Tuppence a Bag

My oldest sister had some goldfish that she miraculously managed to keep alive for several years. As part of caring for her fish she made regular trips to the pet store to buy food, and we (where we= me and my other sisters) went with her to coo at the pets while she bought the fish food. On one of those trips she spotted an African Rosy Faced (then called Peach Faced) Lovebird, specifically the blue variation of the Rosy faced lovbird. This same (strong willed) sister had this thing for the colors peach and mint green, and when she saw this darling little bird decked out in those exact colors her mind was made up. She HAD to own that bird. Lucky for her it was kept in a cage with a flickering florescent light that absolutely broke my mom’s heart. Mom caved and later that week we went to rescue the bird from the pet store.

‘We’ (where we= my oldest sister alone) named it Ned, as the pet store informed us it was a male bird. My suggestion for a name, Sabina, was unilaterally vetoed even though the bird was ostensibly a family pet. A few months after we bought the bird, we found an egg in the cage. I was accused of placing a Cadbury mini egg in there as a joke. Only after a short argument (where I protested my innocence), and an examination of said egg, did it become obvious that Ned had laid the egg herself. She went on to lay several more eggs each of them white and the exact size of a Cadbury mini egg.

Ned was quite a character. While she was in her cage she was incredibly territorial and aggressive, and the only way to get her out without getting our hands mauled was to don heavy leather gloves. Once out of the cage she was affectionate and would perch on our fingers, sit on our shoulders, hide in our hair, and groom the hairs behind our ears. As part of her nesting instincts she would shred paper with her beak, and tuck the strips in her tail feathers to take back to her cage. She ruined several of my dad’s book covers this way.

Once during a stake conference the visiting area authority stayed at our house. The first night there he saw Ned and commented on what a lovely bird she was. He reached out to poke at her cage as everyone in the family shouted some variation of “Don’t do that! She bites!” He ignored us, and she bit him. He later used this event as an object lesson in his talk. In that same talk he referred to me as “Pepper.”

Lovebirds are among the more intelligent birds and can learn to talk if one takes the time to teach them. Even if you don’t take the time to teach them they mimic the noises they hear anyways. Ned learned to bark and growl like the neighborhood dogs- a noise she would make when she was angry. She also did a spot-on impression of my mom’s laugh.

One fall Ned started acting sick. We took her to the vet and the vet indicated that she was acting poisoned and told us to examine her cage, food, and the rest of the house for things that may be causing it. Finally my mom realized that there was a gas leak. We got it fixed and Ned got better. If you ask her about it, my mom will tearily tell you that Ned saved our lives.

Even though lovebirds can live up to about 35 years, Ned died after only 6. She became egg-bound which is when a ‘finished’ egg cannot be laid- in Ned’s case it broke inside her. The broken egg causes internal damage and leads to infection. By the time anyone noticed Ned was sick it was too late, and I came home from school that day to find the cage empty and my older sisters crying- I was about 13.

Ned was, and probably will be my favorite pet ever. I still keep a picture of her on my fridge. A few months ago we moved to a new house in the Phoenix metropolitan area. One evening, while helping my husband work on his car in the driveway, I heard lovebird chirps coming from the palm trees across the street. I had head before that there were flocks of wild lovebirds living in the valley, but never expected to actually see any.

Neighborhood lovebirdsI bought a wild bird feeder, filled it with parrot food, and hung it from my tree. They visit it frequently, and I feel ready to burst with delight whenever I see them. I ride my bike down the street and see small groups of lovebirds flying around and wonder if that is what happens in heaven.


Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

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10 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    What a lovely post! I love this picture you painted of your early years, your family, and this fabulous bird.

    I have similar attachments to my pets. The day we had to put my little pug Penelope down a few years ago just about did me in. I bawled for hours.

  2. jks says:

    I’ve been a mom too long. When I read “goldfish” I immediately assumed crackers.

  3. Corktree says:

    This is a beautiful story Starfoxy! I love all the little tangents and the points they make. My mom had a wild bird for a pet that her mother rescued and nursed back to health. I think it was a defining part of her childhood.

  4. Stella says:

    I remember visiting old houses in Atlanta and Joel Chandler Harris (writer) used to keep a canary in every room so that he would know if there was a gas leak.

    My nieces and nephews have two birds they feel VERY similarly about. They are Lucy and Desi and we love them!

  5. Kirsten says:

    Great post! It brought back the memory of when we had a visiting authority stay at our house. Our dog didn’t try to bite him…. she only peed in the guest room while he was staying with us. Hmm…. I wonder what that meant?

  6. Two of Three says:

    I think pets are some of the most precious of souls. On the days when life seems unbearable, my beloved black lab still loves me. IMHO, mothers, dogs and diety are the only beings capable of unconditional love!

  7. Deborah says:

    Lovely story. Thanks.

  8. Sandra says:

    Such a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  9. Jessawhy says:

    My parents had a bird, but it was just noisy, not a cuddly family pet. The most amusing thing was that when it would come out of it’s cage, the dog would try not to eat it. He knew he wasn’t supposed to eat it, but to him it was like a little chicken nugget walking around the house. I think he got it in his mouth a few times, but never actually ate it. I’m not sure exactly what happened to the bird,
    how sad is that? (I’m not an animal person, although my cat thinks I am)

  10. Lisa says:

    I love Ned and I love this post!

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