About 10 years ago, we caved to pressure from our youngest daughter, Suz, and got her the birthday present she really wanted – a parrot. We didn’t get her a BIG parrot, of course, but a sun conure, a smallish parrot with beautiful red, orange, yellow, and green plumage. She named him Puck, and he became quite attached to her. For one thing, he was still a baby when we got him, so she fed him with a medicine dropper for several weeks. She’s his mom.
Now, of course, he’s a full-grown bird being cared for by his grandparents, because his mother, she tells us repeatedly, is not out of graduate school yet and not settled enough to have a bird. Plus, he hates (and this is not too strong a word) her boyfriend. Of course, he hates most people, and the dog, whom he will fly down and attack at the slightest provocation. Living with this bird can be an exciting exercise in beak-avoidance.
Nonetheless, we have grown fond of him over the years. His ear-splitting squawks enliven our conversations, and his ability to get out of his cage keeps us on our toes. We never know when we’ll walk downstairs to be met by Puck, flying at our heads looking for either a place to perch or a beak-full of human flesh.
The only non-Suz person Puck really tolerates is our oldest daughter, possibly because she looks and sounds quite like the younger one.
On Saturday last, the OD was in for a visit and was generously refilling Puck’s food bowl and plying him with peanuts when she called me over to his cage.
There, in a pile of peanut shells in the corner, were two eggs.
We stared at them. We gently lifted them out and examined them. They had broken, but there were clearly two sun conure eggs, white shells flecked with gray. The OD burst out laughing.
“You’re a girl, Puck! You’re a Puckette!”
Puck floofed her feathers and glared at us. I think being mistaken for a boy for 10 years might do that to you.
Then we called her mom.
“Guess what?” we gloated. “Your bird’s a girl! She laid eggs!”
The Youngest Daughter, having grown up around people who will do anything for a laugh, sneered at us. “I know what weekend this is. You’re not fooling me.”
We sent her photos, taken with our cell phones.
“Not buying it, sorry. Nice try. I can tell those are quail eggs. Besides, there’s only one bird in there, and even I know you need two birds to make eggs.”
Actually, you don’t. It turns out that most birds will, when they eventually reach maturity, lay sterile eggs. It makes me rather sad, actually, that Puckette would like some chicks and can’t have any. (Of course, we once had zebra finches that could have hatched chicks, but they persistently laid their eggs in their water dish. They had a nest box but couldn’t figure it out. We are cursed, bird-wise.)
We relayed all this information to Suz, who still didn’t believe us. In fact, I don’t think she believes us yet, even though we got a terse message that said “It’s Puckarina, not Puckette.”
Now we have a dilemma. Poor Puckarina/Puckette would like some baby birds. This will require a father-type bird, and as her sad history illustrates, poultry sexing is not for the faint of heart or light of wallet. It takes an expert to know the Pucks from the Puckettes. Furthermore, given her disposition, it’s more likely than not that she will take a dislike to the poor guy, if he is a guy, and treat him the way she treats the dog.
I think she may be condemned to a life of loneliness, and I feel guilty about this. It won’t translate into another parrot, but it will make me way more understanding the next time she flies at my head looking for a little snack.