Wild Amazon Parrots

Really, I am not focused solely on Double Yellow Headed Amazon Parrots named Maynard. He just takes up a huge part of my time right now, in a fun and entertaining way. He’s delightful in how he reacts to me, calls for me, regurgitates for me. Okay, that last is neither fun nor entertaining.

He makes fun noises, as well, besides all the things he says. I am interested in finding out how much of that behavior is hard wired in to his head.

Here’s a great video with lots of information about the species: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3410Ls7owuM

Sadly, this video has no soundtrack of the birds’ actual sounds. But the footage itself is nice, and includes some green parakeets that aren’t really identified. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giar7aR5zoo

An awesome fact sheet with everything anyone could need to know about Amazons, except how noisy they can be. http://rosamondgiffordzoo.org/assets/uploads/animals/pdf/DoubleYellowHeadedAmazon.pdf

Because some of the plants the parrots eat in the wild are toxic to a certain degree, they often ingest clay or soil which neutralizes the toxins. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlmgzH6s2uk

While not a flock of wild parrots, these pairs in the Dallas World Aquarium are pretty, and one of them demonstrates a behavior my bird does as well, standing on one foot. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EL_IyxCInA

And if you have a half hour with nothing planned, relax and watch this video on Wild Parrots of Peru.

See you on the weekend!

The Dearest Dozen

Thanks to the IRS, we will be able to catch up on our rent for January and most of February. This will allow us to stay where we are through April, I believe. And the more time we get, the more likely a permanent solution will happen.

With the possibility of having to move with a short time frame in my mind, I considered my flock, and who must stay at all costs. How could anyone choose which child can stay and which ones must go? Assume none of the “children” are old enough to be on their own. Also the choices would be made on a short time scale.

I don’t mean to imply in any sense that the need to rehome parrots is at all the same as children taken out of the home by protective services or given up for adoption through necessity. Nor is this like having a teenager who moves out or runs away. But the emotions are similar in these situations.

Jake, my violet love bird, hand tamed and my darling, has already been rehomed once. I could not do that to him again. Maynard, too, has been passed from home to home. An Amazon parrot is not going to be easy to sneak into another house or apartment. Most of the time, he’s quiet, but if I am home and not where he can see me, he screams. Also, he chose me. How could I throw that away?

Our two African Greys are special needs birds. Bo Dangles is starting to open up to more touching, but she has gone backwards with jealousy over Maynard. Io, being blind, hasn’t been too upset over Maynard’s arrival, and he has started allowing gentle touches on his feet. Moving alone would upset him and set him back in trusting us. Having to adjust to new caretakers would be nearly insurmountable.

Dani is also special needs, an orange front conure with serious splayed legs. She requires special modifications to her cage, and slowly is adjusting to a better diet. She has always been sweet, only fussing a little and doesn’t really like to be handled. She can fly but the landings are always heart-stopping. She’s smart enough to aim for the couch, usually. Again, our little Dani was given to us from her second home, so rehoming again would be detrimental to her mental well-being.

Creamsicle, known as Creamy, is a beautiful lutino (yellow phase) cockatiel with the softest feathers I have ever felt. He loves to be with people, and can’t understand why he doesn’t get to come out all the time. He loves to put his head in my ear and sing gently. He is the offspring of a pair of my breeders, and was hand raised by my friends. Mallory is an albino cockatiel, hand raised by another friend and from very different blood lines. She likes people, but doesn’t really want to be handled that much. She didn’t stay tame for long. She also has a chronic need to create wind storms. For no apparent reason, she will grab on tightly to a perch, and flap her wings as hard as she can for several minutes. A pause, and then she’s off again. Such a silly girl.

Sun conure Zazu lost his first home due to the untimely death of his caretaker. The woman’s husband gave him away, and we were lucky enough to be in a position to take him in. I’ve told the story before, that even though I was the one who pulled the strings to pick him up, he hates me and adores Mike. So I found Sunny, a sweet sun conure who loves everyone. I don’t know much about her history, only that she was 10 years old when we adopted her, and she had been surrendered by her elderly caretakers . She was my first close bonded parrot, and I won’t give up any of the time we have left together. I nearly lost her some years back when she laid an egg. The process nearly killed her, and I couldn’t believe I could save her. But somehow, through the emergency measures of heat and calcium, she recovered in a couple days. Spending a whole day at work thinking I would never see her alive again is one of the hardest things I have ever experienced.

We thought our Indian ringneck parakeet was a girl, and named her Wraith. Then at a year, he showed us his ring and we knew we had a male. This summer he will finally be old enough to mate, and I am hoping to find a blue female to match him. And that alone is not enough to reserve his spot on this list. The relationship he is developing with Mike is. Hand fed and tame when we got “her,” Wraith did not like finding himself in a new house with new crazy people and lots of other birds. He would not come out of his cage unless he flew out in a panic. Now, Mike talks to him every day, there is a response that he looks for, and I would not destroy that growing bond for anything.

My cockatiel breeders, Ash and Mombird, Elmer and Zippy, cannot be extracted from each other, like conjoined twins, without endangering the life of the other. So they count as two more, making my dozen. And if I could make it a baker’s dozen, I might add Ethel. A rosey Bourke parakeet, Ethel has foot problems. But they mostly are visual, not anything that prevents her from perching. Bourkes are so gentle, and really not aggressive as long as there is no nest for them to defend, that she resides with a cage full of zebra finches and society finches. She is content, and so if the finches go to another home, she may go with them.

But luckily the decision can be put off a while longer. Things could happen at any moment to make it all unnecessary. If you are the sort who prays, I would be thankful for any prayers on our behalf you may care to send. See you mid-week with a short post!

Budgies in the Wild

So many people tell me they had a parakeet in their family when they were children. The small, cheerful parrot is popular, and has been for many decades. Sadly, few people realize the parrot needs lots of room to move around, even if it is small.

Native to the dry outback of Australia, they move around regularly, covering acres every day. The drive to find food and water keeps them going. This video is awesome: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbA10sNEcw0 (Narrated by David Tennant, OMG!)

Budgies, from the native budgeriegar (an Aborigine word meaning “good food”), are naturally a green and yellow bird with black scalloping bars. Humans have bred them for various mutations and body shapes. Here’s a look at the breeding habits of the wild type. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hh6tvRXeHNo I love this video because there’s no sound except the real noise of the birds and the wind. You can tell the male is feeding the babies, due to the blue nose bump, or nare.

Another great clip, but don’t know how they can say the budgies are sharing information. They are all talking at once! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyfCMrqitWI Don’t you love how they look at the other animals and birds to find good seed and water?

This appears to be a continuation of the same video, showing a black falcon hunting the flock. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUpGRQK7o78 How amazing that they have, well, not a hive mind, but a flock mind!

Of course, as they have been imported around the world, they have found their way into the wild in other countries. Here’s footage of a flock in Tennessee. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4XsfHrQsKU

I love this snippet of a discussion on Parrot Forum about raising your own flock of wild yet tame budgies. Note going in that the original poster, Red Balloon, is known to most of the forum as having a dry sense of humor, but being very dedicated to his birds. http://www.parrotforums.com/budgies-parakeets-cockatiels/2510-wild-budgie-flock.html

What other wild parrots would you like to see videos of? Have a great week!

The Ones That Got Away

There have been times in my life as a bird rescuer and breeder that I have not gotten the bird or birds offered to me. Some times that is due to the offer being in jest.

At a party, someone I had just met that evening said his brother had a macaw they all hated, and he could probably get it for me for free. Luckily, I am smart enough to know that, first of all, I was not in any position to take in and care for a scarlet macaw, no matter how much I may have wanted to. Second, the owner of the macaw was not available for comment, but having spent at least a thousand dollars on the creature, he would surely want to get something back in a transaction like this. It didn’t take my husband’s firm “No!” to convince me.

Sometimes people want to hook me up with a breeder nearby who has a bird I might like and will give me a good price on a breeding pair. Someone in Arizona has kakarikis that I could have bought if only I could get there and have the money and the special diet for these beauties. Well, special diet isn’t so much the right term as widely varied diet. The author of this page includes 20 different types of food per day for her flock. (http://www.takaki1.freeserve.co.uk/indexkak.htm)

My bird buddy Fred, who gave me Jordan and Maynard, knew a breeder of cockatiels who was downsizing and had many albino tiels to rehome. While he was a local breeder, and the money was not so much of an issue then, I still didn’t know where to put any more cockatiels. And I have several albinos, so I had to decline.

A couple years ago, a friend contacted me through Facebook and gave me the name and phone number of someone she knew. This friend had gone through a divorce, was changing jobs, and moving to another state. Talk about overload in the stress department! She didn’t want to subject her parrots to the change, so she was looking for an adoptive home for a pair of Mexican red-headed Amazon parrots.

I was hesitant, having no real love of Amazons at the time. All I had heard or experienced about them was that they were all biters. I did know one sweet lady with a lilac crown Amazon who was gentle for her, but could not be handled by anyone else. But the moving friend of a friend sounded desperate, so I called her.

Our phone conversation was not good. I felt nervous and on the spot, and wished she would just tell me what she wanted me to do. If I couldn’t accommodate her instructions, that would not be a problem. The sticking point seemed to be the diet for these birds. They were given everything the lady ate, no seed to speak of, lots of fruit and veggies and pellets. Well, I have been trying to move my birds from a seed diet to more fresh foods and some pellets, but we haven’t managed it yet. They get fruit and greens at least once a week, but need so much more than that.

Arrangements were made for the woman to come and see my birds and our home. I felt very nervous. We do not clean the cages as often as some people might. We clean the trays of seed and droppings every week, but don’t always have time to vacuum the floor around the cages. I hope some day to purchase a steam cleaner so that I can whip through the finch cages. Why are finches the dirtiest of birds? They poop constantly, everywhere, and just scraping the cage bottom isn’t enough to make things clean. This is predominantly the reason I cut back on my finches and don’t breed them anymore. Without the ability to really keep things clean, the chicks don’t do well.

I told my friend that I was pretty sure we would not be chosen to foster the Mexican red-headed Amazons for her friend, because the house was not very clean. My friend could not believe that this would be a consideration, since her friend had to rehome them in a limited time, and besides I worked full time. That should shift the balance in my favor.

The friend was polite but distant. She took the tour, which I love to give. People walk into our living room and exclaim at the conures and cockatiels. Then I ask if they want to see the bird room. Once they have had a chance to see the canaries, finches, love birds, and Indian Ring Neck, I offer the outside aviaries. Which requires us to move through the office and see Jake, and the African Greys. (Now it includes Maynard, but this was before we had him.) She liked the outside aviaries, but as we went back in, and said our good-byes, I knew better than to expect a call from her.

I have to say she was considerate enough to call and tell me that she had a sister who really wanted to take the birds, and if that should change, she would get back to me. Ah, well. There’s a good reason, I am sure, that the pair went to someone their owner trusted. She did hate to be giving them up at all.

On the brink of a personal crisis, I know I will be looking for good homes for some of my birds soon. I have about a dozen I could not live without. But can we find a place to live that we can afford on my income, and that will not mind the birds? It’s a puzzle but not one I can spend much time on. These things always work out in the end, but we don’t know how. It’s a mystery.

Evolution of Feathers

When I had baby zebra finches, which I totally love to this day, and when they first came out of the nest box and begged the parents for food, I could clearly see in the head shaking and leaning forward posture their ancestors, the dinosaurs. Even now, looking at the feet of any of my birds, I see the connection. So how did feathers suddenly spring up on reptiles? Huge, meat-eating, not very smart reptiles.

Here’s Part 1 of a 5 part video on the evolution of feathers. I love animation like this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6kViYeDcmA

This awesome article (http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/feather_evolution.htm) explains a lot of it, especially indicators that feathers came about for thermoregulation long before their use for flight. Don’t miss the great little video showing the development of a single-filament feather. Did I mention that the dinosaurs who became birds were venomous?

This site includes the theory that feathers which developed before flight not only kept the dinosaur warm, or cool, but when puffed up for a display, was considered pleasing to the opposite sex. http://dinosaurs.about.com/od/thedinobirdconnection/a/originflight.htm

Dinosaurs had nests long before birds came along, so maybe protecting and insulating the eggs and young was another early use for feathers. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/print/2011/02/feathers/zimmer-text

And how did this all end up in our favorite companions? Well, here’s an amazing animation of a bird skeleton. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMba0KByEPY It’s very clear why we check the breast bone, or keel, to tell if a bird in healthy.

So, maybe I should be less willing to let an Amazon parrot chew on my fingers! Lucky for me, he’s very gentle. And that’s a mid-week post on my favorite companions, dinosaurs!

Another Virtual Mail Bag!

I might get letters if I ever posted an address. I might even get emails if I put that up here somewhere. I get some comments. But in real life I get questions all the time. Here are some fun ones.

Q. What is he/she saying?
A. We have no idea. Well, we might have some idea. But if you can’t figure it out, we probably can’t, either. Beeby, our psycho Half Moon conure, talks in the cutest cartoon voice you ever heard. Someday I hope to catch it on video, because I love it so much. Even though he likes to bite everyone and throws himself across the cage trying to attack us, he once was a sweet boy, and sat happily on my shoulder telling me all about his life. Once we took him in to have his wings clipped, the honeymoon was over. He started biting anything that looked like a hand.

Bobo, female Congo African Grey, says a few things you can make out. I’m sorry. “Got water? Apple? Corneee? (We don’t know why she puts the E sound after corn) Are you okay? Honey.” But after that, she mostly sounds like a one-sided phone conversation, and some grumblings. Her original owner was Korean, married to a Japanese. They kept pugs with Chinese names. Bobo has a good ear, and makes lots of sounds. But the grumbling and talking are not very easy to make out.

Io, the male CAG, came from the same home as Bobo. He doesn’t talk, but he makes lots of great noises. He sometimes whimpers like an overweight pug wanting to go out. The closest he gets to talking is to say, “Whoooop-oh!” No idea what that means to him. But he’s our Whoop-oh Bird.

Wraith is an Indian Ringneck, a year and a half old, and not tame but does like some interaction with Mike. As long as Mike keeps his hands in his pockets. Wraith can meow well enough to confuse our cat. He can do our timer we use for tea. And he babbles a bit. If we had room to put him in the office with us, I know his vocabulary would increase.

The real star of our show is Maynard, a double yellow head Amazon. He does talk, and says things at appropriate times. He will say “Hi! Good Morning” first thing in the morning. He says “I Love You! Hi, Maynard! Good boy, Maynard! How are you? Hello cracker?” And if we go away, he says, “Bye!” If he wants me to come to him, he says, “Come on! Come here!” and whistles like he’s calling a dog. And if he hears me singing, he starts to sing his own song, which has a “Baby!” in it. If he hears anyone laughing, he will join in. But it’s disturbing when he’s sitting in his cage and it’s been quiet, and he laughs slowly, with just the right amount of evil.

Maynard also has the one-sided phone conversation thing going. We don’t know what he says, but it has a rhythm to it. Gobba gobba gobba gobba. (Pause) Yeah. Gobba gobba gobba gobba? (pause) Yeah. Maynard has a particular scream he gives, then he says, “Watch out!” Then he starts to scream if he isn’t let out of his cage or put on the floor where he wants to be. If I go out of his view, he starts calling for “Mama! Mama!” followed shortly by “HELP!” if I don’t come back or at least answer him.

For an Amazon, Maynard has many characteristics in common with a chihuahua. He is happiest if he can waddle around on the floor. He likes to hump my feet. He likes to chew on my fingers and roll on his back on my lap. If Mike walks by, he lunges or goes for the ankles. We have to put a gate up to keep him from going places he shouldn’t go. He’ll chase fabric if it’s thrown, and plays tug with the towel after a bath.

He’s quite spoiled, and even though Mike disagrees, Maynard came to us already that way. Just because I will let him out of his cage when he screams doesn’t mean anything. And when he is humping my feet, he makes the cutest sound, like a mini sewing machine. You can pick up a hint of it in this video, and don’t laugh at the music in the background. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vCatPcpycg

I brought Maynard to my support group meeting recently, and we had a great time with him. He stayed very calm around the new people, and every time the group leader walked past him, he would laugh. She grew self-conscious about it.

We had so much fun at that meeting, I decided to take him a few days later to my bird club meeting. I gave a ride to the two friends from whom I received Maynard. They were thrilled to see him, and at the meeting, tried to interact with him. They were successful to some extent, although Maynard bit first one and then the other. And he stayed very close to me the whole time. I think he was concerned that I had had enough and wanted to give him back.

Just four short months since he came to live with me, and I can’t imagine living without him. He’s got nothing to worry about this time, he’s home to stay.

Parrots Gone Wild

I know, parrots started out wild. We’ve only “domesticated” them for a short time considering the span of years man has existed. But in California, and other parts of the States at least, birds have escaped or been released in various ways, and thrive in their new environment. Some species are endangered in their native land, and these naturalized citizens may be the key to preventing extinction.

Probably the most famous naturalized parrots are the San Francisco cherry headed conures made famous in the movie, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wu67HS_5uGg The movie is well made and fun to watch, but I so wish to go to Telegraph Hill some day to see these birds in person.

Next, possibly, are the East Coast Quaker parrots, also known as monk parakeets. These birds are banned as pets in California, but thrive in New Jersey and New York. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9DnAgWOhtU They are the only parrots to build nests instead of using tree cavities. They also build communal nests, huge structures that amaze anyone who observes them. These are on my bucket list of birds to see as well.

As a native of San Diego County, I am thrilled that parrots like to live here, too. This article says the parrots have come up from Mexico and Central America when their habitats diminished. http://sdnews.com/view/full_story/21895985/article-Noisy–but-beautifully-exotic-wild-parrots-call-San-Diego-home-?instance=most_popular1 Here’s a great video of a flock in the area. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cLvpiA3K_c I’m sure the homeowner grew those plants with parrots in mind!

There’s a great organization called SoCal Parrot (http://www.socalparrot.org/) which stands as a caregiver to injured parrots and rehabilitates as many as they can. They have a facility in Jamul, CA, but they release the healthy parrots anywhere that flocks have been seen. They also track wild flocks in the area, so if you have heard or seen any, please use the link on their web page to let them know the details. These fun folks also will come talk to your group (Scouts, church, bird club) about the work they do and bring great slide shows featuring their beautiful aviaries and ambassador birds.

That’s a quick mid-week post! Have fun watching the videos.

Uninvited Guests

Let’s face it, if you have birds, you have a good chance of having pests come to visit. One of my problems happens once a year when small children dressed in odd clothing go door to door in the neighborhood, and want to come in to see all the birds. Luckily, they have adults with them who keep them from staying too long.

The same cannot be said of seed moths, also known as pantry moths and millers. These wee insects rarely dress up, and stay forever when they move in. The very best way to control them is to put all seed into a freezer for a couple days before giving it to your birds. The insects do no harm to the birds, but they are uber annoying to people. If you bring seed in that has the varmints, you will soon have a huge problem.

When I had many more finches than I do now, I used seed hoppers to make sure no one went hungry. But the moths got into the seed, and spun webbing for their larvae and that clogged the hoppers so the seed didn’t move down to the birds. We finally had to dispense with the seed hoppers, for the most part, and once a week run the seed in the hoppers through a strainer. What a mess! This page shows the life cycle of the moths and has good information about them. http://www.pantrymothtrap.com/pantry-moths.html

We did use traps to get rid of the moths. We continue to use the traps, glass ones like these: http://www.treehelp.com/glass-pantry-moth-trap-w-lure/ They work well if you keep on top of cleaning out the dead moths and replacing the soapy water that goes in the bottom. The pheromone lure lasts a very long time. But it is rather difficult to find them when you do need to replace them.

An odd thing about moths is how much they like to go swimming. They can’t swim, and apparently no one told them that. So our parrots that have open dish waterers end up with moth soup by the end of the day. If I try to be sneaky and leave a bowl of water out for the moths to swim in, they know something is up. This trick never works.

We ended up with some bad dove seed one time. We were amazed to open the storage bin and see the seed turned into a lot of dust. At the bottom of the bin a thriving colony of wee beetles looked at us in astonishment. Seems we were invading their space. We dumped the whole bin-full in the trash, but some of the beetles managed to get out and colonize our bathroom shower. They climb up a utility rack pole in the corner, and get washed down the drain daily when showers occur. Not sure if we have the same beetles every day, or if they are new ones who are doomed to repeat their own history.

Checking on the Net, Uncle Google thinks we have rice weevils, and the only way to get rid of them is to burn the house down. http://www.getridofthings.com/pests/beetles/get-rid-of-weevils/ Or clean it really good top to bottom and once more with feeling. I’ll get the matches.

Actually, bay leaf, cloves, and matches are noted as good weevil deterrents. I’ll let you know how that works out.

The cleaning thing I know we have to get in process, because we also have mice. We have them in the walls, we have the traditional arch shaped mouse holes in the baseboard, and we have the nervy buggers who sit in the bottom of a bird cage staring at us. Once they are sure we see them, they scamper away.

They moved in shortly after the neighbors chopped down the palm tree which had been the nesting site for a family of barn owls. We would hear them screeching at night, an unusual sound but not overly disturbing. Mike and I always shared a smile when we heard them. But once they no longer came to the area to nest, and to eat all the rodents, we began to have gophers and mice.

We have had cats, always. The oldest two slowed down and couldn’t keep up. Sadly we parted with them within a few months of each other. Our current cat is fairly young and a great hunter. But we need to have her inside to really take care of the problem, and that’s not possible at this time.

This site has 15 pretty good ideas for getting rid of mice without poisons or toxic stuff. http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Rid-of-Mice-Naturally Some of the suggestions, however, just aren’t useful for us. I do want to try the steel wool in the openings, and I’ve tried peppermint oil but it diminishes in potency in a few days. Cat litter has possibilities, it can’t smell any worse than the smell of the mice.

Oh, and while putting up a barn owl box would be a dream come true for me, Mike is concerned for the birds if we did that. And it’s not our house, we only rent, and a whole list of other reasons we can’t. But I’ll let you know if the other things work. Let me know of any solutions to these pests with which you have had success. Meanwhile, here’s an owl cam to keep you entertained.