It took me awhile to catch Turker in the act of releasing herself from her cage to play, and in the meantime, she had free run of the house whenever she felt like it. Her escapades more often than not had me with my heart in my mouth as I reckoned the odds with which she toyed so lightly. She led me no mean dance as I tried, in my clumsy human way, to follow her reasoning and discover how she managed to pull off her tricks.
Either her luck was tremendous, or she had a memory like an elephant.
On one of her escapades, she found an open window on a hot afternoon. Unable to resist the lure of exploring, off she flew into the great outdoors. I have no idea how long she played out in the yard, but it was long enough for us to return home and find her missing.
I was checking all of her (known) hiding spots in the house, while my partner went to watch the news. I had no idea that there was an open, unscreened window upstairs or I would’ve been extremely upset instead of just annoyed. I still couldn’t figure out how the little brat was getting out!
An amused voice from the living room interrupted my internal rantings. “I think your bird’s found you, Ducko,” he announced.
“What in the world are you talking about?” I demanded, marching into the living room, “Oh!”
Turker had found us, all right. She sat on the edge of the windowsill, outside the window, peering curiously in at us and tapping along the glass with her beak, clearly wondering why there was a barrier between her and the living-room. I sidled over to the latch, and she calmly trotted to the edge of the window and waited for the gap to widen. As soon as there was room enough she lifted herself to the arm of the couch.
‘Chee-eep!’ she announced triumphantly and began preening her (immaculate) brown feathers.
I sighed in exasperation and relief, throwing out my hands. “How on earth does she get out?!” I demanded of the world at large, while my partner shook with mirth.
“Out-smarted by a bird-brain again!” he chortled.
He’d seen enough by now to know that most of my free time these days was occupied with figuring out how the Turk had managed to pull off this or that particular escapade. Right now, though, I was tired. I knew that it was pointless to expect Turker to let herself into her cage when she knew we were watching – she pretended to be ignorant of how to do it whenever we were around, although by now we had plenty of evidence that she came and went as she pleased when we weren’t. I sighed.
“Well, I guess I’d better go open up her cage and let her get at her grub before she decides to have my African violet for dinner again,” I mumbled.
A happy twitter and an amused snort followed my exit.
TRICKS OF THE TRADE
Life was never boring with Turker around. I suffered endless nightmares about what could happen to her on her escapades, but I had a real problem on my hands trying to keep her in when she didn’t want to be. Sure, you could catch her and put her in, but that only worked for as long as you were actually standing there watching her.
Turn your eyes away, and there’d be a little scrape and a quick rustle; as fast as you could turn your eyes back, it was never fast enough to see what she did to get out. She managed to present her escapade as an accomplished fact before the ears could cue the eye to look.
I even tried waiting until night to try and catch her. Many avian species, supposedly including canaries, can’t see too well in the dark, and can simply be plucked straight off their perches with no more than a stir and a rustle – anyone who has ever had chickens has probably used this fact to their advantage.
Not so with the Turk. Perhaps she didn’t see in the dark; maybe she simply had the location of everything in the room memorized. Maybe she was just lucky, I don’t know.
All I know is that she was able to lead me a merry chase in the pitch black of the night. It was the dark of the moon, and there was not a scrap of light to be had, even with my eyes adjusted to the dark. I carefully observed where she had perched, turned out all the lights, and quietly snuck up.
Before I was within six inches of her, she was off into the darkness. Not only did she never make a wrong move, navigating as if it was broad daylight, but she also managed to lead me into every single obstacle at knee-height or lower in the room – some of them several times! My poor abused toes and shins were days in recovering after this episode.
A REVEALING SECRET
It was the mirror that finally turned the trick. Turker knew about mirrors to the extent of sometimes playing with her reflection in them, and she knew to avoid them while flying. Thankfully, she never caught on to the trick of watching other things in the mirror, and so it was that I finally got to see how she released herself.
The mirror was a gift from a friend who’d had to move from a house to an apartment. She had no room for it in her new place and had in mind to brighten one of our darker corners with it. It worked beautifully, reflecting light from the big south window.
It also reflected Turker’s cage. As long as I didn’t alert her to my presence by moving about, I could see every move she made. She waited until nobody was around, and the only noises were the usual background of the other birds in their flight cages, then went over to one of the vertical bars in her cage. Putting her head down, she firmly pressed it sideways and slipped out, all in one move. It creaked slightly as she let it go to flit to the top of her cage. This was the creak-and-rustle I’d been hearing! No wonder I hadn’t been able to catch her at it!
“The little scamp,” I muttered admiringly and got the tube of glue out of the drawer. As soon as she was pre-occupied, I was going to fix this little wagon, but good!
Turker did not appreciate having her play time limited to times we could supervise, and let us know in no uncertain terms. She eventually got over it, though, and finally, things settled down in time for a relatively uneventful winter.
I needed the time to recuperate by then. I had lost Turker’s daddy Two-Bits, to another open window, which finally prompted me to finish screening all the opening windows. Too bad it was too late – my first pet canary had vanished into the unknown, never to be seen again, his eventual fate unknown to me …
Almost before I knew it, it was time to make preparations for the coming spring breeding season. Turker loved to help shred the three-inch squares of burlap for nesting material; the only problem was, she always took them somewhere else to shred them, confident that ‘Mom’ would pick up the pieces. ( sigh )
I had no plans to breed Turker. I had never expected her to reach maturity, and it never really occurred to me that, having finally achieved good health, she would be like any other normal canary hen in her desire to raise a clutch of chicks. I should have known better by then.
I guess she came by it honestly, because Turker has proved herself to be one of my most reliable hens, and regularly vies with her siblings Remo, Peepicheep, and Reepicheep for best production of the year. She bosses all the male canaries and allows no other hens to remain near her, save her sister Peepicheep, with whom she apparently has an agreement.
I am continuously re-impressed with her spirit and vitality, and, when considering all she’s survived, am often heard to mutter, “Long Last The Days of The Turk!
Turker lived with me for a total of a little more than six and a half years. Late in a hot summer, months after a productive breeding season (Turker’s fifth) my birds had been given the run of a large aviary built especially for them. They had all been living happily for more than two months in their new quarters with no problems, other than the usual minor squabbling. I should have known that if there was going to be a problem, Turker would find it.
It looked later as if it started as a minor flaw in the wood. She had patiently peeled back the layers of the grain, probably spending long hours patiently tugging on each little piece she managed to pull up. Eventually there was enough room for her to spot the narrow space behind; apparently, this looked like a good snoozing spot to her, for she crawled into it. But this time she couldn’t crawl out.
If I had been home from work a half hour earlier I might’ve found her in time, but I will never know for sure. All I know is that Turker died as she had lived, fiercely independent and stubbornly insistent on snooping into absolutely everything.
I feel that it is ironic that she died in an environment meant to be safe for a flock of bird’s living quarters, after all the dangers she flirted with so casually in our human habitat. While there will always be a little Turker-sized hole in my heart, I will never regret one moment of my life with her, for she taught me the importance of never giving up.
It was as if she had said to me “Freedom and happiness aren’t things you find laying about – they’re how you look at life!”
Fly free, my little Turker-bean. Thanks for everything.