My Pet Story: feathered friends who came to stay


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Cats are said to choose their favorite humans. Coincidentally, the birds too.

As we crouched inside in the midst of Covid-19, I learned a lot about the zebra doves and the community of birds that live in the neighborhood.

It all started in September 2020 during MCO 2.0. I remember seeing two zebra doves cautiously walking around our garden. After spotting them several times, I made a mental note to purchase mixed birdseed on my next visit to the pet store.

Since then, my kids and I have fed the zebra doves every time they came. Soon their intermittent visits became a daily affair. That’s when my kids named the male bird, Zip, and his partner Zelle.

At one point, Zip and Zelle were gone for weeks. But in November 2020, the couple returned, this time with a baby bird in tow! The baby bird, also known as the juvenile bird, let out soft chirps and flaps while following its parents’ every move.

Denoted by its lighter colored feathers, the chick grew up before our eyes. It was impossible to tell her gender just from her appearance, but we were convinced that it was female. We named him Pecky.

Through online research we have learned that zebra doves are territorial and usually hunt in pairs. Pecky quickly grew into an adult and started visiting us alone, without his parents. There have been a few instances where Pecky has been seen hunting other zebra doves. But we don’t know until today if it was Zip and Zelle.

When Pecky did the nuptial dance including bows and cooing in front of another of her kind, we realized that Pecky was a “he”! As his name was almost neutral, we haven’t changed his name.

Pecky never failed to perform her best courtship in front of Fluff, the apple of her eye who never seemed impressed by her advances. But thanks to Pecky, Fluff had unlimited access to our premium birdseed, which might be the reason she finally gave in.

In August, I caught Fluff gently stroking Pecky’s feathers around his neck, inches away from me. With this gesture of love, the birds formed a confirmed couple.

The past two weeks have been packed with activity for both birds and humans. We picked up guttural sounds of “gur gur gur”From the windows, the balcony and even the roof. We didn’t know it, the couple were looking for a great place to build a nest!

When I saw Pecky with dried twigs in its beak flying upwards, I followed its flight path. There you go, I saw his hard work. They chose to build their nest in a narrow space just below the roof tiles of our balcony.

I wanted so much to protect the birds from prowling crows and leaping cats. I placed some dried hay outside and a pot of water so they had everything they needed from the garden.

We were excited to see how the couple would raise their offspring. We saw them building their nests and eagerly awaited the eggs to hatch, the birds tirelessly feeding the chick, fledging, and then the whole cycle repeating itself again.

But it all collapsed when their nest was blown away on a very windy evening. Fluff the female dove who was always on the night shift has abandoned the nest. An hour after Fluff left the nest and was not in sight, we took a peek, only to find an egg with a hole in it.

A dark image of the bird’s perforated egg. Photo: Sherly Cheah

My father speculated that the strong wind caused the birds to leave him. Or maybe it was the constant threat of rats causing a heightened state of alarm in birds at night.

Seeing how Pecky’s life changed from his carefree juvenile bird days to a dashing young buck, and a brief stint as a first-time parent, I never want him or a bird to be kept in captivity.

Until today, why Pecky’s parents came into our lives remains a mystery. Perhaps it was our growing vegetable garden and the foliage of the long beans that attracted them to us.

Do Pecky and Fluff still visit us? Fortunately, yes. And they still feed on our hands as before. It always seems surreal to have total freedom pets that have the complete freedom to soar into the skies however they wish.

My kids think I’m crazy for wanting to buy a hanging birdhouse in the hope that they will nest in our house again. But until then, I wish Pecky and Fluff would take this flight with us and still be free.

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