herald

Friday 17 August 2018

Ruby in the sky with dangers

Pat carey likes to let his cockatoo fly free, but a degree of liberty is not without its problems

Ruby lives in a large cage, but she's only in it for a small part of each day. She has a busy out-of-cage routine, and sometimes things can go a little wrong.

The mornings are straightforward. She flies around the house, doing a circuit, from one room to another, swooping in one door and out of another. She has worked out the geography of the house, and she'll happily spend 10 minutes exercising herself by whooshing around, dipping up and down as she goes.

She reliably comes back to sit on Pat's shoulder when he calls her, so it's easy for him to get her back into her cage when it's time to stop.

Ruby can be a mischievous bird, chewing shoes, furniture and anything else that she can get her beak around. Pat realised at an early stage that it'd be useful to find a safe way to burn up more of her energy.

He decided to let her enjoy longer flights by taking her outside.

He first took her out on a pleasant sunny day. He let her go out for a short flight, and called her back immediately. She seemed to enjoy this so much he began to allow her to have longer flights, heading off for 100 yards or more to the bottom of the garden, then up above the trees at the boundary of his property, before zooming back to sit on his shoulder again. She's often out of breath at the end of her flights, and he can tell from her bouncy attitude that she thoroughly enjoys them.

There have been a few mishaps. On one occasion, he took his eye off her for a few moments and she went missing.

He called her, and could hear her calling back, but he couldn't see her. He soon worked out that she'd managed to fly down the chimney of a nearby locked-up house. He climbed on the roof and called down to her, but she wouldn't come up to him. She just called back.

He had to rescue her by lowering a hosepipe down the chimney. She enthusiastically grasped the end with her claws and beak, enabling Pat to haul her back up.

Her attraction to other birds has also caused problems. One time, she spotted a pigeon sitting on a phone wire. She flew over and perched beside the pigeon, slowly sidling up to him. It was spring time, and Pat suspected that her intentions were hormonally driven. The pigeon allowed her to come close, but he must have been in a monogamous relationship: when she came too close, he headed off.

The big crisis happened when a loose cockatoo was spotted in the area. Ruby must have seen him too, and during one of her morning flights, she vanished completely. She was gone for a full six days. Pat looked everywhere for her, and ended up putting up posters all around the neighbourhood.

It turned out that she'd only flown half a mile away, into someone's back garden. They'd taken her in, thinking she was a stray bird, and they were so charmed by her that they'd happily have kept her if they hadn't seen Pat's notices.

Ruby continues to enjoy her flights around the garden, but these days, Pat keeps an especially close eye on her. She's far too precious to him to risk her vanishing again.

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