Saturday, 29 November 2008

Rambo ...

There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature. A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with.
Harry Crews



This post has turned out to be a bit of a PITA. It has been composed and ripped apart several times, and was eventually put on hold so that 'Giant' could go up.

The problem is the subject matter. To generalise, it is about survival, but it has nothing to do with 'human survival'. The will to live is the strongest instinct of any living thing, but sometimes it takes a bit of outside help to attain that state of grace. In retrospect, it is still an up-beat tale, despite the hero being a BIRD!

I will try and compress the story into as few words as possible, but you get fair warning at this stage that some of the images will not sit well with the squeamish.

Fast rewind to 3 years ago. Isabel, Maria's friend, offloaded a ball of feathers on to Maria due to her inability to provide the constant care the little chick required. The chick had been kicked out of the nest by one of Isabel's breeding couples. Maria took on the challenge and I dubbed the fluff-ball 'Beaky' on the grounds that that was all she appeared to be; one massive beak that needed constant filling! Later, when she started to show signs of maturity (egg laying and nest building are a classic giveaway) we got her a mate. Fully adult, very nervous and totally incompatible with the female. She rejected him and he sat in a corner fluffed up and looking dejected. Maria refused to accept this standoff, so she grabbed one in each hand, held them beak-to-beak, and gave them a stern talking to. She then put them back in the cage, and I kid you not, within minutes they were billing and cooing like the lovebirds they are supposed to be! The rest is history.


Barney and Beaky. She is collecting nesting material from a basket that once held a Christmas cousin. She harvests. He watches. When she isn't looking, he steals as many bits as he can!
I am seriously considering going into advertising. They will happily pose all day. One brood of many and, yes, I am sure they would prefer to be on the outside looking in!


The last pic is of only four of about 30 chicks that the original pair have produced (we've lost count), and they have another full nest even as I write. The problem is to find homes for the offspring with people we consider 'suitable'. The vetting procedure is stringent and so far, bar one 'escapee', we have been satisfied that they are all being well looked after.

FF to September this year and the couple two floors down from us, recipients of three of our birds (they had the 'escapee'), asked timidly if we could look after their birds as they had managed to snag a late 10 day holiday. The reason for the request was that their pair was now breeding and had already produced one chick from a nest of four eggs. Could we manage? Damn silly question, since all these birds came from this source in the first place!

The day after they'd left, the second chick was born. Three days later Maria observed weird behaviour by the adults. The female appeared to be spending too much time off the nest and the male was making no attempt to feed her or the chicks. Maria checked, and to her horror this is what she found.

Both birds have been pecked, but the little one in the foreground looks a goner! That's a serious wound on his head. Not much hope for this little one. These pics are after they were cleaned up. It doesn't look possible that the hole in his head will heal.


Maria donned her nurse's uniform (always like it when she puts on her nurse's outfit) and set to work cleaning up the mess. 'Água Oxigenada' was applied liberally and flaps of skin were gently manoeuvred back into place. Two-hourly feeds from a syringe were started and by the time the couple from downstairs came back 7 days later, they were able to take home two relatively healthy babies. Feathers had started sprouting to disguise the wounds, and apart from having to be hand fed for several more weeks, they were as 'normal' as any hatchlings.

Why did the mother attack the chicks? Dunno! Maybe she is not ready to be a parent as yet.

Sadly, the story didn't end there. About ten days later the woman from downstairs, totally distressed, phoned Maria to tell her that the little chick had suffered a setback and now had a twisted neck. We invited her up so that we could have a look at it. Sure enough, the poor little sod couldn't hold his head up and was carrying it, bent, beak down, at a 90 degree angle to the norm. Decision time. Looked like it would have to be the chloroform bottle as this wasn't something you could rectify with the magical 'Água Oxigenada'. Maria asked her to leave it with us, reassuring her that we would be as kind as possible when the time came to put this wee one out of its misery.

After the woman had left, Maria offered the chick a bit of food from a syringe. He gulped it down and then took aboard a copious amount of water before lowering his beak to the floor and promptly going to sleep. A quick trawl of the internet threw up the information that 'love-birds' and 'budgies' sometimes suffered from this disability, and that they were referred to as 'Stargazers'. They could apparently live fairly normal lives; walking, climbing and flying, compensating all the while for the disability. It was also suggested that this condition could be caused by an inner-ear infection and that it was treatable. Voilà! The chloroform bottle was returned to the top shelf.

Off to the vet the next day. She specialises in avians. Yes, she had seen this before, and yes, it was often treated successfully. No promises, but she prescribed a course of antibiotics to clear up the ear infection if that was what the problem was. Two days later the little blighter was holding his head up straighter. Not that we believed our eyes, you understand! We felt more that it was wishful thinking on our part.

We didn't take any pictures of this period of his life because we felt it was inappropriate to photograph a bird that was about to be put to sleep. The earlier pics were fine because we needed photographic evidence to show the owners, especially if things had gone bad. This time, we knew instinctively that he had reached the end of his travels, whatever the outcome!

I've bestowed on him the title of 'Rambo', based purely on his apparent ability to overcome all the odds. The difference is that this little guy is for real. He continues to improve by the day. He still flies like a brick, but he is getting stronger and more adept as time moves on. He still begs to be hand-fed if he thinks he can get away with it, but he has begun to discover the bins of food laid out for him, and we often find his crop is stuffed full without any help from us. The one ritual he continues to observe is to stridently demand to be let out of his cage when he hears movement in the house.

Here he is nearly three months later ...


Who would have thought he had a hole in his head, followed by a twisted neck, only two and a half months ago!


This little fella is here to stay. He is slowly beginning to bond with the adult birds and appears to tease them now that he knows he can fly out of danger when there is threat of a winged attack. He doesn't have an inbuilt fear mechanism, certainly not with humans or dogs!

Don't believe me? Take a look ...



If you've stayed with me this long I am sure you'll agree that it was a tale worth telling.

Even if birds aren't your bag ...


back to the top


Lee said...

Terry, that was an amazing story. The will to live is indeed the best and greatest gift God has given us. Thank you for sharing that.

Title of song and name of performer in video, please? It was lovely.


Fletch said...

Glad you enjoyed it Lee. I was hesitant about putting it up because the life story of a 'bird' doesn't seem to be of any significance.

The omission of the song title and performer was my 'bad'. I will probably re-cut the vid and include it in the credits, but for now ...

Song title: Bubbly
Singer: Colby Caillat

CrazyCath said...

Awwww! That is the best. I'm gonna tell Thyson though that you called him no-brain. There has to be brain there. He never squashed that bird! And he was getting well bossed around by the bird!

What a great job you did. I would never have known what to do. It would have been the vet from the start and I don't know what they would have advised about such a poorly critter.

Loved the video and the background song. Not to mention the titles etc....
Great post.

Fletch said...

Thanks Cath.

You may tell Thyson anything you want - mostly he leaves the batteries out of his deaf-aid!

I'm glad there are at least TWO visitors that manage to comment.

Shrinky said...

That video is simply amazing, my whole family loved watching it. It says a huge amount about Thyson too, what a softie he is, adorable!

And yes, a beautiful tale of why we should never give up, regardless. Thanks for making me (and my whole brood) smile. A wonderful story Fletch, and well told.

Fletch said...

Thanks Carol.

Imagine the whole 'Shrinky Brood' finding the vid enjoyable. An accolade, indeed!

As Maria says about little Rambo, "He doesn't know he is handicapped, and I am not about to tell him!"

This little tyrant will probably pop up in another post or two ...

bulbul said...

You say the story about a bird doesn't seem to be of significance? I came to your story as if being guided by a magic hand. I've learnt my lesson for life. One can be a survivor, woman or beast. You just must have it in you. Your bird has it it in him. I hope I do. Thanks birdie.

Fletch said...

Thanks for the comment bulbul.

I always knew the name'bulbul' as referring to a species of bird in India.

Is it still so?

bulbul said...


There are many species of 'bulbuls'in India. It is also quite a common name for girls from the East. Though I am from the South.:)

I wake up every morning to the call of the 'Red vented bulbul'.

Birds are my friends.

Carolina said...

I'm so glad you gave me the link to this story (I will read the other two too). It's a wonderful tale. I like Maria! (okay, I like you too)
How is Rambo doing now?



My Gizmo's

Gizmo Richards' Best-ever Freeware List. You really should pay him a visit! - (link opens in a new window)

All the tools and templates you need for a successful blog display! - (link opens in a new window)

Powered By Blogger! - (link opens in a new window)


width A cheeky little red

Here's a toast to your health.

"Lang May Yer Lumb Reek!"
(Scottish for 'long may your chimney smoke')

or if you prefer,

"Bottoms Up!"