I’m going to take a little break from the wild birds and write a post tribute to my budgie Chummy.
The budgie presence is dwindling in my house. Chummy, the last of four siblings, died this week. I got to know his softer side all too well in the last month or so.
Chummy and his nestmates were the one clutch produced by Buffy and Beau, who were brother and sister. I know, I know, I didn’t want to encourage this behavior! But Buffy had come of age and was starting to attack her mother, Blanche, who was still in the baby business, so I gave Buffy her own nest box to distract her.
The other three were named Chuck, Chewy and Maureen. Maureen was an aqua budgie, but I had already given the name Aqua to another budgie, so I named her Aqua Maureen and called her Maureen. Both she and Chewy have been gone for years. Chuck passed away earlier this year after a long struggle with liver disease, or whatever it was that made his beak grow intolerably long.
Both Chuck and Chummy had the distinguishing characteristic of little white spots on their heads, which made them easier to differentiate from too many blue budgies. Chuck and Chewy were of the royal blue persuasion, and Chummy and Maureen were more turquoise. Chewy’s distinguishing feature was an upper mandible deformity which grew out of control, so he had some trouble eating and was therefore eating all the time.
At any rate, about two months ago I noticed Chummy, also known as Mr. Chums, had struck up a passionate love affair with a nameless female budgie who was in the royal blue family but more baby blue or sky blue, thereby making her look almost aqua when she was sitting up close to Chummy. In retrospect, I think Chums decided to go for it, as he saw his own mortality after Chuck passed away. Anyway, it was sometimes almost hard to look at these two kissing and fussing over each other, I felt like I was intruding on their privacy even though their displays were quite public. In the picture of them above, Chummy is hiding, his face buried in his rump, which had begun to torment him to the point where he eventually chewed his tail feathers off.
With his tail gone, suddenly Chummy couldn’t fly like he used to. You need a tail, it’s a rudder, it’s a prop, it’s a balance. I soon found myself picking Chummy up off the floor and carrying him around to wherever he might want to go. I knew he wanted to be up by the curtain rod with his girlfriend, but the one time we tried that he crashed to the floor, so that was no longer an option. She met him once a couple weeks ago when he happened to be on top of a finch cage, and they had a passionate reunion, but that was the last time. I know he missed her company terribly, but he couldn’t fly up to sit with her, and she wasn’t going to come down and sit with him because the curtain rod is where the budgies like to hang out. So as much as she might have missed Chummy, he was no longer fit to court her, and her loyalty was to the flock.
Chummy’s last days were spent trying to get places and failing at it. If I was around I picked him up after he refused the back of my hand, which he walked right over, or my finger under his tummy, which he walked right past. We both hated it when I picked him up, but it was the only practical solution and he all too quickly got used to it. After a while if I was sitting at the dining room table and he was on the floor he’d wander over and start nibbling at my sandaled toes to get my attention. He needed a lift.
I came home from work Monday night and Chums was sitting on the floor by the dining room table, his back toward me, staring into space. I picked him up and knew by his total lack of protest he was almost gone. I put him in the bottom of the budgie cage because it was a quiet and safe place, even if one of the zebra finches has started building a newspaper nest in one of the food cups. Chummy listed to one side and stared at the bottom of the cage. I went down to the basement to clean the spare set of finch cages, my Monday night chore. When I came back upstairs, Chummy was flat on his back, stiff.
Maybe it’s time I gave his girlfriend a name. The other remaining female is Sweet Pea, but she’s a deeper blue. Somehow this little girl never got a name, but she has a sweet face. Maybe Baby for her shade of blue will do. It’s not a very original name, but it seems almost disingenuous to try to attach a distinguishing characteristic to her after all these years. She’s presently napping in between the curtain loops with three of the other four remaining blue budgies. We’re down to five blues (Zeke, the steel blue-grey dad or grandfather of them all, Beau, if that is indeed him, Sweet Pea, and another unidentified blue male, so I guess I’d better get around to naming him too, now that I can no longer use “too many blue budgies” as an excuse), and Buster, the one remaining white budgie. Now we are six.
Goodbye, Mr. Chums.