She knew that the animal was a mutation, but seeing him was another matter entirely. Still, she couldn’t help but fall in love with the creature, and he definitely needed her help. So, she decided she wanted to take him home and care for him – but would he respond to her kindness?
Back in December 2008 social media user Uzoo uploaded a video to YouTube that stunned the world. To be more specific, the sensational footage showed a mutant animal the likes of which few had ever seen. Indeed, to most viewers, his identity was a mystery.
The bizarre-looking creature was discovered in Winton, New Zealand. Although it’s hard to tell, he is actually an incredibly rare species of English parakeet called a feather duster. Moreover, while he eventually achieved celebrity, he had a tragic start to life, as the YouTube video revealed.
In fact, his mother threw the poor thing out of the nest when he was born. What’s more, he wasn’t just rejected once, but twice, and without intervention he would surely have died. Fortunately, his owner couldn’t just stand by and watch the hatchling suffer.
The kind-hearted owner in question was Julie Hayward, and she took personal responsibility for raising the unusual bird. She called him Whipper and took him to a veterinarian to identify the cause of his strange appearance. What’s more, the ensuing assessment revealed a shocking truth.
Not only was Whipper’s condition classified as a genetic mutation, but it was also one that had rarely been seen before. Indeed, at the time, across the whole world there were only records of three other feather dusters having been observed. However, this surprising news was also tinged with sadness.
That’s because in these other feather duster parakeets, the mutation had caused harmful side effects. Indeed, not only did they have incredibly short lives for their breed, but they also displayed uncharacteristic behavior. That is to say, they were mostly inactive and spent their time on the floor of their cages.
Still, regardless of the tragic future that was predicted for Whipper, Hayward dedicated herself to his care. She was determined to give him the best life he could possibly have. Moreover, to everyone’s surprise – including Hayward’s – Whipper went on to show the world something that had never been witnessed before.
As Whipper grew, it became obvious that he was unlike the previous feather duster mutations that experts had observed. To begin with, he was far more active than the other three birds afflicted with the condition. He was mobile and acted like any other parakeet socially.
Not only that, but Whipper was also more vocal than other birds with his condition. Indeed, while his vocalizations were different to other parakeets, he had no trouble singing. His calls consisted of adorable little squeaks, although it’s suspected that this was not related to his mutation.
In fact, Whipper’s unusual calls were most likely a result of being raised away from other parakeets. When he later socialized with his own kind, he developed a singing voice more akin to other parakeets. In addition, one other thing made Whipper stand out from past feather dusters.
The three other recorded feather dusters suffered from tragic premature deaths due to their mutation. Most parakeets in captivity live from five to ten years. However, Whipper’s predecessors passed away after only a few months. In contrast, Whipper outlived them all, although his precise lifespan remains unknown.
Furthermore, Whipper’s appearance caused quite a stir when he first appeared on social media. Indeed, since being uploaded, his introduction video has received more than three million views. Many people thought Whipper was adorable, with one YouTube viewer writing, “Whipper is so cute!” Another commented, “Sweetest, most cute loofah ever.”
The internet loves unusual and cute animals, and Whipper’s appearance has consequently been the source of humor and adoration. However, it’s important to remember that the feather duster mutation is a serious condition. As a result, it is perhaps not something that should become glamorized or sought-after.
It’s great news that there are people out there willing to give these birds the best life they could have. Nonetheless, it is not a defect that should be encouraged. Indeed, it usually has a devastating effect on the birds suffering from it; Whipper was one of the lucky ones.
Moreover, even then, Whipper still had his own problems as a feather duster. For example, his short wings were flightless and the feathers covering his eyes, essentially rendered him blind. The uncontrollable growth of these birds’ plumes also creates other issues.
One of the most serious problems for feather dusters is their need to eat far more than regular parakeets. Their mass of feathers are thought to be the reason for this, as they require a great deal of energy to grow. This is also why so many of them are inactive.
Sadly, Whipper’s predecessors couldn’t eat enough and consequently starved to death. Still, the exact cause of the feather duster mutation – also referred to as chrysanthemum feathering – is unknown. It is most often seen by parakeet breeders, who suspect that the cause is linked to the herpes virus.
It is widely regarded as a genetic defect, though, and as a result most feather dusters are euthanized. There is some good news for the birds born with this condition, however. As time progresses, we are learning more about feather dusters and how to take better care of them.
Apparently, a high-nutrition diet and food supplements can help to improve their quality of life. So can careful feather-clipping under advisement from an avian specialist. Indeed, Whipper is proof that these birds can still live relatively comfortably in the right hands. Moreover, whatever happened to him, there’s no doubt that his life was enriched by the kindness of his owner.