grace of a being who has finally found love.
I stayed near by, holding the door open if Arwin changed her mind and wanted out, and watched for as long as I could.
“Your choice, Arwin,” I finally announced when I had run out of time. I left the aviary complex feeling sad and fully expecting that when I returned, I would find a dead Arwin. I had exchanged a wonderful sweet bird for a hostile, unfriendly one. It was not a good day.
To be continued...