A Bird To Love

My son takes his Cockatiel Nugget out of her cage as soon as he wakes up. She sits on his shoulder when he comes downstairs to work at the computer before breakfast.

“Good Morning Son. Would you like me to make you oatmeal ?”

At the first sound of my voice, Nugget climbs down my sons arm, jumps off of the chair he is sitting on and runs into the kitchen looking for me. I hear a faint, rapid, tap tap tap  behind me as I wash dishes. I turn around and look down to see Nugget racing across the floor towards me.  She reaches me and stands on my foot.

I lift my leg my leg at an angle so it easier for her to climb. She uses her beak to grab the fabric of my sweatshirt and continues to  climb up my shirt until she reaches my shoulder.

She is content to sit on my shoulder while I make my breakfast and eat it at the kitchen table.  She climbs down my arm when she sees my water-glass.  I bring her an orange fiestaware bowl full of water. She drinks and then splashes in the water.


When I was attending the Alberta College Of Art in Calgary in  1981 I had a hand tamed Cockatiel, Cody. I bought him from a breeder that I worked with in Northern British Colombia the summer before school started. My bird’s cage door was always open, like a draw bridge. He had complete freedom to fly in the room I rented above a Used Office Furniture store on 2nd street. I lived alone. In the morning when the sun came through the windows  Cody flew from his open cage and landed on the corner of my loft bed. He walked to my hand and woke me by placing the back of his head into my open palm,  waiting for me to preen the keratin off  his pin feathers.

We shared a popcorn bowl watching movies. He sat on my knee when I had a bath  in the public bath down the hall. He sat on my hand  while I ate my salad at  dinner. He played “pick up” with a radish from the top of my drafting chair. He eventually slept on the corner of my loft bed on a tea towel.

On November 3, 1983, I flew to Tokyo. I gave Cody to a friend. She promised to keep him for me until I came back. Cody moved into a cage with  two other cockatiels; a home with three cats.  He was never taken out.  He did not fly.   I came back to Calgary a year later to visit.  He paced back and forth behind the bars of his cage, tormented by the other birds. His chest was bare. I was a stranger.

feathers plucked , fear, fighting, cats, noise,

radishes, popcorn, bathtubs, sunshine, flying

feathers plucked, blood, seeds, pain, loss

love, preening, comfort, warmth

feathers plucked, bars, anger, loss

flying, love



This photograph was taken with a self timer  the year before I moved to Tokyo. It is from the book “Portraits” published in 1982 as a senior project.

I lived in Tokyo for seven years. I never came back for him.

I am sorry Cody.


Nugget in the morning.


18 responses to “A Bird To Love

  1. I am a little stunned, truth to tell, about Cody’s story. Poor fellow. But Nugget seems to be leading a lovely life…I’d love a Fiesta tub that shade of melon!

  2. Nugget looks just like the cockatiel my second grade teacher had. I’m totally blanking on it’s name (it was the early 80’s, after all). It’ll come to me. Thanks for sharing your memories and about life with Nugget this morning. 🙂

    Ugh, what *was* that bird’s name? (I remember my 2nd grade teacher’s name, which is good, right?)

  3. You are such a great weaver in your writing: past and present, and in this particular piece, prose and poetry. You break into single words, and it’s not abrupt in the least, but just the continuation of the pulse you’ve already been tapping out. Your writing is so skilled and so clear in purpose.

    And in a very different vein: Calgary. First rural Saskatchewan, now this! I’m an Edmonton boy, born and raised. Have you been back to Calgary since? It’s a radically different city than it was in the early/mid 80s. Doubled in size, and work hard/play hard/money to burn flows through everything. I did live and teach there for a year, 2004-05. Love the city, but love home too.

    Another wonderful piece of weaving. 🙂

    • I was in Calgary in 1991 with my husband and our dog Sally. Haven’t been back since then. I use to visit Edmonton on weekends my girlfriend lived there in the 80’s. My brother lives there now.
      Thank you for your comments. Most of my life relates to my past. What happened yesterday, or years ago. I will have to write a story about weaving. I use to weave rugs on a floor loom. 🙂

      • So the next thing will be that your brother lives three blocks away from me, or that I know him somehow, or something…what a small world!

      • Do you live close to the University? That would be too funny if you knew him.

      • I live downtown, just on the other side of the river straight north of the UofA. So, kind of.

      • Maybe you walked past him at Safeway in the meat aisle. Threads of Chopin, threads of connections.

      • My bet would be on one of the fine food/drink establishments on Whyte Ave…but Safeway, especially the university Safeway, which has its own unique character, is as good a possibility as anything! Threads and weaving the themes of the day, clearly–

  4. You are a wonderful weaver of words. You are able to pull the threads of your life and link them to today. I have never known anyone with birds for pets so this was an interesting read to learn how they behave. Birds always seemed so aloof to me, these birds were up close and personal. Thanks.

  5. I was so intrigued by this story of your relationships with the two birds, totally captivated. Your writing is mesmerizing. You tell a story, much of the time in simple declarative sentences, with such intensity and tenderness that the reader must read in one gulp.

  6. I’m not quite sure how to respond because part of me grieves for your bird and memories of him. The other part is glad for the way a bird is part of your life again. It is a beautifully written story that is haunting in a way, if that is the right word to use here. The photograph you included of yourself and the bird ony adds to the depth of the story.

  7. I tried owning birds once. I was so NOT good at it. I love this slice though and the picture you paint, and the pictures!

  8. Great share! Thank you for writing this 🙂 Your pictures are wonderful. It’s so hard to leave pets when life takes you somewhere else. My mom often remembers a beloved dog she had to leave with relatives when she and my grandparents moved to the U.S. I strongly believe pets are family and you never forget the joy they bring to your life.

  9. This is so sad and beautiful. I am charmed by the rituals of both birds — love the image of Nugget tapping across the floor to you, the image of Cody laying his head in your open palm. I had no idea cockatiels were so affectionate.

    Powerful writing.

    • My kids want me to get my own bird. My little one who is nine, was crying when she read my story. Nugget and Cody were both hand tamed. Nugget was hand fed from five days old as his mother rejected him. I am working on a story about Nugget.

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