A toad I could understand, or even a crow — but a ‘budgie’? What kind of a witch gets a parakeet for a familiar? At least that’s the question I have for the god Pan, next time he’s in the neighborhood.
As any student of nature (or mythology) knows – Pan is the god of Nature, the god of the wild, and he can be a bit of a trickster too. It’s with good reason that Pan was the inspiration behind the word ‘panic’. I can almost hear his roar of laughter after scaring some nincompoop into fleeing from his forest.
I happen to be on good terms with Pan, for the most part, and I paid tribute to Nature by engraving the Green Man’s image onto my patio’s fireplace keystone.
I have a deep affinity for the wild things that visit my yard and I welcome them, one and all, with just one caveat:
Don’t mess with my stuff or it’s game on!
Consequently I view the cycles of nature from a realist’s perspective, understanding that all creatures need to eat. I love the bunnies who live in my forsythia hedge and I enjoy watching them come out at eventide to munch on clover flowers. But I also know that our neighborhood fox might invite one or two home for dinner.
I grow herbs that invite beneficial bees, praying mantis, butterflies, and even “good” wasps… After planting a Rue bush in my garden, its blooms attracted a polite variety of wasp that chased away all the nasty mud daubers who rudely buzz folks for no good reason.
I don’t even mind that a toad confiscated my marigold seed pots. In fact, I’m tempted to put out a special dish of soil just for him.
And then there’s all the wild birds. Not only do we have natural food sources like a bing cherry tree, elderberries, and the like, but all year round my husband and I stock several feeders, hang suet blocks, and keep a steady supply of fresh water for all our feathered friends. And yes, the squirrels are welcome to take their fair share too – as long as they don’t get greedy.
So in a way, my yard has its own ecosystem because we move in concert with the rhythm of the natural world; as much as possible. One year, we just couldn’t stand by and watch a black snake hunt a nest of baby Robins from the auspices of our front porch. We quietly, and kindly, redirected him elsewhere in the yard. Black snakes need to eat too, I know, but I do have my limits.
With all this said, you can imagine my surprise when a cobalt blue ‘budgie’ not only fluttered into my yard, but specifically sought me out! Parakeets are not native, nor are they wild, to the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.
The Game of “Stop that Pigeon!”
The drama unfolded after dinner. And when I think of all the extraordinary things that had to happen to place me there, at that exact moment … it’s nothing short of miraculous. This poor little budgie was facing certain death and it would’ve died alone, scared, and hungry. Did the angels guide him to me for safekeeping? Or was it Pan, knowing I’d do my best to help a critter in need?
It all began when I decided, purely by whim, to have dinner outside on our patio. It’s been a very cool spring so even though the sun was bright in a clear blue sky, the air had a bit of a chill, but still — despite the fact that Doug had already set the kitchen table — I insisted we eat out of doors. This in itself is unusual.
So we turned on some outdoor music and settled ourselves at the patio table. Afterwards, Doug cleared the dishes and went inside for kitchen duty but I decided to linger outside a while longer, enjoying a favorite song. This is again unusual.
I sat alone, with a contented smile on my lips, watching the various birds chow down at the bird-feeder, when I was suddenly startled into action by an extremely loud call of a Pileated Woodpecker . It had sounded very near.
These large breed of woodpeckers are rare in my area of the Shenandoah Valley so I’m always eager to spot one. I immediately jumped up and followed the sound to my driveway, catching sight of a brief landing in the branches of a sycamore tree, but by the time I rounded the corner of my house, it had disappeared into thin air. I searched both sky and trees but there was no sign of the woodpecker.
Nonplussed, I returned to my back yard. Now that my attention was more my own, I was immediately struck by how good the lush, green grass felt beneath my bare feet, so I paused there, enjoying the sensation. I then looked to the treetops and felt inner bliss as I watched a gentle breeze sift through the leaves, swaying branches. I stood rooted, admiring the jewel-like tones of green against a blue and white sky…
When out of nowhere, flapping wings rushed at me, circling round and round and round! My brain registered, mourning dove(?), but there was no cooing, just furious flapping sounds as a blur of a bird sped around me. At one point, it looked like it wanted to land on my shoulder so I put out an arm and extended a finger thinking I’d offer an easier perch, but the bird sailed to the ground instead, landing a few feet away. It was a beautiful parakeet, with striking cobalt-blue feathers and a bright yellow head.
“What on earth are you doing out here?” I asked him, and crouched down to see if he’d jump on my finger. After repeated failed attempts, I knew I’d have to take hold of the bird myself so I rushed to the kitchen door and yelled for my husband to “Come quick! There’s a parakeet in our yard!” I knew I could rely on Doug’s vast practical experience since he had hand-tamed various pet parrots over the course of many years.
To my surprise, the ‘budgie’ didn’t want anything to do with Doug and flew away, landing in a nearby lilac bush. It was obvious the bird had “chosen” me.
After it again skittered away from Doug’s hands he said, “Quick – get some seed from the bird-feeder!” I rushed off and returned with a palmful, giving half to Doug. We each tried to entice the bird to our extended hands and the bird once more chose me; hopping onto my hand and eating seed like it hadn’t seen a meal for days. Doug quickly took hold of the bird and we brought it into the safety of our kitchen.
But we had no cage.
We decided to call a bird-friendly neighbor in search of a temporary solution and Doug released the bird to my hand, but it was too quick, taking flight across the kitchen, touch-landing on cabinets then bookshelves then finally onto the stainless steel oven hood until it recognized my seed laden hand and promptly jumped onto the edge of my palm to gobble up seed like no tomorrow. The poor thing was starving.
Our neighbor no longer had birds or cages, so Doug retrieved a medium sized wood box from our garage and placed dishes of seed and water inside. I transferred the parakeet to the box without incident and Doug placed a sheet pan over top until I could replace it with a cookie cooling rack, thereby allowing air flow and visuals of his surroundings.
I immediately posted a Lost and Found notice to my neighborhood’s Facebook Page, just in case some heartbroken little girl was in tears over her lost pet, and planned to wait three days before deciding on my next move. By now night had fallen, and we coo’d the exhausted creature to sleep.
Next morning I rushed to Petco for Parakeet Food, a mirror, and a perch, hoping to make the little bird more comfortable and also provide the right blend of nutrition and minerals he so desperately needed. After Doug had felt its breastbone protruding, it was obvious the bird had been without food for some time, proof that it wouldn’t have survived on its own much longer.
I couldn’t find an appropriate mirror for his temporary, makeshift lodgings, so I had to settle for a small round mirror attached to a swinging perch compact enough to hang from the bars of the cookie cooling rack. Once our little foundling discovered the face of a fellow parakeet, he became enamored and spent most of his time cuddled up beside it.
We set the box on a table in front of a window so the poor wee thing could at least see sky, treetops, and sunlight. Doug likened it to rest and recuperation in a birdie hospital. The bird appeared healthy, but traumatized. It hadn’t released a single peep, nor could we find an ID bracelet on its leg.
By the end of day two, Doug and I were becoming more and more delighted by the prospect that Divine Intervention saw fit to send us a pet ‘budgie’, and we were secretly hoping that no one would claim our lost, but found, new friend.
Mr. Tips Finds a New Home
On day three, after careful research on the life and habitat of pet parakeets, we discovered that our guest was a young , healthy male. It stood to reason that he hadn’t yet been hand tamed, or been offered fresh foods like lettuce or bananas since he would only eat seeds and shy away from any other offering, and we wondered where he could’ve come from. Had it been a bonafide pet store purchase or breeder, he would’ve had an ID band circling his leg.
The bird still made no sound, which is unusual for parakeets. They are an extremely social bird, living in vast flocks that constantly chatter to each other, which is why mirrors are sometimes placed inside the cage of a lone “budgie”, to give it a sense of companionship. We knew that if and when our foundling chirped, squawked, or chattered — it would be a very good sign that he had fully recovered from his dangerous misadventure.
By late afternoon we had reached a joint resolution. Due diligence had been amply given. The bird was now ours!
Doug and I rushed to Petco like a pair of first-time parents eager to outfit their new baby. Into the cart went cage, assorted treats and perches, a full length 3-sided mirror, birdie bath, and more toys than could possibly fit at any one time.
We had to order the hanging bird stand and cage cover.
Then we sent announcements of “a new arrival” to our closest family and friends, inviting them to join us in a naming competition. Our adopted pet needed a good name.
The most popular was “Lucky”, followed by generous comments like “Boy, did that bird fly to the right house!” and we good-naturedly agreed.
But the winning name evolved from talking to my besties, Kathy and Robyn, who share my passion for British murder mysteries like “Vera” as well as British-inspired tea parties. I jokingly said, “And now I have a “budgie”, just like a Brit!”
Robyn replied, “Sit him near the TV and put BritBox on. Maybe he’ll pick up the accent!”
“How about PG for a name?” said Kathy, knowing that my favorite tea is a British brand called “PG Tips”.
“Or Tips…” I replied.
By day four, our new ‘budgie’ was christened — “Mr. Tips”.
And thanks to the brilliance that is my husband, he tuned our smart TV to a YouTube video that plays untold hours of parakeets in an aviary. Within seconds, Mr. Tips chattered and chirped and squawked, puffed out his chest feathers, and happily danced along his perch.
Now that our house is alive with the sounds of cheerful birdsong, we feel blessed to have been sent this new soul to care for, and I find myself revisiting that first thought of wonder. Was Mr. Tips guided to seek me to rescue him? Or did the Divine send him to rescue me?
Too long has my home been without a pet. We buried our last, a beloved Golden Retriever and a Quaker Parrot, over two years ago. We’ve missed having a pet. But Doug and I had been reluctant to love yet another critter, asking ourselves how many years until the next loss…
Thanks to a little lost ‘budgie, all this is now in the past. The slate has been wiped clean.
Welcome home, Mr. Tips.