It is November. In this part of the Northern Hemisphere colorful autumn leaves have turned to dry brown crumbles on the ground, and that gray which precedes snow reigns day after day. The Canadians, Chinese, Germans, Grenadans, South Vietnamese and South Koreans all beat us to it, folks! celebrating Thanksgiving in October. Even Liberia celebrated it earlier this month. But soon in the US and on tiny Norfolk Island, an Australian external territory, the enticing aroma of stuffing and fresh pumpkin pies will suffuse the homes.

WARNING: DO NOT PREPARE THAT BIRD AN AIR FRYER IN THE HOME!: Not only is it likely offensive to your parrot, but most air fryers have Teflon-coating, as do most kitchen appliances. When even mildly overheated, these appliances emit fumes which cause avian PTFE (petrotetrafluoroethylene) toxicosis. These toxins readily cause delicate bird lungs to hemorrhage. Symptoms progress from wheezing, accompanied by depression or anxiety, to seizure and death.  Please: research household appliances thoroughly before purchasing; use only Teflon-free models indoors.

We feature galah cockatoos this month but, first, a profile of a cousin, a Moluccan cockatoo in Canada, Q of Instagram’s @q_theparrotwhoownsme. Q’s profile explains, “I’m named after Star Trek’s Q because I also rule the universe: To go boldly where no bird has gone before. Live Long and Prosper.”

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Q and Sister (Courtesy of @Q_theparrrotwhoownsme and @Sammylikescandy (IG))

The chicken before the egg, or the egg before the chicken? We won’t solve that conundrum today, but suffice it to say that environments nurture and shape us and our birbs inimitably, mysteriously, and moreso than we realize. And so it is with hand-raised Q and her family: Nearby Calgary, with its world-class Calgary Film Centre, shines as the diadem of Alberta’s film industry grants program, providing an indispensable backdrop to the life of Q and her family. Leonardo DiCaprio strutted through Q’s hometown while filming The Revenant.  Q, herself, perched on her actress-sister’s shoulder behind screen sets, knew she could strut better and soon was duly discovered. Word of that hot cockatoo hop, of Q’s learning lines in only four hours, spread through Calgary, and the contracts just started coming. Q now appears in a commercial for Canadian wireless company Telus, and Nov. 2 she appeared on Ellen along with her #whatthefluffchallenge video:

Yeah, the videos Q posts are cinematic. But of course! Film fever rages throughout Alberta province, sweeping in two more members of Q’s household: Q’s other sister does software engineering, and her mom masters always more film-making skills: soon she’ll be taking a course in 3D green-screening! I confess my favorite Q video is the Halloween special where the skeleton dances jive.

Surmounting Fame’s challenges requires a supportive family life, which Q’s Mom ensures. Q, now seventeen, joined her family as a rescue at age one, giving her that quintessential made-it-against-all-odds story that no proper star lacks: on her arrival, Q was suffering such severe lung infections, the vet did not think she would survive! Q’s Mom supports her  health with great wooden block toys made for children but with bird-safe dyes, constant stimulation which includes ample social outings about town — and a well-balanced diet of fresh vegetables, fruits, pellets (about 20%), and nuts, nuts, nuts which Q loves. As testament to her abundant health, twice annually Q lays an egg!

You will hear galah parronts proclaiming below that their cockatoos are lower maintenance than their larger white cousins: Do not be deceived — that is HIGHLY relative. Yes, galahs take dust baths, but both cockatoos and galahs are both dusty– their oil glands, which keep the feathers water-resistant, also collect dust constantly, giving them a dusty feel. A cockatoo would have all your heart, all your time and even all you mind — so as to form that “psychic connection”. Talk to a cockatoo owner: Q’s Mom “knew” what Q was thinking within several months, which is part of what makes Q manageable in social settings and on set, her parront can remove her before anyone else understands something is bothering Q.

Insta’s @galahcockatoos/@cockatielphotoaday hand-raises cockatiels year-round, but she wanted a true companion birb, finding the cockatiels flocked unto themselves. So this Melbourne-area parront, who so enjoyed the wild galah near her house, duteously performed her research and concluded galahs would provide the companionship she yearned for — and indeed they have! Wallie’s “mom” forthwith sought out a reputable galah breeder, which is not necessarily easy to find in a day and age when disreputable breeders will pass off wild-sourced galah as their own! This parront shared some great tips for Australians seeking aviary-bred galah:

  • In rural areas individuals can obtain bird-trapping permits, and they or unscrupulous others may try to sell these birds as “aviary-bred.” Birds trapped by permit must bear a semi-circular band like that shown below: always check a bird’s legband before agreeing to purchase! A trapper’s band should have “WCA” or “WCB” engraved on it.
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    Courtesy of @galahcockatoos (IG)
  • Price can be a tip-off, a galah selling for $100 or a cockatoo selling for $150 likely was trapped.
  • The low prices of wild-sourced birds encourage impulse buys so the birds may end up neglected, abused and in ill-health. @Galahcockatoos has herself saved a pathetic cockatoo with a desperate plucking habit — the cockatoo was kept in a small wire cage without companion and fed an inappropriate diet of chicken feed and wild bird seed. Fortunately, she was able to rehome the cockatoo at a wildlife reserve in a large aviary with other birds.
  • Wild-sourced Australian birds tend to carry PBFD; any respectable aviculturist should willingly test your prospective bird for PBFD at your request
  • Remember, a galah is an 80-year commitment.
  • Galahs don’t subsist on mere feed or seed; they require fresh food every day
  • Don’t plan on breeding galah — they require daily eucalyptus leaves to line their unique nests
  • If you want to hand-rear your own clutch, arrange with a nearby breeder to teach technique and provide backup: raising birds is a 24-hour, intense commitment.
  • Galahs preferably remain flighted as domestic pets and require abundant exercise and foraging opportunities to keep their inquisitive minds content (and to avoid plucking or other destructive behaviors).
  • Galahs, with their powder down feathers, are not a likely match for someone with allergies. The powder down feathers grow continuously, disintegrating into a keratin powder at the tips. When you pat a galah, your hand comes away with a thing layer of fine powder.

Kuhli galah Wallie arrived home aged twelve weeks nearly two years ago. Northern Kuhli galah are slightly smaller and paler than their counterpart Eastern species which largely populate the American market.  As Wallie’s parront believes in like-species bird companions, she was soon in the market for a second bird, a hand-raised galah; as few breeders in the Melbourne area are reliable in hand-raising galah, Wallie’s Mom, having the experience, arranged for Elliot to come home at the tender age of three weeks (do not undertake such a task unless you have the equipment and knowhow!) 

Wallie’s “intended,” three-year-old Molly, arrived from another Kuhli breeder just this June but already is comfortable in Wallie’s flock.  Curiously, Wallie and his buddies do not particularly respond to wild galahs calling when they are out in harness with the dogs.

Okay, Elliot is just too cute for belief! But remember, he is an eighty-year commitment, and he’s already in the habit of at least twice weekly hauls of fresh “browse”– eucalyptus or bottlebrush, and also banksia, wattle and grevillea. Who wouldn’t want to do that for these beautiful, companionable friends for life?! And do remember, flight gives your bird a chance to exercise as he was designed to exercise, and walks not only provide sunlight and vitamin D but also welcome new sights and sounds and potential desensitization in the event some day he is lost.

Jacob Taylor, of Instagram’s @misty_and_errol found Misty, his first parrot — an Indian ringneck, somewhat distant. So Errol joined the family as a birb to flock with Misty and help her relax, much as @ludo_and_poppy had gotten their goffin Poppy. Of course, with a charmer like Errol, Misty could not resist long:

Facebook’s Kristenlee N Jeff have an indoor and several outdoor flocks of birds: three indoor birds — Charlie and Pip of @Charliepip_parrots and– and Marbles of @marbles_galah. Outdoors are six pet chickens, 4 foster wild ducks and 13 muscovy ducks! But certainly Marbles has the vocabulary beyond the rest:

Both Charlie the cockatiel and Marbles have equal razmatazz as well as affection for their kiwi parront. Both “sweet, gentle, and cuddly,” they prefer to be ON Kristenlee or nearby, more interested in her when out of doors than the prospect of exploring.  Marbles, who loves almonds above all else, recently learned to say “kiss” and now does so while leaning in for a kiss. While Marbles can be the loudest, the infrequency of his loudness pales in comparison with Charlie, who has the Noisy reputation in the house.

God bless Davide and Veronica of @AryaWilliamrescue (IG) for providing the best of homes to these two beautiful blue-and-gold macaws, whose early lives were far from easy. Former zookeepers, David and Veronica earlier had fostered a greenwing macaw and two blue-and-golds. Their small farm on the Italian Adriatic coast is the perfect place for Arya and William to find peace.  The two macaws began life sharing one macaw-sized cage, and they would fight in the cramped area. Now they can be separate or together, according to their fancy, and Davide and Veronica individualize their training.

Arya and William’s current cages are made by an Italian outfit which supplies breeders: these cages are practical and resistant, measuring 2 meters square and 2 meters high. Each macaw has both an indoor and outdoor cage, with the outdoor cages covered by a strong netting for protection from predators.

Retraining these traumatized birds has been no easy task: it took them one year to accept Davide and Veronica. They remain frightened of many things so it is not practical to take them out on the town yet. William is “a special guy,” who is “independent, curious and brave” while Arya, who loves contact with her parronts, still has a serious plucking problem.  Davide and Veronica hope that William will learn to fly, as he seems inclined, and that both will be “100% happy and comfortable with their lives.”

Flourence of @mybirdsdiary/@flynnthecaique is relatively new to birds, acquiring her first and dearest, Rusty the Lovebird, on a business trip just over a year ago. But don’t underestimate Flourence: she is a whizz researcher! She researched first cockatiels, and added Romeo and a few more, the conures, adding Red and Bandit and others. It was Romeo’s first owner who taught Flourence about free-flight, as Romeo already flew free. In Manado, North Sulawesi, her birds are the sole free-fliers. 

Rusty’s Mom starts lessons early, calling “Here, baby,” while holding out a syringe of babyfood or crushed sunflower seed. “SLOWLY BUT SURELY,” the distance for this indoor flight increases. Next, Rusty’s Mom free-flies them indoors, only calling them to land on her outstretched finger. Generally, her birds have been ready for free-flight outdoors by four months or later. Birds meet and know one another before they are flown together.

Outdoors it is Location, Location, Location! Surrounding trees will tempt the birds to roost, and you may spend hours getting them down. A friend’s cockatiel once was lost in a treed area near a cliff, but Momo, brave lovebird, found him and he was safely retrieved. Also, the flight area must be predator-free.

The first time outdoors, the birds are driven to the location in their special carriers and allowed to perch outdoors enjoying themselves and eating Kaytee/Zupreme babyfood, sunflower seed, or millet. Flourence indicates that when there is a predator, by instinct the birds immediately return to them. Contrary to popular opinion about Indonesian free-flight methods, Flourence has never used a rope or line on her birds nor has seen anyone else do so. 

As Rusty’s Mom says, “They are amazing animals! We all know that. And us as humans can’t control them in everything– they have brains, beautiful wings and they decide when they want to fly or not.” As free-flight is an extremely vigorous activity for tame birds, these birds get immediate refreshment on landing and spend the following days sunning and preening as they rest. Rusty’s Mom says she most enjoys listening to them whistle, sing and shout; she happily spends hours with them as they spontaneously engage in antic after antic.

 

 

 

 

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