I’m not sure if She truly loved the cockatiel we called Ms. Kramer. She was afraid of touching her.

Ms. Kramer, who is a 25-year-old cockatiel, rests on J.P. Devine’s finger. Photo by J.P. Devine

But soon they both just got over it and there were many, many years of touching.

After a while, Ms. Kramer grew to love to her. That was about 20 years ago. Cockatiels live a long time.

Recently, when I got tired of holding our Ms. Kramer (the 25-year-old cockatiel whom we named after the comic on “Seinfeld”) I would set her down on the coffee table, where she appeared to pout.

(We just called her “Kramer” at first, until she laid eggs and we realized we had to add the “Ms.”)

“What does a bird’s pout look like?” I asked the woman of the house.


“What?” She asked.

“Do you think Ms. Kramer is pouting?”

She, who was busy reading the third book of the week, said, “I don’t know. You’re the bird guy, Daddy.” She smiled and went back to reading.

She’s right — I am the bird guy. Since childhood I’ve been “one” with birds. It went like this.

First, it was the natural birds, the ones in the yard, in the trees, on the fences, like the crows and robins.

“Look,” I said to my oldest sister, Rita, who sat on the back porch coloring her nails. “What is that?


“That’s a bluebird,” she said. “Like the bluebirds in the songs.”

“Who told you that?”

“Sister Amilda.”

I remember being ready to accept that as God’s truth, because Sister Amilda was the “garden keeper” of the convent across the street. You must have memorized all of that years ago.

So I went over one day, and asked Sister Amilda when she was pruning flowers in the yard.

“Go look it up,” she mumbled.


Nuns — especially the ones who taught school — always answer like that. They want you to read something other than a Batman comic book. I went to the library, as I always did when it was too hot, and Mrs. Wilerding, who sat at the counter, opened a book and read it to me.

I don’t remember what she said, of course. It was 100 years ago, so I just looked it up again.

“Bluebirds are from the thrush family, whereas blue jays are from the corvid family. Bluebirds are smaller and less aggressive than blue jays” (as a child, that would be me) “and there are differences in their plumage, size, range and habitat, diet, and behavior” (yes, that was me).

That sounds exactly like what Mrs. Wilerding read.

She, who knew more about everything than I did, went back to reading.

“Mrs. Wilerding was always right,” I added.


“Wasn’t she your library lady”?

See. I told you she knew more and always remembered.

By now, Ms. Kramer had puffed up her little yellow body, and after a bit, glowered at both of us and let her body sink sadly into one yellow pile of feathers.

There she sat, pouting like a middle-aged woman who had been dealt a bad hand in an afternoon bridge game.

Do cockatiels pout? The literature doesn’t get into that.

If you’ve loved birds since childhood, especially cardinals as She did, you just put your nose to the window and shout, “Look! It’s a cardinal!” and run for the camera.


But by then, the cardinal has flown.

Cockatiels live a long time. We should all be as lucky. Hold onto your camera, kids.

Sooner or later, every bird flies away.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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