Lucy the cockatiel - photo by me

My husband and I have, over the years, been the caretakers of several cockatiels (and three parakeets.) The parakeets don’t live as long as the cockatiels do – but they burn bright while they are here.

In general, we have had up to six cockatiels at a time. Most (if not all) cockatiels are happy creatures who appear to really love the birds in their flock. (Humans count as “part of the flock” to them, it seems.)

Fast-forward, and my husband and I noticed that there was what certainly sounded like a cockatiel in one of the mobile homes where we live. The bird called out to us, for reasons of its own. It sounded happy.

Fast-forward again, and the owners of that cocktail asked us if we wanted to take her. They knew that we had other cockatiels she could be with.

If I remember correctly, the previous owners said that this bird had a mate, who died recently. This bird, named Lucy, was sad. She was desperately trying to get attention from her humans.

Of course, we brought her in. It didn’t take long for her to become part of the flock. From memory, I think we had four birds at that time (including her.)

Fast-forward to now. Lucy was younger than the rest of the flock. Two of the boys died from medical ailments that had no cure. Another cockatiel, named Pepper, lived to almost 30. He was one of my first cockatiels. For context, a typical cockatiel lives to be somewhere between 15 and 18.

And this left Lucy alone again.

To help her, we moved her cage into the main room where we are in. She now had access to look out the many windows in this room. She made “friends” with the local crows, who sometimes come here for snacks. The crows live to visit her. She has learned how to scream back at them.

Lucy likes to sit on her humans, and we let her do that for a while. She prefers to have at least one human within her line of sight, but if not, she will calm herself after we return to the room.

Recently, I got my hair cut short. The person who cut my hair shaved the back of my neck. Lucy noticed that my hair was different. She started trying to “find” where my long hair went.

And then, she made this strange burbling noise, sort of like what a cockatiel would do when interacting with a baby cockatiel. It turns out, she thought the small bits of hair that had been mostly shaved off were “pinfeathers” and she started pulling them out.

From my perspectives, the “pinfeathers” signaled “baby bird.” Cockatiels have new feathers grow in that are encased in a harder substance. Lucy often has me pick that of of her feathers with my nails (though she is not a baby bird.)

After pulling out what she saw as “pinfeathers” from the back of my neck, she stopped and looked at me. She made the burbling sound again.

In short, Lucy may have been thinking: “OH! I didn’t know you were a baby! Let me help you.” She is a gentle bird, and has been more gentle with me after she decided I was a baby.

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