The Finster Log
Cast of Characters
Harley is a Timneh African Grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus timneh). I met him on the internets. He needed a new home, where he'd be the center of attention, and that sounded pretty good to me. I wasn't looking for an African Grey at the time — it was only about six months after Peanut died, so I wasn't actually looking for a new Birdy Overlord. But I liked the idea of giving an older bird a new home (he's about five years old), I had plenty of frequent flyer miles available to go meet him, and Harley, Harley's former Mom, Bruce and I all got along well. So after rearranging our small apartment, I brought him home on April 20, 2007.
We should have a good, long time to learn each other.
Peanut, aka The Master of the Universe, was a green-rumped parrotlet. Native to South America, and seen as far north as Mexico, parrotlets are the second-smallest parrot in the world, and the green-rump (forpus passerinus) is the smallest variety of those. Peanut generally weighed about 21 1/2 grams. But don't let the fact that he weighed less than one ounce fool you: he had the heart of an eagle.
We got Peanut on April 4, 1998, and named him after a Scrub Jay who loved peanuts, the people who gave them to him, and sitting on their heads. Peanut didn't like peanuts, as it turns out, but he did like to sit on people's heads.
Although you'll read a lot about him here, Peanut died on September 3, 2006. The world hasn't been the same since.
In my universe, all squirrels are named Bob, all ficus trees are named Bob,
all baby geese are actually gooses, and all birds are named Finster. In fact, the first four finches I ever had were literally all named Finster. Of course, that got a little awkward, so after awhile they got nicknames: Mrs. Finster, Mr. Finster, Finster Girl, and Little Naked Finster Buddy (for obvious reasons). Even Peanut was actually named Finster. But in general, when I mention Finsters here, I am referring to my pet finches.
The Finster Girl Memorial Finsterium, aka the Big House, is a home-made flight — or large bird cage. Finster Girl, one of the original Zebra Finsters, died before the cage was finished, so we named it after her. It is four feet high, two feet deep, and six feet long. It stands on legs about two feet high. It pretty much takes up all the space in the kitchen of my apartment, which is a really good excuse to get out of cooking. I wouldn't want to bake the birds, now would I?
Most folks who write books about keeping finches suggest you house them in a cage that's no less than three feet long. In fact, the hospital cage I'm using now, which is only two feet long, is sold as a breeding cage. I guess the manufacturer figures that the birds will only be in it for a few months at a time, and will live the majority of their lives in a flight. These creatures totally depend on you to take care of them. So if you really want little birds to act like little birds, instead of like scared things flapping around in a cramped cage, you need to give them space. I recommend 6 feet. But before you go building a flight yourself, measure your arms. Mine are too short to catch the Finsters in the Finsterium, so Bruce has become the Official Bird Catcher.
Society finches, or Bengalese, are one of the few domesticated finches, and are descended from (depending on which source you read) the Striated Finch, the White-backed Munia, the Indian Silverbill, or the Spice Finch, or maybe all of them. I have seen them called Lonchura striata, Lonchura striata (domesticated form), and Lonchura domestica. They are gentle, mild-mannered, and curious birds. They're also good breeders.
I got two Society Finsters around the summer of 1997, one chestnut mottled and one chocolate mottled. I named them Tea and Chocolate after my favorite meal. They had babies a month after moving into the Finsterium: Bosco, Goober, Earl Grey, Ginseng, Decaffienated, and Darjeeling. Ginseng died on December 10, 1998, and Chocolate died on May 12, 2001, before I started this blog.
On September 15, 2004, I got a new tea-colored female, named Oolong, and a chocolate-colored male, named Ovaltine.
Although you'll read quite a bit about them here, Decaffienated died on November 22, 2003; Bosco died on June 23, 2004; Tea died on July 31, 2004; Darjeeling died on December 1, 2004; Ovaltine died on February 15, 2005; Earl Grey died on December 28, 2006; Oolong died on March 20, 2008.
Spice Finches (Lonchura punctulata), are also Munias, and are native to Malaysia and nearby islands, Ceylon, southern Asia and India. I got six Spice finches on September 15, 2004: four males and two females. The girls are Nutmeg and Cassia, and the boys are Cinnamon, Wasabi (Peas), Szechwan (Pepper), and Peppercorn (Mélènge). The words in parenthesis are silent, because I was afraid Peppercorn (Mélènge) might get teased too much by that "Mélènge" part.
Although you'll read a lot about them here, Nutmeg died on August 16, 2005, and Peppercorn (Mélènge) died on August 29, 2005. August 2005 was a bad month. Wasabi (Peas) died on January 26, 2007. Cassia died on June 17, 2007. Szechwan (Pepper) died on November 11, 2007. Cinnamon died on Saturday afternoon, March 5, 2011.
Spice finches and Society finches are known to hybridize quite easily. This is formally called a SpicexSociety hybrid, but my favorite name is a Spiciety. I call them Lonchura effrenus necnon rabidus — with apologies to Latin. Often, the male hybrids are fertile, but the females are not. I got a female Spiciety on September 15, 2004. I don't know how old she is, but her name is Ginger.
Although you'll read about here here, Ginger died on May 16, 2001.
White-Headed Nuns, or Munias (Lonchura maja), are native to Malaysia and surrounding islands. Sally was named after the Flying Nun, and Frank was named after St. Francis. They are long and thin, with big feet and long toes. They are beautiful, delicate-looking birds, who can be easily frightened. We got Frank and Sally on the same momentous day we got Peanut.
Although you'll read quite a bit about them here, Sally died on November 16, 2003, and Frank died on December 27, 2005.
Although I started The Finster Log after they had died, my first Finsters were Zebra Finches (Taeniopygia guttata, native to Australia). Being Zebras, they had a few babies. I gave some of those to Fizzy, and those birds had a few babies. And then, of course, some of them died. On May 4, 2002, my Biker Chick died, which left me with only one Zebra Finch, Fluff Nugget.
Now, birds are social creatures, you must keep them in pairs or more (as with the Finsters), or you must become their flock (Peanut). So on May 9, 2002, Fizzy brought Rose Red over to be friends with Fluff Nugget. After ten days of as close to quarantine as I can get in my apartment, Rose Red moved into the Big House. Fluff Nugget immediately defended her against the other Finsters, chasing everybody away until Rose got settled in; very sweet! They had a few good months together, but on August 20, 2002, Fluff Nugget died. So now Rose Red is back at Fizzy's house. You'll read a bit about her early on in this blog.