We have a friend named Toby. He adopted us about six years ago, and has been greeting us every evening since with his distinctive “Mouu, mouu.” In the mornings, we would find him perched on top of the patio wall, a superior lookout on the comings and goings of the neighborhood. I think he was protecting his territory, so when Max appeared on the scene, he first had to get past Toby. And that was not easy.
Max was a stray who was fed by our neighbors who would then unceremoniously abandon him whenever they relocated. He finally did find a permanent home, but somehow never forgot the affection he would get from us. Whenever he spotted one of us in the parking lot, he would come bounding down the road, looking at us fondly in the eye and greet us with a voiceless “wa-haa, wa-haa, wa-haa,” this until Toby got wind of the intrusion and decided to dispatch the interloper by squarely intercepting him at the 5-yard line. Max gingerly sauntered toward us, only to come to a panicked halt about halfway up the road when he spied the fearsome Toby. With a hunched back and fur standing on end, Max trained his gaze on the hissing Toby, preparing for flight.
Toby was a very territorial character. He would not tolerate any encroachment on his domain. So imagine my surprise when my husband brought home a tiny, scared ball of white feathers that he rescued from the tenacious jaws of this Lord of the Neighborhood. We nursed our new trembling friend, and put her in a cage where she would make tiny, gentle one-note sounds, “pip, pip, pip.” After a few weeks of watching her hop from one branch to the other, compassion dictated that we get her a mate. But compassion turned to horror when our gentle one-note foundling mercilessly chased her hapless cagemate, nipping at his tail, screeching unrecognizably, “Br-Ahh, br-Ahh, br-Ahh,” her entire body streamlined like a torpedo aiming for the impostor. When she finally felt her dominance had been established and her seniority in the cage unchallengeable, she settled down to being a more proper wife. The pair eventually raised many chicks together, taking turns sitting on the eggs until the hatchlings were grown. In the evenings, both Misha and Pico would enter the same nest, and hatchlings and parents would all sleep together, until the babies were too big. I would then find one of the parents huddled alone in a corner of the cage, with the other sitting inside the nest, with some smaller heads peaking through.
After such a turbulent beginning, Misha now sings from first light until dark, chirping away, encouraging Pico in her task to tend to the young ‘uns. There are shrill sounds of “Pr-EEE, pr-EEE, pr-EEE” and “chew-EEE, chew-EEE,” but woe is he if he tries to step into the nest before she settles in for the evening. Pico is a no-nonsense bird, and will summarily give her point of view on the matter in staccato spurts of “Paah, paah, paah, paah!” she scolds. No more the gentle, scared orphan rescued from the jaws of the cat!
We are in our new home now; Toby and Max were part of the old neighborhood, and remain fondly in our thoughts as friends who gave us lots of joy. Pico and Misha are settled in their cage in front of a large picture window, and every time a flock of birds flies by, they both train their necks and join in the cacophony.