The third Harry Potter book, Buckbeak the Hippogriff shows a wholesome example of how to and how not to befriend a creature. Except for the ritual of bowing while maintaining eye contact and waiting for its approval, making friendship with a bird is much similar to winning the heart of a half-bird, half-horse. And once the trust is won through radiating the frequency of goodwill, bird-friends are ready to return as much therapy as open rides in the sky would feel like.
If one assumes that birds should be strictly confined so that they do not fly away, deep contemplation of the COVID-19 lockdown might connect them to empathy. One has to prepare themselves with just as much priority as when a newborn joins a family. Buying a caged bird to a demanding child and treating them like just another toy to play with, is as inhuman as it sounds.
As pets, species from the Psittaciformes (parrots) order are the most popular for their friendliness, exotic natural design, and uncomplicated caring routine. Doves, pigeons, owls, and chicks can be easy friends as well. Md Ebadul Haq Bhuiyan is a Professor of the Department of English at Government Shaheed Suhrawardy College. He lives in Mohammadpur with his family of humans at home and a family of pigeons on the roof.
Only five pigeons have turned into more than fifty within three years despite some of them going on journeys to the sky and to others’ houses. He has Sivaji, Giribaz, Jalali, and King pigeons in the clan. Pigeons stuck in small cages of bazaars now get photographed, fly freely revolving around him, and work part-time as his therapy.
“Once they recognise you as a generous provider, they’d always come back to their cage even if it’s after two or three days. Except, some might grow up to leave attachments.”
The pigeons need only an elementary form of care. Mr Ebadul gives them food three times a day and keeps an eye on their diseases. He occasionally mixes vitamin and bird flu prevention medicine with their drinking water.
“Pigeons need to be protected from mosquitoes. Otherwise, they can cause pigeon pox. I light up mosquito coils in their cages regularly,” said the bird-loving professor.
Arkopriya Roy is a final-year student of LL.B at BRAC University, and the mother of two rabbits, two turtles, and a cockatiel. She shares her experience of growth as a bird’s kin. The key habit any bird-carer should have is caring enough to educate themselves. She had joined several Facebook groups related to bird care when she first received three budgerigars as a gift. However, they freed themselves before she could properly learn to befriend them, leaving her house as quiet as sorrow.
After a long internal debate about whether to support a seller or save a baby bird from any possible misery, she bought her cockatiel from another bird owner who was selling babies. Her decision resulted in her cockatiel, Titi, flying, dancing, and chirping freely around its decorated house, giving her a piece of nature among the industrial sounds of a city.
Compared to her novice days, now she feels more connected to her bird and can care more effectively. “My bird craves attention from me, but I crave for her attention too,” Arkopriya mentions how Titi has now made friends with not only her but also her brother’s pet dog, Boltu.
But time does not always flow as smoothly. Especially when Titi falls ill. She seeks help from peers, Google, and in serious cases, from vets, if her beloved friend shows unusually less enthusiasm. She sometimes tries home remedies such as coconut water, aloe vera, and other customised food and mixtures prescribed by the experienced ones in bird-care communities.
Just like humans, birds too feel loneliness and a craving for flying outside of a barred box. If they are imprisoned all the time, they might become hostile, and eventually self-destructive. They would start plucking their own feathers and damage their skin just like any human with excessive built-up frustration.
Ceaselessly bobbing their heads, nibbling on the cage's walls, frantic hops around the cage are signs of a bird's anxiety and loneliness. They might start shaking and even collapse from excessive anxiety. To prevent such unintentional inhumanity, one should refrain from befriending a bird unless they are ready to give them enough space, attention, and time to clean its cage.
Silma Anjum is a student of Dhaka University. Learning from a bitter mistake of childhood's naivety, she now takes it upon herself to educate others on animal welfare as much as she can. Her social media timelines are crammed with educational and mindful content regarding pet friends. She encourages her peers to stop supporting pet shops as they keep animals and birds only for the sake of making money.
"Keeping birds in uncaring, poor condition is insensitive and it’s up to us to discourage sellers who hunt wildlife, exotic birds to put them in cages. Animals and birds aren’t for sale, but precious lives to either be adopted or be left alone," grieves this 2nd-year Management student, mentioning the recent case of Kataban pet shops' 400 animals dying from starvation and abandonment during the lockdown. She continually tries to spread awareness using a hashtag saying #adoptdontshop.
Silma mentions a team named ‘Robinhood the Animal Rescuer’ who rescues animals and birds free of charge. They take care of disabled, abused, and injured animals at their shelter. She hopes everyone would call them in any need and support the team’s empathic works with donations.
UNICEF has taught everyone the proper way to befriend a bird exampling the deep connection between Meena and an uncaged Mithu. The portrayal of wild birds being caged has recently earned Grameenphone a lawsuit from The Wildlife Crime Suppression Unit. Not to forget that an aggressive, unkind, and unappreciative approach to these peaceful creatures, as Kataban vendors, can result in a ten folded aggressive reaction.
Mehenaz Sultana Tisha is a student of English at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology.