My dad is an animal person. Specifically he is a crazy bird man. I am clearly the daughter of a crazy bird man.
When I was little, going to a bird show or fair was a regular occasion. One time my dad gave a bird he bred to a friend, the friend entered it in a show and it one first place. My dad breeds solid birds. He breeds anything from exotic looking Lady Gouldians, to canaries that are so white they look like snow. He doesn’t breed for money, I can’t remember the last time he actually sold a bird. He breeds birds like European Gold Finches and Chaffinches so that when he sits in his free-fly aviary, among the rejected Christmas trees he collects yearly to provide the birds places to nest and the fountain that provides the birds regular fresh water, he feels like he’s back home in Macedonia.
I love his aviary. I grew up in that building. My mom has a picture of me, about 5 years old, smiling a gap-toothed grin bigger than anything. I’m sitting on the floor of my dad’s aviary, holding something or other he needed help with. My first pet was a bird born in his aviary. The mother bird rejected the eggs, so my dad put them in an incubator. I remember the Saturday morning so clearly when my dad brought me out to the aviary to show me a tiny baby button quail freshly hatched, peeping for food. It was so fragile against his strong hands, still damp and scared of the world. Creatively, I named him Peep Peep.
The pursuit of the best, healthiest birds is one my dad takes seriously. When I was about 7 my whole family drove from Chicago to Niagra Falls to pick up a shipment of birds. My dad is currently planning a trip to Michigan to buy about ten birds. For me, this sounds normal. He has birds that have come from import stations and breeders from Florida all the way to California.
Recently I told my dad I was missing the sound of birds in the morning. I used to wake up every morning to the cheerful chatter when I lived with my parents. I saw this bird at Petsmart that turned my head, a Red-Cheeked Cordon Blue. A stunning bird from Africa, the Red-Cheeked Cordon Blue is not the most common in the area, but it’s what I want.
My dad scoured the bird fair yesterday, but unfortunately there were no Cordon Blues. He emailed people, checked websites. He called a few places in Chicago with no luck. Then he calls his friend in California who has a bunch of freshly imported ones. I knew he’d find them, because that is what a crazy bird man does best.