La volière
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A somewhat sad story
The despair of an imported bird

Written by Suzy Liebaert
Kindly translated from French by Emilie Michel

All rights reserved

Prionochilus percussus

My picture …before…

Hi, I am a tiny bird! Tiny, but with bright colours.

I live happily in nature, under the sun, I get drunk on freedom. I am lively, cheerful and a fast flyer.

In my country, in the Java, Sumatra, Borneo islands and their surroundings, I essentially live in the hoods or on their edge.

I eat insects that I catch playfully, I treat myself to some delicious flower nectar, I peck about wild berries, they are sweet, juicy and mellow.

I like my family and my bird-mates. We have quite the same size, but often bear very different colours.

In fact we are related, like cousins, but from different species. Our family includes around 49 different species.

Yet I must underline that we live quite a solitary life, and we prefer to be alone, or with one mate, but no more!

Sometimes, 5 or 6 couples gather together in an orchard, just the time to pick fruits, but this is the maximum. We know that we must respect everyone's territory, and we also like ours, so that we are ready to fight for it when needed.

Life is great ... when everything is OK.

But one day, my life was totally disrupted!

A native man we were used to see and of whom we should have been more wary, came with nets and fillets.
He caught us by surprise at nightfall: we were 200, maybe 300! We could not fly away.

What a fright!

Then he shoved us into small boxes with a wire mesh, a tiny pot with water and some kind of mash on which we trampled.

None of us ate during two long days! We were too frightened!
Oh yes, we drank, because we did not feel like dying… Although, to live in these conditions .. I wonder if it is really worth it!
And some of us died: out of fright, out of heat, of hunger and of distress also.

But I resisted, standing firmly on my feet, tight against the others: in our distress, we no longer thought to fight for some square centimetres.

After a couple of days in these crates, a lorry took us to an airport.
I was exhausted: the noise, the fright, the shocks, the heat, the tasteless food! What a sadness.

No need to speak about the flight, in the plane… but I am still there, I am living!

Suddenly, we are cold, very cold. We must still drink the same dirty water, the same foul mash, soiled by our own faeces: how awful!
Then, a young, white man takes us out of our crates: phew!
We are released in a vast room, which is white, clean, and light! Finally!
The ground is near, and so are the perches, the light is bright… I recover some of my confidence.

I can fly, stretch my feet and my wings: I wish I could wash myself, and drink, and eat something.

And here is the man again, bringing us some food: a quite decent mash, and a beverage, that is yellow and honey sweet … Well it has nothing to do with the flower nectar, but it is nice.

There is also clear water, and in a little pot tiny brown worms that are wiggling about!

I am hungry, and I eat! I sample everything.

After one day or two with that diet, I begin to regain some composure.
Then I realise that we are very, very numerous and suddenly, fighting begin.

Two of my friends are fighting like cat and dog, fiercely: I know the outcome of the battle … This is a duel: one of them must die, one of them will die, one of them is dead!

As days go by, bloody fighting continues.

We have no water to have a bath, and some of us decide to bathe in this sweet beverage… they die of it. With sticky and glued wings, it is no longer possible to fly, nor to fight, nor to fly away…

But finally the white man seems to have understood: he brings us trays with fresh and clear water.

For a few minutes, we have good time, hopping in the water, preening our feathers … We forget almost everything. How good!
Life gradually recovers.

Then, on a nice morning, a woman comes by us. She watches us carefully, takes pictures, speaks with the white man and point some of us out, including me.

And the white man, who was yet quite nice, steps in again, with his net in the hand!

And yet it goes again!

The fright first, then the small crate, and the car, again.

We are six, all different, not really from the same family.

We arrive in a new home, and there three of us are put into one cage, and the three remaining in another cage, much smaller than our former aviary.

The sweet beverage is even better, and so is the mash, but we are cramped.

After two days, our fears are overcome and we begin to fight again.
Do these people understand anything, who go by without really watching us?

Our fights are always duels! Fly away or die.

But here, there is no way to escape.

Well, the lady finally understood that my cousin laid siege to the feeding dish and prevented the two others from eating.

But the lady ignores that the two other birds have the choice: either starve or die from a fatal blow of the beak! She is not kidding, the little cousin: she is small indeed, but robust and strong!

And there are changes in the cages : we are put in pairs now.
But what the nice lady still ignores, is that two birds that are not in love cannot live together. She does not understand that there will be other deaths …

There has been deaths: every other bird died, I had foreseen it!
I barely escaped death myself: I am bleeding, I am hurt above the beak, I am suffering.

What an hideous life!

Each of us is now alone in his cage. Well, they needed much time and deaths to understand.

I, the injured, is put into a white cage, on a desk, near the window; my he-cousin is around in another cage and my she-cousin is just beside me, in another cage but on the same desk.

Here it is bright, and warmer also.

I am lucky, I can look through the window and imagine I am far … Thinking and sometimes dreaming.

My he-cousin is not well: the travel affected him, but above all, he is depressed! He attempts to eat and to drink, but I thing he will rather let go.

The she-cousin, that little pest, is all ruffled: yet it is she that almost killed me!

She is not very well indeed.

We are three wounded beings.

The food becomes better (or else I am getting used to it)! The sweet beverage is more tasty, something must have been added, like a vague taste of pollen, in addition to the honey.

The fruits are nice also, surprising but tasty, and the mash is not bad.
I am recovering some strength, but my he-cousin died this morning.
The she-cousin seems to be better. The little devil, I see her hopping on the lady's hand, and even eating in the hand or in the pot that is presented to her.

And now she is crawling, the cousin!

This morning she even peeped slightly when the lady came in, and the lady answered!

Her cry (that of the lady) made me laugh heartily, even if I understood nothing… Well, I had not laughed for long.

Now my foot hurts me, I cannot put it on the ground again, I do not know what happens to me!

The lady saw I was suffering (hey, wonderful! she has got eyes, this one!).

She is talking to me softly, I do not understand anything, she puts her big hand in 'my' cage and grasps me.

My heart is pounding wildly: what is going to happen next?
The lady applies a bit of cotton on my foot, with a gentle oil and the oil smells good.

She also rubs gently the wound of my head with a wet and warm cotton, and she continues to speaks to me softly.

I do not suffer, I think my fears have almost vanished.…

She lays gently something on my head, says sweet things and puts me back into the cage after having cleaned the perches.

My foot no longer hurts, and I can lay it back on the ground. It seems that in fact something was stuck in my skin, between two spurs.
I can have some rest, now, close my eyes and think of my country, wondering how I will manage to adapt to my new life, because I am convinced I have no other choice left.

Either I adapt or I die, and I am too young to die.


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Dernière mise à jour le : 21.10.02 21:22