After cleaning the chickens this morning, I discovered that my male cockatiel, Figaro, had passed during the night. I found him in his usual place—facing Lemon’s cage—while pressed up against the side of his special cage (see photo).

I rescued Figaro almost five years ago. He had cataracts, severe arthritis, an overgrown beak, clogged nostrils, and a nasty parrot disease called psittacosis. He was also unable to fly and seemed to be deaf. The vet estimated that Figaro was about twenty years old and, in his condition, had about six months left to live. Instead of euthanizing him, I chose the path of aggressive treatment with antibiotics and laser therapy for his arthritis.

Figaro spent the first three days of his new life puffed up on his food dish. I didn’t even know he was male until he started singing on the fourth day as his hearing started to return. During his time in quarantine and treatment, Figaro developed a huge crush on my female cockatiel, Lemon. He whistled and sang bird songs to her from across the room. She became his reason to live.

Figaro’s health improved and he spent his days pursuing love. During supervised free time out of the cage, he followed Lemon like a shadow. Unfortunately, Lemon wasn’t impressed with his professions of love. She tolerated his songs and kissy noises, but a swift peck on the head let him know that she was not interested. On two occasions, she actually pressed her body into his chest and let him groom her head feathers. I had hoped that she was just playing hard-to-get, but nothing ever materialized between them.

Figaro and Lemon had separate cages. His feet were so badly damaged by arthritis that they had balled up, requiring him to be in a cage without a grate. He slept on towels on bottom of his cage and often leaned up against the side to help support his legs. Figaro screamed and paced whenever Lemon was out of sight. I tried placing Lemon is his cage, but she panicked every time. In the end, I put their cages side by side so at least he could see her. They lived this way for almost five years.

In the past few months, I noticed that Figaro appeared to be slowing down. His activity level dropped, and he didn’t pursue Lemon as vigorously. The photo accompanying this article documents how I found Figaro the morning he passed. Some people don’t believe that animals have feelings, but as you can see here, he loved her to the end . . .

Keri Krause