August 1997 Magazine
Murphy's coming of age caused him to fight Ashley to determine which of them would be allowed to court the females. (Murphy didn't seem to care that there were no females to be courted, he just figured that he and Ashley should settle things--just to be prepared). So, when we got BeBe (her owner and vet said BeBe's mind was on sex), she moved in with Murphy. They got along all right, didn't fight, but there weren't any sparks. Not only, did the earth not move for them, they didn't even seem to want to try to shake the cage. Ashley turned his back on them and stared at the wall. He was pouting that he didn't have a cage roomie.
Therefore, when our friend P.J. rescued little Mickie (who had been kept in a dark basement on an improper diet so much that she was cage-bound) and let us adopt her, she was to keep Ashley company. It was assumed that Mickie would be anti-social with other birds (because she was never around any). Ashley had (has) little romantic interest in birds as he is in love with Carol. So, we thought Ash and Mick could hang out together. And the two horny little devils (Murph and BeBe) could let it all hang out.
So Ashley had Mickie in one cage while Murphy and Bebe were in the other one. Both pairs seem to get along. No screams of fright, no screams of delight. Carol and I were happy. Each of our guys had a roomie and no blood was spilled.
How did the birds manage to swap partners, you might ask? Well, during a play period, we had all four on our king sized bed and Mickie was kissing everyone: Ashley, Murphy, Bebe, Carol, me. She had been locked in a cage for as long as she could remember and was making up for lost time.
Murphy and Ashley had their heads in Carol's lap so she could pet one with each hand. Bebe was cuddling with me. Mickie was making the rounds getting a little attention from everyone, bird and human alike. Out of the clear blue sky, she grabbed Murphy by the beak to give him a deep french kiss while bobbing her head up and down begging to be fed. When she let Murphy loose, he blinked his eyes and thought about it. He decided that he must have liked it and tentatively took Mickie's beak to give her a kiss that lasted about one tenth as long as the first one. This time he didn't blink. Yep! He liked it!
He was sitting there looking pleased with himself when Mickie grabbed him by the beak again. This kiss was so deep and lasted so long that I was getting weak in the knees just watching. It was as if Mickie was telling him, "If you are going to do it, Big Boy, put some feeling in it!" This kiss lasted longer than the romance in my first marriage. (The marriage lasted 15 years, the romance didn't). Then Mickie put her chest down on the bed and twitched her tail feathers. Old Murph figured out what to do next. And this courtship had taken 38 seconds.
Carol looked at me and said, "They're doing it! What should we do?" I replied, "Be quiet and take notes. Maybe they'll do something new." When this exercise was over, Murphy wandered around the bed kinda dazed. He wanted to tell someone about what just happened, but all the birds and humans he talks to were there and saw for themselves.
The next time the M and M duo (aka the M&M twins) performed, Murphy walked to the foot of the bed. He streched to his full height, raised his crest, spread his wings, puffed up his feathers and CROWED! Like a barnyard rooster, he crowed. "I did it! I did it! Look at me! I did it!" (of course, none of us know any human male with that attitude).
So, with a death wish in my heart and mouth, I said to Murphy, "Murph, old man, I know how you feel. I felt like crowing after the first time or two myself". Silence fell. Like a ton of bricks, silence fell. For the slow among you, this is my second marriage (and Carol's second) so my first time at sex had to be over fifteen years before I met 'she who must be obeyed'. I didn't look up to see if she noticed the error of my words. I quickly albiet awkardly added, "And still do. And still do."
Carol used that sweet soft tone that wives use when they know they have caught you red-handed and flat-footed, "Nice recovery try, but too little and too late." Sez I, "Does this mean you feel a headache coming on?" Replies her, "Yes, I think it will last about 9 days." Pleads I, "But you said that I made a nice recovery attempt?" Says she, ending the conversation, "Yes, that's why it will only last 9 days instead of the 19 that you so richly deserve!"
Having reached the moral of this installment of the saga of the fab four flock, I will recess the telling of the story. What moral you ask?
When you are discussing the birds and bees with one of your birds, don't do it on the bed in the presence of your SO. If you do, be sure to edit your words, after all, the life you save may be your own.
Readjusting and Settling In
There were some interesting things that happened in that period of time between Mickie seducing Murphy and sitting on her first egg here (She had layed before she joined us). After the M&M twins (Mickie and Murphy) had sex on the bed with Carol and I watching, it seemed prudent to house them together. That left BeBe to live with Ashley.
It seems logical that anytime that there is wife or mate swapping, someone is going to be happier than the others. Mickie seemed to enjoy being with Murphy about as well as with Ashley, but that Murphy-bird was one happy dude. He followed her around as if there were an imaginary string about 18 inches long tied to each of their necks. As he did with BeBe, Murphy wanted Mickie to play with his pile of splinters except for the one stick which she wasn't to touch. I decide that in some things, Murphy is just plain strange. Mickie spends most of her time on the bottom of the cage. Carol worries that she may be afraid of Murphy while I think Mickie is trying to find a level place to lay an egg. We can't agree so we don't put up a breeding box.
Ashley seemed better pleased with BeBe than he was with Mickie mostly because BeBe didn't pursue him as Mickie did. Mickie wanted to cuddle with Ashley and would crowd against him. Sometimes she would even push him off of the perch. Ash is the regal one and is too aloof for heavy-duty physical stuff. BeBe was our unhappy camper as she was afraid of Ash. Not because he chased her, just because he was there. By the way, it appears to me that BeBe was her own worse problem. I agreed that from the first time I saw her, she wanted/needed to mate very very much. But, she couldn't stand the idea of one of the males looking at her, much less touching her. She'd sneak up to preen one of the others and then scream if he even offered to preen her back. Horney and frigid, what a combination!
So, now we have the two pairs which seem to be the way it is going to be. We decided (and find some people on the net who agree) that there are at least two subspecies. A&B (Ashley and BeBe) are bigger than the M&M's (Murphy and Mickie). They also have a bigger and more hooked bill with a wider head. Each of the males is about 80 grams heavier than his mate. A&B behave like lovers in the Victorian era and it takes the first month for them to introduce themselves. Mickie, on the other hand, thinks that a long courtship is one that takes more than one minute to conclude foreplay and get on with the sex.
In the M&M cage, Murphy pursued Mickie much as he did BeBe; however, from the beginning Mickie made it very clear that she was the real boss. Before we put up the breeding box, she was frequently testy and a little cross-patch. One day, she gave her little 'leave me alone' yelp. I went and took Murphy out of the cage for the mandatory 5 minute time-out in the penality box. (This was explained in an earlier episode as I want the males to understand that I won't tolerate them hurting the females.) When the timer went off (I always set a timer so the penality time is never longer than 5 minutes), I took Murphy back to the cage giving him a big scratch and cuddle while telling him I want him to get along. Ten minutes later, the same thing happened again with the same result.
The third time; however, was different. When I went into the bird room I had the feeling that Murphy may not have done anything and she just yelped to see what would happen. Murphy got his 5 minute time-out. He stepped right up on my hand and took his punishment like a man, but when I returned him to the cage, he shouldered past me without the scratch or cuddle. He wanted me to understand that he wasn't guilty this time. I took him out of the cage to cuddle while I told him that he probably wasn't guilty, but the rule was that if she yelped, he got penality time. Carol listened to all this and asked, "Do you really think that the birds understand all those words?" The answer? No, I don't think that they understand each word, but I do think that they understand the concepts (and feelings) alot of the time.
About one hour later, I warmed some birdie bread for them. Warm bread is BeBe's favorite and when it was placed in a bowl in her cage, her mouth watered. Ash went over and started to eat. She didn't want to come near him, but she did want some bread. Ash looked up and took in the situation. He took 5 large measured steps back and waited. She very carefully slipped down to take a few bites. She stopped at 3 and backed off. Ash came back and took 3 bites before walking 5 steps backward. She ran down for her 3 bites. About 10 minutes later, there were two heads eating out of the same bowl at the same time. Why did Ash make it easy on BeBe? I truely believe that he listened when I talked to Murphy. By the way, Mickie has not yelped again. In fact, that was the last time any of them has had time-out in the penalty box.
The M & M's Get a Breeding Box
The next major event happened when we put up the breeding box for the M&M's. And what a difference that made! Mickie moved right in and made the breeder box her home. She sits on one of the shelves and looks out the hole (like a balcony). She is the lady of her house. Murphy is only allowed in by invitation (hers) and only on his best behavor. One day, I saw him at one of the entrances to the box with just his head inside. He made a little moan that sounded like, 'please'. She responded with a little snarl that sounded like, 'no, a thousand times no'. He would wait 5 or 6 minutes and repeat the request and get the same reply. After he begged for 5 or 6 times, she invited him in and he zoomed in there like one happy dude. I remember thinking, I've stood outside a door saying, 'I'm sorry' just like Murph.
Another change is that Murphy found some courage and is no longer the coward of the county. In fact, he now puts his little body between Mickie and anything he sees as a danger. He also yells for me and is becoming quite the watch-bird. It is difficult to maintain a straight face when he perceives: deer, squirrels, the neighbor's security lights, etc. as dangerous. I am very careful not to laugh as it would hurt his feelings and he might not call me next time. It is better that I be called for a false alarm 100 times than not to be called when I am really needed! So, I tell Murphy that he is a good boy and I am glad that he called.
That little ole word counter (Carol) set a limit for each episode and we have reached it.
Winged Wisdom Note: Ken Highfill has owned pet birds for over 12 years and is co-creator of the Birds n Ways website.
A pet bird ezine, pet bird e-zine, for pet parrots & exotic birds. Cockatoo parrot picture courtesy of Glasgow Enterprises
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Cockatoo parrot picture courtesy of Glasgow Enterprises