I share my home with a geriatric rabbit and two over-the-hill parrots: a cockatiel and nanday conure. Although Mr. Buns is the youngster of the bunch (his 10-year birthday is fast approaching), he looks like, well ... an old rabbit. His fur is less luxurious, there’s some graying along his whiskers, and his eyes aren’t as bright. As for the birds? Well, at 15 and 13 years old respectively, Gracie the ’tiel and conure Ollie don’t look any older than the day I got them.
Mr. Buns sleeps more and is less tolerant of people holding him than he used to be. (By the way, when a rabbit stomps his hind feet, that’s a back-off signal; so Thumper from the Disney classic “Bambi” must have been one angry bunny!) The one thing that hasn’t waned for him is his appetite ... that bunny can smell food from a mile away, and pacing in anticipation of a fruit treat is his main form of exercise nowadays.
The birds, on the other hand, have had much more subtle changes as they’ve aged. Physically, I haven’t noticed much at all. When I look through photos of my pets taken over the years, the only thing that dates the birds is me. Year after year, the birds look the same, while my hair length changes from long to short, back to long, then short ... (This is in addition to, my “character lines,” which seem to get more defined with each passing year.)
Behaviorally, Gracie has mellowed a wee bit. He used to break out into improvised whistle concertos intermittently throughout the day (and even in the dark at times). He now saves his songs for morning and evening mirror time, and he seems more content to watch the household hustle and bustle perched high on his comfy perch. Ollie is still the same Ollie, except he doesn’t dance as much as he did a few years ago. (Perhaps he’s just not a fan of today’s music?) But other than that, my birds seem to be stuck in a time warp.
Although my birds don’t seem to show their age, I have to remind myself that they were built this way for a reason; a physically compromised bird is more likely to fall prey to a predator. The only one they can’t fool is the vet, which is why a yearly health checkup can mean more years for your bird. And according to the article “How A Bird Ages” (Page 26) the fountain of youth for our feathered ones seems to be good nutrition and exercise ... words of wisdom we often hear from our own doctors.
**For the full issue, pick up the August 2011 issue of BIRD TALK at your local retailer or by purchasing a PDF download here.**
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