Beak back on the big perch near his friend, Flash

Beak is a half moon conure I’ve had for 10+ years. Most everyone who meets him loves him – because he is terminally upbeat. And noisy. I found him one Sunday morning on the floor of the aviary – walking. He wasn’t able to fly – or walk well. His right wing hanged lower. I knew this was serious because flying is what Beak is about! As the smallest of the three parrots that share the aviary, his quickness to fly gets him out of the way of the larger birds who don’t fly (clipped feathers). I saw that the right side of his body wasn’t working well – right wing, right foot and leg. His right wing drooped.

I looked him over and saw a puncture wound on his back and figured that one of the others had snipped at him and damaged some nerves. Having worked years ago with my little cockatiel, Sydney – and knowing from my own nerve damage, I figured that his nerves could regenerate if he got plenty of food and rest and safety.

He spent two weeks+ in my version of a parrot ICU. I set up one of the indoor compartments that open into the aviary as well as to my office so he could be very close to me as I worked. I made sure the others couldn’t get in but they could see him from the aviary. Flash sat very nearby much of the time. He is Beak’s best pal and they even groom each other which shows the closeness of their relationship. At first Beak’s appetite was limited and he could only eat if I held the food for him, which I did about 6 times a day. He ate his favorite foods – scrambled eggs, grapes (that gave him lots of liquid), bananas and nuts. The rest of the time he rested. I put a twig into his ‘room’ so that he could climb up and down, which I encouraged.

Slowly he improved. One morning he was able to use his left foot to hold food while his injured right foot grasped the perch. Another morning he went through his littany of favorite sayings, “What’ya doing?” “Zeeeee-haaaaaa”, :Goochy, goochy, goochy”, “Kava Kava Kava”…and his favorite, “Beak, beak beak beak beak!” Even Seurat looked happier! I figured if and when he bit me I’d know he was completely well. He started raising his wings part way and though his right wing had less movement, he was exercising it.

AFter about a week and a half, Frank and I returned home to find that Beak wasn’t in his ICU place. Frank and I hurried out to the aviary to see what had happened. There was the triumphant Beak – sitting on a perch next to his pal, Flash with Sage sitting nearby. Sage shouted, ‘Come here!’ as if to say – See how he is doing! We decided he should stay there all night with his friends. We knew he hadn’t flown to the perch but he managed to climb – more good progress.

Beak definitely showed me the way to help him get better. When he found he could eat on his own he took the food out of my hand and then held it in his left foot. When he wanted water he held a juicy grape in his beak and drank the liquid. When he felt strong enough he climbed out of the small opening in his room to the aviary. His first ventures with flying were pitiful – and he hit the concrete floor. But he kept trying until he could at least flutter softly to the floor. When he wanted a bath he climbed the wire to get to the water container and sat on the edge until I noticed and went out to splash some water on him. Every evening I made sure he was safe in his private ICU spot. Then, one evening, after I’d said good night and it was still light enough outside, he sneaked out to sit next to Flash for the night. I know it was hard on him because he slept for quite awhile the next morning after breakfast.

Finally the trumphant day came when he flew again! After putting fresh food in Beak’s indoor place I went out to feed the others and to offer my finger to Beak so that he could be directed into his private area where the others wouldn’t try to chase him off. Instead of jumping on my finger, he flew – halfway across the aviary and landed on one of the many perches. He did it several times as if to show me his prowess! I shouted, ‘YAY, Beak!’ and I pretty much know that Sage will be chiming in with this congratulatory expression really soon. He’ll ponder it a few days and then will be saying it every time Beak flies. It was a triumph indeed. Beak can fly again!

Beak’s illness kind of illustrates to me something I’ve been thinking about a lot. Perhaps the animals are leading the way and are poised to show us what is needed and how to help? Perhaps they are showing us how to be better animals ourselves. When I simply watched Beak carefully and allowed him to take the lead it seemed that I was better able to find ways to help rather than deciding ahead what he needed. I’ll have to think about this…. I know we have to use our big brains for something, but maybe – just like parenting – we cannot and should not protect them from all risks. We just don’t know everything – and that’s how Beak and his Buddies like it.

50 years ago I wanted to be a Veterinarian and was even accepted into Vet school but didn’t go.

Funny how life comes around.