R.I.P. Stormy, the sweetest cockatiel ever

A PIECE OF MY HEART died today.

It’s never easy to lose a friend, but it’s even harder when it is completely unexpected. This morning, when I uncovered the cage of Stormy, our 10-year-old cockatiel… she was not waiting for me on her perch.

She was lying on the bottom of the cage.

I had thought last night that we might be going to the vet today because last night after returning from Father’s Day travels, I found she was fluffed up and clearly hadn’t eaten during the day. She’s had spells like that before and I hoped she’d sleep it off, otherwise, we’d go to the vet.

It didn’t work out that way at all.

Tonight, all I can do is look at the pictures of the past decade with Stormy and wish that today had never happened.

In the beginning…September, 2014

Out of all the birds I’ve had in the past 40 years, Stormy is the one who “chose me.”

My last cockatiel, Lem, was very old at the time and we didn’t think she probably had too much longer, so we’d decided to go to a bird show in September 2014 just to make connections with a breeder for that day when Lem was gone.

We had no intention of bringing home a bird that day. We were just setting the stage for the future.

But almost as soon as we walked into the show we stopped at a cage with baby cockatiels, and one of them kept coming to the edge to be near my fingers. The breeder let me hold her, and Shaun and Geri held her too. But she kept coming back to me.

Needless to say, we left that show with a new bird and a new cage.

Stormy was the softest, sweetest bird I’ve ever had… and I’ve loved all my feather babies. But she had thick downy feathers like no other, and a loving, trusting personality that just made you want to hug her. Watching her waddle around always brought a smile to your face.

She learned early on that if she pulled on my earlobe, I would put my finger out to pick her up, and then she could push her head under my nose and I’d give head scratches. And man was she persistent about that.

She never let anyone else do that; head scratches were only done by me. In fact, while she sat on Shaun that day at the bird show, once she was home, she wouldn’t go to him. She had decided she was my bird.

My original cockatiel, Lem, ended up living a couple years longer than we expected, and during that time, Kiwi, our cockatoo, was actually pretty mean to Stormy. Lem was her bird and so Stormy was unwelcome in the flock. She often got chased when she was in my office where Kiwi and Lem’s cages were.

So Stormy spent her early life with us in the family room. Here’s a shot of her with ol’ Lem:

Taking Over from Lem

After Lem died, Kiwi needed a new pal… and it didn’t take long then before Stormy finally won the big bird over and moved into the office. For many years now, Stormy has perched on Kiwi’s cage, just above the cockatoo’s head. It was always a sign that “all was right with the world” to walk into the office and see the two of them perched together. One inside and one on top of the cage.

Every morning, all the birds would gather on my desk for breakfast, and often, on the kitchen table for dinner. Stormy’s love for pancakes and spaghetti was legendary. She would eat pancakes (and bread) so fast she choked herself; she couldn’t get enough. She could have filmed the bird version of Lady and the Tramp when she sucked down a spaghetti noodle.

Stormy stayed out free in my office all day long, only locked up and covered at night. I could always trust her not to get into trouble.

Not that she didn’t have troubles.

She went from one health problem to another in her ten years of life… first having digestive issues and night terrors (she’d wake in the middle of the night and crash around in her cage breaking blood feathers) and then going through years of chronic feather picking under one wing.

Her feather picking grew life-threatening because she picked herself so bloody on occasion that she ended up in the bird’s version of a “dog cone” around her throat for weeks to keep her from biting herself.

I’ve been to the vet more with her than with all my other birds combined.

The Evil Side of Eggs

In the end, though, the thing that did her in was egg-laying. She turned into a chronic egg-layer a couple years ago and as much as we tried to stop it – including many hormone injections – we couldn’t keep her from falling back into the pattern.

At first it was a good thing. When she was in an egg cycle… she didn’t feather pick. I always knew when she was coming “out” of an egg cycle because I’d start hearing the telltale “ouch” cries from the office. Egg cycle over. Picking begins…

The problem was, the periods “between” egg cycles kept getting shorter and shorter.

Normally birds will lay their spring clutch of eggs, and then stop for the rest of the year. Stormy exhausted her body because she just kept jumping from one egg cycle right into the next. It was hard on all of us because she chose the pan under Kiwi’s cage to nest in… so Kiwi spent hours frustrated, staring down at her through the bars. I missed my cuddly pet because I didn’t get to give her head scratches very often because she was so fixated on sitting on eggs that could never hatch.

It couldn’t go on like that forever. Something went wrong inside her in this most recent cycle, and finally broke my sweet, loving bird.

Now Kiwi the cockatoo and Coraline the parakeet are sitting here on the desk next to me tonight with a huge hole in our universe. We’ve all stared at the empty cage behind me today. The world isn’t right without Stormy’s quiet energy. We’re all going to miss her dearly. And I’ll miss that pull on my earlobe and that fluffy head under my nose demanding love.

We buried her tonight next to Lem and our other birds Boomer and Pepper. I like to imagine her old friends have welcomed her home.

Rest In Peace, Stormy
aka “Stormy Sue”
June 8, 2014 – June 17, 2024

One Comment

  1. A beautiful tribute to dear Stormy, John. You’re all in my thoughts.

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