Ten Games to Play with Your Birds

Note:  I wrote this some years ago for my bird club newsletter.  I retired today, and shortly will be heading off to a gathering of sorts.  So I have pulled this out of the files.  Hope you enjoy it.  I’ll be back on Sunday.

  1. Peek-a-Boo, using a towel or pillow case

  2. Where’s the peanut? (put it in your pocket or under a plastic cup)

  3. Impressions, like eagle or vulture

  4. Survivor. Put treats in a paper cup, crumple it closed, see if your bird can get to the food in a set amount of time. Use a timer. As he or she gets better at the game, set the timer for less time.

  5. Hide and Seek, you hide, your bird comes to find you. Don’t make it too hard, or last too long. Frustration is not the goal.

  6. Catch! Using light plastic or cloth balls, teach your bird to pick it up and throw it to you. Then throw it back!

  7. Twist and Shout! Put on your favorite dance music, and discover if you have another Snowball hiding in your bird!

  8. Gonna Getcha! Also known as tickle bird. Be sure your bird knows you are playing, and respect any signs that this game is not a favorite.

  9. Pick-up Game. Give your bird a toy, and wait for the inevitable drop. Pick it up and give it back with some kind of signal noise or word, like Wonderful! Repeat as long as possible.

  10. Bedtime for Birdies. Find a children’s book with short, simple rhymes, and read a few pages to quiet down your bird’s energy and set the mood for the good night kisses and quiet time.

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Bird-lovers on Facebook

Recently I discovered a few groups on Facebook for parrots and their owners. I joined some, and have really enjoyed the posts that come along in my daily feed. Lots of sad things, too, when a beloved companion passes away, but that’s where having the group works really well. Sympathy flows from other bird fanciers who can only too easily imagine themselves in that sorrowful state.

I’ve been a fan of the Royal Parrot Conservancy, where the beautiful blue throat macaw is being bred and reintroduced into the wild, along with other critically endangered species. But lately there has been less focus on the birds. https://www.facebook.com/RoyalParrotConservatory?ref=br_tf

A page for Amazon parrots is starting up, so of course I had to post a photo of Maynard and tell his story. I know they will love him. https://www.facebook.com/AmazonParrots?ref=profile

The African Grey Parrot Lovers group is a private group that requires a moderator to approve you. That helps keep the group on topic and friendly. https://www.facebook.com/groups/AfricanGreyParrotLovers/ I haven’t shared Bobo and Io’s stories there yet, but soon I will.

We come now to the conures portion of our show. I raced to San Marcos this morning to take in a pair of darling sweeties, Sonny is a jenday conure, and Mookie is a sun conure. My friend who lost his life mate in August has made the conscious choice to be homeless, and asked me to take in his birds for a while, until he gets things back together. The conures settled into the bird room without too much fuss, and it’s so cool to hear the jenday call, so different from the other conures in the house.

Conure Owners Unite is a great community where folks willingly share their joys, sorrows, and photos. Recently we were unexpectedly thrilled to hear that an injured green cheek, not expected to live after head trama in an accident, recovered almost completely. The vet is amazed, and we all cheered. https://www.facebook.com/groups/Conureownersunite/

If you are like me and have a multitude of parrots and birds you love, then you want an all-purpose group like For the Love of Parrots. https://www.facebook.com/groups/593106950808104/ This group is very active, and I love the photos, stories, and videos that pop up from the members. And of course we share information. Someone noticed that whenever she vacuums, her birds start bathing. To them, the vacuum sounds like a thunderstorm! Cool.

There are, as you might expect, lots of groups for cockatiels on Facebook. There’s a closed group called The Amazing World of Cockatiels, and I just sent in a request to join them. https://www.facebook.com/groups/lindab10/ There’s also The Cockatiel Foundation, a non-profit organization that you can like and be a part of. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cockatiel-Foundation-Inc/131246780223221 Both sound interesting to me.

I’ll continue this subject when I join a few more groups, so I can tell you if they are interesting or not. Have a good week and I will be back on Thursday.

The Secret Lives of Lost Parrots

I can get started thinking up stories with very little input. So when an African Grey parrot goes missing for 4 years, and returns speaking Spanish, yeah, I know there’s a story there. I feel like I’m onto something, like the author who built a whole story around Agatha Christie’s month missing, or Jane Austen’s untold adventures. http://abcnews.go.com/Weird/wireStory/parrot-missing-years-returns-speaking-spanish-26161479

Unlike the hearsay reports in the news papers, I have my own experience of a parrot, a tiny one, who lived for days in the house without being spotted. Boo was a Fisher’s Lovebird, and when they got out time, all the other lovies would go back to their own cages when the lights were dimmed. Not Boo. She wanted to find a nesting place. We spent at least an hour looking for her the first night when our head count came up short. She didn’t show up until a couple days later. I pulled something out from under something, and she flew out. When we captured her and got her back in her cage, she went right to the water, and then ate everything in the dishes. Apparently being free wasn’t as much fun as she thought it would be.

Or maybe she went through a secret portal to another dimension where lovebirds are the top sentient species. And all that responsibility just got to her. Or maybe she just missed having her head preened by her companion. The world will never know, but I might suspect.

This story of poached African Grays sounds so familiar, but the beauty of it is that the birds were intercepted on their way to the black market, and an African nation stepped up to take them in for rehab and eventual release. Way to go, Uganda! http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/03/19/african-grey-parrot These birds didn’t get a secret life but they did get something better. They got to go home.

I don’t have enough details on this story to tell if or how many of these birds were reunited with their owners after Hurricane Katrina. Maybe some of them were on their way to a great adventure when they were discovered and brought to Donna Powell’s home. Maybe their lives before the hurricane were so awful that being rescued was their great adventure. http://www.pawnation.com/2012/08/29/10-heartwarming-hurricane-katrina-pet-stories/6

Apparently not just parrots go on grand adventures. This tropical bird defected from Korea and ended up in Hawaii. http://www.pawnation.com/2012/08/20/12-amazing-animal-stowaway-stories/6 And this unidentified bird just wanted to be a California girl! http://www.pawnation.com/2012/08/20/12-amazing-animal-stowaway-stories/10

Well, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more on this subject. Meanwhile, here’s an excellent short story that could actually be true. http://webdelsol.com/butler/rob-5.htm I’ll be back on Sunday.

Lifestyles of the Fabulously Feathered

A while ago I watched a video about a woman who redid her entire house to cater to her parrots. The house was beautiful, with closets designed to be safe hiding places, lots of high roosts, and water and food in intelligent places. I am lacking in Google-fu and can’t exactly find that video. So far. But if I had the money, I certainly would make my home into a paradise for my flock.

I don’t have birds as big as these macaws, but the branches up on the cabinets are a great idea.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LebMUUeKHWE

Here’s a famous macaw named Tango, star of a movie called The Real Macaw.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gctdja-zwo

I really like the Parrot Wizard, his manner with his birds is gentle yet firm. In some of his videos, he shows the new bird rooms he created in his home for his birds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYeIqM6w2kE

San Luis Obispo residents know the best parrot owner in town is this guy. http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2014/06/02/3092620_parrots-downtown-slo-vern-ludwick.html?rh=1

This video is not all that funny, but it’s cute and I think living on a sail boat with a parrot is a natural match. Arrg! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpgVL0hisCk

Speaking of Pirates, that wonderful series of Disney movies featured a macaw which in fact is played by two different birds. They put in 10-hour days, but they get to be with Johnny Depp. It’s a tough life. http://www.birdchannel.com/bird-news/bird-entertainment/animal-trainer-pirates-caribbean.aspx

Parrots have been with us humans for a very long time. In fact, they were here first. Alexander the Great, Marco Polo, as well as many presidents of the US have enjoyed parrots. http://www.birdchannel.com/bird-news/bird-entertainment/bird-history.aspx

By the way, if you have your heart set on moving to Hollywood and training exotic animals for films, you better hurry. http://seattletimes.com/html/entertainment/2022900854_movieanimalwranglersxml.html

Another option is to be a parrot or animal psychologist and cater to the wealthy Hollywood Stars. Here’s a list from Planned Parrothood of famous people who had parrots. http://www.plannedparrothood.com/famousowners.html Micky Rourke finagled the inclusion of a cockatoo in Iron Man 2 because of his affection for his own parrot.

As you would expect, some of the best kept birds have to work for a living, but there’s a lot of job security involved. http://www.birdchannel.com/bird-news/bird-entertainment/cookies-birthday.aspx

This blogger searched Pinterest to find pictures of many of the folks in the list of famous owners. http://classicsbythesea.blogspot.com/2013/08/famous-people-with-parrots.html

I’ll work on my skills in locating parrots of the first feather, but leave you with this very important public service announcement: Don’t go driving with your bird after you had a few. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1256642/Owner-Pirates-Of-The-Caribbean-parrot-jailed.html

I’ll be back on Thursday.

The Parrot and The Pussycat

Every home where a parrot or several parrots reside should have a cat. Yes, you read that right. Cats keep mice populations low, and parrots sound so adorable when they meow. Who could pass that up?

Can cats and parrots live together in harmony? Yes, especially if the parrot is aggressive and the cat is young. My first cockatiel didn’t like my kitten poking his nose into his cage, so he bit the cat on the nose. No real damage done, didn’t even break the skin. From that moment on, the kitten would not even look at the bird. The cockatiel ceased to exist to the cat.

Beyond a small bird and a young cat, coexistence can happen as long as the humans stay vigilant and never leave the two alone, even if the bird is in a cage. Prey instincts are strong, so be smart.

http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/can-cats-and-birds-live-safely-together

Budgies are perfect to start with this living arrangement. They are aggressive, and smart. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DztPBkayQ8Y

Quaker parrots are also spunky and smart. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zz3w8gsRbGQ

Lovebirds and well fed cats are another fair combination. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3acAkJ_kZw (Yes, I watched the ending several times, but the lovie flies away and is not hurt)

A larger parrot and a cat can get along fine, especially, as the notes say, they grew up together. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PJMsKD5LIE

Cockatoos are about cat size, some of the bigger ones, and not only need a lot of love, they have a lot of love to give. I would love for someone to add a Pepe le Pew voice over to this one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXjn54dIhTs

A budgie for an alarm clock? Makes sense to me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sumn6flhNtg

If all else fails, distract the cats with toys. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R5iaONjXL8

Where does it say only cats can play with boxes? Not here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WJImqNWhLE

The Odd Couple cat and bird style. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2ov2lKc3F4

This cockatoo knows how to train a kitten. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KE99sNaDbBk

And these cockatoos knows how to love a kitten. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIlkZth715c

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Nat_p5-QbI

Yes, it’s safer with a big bird that can take care of itself. But I know lots of people who let their cockatiels hang out with their cats. I do not know this person. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbHhw9pFa0Q That bird is in more danger of being squished than eaten.

And now, for something completely different. A green cheek nesting on a cat’s tummy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfoHNnh-dG0

Be careful, be positive, and be watchful. Enjoy this video and I’ll be back on Sunday.

Should Maynard Have His Own Facebook Page?

This is rapidly turning into Maynard’s blog. If you have never shared your life with one charismatic bird, you won’t understand. He’s a little being in a bird suit. He talks, he moves around, he expresses like and dislike. And he wouldn’t be the first parrot to have a page on the virtual community known as Facebook.

There’s Midori Konyur: https://www.facebook.com/midori.conure Although there doesn’t seem to be a Midori any longer. The birds featured are beautiful.

An African Gray named Makki Jojo can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/makki.soomro.3?fref=tl_fr_box

Chloe Bird is a cockatoo, and the founder of Chloe’s Sanctuary run by Don Scott. https://www.facebook.com/ChloeTBird?fref=ts

Max Eclectus hasn’t posted much, but only joined FB on September 30th. https://www.facebook.com/max.eclectus?ref=profile

Mickey Parrot is an African Gray, with mostly photos up. https://www.facebook.com/mickey.parrot?ref=profile

And while not a bird, Lolli Pop has a page with videos and lots of fun things. She’s a Valais Blacknose Sheep living in the UK who needed bottle feeding as a baby, and has bonded with the folks who run the farm. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lolly-Pop/727828817253643

The next question is, what would I post on Maynard’s page? Like I don’t already have enough to do. I could post photos of my feet when he regurgitates on me. I could post the old video we have of his blow dryer dance. And there’s always weird things he says with excellent timing, and weird things Mike says Maynard says.

I could post photos of all the shirts without buttons and with holes, courtesy of Maynard. I could put up the sandals he chewed, only the left one. I could brag about his learning to climb up the dining room chairs, the laundry basket, and the tubs under my desk, while absolutely refusing to use the ladder next to his T-perch.

Maybe I could have a contest to guess how many of his feathers I have saved. I could talk about his love of Greek yogurt, so hard to find in the Amazon Rainforest. He also loves almonds, peanuts, sourdough bread if it’s toasted and buttered, and pizza crusts.

I’d love to get a short video of him wrestling with me, laying on his back and kicking. He’ll give me a soft beaking on my finger, then do the same on his own leg. He will chase my hand under towels or blankets, but I have to be very careful to avoid a good chomp. He hasn’t exactly connected my person to whatever is moving the cloth.

Well, maybe some day this could happen. But right now I will be happy turning the blog over to him now and then. His Christmas Gift List should be a hoot. I’ll be back on Thursday.

Which Age Parrot is Best?

If you are thinking you would like to add a parrot to your family, and you have read all the literature on why NOT to get a parrot, plus you know exactly what kind of parrot you want, there’s still one decision to make. Do you get a young fledgling or an older bird?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96g6Em5bO9I

Don’t you just love the huge dark eyes and wobbly movements? Many people think unfledged baby birds are ugly, but I think they are adorable. But a chick is a blank slate. It could grow up to be a plucker or a screamer. Even a picky eater. What about an older bird whose behavior and personality are known? It might require some work to go from this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZF_1HtUggk

To this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOWnWz5bY4I

And let me say that I really want a copy of the Parrot Wizard’s book. He knows his stuff. That transformation is amazing. So here are some Pros and Cons on Chicks vs. Older Parrots.

C: A young bird can be trained exactly how you want, from words to tricks.

OP: You won’t be to blame for the bad words your older parrot knows.

C: If you are young, and you keep the bird healthy, you will be together for a lifetime.

OP: If you qualify for the Senior Discount at Hometown Buffet, you can expect he won’t outlive you vy very many years.

C: You can expose your young parrot to lots of foods, a variety of healthy choices.

OP: You can have the satisfaction of teaching your older parrot to enjoy new things and have a healthier life.

C: If, for any reason, you had to rehome the bird, he’ll be easy to place because you taught him to be quiet and do tricks and say good words and eat good food.

OP: If you had to rehome your older bird, it would be just another in a long string of moves, new people to teach his ways, and disappointment for him.

Let’s talk a bit about parrot rescues. There are too few, they are underfunded, and there’s not much chance the bird will get the one on one attention they crave. Not all are that way. Here’s a great video on the inside workings of a rescue:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAqJn06EQCo

And here’s a normal home focused on parrots and other rescued birds:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oC6P0amIBvk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9MIx5y9Lm8

While young parrots are wonderful, and I am not at all in favor of stopping breeders (cause I are one!) I do agree that there has to be more oversight to prevent situations like this:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-bird-rescue-20110814,0,2417976.story

Where does it stop being a hobby or a new member of the family, and start being abusive? If you can say yes, I cleaned my pets’ cage in the last month. Yes, I gave my pet fresh water today. Yes, I gave my pet fresh seed and food today. You are still okay. If not, ask a friend to see if you should be downsizing or getting help to clean, feed, and water your birds.

And it’s interesting how many people start with cockatiels. I did myself. Could cockatiels be the Gateway Bird? I’ll be back on Sunday.

Maynard’s Best Housekeeping Tips

As a human who keeps many types of birds, I have my own standards of good housekeeping. Like, if the seeds have been on the floor for less than a month, the floor is still considered clean. If the poo hits the wall behind the cage, and I can’t remove it without hiring movers, it’s clean. If the food dish only had pellets in it, and nobody pooed in the pellets, the bowl is clean and can be refilled.

Yes, that might be a little lax for some of you, and once I am free of my day job, I hope to ramp up my cleaning routines. With that in mind, I asked Maynard, my 23 year-old Double Yellow Headed Amazon Parrot to list some of his tips for improving the conditions around here.

1. Always keep lots of plastic, wood, and cardboard around for chewing. I need to be kept busy, being a very smart, thinking being. If I get bored, I could start screaming or plucking. Note: Start screaming must be a euphemism. Mom.

2. Don’t vacuum too often. When I get floor time, I like to wander around and see what treats can be found. Those African parrots throw a lot of good stuff out of their cages. Plus I may have been interrupted while eating a peanut, so give me a chance to go back to it.

3. Oops! Well, bird droppings aren’t too messy. Unless you step in it. Just watch where you are going to see where I went. You aren’t going to keep this carpet forever, are you?

4. I do not want ants in my food. You may spray that Avian Insect Liquidator stuff all over my cage, just don’t get it in my food and don’t get ants in my food.

http://www.allbirdproducts.com/newproductpages/avian_insect_liquidator.html

5. My feathers never lose their charm. Keep them all! What if I need them again? And I like to chew on something once in a while. Dad thinks you could make a whole new parrot out of the feathers. I don’t like that idea.

6. Those plastic things hanging on the back of the cage block my air flow. I don’t like them. If you just painted the walls a mottled green-yellow-gray, you wouldn’t even notice what I put there.

7. Fresh food every day, please. And only for an hour or so. Take it away until I call for more. Keep the bowls clean, keep my water clean unless I am soaking papaya cubes in it. And see the earlier tip about ants.

8. I like sitting on the back of your comfy chair. If you fall asleep in the chair, I want to sit on you and chew holes in your clothes. I like to remove buttons, too. Stay awake or deal with the consequences.

9. I do not like spiders. Why do you let them stay with all that webbing hanging down? They eat moths and ants? Well, okay. But do we really need so many? You’re supposed to be the crazy bird lady, not the crazy spider lady.

10. If I can climb on it, I will. And I will chew it and I will poop on it. I am learning how to open my cage so I can get out while you are gone. You know, if you wanted a clean house, you should have said no to that first cockatiel years and years ago.

Maynard’s tips aren’t all that helpful, but he’s right about one thing. Birds are more fun than cleaning. I’ll be back on Thursday.

Yet More Further Different Randomness

Hope the earlier batch of videos and articles were entertaining. I have a few more to share. This one is just another adorable baby parrot but his huge beak makes him really precious.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uINaAl0fnPg

This is the first part of a two-part video showing a wonderful aviary for African Greys. Not high quality filming, but still you get the idea. And you should be able to find part two on the same page.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQFLV4QSefY

And a beautiful finch aviary.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amktKfqcolg

Here are two different videos on how to build an aviary. This one is indoors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn_oSUECO-Q

This one is outside, and has a love seat so you can enjoy the birds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Waf2e3rAGHg

Here are several random aviaries with good drainage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfFCiA5R4DU

And a specific aviary for budgies. It’s so pretty!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8FU8hANdps

This isn’t the right time of year to be building aviaries in Southern California, because you don’t have enough warm weather left to let the birds acclimate to the out of doors. If you were building a larger home for the birds, that wouldn’t be so bad. June and July are the best time here to build an aviary or outdoor flight cage, because you can count on July, August, September and at least half of October to be warm and the right conditions for moving birds to the great outdoors.

And that’s our post for today. I’ll be back on Sunday.

Randomness

Dear bird lovers and parronts,

I apologize for the delay, but the post for this morning will be up later today. Please enjoy this video in the meantime.

And this one.

http://artery.wbur.org/2014/01/17/zebra-finches-electric-guitars

And a related article.

http://io9.com/5971280/the-one-type-of-music-that-all-parrots-everywhere-despise

Oh, isn’t this cute?

This one has an important message.

Gosh, I love this nest box!

My budgies love their greens.

Warning: Don’t try this at home.

Well, then, see you later today!