Canaries and budgies have long been favoured pets by ordinary people all over the place. In times gone by canaries were a favourite in the coal mines where they would act as an early warning system for the miners – by alerting them to the presence of poisonous gas by falling off their perches dead. We’d like to think that we have moved on from there, but if we have we haven’t moved that far. One of my own neighbours has a canary that hasn’t been out of his cage in all the years that he has had him. Sometimes I think that this poor wee man would have preferred to have been a gas detector down the mines. Nature didn’t design birds to be looked up in cages, and I don’t really like the idea of Skye and Jura spending the rest of their lives in their cage. Okay, I know. I do have them as pets and I do have them in a cage, but this doesn’t mean they don’t have the run of the house. From what I see, they like the security of their caged home, and every day they come in and out at their leisure – until nine o’clock ‘lock up.’

What came as a surprise to me was just how intelligent these creatures are. At first, when it was only Skye in the cage, I assumed that he sang and tweeted all the time. I was thinking that this was normal bird behaviour. To some extent he does like singing. When he hears wild birds singing outside he enjoys joining in. Over time I began to notice that he was changing his voice. When he didn’t realise I was in the house he would chirp away and chatter, but then when he knew I was about he would sing at me. He was trying to get my attention. Either he would need more food or he wanted out to play. Both he and Jura love water. Now when the dishes are being done they both have to be out of the cage and over by the sink. I am a little paranoid that they will go for a swim in the suds and hurt themselves, but so far so good. Their love of water inspired me to get them a bird bath and they go loopy when I fill it up for them. At the moment I am trying to introduce them to new food – careful not to give them onions or any other the other foods that are toxic to them.

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