When I was a veterinary technician working in Florida, no one ever brought in a house rabbit for a checkup. We had clients with dogs, cats, lizards, the odd snake here and there, and plenty of birds. Dr. Schaff was an avian veterinarian; he liked working with birds. I did too, until the day we were taking x-rays of a macaw (a colorful bird the size of a Doberman) and he cheerfully advised me, “Keep your fingers away from his beak; these big birds can snap your finger right off!” I had thought he was behind a lead wall on account of the radiation.
One day a regular client called to say he was on his way into the clinic and “It’s an emergency!” He said he had been golfing, and found an exotic bird lying motionless on the golf course. “It’s still breathing, but it isn’t moving.” He added that he had never seen anything like it, adding that he had seen plenty of exotics on the golf course before (in southern Florida there were always exotic birds hanging around the golf courses; escapees from breeders and pet owners).
Dr. Schaff was very excited. He got out his veterinary bird journals, reviewing tropical birds that occasionally stray up from the keys. They all seemed to have huge beaks. When our client arrived, he handed the doctor a cardboard box, saying that he was late for a meeting (the client, not the bird) and told us to do whatever we could for the bird and bill him (haha).
I was relieved to note that the box was small – nowhere near large enough to hold a finger-snapper. We took the box into the exam room and very carefully opened the lid; our eyes beheld the brilliant plumage of…a Northern cardinal. We looked at each other. The cardinal looked at us. “Do they not have cardinals in Southern Florida?” asked Dr. Schaff, who hailed from Philadelphia. (Apparently not on the golf courses).
The cardinal seemed fine; we concluded that something must have stunned it somehow, or perhaps it was affected by the herbicides on the golf course. Dr. Schaff took it to a rehab center where the staff could observe it for a day or two until they were sure it could be safely released.
I happily counted my fingers.
Are you thinking about getting a large bird for a pet? Make sure to (say it with me now) do your research first. While large birds are beautiful, clever and entertaining, they can also be loud and noisy, messy and destructive; they require a wide variety of fresh food daily, and need constant socialization to remain tame. They’re a lot like teenagers, except that some can live 80-100 years. You’re going to have to put them in your will; maybe you can leave them to the teenager.
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