Lupin is my pet bird whose antics and expressions amuse me and keep me sane. I've had him for more than half of my life. Sometimes his mannerisms make their way into my conversations, but my friends and family put up with my eccentricities. Lupin is a dear little bird to me and spending time with him helps me get rid of stress; he makes me laugh a lot, although he's nowhere near as smart as Alex the African Gray.
Lupin is a cockatiel. He's about 1 foot (30 cm) long from crest to tail. Normaly cockatiels are gray with orange ear patches and yellow crest, but Lupin is a lutino. This means he can't make the gray-colored pigment. His wings aren't clipped, so he can fly around the apartment while I'm home, but he tends to spend most of his time inside cardboard boxes, chewing them to bits.
Lupin has approved all content for this webpage as not damaging to his reputation.
Given how destructive my bird is, I sometimes joke that Lupin is the Apocatiel, lone Cockatiel of the Apocalypse, who rests on the shoulders of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse --- the Fifth Evangelical. The Apocatiel stands fully three stories tall, with talons sharp enough to pierce a tank and a beak capable of snapping the largest redwood in half. His screech shatters windows in a five mile radius and can strike a grown man dead. Nations have bent to his will and large cities have been completely destroyed in one night. Even the bravest of souls has fled screaming into the night upon hearing the merest whisper of "hey, pretty bird." Below are photographs from an Apocatiel sighting, taken just as the Apocatiel manifested through its avatar.
Sometimes Lupin can look debonair, as shown below. He looks like he was wondering whether my taking a picture of him would deserve a nibble of the camera. Or perhaps he was admiring his shadow. Notice that he pulled in his neck and that his wings are almost streamlined with his tail. He is slightly puffed out and his crest is at half-mast, reflecting his relaxed state of mind. This body language also suggests that he was on the verge of bobbing his head in time with my waved arm, or huffing to my fingers if I scratched them against the floor, or any of the other games we play. I am such a bird-brain, aren't I? If you look closely, you can see the faint yellow and cinnamon markings on his wings, suggesting that he is, in fact, a mutant and not a pure-blooded lutino breed. Over the course of the past three years, his feathers have developed faint cinnamon patches in the shape of the dark patches on a grey cockatiel. It's a little easier to see the colors in the second picture, taken a few years later. My little mutant!
Lupin just loves crawling into the oddest places! Bookshelves, sock drawers, and cabinets hold some kind of fascination for my bird. He'll scramble around in places, as you can see, he barely fits, hissing if I try to take him out. In the wild cockatiels nest in tree hollows and other small crawly places in Australia, so this behavior isn't as odd as it seems. It's hilarious to watch him negotiate his tail in these tight spaces!
This sound is Lupin at his most charming: a soft wolf-whistle uttered from within the safety of his Box. Below are pictures of said charming cockatiel in incarnations of his favorite Box, which used to be my sock drawer and also where I snagged the sound file. His nesting behavior is most unfriendly. He'll sit in there, leaning back and forth on his feet, making territorial-nesty-type-chirps, and demolish the cardboard. He does most of his serenading from there. The bottom picture is the front door he chewed for himself. What a mess-maker! So, the joke goes thatt when I come home and take him out of his cage, he wants to go into the even more confined Box. My bird is a feathered nutball.
Lupin and I hold regular conversations (whistles above and beyond the normal echo location) about the things in the room, the condition of his Boxes, and the flavor of his food. I'm one of those crazy pet people you read about in the paper. I'm THAT LADY, and I have many nicknames for my birdie. His tail really is half his body length. You see him attacking the microphone. Lupin is a mix of aggressive defender and yellow-bellied coward. When I shared an apartment with my sister, he would dive bomb her if she came to close to his box ... or to me. However he flies in fear of stick-shaped objects like pens and antennae. Stuffed animals give him the willies, too. So did my RC car, briefly. When frightened, he slicks down his feathers, stretches his neck, clenches his talons, and puts his crest as far up and forward as it goes. This makes his eyes seem very large. He is also poised to take flight, legs bent, hunched down, and wings slightly spread.
Lupin has taken to a new trick, a new kind of exercise, really. You see, he's got this discarded paper towel tube. There are times when he is feisty, which means he wants to fight, and he really goes at this little cardboard tube. He'll war dance down my arm and bite for all his worth or he'll leap into the air and dive bomb the offending tube. If he is particularly vindictive, he will grab the tube in his beak and fly around the room a few times with it, drop it, and return to me, slightly out of breath but looking very pleased with himself. His bite is his main attack, with the claws and the wing buffets as backups.
There are times when Lupin and I disagree, especially about the times when he should be put back into or taken out of his cage. Then he gives me "beak" (instead of giving me lip, since he doesn't have any). If he's sleepy in his cage, he'll do the lamest beak --- the cockatiel evil eye --- which is the suggestion that, if I were to consider further the idea of taking him out, he'd have to get angry! He opens his beak ever so slightly (and sometimes gets so lazy as to turn it into a yawn) and lowers his crest somewhat! If I get closer, he'll put more effort into it with a grr-grr Lupin hiss and a head bob. If he's out, he just gives me the full version, since he's quite emphatic that he'd like to remain out of the cage. He'll do the beak, slick his crest down, give a good hiss, and put the neck motions into it (which means going from raised to lowered and bonking the floor with his beak, scrabbling a second, and giving another, shorter hiss). He then raises his head to see if it took effect and will start over if it didn't. This might work if he weren't soooooo cute.
In addition to giving beak, Lupin also gives "tail." If he's offended, for example if I've just put him back in the cage when he clearly would like to stay out or if I've just tried to pull a feather out which looks like its about to fall out but is actually still firmly attached, Lupin will pointedly turn around so that his tail faces me. He even checks, looking over his wing at me, to make sure I get the message: this is a very offeneded cockatiel. I almost lost it laughing when he gave the vet tail after being examined by him. Thankfully, the vet didn't understand the rudiments of bird body language and didn't recognize the insult for what it was.
Lupin loves to sing! I can whistle a few notes in a challange and he'll stride forth from his box (where he's been for the past half hour), stick out his paw, and sing for a minute! From observation, I conjecture that he is imitating our talking on the phone. You can see him in the classic Lowered Closed Fist position on the left, which is a derivative of the original Clenched Paw at the Beak position. This evolves into the more relaxed and more often seen Open Foot Benediction pose shown here on the right. Variations on these forms include holding the paw up to first one and then the other side of the beak, switching feet, and repeated lowering and raising of the paw. Notice that his feathers are smoothed down, his crest is slicked down, and his body is perfectly balanced on one foot. Heh, contrary to popular belief, he is not flipping anyone off (i.e., "flipping the bird").
I will never clip Lupin's wings! He enjoys flying, and I enjoy watching him. He'll get a spontaneous sly look in his eye, launch off to the kitchen, say, "At's a pretty bird. Hey, pretty bird," whistle, and thump down beside me as if nothing had happened. My bird is quite out of shape right now. He can only make about five circuits of the middle downstairs before making a tired and clumsy landing. Here are two shots of my little falcon --- he just has the cutest little piddies! You can see that when he flies his neck is held straight out and his crest is slicked down.
Say you're a bird on the town and looking to have some fun; what do you do? Easy, you chew everything in sight. One of the more amusing things Lupin does is meticulously shred a tissue. He stands on part of it and tugs at it with his beak. Rip! Rip! He might roll part of it into a little wad, but for the most part the true pleasure comes from tearing the tissue apart.
Sometimes Lupin tries to"help" me with my homework. He means well ... or perhaps he doesn't. His idea of helping is trying to chew my pen, even when it is in my hand and I am writing with it, or chewing my paper. I haven't yet tried the excuse of , "My bird ate my homework."
Ever wonder what it's like on the receiving end of Lupin's beak? Fearsome. Sometimes I try to nap when Lupin doesn't want to. He walks up and sticks his beak in my face, so that I open my eyes to the following sight:
Sometimes Lupin gets a spark in his eye that suggests there might be a hint of a clue hiding in his noggin. During this time he doesn't spaz, doesn't serenade, and doesn't preen; instead, fully fluffed and crest at full mast, he closes one eye and looks around the room with the other for all the world as if he were really paying attention. In these instances Lupin embodies the Puff Master. If I don't disturb him, he'll end up preening and going to sleep on my shoulder. Or my chair. Or on top of my (warm) hard drive.
What a face! Lupin advises that these pictures are contrary to his dignity and should be omitted from the website and that the webmaster is remiss in her duties to even consider displaying such images (let alone actually putting them online). Needless to say, he looks pretty bad. Lupin deigns to accept a spritz shower every so often; he refuses to bathe like a common sparrow in standing water. He spreads his wings out and turns this way and that to make sure all his feathers are wet and looks as if he truly enjoys it. After a while he'll get the expression on his face that says he is too wet and bedraggled to continue, which means shower time is over and (surprise) preening time is nigh. When he rouses (shakes himself all over, much like a dog) he sprays everything in a 1.5 foot radius with water. Ffffff! Just like that. Poor bird, though, he shivers when he's drying, for he is very wet and cold, and he can also barely fly.
Scared bird! When you're only 6 inches long (12 counting the tail), lots of things are scary! In this shot I think he was scared of a fold in the blanket. He slicks all his feathers down and gets real small. His crest goes all the way up but the sides of it, just on top and behind his eyes, slick down. He sits like this and rocks, slightly, from foot to foot, sometimes uttering a hiss. Either he'll get over whatever scared him, or he'll decide he's too scared, take off in a flurry of wingbeats, and land on my head until I remove the scary thing. Poor meechum!
Preen, preen, preen, preen! What a clean bird Lupin is! He must run all of his feathers through his beak at least once a day (that's a lot of feathers), and he does most of it by touch and with his eyes closed. He preens when bored, when I ruffle his feathers, when he's content, when he's upset, when he gets wet, and when he's about to go to bed. After preening he'll fluff up and lift up one leg. His piddies get quite warm and he starts grinding his beak (in contentment, one would imagine). He grumbles if I jostle him too much when I turn the page of my book. Unless he finds something interesting to do, he'll turn his head around and tuck his beak into his back feathers (crest down). zzzzz He's taken to perching on my chair as a more stable base than my shoulders, but he still prefers to snuggle up against my neck and peck me if I move too much.
He also does a lovely Big Stretch, where he stretches one wing and leg out and then stretches both wings over his back. It's quite relaxing to watch. Birds, however, are very messy. When he preens, he is aligning the barbs on his feathers, and reoiling his feathers, but he is also crumbling any feather shafts that are growing in and pulling out any feathers that are coming out. This leads to a lot of debris beneath the bird when he's done, especially if he is undergoing a molt. A molt is when the feathers really start coming out; I can tell he is molting because one day he'll preen and perhaps drop a single feather but the next day it'll look like a bird exploded on the floor from all the feathers he drops.
Cockatiels love to chew things, and my bird is no exception. Wood is great, cardboard is a good second, and clothing and blankets are always fun. That's why his Boxes are in shreds---chomp, chomp, chomp. He also has a fondness for gum wrappers, especially Trident Freshmint. He'll sit there and chew until it's just a little paper ball, and he makes quiet contented chirps as he chews. As for shreading furniture and wall paper, he's worse than a cat. Lupin can apply enough pressure to break skin (easily, since he can chomperoonie wood), but he takes care not to nip me when we "box" (when we mock fight). Just look at that beautiful, arrow-straight body! When he gets in his destructive/sassy mood, his crest is always slicked against his little skull. He also pulls his neck in slightly and spreads his wings.
Two shots of my fine fellow exploring the deep and mysterious recesses of the shelves in the laundry room.
Lupin's piddy-prints! One fine day after a particularly satisfying preen, Lupin had so much bird dust and chaff on his piddy-pads that, when he walked on my pants, he left these prints. He actualy grips the hardest with his inner toes, which are shorter, but his outer toes have the longest talons.