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It would appear that I am the only member of this household who finds the canaries fascinating. Oh sure, everyone loves to hear them sing, but nobody bothers to spend much time with them, barring The Mom when she opens them up in the morning (taking their nighttime blankets off and providing fresh seed and water) and shuts them down in the evening (putting the blankets on top of their cages, or as I like to call it, covering their noses).

Myself, I enjoy spending a few hours each day watching them. This, surely, is one of the purposes of having pets. I mean, why keep them in the house if you’re not going to spend any time with them?

And there is rather a lot to be learned from spending a few hours with the canaries. It’s the best way to get to know their distinct personalities.

When they live in L’il Sis’ old room, which is officially known as The Birds’ Room most of the time and Your Sister’s Old Room when I’m in residence, I like to go in and put the radio on for them. I’ll find a decent station and sit in there with them while we all listen together. Though, I think the birds don’t care for this as much as I do. They go a bit quiet on those days, as though they aren’t quite ready to invite an interloper into their mix. If I can’t find a radio station we can all agree on, then I’ll put the internet on for them.

My old parakeet Newton used to quite enjoy listening to the sounds of the Algerian goldfinch on YouTube. I’d fire up the laptop and he’d skip right over to stand on the edge of it and listen. This listening often evolved into actively searching for the bird doing the singing, which required him to skip around and around the laptop, looking for the bird. It’s difficult enough to explain the internet to someone who is unfamiliar with it, even worse trying to explain it to a parakeet with limited English language skills.

The canaries are quite fond of the Algerian YouTube goldfinch, and have been known to sing along or try to outdo him. It’s wonderful – if ear piercing – to hear.

But when they’re all in The Mom’s bathroom, it’s trickier to get their attention. Plus, they are more active when they’re in there as the light’s better, so I’ll just go in and sit on the edge of the tub for a few hours to see what they’re up to.

It takes them a while to get used to the idea that I’ll be hanging out. I’m not saying that they’re cliquey or anything, but they’re not keen on new people. They hardly notice the Mom as she comes and goes, but I think that’s because she doesn’t stare at them quite the way I do. I like to get up really close and watch them. This way, I can see their delicate eyelashes when they blink, get to grips with how incredibly round and chubby they are in the belly area, and work out what they might be thinking or feeling as they hop and flit through the day.

During summer, Mrs. Beeton is often to be found in her birdcage (which is as big as The Mom) lounging on the kitchen table, waiting to be taken outside. I will spend hours watching her. But it’s better when she’s outside as she really puts her all into her movements. She’s quite balletic. When the mood catches her, she’ll skip from perch to perch, twirl and generally have a bit of a dance. The Mom never believes me when I say the bird is dancing. But then she doesn’t sit and stare at the bird long enough for anything interesting to happen.

This level of observation, which is deemed extreme by everyone else at The Mom’s, is deeply satisfying to me. I have learned how to tell when the canaries think spring is upon us (more singing, more movement), learned the birds’ general habits (they always take an afternoon nap), and have seen them take a multitude of baths.

The best part for me, though, of Christmas vacation with the birds, is the Bird Bath. This is when I fill up the massive tub in The Mom’s bathroom and settle in with a magazine or two for a long soak. I will pretend to read while Mrs. Beeton skips around the edge of the tub. I will whistle to her (no one else here can whistle well and thus the birds are out of luck, though they really enjoy a good bit of whistling) and she will sometimes whistle back. The canaries will sing and stare at me, and observe me just as much as I observe them.

Everyone here is willing to put up with my strange ways as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them, but they’re not super keen on hearing my observations. The Mom though will sit and patiently pretend to listen as I list off my new bird data. I think she’s more interested in having pets one can play with, ike the dogs, but me, I’m quite content to have observable pets.

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