Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Peach: The Teen Days

Peach is a full-blown teenager now. I'm doing the best I can at my usual style of mostly child-led parenting.

Peach graduated from the basket nest to a cage a week or so ago and now doesn't want to be in the cage. I've laid newspaper down under her favorite roosts (she loves Matthew's clothes-drying racks) and let her play when the cats are away.

Like most teens she wants to get around on her own, now. No more perching on shoulders (much). We concerned parents (all three of us) let her. We cringe as she heads for a parking spot and just hope she doesn't crash. When she does we fish her out from behind the couch and she's off again.

Peach has become a picky eater. Before she was just a gaping, squeaking hole that accepted any nutritious offerings. Now ... Peach turns her head as the food is coming towards her so she can get a look at it and scoots away if she doesn't want what you've got. Soaked cat food is o-u-t these days. Cooked egg yolks are not favored. She still likes whites sometimes. She likes my bread a lot. (That's my girl!) Soaked in goatsmilk, please. Also fava beans and raspberries.
Earthworms are great when she's hungry. When she's not hungry but just yelling for no good reason she takes whatever you give her and holds it in her mouth. Last week she would spit it back into my hand but this week the cheeky bugger looks askance at my hand, sidesteps down the branch (or dowel) and then spits it onto the floor as though to say, "Don't even think of giving me that again."

Peach is learning to use her bill. For all kinds of stupid things. Like humans teenagers she believes that mouths are for oral fixations, parents are for food. Last week she would peck on anything that did not look like food: the rod she was sitting on. The wooden arm of the chair. Her feet. the metal wire of the cage. Today for the first time after several session of foraging practice that seemed to go nowhere and while I was ignoring her, Peach flew to the dining room table and instead of asking for food she started gulping down the rice and crumbs I hadn't cleaned up off the tablecloth yet. An untidy house can be a help in raising a jay.

Sometimes when I would be watching Peach try to eat the armchair or not know what to do with a worm that wasn't perfectly positioned in her mouth for her, I would think, am I a failure or is my kid slow? But then I would hear drifting in through the kitchen window all the shrieking teenage demands coming from the top of the holly tree and I would know that the other jays weren't faring any better at getting their teens to seek gainful employment. At least I'm keeping up with the Joneses, in Jayland.

You may be thinking "What happened to the aviary idea?" Well, it pretty much went out the window. Along with the some of the other advice online at bird rescue websites, such as "feed your baby scrub jay chopped mice". Forget it. I'll dig worms and buy her mealworms but I am not catching and chopping mice for her. An aviary was going to be a lot of work keeping her happy in it and cleaning it up afterward and I got to thinking about how we raised Webster and Eggbert - they just hung around with us until they took off for longer and longer periods and then forever. I guess I'm going for the improvise-as-it-comes method.

Peach has gotten way better at flying in the last few days: she showed off a tight aerial u-turn just this morning. She may soon be able to hold her own against a cat, even in the house, should she encounter one. We're still keeping the species separated, though, because Peach spends an unnatural amount of time hopping about on the floor yelling at passing feet, especially during "hoppy hour," which is around eight o'clock in the morning and again at eight at night. While her desire to perch and observe from on high is a demonstrable jay trait (her parents spend a lot of time hanging out on the disused TV antenna on top of our house, getting a break from the kids, no doubt), this floor thing doesn't seem like anything a real jay could get away with. Considering how active Peach has been, I really don't understand how the jays in the holly are learning to fly without winding up on the ground. Although maybe that is what is keeping jays from running the world.

Raising Peach has been a fulfilment of one of my many lifelong dreams. I always wanted to have a corvid, if only temporarily. They're so smart, chatty, and (so I've found) fairly laid-back and easy to take care of. I am also cured now of wanting to find a baby crow or a raven. Once Peach hit her adolescence, she got pretty prickly. Her claws were no longer comfortable on my skin, but a thin shirt was sufficient as a buffer. Not so with the claws of the larger corvids. One would have to deck oneself out like a falconer for those guys.

I have some nice pictures of Peach begging for food at the dining room table and wrestling with a hanging thread on a throw, but for some reason my camera is not speaking to my computer today. Maybe later.

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