Sunday Matinee

I don’t watch much television, but if a channel existed that showed only funny bird videos, I could be persuaded to do so. Maybe.

I’m cheating a little this week because I have a busy schedule, and I want to explore a possible second post of this blog mid-week, posting links to my favorite videos. So here are some I want to share with you today.

This ringneck dove isn’t just waking up this cat, he’s courting her. Or him. The cat is pretty patient, and looks like the claws have been removed. Caution is always needed when letting your pets play together, but sometimes there’s magic involved. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt7YmvYWZmQ

I have a loud Amazon DYH parrot, whose rantings sometimes annoy the female CAG parrot. She tells him to knock it off. This video of a macaw putting his foot up to his beak and shushing other birds is great. http://www.heavy.com/social/2013/09/parrot-mirror-shushes-macaw-pet-bird/

A beautiful kitten learns a healthy respect for an African Grey parrot. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J1bFlKZ4tA

Cockatoos have so much personality, and it can show in many ways that we find funny. This one I like because the bird is in such good health, obviously loved and well cared for. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaI6SWfDnTc

Maybe they evolved from cats instead of dinosaurs? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEhbr_TGXiU

Behaviors I see in my birds include simulating the one-sided phone calls, like this guy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CB6-QCzBZgc And calling the dog. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcbYHWUnE0I

Cockatiels can be good talkers, too, and fall into the category of birds with great personalities. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_vFyvECYoQ

As this video shows, they can be trained to do lots of tricks. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNgTv81BCDs

Even normal bird behavior can be funny, as in these two Indian Ringnecks who have a lot of fun with a cell phone. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYgC1bN02MI

Caiques personify cute and playful, as this video shows. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEKxJWjOoFo

To conclude, I leave you with this charming video of a young man home from college after some time, and how the pets he grew up with, especially his cockatoo, remember him, love him, and want to be loved in return. Have a great week!

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Parrots Can Say Goodbye, Too.

Several birds, especially parrots, can learn to say hello. My Amazon, whose photo is on the front page of this blog, likes to say, “Hi, Maynard!” whenever I first see him for the day.

But sometimes we say goodbye. Something Maynard has learned to say if he wants something to go away. Whenever Mike or I find a bird that for any reason has died, we say goodbye for the last time.

Now and again, we part with birds under happier circumstances. I have sent birds off to live with such people as a cancer survivor who was alone, a young child who was painfully shy, a disabled adult whose social contacts were limited, and a teach who used zebra finches to divert inner city teens from other scary pursuits.

Selling birds helps keep the flock fed and well. I sold all my parrotlets to someone I let through an ad on Kijiji. She loved the wee hook bills much more than I did, and was so excited to absorb the whole group. That was a nice day.

I also had three violet love bird fledglings hand fed but under-socialized for sale. All were bought by a friend who buys and sells birds for a living. The last time I talked to her, she still had them with her because they were so cute. And that pretty much explains why I don’t do more breeding and selling than I do. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

One of the first clutches of cockatiels hand fed by a friend and socialized with his roommate’s help included a lutino (yellow) male that Mike promptly named Creamsicle. Creamy was slated to be sold to my bird club for the opportunity drawing table. The club wanted both of the cockatiels I had, one in January and one in February. Since Creamy was such a sweetheart, I held him back and put his sister on the table first.

Creamy has a wonderful personality, very sweet, and very eager to be with people. I sat with him on my shoulder and loved that he would put his head into my ear and sing. Not so loud that his song hurt my ears, but very nice and an adorable affectation. He does this no matter if he is on my shoulder or Mike’s. Creamy loves everybody. By the time the next club meeting rolled around, Mike put his foot down. Creamy stayed with us, and has become one of the birds I show to guests who want to hold a bird. He’s just a member of the family and can’t be sold.

The club didn’t mind. The person who had won Creamy’s sister had not been able to bond with her, and put her back on the table for February. Almost as if it were fate, my hand-feeder friend won her, and was thrilled to have her back. They are still happy together.

I have already told the story of Jordan, and her return to the man she wanted to be with. I have a friend whose neighbors suddenly aquired a cockatoo. The beautiful bird had plucked her chest bald and had all the apprearance when I saw her of a sad creature. Her owner of many years passed away not long before this. She was one of two birds the man kept, and to make it easier to rehome the cockatoos, the family decided to split them up. If they had been cats, it’s possible no lasting negative behavior would have resulted. Even dogs might have better handled so much change. But for a parrot with the intelligence equal to a -year-old human child, losing two family members at once created insurmountable depression, insecurity, and self-destructive behavior.

When we do say the final goodbye to one of the flock, the little body is preserved in our freezer. Yes, we do our best to conceal the corpsicles from visirots. Once we have a good pile (and luckily it may take up to a year to do that), we plan a special date like a solstice or an equinox, or Samhain or Beltane. On that date, we set a fire in the backyard fire pit and send the little bodies off as clouds of smoke.

I tried at first to keep track of the individual birds – Nora and Elliot, our black head gouldian finches, Miss Tick, my adopted budgie who took to breeding eagerly; Chico, and elderly cockatiel who was bonded to another male, both brought to a bird club meeting in hopes of finding a good home for the boys. But for the most part, the pain of losing them limits how much I want to remember the day.

The more years I spend sharing my home and my life with feathered family members, the more goodbyes gather in my memories. I’ve had to down-size in the past, and due to economic fun and games, I have to face the possibility that we may have to move. If that happens, I will be saying goodbye to all but a handfull of the flock. That will be the most heart-breaking goodbye for all of us.

The Eggs and Why.

Dr. Ian Malcolm: If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh… well, there it is.

Henry Wu: You’re implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will… breed?
Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, I’m, I’m simply saying that life, uh… finds a way.
Jurasic Park the first movie

Most birds need nests or nest boxes or a hollow tree in order to lay eggs. Not zebra finches. In fact, maybe not most finches. Rumor has it that the early imported birds were stuffed into crates, a few hunderd at a time. No nests were available, but the zeebs mated and laid eggs and hatched out babies by the time the crate arrived at its destination.

Someone my husband worked with had an outside aviary for Lady Gouldian finches. He put up hanging plants, and the Goulds went right to work. Goulds have a reputation in avian circles as being among the most difficult birds to breed. They require special nest boxes, and toss their chicks so foster parents are brought in. These finches hadn’t read that information. This man left a pair of shoes in the aviary, and when he went to get them, a family was already on the way.

Quail drop eggs wherever they happen to be at the time. I can just picture the hen waddling along, when a look of confusion comes over her. A push and a squat, and out pops an egg. She looks at it, wonders what it is, and walks off. But a week or so later, she realized what all these ovoids are, and starts rolling them together into a safe corner. When the pile is big enough, she starts to incubate. Luckily the eggs are in suspended animation for a few days until the heat is applied. Some of the eggs have probably gone a bit past the best by date, and often don’t hatch, but the greater portion of them are fertile and gathered within the right time frame.

Cockatiels also drop eggs when no nest is available, but not in a way that insures the viability of the egg. We pick themup off the ground and usually they have been cracked in the 4 feet from perch to floor of the aviary. I think it’s that sudden stop at the bottom that does it.

But not always. The doves lay eggs year round, and no matter how often we pull the eggs, they try, try again. Food dishes are a favorite nesting site for them. Once they chose a hanging basket that had a few holes in the bottom. The eggs fell out when the hen tried to turn them over. I put a solid bottom in , and picked up the undamaged eggs. Doves usually lay 2 eggs, and the chicks are usually one male and one female. But I found 3 eggs and just stuffed them all in under the hen.

A few weeks later, we found a dead cockatiel chick, only a day old, on the ground. The odd egg I put in the dove nest had been a cockatiel egg. The hen incubated and turned the egg perfectly, but the chick was too odd for her to know what to do next. So she tossed it. To us it’s a sad situation, but really, it’s just how this egg thing works. The right-looking offspring has to come out to be nurtured.

A friend had an elderly female canary who got the urge to lay eggs and sit on them. She used the seed cup in her cage, so my friend put a nest in and moved the eggs. The hen should have abandoned the eggs after the time when they would have hatched, had they been fertile. But maybe due to her age, or being very comfy in the nest, she sat and sat.
Some love birds get overly eager to double clutch, and start to build another next on top of the nearly fledged chicks. Usually removing the box does cure this, but I had one hen who would lay eggs on the bottom of the cage, on the wires. She sat there trying to keep the eggs warm, but without a solid layer under the egg, this never worked.

Hens often die very young when they are allowed to breed indiscriminately. If you breed birds, you know you have to provide calcium and good nutrition plus have room for exercise to keep a hen healthy. Most breeders who are concerned for the health of their birds limit them to two clutches per year, with rest until the next breeding season. I think of it like Sara Conner in the second Terminator movie, exercising in the facility where she was being held.

Getting back to zebra finches, I gave up on breeding them due to the amount of space needed. Because group breeding is difficult, and pairs like to invade the nests of other pairs to take over and toss the eggs and chicks, it’s much better to have one pair per cage. With the thought of concentrating on my violet love birds instead, I put all the zeebs into a large cage with one society finch, one female green singing finch, and a rosy Bourke parakeet.

Let me digress for a minute, in case you have never heard of rosy Bourkes. These are sweet, gentle birds from Australia that are very laid back. They have a soft trill that you only hear at daybreak and sunset. We had Ethel, our rosy, out in the aviary with the doves and the cockatiels and the quail. Turns out, when we put up the nest boxes, Ethel wanted to breed too. Rosy hens have to be in a dark box or tree for a few days before they will start laying eggs. She went into all the nest boxes, chased out the tiels, destroyed eggs, and didn’t feed the hatchlings. I could not figure out what was going on, until she was observed in the act. Mike would do nest checks, and when he saw Ethel in a box, he chased her out. She went right back in, chasing any birds unwise enough to try to reclaim their nest. So we moved her inside.

About this same time, something was happening to the quail nests and eggs. I separated the quail adults, leaving only mom and dad in the aviary, but still lost a clutch. Then Mike saw the doves attacking the quails and the eggs. Sheesh. Symbols of peace, my foot! The doves were moved to a separate cage, too.

Oh, yeah, zebra finches. No nests in the cage they are in, no boxes, not even the ones we make ourselves out of take-out containers from Smart and Final and throw away when done. Plus the presence of an egg-breaking, chick-killing parakeet. And piles of eggs end up at the bottom of the cage every week. I’m tempted to give them canary nests and see what happens.

The “Fid” Debate

One of the odd customs that arrived with the Internet is the ability to start a “flame” war. For example, if someone states an opinion which you dislike, you (assuming you are this sort of person) can ignore the fact that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and fire off a scathing reply. You can tell the person about their lack of mental acuity, their close personal relationship to animals of the lower orders, and question if their family tree has any forks. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flaming_%28Internet%29)

Now, usually this behavior is discouraged in internet communities. Also it’s well known that if you ignore the flamer, he or she will go away looking for a more responsive target. But if your heart is really involved in the subject under discussion, going away may not work well for you.

The term “Fid” stands for furred or feathered kids. Lots of people consider their birds, dogs, cats, goats, horses, and so on, to be substitute children, and positively part of the family. It’s an affectionate term meant to convey that close relationship. I have no objection to the word or the meaning, but the very first Internet flame war I ever saw started over an innocent use of Fid.

At the time, my bird club had a group on Yahoo. Posts would arrive by email, or you could read everything directly at Yahoo. I was a moderator and often posted links to interesting bird photos and articles, as well as the lost bird information from 911 Parrot Alert. A past president of the club and lifetime member sent a post to the group that contained lots of good information. But at the end, she said something about her fids.

You would have thought she insulted the mother and all grandmothers of the person who responded with a very negative post. This responder is a very knowledgeable person who often came and talked to our club about many diverse subjects. She felt the use of the term Fid encouraged people to anthropomorphizing parrots, which in turn led to parrots not getting their basic needs met, and creating a bird who plucked or screamed or was overly destructive. And the bird became a dependent for life. Looking to people for socializing, food, water, and companionship. And security.

Well, I disagreed as gently as I could, and given that I wasn’t the person who made the first comment, I kept a pretty good emotional distance. My opinion was that the phrase did not automatically lead to mistreating the parrot, being only an affectionate term that didn’t always harbor poor pet-keeping habits. More flames appeared in the exchanges.

The original poster eventually returned to the conversation, and tried valiantly to lay oil on these troubled waters. Ah, sadly, oil and flamers don’t mix. And sadly the knowledgeable person severed her ties to the club.

In searching the net for some good information about the term Fid, I had to tell Google it was slang. Otherwise it means some sort of tool of a tapering shape. But the Parrot Forums came through with someone asking about the term and a cute discussion of the meaning and uses. (http://www.parrotforums.com/technical-support/32332-what-does-fid-mean.html)

To my surprise, there is a whole new group of such terms, and I still find them charming: Fibling, Faby, Frat. If you can’t guess the meaning, here’s the answer sheet: (http://theparakeetplace.piczo.com/birdslang?cr=6&linkvar=000044)

Apparently in Oxford slang, a Fid is a violin. Short for fiddle, which makes some sense. Did you know Antarctica has it’s own slang? Here are a few entries: FIDS – “Falklands Islands Dependencies Survey” was the original name for the “British Antarctic Survey” (BAS). Members of FIDS referred to themselves as Fids and the name stuck. It is usually taken as meaning someone who has travelled to Antarctica and worked on a FIDS or BAS ship or base. Some purists maintain that it should only apply to those who have wintered on such a base. Br.

Fidlet – A FID in his or her first year, sometimes considered as someone in their first summer south preceding the first winter after which they will be a Fid proper. Br. (http://www.coolantarctica.com/Community/antarctic_slang.htm)

Absolutely unconnected is this Wikipedia page on cockatoos, but for some reason it came up in my search pages and has really interesting stuff: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockatoo) I looked for Fid on the page and could not find it. Let me know if you do.

So what am I getting at with this post? Good question! I often remember that heated debate over a term of affection, and am saddened that the person who threw the first fireball felt so strongly about it in such a negative way. How can someone who made her living through bird breeding and behavior information have been so resentful of the relationship other people have with their parrots? It’s a puzzle I still have no answer to.

As your New Year hatches and grows, fledges and flies, I wish you may keep peace in your heart and tolerance in your words. And may your flock bring you harmony and love.