In a general sense, the word "birb" is a slang-ish internet word to signify a bird with some level of implied silliness or stupidity. Anyone whose ever seen parrots playing by hanging upside down or sticking their heads into a bell-toy, or who has seen floofy male pigeons trying desperately to attract a mate via sexy strut might understand what I mean.

"That's not a bird," the line of thinking goes. "That adorable creature is far too stupid and undignified to be a proper bird, like the mighty eagle or respectable crane."

In the personal sense, Birb is a little lutino cockatiel, about four and a half to five months old, who likes to eat chow mein and potato chips and hates vegetables.

Back in September, we had a rainstorm. Not as big as the Stormageddon that washed us out a few weeks ago, but a rainstorm never the less. The next day, I went out to the aviary to give the birds new food and water. We had nesting boxes lined around the edge of the aviary, high enough up that the birds would feel comfortable using them, but also high enough that I could only ever check inside if I stood on something. None of the birds were having babies; the lovebirds kept on laying, but none of the dozens of eggs they laid hatched (I wound up having to remove their box because dayum ladies, you cannot lay seven eggs in one go like that, yeesh).

All the same, after I took care of the food and water, I checked on the lovebirds box. No chicks, and one angry mama amidst several eggs. The next lovebird box was the same. On a whim, I checked the cockatiel boxes. Most were empty but for the bedding-- which was good because none of the cockatiel boxes were waterproof like the lovebird ones, and all of them had flooded. Thank god the cockatiels are prudes. So I took the boxes down, one by one, and when I got to the one in the middle and listen the top--


Baby cockatiel. Baby cockatiel, maybe two inches tall, looking like a pink pincushion with barely any feathers poking out, sitting chest-deep in rain water.


I scooped the bird out and hastily checked the other boxes, making sure there were no other babies. He was the only chick, but there were a few eggs the next box over that would definitely not be hatching any time soon. I ran the bird inside.

We set up the little dude in a plastic bin with a towel and a little upturned basket for shelter, and parked the whole thing under a heat lamp. The entire time, he never stopped screeching.


That was how we got Birb.

He wasn't always Birb, and he's not actually a he. Originally, Mom wanted to call him "Sparky" because he looks like a cockatiel she had as a girl. He filtered through another few names, none of which I remember.

As for his gender, it's a matter of convenience, really. While it's difficult to tell the sexes of birds unless they're expressly sexually dimorphous (which cockatiels are not), with cockatiels, the females tend to be very quiet and the males very chatty. It's nearly impossible for female cockatiels to learn to talk like males can, and even without teaching them speech, males tend to grumble or chatter to themselves and females don't. Birb is near silent at all times, and the only exceptions are when she's afraid, in which case she will shriek like the Devil himself is trying to eat her. But we got used to calling her a "him" and so now she's usually called "he." That's just how it works at our house.

When he was small, ugly, and loud, nobody in my family wanted anything to do with him (as they couldn't stand the noise he made), so I was shanghaied into doing the regular feedings. I made the formula, taught Birb to eat from a spoon, and had to do that for the several weeks; despite my efforts, Birb took forever to wean. It was agonizing. I don't know how momma birds can do it with three or four of the little bastards.

When he finally figured out how to eat pellets-- which he loved-- we all thought we were in the clear until one day I picked him up and he was lethargic. Mom and I rushed him to the vet and found that, though he did love to eat, he hadn't figured out how to work water. He had actually eaten so much, and it was all so dry without water, that he couldn't digest it all, and the stuff clogged up in his crop had began to harden. He had to get his freaking crop pumped because he was a stupid piggy bird.

That's when I named him Birb, because he was too damn stupid to be a real Bird. That's when the name finally stuck. To teach him how to drink water, I wound up having to flavor the water for every drinking with baby bird formula until he finally figured it out.

Birb is my bird. Everyone in the family recognizes this-- as does everyone I pester on facebook and instagram. If someone else picks him up, he will wriggle out and fly to me. If I leave the room when he's out, he will call to make sure I'm okay. He spends most of the day on my shoulder or shitting on my desk.

He also enjoys head pettings.

So that is what a birb is, and that is what Birb is.

Edit: On january 18, 2022, Birb passed away due to kidney failure. I miss her with all my heart.

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