My Wild Parrots–An Obituary

16 10 2009


I borrowed a tear from the water
And wept it again and again

Redbird or Reddie, our cherry crowned conure, our Aratinga erythrogenys died last week.

And the heart is all in shadow
And the heart has almost stopped

He was not a young bird.

I cannot see that you are not me

He died of kidney or heart disease. I was in bed, sick, when he died. I heard him yell for supper, as he did every evening, and fell back asleep.

Willie found him dead some time later. And Wiggie, his housemate–I would say his partner–there on the perch they shared on the top of their cage must have known. When we took Reddie away, he did not yell.

I have written about these birds before, here. Go there if you want to know more about them. This is just a little remembrance.


Redbird lived with us since I was eighteen (for more than 21 years). In no such intimate relationship with any other creature have I felt so distant and helpless. Redbird did not like me. He did not like my husband nor did he like my parents. He did not like people. He liked/loved Wiggie. We introduced him to Wiggie as I was leaving for college and could not take Wiggie into the dorms. He and Wiggie bonded, but Wiggie always retained a fondness for me and other humans.

Redbird did not like this and because their relationship was more important than our relationship to either of them, I never did what I might have to tame Redbird–separate them. Keep them isolated from each other and force Redbird to accept me or my husband or some human, as a surrogate mate.

If you want your bird to bond with you you should not allow him/her to have a close avian friend.

So, Redbird lived and died disliking and, to some extent fearing, everyone except Wiggie. This sense of him as a cipher haunts me as does my inability to grieve over him in the way I would with another creature to whom I had bonded. My grief is about the sense I have that his life was so diminished by his being turned from a wild creature into a pet–and my complicity in this, ignorant as I was in 1988, diminishment.

This is how I soothe myself. He may have been a cipher to me but he was not alone. He and Wiggie loved each other and they had each other, from outdoor aviaries in warm California to a heated aviary in Washington, to, when they became too old to be outside, a cage inside our house.

It was on the perch on top of this cage that he and Wiggie played out their last days together, like two old men rocking on a porch watching the world go by and periodically making comments.

Is this sentimentality on my part? Anthropomorphism? Of course, but I have nothing else except this with which to comfort myself. It is pathetic, I suppose.

the fool steps out of his image

But I have to tell myself something because I have to create something for Wiggie now. What he has is an absence–though his is less horrible than Reddie’s would have been, had Wiggie gone first. Wiggie can spend time with us and seem to enjoy it and the only way it works is if I create stories and assumptions–trying to read him but filling the spaces I cannot interpret with something of Homo rather than Aratinga.

lights a candle in bright sunlight.

What Reddie brought–what I stole–was this deep sense of other that I could not penetrate. The other of a wildness robbed–deep time and space in one little bird. Wiggie has this too. So do they all

desire to see the invisible


before 1988 to 2009


quotes (except for “if you want your bird) are from Inger Christensen




One response

19 10 2009
My Wild Parrots, A Confession « Jdcalkins2001's Weblog

[…] Addendum 10/19/09:  Redbird died 10/07/09.  For his obituary, please follow this link:  Redbird, in Memoriam. […]

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