Virtual Mail Bag

I know you readers are out there, I can hear you clicking. But apparently no one has time to ask questions or send me an email asking for advice. Good thing I can read your minds.

Q. You mentioned having lovebird eggs in a nest box. How long until the chicks hatch?
A. This is a great question! Usually it will take 2 weeks, so sometime next week I will be listenting for the chirps of the babies. I will get more food to the parents and keep their water super full. Greens and pasta will be added to the seed. The chicks will be pulled at 2 to 3 weeks and hand fed. It takes a few months for them to be weaned, but I expect to have them ready to sell by the winter holidays.

Q. Do you have a favorite video of parrots singing?
A. What an oddly specific question. But yes, I do. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvUopXVCQnY

Q. How can the endangered kakapo parrot help save an endangered plant?
A. Well, when a mama kakapo and a papa kakapo love each other very much, they wander through the forrest at night and get pollen all over their faces. Here, this explains it better. http://www.neatorama.com/2014/09/26/The-Parasite-and-the-Parrot-A-Love-Story/

Q. What have you got against cockatoos, you heartless witch?
A. I love cockatoos, from a distance. No one has told these parrots that humans’ ears are more sensitive than theirs, that we don’t have feathers protecting our skin from bites, and that we rather like the wood cabinets in their original state, no modification is needed. They don’t get it that when a human walks out the door in the morning, the same human will be back to love and feed the bird eventually, and not really all that long a time away. Here, this explains a lot of what I am trying to say, and is a warning to normal people who want a love sponge parrot. http://www.mytoos.com/behavior.shtml

Q. What would you do if your fans said they were tired of hearing about Maynard, your Double Yellow Headed Amazon?
A. Cry. And stop posting about him. Except when absolutely necessary. Like to tell you how cute he is when he gets a red jar lid like from peanut butter, and clucks to it. He waves it around, too, like he has no idea how it got into his talons. I will miss the warmer weather when I can shower with him and not have to torture him afterward with the blow dryer. He has to share my yogurt every night. Still not that fond of blueberries, but my oatmeal is a rare treat to him.

Q. You write romance novels, why don’t you write books about birds?
A. People buy books about birds to find out some facts, like which diseases to look out for, how to build an aviary, or which species of parrot will fit into their homes and/or life styles. I would be bored to tears to write about those subjects. Romance novels have interesting characters, a plot of some sort, and usually supporting characters. People who buy romance novels are looking for escapism and entertainment. I am pretty good at those things. However, I have written a short story that features parrots who share an apartment in La Jolla with a rich surfer dude. Someday it might become a full story, but not just yet.

Q. How’s the retirement process going?
A. Better than expected. Had such good news! I will be wrapping up my career as a part time writer on October 30, 2014. I will begin my career as a full time writer on October 31, 2014. Wait, what has this got to do with parrots?

Q. I get to ask the questions, not you!
A. You know what? We’re done here. I’ll be back on Thursday.

Safety First

I do like to think about taking Maynard many places with me. He’s fun and gets lots of attention, but he’s not friendly to other people, and if he happened to get away and be lost to me forever, it would be hard to bear. His wings are clipped, because he really doesn’t want to fly and it’s safer that way. But it’s something of a hassle to be sure he’s not getting his feathers back. Birds are designed to fly, no matter how much we clip them.

How else can I keep my parrot safe? On Facebook lately I have read two tragic stories of people losing their companion birds. One incident was preventable. A door was left open for a few seconds and a dog got in the house and killed a 50-some year old parrot. How devastating to know you could have saved that bird.

But the other tragic tale involved a parrot less than a year old who contracted PDD and was dead before the regular vet could see him. PDD is Proventricular Dilation Disease, and it usually can’t be detected early enough. http://www.birdchannel.com/bird-diet-and-health/bird-diseases/bird-diseases-pdd.aspx As this article says, until recently, there was little that could be done for the patient. The worst thing is, being prey animals in the wild, parrots don’t want anyone to know that they feel poorly, so they will hide symptoms as long as possible. Be sure you weigh your birds weekly so you can catch the drop in weight that is the first sign of this disease.

That brings us back to regular habits you need to have to keep your bird safe. This link covers the basics, and some of this will come in handy for even the most experienced bird owner.
http://www.parrots.org/pdfs/all_about_parrots/reference_library/beginners_guide_to_parrots/50%20Things%20a%20Companion%20Parrot%20Owner%20Should%20Know.pdf

Did you know your self-cleaning oven can kill your parrots? Did you know Fabreeze and other aerosols can seriously hurt your birds, and possibly lead to their deaths? Coffee, chocolate, avocado, onions, many things you probably have in your home can be dangerous to your birds. The only way to keep them safe is to be vigilant, and to read about the dangers. Do a self-check on your habits regularly. http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/small-pet-care/top-ten-ways-keep-your-bird-safe-kitchen-dangers

A good point comes out in this article, although understand that the company sells a product and their research shows the product to be the best you can buy. http://www.mysafebirdstore.com/about.html

Keep your home safe: http://beautyofbirds.com/birdproofingyourhome.html
Keep birds safe during the holidays: http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=15+1912&aid=3030
Keep birds safe around other pets: http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/how-can-we-keep-our-bird-safe-from-our-cat

Take a few moments to look around every day and assess the dangers to your birds. We routinely turn off the ceiling fans before letting any flight-capable birds out. We check our shoulders for lovebirds before going outside. We don’t open doors if a flighted bird is out and we don’t have visual confirmation of their whereabouts. It’s a simple matter to develop a habit of safety first. Give your birds lots of love. I’ll be back on Sunday.

More Backyard Parrot Watching

Quaker parrots or monk parakeets are not allowed in California. When you see how they nest, you’ll understand why. These clever little builders are the only community nesting parrots in the world. And if there aren’t forests full of trees to use for their nests, they make do.

The Brooklyn community of Quaker parrots has their own web page. http://brooklynparrots.com/ There are regular “safaris” to view the funny, busy birds in their daily workings. And here’s info on their nests. http://brooklynparrots.com/who-are-they/how-do-they-build-those-crazy-nests/

Sometime after Hurricane Katrina, monk parakeets showed up in New Orleans. http://www.nola.com/pets/index.ssf/2012/03/wild_parrots_make_homes_on_the.html

The States do not have sole claim to feral parrots. London has a major issue with Indian Ringneck Parakeets. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingston_parakeets

How do these birds get into these non-parrot-typical lands and thrive? Well, usually they escape some home or shipping crate, and they are very adaptable and resourceful. Leave it to Wiki to have a list of all the feral birds found around the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feral_parrots

Lovebirds have founded colonies in Texas and Arizona. Guess it’s not that much different from Africa in those areas. http://www.birdchannel.com/bird-magazines/bird-talk/2009-february/peach-faced-lovebirds.aspx And according to this forum poster, Double Yellow Headed Amazons are colonizing South Texas! Amazing! http://parrot-lovers.livejournal.com/4582062.html

In Indonesia, smugglers travel through known routes with their contraband. This one was caught, but could some have been scared enough to dump the birds before being apprehended by authorities? http://www.wcs.org/news-and-features-main/bird-smuggler-busted-in-sumatra.aspx

Looks like parrots will do their level best to find a good place to live in a wild environment. The list on which parrots can be found where is interesting. So let’s imagine you live in one of the areas known for wild parrots. What can you do to help the birds out?

One very basic, very important thing you can do is provide a source of clean, fresh water. A bird bath, a fountain, a couple of dishes that you change out daily. One of my favorite restaurants has a nice garden patio in front, with a huge stone that is the middle of the fountain. So far I haven’t seen any parrots there, but crows, sparrows, and starlings love to stop there for a drink.

Food is something the birds should be able to find for themselves, but you can put out some fruit and nuts if you like. Just remember, you are not obligated to continue feeding these birds forever. I can’t believe how many times I’ve heard people say that once you start, you can’t ever stop. Think about it. In the wild, even the urban wilds, flowers bloom at a certain time of the year. Fruit and nut trees bring out crops only for a few months of the year. Birds know there is a rhythm to these things, and they can adapt. The only caution is to keep things going in the spring and early summer, at least. If birds think there is a good supply of food and raise a family, they need that source to continue until the chicks hatch and fledge.

We’ve introduced many types of parrots to different places around the world, and for the most part they are accepted there with pleasure and appreciation. If only we could have saved our one native North America parrot, the Carolina Parakeet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80duIWG0co4

Have a good week, I’ll be back on Thursday.

Potpourri for the End of Summer

Fresh

Parrots eat carrots
cooked or raw.
Some will eat cabbage
plain or a slaw.

Whatever your birdie
consumes from the garden
Is better than seeds
and I do beg your pardon

But farm to table
is the best way to go
You can eat like a bird
and live longer, you know!

Heat Relief

A spray bottle of water can cool down overheated birds in a few minutes. While the African Grays accept the cooling mist with neither joy or aggression, the conures and Maynard try to attack the bottle. I made the mistake of leaving a spray bottle where Maynard could get it, and he punched a couple holes in it. The lovebirds, finches, budgies, and Wraith the ringneck all panic, and the canaries would rather have a bowl of clean water.

Cockatiels, on the other hand, love the spray. Love it! They bump each other, trying to get the best spot. The wings go up, the head does down, they rub the drops down into their breast feathers. Almost the cutest thing I;ve ever seen is a drippin-wet cocaktiel hanging head-down on a perch, enjoying the pretend rain.

I found a couple of cute videos of cockatiels to show you what I mean.

Spring? We Don’t Need Any Stinking Season!

My perps, as I call my proven pair of violet lovebirds, have purple passion. We have experienced 100 degree F. weather, and they are in the nest box. It must be 105 in there, at least. Mama bird does not come out at all, just the dad. It’s been over a year since I let them have a nest box, and they have an outdoor cage. I am expecting healthy babies this round. Giving her a week to finish laying her eggs, 2 weeks to incubate them, and we could have chicks by October 9th. And they will be 3 weeks old on October 30th, my last work day before retirement. This will be the first clutch that I will hand feed.

I know Maynard and Jake will love to share me with yet more feathered intruders. At least the chicks will be temporary.

Sex Manipulation

I’ve heard that the temperature during the egg’s incubation can influence the sex of the chick. I desperately need female budgies, so if heat made more girls hatch, I’d go for it right now. I can’t find anything concrete on the web, but did find this interesting article: http://www.motherearthnews.com/nature-and-environment/sorghum-seed-more-females-zmaz79jfzsch.aspx Wonder where the closest field of sorghum is?

Have a cooler week, I’ll be back on Sunday.

Backyard Parrot Watching

No, not aviaries, though I find entertainment in sitting and watching hookbills at any time. Little budgies are always active and having fun. But today it’s too hot out there for people.

I’ve mentioned before the great flocks of parrots in places where you normally don’t think they could live. In fact, Petersen’s Guide books haven’t caught up with the immigrants. http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/peterson/birds.cfm

Let’s see if we can identify some of these birds. We’ll start with the famous cherry head conures of Telegraph Hill. http://www.markbittner.net/ The man who made them famous has moved on, and explains a lot on the page I just linked to. There’s also a blog and other fun things to get involved with so you can keep up with the flock and the humans who love them. And here’s an article about the new colonies heading out for greener hillsides. http://sfist.com/2012/02/28/the_wild_parrots_of_telegraph_hill.php

Here in San Diego, the parrots hang out at the beach in the summer, like most tourists, and fly inland for the winter. There’s even a bird festival in their honor. Apparently these parrots were raised right, because they dropped in on the festival once.
http://www.sdnews.com/view/full_story/21895985/article-Noisy–but-beautifully-exotic-wild-parrots-call-San-Diego-home-?instance=most_popular1

California Parrot Project has lots of good information about our wild flocks, and a reminder to trim trees responsibly. Check with any agency to be sure it’s not nesting time for parrots and other birds. And bats can be seriously impacted by untimely trimming of palm trees.
http://californiaparrots.us/

Pasadena has a flock of wild parrots and a couple of urban legends about how they came about. http://www.weirdca.com/location.php?location=112

California Flocks has taken a census of which types of parrots are out and about in California. http://www.californiaflocks.org/flock-information/ The only old-world parrot in our wild is the ring-necked parakeet. Here’s documentation of the flock in Bakersfield. http://www.natureali.org/roserings.htm Animal Tourism lists the best known places to spot wild parrots. http://animaltourism.com/animals/parrot.php#CA

I grew up in El Cajon, but there were no wild parrots there at the time. I feel deprived. http://www.cbs8.com/story/16541274/wild-video-of-amazon-parrots-flying-free-in-el-cajon And I can’t find anything on the Escondido flock that I have seen and recently heard. I just might have to do some investigative reporting on that flock myself. In my free time. At least they get a mention in this report: http://www.sandiegodigitalphotos.com/San_Diego_photos/San_Diego_Wild_Parrot_Red_Crown.html

Next week we’ll look at other flocks of wild parrots in the US. Hopefully the Goddess of Autumn will have got her act together by then and cooled things down. See you on Thursday.

Maynard Speaks

Today is my mom’s birthday, so she asked me to write the blog post for her. I wanted to give her some of my favorite toys, but I chewed them up pretty good. I give her lots of pretty feathers every day.

Mom says I had an under-privileged chickhood. I don’t know what that means, but the first place I remember living was with a guy who called himself an amateur pharmacist. He had lots of money, and worked at night. Drove a big, noisy car, too. He kept me in a room all by myself, which wasn’t much fun. I tried to call to him to come play with me. But he just closed the door.

He fed me lots of pasta and bread, which I now demand to have. Mom doesn’t give me too much, but Dad does. Too bad I don’t like him much. Oh, this guy I lived with back then, he did a lot of business on the phone. I could only hear part of his conversations from the other room, so my phone voice is low and mumbly. And there’s lots of pauses in there.

Then a nice lady bought me because I kept making more and more noise. She was pretty cool, but not my mom. She didn’t really know how to act around parrots. She didn’t like some of the words I learned from my first owner, either. She had really nice feet, so that made me kind of happy.

Her sister took me in next, and she tried to love me, but she still wasn’t my mom. I bit her hard sometimes, and would scream at her. But she never put me in a room alone. And she gave me pasta and bread. I guess I should have been nicer to her.

One day she took me to A Bird Haven to get my mani-pedi, and she met a nice man named Frank. Frank was not afraid of me. His calm and firm manner made me trust him, and I went to sit with him without biting or screaming. The nice lady decided right then to give me to Frank. I was very happy with Frank and his roommate, they let me chase their feet, and they had other birds that I talked to. They were home a lot, too.

In the apartments where they lived they knew lots of people, many came to talk about birds and see their flock. One man really liked me, and I was okay with him. So Frank let the man take me home. He had a nice little boy and a dog, and a new nice lady. We had a good time until they had a new chick. I think they called it a baby. Whenever I talked too loud, the baby would cry. Everyone seemed cranky, even me. The family gave me back to Frank.

I didn’t know it, but Frank learned he had a sickness that he could not get better from. He liked me a lot, but he wanted to find a good, permanent home for me. He was good like that. One night he put me in a carrier and said we were going to the bird club meeting. We waited outside the apartment and mom pulled up to give us a ride. I didn’t know for sure she was my mom then, but I liked her right away. She let me sit on the wheel in the car, and talked to me. When it was time to go, I had to go back in the carrier.

At the meeting, Frank put my carrier on a long table, and mom sat at the other end. As soon as he opened my carrier door, I walked down to see her. I could tell she was the right one, she was nice to me, and she knew just how to scratch my head. Frank seemed surprised that I let her scratch me, but she was special enough to me. I picked her out right then.

I was surprised that Mom didn’t take me home that night. She came to the apartment and looked at my pretty cage. Then she went away. A whole week went by and I worried I didn’t tell her clearly enough that she was MY MOM! But then she came back, and with Dad too. They loaded my cage in the car, put me in the carrier, and we went home.

A year has passed since that day. I still love my mom, and she still loves me lots. I like to shower with her, and I like to sit on her lap and chew on her fingers. She gives me chips and yogurt, and lots of toys and things to chew. If she is home during the day and Dad isn’t home, she lets me run around on the floor. I like Dad when he gives me cheese and bread, but I don’t want him to be too close to Mom. I think he knows now that she’s a one-bird lady. Now I just have to convince her to get rid of the other birds, and we’ll be fine.

That’s my story, and Mom just learned it at a memorial for Frank. The second lady I lived with showed up, and she and Mom talked for a long time about me. I guess Mom misses Frank a lot.

Happy Birthday, Mom! Lots of birdy lovings. And she says she’ll be back on Sunday.

Hey, You!

It’s a common failing. My mom only had three kids, yet we often were called by names of our siblings. I would call my daughter by my cat’s name. I ended up calling my husband Honey so that I wouldn’t accidentally call him anything else. I call my workers by each others’ names, and they give me this look that says, “You waited too long to retire.”

So I often call Maynard by Mr. Io’s name, or Jake’s name. Bobo almost never gets a wrong name, so I think I am at least confident about males and females. We have around 70 birds here, and they almost all have names. Some came with the names, some were named here, and some were moved around so much we lost track of the old name and gave them a new one.

We have a cockatiel in an outside aviary that carries the original name of Mom. Sometimes when Mike is talking to her and says, “Thanks, Mom,” I stop and wonder if he’s talking to me. When the kids were little, we did call each other mom and dad when talking to them. As a stepmom, that helped so much in getting the kids to think of me as mom. And I thought of them as Whosits and Hey You.

When I was more into breeding zebra finches, I knew the names of the birds by the place of their cages. That was okay until we began moving things around. “I’ll update the notes later” never happened.

I did put tags on all the cages with the names of the birds, their age, etc., at one time. The love birds and cockatiels really liked the new chew toy.

Most often these days, I confuse Jake and Maynard, because they are the two birds that have the most one on one time with me. Which reminds me, we were given a beautiful silver cockatiel hen named Guapisima. Her original owner, let’s call her Dora, lost her house and had to move into an apartment. She was okay to have her dog, but the bird would cost extra. Dora thought she could get away with the bird, but found out one of her neighbors is a crabby witch with a capital B, and would turn her in if the bird made any noise. The bird was in a smaller cage in a new house, and not given much out time. So she did make a bit more noise than she used to.

Dora gave us the bird and the larger cage, and we paired her up (the cockatiel, not Dora) with our beautiful and sweet lutino cockatiel male, Creamsicle. They weren’t in love at first sight, but they were interested in each other.

A couple weeks later, Dora decided she missed Guapisima too much, and asked to take her back. We always make it clear to those who rehome birds to us that they can have their birds back at almost any time. We offered to give her Creamy too. Creamy is one of the rare parrots. He was hand fed, and loved people so much that even when in the community cage with other cockatiels, he wanted out with people all the time. The chances I had to take him out are precious to me, but I always felt bad about not having him out more.

So Guapisima and Creamy went to Dora’s, and will probably live happily ever after. Dora’s teenage daughter loves Creamy and has him out all the time. That’s the outcome I so wanted. Dora did call recently because she doesn’t think Guapisima is happy. I advised her that the bird could be a little jealous, having to share her humans now. Just give her more attention. Always go to her first with out time or treats or anything. After a while, she will adjust.

Back to Jake and Maynard. Or do I mean Maynard and Jake? Well, in a perfect world these two parrots would love each other because I love them both, and would be good friends. And then it wouldn’t matter what I called them. I’ll let you know when that perfection happens. See you Thursday.

Snakes: A Guide For the In-doors Parrot

The birds in the front room of my home frequently become excited and unhappy when they spy something that their species memory tells them might be a snake. We are constantly telling them these things are not snakes, but perhaps it will be easier to make a list and to read it to them from time to time.

Things that are not snakes:

Brooms.

Mops.

Dusters.

Vacuum hoses.

Naked human males

Curtain rods.

Garden hoses. (less common in the house since we got rid of the water bed.)

Electrical cords.

Extension cords.

Holiday lights.

Bolster Pillows.

Bird toys with ropes involved.

New perches.

Rubber toys that look like snakes. (Obviously, this one is a tough call.)

Things that are snakes:

Snakes. Rather skinny reptiles with no arms or legs, flicking tongues, scales, and a way of moving that is usually flat but can be slightly vertical for a while.

Of course, we are pretty sure that birds evolved from reptiles, but snakes were just not in that family tree.

So that’s why parrots fear snakes, but some birds actually eat snakes. And that’s awesome too.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m full. See you on Sunday.