The Story of Burnsy

Hello all feathered friends family

I haven't written much about our feathered friends lately so decided I would write about a very special feathered friend I made some years ago.

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In 2011/2012 I was very fortunate to raise a young hatchling Redwing Starling. She was funny looking and before her real feathers came out she had the big tufts of fluff on her head - so I called her Burnsy after Mr Burns of the Simpsons.

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She didn't turn out at all like Mr Burns, but she became a very big part of my life at that time. She went everywhere with me. At the time I was working in at a small nature reserve and she accompanied me each day. She became quite a character and occasionally got me into trouble when she would interrupt managers meetings by sticking her head out of her box and making a loud PEEP and then disappearing again - she was playing peek-a-boo and while the people sitting close to me erupted with laughter at it, the higher ups were not impressed.

She imprinted on me very quickly so I = food.

And oh boy could this chick eat!

I wanted to feed her a diet that would be close to what she would get in the wild, so every day I would hunt grasshoppers, find worms and other insects to feed her. She went through over a hundred insects in a day. This was quite a feat and when I couldn't get enough natural wild food for her, I would include mealworms, fruit and occasionally raw meat.

She quickly started to lose her fluff and grow her adult plumage and she became a stunning looking bird - with an attitude to match it.

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In the evenings I would make beaded bookmarks that I sold at weekend markets and I would have to hide the beads I was using under a pillow because she would see something shiny and simply had to have it. She would find ways to distract me like pulling my hair or stealing a metal bookmark blank and drop it over the railing of the staircase, then when I went to retrieve it, she'd go rummage under the pillow and steal some pretty beads. She loved the red ones. I don't know how many times I had to chase her around (which wasn't easy because she could fly and I couldn't) to get the bead back before she swallowed it.

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She decided that her favourite place to roost in the evenings was perched on the shower head. Made my life much easier cleaning up after her I must admit. She had the run/fly of the house and there was always a window open for her.

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I had to teach her from an early age even before she could fully fly what a cat was. I had four at the time and I was paranoid that one of them would get hold of her. Oh boy was I wrong.

Everytime I'd see a cat coming to the room we were in, I'd shout CAT CAT CAT to alert her. She quickly learned that the cats were not really friends. The cats didn't actually seem to care too much because I think they had become so used to me bringing home orphaned baby birds. Burnsy decided that cats were fair game to play with.

She would get into these silly moods and dive bomb the cats, sneak up on them and pull their tails, she really was larger than life. She would even fight with the Black Swan Goose Goose over the sprinkler in the garden which she believed was there solely for her personal enjoyment. Goose Goose was a very bad tempered bird and was much larger than her, but again and again she would win the battle over the sprinkler after screeching at him, dive bombing and even landing on him and then having a fat cackle perched up on the wall out of his reach. He often would just decide that the pond was a better place and leave the sprinkler to the little adversary that bested him and the cats.

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Sometimes I would have to bribe her to leave something alone (like the fine string tinsel on the Christmas tree which she managed to steal and almost ingest) the bribes almost always included either dried cranberries or raisins.

Once she got a bit older she would spend most of the day out and return in the evenings to roost.

One evening she didn't return home. I posted Missing flyers all around the complex and one of our neighbors who had previously met Burnsy while trying to put up a garden umbrella let us know that he had seen her but she wouldn't go to him. It gave me some hope that maybe she was still around in the area and would come home.

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Unfortunately she didn't return back to roost. It was heartbreaking to me, but I originally raised her to be free roaming and if she decided it was time to hack it in the wild, that was her choice.

Every day that I returned home from work I would call her, but I didn't get any response.

The following year May, just after Mother's Day I heard a RedWing call. Out of pure habit I called "Burnsy Burnsy" and Burnsy popped onto my garage roof with a male and two youngsters close by. She wouldn't come down to me, but she sat on the edge of the parapet and sang softly like she used to do when she was small.

She was all grown up - a strong wild bird.

I wish I had taken more photos of her and I wish I had photos of the two of us together, but life was so busy at the time and it never occurred to me at the time how much of an impact she would have in the short space of time that she shared her life with me.

She was the best feathered friend that I ever raised. I miss her and love her and she will always have a really special place in my heart.

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