We’ve been adopted by a large black-backed seagull, that Leila has nicknamed Rosey. He sits, most mornings, right up on the roof outside the kitchen window (we have an L-shaped house on different levels; the roof outside the kitchen window is the roof over our bedroom, a level down). We feed him Leila’s leftover crusts, leftover pasta from the night before, the heels from the loaf of bread. In return we get to listen to him tap-tap-tapping across the roof early in the morning, as well as regularly hearing his full-throated seagull cry that I’ve taken to mean this place is mine – back off! whenever any other seagulls come around.

He sits on the roof and looks up into the rain; he even sat up there during the last big hail storm we had last weekend. Didn’t budge a feather, not until he was ready to.

You’ll be standing in the kitchen, doing dishes, or just standing there drinking coffee and making toast, and suddenly you look up and he’s there, eyeballing you. I find it strangely reassuring.

I grew up with birds – Mum has had them as pets since she was a little girl. We had a blue-front amazon when we lived in the States. His name was Chester and he had the most amazing vocabulary. We had to leave him behind with my sister’s friend’s family. Her brother really bonded with Chester, and eventually took him to university with him, where he had him in the dorms. We even got to meet Chester again on our last trip to the States. I swear he remembered me after all those years. I whistled the whistle that he used to love doing, and he responded with a hard stare, his feathers puffing up a bit around his face, like he always did when he liked something. Parrots live for a really long time (Mum expected Chester to outlive her), even back then, but sadly Chester was killed by a racoon that broke into his house, and then presumably his cage. He would have put up a fight, but it’s a horrible thing to imagine. He was so intelligent, so funny.

After that, in New Zealand, we got a bird named Cookie, who had apparently had some issues with its previous owners. Cookie was a beautiful big sulphur-crested cockatoo. He was really amazing. But he hated men. He bonded immediately with my mother and then spent the rest of the time throwing seeds at my dad whenever he came into the kitchen. He’d get a huge beakful and then toss them the length of the kitchen – seeds hissing along the floor. He didn’t stay with us for long. Poor Cookie.

After that – a couple of budgies, and then Rosey. Rosey was a galah. Less showy than Cookie, sometimes coy, sometimes a real loudmouth. Mum & Rosey really hit it off, with the rest of us accepted a bit later. He was hilarious, loved dancing, singing, and periodically taking off from the roof of our house (at the top of a hill) to soar down and usually land on a neighbour’s roof. It wasn’t uncommon for us to have to drag a ladder round to someone’s house, knock on the door and explain our parrot was up on their roof, and could we have a look please? The fortunate aspect of Rosey’s aerial escapades was that he had a serious fondness for potato chips and we could usually lure him back from his moment of freedom, in exchange for a snack.

Rosey caught some sort of awful bird flu (Mum reckons from the sparrows who used to go in to his cage and steal seeds, when we had him outside) and died in Mum’s arms. She buried him in the back yard, and put his bell on top of his grave. She never got a bird again after Rosey.

In any case, Leila had no knowledge of any of this when she decided to name our friendly neighbourhood seagull Rosey. But I can’t help thinking of him, and all the other birds in my life, when I watch him up on our roof.

I’d love to have a pet bird, myself, but often struggle with thoughts about animals in captivity. Of course most bird owners don’t just leave their birds in cages – most let them out to roam around and often the birds do come to think of their cages as their “safe place”. I guess it’s the symbolism of it, in part. (Also bird poo is really hard to get out of clothing – that white part (protein?) sticks like anything.) Maybe one day. But for now it’s a lovely feeling to have a sort of friendly acknowledgement, a sort of window into a wild animal’s life. I often think of him when I see seagulls flying around the neighbourhood.

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