|Lovey's on the left, complete with paper butt tiara.|
Peachy-faced Piranha Birds is my new name for lovebirds 'Lovey' and 'Thurston.'
It's not original to me; my friend CollegeGuy (who watches our 'zoo' in our absence) coined the name, and I'm sure he speaks from experience. As do I as of yesterday, as one of the highlights of my weekend was the mega-cleaning of their cage which resulted in a Lovey bite.
Since their rescue, my cage-cleaning efforts have been limited pretty much to changing out the papers on the bottom of their cage. Aggressive little Lovey (I suspect) could skeletonize my exposed flesh in a second, and even though I've been patient and caring around her (and her beaky lunges have subsided somewhat as a result) I'm still a little fearful. I'm pretty sure she's guessed this. Thurston, bless him, is her hopelessly devoted boy toy -- clueless and lovesick and long-suffering. But Lovey is a cold and calculating harpy waiting for the day when I accidentally leave the cage door ajar so she can scissor my face from my skull like a can-opener. And until then she'll bide her time with silly Thurston, having birdy sex....
My biggest challenge has been how to get at the interior of their cage without being flayed alive, and I've put it off. And off. And off.... I wondered what would be the best (and safest) way to go about it. Should I let them out in an enclosed space, like the bathroom, and risk having them fly at the closed window or go right for my earlobes? Would they just naturally return to the cage when I was done with it? What if I had to leave the bathroom for something and they escaped? How hard would it be to catch them in a butterfly net if I had to? Would throwing a towel over them enrage Lovey such that I'd never be able to get near the cage again?....
So many things to consider.... But I couldn't stand their digs a second longer. It was now or never.
I'm happy to report that today they're clean and content, but at the expense of my entire Sunday and my thumb. And what I ended up doing was this: I outfitted an old birdcage with a water tube and enough paper to keep Lovey happily shredding her brains out for the rest of the day if necessary. Then I fashioned a square tube out of cardboard, one that would fit snuggly into the cage door, taped it together, then fed it from the door of the new cage to the door of the old one.
Lovey smelled a rat right off the bat and was highly suspicious, but when she saw all the paper on the other side of the little corridor she was through it in a heartbeat. Thurston, on the other hand, stood on this side of it and called to her. Back and forth she went, shredding paper in the new cage, tucking it into her butt feathers, and bringing it all back to the old cage. Don't ask me how I managed to get scaredy-cat Thurston over to the other side, but when I did he panicked. And, of course, he couldn't put two and two together and figure out how he suddenly found himself in this new environment.... Lovey sat in the tube and screamed at him but it didn't work. And when she hopped down to square off with him right to his face, I shut the cage door.
Cleaning that hell hole was a pleasure. And pretty easy, too, as it turns out: Lovey's nest was a 'pooper'-maché creation that fell out in one big lump. Then it was all about the scrubbing and disinfecting. I added a furry 'love nest' that hung from the cage's rooftop, sort of a soft-sided triangular hammock that they could snuggle in. I clipped a new-fangled nesting box on the side and threw in enough flyers and junk mail to keep Lovey happily nestmaking for days.
Then I grabbed the cardboard tube.
Lovey instantly knew what was going to happen. She dove for the door as I was trying to place the tube and slowly open it at the same time, and that's when she nailed me. Her bite wasn't nearly as bad as I was anticipating, but it was still a surprising pinch, and I yelled at her. And now I think she likes the idea that she got such a great reaction. (Dang. Back to square one again....)
Anyway. Thurston took forever again figuring out how to get to the other side, but Lovey's no-nonsense scolding helped. He claimed dibs on the love nest until she kicked him out. And last night I saw him sleeping on the top of it while she was inside, nibbling paper strips and chittering to herself.....
And today they're back to being their horrid, noisy, nasty, delightful, sweet-faced, smiling selves. They may be ferocious little piranha birds, but they're all mine and I adore them.