SI Vault
Jay Feldman
April 30, 1990
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.
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April 30, 1990

Love Took Wing When Gertie Met Mr. Right

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That evening's visit went much the same way, and the next morning the two took another step forward, sharing food and rubbing beaks and heads through the bars. As instructed by the pet shop owner, we let the birds develop this phase of their courtship for about a week, and then, one morning when Gertie and her retinue arrived for breakfast, we took the top off Stanley's cage. He sat where he was, at first not realizing that he was free to leave. But after several minutes he took a short trial flight, landing in a birch tree near the one in which Gertie sat.

Moments later, she took wing, and he followed. Together they soared and dived, Stanley experiencing for the first time the true function of his wings. Too soon, they flew out of sight, with Gertie in the lead.

But that evening and again the next morning, they returned together, and we pronounced our project a success.

How I would love to report that Gertie and Stanley built a nest in a nearby tree and populated the neighborhood with wild budgies, but such is not the case.

Stanley vanished three days after his release from captivity. I suppose he was either captured as a pet or nabbed by a cat. Gertie returned faithfully each day until late in December, when the Sacramento Valley was hit by an uncharacteristic cold snap, one that included a freak snowstorm two days after Christmas. Whether she froze to death or simply moved south until the warm weather returned, I couldn't say, but we haven't seen Gertie since then. I still entertain the hope that one day she will be back.

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