May 17, 1979  Sense and Nonsense

For some reason I have been hearing a lot of “bird talk” lately. I must say after politics and the election issues have been hashed and rehashed, anecdotes about our feathered friends are a pleasant relief!

One fellow told of a friend’s visit to a local pet shop. A mynah bird with an extensive vocabulary was the feature attraction. But that day, the bird was in a reticent mood. It refused to say a word. The fellow was persistent, and cajoled the bird with phrases such as “Hello there!” “How are you?” and “Please say something!”

Just as the man was about to give up, he was startled by a loud clear voice chastising him with “Don’t you know? Birds can’t talk!”

Another friend mentioned his visit to that same pet shop. He was entranced by the various species of birds on display. The mynah bird was showing off its command of the English language to an appreciative audience. When its audience left, the bird found itself alone with our silent friend. It chirped, whistled and squawked, then affixed a stern eye upon this unusually quiet customer.

“What’s the matter with you!” sneered the bird “Can’t you talk?”

Apparently the Calgary Zoo has three new residents: a crow, a magpie and a pigeon, all sharing the same domicile. Some visitors have been startled into reducing their alcoholic consumption after idly viewing these birds. The magpie has learned to caw like the crow, the crow can imitate the magpie’s native language, and both frequently coo like the pigeon. As far as I know the pigeon is not bilingual.

Mynah birds can imitate almost any sound. One man’s well trained bird had been raised in a house not far from the railroad tracks. Upon moving to a quieter location, the man was awakened from sleep by a familiar sound. The perfectly articulated sound of an approaching train was loudly being executed by the family pet. I’m afraid I would quickly re-train the bird into imitating a quieter mode of transportation!

I have often contemplated investing in a budgie for a family pet. But we already have a cat. I am reminded of one mother’s loving gift of a colourful budgie to her small daughters. The bird became an integral part of the household, often enjoying the freedom of flying about the house when let loose from its cage. On one such excursion the cat ate it.

The mother was heartbroken. The thought of the effect the bird’s death would have on her daughters reduced her to tears. However the girls were philosophical about it.

The youngest comforted her mother, then cheerfully surmised, “Oh well, we’ve still got the cat!”

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