December 21, 2012. The day dawned with much promise with a spectacular view. Being neither a believer nor a sceptic I had no fear or illusions that it is the day of the Apocalypse. Being a holiday, I knew however that I could spend my time in enriching endeavours and nurturing practices. So switching off the phone and the internet, my day progressed in prayer and introspection. After lunch I settled in to watch television. Half way through the programme I was distracted by some unusual bird calls in my balcony. Normally I have only mynahs and pigeons for avian visitors. This call seemed to be different.
I looked out. My myopic eyes could make out a small green and red tiny bird on my clothes stand. I wanted to get a better view but did not want to scare the birdie. So I moved quietly closer. Thankfully the sliding door was open and I stepped into the balcony.
The bird looked at me carefully. I held out my hand and inched closer little by little. I wanted to gain the confidence of the bird that I meant no harm. It hopped from the clothes stand to the air conditioner. I went in to get some broken pieces of walnuts for the bird. It was still there. Observing me watchfully. But not for long. As I reached out gently, almost touching it, it flew away. I felt very sad. The bird evidently had flown away from its home (read cage!) and seemed disoriented. It banged against the French window of my balcony a couple of times.
My daughter, Aathira, told me that the bird is a Lorikeet. I surfed the net in an effort to find out more about the bird.
Lorikeets are small to medium sized arboreal parrots. They are mostly natives of coastal areas around the Australasian region comprising Australia, South East Asia, Polynesia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. They have a brilliant plumage and hence are extremely attractive. They live on a diet of nectar, pollen and berries and hence as pets need a specialized diet. This bird seemed to be a juvenile as the beak was ivory in colour. It is when they mature that it turns orange in colour giving it its name – Orange billed Lorikeet or Emerald Lorikeet. These particular Lorikeets are natives to the subtropical and tropical mountains of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. They are intelligent, entertaining and stunningly beautiful birds.
It made me very sad to see the bird fly away. If it does not find its way back to its home, it might not survive. Which brought me to the crux of the problem. Why do people want to have birds as pets in cages? A bird becomes one only when it is free to soar into the blue sky and fly around seamlessly. We moan and groan, gripe and whine about our freedom when it is curtailed. We make such a noise about our loss of freedom. It would be worthwhile to keep this in perspective when we cage birds – well, it could be even equal to sentencing the bird to death!
Birds in cages suffer from malnutrition, improper environment, loneliness and stress due to confinement according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The New York Times has reported that many birds “go off the deep end when they are … placed in captivity. … The resulting frustration, [Cambridge University zoologist Dr. James Serpell] said, leads to abnormalities like repetitive behaviour in which the bird’s head weaves back and forth, or in which it shifts constantly from one foot to the other; abnormal grooming in which the bird picks out all of its feathers, and aggressive behaviour.”
I fondly hope and pray my little friend has safely reached it cage!