I've never loved birds as pets.
Oh yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the antics of Fraque, our African Grey parrot, when I was a child. But I was able to enjoy him as a pet without dealing with his mess. He lived in a spacious cage, after all, and I was not the one deputized to clean out the bottom.
I didn't learn to detest pet birds until college. My former mother-in-law had a yellow parakeet who flew about her apartment with almost complete freedom. I discovered first-hand the joys of a bird's inability to control its bowels. Wherever that thing landed--clock, cagetop, couch arm, carpet, shoulder, head--it could and often would leave behind a curdled-milk trace of its presence.
Even now, as a mother of two who has personally handled far more excrement and other distasteful bodily emissions than I ever dreamed, I shudder at the memory. At least my children don't leave their waste smeared all over the furniture and walls. Well, not often.
So--no birds as pets in my household.
Our townhouse backs onto a wetlands, a tiny refuge for the local wildlife nestled amidst the human residences of West Bloomfield. And birds nest and fly about and forage in our extended backyard every day.
I have discovered that I love birds--when they are properly outside, in their natural medium. MTL and I obtained a bird feeder a few weeks ago, and Thanksgiving weekend we drove the pole into the ground and stocked the feeder with blocks of suet and peanut butter and seeds, the kind loved by birds who winter here rather than fleeing for warmer points south. We have hovered by the window, waiting for the birds to discover it.
Today, they have. Winter's bitter breath is blowing, with distinct promise of snow to come, and the birds are gorging on the luscious fat we have provided them. I sit and watch, wondering if this provision in some way violates the natural order of things. These woodpeckers and cardinals and other birds I cannot name would be forced to make do with the scant provisions of winter-bound wetlands if people like us did not lavish them with food. Would they have more natural foods available to them if we had not invaded their world with brick and wood and vinyl siding? How much of their ability to winter here, as is their natural wont, is based on our tribute to their beauty?
Have we formed an odd partnership, we denizens of the suburbs, feathered and featherless alike?
We pay our human entertainers with offerings as well, forming a niche where basic necessity does not go. Have we extended that concept to nature's entertainers as well?
Come here and brighten up my yard. Sweeten the wind with your songs. And in return, I offer you the fat of the supermarket...