Love for Striker and Ava

I wanted to share a little bit about my beloved birds Striker and Ava, whose tragic loss last month is still being very much felt. You can read my previous tributes to them here and here–now this is a tribute that is meant to sort of incorporate Belle and Sparty’s parakeet perspectives.

Striker, Ava, Sparty [in background] and Belle, February 2010
Striker, Ava, Sparty (in background) and Belle, February 2010

Striker was a strong leader. And it wasn’t just that he was usually the first in flight when he and Belle, Sparty and Ava took off. It was also the way he led the group when they would run around as a flock–he would turn, then they all would. It was clear that they all loved and admired him. But Striker’s leadership wasn’t just about being bold and strong–it was also about being loving and patient. I remember a few months ago, sitting with Jim in the back office as we watched the events in the cage. With four birds in a cage, a prized perching spot would not always be available. The time honored way for a parakeet to announce that it wants a little more space from another bird is a neener-neener-neener sound and an assertive beaking in the other bird’s direction. Often the other bird will return the gesture. But as we watched this process, we observed the fact that Striker was not the initiator of the neeners, and in fact when neenered at would patiently move aside. He was a peaceful, calming presence in the cage–and in the house. Even when the other birds were a bit afraid, and making concerned noises–say during a car ride with a few bumps–Striker could often be heard singing happily. Striker was also a leader when it came time to come out of the cage–he would gladly step up onto my hand and come out to play around, and his enthusiasm would inevitably induce the rest of the flock to come out quickly. A great facility with words was another one of the talents that Striker had–Jessica was his patient and oft-rewarded teacher–and he would repeat her quite well with is little tongue when she said phrases including “I love you” and “Ohio.” Whether he was holding the side of the cage with both feet and singing away or impressing friends and family with his outgoing nature, Striker was a remarkable parakeet whose love and kindness is still being felt.

Ava was a bold adventurer. A pioneer in finding new places to hang out, she taught Sparty and Belle to land on the top of wall art–something they do a lot now. None of the parakeets were as curious as Ava–she loved to fly like the other birds but her route and destination were always the most unpredictable. We’d find her up on top of the cabinets in the kitchen, or on a shower rod in the bathroom, or just watching us quietly from a curtain rod above us. Some kind of special bond made it possible for me to motivate the relatively human-shy Ava to step up and come out of the cage relatively quickly (she was sometimes a bit skittish). There was just something so cute about the way she would stand up all straight while I moved my hand out before she’d take off. And take off she did–as a most proficient aviator with a tight wingspan, she could effortlessly motor off a perch and out of the cage in a flash. Inside the cage, Ava found a friend in Striker early on, and in all her time with us was likely to be seen perching next to Striker or sharing food with him. But she also built a friendship with Belle and Sparty over time as she matured and flourished. I was so proud to see her become a confident, bold member of the flock–and I was even a little shocked to the extent that this small bird was willing to assert herself. By the beginning of this year, Ava had unambiguously become the most physically dominant bird in the cage–completely unafraid, standing her ground even to the mighty Sparty. Though she was sometimes fierce when she need to be, she was often happy and relaxed in the cage, sitting on one foot on a perch. Ava had a very affectionate side too, and would show lots of love to Striker, as well as to Jessica and me on occasion. Always strong and beautiful, Ava gained much respect–in and out of the cage–and her sweetness inspires love and affection.

We so often saw them doing cool stuff, so they’d always be featured in our videos. The 45 that Jessica and I made recently features some cool footage of both Striker and Ava.

grooming birds

In the first photo, Jessica captured Sparty and Belle working their feathers over with their beaks. Though parakeets have a sort of retracting beak, unlike their larger broad-tail parrot cousins, when they take it out it is a serious piece of hardware. That’s good for eating seeds, of course, but it’s also useful in keeping their beautiful feathers clean–which they do very well by grooming themselves vigorously several times a day.
The second picture is just a nice group shot.

(photos by Jessica McKeown)