Pretty Bird

The other day, we pointed out to our toddler friend that six bright green parrots had landed on a tree outside our holiday home, and were happily squawking by our window for a good part of the morning. She was thrilled.

These bright green birds excite me as well, having seen them now several times. Are they native to The Netherlands or did they escape a pet store long ago to thrive in this wet grassy land, their coats matching the landscape?

When I was younger, the birds I knew best were my pets – a pair of mating cockatiels named Mr. and Mrs. Pretty Bird. Their hobbies were screeching, pooping and endlessly reproducing. While Mr. Pretty Bird sauntered, Mrs. Pretty Bird waddled. My youth was spent watching their babies hatch and grow, their family easily multiplying quicker than ours for the few years we had them.

My parents thought it was mean to keep them in a cage, so the flock would fly around the five rooms of our house, perching on our curtain rods, and pooing on our carpets. Sometimes the whole group would enthusiastically attempt a shoulder landing on an unsuspecting neighbor dropping by, or a friend visiting for lunch. When one bird launched, the rest would follow. At night, I’d hear them take off in explosions of noise and feathers, only to end their journey flying directly into our bathroom mirrors or dark unshaded window panes where they’d slide to the floor and wait to regain their energy to do it again.

My dad loved them. Every night, he would microwave a large bowl of popcorn, settle into his barcalounger, turn on the evening news, and wait as the bird family descended to share a meal. He would delicately move his hand to grab fistfuls of popcorn among the hungry bird bodies as they nipped at his fingers, less willing to share. This was their nighttime ritual, him in his chair, them in the bowl – the whole bunch of them covered in half eaten kernels and lit up by the changing TV channels in the dark of our living room.

I thought of this when I watched the six green parrots sit outside our window on a tree. I wondered if they also had a family before. I wondered if they ever lived in a home with newspapers under every window and ate popcorn with a dad watching TV.

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