PET HAPPENINGS - NOVEMBER
Benny and Sunny, Comic Cockatiels
by Carol Nabrotzky Wells
Marlene Mody acquired two cockatiels last year, she had no
idea that she was getting an entertainment value that was better
than TV and cheaper, too. Marlene got Benny originally for her mother.
But his disposition was a bit more assertive than she
would have liked for Mom and so she got Sunny right
after Benny when they were about 6 and 4 months old. Marlene points
out that, though theyre not bonded like nest mates, they are
great companions for each other, and, just like brothers, have a
love-hate relationship. They dont really fight with each other,
but they do have jealousy going on and Benny definitely has the
Benny and Sunny remind me of two comedians
in clown suits and I found it hard to break my attention from their
antics. Marlene told me that Benny is the suave and debonair looking
cockatiel who is also the feisty one, while Sunny has the more casual,
somewhat disheveled look, and is more laid-back. Benny
and Sunny also live with two cats and a dog and are better at hissing
than the cats.
Talk about personality? I was watching
Benny and Sunny perched on the gymnasium on top of the cage one
day, said Marlene, As Benny made his way down the perch
to Sunny, he proceeded to push Sunny off the end of the perch with
his foot! Benny of course, looks around like he had nothing to do
with Sunnys sudden clumsiness.
Though Marlene has taught them to talk and sit
on her finger, Benny and Sunny prefer her shoulders. Just like brotherly
behavior, when one is on her shoulder, the other one has to be on
the other shoulder. Marlene jokingly calls them her epaulets. Marlene
has also taught them to sing the song, You Are My Sunshine,
which I was tickled to hear them sing without any coaxing from Marlene.
Benny and Sunny also spend a lot of time calling for each other,
Come here, Benny; Come here, Sunny. Marlene
feels that Benny and Sunny dont just repeat things. They have
some comprehension of what words mean and what Marlene is asking
of them. Whenever Benny does something mischievous, he exclaims,
I am such a bird. He also says things like, I
am Benny boo, boo, or I am so cute; and whenever
Marlene asks, Are you my boy? Benny answers with an
only took Marlene about two weeks to teach Benny and Sunny to talk,
mainly because she got them at such young ages. Sunny learned to
talk first, but Benny was quick to follow since Sunny was getting
all the attention that was reinforcing the talking. Now, Benny enjoys
talking while his head is in the food dish, since it provides an
echo; and Benny and Sunny have mumbling conversations
with each other, where, you just cant quite make out what
theyre talking about. Also, Marlene informed me that it is
the male of the species that is more prone to talking, whereas the
females tend to be whistlers. Although Marlene has tried over and
over to teach Benny and Sunny to sing the song Youre
Only A Bird In A Gilded Cage, Benny and Sunny seem to take
offense, and though they have learned most any phrase or word Marlene
teaches them, this is something that they refuse to repeat.
Marlene has found that one could go broke on
buying toys for birds that are offered in the many pet bird catalogues.
But she has discovered that the cheaper, homemade toys are much
more appealing to them. She has used such things as netting hung
from a hook in the ceiling, and makes her own ring toys out of green
branches from mulberry and willow trees. Marlenes research
has revealed that these trees are among the ones in Moab that are
safe for the cockatiels to climb and chew on. Fruit tree branches
are never to be used. But Marlene did confess that she had a real
interest in the halter and leash available in one of her bird catalogues.
Personally, I would like to see her taking them for a walk in one
of these outfits.
the case where cockatiels throw their toys on the floor, it is the
human who becomes the dog, and Marlene knows that it is best not
to engage in this game, unless you enjoy endless fetching and retrieving.
Marlene informed me that cockatiels are very
group oriented, and like other animals, cockatiels have
a hierarchy. The one thats perched the highest in the tree,
is king of the pecking order. Therefore, when establishing a hierarchy
at home, Marlene says she has read that its not a good idea
to raise a bird higher than your head when its perched on
your finger. However, Benny and Sunny realize who supplies them
with food, and so, recognize her as head of the flock. This puts
Benny in second place, and Sunny in third. Marlene claims she is
no bird expert, but she has done her homework where cockatiels are
concerned. For instance, Marlene gives them a range of different
sized sticks and perches for them to climb on because they need
the exercise in their feet. Otherwise, there is a danger of atrophy.
They get a new mulberry or willow tree branch in their cage every
Furthermore, cockatiels are sensitive to home
air pollution, so doing things like burning scented candles are
toxic for them, and burning something in a teflon pan is down right
lethal. If youre planning on painting the interior of your
house, its best to let them stay at a relatives house
Cockatiels can easily become bored and have to
have entertainment and variety even in their food. So Marlene has
the Garden Center mix up a combination of parrot and canary seed
which varies in size, along with the occasional peanut. Cockatiels
also enjoy millet sprays.
asked Marlene what she feeds the boys, as she refers
them, when she really wants to give them a treat.
Well, said Marlene, theyre
supposed to like fruit, but they dont. So I feed them things
that I know are different, but also good for them. They love sprouts,
and also eat jalapenos, peas, beans, corn, broccoli, leaf lettuce
(not iceberg lettuce), just about any veggie. Sunnys favorite
junk food is pork rinds, but just like sunflower seeds, theyre
too fatty and he has really limited amounts. Both Benny and Sunny
love pasta, and theyll scramble to get to a dangling noodle.
Interestingly enough, they love chicken, and it happens to be good
for them and perfectly all right for them to eat. They also like
hard boiled eggs, cheese and yogurt which are the only dairy products
they can have. Among store bought treats, specially made for pet
birds, they like Nutraberries and Avi-cakes.
So if they are the entertainment, what do Benny
and Sunny do for entertainment? Marlene tells me they love to look
out the window, and Benny especially enjoys the Tuesday morning
classical music on KZMU. Both love to swing from the ring toy hanging
from the ceiling, above their cage and climbing about the ladder/bird
gym that sits on their cage.
Benny and Sunny have both had their wings clipped;
more for their own safety than anything else. With those curved
beaks that can work like hands, and their intelligence level, they
can observe certain phenomena, and figure things out for themselves,
like how to open or unlatch the cage door.
As with any pet, there is a great amount of responsibility
that comes with having a pet cockatiel. For one thing, a cockatiels
life-span is about 35 years of age under optimal conditions, averaging
out at about 15 to 20 years of age. Cockatiels mature at about eight
months when the males, with their bright peachy cheek patches and
yellow faces are distinguished from the paler colored females. Additionally,
because cockatiels are such social animals, they do better with
someone who can be home with them most of the time, or at least
in the company of another cockatiel. And, cockatiels, like other
pet birds, usually require a veterinarian that is an avian specialist.
Incidentally, Marlene has found such a veterinarian in Grand Junction
by the name of Dr. Paul Bingham.
Since the addition of Sunny and Benny, Marlene
has become totally enamored with them. I became enamored with Sunnys
persistence in getting kisses from Marlene. Sunny would perch on
top of his cage and then hang upside down as Marlene kissed his
neck and back. When Marlene stopped, Sunny, half upright, reached
out towards Marlene, then hung upside down again, waiting for more
kisses. With their perky faces, entertaining antics, and endearing
personalities, its easy to see how Benny and Sunny could be
the Sunshine in anyones life.
you cockatiel lovers out there, Marlene suggests these websites:
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