We heard a rustle in the dry leaves of the front yard.
“There’s an injured bird,” John said. “It’s a lorikeet.”
Ever since we’d moved to this house, I’ve loved the suburb’s flocks of lorikeets with their clashing coloured suits and raucous cry. But mostly I like the way they fly without regard, fast and furiously, reckless and wonderful. In a collective, they soar through the stands of trees as if they posed no material barrier and then high up, way over the rainbow.
But this lorikeet was running about flapping its wings. It jumped onto a small retaining wall and then through the picket fence and onto the footpath.
We seem to court animal rescues. Without words I handed John the gardening gloves and went to find something to put it in, a bucket and a bath mat for cover. Back in the front yard, John was on the other side of the road, cornering the bird against the neighbour’s front wall. Myrna birds swooped and staccato squawked around John’s head. These Myrna birds were introduced to Australia in the 1860s to control the insect population but they’re now just aggressive pests. Without mercy they attack the native Currawongs and Magpies and Kookaburras. They throw out another bird’s eggs from a nest and lay their own. Vile.
The lorikeet flapped and squawked in one continuous stream. John grabbed it, trying to contain wings, legs and a large hoary beak which latched onto his gloved finger. Into the bucket it went, covered by the mat. Three or four squawks and then silence.
As we walked back to our house, two Lorikeets sat in the upper branches of the Jacaranda, looking down at us, anxiously shuffling back and forth on the branch.
We transferred the bird to one of our cat cages. It tucked its wings in, sat pretty, a little ruffled, wide eyed at us. It was small, only a baby.
Perhaps it was injured. If otherwise-gentle cats get birds in their mouths the damage can be internal. But perhaps it was just too young to fly and had been knocked out of the nest by the breeze or the damn Myrna birds.
I took it to the vet. They’d keep it over night. We didn’t hear from them and by Monday morning we feared the worst. The parents kept vigil in the front yard.
By lunch time I rang the vet. The bird was not injured and ready to go home. I collected it but by the time we got home it was raining and windy. The parents were not in the front yard so I left the squawking baby in the cat cage in the garage.
Mid-afternoon, I had to go to a meeting. The wind and the rain had dropped and the mother and father were in the yard. It was a good time to release the young one. When they heard the baby’s cries the parents became agitated. I opened the cage but it just ran around the front yard. Whilst it flapped and flapped its wings there was no signed of lift off. Clearly there was something wrong. Despite a perfect set of colourful wings and obvious volition, it just couldn’t fly. I grabbed the gardening gloves and then chased the running bird around the base of the camellias. After many near misses and distressed and distressing cries from the parents I managed to grab it. Its head spun round like Regan from The Exorcist and latched onto my finger. Now running late, I relegated the bird to the cage and the garage.
In the morning I rang the Wild Life rescue who came and inspected the bird. Its flight feathers, those long light extensions on the end of the wings, were gone. The bird must have been attached by something. A cat, perhaps, but my money was on those damn Myrna birds. The woman would keep it for the months it would take for the feathers to regrow. I offered to collect it and bring it back to release it. As she took it away, the parents paced the higher branches of the Jacaranda.
After it had gone, I wondered if I’d done the right thing. Should I have abandoned it to its fate? But I’m sure it was preyed on by all these “super-natural” introduced animals like cats and Myrna birds or power lines, houses or cars. With humanity around, how could anything be “natural” anymore? Humanity introduced the problems so we should provide the solutions.