Rescues; Deplumed (Part One) by Caitlin Rice

I recently received an email inquiring if I would be interested in the flip side of parrot rescues and the epidemics of rescues becoming hoarding situations.  I of course was intrigued and asked for a sample of what she was talking about.  Little did I know that I would get a very well written glimpse into her very heartfelt detailed story of volunteering and just trying to make a difference in birds lives.  I decided to take the piece written by Caitlin Rice and make it a series. Rescues; Deplumed by Caitlin Rice

 My life changed the day I walked into that basement and looked into the eyes of a Greenwing Macaw named Sebastian. I thought it was pretty bad down there, as I was greeted with a thick musty air and a claustrophobic feeling from the clutter while my ears were ringing from the loud parrot calls. I walked down a row of cages as he told me the name of each bird. The lack of toys and enrichment was my least concern; this man clearly needed help and I was willing to do what I could to see if any short-term improvements could be made.

I was helping him clean the cage trays one by one when I had made it to the back corner and suddenly my nose was overpowered by the worst stench.

I uttered the words “oooh stinky!”

“Oh that’s Sebastian. He’s always had stinky poop. The vet couldn’t find anything wrong with him, it’s just like that.”

I looked at the floor and saw a splatter of green slime that extended 4 feet, tracing back to a 32 inch wide cage, leading up to a big red parrot clinging to the front bars and ready to aim fire.

It was hard for me to imagine any vet saying that this was no big deal and judging by the current conditions of the 15 or so big birds down there, I couldn’t imagine this man was detail oriented enough to order and pay for the extensive testing it would take to rule out everything. I’m no vet, but I know bird poop is not supposed to smell like anything, especially rotten eggs and vomit. But that was the smell encouraging me to hold my breath and take short little gasps of air through my mouth.

“Hi Sebaaastian” He would say, in the dialect of a snobby elementary school bully.

“That bird is just meean” when I gave Sebastian extra attention. His cage was plastered head to toe with rotten green slime and it took weeks for me to scrub most of it away, as I would visit once a week to help clean the cages. I would bring bird treats in my pocket and sneak them in his food bowl while I scrubbed. I hoped to build a friendly repertoire with this supposed feathered buzz saw.

The first time I was ever there, the man pointed out a conure with toes missing and told me “that was Sebastian. He escapes and lets other birds out. Bit the toes off this one and killed my favorite sun conure”. He could point to scars on his own body from this bird and he wore them like badges of honor.

He told me that a vet had come and checked on all the birds because he had lost nearly a dozen last year and didn’t understand why.

“There was no virus, I don’t know what it could have been.”

I felt sick. I couldn’t imagine the degree to which a person would have to be in denial to not understand why an animal would die in this environment. Food bins had no lids and the newspaper used to line the cages was very old. The amount of dust left everything coated with a visible layer. There were times where I looked in the water bowls and felt a rush of intense horror and sadness at the thought of being one of his birds. No living thing should ever be asked to drink that water or breathe that air.

I felt bad for this man. I truly did. I believe that the conditions we provide for our pets is a reflection of ourselves and when I looked in his eyes, I got the feeling that he did not like what he saw in the mirror. I was willing to help make things better and he seemed to become more enthusiastic as time went on. I helped him haul away a hoard of things that he didn’t want any more and it really did look a lot better in that basement. I was proud of him for what he was willing to do and I felt optimistic about the future. It was Christmas time and I made him a dreamcatcher with feathers from parrots I had cared for over the years.

Unfortunately, things didn’t get much better. Later they got much, much worse.

I was honestly afraid of Sebastian but I still cared deeply for him. Being a mean bird doesn’t justify this treatment, and aggression in prey animals is not their natural demeanor. This is not something they come out of the egg destined to do; it’s the responsibility of people to lovingly nurture them and train them to coexist with us.

The man would reach in his cage to take care of food/water and Sebastian would veer towards him. I would hear “Get back! Get over there!” and turn to see the poor guy shivering in the corner of the cage. One time the man just said “forget about it, he’s too mean” and just left it as it was, right in front of me. I tried to see if he would target for a treat, maybe the man could do this so it would be easier to feed him. But it wasn’t working. He wouldn’t touch the target stick.

“He’s blind on that side, he can’t see you.”

I learned that his right eye couldn’t see a dang thing, but that a vet might be able to fix it with an expensive surgery. I made a mental note of this. Later I learned that Sebastian was also abused, violently, before he came to this basement.

I understand why the caged bird bites. One day I cleaned the cages by myself and it was the first time I ever had to unlock the chain and open Sebastian’s cage door. My hands trembled. I was so afraid I would jump and startle him into biting me, so I closed my eyes as I unscrewed the thing that held the water bowl in place. The reason his bowl was screwed on the inside was because the side doors were bolted down. I could hardly imagine his big head and body fitting through those tiny doors, but that was the reason they were permanently shut.

There was about ¼ inch of what looked like oatmeal and smelled like vomit in his water bowl. His food bowl was empty aside from a few crumbs. The smell burned my nose as water splashed into the bowl. I nearly threw up and tucked my face into my shirt while I washed the bowl with soap and water. I was choking back tears as I walked back to Sebastian’s cage and thought about what he was being forced to live with. He couldn’t even open his wings in that 32”x33”x22” cage. It was plastered with poop and he had no food or water. No wonder he kept escaping. The amazing thing to me is that he would go to the trouble of letting other birds out too.

He rushed towards my hand as I was reaching in to screw the water bowl back on. Despite every gut reaction in me screaming ‘pull your hand away!! Look at that beak!!’ I refused to leave this parrot without water and if he bit me while I put this bowl in there, I considered it a forgivable offense. But he didn’t bite me. He started drinking from the bowl before I had it fastened to the bars. At that point I could no longer hold it in. He is not a bad bird I thought as tears rushed down my face and cooled my cheeks, flushed red-hot by the surge of intense feelings. This bird was the product of a tragedy and I vowed to do something about it.

My husband Ryan went down there with me to see the birds and I showed him Sebastian. It was funny, his whole head fluffed up like a big happy clown wig and Ryan reached out to pet him. No aggression, nothing that looked dangerous to me. No “negative association with men”. I told the man and he made a comment about how he thought the bird would probably make a good pet for somebody, he just seemed so “unpredictable”. But this was his personal pet, not part of the adoption program.

I would have offered the man cash and walked away from that group then and there if I didn’t live in an apartment. Soon we would be moving in a house and I was counting down the months until I would be able to say that I wanted to take care of him. My pillow was soaked with tears the nights I would come home after helping him clean. I hated leaving Sebastian there. My husband listened to me as I would often say, “I wish I could tell him and he could understand, don’t worry, I’m gonna do everything I can to get you out of here. But instead he has to live like that, with no hope.” Ryan loves the birds too and it wasn’t easy for him either.

I have volunteered for animal shelters in 4 different states in the US and one of the top highly rated organizations in this country. I am not new to this scene and I am very aware how sensitive an issue it is to deal with hoarders and animal abusers. I knew I had to be extremely casual and discreet with this man if I wanted to help him or his birds. I asked questions after several weeks helping him and I did so in a pleasant manner. I wanted to know two things: who’s in charge here and what procedures are in place to prevent this from happening.

I was under the impression that this man was just another volunteer who liked to socialize with other parrot people. However, I learned that he was president of the parrot shelter and education club I had started volunteering with. I’m sure you can imagine the cocktail of emotions that began to flood my body.

I went to a business meeting to find out more.

Photo courtesy of : Caitlin Rice

Photo courtesy of : Caitlin Rice

It was at this business meeting where I overheard one of the volunteers (who is also buddy buddy with the president) talking about how she had to put up plastic on the walls to prepare for Sebastian. My entire body started to tremble as I felt a fluttery surge of panic flood my stomach.

Nooo. Not her. Please God no.

I tried my best to stay cool, to look unintrigued. She had more birds in her home than one would care for in a lifetime, and out of all the volunteers she was least knowledgeable about them. Standing in her driveway you can hear the collective screams of dozens of large parrots. She was one who wasn’t afraid to use force with the big birds who bite. She would use towels to grab perfectly normal parrots to go in or out of their cage. It was by the grace of God that I overheard this conversation and was able to offer my residence for housing Sebastian, since I didn’t have any large macaws it would be more convenient. It was only four more weeks until we would be living in a big four bedroom house. Please, just let him hang on until then.

Copyright 2014 – Parrot Earth – Rescues; Deplumed  (Part One)

Goals…Not Just a Destination.

I got Picture It here.

I got Picture It here.

Picture it, Sicily a beautiful young… oops this isn’t a story by Sophia from The Golden Girls (if you don’t know who they are, I suggest you google).   Let’s try this again… picture it, you have brought your bird home, you have your Parrot Earth Poop T-shirt (yep, shameless plug) and you know your training dvd’s like the back of your hand.  Things are going fantastically well for you and your companion and you could not be more thrilled!  He steps up on command, whistles for you and even says hello on cue.  Isn’t that the greatest?  I will be the first to congratulate you on your successful training regime.  However there is always a catch.  

I got Goals here.

I got Goals here.

Just because you have your bird in a nice routine and the original goals that you set out are met, doesn’t mean your parrot doesn’t need goals and growth of its own.  We as humans have the abilities to change, alter perceptions and make goals for ourselves because that’s what helps us evolve as beings.  However, imagine if you had the same old list of things you were good at and you were only asked to do that list.  Every day, every month and eventually every year for the rest of your life.  Not so appealing now is it?  I firmly believe that it can hinder any animals development as a sentient being when their development is stifled.  Does this mean that what you are doing is all wrong?  Nope, never even thought that, I am just offering a thought or two to ponder.  

I got Einstein here.

I got Einstein here.

How about teaching that “old” bird of your new tricks (and I may not be referring to the feathered companion that you have in a cage), getting out of the comfort zone and not only rekindling that spark that you once had about aviculture (or still do) and add a little more pizzazz.  Try new toys, try new words, try new tricks and at the very least try.  Granted there are times when you go out on that limb and fall flat on your face, but isn’t that what life is all about?  That risk of the unknown and the rush that you get when it works out?  I was always taught that is what is called “living”.

Our companion birds are so smart!  Sitting in the corner in a cage, serving the same things for breakfast, playing with the same rope toys or foraging puzzles is like putting Einstein in the corner without a piece of chalk and chalkboard to work out his amazing scientific theories!  So why do the same to your bird?  

I got New Tricks here.

I got New Tricks here.

It really only takes a few small approximations here and there.  Start by alternating toys frequently, and if you have pieces or as I like to call “parts is parts” of other toys, rope them together.  Your bird isn’t a label fanatic and it’s going to scoff at your if it doesn’t see a new price tag on it.  Begin feeding your bird in different bowls in different parts of the cage, or how about morning Chop on his play-stand in front of the window?  How about moving cage locations when you clean?  A different view of the room can help alleviate boredom and produce a different thought pattern.  I even have friends that will swap cages to keep things fresh and new.  Maybe,  buy your bird a harness or a portable bird carrier and start going on walks.  Imagine all of the sounds and smells that your bird has been missing in your living room.  Look for a local Parrot Flight group and join.  Every bird loves socializing with other birds.  Imagine it being like happy hour, with out the crappy pick up lines and the cheap drinks.  Work on counting and colors, because I guarantee that your parrot will probably pick those up easier than some of my friends kids.    

I got Quality of Life here.

I got Quality of Life here.

I actually have the same philosophy with all animals.  I think that every companion animal has the right to not only a quantity of life, but more importantly a quality of life.  They should all be given new goals and have the ability to smell the roses along the way.  Rewards in life are just that rewards, you have to earn them.  

If we don’t get them off the perch, we will never know the full extent of they can do, now will we?   So… what’s your first goal going to be? 

Copyright – 2014 – Parrot Earth – Goals…Not Just a Destination

When Parrot Adoptions Go Wrong

Mealy before APR rescue.

Mealy before APR rescue.

There are countless exotic bird rescues and parrot rehoming organizations across the United States and spanning into other countries all over the world.  These organizations work their hearts out to make sure that the birds they take under their wing (pun intended) are given an excellent quality of life and are found “forever” homes.  But what if that “forever” home that you found for one of the birds in your charge, was possibly even worse than the home it came from.  I got a call from a local bird buddy that told me about a situation, involving a parrot that had been adopted out from All Parrot Rescue and was being neglected.   I felt it my duty to do a phone interview with Sonya Brewer and find out the facts.

Mealy's 3rd degree burns

Mealy’s 3rd degree burns

Mealy a 27 year old DNA sexed female Mealy Amazon parrot who was adopted out from All Parrot Rescue in Graham, Washington 6 months ago after being there over a year.  In 2012  Mealy was discovered on Craigslist with photos of an over grown beak and appeared to be malnourished.  Sonya Brewer of All Parrot Rescue offered to trim her beak but ended up bringing Mealy home.  After a thorough vet examination from All Parrot Rescue’s regular avian veterinarian, Dr Ferguson, it was revealed severe malnourishment, due to beak over growth, had caused liver panels to be elevated and other vitamin/mineral deficiencies.  Mealy was also suffering not only from a staff infection, but 3rd degree burns on her feet.  It was not determined if the burns were caused from flying into hot oil or being left outside in the direct sunlight with no shade.  Mealy was placed on zero seed and healthy leafy green/vegetable and pellet diet.

mealy

Mealy, after months of antibiotics and extensive care.

After months of antibiotics and regular beak trimming, the infections went away and Mealy began to put weight on again.  She appeared to be a normal Mealy Amazon that would required extensive specialized care and needed a home that could provide such.  “Cheri appeared to be a very sweet woman and came to APR and appeared to have fallen in love with Mealy”, Sonya Brewer said.  “I was a little reluctant because of her special needs, but she said that she was home all day and she thought that Mealy would be a perfect companion for her and she promised to provide her with nothing but the best care” Sonya added.

Mealy at APR

Mealy at APR

All Parrot Rescue has become an established rescue here in the Pacific Northwest and has done more than over 30+ adoptions into healthy and happy homes, while housing 28 more birds that are looking for their forever home.  They have an extensive screening process that includes home checks and an interview process.  “The bird picks the person”, Sonya Brewer said of her rescue’s adoption process, “We don’t just let anyone take any bird home with them”.  This process is true of many rescues around the world.

“We have had great luck with finding adopters for our birds” Sonya said, “or so we thought, this has shaken us to the core.”

mealy.4

Mealy with extremely overgrown beak on July 27th, 2014

All Parrot Rescue requires regular “photo” checks, which means a current photo is sent via email/text etc., so the rescue can see what the welfare of their birds are. They also make surprise “in person” welfare checks. After seeing that Mealy’s beak had not been groomed, for what appeared to be since she was adopted out in January, Sonya immediately contacted Cheri to make arrangements for a “beak groom” at Cheri’s residence.  Sonya and Steve Brewer received text messages asking them to “come in” and to “come to the back yard, through the sliding glass door” where Cheri was working in the yard.  As they came through the back yard, they noticed what appeared to be a very skinny Mealy on a perch with a Cockatiel.  “She had pin feathers she couldn’t even groom herself because of the overgrown beak”, Sonya said.  Steve approached the bird and said “this has gone on far enough, she needs to go to the vet immediately”.  While he picked up Mealy, Cheri allegedly reached for her as well.  “Steve had the feet and body and Cheri grabbed her head and neck began yanking her towards her chest”, Sonya said.  Steve began yelling “stop, you’re choking her, you’re choking her”. During the commotion, after Sonya tried to get in the middle and break it up, allegedly all parties involved fell over a railroad tie and into a rose-bush.  This prompted a call from the next door neighbor to the police.  During this Mealy was freed and Steve grabbed her and ran to their vehicle.  Cheri then laid under the Brewers vehicle to prevent them from driving off, until the police arrived on scene.

A very thin Mealy on July 27th.

A very thin Mealy on July 27th.

After the police arrived and interviewed all parties involved, Animal Control was called and Mealy was deemed appearing to be “in need of immediate vet care”, however City of Federal Way Animal Services does not deal with exotic birds and could not give an “educated and official” opinion.  If you would like to contact them regarding this case #14-10001 you may click here.

All information was taken by Federal Way Police Department, statements were given and Mealy was returned to Cheri regardless of the stipulations of All Parrot Rescue’s contract with Cheri or the appearance of neglect.  Neither Sonya or Steve Brewer were officially charged with any type of theft or assault, however the case has been sent to the prosecutor’s office and they were informed they would be notified by mail.

lettersonya

Click to enlarge.

Later, Sonya received an email from Cheri, which was also cc’d to the police and animal service officers stating Mealy’s beak was trimmed a few hours after the attempted repossession yet she refused to release any other information.  According to Federal Way Animal Service, Cheri allegedly told them Mealy had an appointment a vet to have her beak trimmed on Monday, however she refused to release the vet name or location to them.  Cheri also allegedly told animal services the same vet told her to “leave the beak alone and just let it grow naturally”.

A certified letter was sent to Cheri by All Parrot Rescue giving her reasons the contract, that was signed at the adoption in January 2014, is now in breach and Mealy is to be returned to APR.  It is also informing Cheri All Parrot Rescue is ready to take full legal action to ensure the return and rehabilitation of Mealy to a safe and healthy place.

There has been a petition set up for Mealy’s return which you can click here.  If you would like to be a member of the Bring Mealy Home community page on Facebook, please click here.

I hope this can be resolved quickly and justly.  For Mealy’s sake.

It still amazes me that exotic birds are not on the priority list of animal services or other animal control organizations, especially considering they are the third most popular pet in the United States.  It shocked me that Federal Way Animal Services would not take Mealy in their possession, take her to a vet and get a viable opinion on her health.   Animal Services would have taken Mealy into custody for mistreatment, neglect or abuse, if she was a dog, cat or even a horse.  In fact it just hocks me off anytime an animal is mistreated, for any reason.

Copyright 2014 – Parrot Earth – When Adoptions Go Wrong

 

 

 

 

You Own A Parrot, Now What?

blue

I got Blue Fronted here.

Ah… the electricity of bringing home your new parrot.  The focusing on every single move they make, being marveled by just watching them strategically walk across their cage.  Seeing them pick up a pellet with their foot and eat is the coolest thing you have ever witnessed.  Hearing those morning shows that our beautifully exotic companions are so famous for.  These are all the wonderful parts of being the owner of a companion bird, but what happens when the glitz wears off and you feel like you might have made a mistake?

I know what you are thinking and before you put on your “judgey” caps, please read the whole story.

I received my first email from Jane about a year ago.  Jane is a forty something single woman who works in law office.  She commutes right down the street to her office from her loft and works part-time from home.  The building she lives in has a restriction on pets, but the HOA association does not have a problem with caged animals or fish.  Jane being the research minded person that she is, did her research into various species of parrots.  She owned a Cockatiel as a child and was absolutely in love with the idea of owning a parrot that was able to be her companion as an adult.  She went to a local rescue shelter to volunteer, clean parrot poop and feed love starved birds.  She also wanted to make sure that she knew what she was getting herself into.

blue-fronted-amazon-parrot-51a1d9688e8a9After a few weeks of volunteering a 16-year-old Blue Fronted Amazon came to stay at the rescue.  She was owned by one owner, who due to age and health issues could no longer care for her.  Jane said she was “instantly enamored” with this bird and the feeling appeared to be mutual.  Jane decided this was it and this was the bird that she would so lovingly give a forever home to.

“I want to make sure and do everything right”, Jane said in an email to me.  I thought, oh how I had that idea in my mind when I brought Dexter home.  I didn’t just want to do it right, I really wanted to make everything perfect.  I laugh now at that idea, because first of all, there is no such thing as perfection in life.  Second of all, as we all know, there is absolutely nothing even near to perfect when you own a parrot.  There is no perfect cage, no perfect cleaning schedule and no perfect behavior…. so Jane found out.

Jane bought a stainless steel King’s cage that was top of the line.  A few large Rubbermaid totes of parrot toys and set and automatic order with her pet store for Harrison’s pellets.  When Jane brought Fossy home everything seemed to be great.  She would step up on command, she loved her toys and she had her own corner of the loft with an extremely lavish bottlebrush playstand from The Golden Cockatoo.  A parrot’s dream.

I got Blue Fronted Amazon here.

I got Blue Fronted Amazon here.

After a few months of living with Jane, spring came and Fossy began developing some sever hormonal behaviors.  Screaming and biting were on the top of the list, also wanting nothing to do with Jane was the other.  So like many people, Jane logged on to various forums and chat groups throughout the internet.  She received a plethora of opinions and advice from all over the world.  One person told her to cover the cage anytime she made noise and another told her to slap her bird on the beak if she bit Jane.  The list goes on and on.  One group even ganged up on her and almost had her convinced to take Fossy back to the rescue.  I read something recently  “Remember, the comments that people you never met, make about you… matter.” ~ Bianca Del Rio and it hit a nerve.  We are told to ignore people’s opinions and comments, but it’s not always that easy.  Being hyper critical can destroy someone’s passion for parrots… so stop.

I receive a lot of emails on a weekly basis.  People from Ireland to Australia asking various questions about behaviors, toys, food and the list goes on and on.  Mostly emails I get are readers thanking me for making light of certain situations, telling it how I see it and having a very conversational writing style.  I have made some great “Bird Buddies” via Parrot Earth and I am very fortunate to call some good friends and I usually don’t like to get preachy with my readers because like I have always said, I do not claim to be an expert at aviculture or birds, I just have some education and some experience.  If that helps you, great!  If not I will damn sure find someone out there that is an expert and can help you.  The same thing applied to Jane.

I got bully here.

I got bully here.

Jane has not only been bullied online in these Facebook groups and other online forums, but they had her second guessing why it was that she even wanted a parrot in the first place.  She was berated and criticized because she was not doing what the self-proclaimed “experts” told her do.  If she did, she was crucified for that as well.  There was just a never ending cycle of hate and negativity.  In an email, I asked if she had ever thought about consulting a vet or professional behaviorist and Jane responded “you know I really never considered it, because information is so inexpensive online and readily available I just thought I would be able to ask other owners”.  So I asked, “what if they aren’t doing it right either?” Knowing Jane was ready to pack it in, I began emailing her a few times a day.  I made sure that she took Fossy to her bird vet and made sure there was nothing wrong with her physically before I put her in contact with a trainer friend of mine.

The next step was to get her out of those forums that were spewing all of the negativity.  There’s too much crap in this world right now, why willingly subject yourself to it and sign up for updates?  I chatted with Jane regularly and I convinced her to relax.  Everything isn’t going to be clean all the time, everything isn’t going to be perfect and guess what, birds are more resilient than we think.  They have been on this earth longer than humans and will probably outlive us after we are long gone.  In time everything found its natural rhythm.

I got Thank You here.

I got Thank You here.

Jane worked with Fossy daily, bought a harness and a Celltei backpack carrier and even takes her into work with her occasionally on Friday Pet Day that her office has (she has an office in the back that is pretty sound proof in case there is a squawk or two).

This morning I got an email thanking me for not giving up on her and not letting her give into her fears.  I was looking to get my spark back after taking a bit of a break from writing.  I needed to recharge and that is all that I needed.  Owning a parrot can be hard work and it can be a downright pain in the ass at times.  But there is a flip side to that coin.  Sometimes owning a parrot can be one of the coolest and magical experiences that a person can have.  You just have to take it day by day and sometimes minute by minute.  Don’t get frustrated and if you do, take a step back and start over.  Don’t give up because everyone goes through it and remember…You own one of the coolest animals in this world.   Just enjoy the ride.

Copyright – 2014 – Parrot Earth – You Own A Parrot, So Now What?

 

 

A Grey Area

emailI got another email from someone asking me what I thought about the difference of African Grey subspecies and if I had a favorite.  This is not the first time I have been asked this question.  I also got asked what I thought about the advice from online African Grey social media groups…. so I figured I would not just write about one topic, but two and chuck one big stone into the pond instead of two.

Dexter, my Timneh African Grey has been with me for almost five years and it has been a learning curve for me.  When I did my countless hours and months of research on African Greys in general I thought everything was going to be text book, or what everyone in an online group had told me.  Well that actually is rather a half truth.  There were parts that fit nicely into the square peg that people had informed me of and then there were the circular or triangular pegs that no way in hell were going in that square hole.

I got Grey map here.

I got Grey map here.

I couldn’t decide if I wanted a Congo or a Timneh to begin with, I had a friend who owned a Timneh when I fell in love with birds some twenty years ago, but I loves the size and color variation of the Congo.  I was told that Timnehs aren’t as neurotic or as shy as Congos.  I was also told that Congos are much better talkers than Timnehs, which again forms that square opening of opinion and then there comes the variation of truths that aren’t square pegs.

dexter 08-03-10 008Dexter was definitely not shy once I got him, in fact I believe that he was very happy to get the hell out of the situation that he was in  I felt as if we bonded almost immediately.  Now you have to keep in mind, I was expecting this sensitive bird that was going to require time to bond with me and time to get used to his environment.  According to the online advice I got, I was also expecting him to cower in the back of his cage for days, praying that nothing was going to eat him.  That could not be any further from what happened.  He was very anxious to explore his new environment and wanted nothing more than to spend time with me in whatever activity I happened to be doing.  So what happened to all the advice that I had gotten in my dozens of online groups.  Am I aware that every bird is different and just like people they have their own personalities?  Yep, I sure am…. however no one told me that.

PE1 003Cooper was a totally different bird of a feather.  You have to know that Cooper is a very large Congo, many people are intrigued by his size and his beauty, but even though he looks indestructible he is very sensitive.   Fear generally is his downfall, fear turns into excitement and apprehension which always leads to aggressive behavior.  Trust me, it took me a few pints of blood, several scars and years of feeling like a failure to piece that whole puzzle together.

So, does Cooper fit into the sensitive category that was preached to me?  Yes, but he is also not the talker that Dexter is.  Granted, he talks like a champ and can imitate just about any whistle or siren that he has ever heard but Dexter can out talk him with one wing tied behind his back.  I have to be very very careful about what I say around Dex, because he will generally pick up just about anything that I say that has any emotion behind it.  Let’s just say I learned the hard way after I stubbed my toe one evening.  I’ll let your imagination do the rest.

Iphone.7.30.2012 034I have several friends that own both Timneh and Congos and they live in perfect harmony with one another, even going as far as playing, preening and just hanging out doing their everyday activities.  However that is NOT the case in my house, I can get Dex and Coop on a perch together and one goes to one side and the other ends up at the opposite end.  Backs to one another and that’s it.  Reminds me of a homecoming dance in middle school.  They have beaked a few times, of course that is usually in the spring time, but otherwise it’s the Hatfields and McCoys, “you stay on your side of the line and I will stay on mine”.

When it comes to anything online, as I have written many times, you have to be careful.  Not everything you see on the internet is true, I know hard to believe isn’t it?  Not everyone has the education to back up their information, or they may be regurgitating something that someone has told them.  When I began doing research into my birds, I immediately started asking people who the public figures of the bird world were.  Who had been published and where I could get my hands on their stuff.  I read everything I could get my hands on and eventually started dreaming about parrot food, proper nutrition, behavior and foraging.  I was hooked and to my non bird friends, becoming an “obsessive bird dude”.  Eh, I didn’t really care…. I figured I would have my bird a lot longer than I would have some of those friends.

My rule of thumb when getting into anything new is “Ask questions”.  Ask until you are blue in the face and not just from one person.  Get several points of view, and read read read read read.  Did I mention read?  Yes, owning a parrot requires piles of books, hours of sifting through points of view online and putting those things that you learn into action.  It’s trial by fire sometimes and you will most likely feel like the greatest bird owner at times and then feel like someone kicked you in the stomach and ran over your foot because you made a mistake.  As much as some opinions about parrots want to make them seem that they are made of glass, parrots are actually quite resilient and have survived a long time on this planet.  As long as you don’t make one of the major critical errors, you will figure it out.  I promise.

birdsNow, do I prefer a Congo to a Timneh?  Well, I have to say that’s like asking a parent what child you like better.  However I will say that I get the diplomatic answer for that question…. but for me, I like both of my Greys for different reasons.   I love Dexter’s resilient spirit and quest for knowledge.  I love Coopers beauty and sense of grace.  I admire Dexters sense of unconditional love and forgiving attitude towards this world of ours.  I adore Cooper’s love for music and sense of rhythm when he thinks no one is watching.  I can’t get enough of the marvel I receive whilst watching them just climb atop a cage or play-stand, because it’s so calculated well thought and yet it’s nothing to them.

So, I guess my answer does sound like a parent’s response when asking which child they like better.  But then again, maybe it’s all just a Grey area.

Copyright – 2014 – Parrot Earth – A Grey Area