?Birds have always been my thing,? says canary fan

Esther Wiebe of Hillsboro enjoys an up-close and personal moment with Crippy, one of the 21 canaries she is raising at her residence on South Wilson. ?Birds are very interesting to watch,? she said. ?I have a television in the same room with the birds, but I watch the birds more.?Esther Wiebe of Hills?boro has 21 little feathered friends. Asked why she loves her birds so much, she said: ?I just do.?

Even from a very early age, Wiebe she was interested canaries.

?Birds have always been my thing,? said Wiebe, now 86.

In addition to individual beauty and singing voices, she said each of her canaries has its own personality. For that reason, Wiebe said, she has names that fit them.

Some of those names are Zippy, Nippy, Goldie, Toppie and Crippy.

Wiebe said she was about 11 when she got her first bird, a parakeet.

?He flew off and on my shoulder when we would go for walks,? she said. ?He was very tame.?

Unfortunately, the bird was spotted by a kite, which is a type of hawk.

?We screamed loud enough that he dropped him into the lake,? she said.

Born and raised in India, Wiebe said she attended a boarding school from age 5 until 12th grade. Her parents were missionaries from the U.S.

Wiebe herself went to southern India as a nurse, retiring 20 years ago. She said she returned to Hillsboro to care for her mother, who is now buried at Ebenfeld Cemetery.

Helping children, birds

Life in India meant long hours and little pay, but Wiebe said she was happy there.

?I was a collector of children, and I raised a lot of them to be adoptable,? she said.

Never married, Wiebe adopted three girls who now live in the U.S.

India was the place she started getting involved with her birds.

When she would go to the market, Wiebe said it broke her heart to see a tiny cage filled with 200 to 300 sparrows.

?(The sparrows) couldn?t move, there was no food and all they were was food for poor people,? she said. ?I couldn?t stand it, so I would buy them left and right and set them free.?

Wiebe said her first birds were a variety of finches.

?I had zebra, ruby and nun finches,? she said.

The birds lived in a corner of the screened-in veranda around her bungalow, and Wiebe said she enjoyed their singing.

Haphazard collection

?My bird business is very haphazard,? Wiebe said. ?I would buy birds and put them in with the others, and they started multiplying until I had all kinds of birds.?

Wiebe said she knew very little about how to take care of her birds, except that they needed seed and water?which was more than what they got at the market.

Between the birds she set free and the ones that became her pets, Wiebe said she has no idea how many she?s had.

Working 16-hour days in India left little time for Wiebe to enjoy sitting with her birds, but they always knew when she came with food.

Wiebe extends her kindness to most other creatures.

?Anything that needs help, I will do what I can,? she said. ?I kill with a clear conscience only two things?flies and mosquitoes. Otherwise, I carry out spiders and other bugs (from inside the house).?

First canary

Wiebe had her first experience with a canary while on furlough in the U.S.

?My mom was already retiring, and I went to El Dorado into a hardware store and heard this bird singing for all he was worth,? she said.

The store owner saw how interested Wiebe was with the bird and asked if she would like to have him and what could she pay.

?I told him, really nothing. I am on furlough,? she said.

The man gave Wiebe the canary?plus a cage and some bird seed.

?I got a free canary that I gave to my mother,? she said. ?She loved that bird and it sang its heart out. My mother had him for many years,? she said.

The bird was free to fly all over the house. Sadly, one of Wiebe?s daughters turned the ceiling fan on and the little canary hit the fan and died.

?It was difficult on my mother, me and my daughter,? Wiebe said.

Singing songs

Whoever stops by Wiebe?s home can hear the tweeting and trilling of canaries.

?Birds are very interesting to watch,? she said. ?I have a television in the same room with the birds, but I watch the birds more.?

Many of her birds have lived seven years or longer; nine of her canaries were born within the past six weeks.

?Baby birds are featherless, sightless and open their mouths as soon as they hear something,? she said.

In the last group, a mother bird hatched five eggs; the last one was the runt.

?The other babies whipped their head way up so they could see the food coming and grabbed it first, but the little runt got nothing,? she said.

Eventually, the littlest one was pushed out of the cage.

?Both of his legs are broken, but I cannot put him out of his misery,? Wiebe said. Instead, she has named him Crippy, and gives him food and water.

She said she will miss them when she soon moves to Parkside Homes, but it?s difficult to keep up with 21 birds.

Wiebe said it will be hard to find a home for her birds. But until that time comes, she plans to enjoy their singing and the joy they bring her.

?Birds are beautiful, and I just love them all.?

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