NOTE: For safety reasons, we require all Mickaboo foster birds to have their wings clipped. We urge adopters to do the same, but we recognize that there are pluses as well as minuses to leaving birds flighted. People who choose to leave their birds flighted must take extra precautions to be sure their home is free of hazards such as ceiling fans, and must also ensure that their birds are protected from escape.
Bucky (L), Chulo, and Kiko
(click on image to enlarge)
Bucky is now part of a happy flock that includes two canaries, a blue-crowned conure, and another male cockatiel. They spend their days together in a sunny room off our dining room, where they play, forage, and vocalize. At night the 3 bigger birds get wheeled (in their cages) into our study, which is dark and quiet.
A big part of why we adopted Bucky was to find a friend for our other cockatiel, Chulo, rescued from the SF shelter a year and a half earlier. As soon as Bucky came out of quarantine, the two birds became inseparable. We tried housing them in different cages for a few days, but they wouldn't tolerate it. At one point, when we put Bucky back into his own cage, Chulo got extremely upset, and the valiant little bird started flying back and forth between Patricia and me, chirping angrily and biting us on the neck and ears every chance he could. When we finally let the two of them move in together, they were SO happy. They spent hours chasing each other around the cage bars and across their perches, undertook great newspaper-shredding projects, and began exploring and foraging in places neither had dared go before.
Bucky seems to see Chulo as a kind of big brother and follows him everywhere. His adulation is a bit ironic, since in most ways Bucky is both stronger and more skillful. He's a much better flyer and climber, uses his foot to pick up food and toys, and is more daring, as well as tamer and more trusting. Bucky in fact has been a wonderful influence on Chulo, who has learned many new climbing and navigating tricks and has become much more playful and adventuresome, to say nothing of happier than we've ever seen him. There's some evidence Chulo was confined and possibly abused in his earlier life. He was not at all tame when we got him; it took many months to get him to step up and trust our hands, and he still won't allow us preen him with our fingers. But I know he has become calmer and more affectionate, watching us give friendly little Bucky his daily head scratches.
I think Bucky has influenced the other birds too, especially Paco, the conure, who never was allowed to fledge and who has learned to fly better thanks to Bucky's example, and certainly to have more fun flying!
I know that allowing indoor flight is controversial and a choice to be weighed carefully. For the sake of their health and development (mental and physical), we already had decided to let our earlier birds' wing feathers grow back and encouraged them to fly, so we felt obliged to put Bucky on an equal footing (we did install Venetian blinds in our bird room before his new feathers grew in). And wouldn't you know it? Bucky is the best flyer in the flock. We had to teach both Chulo and Paco, but Bucky is a natural—fast, precise, and graceful—and he loves it. We have an open flyway between the kitchen and our bird room offering about a 40- to 50-foot round trip, and Bucky flies back and forth many times each day for fun and exercise (I'd estimate he racks up between a 1/4 and a 1/2 mile daily on these little jaunts). The three bigger birds also have a flying game that I call "Wig Out." They especially like to play this silly game in the mornings, when they're all feeling frisky. They'll be sitting on their perches, swings, or cage tops, and one of the three (it can be any one) suddenly will squawk or chirp; it's not an alarm call, it's a Wig Out! and everybody takes off and flies every which way, zigzagging and looping. Paco usually lands on his high swing, which goes spinning around, while Bucky always lands on some high place where he can spread all his feathers and display. Then everbody waits for a short while, and then suddenly they all do it again.
Bucky has turned out to be an amazing musician. He whistles several different tunes (all original, so far as I can tell), each expressing a different mood and accompanied by a different "dance" or body gestures. Sometimes he will take one of his melodies and riff on it for several minutes, varying and embellishing it passionately, and when he does, Paco often shrieks back, "YEAH! BUCKY!!" ("Yeah!" being the conure flock contact call). Bucky sings and dances for Chulo and for us, but he converses with everyone during the day—not just Chulo but quite a bit with Paco the conure and with Kiko the male canary. These little dialogues are fascinating; they range from the hilarious to the sweet to the astonishingly, musically beautiful. Every evening, the two cockatiels fly to my shoulders and sit expectantly with tongues smacking, awaiting a whistling session. If I don't start it off, one of them inevitably does: it's a kind of call-and-response game based on the wolf whistle or a related, short melody, which we toss back and forth in various ways. Bucky always emerges as the leader of us three—the loudest, most eloquent, and by far the most confident.
Bucky is a remarkable little guy. He has enriched our lives in so many ways, and we're very lucky to have him.
Bucky has a supporting role as the (perhaps not altogether innocent) victim of harassment in the short YouTube video, "Hey Baby!"
For a sample of Bucky's musical chops, check out this duet with Kiko the canary, "Jammin birds 2."
... and you can see the multi-talented Bucky acting as his own sound engineer in "Bucky adds reverb"
(click on image to enlarge)
(Bucky in back)
(Bucky on right)
Bucky and Paco almost have a tug of war. Chulo is either going to referee or is about to jump in.
... with 2 very happy birds (Bucky in back). We got this well-designed toy at the Mickaboo foraging seminar.