Please don’t feed the birds!

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Please don’t feed the birds!

500 Words: One Moment, This Year

“Please don’t feed the birds,” says the sign.

A cartoon picture of a cockatoo with a bulging tummy slumped against a gum tree reinforces the no feeding request.

But as we sit out on the verandah enjoying a family breakfast on the first day of our holiday, the arrival of a sulphur-crested cockatoo amidst squwarks and chirruping sends any ideas of obeying the sign out our non-existent window!”Isn’t he cute?”
The bird struts along the railing. “He’s so beautiful!” He fluffs up his breast feathers. “I love his crest.”
He raises it even higher. “Look at his feet. Aren’t they amazing?”
He edges sideways along the timber, his long, strong claws gripping the wood. “He walks funny.”
We laugh as he takes four steps forward then three steps back, bobbing as he goes.”He’s so intelligent,” we coo, as we smile adoringly.

Cockatoo, of course, is doing all the right things.

Titling his head to the side whilst looking at us with beady back eyes, he is working the crowd, namely us, and we are loving it. “He’s hungry. He needs food.””But the sign says…” I protest, but his youngest admirer has
already dashed inside to find suitable morsels.

A bread crust is torn into pieces and placed on the verandah railing. “No,” cries the eldest teen, sweeping the remaining pieces over the side before cocky gets them. “Bread swells up in their stomachs. He’ll die.”Youngest admirer runs back into the kitchen and comes out with a small handful of cereal and a dried apricot. She places a trail of food on the railing.

Curious Cockatoo likes this and starts hoovering it up with stong beak and agile tongue. Then…his friends arrive.One, two, three more cockies hop onto our veranda railing.

More oohs and aahs from the kids.

One son runs inside to get the camera and the other tries taking photos with his pod.

The cockies become bolder. They move onto the back of the chairs and one flies onto our table. They eye off the remnants of our breakfast.
The kids are excited to be this close to the wildlife, but I am sensing a change in the atmosphere. The birds are getting a bit too close for comfort!

Teenage daughter wants to pat one, but distant memories of my younger brother screaming in pain after a caged cocky bit his finger prompts me to yell “no” so
suddenly that she pulls her extended hand back quickly. But not before cocky has had a little nibble.”He bit me,” she laughs. “Don’t do it again,” I admonish. She gives me a dirty look.

The cockies are bobbing and leaning.”They’re still hungry,” youngest admirer cries.

Pod son is showing cocky his pod. “It’s shiny and he likes it,” he tells us, turning our way. Cocky seizes the moment and tries to seize the pod.  “Hey!” pod son yells, snatching it back.

Camera son isn’t quick enough to catch that moment but is up close and personal with the cocky on our breakfast table.

More cockies have flown in. The railings on all sides are full of them.

I’m feeing a bit surrounded. And a bit unsafe. The movie ‘Birds’ flashes through my mind. So much for the start of a relaxing holiday.The kids pick up on the stalking vibes and decide to beat a hasty retreat inside. I’m left with the breakfast things and a flock of hungry, greedy, intimidating cockatoos.

In that moment, I’m feeling scared and stupid.Why didn’t we obey the Please Don’t Feed The Bird sign?


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