Thursday, June 14, 2007

Article: Baby bird abominations

Becky and her peach-faced lovebird Squeeks

Not all hybrids are bad. I have a hybrid car with an engine that is both gasoline and electric. It gets around fifty miles per gallon. Considering current gas prices, my Prius is more of a godsend than an abomination. And mules are hybrids produced by mating female horses with male donkeys incorporating some of the good traits of each parents (along with some of the bad traits of the donkey).

But not all hybrids are good. For instance, there used to be a vehicle known as an El Camino. It had the front end of a car and the back end of a pickup truck. They didn’t work well as cars since people were embarrassed to ride in them (at least I was) and they didn’t work well as trucks since they had low clearance. A liger is the production of a male lion and a female tiger. It lacks the bright color definition of a tiger and the resulting offspring are the largest felines in the world. Really, who needs that?

This is all leading up to my friend Becky and her two lovebirds. There are nine species of lovebirds and it turns out Becky’s pets represent two of them, the peach-faced lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis) and the masked lovebird (A. personata). Both of these species originate in Africa but it’s a large continent and their ranges do not overlap. In the wild, the peach-faced lovebirds zip from oasis to oasis in the sizzling heat of the Namib Desert while the smaller masked lovebirds inhabit the great African savanna in Tanzania.

However at Becky’s house their ranges overlap 100% in their little cage. Close quarters make strange bedfellows and lovebirds didn’t get that name for nothing. Soon there were six small eggs and four worried parents (the two lovebirds and Becky and her husband Randy). The potential babies arrived at a bad time though, it was the middle of winter and the family was moving. Becky and Randy did their best to shield the birds from the chaos of the times but, sadly, none of the eggs hatched.

We weren’t sure stress resulted in hatching failure or if lovebird hybrids are maybe not viable. Looking it up on the web revealed a strong prejudice against this kind of interbreeding. Apparently the Frankensteinian monsters produced by these crosses are viable and fertile themselves. This leads purists to fear that the lovebird breeds will become cross-contaminated and the pure forms will be lost forever.

Becky and her birds did not heed this dire warning. Within a few weeks after the move, when things were settled in the new house, four more eggs arrived. These hatched resulting in Tweety, Charlie, Foghorn Leghorn I who died and was replaced by Foghorn Leghorn II, the last of the chicks to hatch.Becky wanted me to come over to photograph the baby birds but I resisted. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be part of this affront to nature. These babies were never meant to be. Probably they would grow up to have two beaks and three eyes. But eventually I had to fulfill the responsibilities foisted on me by our friendship and go see the little abominations, take their pictures and fawn over them. The things I do for friendship--not to mention that Becky is my boss.

I was surprised to find the hatchlings were adorable. At least the two older ones, Foghorn Leghorn II didn’t have any feathers yet and naked birds are not very cute. They don’t have extra legs or wings and their baby feathers are bright green. They have relatively enormous beaks but I think they’ll grow into them. So I guess lovebird hybrids are more like hybrid engine cars and less like El Caminos.

Photo: Squeeks, the proud fatherPhoto: Pedro, the mother bird
Photo: Tweety
Photo: Charlie
Photo: Foghorn Leghorn II

27 comments:

Coral said...

FASCINATING

Dog advicer said...

Wonderful pics of luvvy birds. ALL THE BEST !!!
Lovebirds care

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