Sunday, 23 April 2017

Remembering Budgie Bill


For the record - and I cannot stress this enough - I did not kill Bill.

I believe Bill's little heart just gave out, but at least she was comfortable and warm(ish) when she breathed her last. I'll take some comfort in that.

I didn't know Bill long, but she left quite an impression on me. This, then, is Bill's story, but it is also Rachel's story as well.

After all, if anybody killed Bill, it was Rachel, seeing how poor Bill was being placed in a cage at Rachel's place when she expired.

Bill, not Rachel.

Anyway, as I would discover (via a Facebook thread) after I had already written much of this story, Bill left a much bigger impression on Rachel than she did on me.

But I saw her first.

We were doing some spring landscaping work near our Ajax shop when I spotted something unusual out of the corner of my eye. I looked up from my pruning and when the sound of my hedge trimmer ebbed to an echo I noticed two birds crawling up the wall of the nearby Value Village storefront.

Bill, enjoying a ride back
to the shop in her final hours
And one of them was green.

Wait, what? There are no green birds native to Ontario; at least not any as bright as this one. So I left my tool in the dirt and went in for a closer look.

It was a Budgie. A small tropical parrot native to Australia that is popular with bird owners (friendly, easy to care for and damn cute), most notably my sainted Nana, who had a Budgerigar named Jokie when I was a child.

Budgies are also quite talented as mimics, with one such bird, a fellow named Puck, holding the world record for the largest vocabulary of any bird at 1,728 words. With a name like Puck, I'm sure most of the words were R-rated, but I digress.

Being tropical and all, Bill was not equipped to survive near freezing temperatures - it was just plus-two on this morning - and wouldn't likely have lasted the afternoon.

She was staying close to the wall in an effort to stay out of the wind and I made one attempt to catch her without any idea what I was going to do if I was successful.

I had her in my hands briefly before the wee lass bit me on the finger. I decided I would try again before we left the site.

It was about an hour later when I did a final drive-by to assess how pretty our work was (so pretty) and to see how Bill was doing.

She clearly had had enough and had decided to pack it in. Goodbye, cruel world, she must have chirped before choosing to sit in the middle of the runway near the front doors of Value Village.

Rachel, my crew member and my pal, hopped out quicker than you could say crikey, mate and had Bill cradled in her hands before I could put the truck in park.

Rachel looking mysteriously guilty.
Did you kill Bill?
A bit of a Bird Whisperer, our Rachel.

So we wheeled around to the nearby Soft Moc shoe store to get a shoe box (with comfy stuffing) and headed back to the shop to clock out. I assumed Rachel's intent was to keep the bird, as she muttered something about her boyfriend not loving the idea, but as I would find out later via a Facebook thread she started, she had other, more altruistic plans.

But before she outlined her idea of finding Bill's rightful owner the tiny creature died in her box, whilst Rachel was preparing a cage for her.

Very sad, though that didn't stop her friends (okay, me, though I shamelessly stole the 'Kill Bill' meme from my pal Don, who misunderstood Rachel's post and thought I killed the bird) from having some fun on social media.

That's also when we discovered Bill was a girl, as we had been under the assumption Bill was a boy. Patriarchal, perhaps, but I went that route because I assumed the female House Sparrow climbing the wall with our Budgie was enamoured with Bill's resplendent plumage. More likely the sparrow was warning Bill to stay the hell away from her husband watching from a distance.

Anyway, one of Rachel's friends, a far greater bird expert than either of us, declared Bill to be female because of the colouration around her cere, the beak hole that surrounds her nostril. I will take your word on that, Lisa-Lee.

Wild Budgie eggs found in an
Ajax parking lot. Just kidding.
They're Mallard Duck eggs
Especially since your Mom's name is Billie.

Once we got the 'Kill Bill' theme out of our heads Rachel's friends were unanimous in their praise for her life-saving efforts, especially after she revealed her true intentions.

"My plan was to feed her and get her in some clean, warm bedding, and then post a picture on Facebook and ask people to share it so I could find the owner," she explained. "You know, take care of her until I figured out where her home was."

She even contacted Oshawa & Durham Region Lost Pets and the Bird Network - Ontario Lost and Found for assistance. They also commended Rachel for trying to find the owner.

The thread briefly took a turn down a dark path when one of the posters said she had reason to believe Bill was released deliberately, though without further evidence we stuck with the open window escape theory.

In any event, Bill is dead. But thanks to Rachel, her final moments were comfortable in the company of someone she appeared to have trusted.

So you didn't kill Bill, right Rachel?

"I hope not. I took her home and she just kinda fell over. I think the stress of being in the cold and then driving around in a truck and then my car and finally being put in a cage was too much for her."

R.I.P. Bill.

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