Monday, March 28, 2011

Lapel: A Bird Rescue Story

One day in June, back in 2007, a young couple ventured out of their dark apartment for a walk in the sunshine.

They came around the corner of the building, and began to cross the back alley. They heard a flock of crows creating a ruckus, and noticed them fighting over something; picking at it. This wasn't unusual; the garbage dumpster was located just beyond where the birds were cavorting. However, drawn to the particularly loud noise the birds were making this day, the couple took a closer look at the garbage they were fighting over. It seemed to be a relatively small piece of garbage, and yellow. It didn't look like a banana peel, what could it be? They walked towards it, startling the crows and causing them to back away. The garbage moved.

The couple realized that the yellow garbage was actually an animal of some sort. They walked closer, shooing the possessive crows away again. The garbage was actually a small yellow bird!

The girl continued to move closer to the small bird while the boy stood back, trying to figure out what kind of bird it could be; she'd never seen a bird like this before. Immediately she noticed it was missing some feathers, but the poor little thing didn't try to fly away. She wondered if it was hurt. Not really thinking about it, and unable to explain why afterwards, she reached her hand down towards the little bird to see if it would move away. The small trembling bird hopped towards her and jumped up onto her arm. The girl, started, stood up, holding her arm out. She'd never seen a bird do that before, particularly not a wild bird! This was no wild bird, she knew. The poor little creature climbed up her arm and perched herself onto her shoulder.

"What's it doing, what is it doing?" she asked the boy. "Aaah, take it off!" So he reached down and gently lifted the bird off of her arm. The little bird quickly hunched herself down on his shoulder.

"What will we do with it?" the boy asked.

"Well, I guess we should try to find out who it belongs to," the girl reasoned. "This must be some one's pet. Do you know what kind of bird it is?"

"I have no idea," the boy responded. They both looked up at the surrounding apartment buildings, searching for open windows that a small bird may have escaped from. If the little bird fell from a window, and was unable to fly, it might not even be able to return home.

The couple took a hard look at the little bird. She was missing some feathers, but nothing appeared to be broken. However, neither really knew anything about birds. So they took the sad little bird inside. She stayed close to the boy the whole time, crouched down on his shoulder. The couple were surprised at how tame she seemed. They decided to take her up to a nearby pet store to see if they knew more about the little bird, or if anyone had reported a missing bird there. Maybe they had a bird cage and could keep the bird until the owner was found.

The couple got into the car, and the little bird stayed tucked onto the boy's shoulder the whole time. They got out of the car, and walked across the street, towards the pet store, and still, the little bird did not move.

They went into the pet store and took the little bird to the counter. They told the sales people what had happened, and they all examined the little bird. The associates at the pet store said they had some small cat and dog carriers in which they could keep the little bird, and that they could call someone to come take a look at it. The associates also put up a sign in the window that a bird had been found. So the couple left the little bird in their more knowledgeable hands.

The couple went home, hoping that the little bird would be okay. They searched the Internet to see if they could identify the type of bird it was, and discovered it was a Lovebird. Lovebirds, they learned, like to live with a partner with whom they can bond very closely. When they don't have another bird to bond with, they often become very attached to their owner. When Lovebirds are separated from their partners, they can become very depressed. They couple was very worried for the little bird. They posted a few signs around the building, saying the bird had been found, and posted ads on the Internet. With heavy hearts they hoped they had done all they could do. They imagined that somewhere, a very worried owner was missing their precious little bird and would be looking for it.

They called the pet store the next day and the associates said that someone had come to give the bird a check-up, and thought it seemed to be in relatively good health, but that it was very stressed and was missing a lot of feathers. Perhaps the crows had been pulling them out. But so far no one had come to claim the bird. The associates said they probably couldn't keep the bird in the store, but that there was a bird rescue society that could maybe take the bird if the owner could not be found. The couple hoped that the owner would turn up. The couple felt that the poor stressed little bird needed to go home. It was very timid and nervous, and didn't seem to be eating very well. With the missing feathers, it was a sad looking bird indeed.

When no owner turned up the next day, the couple told the pet store that they would take the bird back, until the owner turned up. Everyone thought that would be a good idea. So the couple bought a cage, bird food, and some toys, and took the bird home. They made an appointment to take the bird to a veterinarian who specialized in birds.

The veterinarian prescribed some medicine for the little bird, and was a bit worried about the pulled feathers. The vet said that sometimes when birds become very distressed they can pull their own feathers out. The couple was very concerned for the little bird.

They took it home again. The little bird seemed to be feeling a bit better, although it was still picking at it's feathers, it did fly around a bit, mostly from it's cage to their shoulders. When it was in the cage, the little bird would squawk and squeek until they let it out again, and it would fly immediately to their shoulders where it would crouch down into the warmth of their necks. In particular, the little bird liked to tuck itself up under the collar of their shirts, or underneath the hood of their sweaters, and the little bird would crouch their as long as they allowed it. They decided to name the bird Lapel, after the folded piece of fabric attached to the collar, on the front of a jacket.
As the little bird got more use to the couple, it became more playful and frisky. It would bite at them through their clothes, and nip at their fingers if they tried to take it out of the cage themselves, or put it back in the cage. The girl began wearing the same shirt every day when she came home because the bird began putting holes in their clothes. The couple didn't think this was acceptable behaviour from the bird, but realized it had been through a very traumatizing experience and were trying to be patient with it. Mostly, they felt very sorry for the poor little bird.

The little bird became particularly unhappy when they had to feed it medicine the vet had prescribed, from a small syringe, and it would squirm and bite at their fingers as they held it.

When the couple had to go to work during the day, they would leave a sheet over the cage to try to keep the bird quiet. But the bird knew it was daytime and wanted out of the cage, so it would squawk all day until the couple came home. When they did get home and pulled the sheet back, the little bird would hop back and forth on the perch in the cage, puffing itself up like a little football player preparing for the next play, squawking and squawking until they finally opened the cage door. The couple loved that the bird seemed so happy to see them, but were concerned about the amount of noise the bird was making in their small apartment. They were worried that the neighbours would be very annoyed.

The couple realized that they couldn't keep the little bird. It needed a lot of attention and care, and they didn't know anything about taking care of birds. They wanted the little bird to have more than they could give it. Lapel needed someone with more patience and time to help her heal. She needed her behaviour corrected by someone who knew how to do that.

The girl knew someone she thought might be the perfect mommy for the little bird; her cousin. She loved birds, and had even nursed a wounded crow back to health. So she sent her cousin a message, and told her about the little bird, asking if she would be interested. The cousin said she had always wanted a Lovebird, and was very interested. The couple made arrangements to bring the bird to the cousin the following weekend.

Saying goodbye to Lapel was very hard for the couple, but they were confident that if anyone could help her to get better, train her to behave better, and provide a caring, loving home for her, the cousin could. And they were right.

The cousin bought a carrying cage and took the little bird everywhere with her for a time. The little bird stopped pulling her feathers, and stopped biting so much. The cousin played with her often, and tried to teach her to talk. Within a few years, she even began nesting and laying eggs, a sign that she was truely comfortable and happy. The cousin provided the best, most loving home she could for many years. And when the little bird got sick, the cousin knew just who to call and what to do. She was the perfect, most patient and caring bird mommy anyone could hope for.

The couple knew they had done the right thing.

Sadly, Lapel passed away this weekend. She had been laying eggs again recently, but had been having difficulties with it. The cousin was aware of this and had been giving the bird some suplements to help her, but sadly, Lapel became egg-bound and passed away. RIP little bird, we'll all miss you dearly.

And a special thank you to an amazing cousin who really was the most perfect bird mommy an orphaned bird could have hoped for.


  1. Posted this to Parrot Garden, a wonderful parrot shelter and rehab center. Can be found on facebook.