The Battle of the Cute

No doubt you have all the cute cats, kittens, dogs, and puppies videos bookmarked on YouTube and Facebook by now. But what about the cute birds? Yes, parrots can be cute, too! One of my favorites is an Indian ringneck parakeet named Marnie.

Marnie plays peek-a-boo, and loves his stuffed bunny. He goes to Grandma’s house to meet a frog and he knows how to throw a fun birthday party.

This little parrotlet loves his ball! Listen carefully to hear him say “sorry” and other phrases.

Caiques can be the cutest just walking around.

Hyacinths are beautiful and can be very silly.

I’m one of those odd folks who thinks baby birds are beautiful and cute even before the feathers grow in. But here’s an adorable puppy-like blue and gold macaw.

Macaws are very smart at a very early age. Here’s a Scarlet that wants to go . . . somewhere.

Lucky for us, parrots like to interact with other species. A Hyacinth with a pit bull is adorable! and this scarlet macaw with two doggies is great. I like this video, but frankly I would never let a terrier of any kind around my birds, even supervised.

Parrots will even play with other parrots. But this cockatoo has a death wish, going up against a hyacinth macaw. The hyacinth outweighs the cockatoo, has a longer reach with beak alone, and is not scared of that crest at all.

We share our lives with these beauties because, as this owner says, they make us smile every day.

These two are bonded to each other and still enjoy interacting with their human.

So here’s the question. Are these caiques:
cuter than this Indian ringneck?

I could never decide. See you on Thursday.


Lassie is a Parrot

There have been lots of news stories in recent years about families or children being saved by a pet parrot. Parrots are very adaptive beings, as you can tell by the thriving flocks in urban settings. But how do they know to save people? Could Lassie have been reincarnated as a parrot?

Here are some facts. And when I say facts, I mean Fox News stories. This Indian Ringneck named Pearly saved his family from a fire started in their laundry room.

But that’s totally self serving. He didn’t want his house to burn up or his food bringers to be injured. So no real evidence there.

An Amazon saved a father and son who were sacked out on the couch. Peanut had only been there six months, but it seems like fate bringing him together with these two guys.

Still not the Lassie attitude I thought we’d find, however. Willie the Quaker parrot comes closer, saving a baby who was choking while not in any danger himself.

However, this parrot was just scaring off a rival for his mate’s attention.

This macaw scared the bad guys away, but not before his owner was injured and threatened. Lassie would not stand for that.

Maybe this parrot was hoping one of the pups would grow up and take over this rescuing business.

Here’s a bilingual parrot waking up his owner when she stops breathing at night. Great idea. I hope he also tells her about the benefits of weight loss and exercise.

Parrots do grow attached to their people, and the sudden removal of one from the parrot’s life can make a lasting impression.

Speaking of court cases, here’s a divorce proceeding that admitted evidence provided by a parrot.

And one where the bird’s testimony won’t be allowed.

We flock together with parrots because their intelligence and emotional make-up are similar to ours. So if we need healing, and the parrot needs healing, we can help each other in that process.

For troubled children, a parrot is one option, especially a little non-threatening parrot like a budgie.

Parrots have blabbed to police when their owner is driving drunk, have alerted us to fires in our homes, and maybe brought justice to the deceased. Why wouldn’t we fight to keep them as pets and as a wonderful part of our natural world?

I’ll be back on Sunday. Have a great weekend.

The Key to Conservation

In the wake of the Netherlands’ landmark decision to prohibit parrot chicks being removed from their parents, I have been thinking of what we can do to improve the chances of wild parrots surviving in their natural habitats. Who are the people already out there, holding the line against so many perils? I googled parrot conservationists to see who might show up.

The first conservationist is, himself, a parrot. Sirocco, the kakapo famous for humping a camera man in front of Stephen Fry, is New Zealand’s Conservation Spokesbird. He has a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, and joined SAVE – the Society of Avian Vocal Entertainers. He’s quite the performer, and also more of an athlete than you would think from his 64 cm tall, 4,000 gram physique. He loves to swim, almost as much as other parrots like to fly.

It appears that the folks actually doing the conservation work are both so numerous and too busy to be well known that spokespersons are much better known, but that’s not really a bad thing. Growing up in San Diego, the Zoo and Safari Park have been huge in my life and my memories. Joan Embry brought animals to many talk shows and made many more memories for many people. While she doesn’t advocate any particular parrot species, she spreads the important doctrine of the connected life around us. It does little good to save a species of bird while devastating the plants it feeds on and nests in.

A great idea and a great organization is called WorkingAbroad. Through this group, you can go anywhere in the world where help is needed in conservation efforts. The organization was founded by two people who are helping people as well as birds and animals. Andreas Kornevall and Vicky McNeil, Co-founders and Directors of WorkingAbroad. They have a searchable data base of opportunities, and when I searched Costa Rica, Environment and Animal Conservation, I found the Macaw Release Program. They are working to increase the numbers of Great Green Macaws and Scarlet Macaws in the wild. I’d go.

We lose so much as each animal we can’t save disappears from the earth forever. We also lost so much when “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin died. Whatever you think about his style and his history, he brought good attention to the state of Australian animals on the edge. His beautiful daughter Bindi Irwin continues that work, focusing on crocodiles and the need to keep the world clean and green. With such an early start, I expect we’ll see great strides from this determined young woman.

There are many such well-known and slightly-known figures in conservation work, but most have been involved with dramatic animals like apes and elephants. In the light of the theory that the influence of any one animal is enough to make or destroy life for all other animals, here’s a link to 16 short bios on conservationists.

Focusing on parrots only, the best organization is the World Parrot Fund. Founded by Mike Reynolds, the organization works all over the planet in efforts to save habitat and species. Sadly, Mr. Reynolds passed away but the fund is still going strong. Visit their page and get an idea of what one person can achieve.
Thank you for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

The Tip of the Iceberg

Holland passed a law that bans the hand feeding and hand raising of parrot chicks. There are pros and cons in this situation, and I have yet to come up with enough information to decide for myself. So I’m going to throw some links up and see if there is anything that stands forth on either side.

The new rule prohibits the removal of birds from their parents before they can feed themselves. Even the removal of eggs is prohibited in this law. The reason given is that the parents stress when their chicks are taken away, and it can lead to behavior problems like plucking and self mutilation in the chicks.

When the US banned the import of wild-caught birds in 1992, breeding became the only way to get some of the more popular species. I’ve seen wide-scale operations with round the clock care for baby birds, and I can’t help but think it’s a little unfair to the birds. They would have gotten better care and attention in a clutch of four than in a batch of twenty. But even small scale breeders who hand feed can get it wrong, and cause the death of a baby one way or another, and even inadvertently spread a disease throughout a flock.

The biggest problem I have seen with hand-raised birds is that they bond with humans and not other birds. My Amazon is sure I am his mate. Also some chicks bond with the hand feeder, and then don’t adjust well to being placed in a new home with new humans. My Indian ring-neck suffered that problem.

Well, I find lots of negative opinions in this debate, even if they aren’t fanatics, but what is there that’s positive about hand rearing? I don’t mean the odd incident when a chick is abandoned or rejected, and this is the only way to save it. I mean as a business and a way to bond with a bird.

Co-parenting has always seemed to be a better option to me. And with my budgies, it worked very well. But it doesn’t work with lovebirds at all. And it doesn’t work, apparently, with Chris Biro. He’s adamantly against the law.

This video shows hand-raised parrots helping out with younger chicks. I don’t see a problem here.

Well, no closer to a position, but lots to think about. I will be back on Sunday.

The African Grey Parrot says Quack! Meow! Woof! Mother-f*censored*

Anyone living with parrots gets the idea that they understand a lot more speech than we realize. Maynard especially knows that his sweet-voiced “Good Morning” will get a chuckle from me, especially at night when I am turning out the lights. As I’ve said before, he’s trained me to know that when he asks, “Want a cracker?” he is saying he wants some of whatever I am eating. If he doesn’t like what I am eating, he will complain until bread or cheese magically appear.

Through animation, we have come to think of our birds as little people sometimes. Reading studies that say they have the intelligence of a three-year-old human child doesn’t make them children. But some of us treat them that way. In the recent past, with the fear of having to rehome my whole flock hanging over me, I did tell people they were my children. This is not exactly true, only a way to communicate with non-bird people.

Mixing what my birds do say with what I think they would say if they had full human understanding, I present the following speeches from my birds. I hope you enjoy the silliness.

Four-year-old violet lovebird, Jake: Is there anything else to eat? Can I have some of that? I don’t want to go back in my cage. I’m going to visit the birds in the other rooms. I’m back, did you miss me? I’m not afraid of that green bird/those cockatiels/conures/other lovebirds/greys/ringneck/wild birds/cat.

26 year old double yellow headed Amazon Maynard: Don’t leave me! May I have an almond? This is my favorite toy. What is it? Come over here. Come on! I like your phone. Scratch my head. Nice. Nice. NO! Too much. Okay, you can do it again. Don’t touch my wing/tail/back/feet.

Two year old grey Indian Ringneck Parakeet Wraith: Stay away! You can’t see me in my tent.

Whitefaced grey cockatiel of unknown age Kai: This is my personal space. Stay out of it. Now this is my personal space, too. This is my personal toy which I will sit on so it will hatch someday.

Blind Congo African Grey of unknown age Io: Did something change? What was that noise? Here’s my toy, right where I left it. The food is good, but the bowl tastes better. You moved my cage! Your voices are coming from a strange direction! I must panic and shake and moan for a while. Another bird is having fun. I don’t know if I like that. I must shake and complain until I make up my mind.

Toeless Congo African Grey of unknown age Bo Dangles: I’m beautiful. I have my quirks, and you just need to get to know me. I only bite you because I love you. I always say I’m sorry if I draw blood. Will you birds be quiet? Jake, come here! Don’t bother me, I’m watching my budgies. I love the little yellow one. I wish you would put that cat in my cage.

Male Canary named Ernesto: I have a beautiful voice, all the girls love to hear me sing. La la la la la trill. And for my next number, La la la la la trill. Here’s my favorite, La la la la la trill. Now the big finish: La la la la la TRILL trill.

Keep smiling and I’ll be back on Thursday.

The Birds of Myths and Legends.

If you have seen or read Harry Potter movies or books, you have an idea of a phoenix. A beautiful bird that bursts into flame at the end of its life and is reborn from the ashes. Possibly wishful thinking in a world without 911 to help, but still a nice legend. The legend is widespread across much of the known world in the early days of civilization, which makes one wonder what caused it in the first place. (Place alien landing conspiracy theories here.) This firebird was also know in Native American stories, and the thunderbird too.

Many birds in stories and legends were once people, but were turned into birds for one reason or another. The Six Swans tells of princes who were thus cursed to get them out of the way for their wicked stepmother’s children to inherit the kingdom.

Who Killed Cock Robin? Yes, it was that nasty sparrow with his bow and arrow. Nursery rhymes were usually about very adult subjects, but this one just seems to be a silly little thing to teach the names of birds. And bull may actually refer to the bull finch, not a male cow.

As we have seen, birds with beautiful feathers as in much danger from man and the dictates of fashion. But across many cultures and lands, a bluebird brought happiness. I love the Chinese legend that the bluebird was the messenger bird of Xi Wangmu, a powerful and immortal queen who protected women when their lives took them outside the normal roles of females in Chinese society.

Sadly, many species of birds become legends through extinction. The passenger pigeon is legendary for the size of the flocks that would go overhead. The decline of the bird is directly connected to slavery and poverty issues at the turn of the century.

As a lover of parrots, I have long mourned the only native psittacidae in North America. This species went extinct, coincidentally, about the same time as the pigeon above. The birds were very social, and if one of the flock was shot, after flying away in startled reaction, they would return and see what happened to the injured bird. It makes me wonder what marvels of intelligence the bird might have demonstrated. I love the fact that some people still hope that a lost colony will be found in a distant forest.

The mystery surrounding these two birds makes me hope for the future, and the efforts currently in place for the conservation efforts around the world. What a wonderful world this could be, if we all just learn to get along.

Here’s a link to more Native American stories about birds. Enjoy, and I will see you on Sunday.

Saving the World With Science

I rarely have a lack of ideas on what to write about, but the recent loss of a good friend has rather muddled my brain and brought an unhealthy ennui to my life. So I thought I would look at the most recent research involving parrots. Why not?

I posted a photo on Facebook recently of a cluster of African Greys, and noticed right off that they were all youngsters. Baby greys have eyes that are totally black, which adds to their adorableness. Apparently researchers are using eye color in greys (excuse me, colour) to tell the age range of the flock.

In other news, Rolc C. Hagen of Hagen Inc. and Hagen Aviculture has donated food to help rescued Amazon chicks that some maroon tried to smuggle out of the wild. 517 birds! All needing handfeeding. Wow.

Parrots are beautiful, intelligent, can be friendly, and sometimes carry on conversations. That makes them desirable, and that leads to danger. So if by some chance you discover a new species of parrot, that’s a good thing, right? Uh, maybe. How sad is it to go from new species to critically endangered in a few heartbeats?

Tiger parrots came to my attention only recently, and now I see them everywhere. Research is being done to determine if they are related to other Australian and New Guinean parrots. Seems the results are tending toward less related, more diversity.

New Zealand’s kea parrots are rather unique in being alpine parrots and keenly interested in taking things apart. Scientists feared that human interactions had created subspecies to appear, but research says that is not the case. Probably.

While parrots are not doing really well in their homelands for several reasons, they do see to be thriving in urban areas. And there is money available for research to see how they manage to be so successful, and what impact they are having on native species of birds, plants, etc.

What do you know about Australia’s western ground parrot? You and all the scientists. This elusive parrot developed habits that make it really hard to study, contrary to the popular thought that those habits endanger the bird and its young. You know, habits like not flying much, nesting on the ground, not calling out to each other. Weird.

Another Australian parrot playing least in sight is the night parrot. Which, you may guess by the name, is only active at night. Most researchers and scientists are sleeping then. Often referred to as the Holy Grail of ornithology, this parrot has been seen rarely and has been thought to be extinct. But feathers discovered in the area they are thought to inhabit match exactly through DNA tests with specimens in museums.

And more on that subject.

In case you are wondering which parrot species are extinct, endangered, or doing okay, here’s a list that was just updated.

I always thought being a park ranger would be a fun, happy job where I could commune with nature and help city folk learn to appreciate squirrels and hawks. Guess that wouldn’t be the whole of the job, considering how often people run into bees, spiders, poison oak, and the odd bear or rabid raccoon. But I never imagined I might put my life on the line to keep the park animals alive. Let alone a species of redwood tree.

And that wraps up my research for today. I’ll be back on a new day in the week, Thursday, and again on Sunday. Have a good day!

Random Birds in the Wild

The word Random is awesome. It means many different things to different people. To me, it means this traffic camera and this toucan. Totally random, right? Plus adorable.

When I thought about this post, I thought I would just see how many species of birds I could randomly think of for a country. I picked Africa and parrots that I don’t own. So grays and love birds are out. But there’s not much in the way of videos of wild parrots. Who wouldn’t want to hang out in the jungle with heavy camera equipment just waiting for the birds to fly past? So instead here’s a clip of a young Jardine’s chattering a bit in its sleep.

If you have an hour, here’s a great video with lots of random parrots in it. It’s National Geographic, so it has to be the best!

And here is a really good video full of information on Jardine’s.

Another random African parrot is the Meyer’s, Here’s a short but clear clip of a wild Meyer’s parrot. I have trouble identifying Meyer’s and Senegal parrots, or should I say differentiating one from the other at a glance. I try to remember that the Senegals have the sunny orange feathers that the mild Meyer’s does not.

One person describes the difference between the two as the Meyers loves to love you, the Senegal loves to be loved by you. So Meyer’s are like dogs, and Senegals are like cats. Good to know. And here’s more information about the differences in these as Rupells, another of the poicephalus parrots.

Possibly the rarest and most endangered member of this family is the Cape Parrot, with the awesome Zulu name of uPholi. That’s not a typo, the u is small and the P is large.

I am not now, and never shall be, a rabid anti-pets, animal rights activist and fanatic. Animals can live very happy lives with their people, and people can only benefit from that relationship. But I am rabid about poaching. Wild birds and animals need to stay in the wild, and the wild needs to be protected. So read this article about wild-caught parrots being poached and the majority of them dying in transit.

Now go hug your parrots and promise them an extra treat when you have time. Speaking of time, you may notice that my mid-week posts have gotten late and later. My week has changed and my time is taken up thoroughly early in the week. This is my last Wednesday post, I’ll see you on Sunday and then move to Thursday of next week.

Not Goodbye, Just So Long For Now

Fortune has favored me with many good friends in the world of aviculture. There’s a catch to that favor, however. We expect our smaller birds to pass on before we do, but the humans should be with us for the rest of our lives.

There’s a saying about people being in your life for a season, a reason, or a hamburger. That might not be the exact quote. Interesting thing about bird friends. When they pass on, often their sweet birds come to live with their friends.

I know I’ve talked about Linda, a little lady who could not say no to a bird in need, and when she passed unexpectedly, her family let the bird club handle the rehoming of her children. This is how we acquired our two special needs Congo African grays. And through their voices and noises, we will always have Linda with us.

Another friend in the club is often lamenting that her family doesn’t care for her birds, and when she passes on, she will have a flock in need of love and care. I would love to think I could solve her problem by volunteering, but the fact is, I am at the age where this is a concern for myself and my husband. Parrots are often devastated by the sudden disappearance of the main caregiver and love of their lives. The least we can hope for is to let some of them stay together.

One of the most severe plucking cases in a cockatoo I ever witnessed came about through the death of the man who loved two parrots, and the people in charge of rehoming those birds who didn’t understand the birds needed to stay together to stay sane. No idea what happened to the other parrot, but the cockatoo I saw had bloodied herself on her breast. Luckily she had a very caring family who were helping her heal, mentally and physically.

The parrot whose photo is currently on this blog, my Double Yellow-Headed Amazon, Maynard, came to me in September of 2013. He chose me, and I get a little thrill when I think about that choice of his. The man who arranged our meeting and eventual cohabitation had given me birds before. Jordan, an Timneh African gray, and various cockatiels. He’s also one of the best hand-feeders I ever knew. His chicks fledge and wean and stay sweet beyond belief.

To insure his privacy, I will call him Frank in this blog post. He never had an easy life, as far as I heard. He’d done drugs, had anger issues, and been in prison for various reasons. He lived as a caretaker for another friend, until a few months ago. He down-sized his flock as he became less able to care for them.

Some years back, Frank had a heart attack, and was in the hospital for some weeks. No one told me, no one in the bird club spread the word of someone needing our prayers and visits. He recovered, and I truly thought that was the worst that would happen to him. Life isn’t fair, of course.

In the last six months, Frank began to have trouble standing, using his left arm, and other such problems. He went to the doctor, and heard the worst thing you can expect to hear. He had brain cancer, and the tumor placed growing pressure on areas that controlled his motor functions. I can’t blame him for giving up. But I am angry that cancer is still such a devastation in the world.

Just a week ago, things became apparent that he needed to go to a facility where he could get 24-hour medical care. His employer-roommate needed a ride to see Frank, and I was happy to help out. Frank has lost the ability to speak, so I don’t know if he recognized me or not. That’s not the important thing for me. It’s important that I was able to see him, to tell him Maynard says hello. And that I was inspired to write this blog in memory of his life.

He has given up completely. He refuses to eat, won’t take medications, sleeps all the time. But what else is there to do? He never wanted to be dependent on others, and I fancy his spirit is raging against the dying of the light, but to be done as soon as possible is the best path for him. I pray he has an easy transition to the next life.

At that time, or possibly before, his roommate will give me Frank’s cockatiels. And their sweetness will remind me of my friend, just as Maynard’s phone conversations remind me of Frank’s voice and manners. There’s also a problem with finding the money to cover cremation and such things. I am hugely thankful to be in a position to help out when the time comes. But those things don’t matter so much to Frank, I’m sure.

May the Creator ease your path, until we meet again. I’ll return on Wednesday.

Note: Frank passed away on August 7, 2014 at around 8:15 am.