Learner Writing: The Cockatiel – Another Kind of Pet

By John Lin

I would like to share a story about my birdy pet, “Cutie,” a little cute, smart and lovely cockatiel. 

Around 20 years ago, I was working in Macau, a peninsula in Guandon Province in the southeast of China, which is very close to Hong Kong. One day I was reading a magazine, “Bird Talk.”  An amazing article immediately raised my interest: how to keep a cockatiel as a pet. 

Bird Talk said that the cockatiel is the most popular bird in the United State for bird lovers. The cockatiel is the smallest size of the cockatoo family, and they originally came from the forest of Australia. 

After I spent a lot of time studying their lifestyles, finally, I decided to buy a baby cockatiel—a cute little birdy with grey/white feathers, a tiny yellow head with an orange spotty face—from the bird shop at the market close to the downtown. 

From day 1 when I got the baby, I hand fed him about 4 times a day, since he was only 25 days old. As instructed by the book, I also needed to take care of some details.  One morning, I was so excited and pleased that the 40-day old baby bird could get out from the nest and seem like he could start to live independently by himself. I was extremely happy and surprised, and I called him “Cutie” or “Cutie Bird” because he was so cute! 

My Cutie got stronger every day.  I had to clip off some feathers from both of his wings to limit his flying power in order to protect the baby from hurting himself by trying to learn how to fly. 

I let Cutie go out from the nest and play around the living room only when I was home with him. According to “Bird Talk,” the baby bird could mimic the sound from the “keeper.” I started to talk to him with some simple words such as cutie, pretty bird, I love you, kiss kiss, love you, baby baby, hello, how are you, bye bye, etc. Sometimes I spoke to him in Cantonese, and sometimes in English. Believe it or not, at the time I had a crazy idea—I thought that my Cutie could be a bilingual cockatiel soon! 

I talked to Cutie daily whenever I got the chance, and I was hoping that he might imitate some words from me, either in English or Cantonese.  Their best learning time is from age of four months to one and a half years old; during this period, they keep learning as many words as they can, and keep talking throughout all of their life. 

Very promisingly, my Cutie started to talk around the age of four months. And of course, he did not talk much at the beginning, but as the days went by, he started to mimic up to 10 words or sounds. 

The Cockatiel’s mimic ability is not as good as the Budgies, but they usually have a tender character with lovely personalities. Every morning my Cutie would say, “bye-bye” to me when I went to work, and “hello” to me when he saw me walk into the house in the evening. 

Cutie enjoyed playing with me very much almost every day for around 2 to 4 hours. He liked to sit beside me, share cookies with me or follow me to the kitchen, bathroom or watch TV with me. 

On the weekend, we usually walked to the bird shop to visit our friends. He liked to stand on one of my arms. Sometimes, he would bend down his little cute head to enjoy the free massage service offered by me, and non-stop happily mingled with the people who passed by us. 

One and half years ago, I was ready to retire and move back to my home in Fremont. Because I could not take my Cutie back here, sadly I had to let my friend, the owner of the bird shop, adopt him. Occasionally Cutie’s adopted father would “Line” (a kind of ‘WhatsApp’ in Asia) me some pictures of him. 

Every time when I see pictures of my Cutie, it makes me feel that he is still as lovely and charming as before. My Cutie baby birdy is already 8 years old now.  There is no doubt that I am still missing him daily! 

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