Sometimes you run across an Instagram account which takes your breath away. That’s the experience I had on first discovering @rosie_and_george_the_budgie (IG). If you live near Hyde Park, you may have already met Rosie, George and Rosie’s daughter on their daily walk. If you’re ever in Hyde Park and spot them, be sure to greet them and introduce yourself!
Rosie recently celebrated her ninetieth birthday. As Rosie’s daughter got George for Rosie on her 85th birthday, it was also George’s Fifth Gotcha Day!
Scoliosis and Alzheimer’s pose daily challenges for Rosie. It is George, chirping tunes, chattering banter, an active participant in the family, who hastens Rosie to waken in the morning and overcome her daunting hurdles. George uplifts the entire household with good cheer and hope, boundless gifts for living. The affection between Rosie and George warms the heart and gentles spirits. Even as Rosie naps, George is inclined to perch attentively beside her.
Earlier, when Rosie and daughter took their daily constitutional in nearby Hyde Park without George, Rosie would worry for George. Now, Georgie joins them in his travel cage. The family takes in the fresh air and park beauty together. Even on drizzly days the three make their circuit, Rosie sporting a bright pink poncho, George in his travel cage on her lap, and Rosie’s daughter, scrambling to hold the umbrella over the two while pushing Rosie’s wheelchair, a veritable Gene Kelley — dancing, and singing, in the rain.
A now third generation of budgie-keeping family, Rosie’s daughter shares that “People underestimate budgies.” George remains free at home, save at night. George has a large vocabulary and entire song lyrics memorized.
Rosie and her daughter even travel with George in tow. George’s accoutrements and bags outnumber even Rosie’s. Driving, George sits in his travel cage, between the front seats, both for camaraderie and the view. At the first hotel the family stayed in, the staff looked askance and mentioned fumigating the room afterward. At visit’s end, they apologized of course, as there was no reason to fumigate.
This week Coco and Blue (@featherless_budgie_coco (IG)) share the limelight with Rose and Georgie. Both born in 2016, full feathered — Coco a brilliant yellow, Blue as blue as now– they moved in with their current owner when stress from the original owners’ cats likely triggered manifestations of psittacine beak and feather disease (pbfd) in Coco. Her owner explains: “This is a viral disease that affects her feathers, beak and claws. She’ll never get back her feathers.”
Pbfd virus, with neither effective treatment nor a vaccine available currently, can affect internal organs and increases the chances for opportunistic infections to occur. Despite the odds, Coco’s ready to celebrate a milestone 2.5th birthday with style and panache. Never mind that she can’t fly; she climbs like a mountaineer — and why walk, sister, when you were born to strut?!
And when it’s time to refuel for another day and night of diva-tude, Blue’s no fool. He knows to step back from the feeding dish and give Coco plenty of elbow room. Ever at her side otherwise, he’s true Blue to his ward and consort.
Coco’s no quitter. “She still thinks she can fly. When I have her on my finger and she sees Blue flying around, she just spreads her little chicken wings and she goes for it. Of course she falls… but she never gives up. When I lift up my hand with her on my finger, and run through the living room, she loves it! It’s like flying for her.”
Coco recently enjoyed an outing in this cheery garden bursting with summertime flowers. Meanwhile, her British cousins have been chatting it up merrily in London’s gracious parks.
London’s parks excel in hosting birds, not just Koko (@koko_in_London (IG)) and George, but also Koko’s wild cousin Indian ringnecks. Anika Shatara (FB) / (@laala_the_banana (IG)) regularly enjoys the company of semi-tame ringnecks in Kensington Gardens. Kensington Gardens is said to have the tamest flock in the UK. Here they flock affectionately around sweet Anika. According to tradition, the flocks descend from birds initially gifted by India to the British Empire. All the birds are green, as such is the wild species. Golden ringnecks like Laala and blue ringnecks like her friend Cameron, currently visiting Laala, are genetic developments in captive-bred birds.
Koko (@koko_in_london) has taken the lead in London for actualizing online friendships IRL. Down Under, a new style of bird socialization is taking off under the leadership of Adrienne Bennett (FB), the bird meet-up. Adrienne rents a large room each month, outfits it with plastic floor coverings, any necessary window protections, perches and chop. Publicized only online in Facebook groups, the monthly Melbourne meet-up has taken off. Bird owners must present documentation of recent vet exams and disease testing.
On a personal note I and @budgiebrigade are interested in starting a mid-Atlantic meet up on the US East Coast. Preliminary discussions with avian experts suggest using a species-specific list of disease testing as an entry requirement. Such lists would vary by location as species-prevalent diseases geographically vary. For instance, in the US budgies may carry chlamydia so a swab test, rather than blood test, would be most important prior to the meet-up.
Of course, with bird meet-ups, indoor flight training is very helpful. As Don Scott, founder of Chloe Sanctuary (see the Chloe Sanctuary feature on our No Room at the Inn page), points out, captive-bred birds are “autistic” flyers with diminished instinctual reflexes and so need both training and supervision. Cairo’s mom (@lifewithcairo (IG)) has busied herself with this in hand-raising this three-month yellow-sided conure.
With a family history with birds, Cairo’s mom planned on getting a grey of about eleven or twelve weeks yet, when her trusted breeder showed her one- month Cairo, she fell in love with the baby conure. She met Cairo’s parents and learned their blood lines were healthy, with no in-breeding. Never having hand-fed a bird, Cairo’s breeder carefully trained her. This is key: improper technique can result in crop infection and death, though this poses less risk with smaller-crop birds like cockatiels.
Now three months, Cairo has had DNA testing and is a confirmed boy. Cairo is free-flighted throughout his parront’s two-story home. He can only safely do so through training. Cairo’s mom is part of a new generation of bird owners who do not compromise on maximizing safe freedom for their fids. Her favorite resource is @wingsNpaws (IG) / YouTube. Consistent with Cairo’s mom philosophy, training programs based on operant conditioning aim to teach good decision-making rather than dictate behaviour.
Cairo shares the home with asociable Budgie Becky, a timid parakeet who prefers to stay in her cage; his mom still contemplates adding a grey to the family.
While excellent training videos may be found online, there’s nothing quite so helpful and enjoyable as real-life training. Last week our regional parrot rescue, Phoenix Landing, offered a two-hour introductory clicker training course in the upstairs of our exotic vet’s office. The opportunity to ask questions and to meet other parronts locally were invaluable.
Zoos developed clicker training to better manage captive wildlife, which means, of course, it is effective even with birds not hand-raised. Effective methods of clicker-training are founded on scientific principles of operant conditioning. Methods and teaching improve over time: when I first tried clicker-training about fifteen years ago, I largely failed: no one carefully broke down the initial steps of training myself accurately to mark desired behavior with a synchronous click, and no one mentioned needing to train the animal to expect a treat contemporaneous with a click BEFORE introducing desired behaviors. Melanie Phung, the wonderfully thoughtful instructor, did cover these techniques. Additionally, Melanie suggested target stick training as a first “trick”. As you can see in the following video from parrotwizard.com, you can then use the target stick as a tool in training further behaviors.
Importantly, regular training deepens the trust between bird and parront. As Melanie points out, training sessions resemble deposits in a banking account. An emergency, when a bird may get handled more roughly than usual, acts like a withdrawal: it does not empty the account, but you will want to replenish it.
Fids need engagement and challenge for good health. Most of us choose toys, which most of the fids destroy joyously. The owner of Kataki Sales (FB) (@hootnhollerbirdtoys (IG)) has had birds since childhood and now has blue and gold macaw Loopey, rainbow parakeets Skittles and Sprinkles, and four honeycreepers. The size diversity across the flock enables testing of toys for different shapes and habits. Hoot N Holler fashions its toys according to the motto, “Enjoy and Destroy.”
While owners may imagine they want indestructible toys, birds crave shredding and destroying, mimicry of instincts for foraging and nesting. Shredding toys keep beaks trim and keeps boredom and behavior like plucking at bay. Most of Hoot N Holler’s toys are “designed so people can easily hide nuts or seeds” in them, effectively teaching birds to play on their own.
Kataki Sales owner home schools her two children and manufactures and stores her products on site in a separate, bird-free building. Her beloved father passed last Thanksgiving, leaving her his tools. She wanted to commemorate him, which she does in the store’s logo and very existence. Often donating toys to rescues for auctions, she also eagerly hears suggestions, new ideas and customer feedback. “There’s no better feeling than when you have a customer email you a picture of their bird enjoying your toy.”
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