03 April 2011

Wake up, Good-bird

Cher chuckles quietly in her sling when a noise interrupts her slumber in the middle of the night: the dishwasher kicking on, a suddenly loud movie scene, or me bumping my way into the kitchen for a snack. Sprite immediately recognizes my midnight need for water and mimics the sound of my gulping before I’ve even started pouring a glass. Lennon is a little harder to disturb during his sleeping hours, but when he is trying to catch every last wink as the sun comes up and the Flock Advisors are preparing for their days a hushed “Hi, good-bird” sneaks out of his covered cage.

These are the sounds the birds make when their brains are somewhere on the border of sleep mode, perhaps still dreaming. They consistently make these sounds, and only these sounds, when disturbed whilst sleeping. I realized tonight that each of these three birds, all of whom are closely bonded to both of us Flock Advisors, make sounds in their groggiest moments that are mimics of our sounds. Coconut, who is not closely bonded to either of us, has a consistent sound that he also makes when his sleep is disturbed: it sounds like a door unlatching. I cannot speculate the reason why Coconut’s signature sound is that one, but I did ponder the other birds’ respective choices of theirs.

Lennon always gives Ms. Flock Advisor and me a series of “Bye guys. Love you,” mimics as we head out the door. He always whistles a salutation when either of us comes home. He also repeats his “Hi, good-bird” when he senses we are about to put everyone to bed for the night (TV goes off, dishes put away, etc.) The little guy has shown that he associates certain mimics with specific scenarios.

Cher screams, a lot. Listening closely though (“carefully” might be a better term, too close and the eardrums will bust), her screams do vary based on scenario. Her basic call for attention when we are home but not doting over her is a quick duo: one high pitched scream followed by a slightly lower pitched one. She also has a sustained high pitch scream she uses after the former has been ignored for some time. When the key turns the lock she varies up her screaming routine. She makes her normal calls for attention, but sprinkles in some very high pitched, but lower volume tweets. She only makes those particular sounds when greeting. When she realizes that she is in trouble, and about to be taken back to her cage (for biting my phone, lunging at someone, or putting a hole in my shirt) she makes her best attempt to say “Stop it!” You’ll have to trust me on that one as it is a constant debate between me and Ms. Flock Advisor if she is actually saying anything at all. Nonetheless, it is a consistent sound that she makes whenever she is about to be picked up and taken back to her cage. Like Lennon, Cher also shows an ability to link mimics and sounds with specific scenarios.

Without a doubt, all of our birds show their capability of connecting sounds with events. Knowing they posses this capability makes me wonder why the three birds that have a strong bond with their human flock members choose mimics of our sounds for the times when they are mostly asleep or very tired. Usually, these times are in the dark when the birds are covered. Do these sounds give them comfort (sort of creating their own audible ambiance of familiarity and therefore safety)? Are these sounds the ones they associate with us in their dream states?

I do not have an answer to these questions, but the observation I made tonight was particularly curious and touching. Whatever the reason that these three birds have chosen mimics of their human flock mates for the times when they are the most vulnerable and sleepy, their choice shows us that we figure as a significant part of their world, and their consciousness. We are not simply the ones who remove their food dishes in the morning, only to return them more full moments later. Just as we find them in our dreams from time to time, their groggy mimics are evidence that they find us in theirs as well. 

Kenobi makes no sound when he sleeps.

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