|Frank, a Blue Bird of Note
Many years ago, I found a wounded baby bird (a blue jay) that I nursed back to health and we kept in a huge cage my husband, Charles, built.
I found Frank outside the building where I worked on a Tuesday; Monday had been a federal holiday, and there had been a great thunder- and windstorm over the weekend. He was huddled, healthy but miserable, on the storm drain. I took him to the vet on base, and she recommended that I feed him softened kitten food. I had him in a box, and fed him that day from a box of kitten food I bought. That evening, I called the bird vet in our area, and he recommended cooking hamburger and then putting it in scrambled eggs (no salt and pepper). It would give him the nourishment he needed.
I took him to work with me, and anyone who came into the office would feed him from the little bowl of scrambled eggs and cooked hamburger I had ready. I continued to do that (back-and-forth every day) as long as he had to be hand-fed many times each day. He traveled in the back of my Broncho II, in a dog carrier. I found a wooden dowel that fit across the carrier if I put it through the metal grates on each side of the container. I'd talk to him as I drove and he'd reward me with lovely songs.
When I first picked up that baby bird from the storm drain at work, I envisioned getting him back to the wild pronto. Bugs and things aren't my "thing." But blue jays are fruit eaters, for the most part. Eventually, we found a wild bird seed combination that suited him very well.
I was amazed as he grew older and was in our home--he used newspaper from the lining of his cage (ripped into strips) as a way to get food which had fallen outside his cage back inside so he could eat it. It was the first time I'd observed an animal (such as a wild bird, which isn't credited with a whole lot of reasoning power) using tools.
Most of every day one of us was at home with him, since Charles didn't go to work until 3PM or so, and I came home around 4PM. And, Frank would mimic things--the wolf whistle Charles would sound when I walked into the room was a favorite. If Charles were not home and I came into the kitchen, where Frank and his cage ruled supreme, he'd whistle at me. He also did a great telephone ringing sound. We had one phone at the time, and I’d come running, only to find it was “just” Frank. He’d hop around on his perch in delight, having fooled me once again.
One Christmas, I bought a strand of lights that played Christmas carols (just a few bars of each). Frank's favorite was Good King Wenceslas, but he'd sing along with all of them. He'd chirp GKW on his own, though. His cage was next to our kitchen table, so he always had company to talk to.
It didn’t matter that we worked hard to give him food that would be to his benefit, fruit was his first love. So, we'd cut up pieces of fruit for him as we ate, and he would chirp madly to get our attention because he wanted more. One day, on Charles' day off, I arrived home after work to find Charles in a real quandary. Frank was dying.
We used some lovely Chinese bowls--shallow but very wide--as his bird bath. We changed the water frequently, and he also drank from the bowl. When I walked in the door, there was Frank, flat on his back, wings spread, in the bowl of water. We were convinced he was dying, since we could see his little heart beating rapidly, but his eyes were closed. We called the bird vet--who diagnoses over the phone, and charges the caller for time spent.
What had we fed him that day? Well, Charles had been eating tangerines and given Frank a section for himself. Birds use their craw to store food and some enzyme action takes place in there, apparently. Frank's body had converted the tangerine juice into fermented liquor and the little boy was flat-out drunk.
The only thing to do was wait it out and deal with his hangover. But the cage was too large, since he flew around in it and could do some damage to himself. We had to get him into a dog carrier we kept for our cocker spaniel, the one I’d used to transport Frank back and forth from my office. We opened the door of the carrier and the door of the cage. Unfortunately, both doors opened in the same direction, so putting the doorways together wasn't foolproof. Don't ask me how this happened, because I don't know, but the door to the trailer was also open. Quick, with a mighty swoosh of drunken action, Frank was out the door, using the gap between open cage door and open carrier. We both thought it might be time to turn Frank back into the wild, except ... Frank wasn't flying. He was swooshing and couldn't make it higher into the air than the first terrace above the trailer. Charles had built wonderful clotheslines for me on that terrace, but Frank kept diving into the side of the hill that rose to that terrace level.
It was disgustingly easy to capture Frank again. He subsided rather quickly, and we put him in the carrier, where he slept off his mighty drunk.
We’d had Frank for maybe a year before we were able to build a log home on our land. We lived in our trailer as construction went on two terraces up from our trailer. The huge mistake I made was as we transitioned from our trailer up into our new home. Charles was now back at work (he'd taken 30 days off to oversee the building, and during that time there were always people in the house--which had become coffee-break central for all the workers). I should have released Frank back into the wild, or I should have tried to understand the nature of birds better.
Charles and I would meet at the new house for dinner (brought home from various fast-food places) and then Charles would go back to work and I'd go to the trailer. Anyway, poor Frank was hopelessly lonely. When I did move him up to the new house, I put him in front of a window, thinking he'd be happier on his own with a view. But that put him far away from where we sat at TV trays, eating our meals. He began to pluck out his feathers and I didn't know that that was a sign that he was sinking into depression. Finally, one morning he was gone when we woke up, and he had a fine burial. But never again would I tame a wild animal and make it a house pet. Our wonderful friend, Frank, had needed to be back among his own.
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