30 January 2010

Feathers, Feathers Everywhere

The birds are molting, and feathers are flying. Yellow, green, orange, and white feathers are turning up in every crevice of the feather dorm. They are also being carried out into the world by the flock advisors via our clothes, cell phones, and bellybuttons.
Molting is something that every bird goes through, and it can be a very trying time for them. When penguins molt, it can last more than a month, and they are not able to swim through that whole time. This of course means they go hungry. Our birds do not go hungry, but they do turn rather grumpy and irritable during their molts.
Cher prefers to bathe her way through the discomfort of sprouting new feathers. She morphs into a statue of bliss as she perches in the shower with hot water trickling down her neck and between her wings. The water mattes her mature feathers down, leaving the new pin feathers pricked up like tiny quills. She looks like a yellow and orange pin cushion.
With her desire to shower away the prickly feeling of those new pin feathers, it is impossible to turn on any faucet without hearing her go ballistic. If I neglect to take her into the shower with me, I can hear her screaming incessantly from the moment I turn the water on. I’m sure the neighbors would prefer I just drop her in a full bath tub. Even washing dishes prompts her to climb, twittering nervously, down my arm in an attempt to get to the comfort of running water. This morning, while I was tackling my endless pile of reading material, I found myself pelted as Cher took a bird bath in her water dish on the new tree stand. My books and liquor cabinet, yes they are side by side in the feather dorm, were sprinkled with bird water. How could I stop the little thing from getting some much needed relief, though?
Lennon and Coconut press on through their molts together. Lennon has his own pattern of angry preening and yelling at his feet, Coconut now follows suit. Lennon is a recessive pied white-face cockatiel, and thus has more fluffy white down than your average ‘tiel. His preening always turns into an angry rant that winds up with fluff stuck to his face. I’m sure he is displeased with us humans and our selective breeding shenanigans. Coconut is rather comical as he mirrors Lennon’s feather woes; he has the body of a toothpick just pulled from a marshmallow. His agitation has little basis other than a desperate need to fit in.
Sprite’s molting routine is an unfolding mystery to us. He is laden with pin feathers, and is letting the flock advisors both pop them open for him (this is the normal way that the pins erupt into mature feathers; the birds typically do it with their beaks). He has, however, shown us that he does know how to make regular bird sounds. A muffled parrot squawk has found its way into his vocabulary on occasion over the last week. After his molt is complete, spring will be upon us, and with it his hormonal season. Time will tell if the muffled squawks will turn into unabated screams. Cher would certainly be crushed by the noise competition.
Until the molting is finished, the flock advisors will continue double-duty vacuuming and plucking stray feathers from each other like a couple of chimps on tick patrol. I opened up my phone the other day to record a number and a little yellow feather fluttered out onto the round table in my poetry workshop. They’re like fish scales; you’ll find them in places you didn’t know existed.

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