I was up late a few nights ago chatting with my mom about her new life here in Australia. She was snuggled on the sofa, typing excitedly on her iPad as she worked on her latest newsletter email to her girlfriends back in England, randomly asking me questions throughout the evening… “What’s a group of kangaroos called?” A mob. “What’s Marmite over here?” Vegemite (eww). “What’s the name of that crap TV soap Simon watches?” Home & Away. “Are the noisy white birds parrots? Or cockatoos?” Cockatoos!
Mom retired over here in November last year and her life has quite literally flipped 180. In the past six months, she has married the love of her life, Simon, moved into the amazing dream home they built together, and had her life (and beloved convertible) shipped over in a 40ft container. She’s become used to the weather, the lingo, the shopping, the overall lifestyle – and has even (almost) come to accept that there aren’t snakes and creepy crawlies hidden around every corner here in WA. But the one thing she cannot quite get her head around are all the tropical (through our British eyes) birds flying around the Aussie skies. Birds of every colour, varying in size (and sound!), literally flying free.
This is heart-warming to me for two reasons. Firstly, because I remember being equally as enthralled when I arrived in Aussie a few years ago – I remember stopping dead in the street to watch the little twenty-eights in awe, trying to snap pictures of some black cockies and lorikeets – and just getting the weirdest looks from people. On reflection, I suppose it’s the equivalent of seeing someone in England getting excited about a pigeon! But even after almost two and half years in Aussie, I still find it amazing when a flock of tropical birds fly overhead. I’ve come to learn that the only bird Australian seem to share my enthusiasm with are Kookaburras – which are pretty darn impressive to see chilling in their natural environment.
I’ve always loved birds – I love everything they represent; to be wild and free. Many cultures believe birds symbolise eternal life; the link between heaven and earth. I’ve had a gorgeous design for a Swallow tattoo for years which I have planned to have inked on my wrist several times over the years. For my thirtieth birthday I went as far as booking time in at Hart & Huntington on a girls trip to Vegas, but wimped out at last minute. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll get it done.
I still remember the first day I saw a galah at Mullaloo Beach on my first day in Australia – I was instantly in awe of these beautiful, cute and playful pink and grey birdies and they have remained my favourite Aussie bird ever since. I had to leave my dog Coco behind in England as he was just too old to be brought over. After being in Aussie for a week, it hit me how much I missed home. I missed my friends and family, my lifestyle, my daily routines… and I missed my dog so much it hurt. Even doing a bit of dog-walking for some pocket money until I found full-time work here wasn’t giving me the satisfaction of being a pet owner.
When my step-dad Simon suggested I ‘get a little budgie’ to keep me company, I just burst into tears and cried out ‘I don’t want a fucking budgie!’ Budgies have always been in my opinion, totally crap pets for little old ladies who sit, shit and flick seed around (and that’s just the old ladies). When Simon went on to explain that the birds over here are hand-reared and tame, he had my attention. Five minutes later we were headed over to Birdworld in Belmont. Two hours later, we were driving home with a new cage (we use the term ‘house’ rather than cage), numerous bags of seed and a pink and grey galah. They didn’t have any hand-reared budgies or weiros. Meh, budgies/cockatoos – all the same really…
We had Zuko for a year and a half before we sadly said goodbye to him last Spring. It broke my heart, but without going into too much detail, we discovered soon after bringing him home that he had damaged wings from bad clippings in his infancy (he could never fly), causing excessive bleeding and damage to his wing follicles. We took him to several specialists and spent hundreds of dollars on treatments. The last six months of his life he was on painkillers which made him drowsy, recluse and scared – I got some pretty bad bites from him and he wouldn’t go near anyone else. We even, at the suggestion of our avian vet, bought him a little buddy in an attempt to recoup his social skills. But he took one look at friendly little Kenickie the weiro, and we knew that was never going to work out. Seeing my gorgeous, friendly, vibrant bird constantly in pain, scared and depressed just broke my heart and I had to put him before me. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It sounds silly, I know he was just a birdie, but he was my birdie. Zuko was there from the beginning of my Aussie adventure and we had such a strong bond. He was there when I missed home, there through a pretty heartbreaking break-up and he was my little mate. I taught him to do tricks, to speak and even to give kisses. We buried Zuko at the bottom of the garden of my folks’ new house, and planted a gorgeous little sunflower garden to remember him by – his favourite kind of seeds.
On 31 October 2015, Thor came to live with us. After months of research, I placed us on the waiting list at Swan Valley Birds and when I received a call mid-October to say they had a baby galah ready to come home, I zoomed over to see him. My intent was to see if I liked the birdie and, more importantly if he liked me – but from the moment I saw him, he sidled up to the edge of his perch, stuck his beak through the cage and plumed up his feathers – he was totally into me. And galahs mate for life, you know. I brought him home that very day. It took me a while to name him – but the biggest thing I admired about this young birdie was his flying. I requested that his wings were not clipped when we brought him home, and he is just a sensational little flier – like a superhero. It’s funny when he zooms around so hard he gets out of breath – you can actually hear him panting! So Thor was the perfect name. My little Aussie superhero.
Those eagle-eyed (pun totally intended) among you will have noticed my birdie silhouettes on the homepage of my blog – the cockie silhouette is a reference to Zuko and Thor, the smaller of the two is little Kenickie – the last of the original T-Birds (Grease fans, I know you’re with me) – but more on that little fluffball another time… Thor loves Kenickie, Kenickie is tolerant of Thor – so that kinda works. They have their own little thing going on. Since Thor’s arrival, Kenickie has learnt to talk and Thor has just started uttering the occasional ‘Hello’ and wolf-whistle, most of which he appears to pick up from Kenickie. Kenickie being so small has his own little perch right at the top of their house, and has been known to shit on Thor from time to time. We like to think that’s him reminding Thor who’s boss.
Thor is just the most affectionate and obedient little thing in the world. If I ask him to ‘come here’, no matter what he is doing, he always comes to flock with me – landing on my shoulder, or if I have my hair in a top-knot, one of his fave things to do is to land and balance on top of it. Other times, I’ll be in the middle of something and he will just fly over and push his beak to my nose or lips for a cuddle and head scratch. If I’m eating, he’ll wait patiently(ish) for a nibble and you can’t leave a cup of tea or coffee unguarded without him literally sticking his head in for a beak-full! He’s meticulous in eating his corn, spiralling from the bottom to the top (Zuko would eat his row by row) and he is obsessed with straws, particularly yanking them out of your drink. He loves to chill inside his fluffy purple wigwam, rip up paper (be it newspapers, magazines, books as they’re being read), and cannot figure out my iPhone or Mac. He seems to have a thing for chasing the curser with his beak on my laptop – and loves seeing himself on camera – regularly starring in my Snapchat stories each week. He enjoys snuggling in my dressing gown, chewing anything sparkly (he regularly raids my jewellery trays and I find my rings in the strangest of places around the bedroom). He loves preening my hair, especially when it’s wet – one of the cutest things! and he loves to get a cheeky little blow-dry too when I’m drying my hair. We’ve had a few near mishaps when I’ve been tonging my hair or applying mascara… I can’t apply lip balm without him trying to take a bite out of it (too many of my EOS balms have chucks missing out of them), and God help me if I get a dark manicure – he’s TERRIFIED of dark nail polish and won’t go near my hands for days!
He’s not all perfect though – and believe me, he’s required a lot of training and attention. He has one hell of an attitude – especially when he’s being told off, he squarks and does this cheeky little dance, lifting his left wing up and literally flipping me the bird. No idea where he gets such attitude from…
I never would have imagined what joy you can get from owning a birdie (or two) – they are such loving, comical and adorable creatures. Well, you know what they say; Birds of a feather flock together – and shake their tail-feathers together too. Especially on Snapchat.
STYLED & PHOTOGRAPHED BY: Katie Rebekah Osborne