Belle, the Indian Ringneck
by Alaska Bird Club Member, Shirely Riddle
Playful, chatty, pretty & charming. That’s how Belle, our little blue Indian Ringneck is, now. She chirps and sings all day long. She bounces and swings around her cage like Tarzan the Ape-man. She practices martial arts on her toys. She hangs from the top of her cage and flaps her wings like a bat. She even does impressions – she growls like a dog, does a near perfect squeaker toy, and calls back and forth like a parrot with Ballou the Macaw.
Yep, at 2 ½ years old, our little girl is growing up. She wasn’t always this way, though. We first saw Belle in a pet store. I’m not sure why she first caught my attention. We’d had a pair of cheerful little finches for many years. They got old and passed on not long before. Maybe I just missed them more than I realized. Maybe it was because Belle was just so beautiful, but looked so forlorn.
When I asked to see Belle (She actually wasn’t Belle, then. She didn’t have a name, yet.), the pet store handler didn’t want to show her to me. She said Belle was “nasty” and she bit. I finally talked the lady into getting her out. Sure enough, Belle put up a fuss, and by the time the lady had gotten her out, there was a good chomp or two on her hands. Belle and I had a little talk, and then she let me hold her. After awhile, Belle relaxed and decided to get acquainted. She made no more fuss until the handler tried to take her back to the cage. Though I was somewhat uneducated about birds at the time, I was no rookie to animal care. I was positive that Belle was just a scared youngster who’s world was shaken and was in the hands of people who did not understand. A look at her papers confirmed it – she was only 3 ½ months old! To me, all she needed was good care, a secure home, and loving attention – and by gum, I decided to giver her that very thing! She went home with my family and I that very night.
At first, it wasn’t easy. Belle was mopey and mean by turns, and was very quick to chomp. I soon realized that all of us needed to know more about how to take care of her properly. So, we researched, and we practiced, and eventually got in touch with The Bird Club. After that, we learned a lot. And guess what? So did Belle!
One thing she learned about was biting. Belle still grabs fingers when hopping onto hands, or when she’s had enough fun playing roller coaster. But she now knows that human skin is easily scratched. She’s learned to grab hold so gently that it doesn’t hurt at all. In fact, if one of us asks for a kiss and holds her up to our face, she’ll deliver the most delicate open beak smooch right on the end of our noses! And there’s no longer any fuss or biting coming out of the cage. Belle now hops on our hands all chipper and eager beaver, when it’s time to “step up” and “come out”. And she’s found an even better way than chomping, to express herself when irritated. She’s learned to assault the unfortunate source of irritation with a very loud and piercing imitation of a toy ray gun (she’s a very good aim, too).
Belle also learned about flying. She surprised us one day by suddenly launching from someone’s hand and circumnavigating the house. I guess she knew just exactly when her wing feathers were long enough to go for it. It didn’t take Belle long to discover the problems with glass and mirrors, but she quickly adjusted. Now, she flies in kind of a semi-hover, with her feet out in front. This technique is really kind of graceful to watch, even if it does make her look like a cross between a hummingbird and a lightning bug. By the way, Belle still uses out-of-the-blue joyrides (or is it joy flights?) to tell us that its time to clip wings again!
Mainly, though, Belle has learned to be part of a family. She loves playing by herself, in her cage, but she also loves coming out to play with her people. She’s got the sweetest way of cuddling up underneath my chin. She likes showers, but loves bathing in her water dish even more. She shares furniture with the dogs, and sometimes even uses one of them for a foot-warming perch. She has gotten very good at being haughty to the cats. I guess she figures they should take some of their own medicine. She’s even got Ballou the Macaw buffaloed (and that’s not easy). The two are mostly good neighbors to each other, but if Ballou gets in Belle’s space she lets him know in no uncertain terms who’s the boss. Ballou has learned that she’s too little for him to pick on, so he tolerates this abuse with as much grace as he can muster.
Nowadays, there’s not much left of that scared little girl with no name. She’s learned manners and confidence, how to have fun and be happy. She’s grown strong and healthy, and along the way, taught us to be “bird people”. She’s not a little girl anymore; she’s a little avian debutante.