My little Portobello might not be the best Cockatiel, but she is my favorite.
|A photo of Bella, my Cockatiel
1. A Commitment
I can say, without hesitation, that Bella was the greatest birthday present a person could get. There are days when I think she is the most perfect, angelic bird in the universe. Other days, I threaten to turn her into grilled chicken. When she was a young bird, all bedraggled with her broken tail-feathers ("duck butt"), I thought she was funny-looking. She has grown into a wonderful flier, with healthy chest muscles and beautiful feathers.
She is not named after the Italian word for beautiful, as people suppose. No, Bella is named after the Portobello mushroom she closely resembled the day I brought her home. By the act of bringing her into my home, I made a commitment to provide her with food and shelter. I also made a promise to give her the attention and love she needed to be mentally healthy.
To a non-bird person, it must seem downright crazy to provide for her as I do. I give her the best food money can buy. She leaves me little gifts on the keyboard. I threw out my non-stick pans the second I brought her home (the fumes they can give off are deadly). I happily gave up any scented products (which I can't stand anyways) but many people would not. I buy her expensive toys, so I can watch her chew them into pieces, and leave bits all over the apartment floor. (I now save money by buying cheap toy parts, and stringing them on leather strips or metal kabobs). I spend my valuable time and money feeding her fresh food that she will either turn her beak up at or dump on the floor.
The fact that she is out of her cage all day, and never locked up unless absolutely necessary, makes the large flight cage I bought her extraneous, but it didn't stop me from spending my hard-earned savings on it. I stopped clipping her wings, and now she is fully flighted. While she spends most of her cage flying between my shoulder and her cage, giving her the freedom of flight means that I have to be extra cautious around windows, doors, and hot stoves. Thankfully, she does answer to 'Come Here!' if she reaches a danger zone. Of course, it is different when she is cozy on top of her bird tent. You can scream yourself hoarse but until she hears that treat packet shake, her butt will remain firmly planted.
Everything I do for her, is motivated by selfishness. I am selfish because I love having a bird in my life. I would miss the feel of little toes, with sharp little claws, gripping my finger. I would miss the wonderful soft tickle of bird feathers against my cheek. There is nothing finer than petting her soft little head, and getting little beak-kisses in return. There is the thrill of watching her fly, and even if she can't be outside in weather this cold, she seems fairly content.
I can only hope the weather warms up, so that I can take her for a walk in her harness. She loves to sit on my arm as I walk down the street, and she basks in the sun. Despite the fact that my legs do most of the work, she usually ends up taking a nap on my arm. Because she can't perch and sleep while I walk (too many bumps), I usually end up clutching her against my chest so she can relax comfortably while we walk. She looks like a little angel while she sleeps, head tucked in under her wing, and I can't think of anything more comforting.
If I am lucky, she might decide to stretch her wings a little. She flies in circles around me, taking advantage of the long leash attached to the harness. Hopefully by the time we start to go out again, she will have perfected the circular fly around. It's not the life of a totally free bird, but I like to think it's the best life I anyone could give her.
2. Birthday Present
I didn't pick Bella, but rather she selected me. She was a scruffy, duck-butt bird (most babies are a little clumsy), and not what I wanted. Bella is a cinnamon whiteface split to pied. To translate into layperson's terms, she lacks the yellow and orange pigment found on normal gray (wild-type) Cockatiels. Instead of gray feathers, she has dark brown feathers the color of cinnamon (hence, the name for the mutation). She also carries a recessive gene for pied, indicated by her single light-colored toenail and a white patch on the back of her neck.
When I decided to get a Cockatiel, I wanted a nice normal gray male, maybe a lutino, or some other color variation. I was not a fan of the whiteface mutation, because they lack yellow pigment and the orange cheek patches I adore. In fact, one of my favorite mutations is the lutino, with their sunny yellow heads, their orange cheeks, and white feathers.