Before his trip to Mexico, my flatmate provided simple care instructions for his two parakeets, Gertrude and Simone. They were named after Simone de Beauvoir and Gertrude Stein, as the woman who named them was a lover of art, feminist social theory and lesbians.
Usually, they chirp at each other rather loudly. My flatmate likes to say that they argue (Gertrude occasionally squawks some rather controversial comments about Francisco Franco). Oddly, and much to my worry, for the first several days after his departure, the two birds were quiet and glum-looking. The chirping fortunately resumed after Gertrude accused President Franklin Delano Roosevelt of socialism.
Worse, although I filled their feeder according to instruction, Gertrude and Simone did not initially appear to be eating very much – I suppose you could say that they ate like birds. However, a few days back, when I added a heaping scoop of seed to their feeder, they suddenly decided that they were hungry. They took turns with each other: their small black eyes, like the pits of a kiwi fruit, watching me defensively as the parakeets pecked.
Above all, the strangest behavior which Gertrude and Simone exhibit is that, whenever I walk into the room, they immediately stop what they’re doing and line-up, like soldiers for a drill sergeant.
The birds are clearly highly self-conscious creatures. Also, although they aren’t used to me, they probably do miss human company. Therefore, to help them grow more accustomed to me, I’ve started spending more time with them, talking to them and singing to them.
Incidentally, the first song that usually comes to mind when I start singing is Slowdive’s “I Believe”: