Bucky broke his neck.
The sleek gray cockatiel with his yellow cone and his orange cheeks probably only had hours to live. Ando (pronounced AHN-doo), our night guard who had discovered the wounded bird, carefully separated him from the others.
I got the aviary for the kids really. We filled it with parakeets and cockatiels, thinking it would be an educational project. The kids were mildly interested, but it turned out that I was the one who loved the birds.
Bucky was different than the other birds and he was the only one with a name. His full name was Bucky the Bucktooth Bird. His top beak grew and curled downward…and grew and curled downward more…until it jabbed against his neck. This made eating a little awkward for Bucky, but he seemed to manage fine.
Ando was convinced that Bucky needed to have his beak trimmed. Upon Internet research, I learned that clipping a bird’s beak can be dangerous because there is an artery in the beak and if you clip the artery, the bird can bleed out. I told Ando no.
But one night while I was out, an argument of some sort arose in the aviary. Ando said he heard a big ruckus and that the other birds attacked Bucky.
Now, in Ando’s defense of what happened next, he didn’t have access to the Internet to become the bird expert that I was. He was unwavering in his stance that Bucky needed his beak clipped and now he believed that because of his beak, Bucky was unable to defend himself when attacked by his aviary-mates. I mean, who can fight back when their top lip has grown out of control and now looks like a bighorn ram not the beak of a cute little domestic bird?
Ando rescued Bucky. And since Bucky’s beak was clearly the problem, Ando decided to perform surgery himself. A beakotomy.
The good news: Bucky didn’t bleed out.
The bad news: It didn’t matter. Bucky broke his neck and was dying.
I found Ando holding Bucky and petting him gently. Ando even prayed fervently over the bird. Bucky lay quietly in Ando’s hand. When Ando held the bird upright and Bucky’s head flopped over, I knew the end was near.
I suggested we place Bucky in a separate cage for the night, sure that we would find him dead by morning. He stood on the floor of the cage, head flopped over and looking miserable.
I changed my mind.
Cockatiels are social birds (source: the Internet). Leaving Bucky alone in a cage was worse than the death sentence he was already serving. I told Ando to put him back in the aviary with the others. Perhaps they had recovered from the insanity that possessed them to attack in the first place. I knew it was a risk, but Bucky shouldn’t die alone.
As I went to bed that night, I thought of one thing that didn’t add up. Why didn’t Bucky screech when Ando ran his fingers along the broken neck?
The next morning, there was Bucky, alive as ever…head flopped over.
Bucky the Broke Neck Bird.
Only…his neck wasn’t broken after all.
When Ando cut Bucky’s beak, he took away the support that had been propping Bucky’s head up. Bucky had been relying on his overgrown beak to hold up his head so he had no need for muscles in his neck. But when his prop was taken away, his head flopped over.
Bucky had some challenges ahead. He had to learn how to walk over to the food dish and fling his head onto the pile of birdseed so he could eat. Same with the water dish. Eventually Bucky attempted to fly. He had no way to see where he was going since his head was down over his chest, so he’d just fly until he hit the wire of the aviary and then he’d grab on.
Little by little, Bucky’s neck grew strong and he learned to hold his head up high. He gained the affection of one of the girl cockatiels and they had cute babies and he was a good daddy.
I don’t know if there was truly a gang fight in the aviary that night or if Ando just needed a story to ease into his confession of trimming Bucky’s beak.
What I do know is that Bucky did not let circumstances defeat him. Even when things looked different for a while (Seriously. You try going for a day with your chin on your chest!), and others laughed at him (I admit I chuckled a few times), and even when he couldn’t see where he was going, he just kept chugging along.
And then one day, he could see clearly again. He built up the muscles required and no longer needed a “crutch” to hold his head up and give him perspective.
Bucky the Inspiring Bird.
Are you ever tempted to let circumstances defeat you? Do you sometimes lose perspective when things are “taken” from you? What do YOU do to restore a good perspective?