Ruby Doo Vance, E.P., Took on the Wild West and Won!
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It’s been busy– what Back-to-School season isn’t?! We apologize for the delay in publishing! We express gratitude to our four feature accounts for their support and enthusiasm despite the delay: female Eclectus Ruby of @Rubydoovance (IG), flock mistress Budgie Brigade of @Budgiebrigade (IG), devoted mum of a blue Indianringneck Ludo and Goffin cockatoo Poppy (@Ludo_and_poppy (IG)), and photographer Danielle Griffith of DownUnder (@Sydneycockatooos (IG))! We so enjoyed the opportunity to interview each of you and get to know you better. Thank you very much! To all our readers in the Northern Hemisphere, we hope your autumn brings you bright colours and much joy; to those in the Southern Hemisphere, we wish we were down there with you for a second summer!
One day in fall 2015, Parront-to-be Vance espied Ruby Doo Vance, E.P. (@Rubydoovance (IG); “Ruby”) through the window of a downtown St. Louis, Missouri pet store. Ruby’s sharp feathers poked through her skin at every angle. A wee chick, much of her scaly skin still lay bare. Swept up in a rapture of excitement, Parront Vance raced into the shop, paid the bride price, and returned every day for six weeks thereafter to visit the scrappy scarlet princess — notwithstanding the commute from his suburban home — till Ruby was weaned. Parront Vance thus “co-parented” the blossoming young Ruby.
An Eclectus female from the Solomon Islands (eclectus roratus solomonensis), Ruby Doo is slighter than her cousins from the Moluccas, New Guinea, Australia, and Sumba. Mature by one year, orange-black beak morphing to glossy ebony, Ruby — with a life expectancy of around 40 years — charmed early on with her lilting “hello,” “peekaboo,” “I don’t know,” and “Cheerio.” Ruby’s only loud noise was her “tea kettle whistle.” (Can she do cappuccino too?!)
The gracious Vance home, sporting high ceilings and large open areas, allows Ruby to fly free indoors. Ruby hangs out in her special cubby hole or on her cat-tower and suns in the breakfast room in her large cage. Ruby likes dog toys and playing with dogs — even hiding under the sofa to launch a surprise game of tag. An accomplished Instagram model, Ruby coyly plays to the camera, posing and playing, fascinated with her own image — even kissing it — in videos.
Recently, Ruby toured the Western US, strutting out in harness at national parks and monuments, befriending strangers with the quiet confidence of a true Birb ambassador.
Ruby first visited Colorado’s Garden of the Gods, with its massive red boulders and stunning vistas, bested Pike’s Peak (14,115 ft elevation above seawater), and coolly surveyed precipitous plunges from the “Million Dollar highway,” which in 50 miles traverses three mountain passes — without interference from guardrails or shoulders!
Onward Ho! Ruby visited her Utah grandparronts, riding granny’s shoulder to Devil’s Garden with its Jurassic Period otherworldly sandstone formations. Quizzically comparing her claw prints with her dinosaur ancestors’, Ruby communed with Nature at the Twenty Mile Wash Dinosaur Track formation there.
We won’t report all Ruby’s activities in Las Vegas. “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
Ruby graced Bryce Canyon National Park, natural showcase of the world’s largest collection of hoodoos — eroded rock pillars. Passing over the Depression-Era Hoover Dam, Ruby flew on through Grand Canyon National Park and Four Corners Monument, where Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado neatly meet. Can you believe Ruby thought it windy there– There are no trees in the Great American Desert to halt wind or weather!!!! Legend enshrines how the wind, like the mythical Sirens, drove pioneers insane on the long, lonely unprotected trek.
To round off Four Corners, Ruby took in the arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the oldest state capital in the US, established in 1610! Then Ruby surveyed Santa Fe National Forest and Taos Pueblo, finishing off her tour of the West with Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
While Ruby Did Indeed tour the Wild West, Budgie Brigade (@budgiebrigade (IG)) steadfastly toured her neighborhood, seeking the best locations to free-flight train her two young cockatiels, Linnaeus and Ki-ok.
Nearly a year ago Budgie Brigade took Chris Biro’s free flight course, Liberty Wings, a Skype-based avian training and flight course, and continues to use Liberty Wings associated FaceBook group for collaboration, trouble-shooting, and support. As Budgie Brigade lives in New Jersey, where winter can be quite fierce, she practiced her training skills with indoor flight training for both budgies and cockatiels throughout the winter and in April started outdoors.
As demonstrated below the indoor training uses a perch and practices flying to outstretched arm, and return.
Budgie Brigade went outdoors with the birds in April. The Liberty Wings flight course provides a terrain classification system to assist in selecting safe flight training areas. Budgie Brigade did her initial perch-to-hand practice in her yard, after having accustomed the birds to the outdoors by placing their cage outside for short periods, attended. Budgie Brigade advanced, as we detailed in an earlier article, to flight in an outdoor aviary, erected from PVC tubing and bird netting such as one would use to protect gardens from hungry birds. Finally, aided with aerial photos, Budgie Brigade selected nearby locales. (With larger birds, the parront generally would free-flight train in a broad, open area. However, after considerable discussion, Budgie Brigade determined that a tree-enclosed area would provide her young cockatiels maximum safety from predatory birds and other hazards while also giving Linnaeus, Ki-ok and Spectre a sense of security. It has proved a great setting!)
Advance trouble-shooting a training session is key with outdoor flight. As Budgie Brigade has smaller birds than what are typically used in outdoor flight, she has doubly to plan. As they say, “Luck, and damned luck, are only failed preparation” (Said by a military officer in Logistics).
You might reasonably ask, “Isn’t Budgie Brigade afraid of losing her birds?” Confidence in your coursework and preparation is a must, she advises, but there is still always cause for concern. You may further ask, “have you had a bird fly off?” Well, the answer is: Yes, and more than once. But Budgie Brigade has used these experiences to further her understanding of how her particular birds respond to opportunities at specific stages of training.
First Spectre flew off (below left). A nearby, lounging at their pool, initially noticed an unusual bird call. As Spectre landed on a deck chair, the husband realized she might be tame, called to her and held out his hand. Amazingly, Spectre flew straight to the stranger, landing on his outstretched hand! Not thinking there was “a chance in hell” of recovering Spectre, Budgie Brigade sighed, “the universe was merciful this time!” Budgie Brigade explains in her July 15, 2018, post that likely the reasons she could recover Spectre likely were five-fold: 1) Spectre was tame and “loved people”; 2) when the stranger called and raised his hand, he exactly mimicked Spectre’s training; 3) Spectre was a skilled flier; 4) Spectre had racked up enough outdoor time to understand basic safety; and 5) “I got extremely, unbelievably, miraculously lucky that someone who knew the family saw my shitty posters”!
About one month later young Ki-ok and Linnaeus ventured off — about two hours before sunset– and got their first night camping as a result! Because this was a first-time fly-off, the two didn’t know immediately to start calling. Unable to retrieve Ki-ok from his tree (a bird needs time to survey, plan and execute a descent) or determine Linnaeus’ exact location, their parront couldn’t recover the cockatiels before dark. Before sunrise, Budgie Brigade returned to Ki-ok’s tree with Spectre to calling to help locate them. The youngsters were flying higher than they ever had before; it took more than 90 minutes for them to make their descents. Lesson: “I should have taken them out earlier in the day so when this happened I would have had more time [before sunset].”
Since acquiring two pineapple-GCC, Budgie Brigade has begun flight training them as well. Now, however, she is back at work so it’s harder to find the large spans of time needed. Whereas in summer, she generally flew them daily, now it is mainly on weekends.
Budgie Brigade strongly advocates for free flight training and would love to talk with you about it, especially if you are in the New Jersey area and interested in establishing a local club. Be sure to drop by this rapidly growing Instagram account — the videos of Linnaeus flying have had over 12k and 7k views, respectively.
Meet Ludo, the Indian ringneck and his new brother, Poppy, the Goffin cockatoo, of @Ludo_and_poppy(IG))! Born February this year and smaller in size, Ludo is further matured than Poppy, who hatched in late March, but both are preening like experts now! Their Mom thinks about possibly training Poppy to free-fly!
One thing about Indian ringnecks– they have a strong flocking urge, often needing other birds present before bonding closely with their parronts. So I was not surprised when their parront explained, “My decision to get Poppy was partially because Ludo loves other birds so much. He was so scared of me.” She felt Ludo didn’t trust her but “knew having another bird around would help” him trust her more readily. And that’s exactly what happened. The day they brought Poppy home, Ludo started following after Poppy “like a dog.” Just days later, Ludo observably was “coming out of his shell,” trusting his parront more, trying new foods with confidence, etc.
Currently located on a two-acre plot, Ludo and Poppy’s home hopefully will soon sport a large outdoor aviary– where his parront will “start adopting as many birds” as possible. “Owning a bird sanctuary has always been a HUGE dream of mine. I have been obsessed with animals as long as I can remember, but birds for some reason caught my attention.” While a third-grader, Ludo’s mom would bring the class pet, a cockatiel, home weekends — “I fell in love.” Describing birds as her “happy place,” Ludo’s mom suggests birbs and parronts “choose each other.”
Ludo’s mom had met Poppy’s breeder six years earlier at a bird mart: he was the one “asking 100 questions before allowing someone to consider buying a bird from him.” Ludo’s mom wanted as a second bird to hand-raise herself. In the course of meeting with the breeder and his baby Goffins, Ludo’s parronts considered about ten different chicks. Poppy was the one who allowed Ludo’s mom to feed her right away. Later, when Ludo’s mom brought Ludo along, Ludo “immediately flew to Poppy and tried to feed her himself”! That’s how they came to understand Poppy was theirs.
March 13, 2018.– Disaster in the laundry room! Danielle Griffith laundered her phone within her bedsheets! Aghast to lose her trove of photos of the sulphur-crested cockatoos that fly daily to her balcony, Dani pledged to God a wild cockatoo Instagram account to showcase these wild wonders, if only the phone and photos survived. (Just kidding!) The pictures and phone dried from the drenching, and Dani began her account, @Sydneycockatoos, on March 20, 2018 with the photo above.
Just over six months old now, @Sydneycockatoos already has more than 8,100 followers — Impressive. While above photo this morning had 53 likes, yesterdays’s photos already have 1,154!
A textile designer and illustrator, Danielle practices photography as a hobby. For those who are wondering about the cameras she uses– for portrait photos Dani uses a Canon 600D DSLR, a great entry-level camera. For videos Dani uses her iPhoneX. Sunset photos and videos from the balcony are particularly challenging.
Not long ago, Dani and her fiance found their dream North Shore Sydney apartment — close to nature and family but not far from work and city, situated in view of Lane Cove National Park, within a short distance of Kuring-Gai National Park, where the glossy black cockatoos gather. Just this week, Dani visited and photographed the glossy blacks, which, like the Eclectus, are sexually dimorphic, with the male sporting red banding on the tail and the female yellow head and tail feathers.
Their first day in the apartment, not realizing a fine flock of around 35 wild sulphur-crested cockatoos daily visited the balcony, the young couple reveled in the sole cockatoo who did grace the railing. The bird piqued their curiosity and excitement! On an average day, the cockatoos arrive in the mornings, stopping to drink on their way out; evenings, the birds again circle and descend on the balcony railing aand then return home to roost. Dani notes that with the start of Daylight Savings Time, she will return home evenings in time to get more of the favored sunset shots.
The sulphur crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita), a large white cockatoo, is native to regions of Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia. About 50 cm/20 in in length, the sulphur crested cockatoo is naturally inquisitive and intelligent, adaptable to the settled suburban sprawl of Sydney and other Australian cities. While cockatoos may live to around 70 years in captivity, they survive only around 20-40 years in the wild.
Breeding seasonally in its native Australia, the cockatoo, according to Wikipedia, breed in Northern Australia from May to September and, in Southern Australia, from August to January. The nest typically is wood chip in a hollowed-out tree, with two to three eggs per season incubated by both parents. Incubation lasts just shy of 4 weeks, nesting 9-12 weeks; and the chicks remain with their parents several months after fledgling status. As ground-feeders, cockatoos have behaviorally adapted by posting a sentinel cockatoo in a nearby tree. This has passed into popular vernacular with the naming of lookouts for illegal gambling groups being labeled “cockatoos” or “cockies.”
Protected as a wild bird in Australia, in the US the cockatoo’s importation is banned under the Wild Bird Conservation Act. Sadly, recently local Australian governments in agricultural regions have declared some cockatoo populations “locally unprotected”, due to the perception of cockatoos as grain-feeding pests. Widely bred in captivity, cockatoos like Sam the Cockatoo, dancing emphatically to hard rock music, have captured the imaginations of many viewers! However, as ambassador cockatoo Instagram accounts like @violetthecockatoo and @harleythecockatoo point out, cockatoos can screech at exceedingly high-decibel volume (“buy your hearing aids early!”) and require extensive time, interaction and stimulation to maintain their active health.
The cockatoos are the most numerous of the birdbath regulars on Danielle and fiance’s’ balcony, frolicking in the shallow pan of water and occasionally snacking on proffered almonds or apple wedges. The balcony stands at about treeline, such an accessible rest-stop along their outward daily flight. Recently some lorikeets discovered the birdbath and now return increasingly. Other “backyard” bird visitors include magpies, kookaburras, mynas, and corellas. Some spotted galahs, grey butcher birds, king parrots and brush turkeys are also seen in the neighborhood.
Sydneycockatoos’ Insta account brings Dani and her husband joy, satisfaction, and enrichment. Surprised initially at its warm reception, Danielle enjoys it and the Instagram bird-loving community, that the cockatoos challenge her to improve her photography, to notice and capture evermore significant cockatoo behaviors on film.
Thank you for reading! We hope you enjoyed yourself and will return for more!