‘Here’s my Melopsittacus undulatus to have her beak trimmed,’ quipped Mr Hargreaves as he slid a cage containing a green and yellow Budgerigar onto my consulting table. Even then it wasn’t typical as Mr Hargreaves was quick to inform me.
Malcolm’s memoir, An Armful of Animals, is available on Amazon at £7.99 and Kindle at £1.99
‘It’s a spangle light green,’ he said. ‘As you can see, this mutation primarily affects the markings rather than the body colouration.’
Yes. Well. It just looked like a pretty Budgie to me. Of course, I didn’t say that. Just merely nodded as Mr Hargreaves continued to expound on the barrings and throat spots this bird had. And how this mutation had first appeared in Victoria, Australia in 1972.
And now appeared here in my surgery in 2020 I was tempted to add. But no. I’d be accused of taking the mickey. ‘Sorry?’ I said when suddenly jolted out of my reverie.
‘He’s called “Mickey”,’ Mr Hargreaves was saying, giving me a funny look. But even then, I didn’t escape lightly. He had with him an accompanying exotic for my perusal. His new batch of Trituris vulgaris. It took me several minutes of searching the tangle of weeds in his aquarium before I spotted the newts.
A few months later, he presented me with another challenge. In a cage, at one end of a perch huddled some sort of Parrot. Green-plumaged with bare, grey skin around the eyes.
‘My Ara nobilis,’ declared Mr. Hargreaves.
‘A Conure?’ I ventured to guess. Should have kept my mouth shut.
Mr Hargreaves tutted. ‘No, sir. It’s a Macaw.’
‘Bit on the small size.’ Maybe that was what was wrong with the bird. Stunted growth. Undernourished.
There was another tut from Mr Hargreaves. Clearly, I wasn’t impressing him. ‘It’s a Hahn’s Macaw. They’re the smallest of the Macaws. But I’m sure you knew that.’
I didn’t. But Mr Hargreaves was sure telling me. ‘And you can tell it’s a Hahn’s Macaw from that prominent area of bare skin round his eyes. It leaves no doubt about its correct identification.’
Yes. Well. I wasn’t going to utter another word.
Likewise, the Hahn’s Macaw. Seemed he had lost his voice. I suspected a touch of laryngitis and prescribed a short course of antibiotics in the drinking water. It seemed to do the trick.
The next Parrot to be brought in was an attractive creature. It had a rich blue head and chest. The rest of the plumage was an iridescent green which gleamed in the July sunshine that was pouring in through the consulting room window and making the room as steamy as a South American jungle from where I assumed this Parrot’s fore-bearers had originated.
‘What a nice blue-headed Parrot,’ I said.
‘Ah so you know a Pionus menstruus when you see one,’ responded Mr Hargreaves enthusiastically.
No. Not at all. I’d been merely describing the Parrot. The fact that I’d inadvertently given the correct name was just a fluke. But I wasn’t going to let Mr Hargreaves know that, was I? After all, wasn’t I supposed to be the Parrot man of Prospect House? A fountain of information (all pouring off the internet).
‘Well, they are one of the best-known species in aviculture,’ Mr Hargreaves went on, rather dampening the moment.
‘And the problem?’ I asked.
‘It’s his eye-ring. See?’
I could see. It was decidedly swollen. In fact, both rings were.
‘A blockage of the nares, I’d say,’ said Mr Hargreaves.
Once again, I didn’t have to say another word. He was right.
‘Antibiotic again?’ queried Mr Hargreaves.
I nodded. What next? I wondered.
I didn’t have to wonder for long.
Towards the end of July, a decidedly stressed African Grey was plonked on my consulting table.
‘My Psittacus erithacus is very under the weather,’ said an equally agitated Mr Hargreaves, his bony fingers stretching and curling in with concern. ‘It’s not at all like Polly to be so quiet.’
‘Polly?’ I said.
‘Not a very original name for a Psittacus erithacus I know,’ replied Mr Hargreaves, looking red-faced. Very hot and bothered. And not just on account of the weather. ‘I fear Polly’s egg-bound. And that’s despite giving her plenty of additional sources of calcium. You know. Cuttlefish and the like.’
Polly was showing the classical signs. She’d fluttered to the bottom of her cage. Her abdomen had dropped. She was straining.
‘I haven’t tried easing the egg out,’ continued Mr Hargreaves. ‘Too afraid it would break in her oviduct. Cause peritonitis.’
Clearly Mr Hargreaves was well genned up on the condition. Fast broadband with good internet access no doubt.
But one thing he hadn’t tried was putting her in a heated cage.
‘It might just do the trick,’ I said, crossing my fingers discretely behind my back. I had such a cage down in the hospital. So, Polly was whisked down to the ward and carefully transferred across to the cage with its heated tray. An anxious half an hour ensued. Would she? Wouldn’t she? Yes. She did. The egg shelled out without me having to intervene.
‘You didn’t have to egg her on then,’ said Mr Hargreaves, without the flicker of a smile. Had he intended the pun?
‘The yolk would have been on me if I’d had to,’ I replied with a grin.
A smile then did crack on his face.
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