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It's us that this bird is mocking

Published Oct. 4, 2005

Little Timothy may be just under 3 months old, but he already has made himself at home in the Guilford household.

His diet may need some work, though.

"We started him out with canned cat food," said 9-year-old Rebecca Guilford, who takes care of Timothy. "Then pigeon pellets and worms. But now he eats roly-polies from the garden."

Timothy is a young mockingbird. The roly-polies, or pillbugs as they're sometimes called, are his favorite snack.

Rebecca found him in April near her Montana Avenue home and has been caring for him since. "He was laying on his back at the stop sign," she said. "He probably fell out of the nest or something."

Marjorie Guilford, Rebecca's mother, said her daughter always has enjoyed caring for animals but that Timothy is different. "She's got a lot of critters," she said, "but it's just fascinating to have a wild bird with such personality here."

There have been a couple of problems, though. Timothy broke his right leg in a mishap shortly after his arrival, and he scraped his wings trying to get around during his recovery.

"He was just a mess there for a while," she said.

He is strong now, although Mrs. Guilford worries Timothy has grown too domesticated. He can fly, for example, but he rarely leaves their yard.

"He could fly when we got him, but he just has to work on his landings," Rebecca explained. "He doesn't know how to land."

"She's trying to teach him to be a bird," her mother joked.

At times, they say Timothy seems to have picked up some human traits. "He's a tree climber," said Rebecca. "He climbs in my tree house. . . . When he's done (eating), he wipes his beak like this," she said, wiping her mouth with her bent elbow. He uses his wing? "Yeah. He's weird," she said.

When he's not out and about, Timothy lives in a bird cage on the front porch. He interacts well with the humans in the house and Buster, the Guilfords' Australian shepherd, but they keep him away from the two cats, Kitty and Mittens.

"Now we don't know what we're going to do with him when we go on vacation," Mrs. Guilford said. The family plans to travel to the beach in North Carolina. "Maybe we'll fill up a cooler with roly-polies and bring him along," she said, laughing.

Rebecca said she is not sure about her future either.

"I was going to be a veterinarian, but my brother said you had to go through about 10 years of college, so I don't know about that," she said.