About six years ago, Rob, my boyfriend at the time, called me up from his Miller Place music shop.
"Hon, I found a bird behind my store," he said. He had placed it in a ventilated box.
The news gave me pause. After having cats as pets for most of my life, I had decided to dispense with owning critters. As a full-time worker, I felt I couldn't give the proper time to raise a healthy and happy pet.
When Rob arrived at my home in Coram, I opened the box and was surprised to find a gray, yellow and white bird topped by plumage that made her look like a punk rocker. She had bright orange circles on her cheeks.
"What the heck is this bird, anyway?" I asked.
On the Internet, we discovered it was a pearl cockatiel. It didn't like to be touched, so we admired her as she stood or paced inside the box. We knew we had to find a proper enclosure while we searched for the owner.
My boyfriend said he'd check telephone poles, supermarkets and pet stores for any notices about a lost bird, but found nothing. Meanwhile, via Craigslist, we traded a couple sets of guitar strings and an amplifier cable for a cage. We bought food, toys and accessories at First Flight Birds, a store in Selden.
Once you have one bird, you become slightly deranged and get the itch to buy another. I never knew how social, amusing, intelligent and musical these fellows were. Deenie the cockatiel is the reason I ended up becoming Robin, the soon-to-be-crazy bird lady.
I visited First Flight a lot to buy bird food or to check for hatchlings. One day Rob and I were browsing when a goofy-looking, googly-eyed pineapple conure caught our attention. This small parrot kept trying to unlatch his cage with his beak. He was getting very close to escaping. When that didn't happen, he tried to push his head through the cage bars. A store employee assured me that although the bird was superinquisitive, and something of a troublemaker, there was nothing to worry about. I ended up putting a deposit on him.
I thought two birds would be my limit, but then I fell in love with a caique I met at a parrot show in Freeport. It was unperturbed by people who asked to hold him. Nothing ruffled his colorful feathers. I decided I needed to have a caique.
Today, this trio enlivens my house, to say the least.
Deenie paces crazily back and forth in her cage and appears to be muttering, "Oh dear! Oh dear!" Hurley the conure yells, "Mommy!" and "Peanut!" at the top of his lungs. And Tillie the caique, the loudest of all, screams because she wants to come out and play -- again! Her piercing screams haven't made me deaf yet, but they do make me want to move to a rest home without leaving a forwarding address.
Why put myself through the noise, the expense, the constant cleanup? It's the pure joy I get from these lunatics.
When I come home after a long day at work and hear the excited squeaks, squawks and frenzied fluttering on the other side of my front door, I can't get my key into the lock fast enough. Once I'm inside, Hurley shouts, "Mommy!" and I know I'm home.
Reader Robin Ames lives in Coram.