It Was a Dove Named Stormy’s Night.

I wanted to raise doves for a very long time.  Years ago, spotting a sign proclaiming Doves for Sale, I went to the house where the doves were kept, and inquired into keeping them.  The fact that doves require a much bigger aviary than you would think kept me from purchasing any at that time.

When Mike and I were married, we held the wedding in a friend’s yard.   She had an aviary full of love birds next to where we would put the altar, but she promised to swap out the shrill lovies for the sweet, cooing doves in a back area.  At the time I had a prejudice against love birds which I will expand on another time, so I really wanted to have the doves instead.  But the friend ran out of time, and never got to move the birds.  You can hear the love birds chirping on our wedding videos.

Doves were pushed as a business opportunity, taking them to weddings or similar events and releasing them in a beautiful flurry of wings.  With the price of gas, the fear of raptors, and the plain fact I had no time on weekends, I let this opportunity knock on someone else’s door.

Recently, a friend I work with found a dove on the sidewalk in front of her house.  The bird was dazed, not really able to fly very far, so Pam picked her up and put her in a cage inside.  She called me, because I have rescued all the birds she has found in the past.  (Okay, so it was one cockatiel who nearly brained himself on our office window, but still)

The dove had a small injury to her breast, and Pam wanted to take her to be examined, but really couldn’t afford a vet visit.  She has a sweet puppy and a darling lorikeet, and takes excellent care of those pets.  I suggested she take the dove, whom she was calling Angel, to the wildlife rescue center nearby.  At the center, they cleaned up the wound, gave the dove antibiotic injections, and informed Pam the dove was not a wild, native bird.  Ring-neck doves are pets or raised for other reasons, but not considered wild.  Even though there are many feral doves around, they could not take the bird.

Needless to say, Angel ended up with me.  Mike changed her name to Skye, and she joined the cockatiels in the big aviary.  It became obvious that she had been a pet because she was so calm around us, let us handle her, and hardly blinked when we came in to the aviary.

At the most wonderful Everybody’s Bird Mart in Pomona, CA, I found a beautiful plum-colored male ring-neck dove, and brought him home for Skye.  We named him Stormy.  He and Skye bonded immediately, which was a big relief.  Pam had said there was a male dove cooing and calling for Skye all the time she was in the house.  But Skye cut her losses and took up with the new man in town.

Some time later, we gave them a nest box.  We had to, really.  Skye was trying to nest in one particular food dish.  She was annoying the cockatiels.  She laid eggs almost non-stop no matter how often Mike removed them, put her on the perch across the aviary, and told her no.  So the nest platform went up, the cardboard bowl-shaped insert applied, and nesting materials provided.

I will continue the story of their chicks and the expansion of our dove facility another time.  I have to say, I don’t think I could ever be without doves now.  Ring-necks are also called the laughing dove, and one of their calls is a cooing laugh, very distinctive and soon it becomes a sound you love to hear.  Stormy calls into the night, and very early in the day, but so far our neighbors have not complained.  I may have mentioned before, I don’t complain about their barking dogs, so we maintain a balance of tolerance.

The first night after we brought Stormy home, and he got to know Skye was the first time we heard his call.  We were on the path to raising doves, and we were enjoying the calls very much.  But it was Stormy’s night.  From wherever he was hatched and raised, he had been stuffed in a travel cage with many other doves, and taken on a road trip.  At the bird mart, he was pulled out of the cage and stuffed into a carrier.  Doves do not have huge mental resources, but he had to have thought things were going to get worse.

Finally, he was released into a comfortable aviary and found a receptive female waiting for him.  Oh, what a night!

The Circle of Life in Suburbia

Don’t know if you have noticed, or possibly been directly effected by it, but the economy in the United States is not very strong right now.  It’s about to be Spring Break as of tomorrow, and gas prices will no doubt go up inexplicably again.  What has that got to do with my birds?  Well, Just as I am setting up breeding pairs and putting nest boxes out in the aviary, my husband was let go from his job.

Already I had been looking at severe down-sizing of the flock and hope to move almost all to outside cages over the summer.  But now there is urgency in the decisions.  I can’t put it off or do things in stages,  So to whom do I say good-bye?

I have always taken in cockatiels and parakeets that were no longer wanted in their homes.  I have a super tame and sweet love bird because the family that owned him lost their house and had to move in to no-pets apartments.  Mike and I weathered a previous bout of his unemployment, and we are in a much better place financially now than at that time.  I am hopeful that things will turn around in a short time, and I can go back to planning to retire and hand feed chicks and take in more birds if needed.

Even as I place nest boxes, and hope for better things, I see the older birds and know their days are numbered.  In a flock of this size, there are always losses.  Not always the senior birds.  Hens of all species can have a rough time with egg-laying, and if not quickly remedied, the condition of egg binding will be fatal.  And I was checking the clutch of button quail eggs daily, ready to pull the chicks in to a brooder as soon as they hatched.  But I wasn’t in time, and the one chick that did hatch died, and the nest was scattered, either by the male or the other females.  Still, I have the four adults intact this time.  And perhaps an incubator will come my way.

Keeping a positive attitude is important when working with parrots.  The African grays know something is different, and when Mike is home all day with them, they will no doubt like the change.  We’ll do what needs to be done, and time will hatch out a future full of new experiences.  We can label them good and we can find a reason to celebrate our suburban circle of life.

Birdies go to Hollywood

Ever since I can remember, I loved both live action and animated movies about animals.  Many were Disney movies, of course, but there were occasional contenders.  I wanted a horse ever since I saw My Friend Flicka, and a collie after watching Lassie, both the movie and the television series.  And that is the true drawback of movies about loving, helpful animals.  You want to go out and buy that exact creature.

Lassie is only Lassie because of the intense training the dog received, and the miracle of film magic.  I expect many families bought collies and were severely disappointed.  And then, what happened to the family pet?  Anything from being resold, surrendered to a shelter, or in very sorry situations, abandoned in a likely place.

While I love the old movie Bill and Coo ( but I wonder how many flocks of wild parakeets owe their start to this movie?  Paulie was another wonderful movie ( about a conure so devoted to his young human friend that he endures many trials and tribulations to be reunited with her.  The movie does not show how noisy conures are, how messy, and what it takes to train one to behave like Paulie.

These movies differ in that Bill and Coo obviously is not a true story, but Paulie could be, and the parrot is shown to understand human speech and is able to respond in a logical conversational manner.  Oh, the disappointment for any families who went out and bought conures.

Rio the Movie ( was produced by the same team who created the Ice Age films.  I would have loved to adopt a saber-tooth tiger, but they just aren’t as available these days.  But the Hyacinth Macaw is available at a very high price, and rightly so.  This endangered parrot, one of the largest in the world, has almost followed the tiger down the path to extinction.  Concentrated efforts of conservationists have begun to make a difference, but really this parrot should not be a family pet for just anyone.

The movie has a cast of dancing toucans, scarlet macaws, and many other birds.  It’s a little scary to think how many birds in the pet trade were adopted and then rehomed within a year.  I am not against breeders since I myself breed parrots, but I wish movies like this came with disclaimers at the very least, and if live action,  out takes showing when the parrots had a bad day.

It’s nearly Easter, and chicks, bunnies, and ducks may be facing the same fate as parrots and animals presented in movies as wholly intelligent and wonderful.  Be content to watch these wonderful creatures in films, and help prevent a sad end.  Educate your friends and family, and resist the temptations.  A chocolate bunny needs much less care than a real one.

Thank you for thinking about the consequences.

Not the Wardrobe Makeover I wanted

My sun conure, Sunny, and I just passed our first 10 years together as companions. She is the happy little bundle of orange and green feathers that is so excited to see me, day or night. She is the sharp black beak that tells me she doesn’t want to go back in the cage when I think she should. And she is constantly at work redoing my wardrobe.

It started with just a few little holes on the shoulders of my tee shirts. Since these were mostly bird appropriate clothes, I was not upset or alarmed. Therefore, I gave Sunny the impression that chewing on fabric was just as much fun for me as it was for her.

Sunny started crawling down the front of my shirt. I had read that conures often like to burrow and snuggle. I have yet to find any photos of wild sun conures burrowing or snuggling, but apparently it’s a nearly universal trait. While there is something unsettling about seeing this extra lump in there, my husband Mike says it’s more shocking when he is talking to me, and my chest starts to move.

I was again not unduly upset when my conure began to nibble on my foundation garments of the upper kind. She wasn’t doing any damage, just fraying the edges some. Then I noticed some new ones were fraying a lot, and not just the edges. When I found one almost completely severed, I decided to stop wearing them when she was burrowing. You’ll understand this if you have ever tried to tell a bird “No!”

Sunny took this all in stride, and began to chew on the waistbands of my pants and the middle of my shirts. Not just the shoulders of my shirts. Wherever her inquisitive little beak settled, she chewed. I began to look like I was caught in a swarm of especially hungry moths. Once upon a time, this moth-eaten look would have been right in style. But I was not the age or the shape at that time to wear it, and certainly not now when it has slipped out of fashion. Chain mail clothing started to sound good, if only it wouldn’t get so cold in the winter.

I’ve puzzled and puzzled over how to solve this. While it’s okay for her to chew on my old, bird ready clothes, I still need to remain clothed while I have Sunny with me. What, I asked her, would you do if I were a nudist? She blinked and ate a sunflower seed thoughtfully.

Then, I slipped up and let Sunny burrow under a nightgown. One of my favorites. Sunny gave it the usual treatment, and it now has a charming row of holes around the front at waist level. Determined to find a solution, I took one of the old shirts, tied the bottom closed, and stuck it inside the neckline of my nightgown. Now Sunny could go inside that shirt, I could stay clothed, and she could chew to her heart’s content. Can you guess what happened? That’s right. Even though she had chewed on this shirt in the past, it suddenly looked alien and threatening to her. She rejected it, and gave me such a screech. Back to the drawing board. And the clothing stores.

Can’t stand the Silence? Get a conure!

Some people like to have the tv or radio on all the time, to help them relax or feel less alone.  They are missing the best way to actually not be alone and have nearly constant background noise.  Get a parrot, especially a conure, and you will have a fun companion and much less silence.  And those are only two of the benefits!

My first conure was a sun, being rehomed with cage absolutely free.  Just a short drive north of my home.  I talked my husband in to making the drive, and we met Zazu.  (I know. Who would give a South American bird a name from a African bird character?  Lots of people, it seems.)  Zazu had been the companion of a woman who did not outlive her bird.  The woman’s husband didn’t take the conure out of his cage much at all for a year, and wisely decided to rehome him.  I did the finger through the cage test, and got bit.  This was to set the tone for my relationship with him.

On the ride home, with his cage laid down in the back of our car, Zazu hung on the forward facing bars and watched the traffic.  He didn’t say too much, but Mike and I both talked to him.  Za apparently chose his favorite human during that trip.  Once we got home and set him upright, I took him out of the cage and talked to him and let him settle in.  And got bit.

Mike, however, could pick Za up, pet him, give kisses, and so on.  How ungrateful can a bird be?  Za also started to screech at the cockatiels, the finches, and anyone who walked by outside.  Of course, the other flock members answered him back, screech for screech.  Oddly enough, I enjoyed the sounds so much, I could actually nap on the couch with all that noise going on.

About a year later, I found a sweet female sun at a bird mart, and we bonded quickly.  Sunny (I know, what a boring name!)  is super-friendly and came home with me.  Zazu had no complaints about his new cage-mate, and I briefly thought about having sweet little baby .conures some day.

Sunny talks a little bit.  When she sees a dog, she will bark.  When a plane goes overhead, she ducks and squawks.  When I am on the phone, if she is on my shoulder, she will say “Bye-bye!”  until I hang up.  She also makes a call that to me sounds like Turkey Pot Pie.  But most of the time, she makes the same noises as Zazu does.

Word spread through the local bird community that Mike and I would take in hook bills, as long as they weren’t too big.  I knew I didn’t have the time to give a cockatoo, or a macaw.  We were contacted by a woman who had found an orange-front conure in her yard, and kept him for about a year.  He was good with her, but attacked anyone else who dared to come into the house.  He was named Beeby for bad bird, but I think of him as beautiful bird.  His feathers have the best sheen and iridescence on any of our other flock members.

Beeby was friendly with me, but would through himself off the cage to attack Mike.  We decided to take him in to get his wings clipped.  We had heard, and believed, that if you clip the bird’s wing feathers yourself, the bird will associate you with the loss of flight, and it will be bad for the relationship.  Beeby never heard that.  He knew we were the ones who stuffed him in the carrier and turned him over to the brave wing and nail clipping people.  When we got him home, he started attacking everyone.

Meanwhile at the bird club, I was taking care of a huge collection of hookbills and other birds, and in payment was given a sweet, hand-fed green check conure.  We named her Esmeralda, Esme for short, and thought, what the heck, let’s see how she and Beeby get along!

There was magic in the air and violins playing, apparently.  The two are inseparable, and Esme really keeps Beeby in line.  She will push him away from us when he tried to attack, and will bit him or squawk if he doesn’t move fast enough.  When not threatening us, Beeby loves to cuddle up with Esme and preen and be preened.  Who knew?

Esme is one of the quietest conures in the house, but Beeby, while something of a screamer, also talks at length in a little, gravelly cartoon voice.  No matter how aggressive and crazy he becomes, I will always keep him and love him because of that voice.

Dani came to us because her original owner no longer had enough time to be with her, and as she is a special needs bird (seriously splay-legged, cannot perch) she wanted Dani to go to a good home.  We love Dani a whole bunch.  I will write more about her ways another time, but Dani is the alarm bird.  Her cage is right by the front door and the front window.  When someone comes up the walk, Dani sounds the alarm!  When a cat jumps on the outside window shelf, Dani sounds the alarm!  When a car drives down the street, Dani sounds the alarm!  When a leaf blows across the yard, Dani sounds the alarm!  When the flag outside the front door waves in the breeze, you guessed it, Dani sounds the alarm!

About a year ago, a friend from the bird club rehomed a pair of sun conures to me.  It just happened to be on my birthday, and I was thrilled.  Had I thought about how much noise four sun conures could make, I doubt it would have changed my mind about taking them.  George and Bella, whom I renamed Gracie-Bell, are sweet and semi-tame.  George wants to be a pet, Gracie-Bell wants to be a vampire.  We tired to put them in the same cage with Sunny and Zazu, but quickly found out it wasn’t working.  A year later, during out time, they all ended up in the same cage at the end of the day.  I closed the door, and that was that.  The four now happily co-exist in one cage, with two water bowls, two feeding stations, and two nice, high perches.

There are times when the house is quiet.  Almost always at night, after the lights are out.  Birds sleep through the night on most occasions, with only occasional night frights or bad dreams.  Sometimes it’s relatively quiet when the fresh food dishes have been put in the cages. But no matter what, the noise or the silence is a reflection of a happy home for hookbills,.