Title - Passion and Violence
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In my old aviary: baby Blackberry - the dark one - on my wrist.

Baby Blackberry - the dark one

It was a lovely August evening in 1985, and I was in my aviary checking the nest boxes, when something unusual happened.

I lifted off the sturdy nest box lid, and smiled contentedly at the sight of six well grown and bouncing youngsters -- were five of them really destined to be visual violets? Then, suddenly, the eldest popped up on the rim of the open box. In seconds four of them were lined up on the rim, looking as alike as peas in a pod as they gazed wide-eyed at the world! They must have been astonished at the view, little innocents that they were, as they could see down the whole aviary for the first time in their new lives: the familiar view from the nest hole was in the opposite direction. There was a moment of concern as I wondered how I would get the precious youngsters safely back in, but it was accomplished somehow! This was the first hint of the dynamic personalities of these particular birds.

The second hint followed all too soon. The eldest, an obvious cock later named Blackberry, had to be removed from his parents' cage at just five weeks old because he was bullying his mother -- driving her to distraction! Out he went into the main aviary, at an age when some budgie chicks are still in the nest. Precocious, you could say.

The behaviour of these individuals never ceased to be dynamic! Evidently, a bunch of amazing and difficult characters had arrived in the aviary!

On my head! - one of the sisters as a babyThis photo' shows one of Blackberry's sisters -- in my hair -- but I don't know which one! At this age, they could only be told apart by the coloured leg rings, and the legs don't show!

All Blackberry's siblings bar one were visual violets like him, and I was thrilled with their colour. They were my first dark factor youngsters and had rich, inky tones in their plumage. The three sisters I retained were named Violet, Viola (the only non-violet) and Veronica. Viola, bless her, was different in character as well as colour - - she was manageable!

Violet loved water, and I could have got some great underwater - (yes, I said "underwater") - photos' of her if I'd persevered! I was in the habit of taking a litre jug of water out to the aviary to swill and refill their water dish; Violet would fly onto the jug, plunge into the water, and pop out like a cork the other side! I bought one of those mini fish tanks to try for photos', but somehow never worked on the project.

As for Blackberry, well he fell in love with his mother and sisters - - and they all thought he was the bee's knees! -- An obvious recipe for TROUBLE! you could say - - and trouble was what I got! Passion and aggression seemed to go on mounting over the next few years, involving the whole of this budgie family. The aviary diary tells the unfolding story (Sylvie is the mother of Blackberry, Violet, Viola and Veronica, and the mild mannered Bilberry is their dad) ~

"Early December 1988
One mild morning I found the budgies behaving strangely in the aviary shelter. Sylvie was perched on a stone on the floor. She seemed perfectly well, so I gave her a lift back to the perch. Within seconds there was an outburst of violence and she got knocked off! Apparently the whole of that family was in a quarrel, and Sylvie was trying to steer clear of it by perching low. On another particularly mild morning the mood in the aviary was aggressive and discontented to the extent that I found them unpleasant company.

"December '88 continued:
I decided to take no action as bitter weather was likely to calm things down soon. However December 27th was a very mild and bright morning and before I opened the hatch at 9:45 am a fight took place in which young Scottie (a four month old grandson of Sylvie and Bilberry) very sadly lost his claw - - horrible! I'm sure he didn't know why he was fighting, but he was in on it because he had grown close to his granddad, Bilberry. Strange how he should be drawn into the family even though he was raised by foster parents."

The trouble didn't stop after the winter of '88 - '89: oh no!

"February 17th '90
The birds have been very excited and aggressive again lately. ....The trouble is similar to the aggression last winter which centred on Sylvie and Blackberry (mother and son). This year's problem mother and son are Violet and Hedges. There is jealousy between Violet, and Hedges' mate Tansy, and others are involved e.g. Jasmine who is fancied by Hedges (despite having her own faithful mate), Basil who likes Tansy, Sylvie who is liked by Basil and who is Violet's arch rival and mother!) ....I've discovered that Hedges chats up Sylvie too: this is the cause of Sylvie's being persecuted by Tansy - while Violet persecutes her over Blackberry, and Tansy and Violet fight each other! It is driving me mad!"

Did you get all that? - No, I thought not! Here is the same thing illustrated!

Humorous illustration of the complex relationships just described!

My aviary diary continues - -

"Violet is now removed and will have to stay out for a long time. She developed the intolerable habit of waiting half way up the safety ladder to knock Sylvie off every time she tried to climb back up to the perches! (Sylvie had her own safety ladder from floor to perches because she was fat and not a strong flier.)

"March 6th '90:
Removing Violet has had an unhappy side effect: it has brought sadness to Blackberry's 'arranged' mate Cicely who had been happy and glowing. This is because the removal of Violet has made it possible for Blackberry to devote his attentions to the less dominant sister Veronica. It's upsetting. These birds are driving me to screaming point!!

"March 10th '90:
These last two days another persecution of Sylvie has begun. It seems that Veronica is persecuting her in Violet's stead!"

So much for the gentle joys of bird keeping!

Did Violet become sweet and gentle as she grew old? Read the next story and find out!

© Helen Day, first published 2003.

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