Hyacinth Holidays! “The Best Companion and Family Bird Ever”
The Holidays approach, and parrots world-over proudly prepare, especially young Joey (@joey_the_hyacinth (IG)), one of our featured Hyacinth Macaws this month! It’s Joey’s dad who gave this piece its headline.
We hope you enjoy Hyacinth Holidays, and we especially thank shop owner and parront Heide Zahle Nilsen (@heidenilsen (IG)), hyacinth aviculturist and parrot behavior expert Kashmir Csaky, wildlife rehabilitator Michelle Carollo (@nigel_and_friends (IG)/www.royalavian.com), conservationist Daria Feinstein, and Joe Brown (@joey_the_hyacinth (IG)) for sharing their life dreams of, and adventures with, hyacinths. A special thanks to leading aviculturist organizer at both AFA and OPA, Lewis “Buddy” Waskey IV for introducing me to Olivia, the hyacinth who stole my heart. For our free-flight enthusiasts, we conclude with inspiring material from cutting-edge trainer Chris Armstrong — how Chris helped hoarded-then-rescued Percy “find his wings” (www.percywings.com) along with free flight training tips from Delilah the macaw and others.
The common thread amongst hyacinth owners: they saw a hyacinth macaw, the vision fed dreams, and they pinched pennies to get those birds! It is the preternatural grace of these Gentle Giants which so intractably entrances!
Heide Nilsen first laid eyes on hyacinth macaws on a visit to the Canary Islands more than a quarter century ago. The image remained indelibly imprinted such that some twenty years later she finally tracked down a hyacinth aviculturist in Sweden, her native country, and contacted him. Even after twenty years, the wait was not over: Heide waited nearly another year before Shadow arrived fully weaned. Still one year later, Shadow’s full brother Blue, a year younger than Shadow, also arrived. While Shadow had bonded with Nilsen’s blue and gold macaw Nova, Shadow’s “girlfriend,” he has not yet expressed much interest in that noisome younger brother.
Since CITES lists hyacinths on Appendix I, Shadow came complete with a special CITES certificate — something of an EU passport, with identifying band number, birth date and gender, confirming Shadow is aviary-raised, not wild-sourced. Heide cannot even take Shadow and Blue out in public without their certificates! Sweden wisely regulates companion macaws and other parrots — they cannot be hand-fed, or have their wings clipped; and there must be at least two hyacinths in each residential situation, which greatly reduces anxiety and plucking from isolation.
Shadow loves snuggling and also flying. Younger brother Blue is the rowdy one. Though each has a decidedly different personality, they both have good relationships with all family members. And Shadow and Nova? It does not seem to be in the cards: Heide contemplates acquiring an unrelated female hyacinth and attempting to raise hyacinths herself. No rush on that score — as the largest flying bird species in the world, hyacinths take a long time to mature, at least approximately seven years (some may selectively choose not to mate until as late as age fifteen!) And hyacinths are very smart birds — they have exhibited tool use and are typically inquisitive problem solvers! Below Shadow demonstrates tool-like savvy coordinating beak and claw.
If you are enchanted by Shadow and Blue, start saving money now! It’s not just that a male hyacinth sells for about $13k or that a female brings around $20k — Heide recommends that you annaully set aside $5-10k for veterinary expenses along with insurance. And consider also that large, sturdy macaw aviaries come at a premium, and the macadamia and Brazil nuts hyacinths require are not cheap.
Dual national of the US and Japan, premier hyacinth aviculturist and parrot behavior consultant Kashmir Csaky first encountered hyacinths in Forshaw’s renowned Parrots of the World. Forshaw in the early 1970’s foresaw that macaws would face significant threats of extinction and advocated for conservation aviculture and animal companionship as the keys to rare parrot survival. The first breeder to co-parent (share feeding with the parrot parents) a hyacinth, Kashmir has also participated in The Hyacinth Macaw Project, which sets out nestboxes for hyacinths in key Brazilian habitat and is recognized for its success in increasing the Brazilian wild population such that it is now classified as “threatened,” not endangered. Kashmir has also been instrumental in AFA legislative initiatives and study, endeavoring to make the US and its constituent states friendly to conservation aviculture and companion parrots. The Geni(i)us page article on Hyacinth macaws this issue shares more from Kashmir as aviculturist. Kashmir also runs the Facebook group, International Celebration of Birds.
. . . Okay, so birds go to meet-ups and socials these days, but have you heard of FaceTime adoption-dating? Joe Brown found Joey on Facebook; before he acquired Joey, he and his family FaceTimed with chick and breeder. It seems to have worked — Joe says Joey “is a perfect fit with our family,” and “my dreams are fulfilled, and then some!”
Joe Brown grew up with his deceased older brother’s lilac-crowned Amazon Groucho. At about age eight, Joe’s mom shared with him that his brother’s dream bird was a hyacinth. Curious, Joe researched hyacinths and at that tender age considered the birds “looked so strange. Huge heads. Perma-Smile. . . . strange, yet beautiful.” As if hyacinth passion were infectious, owning a hyacinth became a major life dream for Joe by around age twelve.
Now, a dozen years later, Joey has joined the family. A great lover of stainless steel, be it bowls or nuts and bolts, and also of electrical cords (whoa!), Joey joyously plays games like tug-o-war, wrestling, and peekaboo. He also likes solving puzzles. And at the end of a busy day exploring Joe’s world, Joey likes to cradle in Joe’s arm to nap — “so he can pick his nose and go to sleep.”
Michelle Carollo, of Instagram’s @Nigel_and_friends, helps Nigel (wink-wink) run family-owned Royal Avian Specialties , an online retailer of parrot aviaries, perches, food, treats, toys, etc. with a small rescue on the side. The family’s over-thirty years’ experience has allowed them to design innovative products such as parrot-safe indestructible stainless steel perches and toys, may of which allow a parrot to make noise with them.
Michelle, a licensed animal rehabilitator, opened the rescue eleven years ago. Nigel counts among the flock’s six permanent members and helps Michelle welcome temporary members: parrots for discrete placement, sometimes only after rehabilitation, for instance, after a parront has died and family members find themselves unable properly to care for the large bird. All permanent flock members are free-flighted but the temporary birds may not be flight-capable. Last year Royal Avian placed nine birds, primarily cockatoos.
Nigel, with his curved beak and jolly golden bare patches smilingly welcomes the rescue birds in. Submissive and gentle, Nigel’s winsome attitude expesses how deeply he wants friends.
Sweet as Nigel may be, sometimes he wants more love and attention than busy Michelle can give. A rather common problem for parronts of big birds. And even with decades of experience and formal training, Michelle finds in Nigel her match on evenings she’s exhausted.
As Facebook’s Chris Armstrong approached retirement age, the world of parrots broke open a new universe. First cockatoo Samson showed Chris that trick-training provides not just enrichment, but also an absorbing challenge and gateway to intraspecies mutuality.
Delilah, the blue and gold macaw, who arrived a bit later, preferred free-flight to tricks, widening the horizons of that new parrot world yet further. Finally, finishing out the Trifecta: Percy, a scarlet macaw rescued from a severe hoarding situation, a parrot who might not have survived but for a joie de vivre buried beneath the suffering. Percy watched Delilah and flock fly beyond and back. Something about Percy’s demeanor shouted he wanted to “find his wings”. So Chris and Percy set off on a tandem adventure, of which great videos can be seen at www.percywings.com.
By then an experienced and insightful trainer, Chris imagined the challenge as it might be for Percy: he made his arm a “branch” and accustomed Percy to the flow of air about him by moving his arm-branch more and more. A fan was added to simulate wind experience. To encourage hapless flapping wings to grip and push against air columns, Chris littered the floor with cushy pillows and, with Percy on his arm-branch, fell forward into the pillows — Percy’s flap turned into lift off! Percy can now fly with the others, just not as long: Percy may complete just a couple miles to their forty-mile flight.
Chris is that energetic sort who makes training fun: he brings energy, excitement and TREATS to training, which is “about the relationships, the most valuable thing in the world” and creating memories. He also enjoys injecting technology: telemetry via Marshall GPS geotracker, which paid off recently when Delilah did not return from her flight. Chris shares with us now these invaluable videos of finding Delilah by geotracker and consulting with a superb avian vet.
As time approaches to wish you Happy Holidays and wave you on to BirbObserver‘s other pages, we make two honorable mentions. First, Facebook’s Dariah Feinstein, macaw conservationist and parront of five free-flighted macaws, including a hyacinth called BlueBoy. Dariah has worked to raise awareness of macaw issues.
Finally, a great thank you to Lewis “Buddy” Waskey IV — friend, AFA-mentor, Wizard of Free-flight and Genius of grass-roots avian organizing in the US. . . And the guy who introduced me to my first hyacinth, his charmer Olivia. Below Buddy cracks macadamia nuts for Olivia. Olivia does skilfully crack macadamias with her powerful beak and jaws, but she preserves, queen-like, to be served; and Buddy humours her.
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November 17: Thanksgiving
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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.”
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.
- 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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October 20: Blue-Footed Booby Socks & Free-wheeling Feathers
Hello, friends! We hope you enjoy this issue, with its focus on African Grey parrots. In this issue’s TheRoundUp we celebrate that spirit of generosity which inspires folks to “#BetheChange” — like Manko (@i_met-Manko (IG)) leading the way for animal therapy birds in Australia, and Will and Matty Gladstone (@thebluefeetfoundation (IG)) for their innovative support to the blue-footed booby. Also, we continue to study free-flight, with both Peter Corbeau of Taking Wing Consulting (@takingwingconsulting (IG)) and Indonesian Arga with his family of five macaws (@noegie_arga (IG)).
Hailing from Persia, Fandogh (@Fandoghhh__ (IG), in his debonaire attire, is a true ambassador for African greys. Fandogh has graciously and inquisitively followed our Insta account from the beginning, and provided much joy with his dignified yet gentle bearing. A sophistique, sometimes tongue in cheek, here Fandogh dons his cap and playfully teases those who would call it abuse. Daily Fandogh charms his 31k followers:
Both Rexi and Freddy found rescue and their forever home with Gill Horwell (FB). We hope to bring you their full story in our November issue.
Luna (@Luna_the_rescue_grey (IG)) last graced TheRoundUp about a year ago, her joyous story of rescue and rehabilitation rendering her the heart-throb of the male African greys on Twitter. At that time six-year-old Luna was settling in with work-at-home dad and had eyes only for him. Comfortable, respected and safe in her new home, Luna for the most part stopped plucking — it’s been a year of feather growth. Luna still sports fluff from new feathers, has gained confidence and has opened her heart to Mom parront as well. Importantly, Luna serves the family function of keeping Dad’s head on his shoulders during work hours, the best preventative medicine for monologues (aka “rants,” lol!)
Congratulations to Echo, African grey, and Zoey, blue and gold macaw, as they are adopted in to the warm fid family at @katiethemacaw (IG). Echo and Zoey join green-cheek conure Nibbles, macaw Apollo and lilac-crowned Amazon Oscar to form again a family of five.
Echo and Zoey arrive in the aftermath of deep loss. First, macaw Max died in January from PDD– Proventricular Dilatation Disease, also known as Macaw Wasting Disease. The family destroyed Max’s toys and disinfected everything although conventional advice dismissed the likelihood of PDD passing to other birds except when housed together. PDD, an auto-immune disease originating in the brain, causes a macaw’s body to attack itself. A silent killer thought possibly from a new avian bornovirus, it strikes suddenly with a minimum of observable symptoms. Although Katie was poorly within a few months, the vet did not consider PDD as on the radar. Then, in June one day, Katie just died!
Necropsies of both Max and Katie revealed the characteristic wasting of PDD on numerous organs. Because PDD research is in its infancy and because both birds were rescues, there’s no way to determine when either contracted PDD nor how long it remained dormant before onset.
The days grow short in the Northern Hemisphere, but in Tamilnadu Chennai, India, the days are getting longer and Coco (@meet.mittu_coco_and cleo (IG)) has welcomed two rescues into her home: first Mittu the Alexandrine, then more recently Cleo, the Indian ringneck. Coco’s parront is friends with a bird-shop owner, and three months ago this friend asked Coco’s parront to take Mittu when an earlier buyer was found to have neglected him. Mittu arrived screaming and anxious. Coco and his parront’s gentle ways soon soothed Mittu. Cleo arrived about a month ago, the opposite of Mittu, very quiet and shy. Cleo and Mittu, however, quickly bonded and the family makes a happy trio together.
DownUnder birds greet the glory of spring — no doubt with joy and the occasional hormonal scream. Switching from African greys to macaws — have you met Manko?! (@i_met_manko (IG))
This week-end bird model and therapy animal Manko pairs up with Wild Bolivian Adventures Eco-tour Agency (@wild-bolivian-adventures (IG)) to present a Macaw Madness workshop at Queensland’s Elements Festival (@elements_festival_ (IG)) in Southeast Queensland. The workshop educates people about macaws the illegal pet trade. If you’re in Queensland, be sure to join them!
Manko and his parront Katheryn Taylah have a mission beyond modeling and teaching about the pet trade: Manko as a pet therapy bird in Australia is on a mission to teach Australians about parrots and their suitability for official recognition as pet therapy animals.
Manko’s breeder. BK Aviaries of Queensland (@bkaviaries (IG)), an ethical breeder, had witnessed and researched birds as animal therapy support for individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an anxiety diagnosis often additionally co-occuring with depression. BK Aviaries provided baby Manko to Katheryn and her family, believing Manko could assist them navigate the emotional and behavioral hurdles they faced after experiencing severe domestic violence and abuse.
Unfortunately, Australia currently only recognizes dogs as pet therapy animals, despite the many downsides: not all housing situations allow dogs; people often have dog allergies; dogs are short-lived and can disturb neighbors. Manko knows his longevity, cheerfulness, and endearing sociability make him equal to or, for diverse people in certain circumstances, superior to a dog therapy companion. Manko’s mission is nothing other than achieving the recognition of parrots as pet therapy animals in Australia.
Katheryn also organizes social and cultural events for Brisbane Bird Social Club (@_bbsc_/@birdsocialsoz (IG)): whether the birds meet at a parrot-friendly cafe, on the beach or, in a studio to model for a children’s art lesson, Manko and Katheryn strive to raise awareness of parrots both as pets and as companion therapy animals. Manko’s modeling fees fund assistance to individuals with PTSD in financial distress.
Another dynamic duo engaged in raising bird awareness is Will and Matty Gladstone of The Blue Feet Foundation (@thebluefeetfoundation (IG)) — the two boys are on a mission to save birds — the blue-footed booby, specifically. Together the Gladstones manage a great aid vehicle, which sells blue-footed booby socks and hands the proceeds over to Galapagos Conservancy (@galapagosconservancy (IG)), which applies the funds exclusively to its blue-footed booby programs.
Will originated the idea after learning in fifth grade that the Galapagos blue-footed booby population had declined 50% in the last 60 years. Now in eighth grade, Will has had help from his younger brother Matty, now ten. The boys sourced their signature blue socks from China and established an Instagram presence. Within three months Will and Matty had attracted that threshold following that got orders started. And the orders have just kept coming: tall stacks of shipped socks line their family room walls. Orders are now so voluminous, the boys prepackage shipments in their spare time. The boys brief Facebook presence brought such overwhelming business they had to delete their page t page to keep up with their studies.
As reported by Points of Light, in 2017 Will and Matty helped fund a trip to the Galapagos for Prof. David J. Anderson of Wake Forest University. While there, Dr. Anderson, a foremost expert in the blue-footed booby worked the blue-footed booby’s population decline. By August of this year, the Gladstones had contributed over $40,000 to Galapagos Conservancy. In September Will and Matty traveled to Washington, DC to receive Presidential Environmental Education Awards. The Gladstones trademark socks are covering the world in blue– they have shipped to all fifty states and 39 foreign countries! Thanks to ten-year-old Lithuanian birdwatcher Liepa (@liepa_birdwatching (IG)) for the great picture below!
We applaud Will and Matty for their commitment to a great cause, thank them for teaching us more about the blue-footed booby, and wish them the best with their studies!
Peter Corbeau, trainer of Taking Wing Consulting, (@takingwingconsulting (IG)) only speaks with great reserve about free-flight: it’s not for every fid, nor for every parront. Erect in posture, an artiste in @CirqueMacabre (IG), Peter exhibits that high level of self-awareness and presence of mind training animals that only experienced trainers can. Watch the video again, watch the self-control of his body language. Peter knows well that every gesture, every noise sends an implicit positive or negative reinforcement to the animals around us.
Growing up surrounded by animals in Washington state, Peter was, figuratively, baptized into Orca whale worship at birth. However, in third grade, when a wild owl visited the class, Peter underwent immediate conversion. After that it was all about birds, something in the movement of birds entranced him. Peter’s fascination with birds — training them — has only grown with time. First it was the flock of parakeets, or “how to juggle budgies” coordinating positive reinforcement to cue to multiple flitting birds.
Peter was a reader early on, researching topics that attracted him, learning vicariously from great trainers working with zoo animals and open-ocean dolphins, and in falconry — “trainers that have no option but to have bullet-proof relationships with their learners because they could just disappear and never come back.” From such teachers Peter distilled the fundamental lesson that “excessive use of punishment, negative reinforcement and coercion” have too much negative fall-out to be worthwhile. Pressuring a bird’s belly to motivate it to step on a stick is an example of negative reinforcement: the stimulus is removed once the animal performs the desired behavior. This becomes counter-productive as the bird learns to anticipate the stimulus, because it always only precedes the desired behavior, the bird will merely avoid the stimulus. Carrying it one step further, negative reinforcement is applied continuously so the bird devises a reactive behavior, like biting you. As you start anticipating the biting, the bird learns how to bite without giving advance warning. Miraculously, you’ve now created a biting bird! Similarly, some days just aren’t right for training. When Peter senses Milo or another bird is “off”, a break is advised. Most recently Peter’s 21-year-old blue-fronted Amazon was exhibiting reactive behaviors so the Peter gave him a break from training. as training is potentially stressful.
Peter’s interest in falconry led him to several meets and hunts. Watching the techniques, Peter resolved to free-flight train a parrot using different principles, which he soon did. Peter favors intensive indoor flight-training prior to outdoor attempts utilizing the same spatial skills as he would use when training a walking or climbing bird, beckoning with voice for them to “come to me” from out of sight, for instance from around a corner. Teaching flight is the same in Peter’s eyes as walking or climbing: it’s just a variation on “come to me.”
Peter formalized his training, studying applied behavior analysis (ABA) through BehaviorWorks, with Dr. Susan Friedman, a Utah State University psychology professor, and trains both remotely and in person though he has a strong preference for IRL training. Peter trains a variety of animals using ABA, but birds remain his passion. For all his love of free-flying Milo, Peter does not consult on free-flight training, stressing that free-flight is only appropriate with certain combinations of bird and parront. Its dangers are simply too great for people who are not particularly observant of their birds and responsive to their behavior.
“Calm, everything gonna be fun!” Arga (@noegie_arga (IG)) captions his account with these words. Arga lives in Indonesia, where there is a longstanding tradition of free-flight predating Applied Behavior methods. Arga discovered birds just four years ago, beginning with budgies because in Indonesia budgies are inexpensive, less than $1. In 2016 he got his first macaw, the military macaw below named Amore and readily learned free-flight.
Arga makes free flight sound so easy. The training goes down to the basics — a bird for free-flight is handfed always and gets over 30 minutes per day quality time with its parront. After the parrot is calm and easy to handle, indoor flight training comes first, progressing from a simple “come to me” command through “boomerang” and “blocking” skills which I hope to clarify in the next issue.
First efforts outdoors use a harness, practicing “come to me” safely. After that, the bird is “thrown”, as demonstrated in the below video for free-flight.
On YouTube at @Ceppy Tri you can watch longer videos of Indonesian flight. Indonesians find free-flight a social occasion and will group en masse, providing additional protection to their birds in numbers. The technique of “throwing” the bird demonstrated above by Arga illustrates well the unique technique. You can also see more Indonesian free flight by following #indonesianparrotlovers. We also look forward to interviewing Rusty and Friends (@mybirdsdiary (IG)), from a more northern region of Indonesia, Sulawesi., with her free-flighted conures (see below).
Ruby Doo Vance, E.P., Took on the Wild West and Won!
It’s been busy– what Back-to-School season isn’t?! We apologize for our 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 (@Budgiebrigade (IG)), devoted mum of a blue Indianringneck Ludo and Goffin cockatoo (Poppy of @Ludo_and_poppy (IG)), and photographer Danielle Griffith of DownUnder @Sydneycockatooos! 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 the next six weeks 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 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 sites 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 FaceBook group for collaboration, trouble-shooting, and support. As Budgie Brigade lives in New Jersey, where winter can be 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 sites. Budgie Brigade did her initial perch-to-hand practices in her yard, after first having accustomed the birds to the outdoors by placing their cage outside for short periods, attended. Budgie Brigade next 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 birds preying on them. 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 trained for outdoor flight, she has doubly to engage in advanced planning. 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 are required, but there is always a 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 their opportunities at specific stages of training.
First dear Spectre flew off (below left). A nearby family, lounging at their pool, first 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 directly to him, landing on the 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 post that likely she recovered Spectre due to the following five factors: 1) Spectre was tame and “loved people”; 2) the man called and raised his hand, exactly mimicking Spectre’s training; 3) Spectre was a skilled flier; 4) Spectre had racked up enough outdoor time that she had a fundamental understanding of 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 did not know immediately to start calling. Ki-ok. irretrievable in the tree in which he landed (it takes the birds a while to survey, plan and Linnaeus indeterminately located, the birds’ parront could not recover them before nightfall. Before sunrise, Budgie Brigade returned to Ki-ok’s tree, with Spectre calling from a travel cage, and succeeded in recovering the two. The youngsters were flying higher than ever before; it took more than 90 minutes for them to descend. Lesson: “I should have taken them out earlier in the day when this happened I would have had more time [before sunset].”
Since recently acquiring two pineapple-GCC, Budgie Brigade has started flight training them as well. Now, however, she is back at work so it’s harder to find the large spans of time needed for flight-training. Whereas in summer, she generally flew the birds daily, now free flight is restricted to 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 Gockatoo, 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 they will bond 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 he didn’t trust her but “knew another bird around would help”. 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 breeder “asking 100 questions before allowing someone to consider buying a bird from him. Ludo’s mom looked forward to hand raising a bird. In the course of meeting with the breeder and his baby Goffins, Ludo’s parronts considered about ten different Goffin chicks. Poppy was the one who allowed Ludo’s mom to feed her right away. Later, when sLudo’s mom brought Ludo with her, 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, a March 20, 2018 with the photo above.
Just over six months old, @Sydneycockatoos already has more than 8,100 followers — Impressive. While the first photo this morning had 53 likes, yesterday’s photos already had 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 usess a Canon 600D DSLR, a great entry-level camera. For videos she 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.
The couple’s first day in the apartment, not realizing a 35-member flock of wild sulphur-crested cockatoos daily visited the balcony, the two 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 morning, stopping to drink on their way ou; evenings, the birds again circle and descend on the railing before returning to their roosts. Dani notes that with the start of Daylight Savings Time, she will return 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 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.
A seasonal breeder, cockatoos, 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 remain vulnerable as prey, so they have behaviorally adapted by posting a sentinel cockatoo in a nearby tree. This has passed into popular vernacular with the lookout for illegal gambling groups being labeled the “cockatoo” or “cocky.”
Protected as a wild bird in Australia, in the US the cockatoo is banned from importation by the Wild Bird Conservation Act. Sadly, recently local Australian governments in agricultural areas 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 viewers! However, as ambassador cockatoo Instagram accounts like @violetthecockatoo and @harleythecockatoo point out, these birds can screech at exceedingly high-decibel volume (Buy your hearing aids early and at discount!) and require extensive time, interaction and stimulation to maintain their active health.
The cockatoos are the most numerous regularly attending birds on Danielle and fiance’s’ balcony, frolicking in the birdbath and occasionally snacking on proffered almonds or apple wedges. The balcony stands at about treeline, accessible to the large birds in their outward daily flight. Recently some lorikeets discovered the birdbath and 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 often seen in the neighborhood.
Sydneycockatoos’ Insta account brings Dani and her husband joy, satisfaction, and enrichment. Surprised initially at its warm reception, Danielle finds she enjoys the account and the Instagram birdloving community, that they challenge her to improve her photography, and to capture evermore significant cockatoo behaviors on film.
Thank you for reading! We hope you enjoyed yourself and will return for more!
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[Editor’s Note: TheRoundUp is media intensive so it takes time to load. To view credits hover mouse over picture or click on it.]
TheRoundUp Aug 18: George, bright budgie bearing the gift of Joy
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 the 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. Numerous flocks of ringnecks exist in the UK, but only the Kensington Garden flock lights on people. According to tradition, that flock descends 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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July 15, 2018: Summer Swelter
Belated Happy Canada Day, Independence Day and Bastille Day to our North American and French readers! A summer hotter than usual in the Northern hemisphere—fids bathe relentlessly to stay cool.
Thank you to the kind individuals who granted us interviews, especially Gone to Nest Aviary (@gonetonestaviary (IG)), Chris Biro of Liberty Wings flight school and The Pirate’s Parrot Show (FB), Haaike Barnard (FB), Straus Michalsky (@VaiManu IG)), Birdy and Bailey (@birdyandbailey (IG)) of Belgium, Rio (@rio_thehappybird (IG))), Budgie Brigade (@budgiebrigade (IG))and Rebekah Kennedy (@lory_adventures (IG)).
Haaike Barnard (FB), bird enthusiast and English teacher in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), trained originally in South Africa as a psychologist. He jokes, “Now I need one with all the birds.”
As an adolescent, Haaike kept budgies, adding cockatiels and “my first Timneh and U-2” as he matured. Already settled in the UAE, two years ago Haaike again hankered for bird companionship. Haaike met sweet Malika, a Congo African Grey (CAG), in a local petshop. A special bond immediately made itself felt. As Haaike explains, “The rest is history. They’re so vulnerable, and yet they choose to trust us.”
For Haaike, it appears birds are like potato chips — one just is not enough. In the modern way, Haaike went online with his Malika. Then “the tsunami started,” the flurry of requests that Haaike take in birds needing rescue. But, then, too, Haaike has rescued birds from “lives of hell in dingy pet shop corners.” As Haaike observes, while birds are popular pets in UAE, the country has “much room for improvement in regulating pet shops.”
Haaike currently has eleven birds — nine rescues, and only one is hand-raised.
Often people desire a hand-raised bird from a breeder, yet ambivalence towards breeders prevails with frightened anticipation that breeders may be “bird mills.” Relax! There ARE responsible breeders!
In her twenties, biochemist Donna (@gonetonestaviary (IG), with a passion for both birds and scientific inquiry, applied genetics to her flock to enhance desirable traits. Donna ran prospective owners through an intense vetting, requiring multiple visits before the determination whether the interested party qualified as an owner of her birds was made. More than once she ejected irate, would-be purchasers who felt themselves entitled to buy.
As a biochemist, Donna has equipment and know-how to test cultures for avian disease. She also performs her own bird DNA testing. How nice not to have to wait for the vets’ results as Birdy & Bailey’s parront did recently! Thankfully, as suspected, Birdy tested female and Bailey tested Male so she has a pair anyone would admire.
When a spinal injury prevented Donna from adequately caring for her flock, she grievingly rehomed her birds. Now, with grown son and two delightful maturing daughters, Donna has four fids: two Hahns macaws, Duck the Quaker, and an opaline red-rumped parrot named Twitter.
Donna always weighs birds’ safety against their drive to fly. Astute about avian adaptation, Donna has tailored the perfect modified wing clip for Twitter so the high-flying, speedy grass parakeet can fly safely despite the glass-windowed, two-story vaulted family room ceiling. Above a height of nine feet, windows predominate. Free flight would risk Twitter breaking his neck by smashing into a window so Donna lightly clips the outer two feathers of Twitter’s wings. With this modified clip, Twitter cannot fly above nine feet but can zoom about in lower spaces.
As area hawks, doves, toxic trees, and overhead power lines mean free outdoor flight is not practical, Twitter uses a harness. Ideally harness training begins at weaning, as a bird must allow its parront manually to extend his wing when looping the harness around it. The earlier a bird accepts this intimate handling, the better for harness training.
The path of free flight can be hazardous, but “a catastrophe is only failed preparation.” In Brazil, computer scientist Straus Michalsky (@vaiManu (IG)) as a young boy had rescued a wild white-eyed conure which had cavorted daily with area wild flocks yet returned nightly to an ample cage in Straus’s home. For Straus, a free-flighted bird coming when called felt as natural as eating or breathing.
As an adult, Straus grew enamored of macaws. However, in Brazil, owning a macaw first requires registration with the government and also a special permit. Registered and permitted, Straus devoured all available information on macaws while awaiting the arrival of baby blue and gold macaw Manuela. In the process, Straus discovered Chris Biro (@Chris Biro (YT) on YouTube) , whose free flight videos demonstrated good training, technique and site selection.
Straus made mistakes of inexperience with Manu. Last year a hawk chased Manu off her flight path. Seeking safety in numbers as a guard against future hawk attacks, Straus arranged for two more baby macaws – Gilberto (Catalina macaw) and Dolores (scarlet macaw). Straus also enrolled in Chris Biro’s Skype classes, just as New Jersey’s Budgie Brigade (@budgiebrigade (IG)) and Brisbane’s Rebekah Kennedy (@lory_adventures (IG)) have recently done.
Chris Biro, pioneer and world-preeminent trainer of indoor/outdoor flight, established The Pirate’s Parrot Show (FB), Liberty Wings flight school, and Bird Recovery International (BRI), a non-profit seeking to stabilize wild bird populations, aiding by training captive-bred birds for free flight prior to release.
Human parachute-bird of the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army in the 1980’s, Chris Biro must have intuited something of birds’ drive to fly. Just after leaving the military, Chris met and bonded with his first bird, his sister’s conure. Chris just has a way with birds — and remarkable discipline to establish a popular national fair attraction and an internationally-esteemed free flight school within just a few short years. Chris has presented before the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA), the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators (IAATE), the National Parrot Rescue and Preservation Foundation (NPRPF), and the Parrots International Symposium.
The Pirate’s Parrot Show, a free-flight educational extravaganza touring United States county and state fairs, features an authentic pirate ship, educational performances, and, of course, free-flying, free flight-trained birds. Notably, the birds are not returned to cages after their stage appearances but flock around the fairgrounds freely interacting fair attendees. The below YouTube video from the recent Lake Charles, Louisiana fair conveys the thrill ofhttps://youtu.be/ctALKzYogho these shows:
Chris’s Liberty Wings flight course strives to present the most humane, effective training methods and tools to maximize bird safety in indoor/outdoor free flight. Chris promotes the “equestrian” style of bird management which combines house cages with large outdoor flight aviaries so birds can fly instinctually throughout the day.
Below, as example, Rebekeh Kennedy (@lory_adventures) uses PVC and bird netting to erect a temporary practice aviary. For information on outdoor aviaries, check with Birdy & Bailey (@birdyandbailey (IG) — her father raises ibis, cranes, ducks, geese and swans with the help of large outdoor aviaries!
Chris has founded clubs and email lists, empowering owners of free flight birds to communicate, socialize and assist each another. For those wanting to explore and engage more, both the Brisbane Free Flight Club (@adventures_of_roku (IG)) and the Bay Area Free Flight Club (@West_wings_free_flight_club) have accessible Instagram accounts. Adventures of Roku, like Chris, has a helpful YouTube channel (@Adventures of Roku (YT)). While Rebekah Kennedy participates in the Brisbane club, New Jersey res Budgie Brigade consults with free flight colleagues from around the world through other media.
While folks may debate the value of social media, all can rejoice that a coincidental Twitter/Instagram cross-hash resulted in London’s lost Rio (@Rio_thehappybird (IG)) being spotted, caught and returned to his owner. Rio’s friend Koko (@Koko_in_London (IG)/@Zak Tinawi (FB)) put out the word of Rio’s unfortunate escape out on Instagram and plastered the lamp posts of London with posters. Meanwhile, friend and photographer Sya Groosman (@syaphotography (Tw)) tweeted Koko’s poster. Finally, when Christopher Wheeler (@stokeywheels (Tw)) tweeted a photo of a sun conure perched on a bush in front of his Stokey residence and tagged @stokeyupdates (Tw)), Sya and Chris got in touch and Rio’s amazed, dazed and thankful owner Gemma rejoiced in reunion with Rio. The Evening Standard (@evening.standard (IG) even published journalist Naomi Ackerman’s report of this tremendously fortuitous social media-aided rescue!
Shortly after meeting Koko, I learned of his charming friendship with Rio: Koko had wanted an IRL bird friend for playdates. Rio reached out, and their owners started messaging by WhatsApp. The fids’ first playdate was a smashing success! Rio joined Koko in celebration at Koko’s of his third birthday earlier this year, and most recently Koko’s parronts hosted Rio while his parront vacationed. Friends are the best!
Rio thanks Koko for hospitality while his parront was out of town (Courtesy of @Koko_in_London (IG)).
Until our next issue we wish you the best. Please also enjoy the Media Gallery below, which is part of TheRoundUp.
Courtesy of Marc Lambert (FB)
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