- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
In my family, we take our bird feeding seriously. We buy seed in 20-pound bags to supply the year-round stream of avian callers in our backyard in northern California. Depending on the season, we regularly see towhees, sparrows, robins, chickadees and various-hued finches, as well as an occasional mockingbird or California scrub jay. There's nothing especially exotic, but we get considerable enjoyment out of being able to look through the sliding glass doors at virtually any time of the day and see our feathered company pecking and hopping about the large plate containing its rations.
Our two big dogs, who will enthusiastically chase any bird in an open field, have never made a move to molest our winged guests. The dogs also serve as a deterrent to neighborhood cats who might otherwise be attracted to our yard by the profusion of easy prey.
Two years ago a friend who lives across town dropped by and, seeing the bird activity at our place, mentioned that for the past few years two white cockatoos had visited his backyard several times a day. He invited us to come by and see the exotic pair. The next weekend, as my wife, Marti, and I were sitting in his backyard, our attention was directed to a parrotlike chattering, and presently the two cockatoos came swooping in, alighting at the top of an almond tree.
Cockatoos are native to the Australia- South Pacific region, and this pair—no doubt former house pets—has apparently adapted well to the generally benign Sacramento Valley climate. We watched them for 10 or 15 minutes. They sat in the upper branches of the tree, chattering and shifting about, and they carried themselves with a kind of regal arrogance.
After seeing those crested beauties, I found myself wishing that something rarer than sparrows and chickadees might pay us a call.
No more than a week later Marti and I were eating breakfast with our then nine-year-old son, Ben, when a flash of white sailed by the glass doors in the direction of the bird dish. "What was that?" I said, jumping up from the table and crossing the room to get a closer look.
There in the dish, among the sparrows, was a strikingly pretty parakeet: Its breast, collar and back were sky blue; the back of its head and upper halves of the wings were barred black and white; and its forehead, tail and lower halves of the wings were snow-white.
Marti and Ben joined me at the door, and we watched the bird eat. After a time, something spooked the sparrows, and they flew off in a bunch, the parakeet with them.
We consulted our bird books. Having had a pet parakeet as a kid, I knew that the correct name for these birds is budgerigar. From our reading we learned that they are native to Australia, nomadic, travel in large flocks...and "have been known—upon escape from captivity—to attach themselves to a flock of sparrows."
This last item gave us cause to expect that the budgie would return. Sure enough, late that afternoon, when the midday heat had let up, the bird arrived with its adopted flock for an evening meal.