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Wild Birds as Pets

Hobbies today include a variety of activities like stamp collecting, post cards, coins, and foreign money. Pastimes include driving golf carts and jet skies or simply surfing the internet or being hooked to the internet. None of these activities was popular or even existent 25 years ago.

Instead, young people in the 1950’s spent quite some time collecting a variety of wild animals and birds. Yes we had chickens, but they were not kept as pets for when they were of good size they made their way into the pot for the relleno or escabeche. Perhaps a few ducks and turkeys were kept as pets, but even those found their way into a special Christmas menu. However, there was this little caye at the leeward side of the island where birds nested in abundance. The name of the caye was “Cayo Rosario” or the Rosary Caye. Many boys collected this black bird called “Coco”. Cocos were either black or dark gray and they were fed with fish. So the Coco collector had an extra job of going to the sea side to catch little fish called “Spoo”. Another bird that formed part of the collections was the “Chocolatera”. It is sort of white bird with a tinge of pink at the wings. This bird has a bill shaped like a spoon and is called Spoonbill in English. They were also fed with fish, but did eat some vegetables. The problem was that there were hardly any vegetables on the island in the 1950’s. Some boys kept these birds in cages, but most of them had them loose in the yard.

Yet another wild bird that we kept in the yard was the pelican. Occasionally we caught a young one, trimmed its wings, and we had a delight when the pelican or “alcatraz” would follow its owner for a walk to the beach. There the pelican would catch its own fish, and after feeding, walk back to his master’s home. Perhaps the most popular birds that we collected as a hobby were the wild pigeons. They were gray and fortunately ate corn, so there was no need to go and catch little fishes for them. We all had corn to feed the chickens and the pigeons as well. Pigeons were kept in a nice spacious cage with little compartments. Each pigeon found its house so to speck and its partner. There they built their nests and had their nestlings as well. So from two or three pairs, the flock grew up to one hundred pigeons. They were killed for a nice soup only if dad had a serious hangover or for some special occasion when a good pigeon would work miracles. This reminds me that some folks even thought that a pigeon soup was an excellent aphrodisiac. Not that it was better than conch, but an aphrodisiac nevertheless.

Well, that is as far as birds are concerned. Boys also hunted and kept snakes and land turtles as pets. Pigs and chickens were grown but for the pot. And so it was that young boys and girls kept busy with their pets twenty five years ago.

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