“Chats” with Jason Crean

chatsWhen I think about doing a “Chats” interviews with people, I think about the top priority for me…. Inspiration. Does this person inspire me?  Does this person try and shed a positive light in the world of aviculture?  Does this person do it, not for the ackolades or the attenion, but for the love of birds?  Is this person someone I would want to sit down and have a conversation with?  Does this person think outside the box and would I add him to my “Movers and Shakers List”?  For me, Jason Crean possesses all of these qualities!  

jason.1I became aware of Jason and his advocacy for parrots a few years ago.  He is a big deal in most bird circles and has the education/background experience to back up just about anything that comes out of his mouth. Did I mention he has is an award winning science teacher and has a master’s degree in biology with specialization in zoology among the countless other degrees, educational certificates and credentials that he holds.  I could mention them all, but we need room for the interview.  For more information on Jason, click here…(http://www.mrcrean.com/bio.html

Jason is also one of the brains behind Tea4Beaks ( a line of totally herbal, non caffeinated, organic teas for parrots) that is revolutionizing parrot nutrition.   He is very approachable and with the help of Irena Schultz, he agreed to take time out of his incredibly demanding schedule and do a little interview for Parrot Earth!  

How old were you when you fell in love with exotic birds?

I was 12 when I received my first Cockatiel and was immediately taken by their interactive and inquisitive nature.  Soon after, I purchased a second and then had babies.  I will always value this experience as it helps lead me into a career in biology.

What/Who inspired you to get involved in exotic bird advocacy?

Dr. Karen Becker, avian veterinarian and friend, has taught me so much over the years about new discoveries in nutrition and wellness which has brought me to where I am now, both in private aviculture and zoo consultancy.

What would you tell someone if they said they thought they wanted to bring a parrot into their home?

I tend to first ask what about parrots intrigues them as the answers are diverse and provide a great deal of insight. 

How many parrots do you own personally?

I own a few parrots including my Black Palm Cockatoo Rio, my Golden Conure Luna, my Parrotlet Mendel, my Green Cheek Conures Frick and Frack, and a Lorikeet named Snape.   I also own softbills including small species of Toucan, a hornbill and other smaller birds who fly about in my greenhouse.  Many of these birds take part in my live animal education program where we teach those interested about their care, behavior and wild counterparts.

jason.2What kind of birds have you owned throughout the years?

I have had many different species of birds over the years, from small parrots and finches, to the hookbills and softbills I currently own and raise. 

Where do new bird owners need to focus and what do you think they should educate themselves on?

Two areas on which I focus when I do lectures for bird clubs and organizations are nutrition and enrichment because I have seen much incorrect information provided to bird owners which lead to a host of problems.  Providing raw, whole food nutrition to birds is critical and yet many authorities including veterinarians and other professionals are not making these recommendations to those who want the best for their birds.  Good, healthy nutrition and providing an enriching environment can keep birds thriving, not just surviving, like so many of our animals are.  And this is symptomatic of how we take care of ourselves as people as well; we survive from day-to-day on poor diets and are largely inactive and this lifestyle tends to influence how we take care of our pets.

In your opinion, what are the top three things a parrot needs for quality enrichment?

A biologically appropriate diet:  There is no “complete” diet available for birds.  Parrots have access to countless food items in the wild and we need to offer them as much “dietary diversity” as we can in order to cover their nutritional bases.  Parrots have substantial needs when it comes to fat, but it must be good, healthy fats and many pet owners do not know the difference.  Nuts are an excellent source of the all-important Omega-3 fatty acids but many think nuts are poor in nutrition.  Peanuts, which are not a nut but a legume, should be avoided for this reason, but walnuts, Brazil nuts, filberts, almonds, and pine nuts are an enriching, bioavailable (easily taken up and used by the body) source of these critical fats in the diet.  Coconut oil is another fantastic additive from which any bird can benefit.  Proteins are also very misunderstood as many protein sources used in processed foods are not bioavailable.  If the protein is indigestible, it is wasted and can even lead to health issues.  A good whole food source of proteins is best which includes soaked and cooked beans, quinoa, and even live food like mealworms.  I also am a great advocate of using teas in bird husbandry as it is a great way to add nutrition to the diet.  There are countless benefits to the many brewed teas available and purchasing loose leaf, organic teas (that have been decaffeinated if necessary), is a great and easy way to enrich the life of any bird.

Enrichment items:  Things that keep the mind active and working throughout the day are necessary for good mental health.  When mental health suffers, it can manifest itself physically in a host of different ways.  I tend to avoid using the word “toys” because that perception is so limiting; there are so many ways to enrich the lives of our animals that may not result in a multicolored wood or plastic device that was made to destroy.  Don’t get me wrong, these are important and should be recycled consistently to always keep the birds thinking.  But there a great many things that can help birds keep active in our homes.  Enrichment specialist and colleague Robin Shewokis has done a great deal of work in this arena and has taught me how a simple paper grocery bag can be used in a myriad of ways to entertain our birds for hours on end. 

Environmental quality:  Air and water needs to be clean.  Birds are extremely sensitive to their surroundings and must live in an environment that is as free of pollutants as possible.  This includes not smoking, using fragrances or cleaning sprays anywhere near birds.  Birds also need light, especially unfiltered sunlight as much as possible so providing them this through any means safely is incredibly enriching.

The 2013 Midwest Bird Expo speaker panel

The 2013 Midwest Bird Expo speaker panel

 

How many avian conferences do you attend annually?  Which ones?

I attend the American Federation of Aviculture convention (afabirds.org) every year as a speaker and attendee.  This is one of the best, all-inclusive events any bird owner can attend.  I also attend the Houston Parrot Festival, which is another highly educational event.  Both of these bring in speakers from around the world to share their knowledge and expertise in the keeping of birds and the share information about these birds in the wild. 

What do you think the current avian community needs to do to inspire the “next generation” to get involved?

We need to stop being afraid to share our love of birds with the public.  We need to take our birds out and show people, especially young people, how wonderful it is to share our lives with these creatures.  I think many bird owners prefer to not make public the fact that they have parrots because of the loud extremists who have made it their business to make bird keeping illegal.  But we must counter this by illustrating what responsible bird ownership looks like and exposing young people to wonders of bird keeping. 

What are the top three qualities you think a good parrot owner needs to have?

To own a parrot, you must be patient, flexible, and, above all, nurturing.  Parrots are social animals, forming relationships with others and maintaining these connections for varying periods of time.  You must be patient in knowing that the parrot chooses with whom to form a relationship and how close that relationship may be.  You need to be flexible and adapt to this relationship knowing that it may change over time.  And nurturing these relationships through consistently positive, enriching interactions is vital to a life with a feathered companion. 

jason.5Tell us about a day in your life?

This is difficult for me to answer because some days are more hectic than others due to the many teaching positions I hold and consultancies I manage.  Typically, I begin the day by preparing the foods for the different species that I have:  Diced fruits for the softbills along with some live foods, diced fruits and vegetables along with sprouts, soaked grains and other food items for the hookbills.  I then head to the school where I teach to take care of the animals in our program there:  heaps of leafy greens and yellow-orange vegetables to our many turtles and tortoises, live insects and worms to our lizards and invertebrates, fresh Timothy hay to our chinchillas, and other diets to our diverse collection.  I began a Zoology Club at the school where our young people come in and help maintain our animal exhibits which has become a great outlet for kids who want to learn more about animals and their care.  After I teach for the day, I typically do some cardio exercise as that is my main source of enrichment!  After this, I may go to teach at one of the universities for which I work or whatever other work I need to do.  At the end of the day, bird dishes are pulled and all are washed thoroughly and fresh water is given.  One more round of live food in the form of mealworms and/or waxworms is thrown out into the greenhouse for one last foraging opportunity before the day ends.

media.warsThe avian community appears to be at odds via social media, what are your thoughts on that?

People can be very brave behind their keyboard.  And this has lead people to become more extreme than they would be if they were meeting people face-to-face.  I find this all very silly as the simple fact remains:  if we are to have a future with birds, we must work together.  There are simply too many self-proclaimed experts who talk in absolutes, using words like ‘all,’ ‘always,’ ‘never,’ et cetera.  Not all breeders are bad just like not all parents are bad.  Not all rescues are hoarders.  To group people into a single category without any real, in-depth knowledge about their practices is just plain wrong and dehumanizing.  I will continue to fight this on behalf of the birds for as long as I live. 

tea4Tell us about Tea4beaks.

TEAKS, or Tea4Beaks started several years ago after I received my first aracari (small species of toucan) Cricket.  It is no secret that toucans, mynahs, starlings, and lories are prone to hemochromatosis, a disease where iron is stored in the liver until it becomes toxic and fatal.  After researching, I found that decaffeinated black tea had been successfully used in zoos with toucans so we began to research this even more.  One thing that I had not considered was the fact that birds drink tea in the wild, from tree notches, for example, that catch rain water in which plant components continuously leech compounds.  After hearing Dr. Becker talk about tea, we began working with her to start blending teas for all birds, not just our toucans.  This has transformed into the many blends we now offer including Calming Skin & Feather which we brew for birds who pluck or self-mutilate not only to drink, but also to spray directly on the skin or affected areas.  We also have blends that research says have health benefits like balancing hormone levels, increasing fertility, reducing inflammation, supporting respiratory and digestive health, detoxifying the body and supporting a healthy immune system. 

Why do you recommend Tea4beaks?

jason.4

Jason and Dr. Karen Becker

We tend to focus a great deal of what our birds are eating but not really what they are drinking and I think we are missing an opportunity.  We could be delivering missed nutritional components inherent in the teas via their water source or mixed with food that they are already consuming and that’s where tea comes in.  There are so many well-research health benefits that we must, if we are responsible pet owners, consider every possible nutritional option to keep our birds thriving. 

If you could give someone tips and pointers about using your product, what would they be?

To reap the most benefit, tea should be brewed.  The tea components can be consumed in their whole forms and mixed with food, but steeping releases many beneficial compounds that may not be available otherwise.  Brewing tea in hot, not boiling, water is critical to maintaining the nutritional benefits.  And always be sure your bird is drinking its tea before taking away its plain, clean water source.  Some birds may see the tea as strange initially and, therefore, should always have a water source to avoid dehydration.

 What other products do you endorse or support?

I am a big fan of coconut oil as the health benefits are unending.  I take four tablespoons myself every day in some way and I have seen the results in my health.  For birds, I recommend a small amount every day mixed with food which helps with digestion, nutrient absorption, energy expenditure, skin and feather quality, joint health and so much more.  Coconut oil also has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal benefits so it does not spoil and can be used to cook as it does not denature at higher temperatures.  In contrast, I also highly recommend a healthy Omega-3 oil like flax-seed oil or hemp oil.  What many don’t realize is that these oils are very sensitive to light, heat and even agitation so they must be purchased from the refrigerated oils section at your local health food or grocery store. 

jason.3Do you think the world of aviculture is where it needs to be, or where would you like to see it progress in the next ten years?

I think aviculture needs to form a more united front against those who would take our birds from us.  And they are out there and in larger numbers than we would like.  I think the way to do this is to continue educating people about the proper care of birds and how they can successfully create a wonderful life with a bird.   I would like to see much of the nutrition information above as more common knowledge over the next decade as I think offering our birds these more biologically appropriate diets will eliminate many of the maladies that decrease the longevities of companion animals.  I would like to see this happen not only in aviculture, but also moving to more biologically appropriate raw diets for dogs, cats and other pets as well, all of which should be living much longer, healthier lives.

Who are your hero’s in the avian community?

There are so many that I cannot possibly name them all here.  Besides the aforementioned people above, Nancy Speed, President of the American Federation of Aviculture, has done so much work with her incredible breeding practices and has illustrated how much she cares for her birds.  Rick Jordan is a wealth of information and is always willing to share with others.  Irena Schulz of Bird Lovers Only has always been someone who was never afraid to push the envelope when showing the public how wonderful it is to share your life with birds.  Genny Wall who is always watching out for misinformed and poorly written legislation that threatens the rights of the bird owner.  And Alycia and Eric Antheunisse of Cedar Hill Birds who are always educating and exposing young people to joys of aviculture.

jason.6If someone said that they wanted to get involved in the avian community and advocate for parrots, where would you steer them?

The American Federation of Aviculture is a great place to start.  It is all-inclusive for anyone who wants to learn more about their birds.  I serve on the Board of Directors now and I personally invite anyone and everyone that shares their life with a bird to become part of our dynamic organization that continues its educational mission.  Our membership currently consists of pet owners, breeders, rehoming organizations, sanctuaries, conservation organizations, and others who support our educational mission.  We all need to come together and continue to enhance our knowledge of our feathered companions.  Forming relationships between us and our birds is important but without bird owners forming relationships between one another, we will be attempting to keep our birds on a broken foundation.  It benefits all when we can learn from one another.  

I am incredibly grateful that Jason agreed to do “Chats” and I have to say that his journey into aviculture is such an inspiration.  I hope that you read this and realize that there is so much good in this world and the “Movers and Shakers” are indeed out there… continuing to make a difference in this bird world of ours.

 

Copyright – 2014  - Parrot Earth – “Chats” with Jason Crean

Shipping Guaranteed?

I got free shipping here.

I got free shipping here.

Not long ago, we had a realtor and were looking for a bigger house.  To me space and organization are a key to a healthy life.  I am one of those people who likes bins and labels and for things to be put back in their place.  It just helps the flow of my house and since we don’t really have a ton of space or storage here, I like to make it as space conscious as possible.  Recently because the market isn’t flooded with amazing properties that fit into our requirement list, we decided to put the house hunting on the back burner, for now.  

So that being said, I am always looking for ways to slim down congested areas and give us as much room as possible.  Egads, I have come up with some great ideas and we also have gotten rid of a bunch of crap.  I like the “if you don’t use it in 6-8 months, you don’t really need it” philosophy and for the most part I try to stick to it.  However there are some things that I refuse to get rid of, because I know that we will be in a bigger house someday and somethings are just too pricey to replace.  The only thing I can say is thank god for an attic and a friend that doesn’t use her garage.  In the pursuit of the ultimate free-flowing spacial feng shui, I checked some measurements of the grey’s cages.  I had pondered getting a double stack cage for them for years but hadn’t really found one that I was too keen on.  I also noticed that they have been getting along a lot better and could stand to be in the same vicinity without insane cage aggression.  Also considering that birds don’t have cages in the wild, I like the idea of mixing things up for them a bit and trading them back and forth in the upper and lower cage.  Currently they are across from one another and I try to switch their cage location and their toys, even for just a little variety, because as we all know a bored parrot is never a good thing.  

doubleWhile looking for a cage I thought in detail about what I wanted and what I would not settle for.  I wanted high quality, similar  size measurements to what they have now, proper bar spacing and a personal favorite accessory, a seed guard.  Pretty simple right?  There was a fateful day I felt like the clouds had opened up and the sun cam beaming down on my head.  Or so I thought.  I was so ecstatic about finding this unicorn I reviewed their shipping procedures and ordered it.  The order was guaranteed processed and shipped in 1-2 business days.  It was Tuesday.  

After the 1-3 days passed and I had not received a shipping confirmation, complete with a tracking order, I sent a quick “touch base” email regarding my order.  I did not hear back until exactly one week after my order was placed and four business days after my email.  I was then informed that they do not have any cages in stock (which is NOT what their website portrays) I was informed that they “drop ship” which means they are the retail middle man.  Hey I am familiar with drop shipping, I know that many internet based companies use it; in fact I use a drop ship company to print and ship my Parrot Earth T-shirts (which are available NOW *wink wink*), but my customers know that.  Drop shipping keeps costs down so you don’t have to keep a large inventory in stock.  

Little did I know that when I ordered from this company in “Iowa” that I would be expecting a shipment from “Louisiana”.  As time went on, I wondered, “where is my cage?”.  So I sent another email asking for a shipping confirmation and tracking number.  I honestly felt like it was an imposition when I finally got a reply.  I checked the tracking number and it said the cage was being shipped to California, we are located in Washington.  So I then contacted the company and asked if another freight company would be bringing it north to Seattle.  Three days went by before I got a response.  I even contacted the freight company with no help.  Eventually I was contacted and apparently given the wrong tracking number.  With this tracking number I was able to find out that the cage was shipped from the distributor in Louisiana, there was no regular company that shipped to Washington and it was handed off to another company that services our area.  Meanwhile for four days the cage sat on a loading dock waiting for the new company to pick it up.  When it was picked up, I had to call all parties involved again for a “new” tracking number.  I was then told it would be expedited due to my “inconvenience” however I know from my customer service days, that’s a lovely tactic to get you to shoosh and don’t make a scene.  

I got tracking here.

I got tracking here.

The tracking number said it would be delivered today.  However the truck was late and the appointment is scheduled for Friday.  I can wait that long, I feel like this has been one of those learning experiences that I will never forget.  Oh, did I mention the shipping company wanted to charge me (remember this was free shipping)an additional $75 for a special “lift gate truck” because the cage is in two pieces and fastened to a palette.  After being talked down to and sniped at by the person and knowing shipping from back in the day (I worked in the Montgomery Ward Warehouse as a shipping clerk)I won’t exactly tell you what I told the person I was speaking to but it was along the lines of “I will cut the straps off the boxes and hand deliver the cage myself and you can stick the palette where the sun doesn’t shine”.  Needless to say I will not be doing business with this freight company after all is said and done and especially the company where I ordered the cage from.  It’s been an episode in terror.  I just hope the cage is five hundred times better than this shipping ordeal.  Fingers crossed.

When ordering a cage or large purchase from a company that is out-of-state ask some questions.
1. Do you have the item in stock or do you “drop ship” from a distributor?  If they use a distributor ask where they are located.  
2. What method of shipping do you use? (Fed Ex, UPS, or a freight company)
3. Does your normal freight company ship to my area?  If not, what secondary freight company will they use to make sure my purchase delivered?
4. Do you guarantee Free Shipping?
5. How long will my order take to ship?  If they cannot give you an exact date, can they at least give you a ball park. 
6. Get tracking numbers and contact information!  If your order goes awry (which it possibly could) it’s good to be organized because depending on who you will be talking to, they all have different numbers.  
I got Customer Service here.

I got Customer Service here.

Customer Service in this our world has depleted, I was in the restaurant/bar management business for 17 years and I always took great pride in helping people and making sure they were satisfied.  I learned my work ethic from my mother “do your best or don’t bother” was the motto.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that motto is used anymore.  There are those rare and wonderful instances when you get a good representative or customer service experience who gives you hope the whole world doesn’t hate their job.    

Don’t settle for mediocre customer service, you’re not helping yourself or the people who are doing the job.  Give compliments where they are due and ask simple questions like…. 

is Shipping Guaranteed?

Copyright – 2014 – Parrot Earth – Shipping Guaranteed?

 

 

 

Under Construction?!

detourI don’t know about where you reside, but here in the Pacific Northwest when Spring comes and the sun starts to make more regular appearances, there is a single color starts to make its way prevalently into every neighborhoods and  our roadways.   Orange!  It’s everywhere, road construction, detours, asphalt patches and most recently in our neighborhood…. construction to build green storm water drains.  I could give you the long version of what that means, but I will give you the shorter explanation.  Basically they are tearing up the parking strips in various neighborhood blocks, to insert large drains into large swales which will filter the storm water and then go into our water supply.  Hey, I am all for green alternatives to just about anything that will help this dying planet of ours.  In fact, when we purchase a house we are going to install solar panels.  So… what’s the big deal?  As some of you know, living with parrots and animals is already a bit challenging, add trucks beeping, jack hammers, backhoes, and giant soil levelers that make the house feel like it’s in a low-grade earthquake for hours, it proves to be irritating.  I’m trying to see the larger picture.

constructionWhat you can expect during construction

  • Bioretention Swales constructed in two seasons – March to October 2014 and March to October 2015
  • Each block will take approximately two months to complete
  • Work hours in compliance with City of Seattle permits, which typically allow work between 7 am and 6 pm Monday to Friday
  • Local access at all times for homeowners and emergency vehicles
  • Pedestrian access at all times

How long is this going to last?  Well, the upside we are in the final three(ish) weeks left.  It’s been going on since March and patience are beginning to wear away.  We are no longer able to park in front of our house (which for us isn’t necessarily a problem because we have a driveway in our backyard) but there are elderly people on our block that don’t have that luxury.  No parking signs that say, possibly no parking until “mid or end of april”, makes them seem organized right?  They also begin their construction at 7am and work sometimes well into the evening.  Which is not a problem for me, because I figure the longer the hours then the faster the finish line arrives.  However, the animals do not seem to see it that way.

Both of the birds have adopted all of the construction noises that go along with it.  Various truck beeping, jackhammers, slamming, metal clanging just to name a few.  Cooper and Dexter are also beginning their ascent into spring hormones, which means my skin will soon be tested for thickness and healing ability.  I will also be tested to see how fast I can bleed out after one of Cooper’s episodes into “crazytown”.  This construction is also wearing on them.

construction2With the combination of factors I cannot control, I am trying to keep them busy with chew toys or soothing music on the radio when they are taking their mid day nap, just so every little noise doesn’t startle them.  I also try to spend that little quality alone time with them, so they get a little extra nurturing and security.  Lord knows that when it feels like the world around you is exploding around you, it’s nice to feel safe.

While writing this article, I noticed that there is a large crack in the ceiling plaster in the bird room, no doubt aggravated by the seismic activity caused by their giant ground leveling machine.  My aggravation for this project has gained an all time high.  Granted, it is not the end of the world, but home repairs and patch jobs are a chore when you have birds.  Making sure that everything is dry the air is safe for them to breathe before you return them to the area is the top priority.  Guess it’s time to call the plaster man.

I know that the all of the animals at Parrot Earth headquarters will survive… but will I?  The end of April cannot come fast enough.

Copyright – 2014 – Parrot Earth – Under Construction

 

 

 

Attack of the Killer Parrot

nice38Ah, that moment when you bring you new re-homed parrot into your household.  You buy the right cages, the right food, a delightful collection of toys and a wide selection of fresh fruits and veggies to offer your new companion.  You’ve done all the research and read/bought every book you can get your hands on and feel confident in making a lifetime commitment.    You take a breath of fresh air after putting your treasured new buddy in his cage, covering him and letting him get acquainted with his new environment.  You diligently check on him to make sure he is “okay” and eventually after a bit of time you want to start interacting with your “dream bird”.  You open the cage door and offer a dehydrated banana as a treat.  Your new friend comes out of his cage and gives you this adorable look and comes towards you, “aw look how sweet he wants a treat”, you say to yourself.  He then leans in for the banana and WHAM, instead of taking the sweet offering of a banana from your pinched fingers he has decided to chomp down on your finger, cutting through the skin like paper and drawing blood.  It’s a case of “Attack of the Killer Parrot”.

angry-parrot-500x406This ladies and gentlemen is a much more idealistic and realistic view on what can happen in your household when you introduce a parrot into a strange environment.  Most of the time a person will have their idea of what will happen or should happen, instead of going with the flow.   I should know, this very scenario happened to me with my Congo African Grey Cooper.  Does this happen with every parrot?  No, in fact my Timneh African Grey Dexter was just the opposite.  Essentially, just like humans, each bird is unique and different and carries their own set of baggage with them when they pack up and move.  When you re-home an older parrot, or like I did re-homing two greys in their teens, it is almost impossible to know how they are going to get along in your home.  There are no guarantees, but that is also not a “get out of parrot free card” either.

dex.coopCooper really taught me a lot about my patience level and myself.  You see I grew up on a Barley farm with horses and other animals.  I was taught that you dominate and be the master of your domain and that includes your animals.  I won’t go into details, but I saw some horses mistreated as a child and I knew that I didn’t agree with it, nor would I be that person.

Even though parrots can talk and understand wide variety of human arenas, they still are not fluent in English.  They cannot say, “I’m having a bad day and I really don’t feel like target training today, maybe tomorrow”.  The only way that they can convey “NO!” to you, is in body language that later will turn into a bite, if pushed.  Imagine something thirty times your size cornering you and demanding you “step up”.  I don’t know about you, but that would flip my switch and I too would come out biting.

photo (11)So, how do we handle our aggressive birds?  Take a step back and try to figure out where the root of the problem is, instead of the symptom.  For example; his previous owners husband mistreated Dexter, and wore hats almost every day, so we figured out quite quickly that we could not wear hats when we first brought Dexter home.  Eventually we started wearing hats and dropping a treat into his bowl.  Therefore making it a positive experience, as opposed to the terrifying ordeal he went through with getting swatted at or hats thrown at his cage.  Now he does not care who is wearing a hat, just as long as you are not handling him.

Macaw Rescue 010Also look around at the environment, you would be very surprised what toy and cage placement can do.  There may be a “looming evil plant” too close to the cage; they may have too much interaction with outdoor elements.  Seeing too much stimulation walking down the street can panic a bird.  My greys are in their own nook with a very large picture window and because we live on a busy street we keep the curtains gathered in the middle.  This offers light and a glimpse of outside, but cuts out the many people walking their dogs or parking to take a bus downtown.  We had to do this because of alarm beeps, panic behavior and calls every time someone walked down the street.  I always say, who needs a watchdog when you own a parrot, they can see twice as far and will alert you twice as fast.

When you interact with your bird, take a second to realize what energy you are bringing to the table.  Because Cooper used to use me as a chew toy, I realized that I was bringing fear and apprehension to the table.  I didn’t look at it as a new interaction; I was the one bringing the past with me.  A parrot’s behavior can be affected by their past, but we as humans remind them of it.  It is our job to help abused parrots, but also allow them the dignity to heal from their previous abusive experiences and enjoy better quality of lives, not remind them every moment that they were abused or broken in some way.  Animals are like kids; they crave structure and a sense of security.  When you have those in place, you would be surprised what you can accomplish.

photo (2)What are your reactions to getting a bite?  Do you yell, flail, or yank your hand away?  This could also be reinforcement and your parrot may find this absolutely hilarious.  Parrots are smart enough to create their own entertainment and if they can control you in the process, well then “Game On”.  Hey I know parrot bites hurt like the dickens, but sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and bear it.  Cooper and I eventually had a “come to Jesus meeting” and I let him bite the crap out of me, and I refused to back down.  This changed the narrative in our relationship.  I no longer would react to his prompts and he now realized that I was no longer his puppet.

Body language is another tool you can use.  Parrots are prey animals and are keenly suspicious, that’s how they have survived thousands of years on this planet.  Eventually you will gather enough personal information on your parrot that will enable you to identify when they are going to strike.  Some parrot’s pupils will pin and others will puff their feathers in order to look as large as they can.  Whatever way your bird likes to express that it is hocked off, it’s important that you know how to identify it, because this is going to help you eliminate pushing the envelope.problem solver  Humans want animals to respect them, but there is a fine line between respect and fear.  Respect will get you a lifetime bond from an animal, including your parrot.  Fear will do just the opposite.

Your bird’s body language will also help you know when your bird is up to participating or is not feeling it.  Either way, it’s a matter of you allowing your bird to make decisions.  This will not only make for a happier bird, but it will make for a more trusting bond between you.

Just because you have gotten some good bites, does not mean that your bird hates you.  Get back on the horse and try again…don’t rush it take your time.  Trust me, your bird has a lot of time and you will be spending a lot of time together.  Do your research, read books and articles.  Remember that you are not perfect.  And remember that you have to do what is best for you and your bird(s).

Copyright 2014 – Parrot Earth – Attack of the Killer Parrot

A Bird’s Eye View of Parrot Confidential

parrot confidential

I got Parrot Confidential here.

The name on everyone’s lips isn’t “Roxie” (from the movie Chicago, in case you’re wondering) it’s “Parrot Confidential”.  Social media and the internet has been a buzz about this movie for months, and finally the time came and went.  Most things I saw online prior to the airing were the “what if’s”.  “What if it paints parrot owners in a negative light” is probably the most popular that I saw.  Until it came time to watch, we all had to wade in the pool of anticipation.

I want to say that I am impressed for the amount of chatter that this film has caused.  It has raised opinions, some good, some bad, some here and some there… but it got people talking about the future and the history of birds.  In some circles the chatter has become a battlefield of opinions, which at times is not a bad thing, nor is a difference of opinion.  How you relate to those opinions and the delivery is probably the most important thing to consider.

gray area

I got grey area here.

In this day and age, our society is in the middle of a civil and moral war.  A decade ago there was more of a gray area of thinking, as time has gone by opinions have shifted and so has the gray area.  It has become smaller and people have started taking sides, hopping into camps and cliques.  The liberal have gotten more liberal and the conservative, well have gotten more conservative.  Therefore this trickles down into other areas of thinking and avenues.  Some bird people are attacking breeders, and advocating adoption only.  Some have decided that we as humans are an evil species and we have ruined the lives of birds forever.  Others have looked into the mirror and seen a glimpse of themselves that they really aren’t that comfortable with seeing.

Have we humans ruined the natural world of birds, well actually yes, in a way.  As a human race, we are the only creatures that change an environment to suite our needs and not the other way around.  There is no adapting to our environment, so yes we have taken something from the wild that probably should not have been in the first place. So now what?

lavanya

I got Lavanya and Dolly here.

The documentary shows that some people are clearly better and more suited for being parrot owners.  The story of Lavanya and Dolly resonates this point.  Dolly gets to go to a boarding sanctuary for a few days a week, so Lavanya can have some personal time.  This is a great idea in my opinion, not only is it good for the human, but it keeps the parrot socialized and enriched with different experiences.  Clearly Lavanya did her research and has the resources to make this happen.  Also a point about this story, Lavanya takes Dolly as she is.  She isn’t on a website buying a trick dvd that is guaranteed to make her parrot stop screaming.  Lavanya realizes that parrot vocalizations are natural and takes her bird’s natural behaviors for what they are…natural.

I got Fagan and Marie here.

I got Fagan and Marie here.

“So what do I do if I cannot afford to take my bird to a boarding facility”,  well I think the idea of enrichment can come from Fagan.  Poor grey was malnourished and soaked in nicotine for years by a “dime store cigar smoker” and had self mutilated to the point he had an open wound on his chest.  Thankfully Marie Crowley has the know how and experience to help this little guy have a better quality of life.  With the help of her vet, they successfully detoxed Fagan off of nicotine, after several seizures his health has improved minimally.  Marie knows that parrots need enrichment and stimulation to help alleviate anxiety and stress, which leads to self-mutilation, plucking and barbering of feathers.  A thing as simple as identifying colors can make all the difference to a parrot or something as simple as a left over chopstick from your Chinese food last night with a clicker can be the best training tool in the world.  It’s how you look at the little things and how something small to you can mean the world to your bird.

I remember twenty-five years ago, when I got into birds, we really didn’t know anything.  Not about enrichment, toys, training, food, diet, nutrition… nothing.  I still think back to my first birds and I feel a sense of guilt.  Like I said, we didn’t know any better.  However things have thankfully changed.

I got Santa Barbara Bird Farm here.

I got Santa Barbara Bird Farm here.

Rescues are now a necessity and once upon a time they were not.  The Lindens own Santa Barbara Bird Farms and for those of you die-hard Bird Talk readers, will remember the ads in the back of the magazine with their logo.  They hand fed all of their babies, screened all of their applicants and had a waiting list of around a year.  I know this because I was on their waiting list as I so wanted desperately to buy a baby African Grey parrot.  That was until I fell for an abused Mexican Red Amazon parrot named Judd.  That’s a whole different story, and you can read more about it here.  Santa Barbara Bird Farms owned the parrot breeding market on the west coast, and the word was, if you wanted a healthy and happy bird, you went through them.  That changed when they realized that the market of supply and demand had shifted.  Supply was much higher than demand and unwanted parrots were everywhere. So they closed their breeding doors and began taking in birds that they had sold and created a sanctuary.  They have chosen to make a “quality” of life for the existing birds and room for more.  To be honest, I think this is incredibly responsible and very warm-hearted.  There are thousands of breeders that got into the game, made their money and got out, with no thought of what they had done to the infrastructure of parrot breeding.  Unfortunately that is a reality that we all have to face.  There are good breeders out there, who care and want to make a difference and there are breeders who run “mill” type operations.  The same is true for cats, dogs, horses, ferrets and the list goes on and on.  Good and bad exists in every culture, including the culture of parrot breeders and their owners.

I am a fan, cheerleader and supporter of any rescue/sanctuary operation.  It is something that I know that I would not be able to do.  In the past couple of years, we have fostered a few birds and it is hard to let them go.  It’s also a ton of work, cleaning, training and just making sure they have enough time with you to feel that they are safe and not alone.  I applaud anyone that can and does this.  You are rock stars in my eyes.

foster parrot

I got Foster Parrot LTD here.

I have always said that I believe that any sanctuary should have an adoption program, for those birds that are handleable and would make someone a great pet.  In the movie, Foster Parrots LTD took in Lou, the abandoned Cockatoo in to their sanctuary. The question is posed, “How must it feel for a bird like Lou, entering a sanctuary for the first time?”  It was perfectly described to me by a couple that run a local rescue.  “Look at all the prison movies, the newbies walk in, and the inmates start to cat call and size you up the minute you walk in the door, it has to be terrifying” and I had to see the logic in it.  You figure natural behavior is to figure out if you are going to fit in with their flock, and possibly be any sort of threat.  orange-is-the-new-black-posterIt also does have to be a bit scary for the “newbie” walking in the door, you never who or what is waiting for you.  Hearing all of the vocalizations, possibly even warning or alert calls, it has to take a toll.   Talk about “Orange is the New Black”.

Through out this documentary the thought is constantly thrown out, “parrots make terrible pets”.  Yes they are, for some people. Hey, I know people who shouldn’t be left alone with a cactus or a goldfish.   Simply put,  people should take the time to research, spend time with various ages of birds, and be prepared to make the lifetime commitment.  My birdless friends say, “Birds are so much harder than say cats or dogs”, hell yes they are! They haven’t had hundreds of years of domestication and they are also the worlds most intelligent “prey” animals.  Prey animals have to be handled in a whole different manner.  This is just my opinion, but I have written a few articles regarding horses and parrots, and their similarities (I said similarities people, before you go on a tirade, look up the word).  You have to be mindful of the energy you bring to the table of working with both, and constantly watching their body language.  If you work with positive reinforcement, eventually if you are lucky a trust bond can be formed and they will almost do anything, but you still have to remember that they are still non-domesticated wild animals.  Unpredictable and full of natural behaviors that to the average person, would be considered to be undesirable.

Through social media and other arenas, the gauntlet has been thrown in some circles and arguments have ensued. People disagreeing with the film as a whole and others saying that parrot owners are selfishly defending keeping parrots as pets.  Others are defending their rights to have parrots, because they feel that they are enriching their lives, creating opportunities for people to learn about the various species of parrots through educational programming, that otherwise would not have the chance to see a parrot in the wild.  People advocating rescues, while attacking breeders, while breeders are defending their right to breed and saying they are trying to keep some species from going extinct.  As I said before, the gray area is getting smaller and smaller.  People are choosing one side or the other, Coke or Pepsi, yin or yang, instead of trying to sit down and see the opposition as a possible learning opportunity.

I got The Ara Project here.

I got The Ara Project here.

In Parrot Confidential, I was so elated to see The Ara Project!  Breeding Macaws and releasing them into the wild with a 85% percent success rate!  Hatching babies, preparing them for what is in the wild and then slowly releasing them one at a time, when the conditions are right, so that they can flourish… that is action at it’s best.  That in itself shows a glimmer of hope for wild parrots.

For the record, I noticed some things during this documentary.  They showed a lot of empty cages, with no toys, not a lot of perches and usually the cages were too small for the species.  Any documentary is going to use “smoke and mirrors” to get their point across and to get the viewer to feel the desired emotion to correlate with the current narration.  They even used actors to recreate various scenarios and situations to get the viewer engaged. Writers do the same thing, we write things to create an image, our view, to get you to see something from our angle.  It comes down to you making the determination of what you get out of the presentation.

What are my thoughts about the film?  If you own a bird or even if you do not own a bird, by all means, you should watch this documentary.  It may show you a side of parrots that you were not aware of and it may invoke thoughts that you never thought you would create for yourself.  As a viewer you may be inspired to begin advocation of parrot adoption, or you may want to start sponsoring or volunteering at a local rescue or sanctuary.  This may actually inspire you to want to adopt a bird that so desperately needs a forever home!  I hope this film will evoke emotions and hopefully will make a positive impact on the world of aviculture and parrot owners.

What emotions and thoughts were evoked for me by this film?  Well this is where it may get ugly and you may agree with it and you may not.  But, it’s my blog and it’s nice to be the boss sometimes.Blackfish

I watched this and my thoughts shifted on owning parrots just like when watched and  wrote about the film Blackfish regarding SeaWorld Orca and other Orca’s in captivity.  I saw a glimpse behind the curtain and I wasn’t sure I wanted to.  I felt a certain guilt about owning my birds, but unfortunately they are already in my home and sometimes you have to play the cards that you have.  People can say bird owners are selfish, but guess what they are already here and it’s our job to make their lives as happy and pleasant as possible.  Do I think that we as humans have ruined the natural world of birds?  Yep, sure do.  I think we as humans are incredibly selfish and are always looking for the next best thing, or the next fad. Birds happened to amuse our ancestors thousand of years ago and eventually amused us again becoming another fad when they reappeared on television’s Baretta in the 1970′s.

I got Parrot Confidential Kona here.

I got Parrot Confidential Kona here.

What would I do?  (Again, just my opinion folks) I think that birds should be licensed, just like dogs and cats are, so we can get a more accurate number and read of how many birds are in homes across the country.  This would also help the spread of disease, by keeping track of vet care.  If you are going to be a breeder;  breeders should only be allowed to breed a certain number of birds depending on permits and the amounts of particular species bred that year depending on the state.  Is this going to happen?  Probably not, there is already overcrowding of dogs cats and other animal species and essentially it comes down to helping and doing your part, so you can sleep at night.

This is our mess and unfortunately, no one is going to clean it up for us.  Of course unless you consider the opinions of various government regulated agencies that think euthanasia is the easiest way to deal with the situation or outlawing them all together and taking them out of your home to deal with over population.  We can sit around and point fingers, take sides and him-haw about the issues.  Do birds belong in captivity?  Really does any wild animal, probably not… but as Cher says “if I could turn back time”.  We cannot turn back the clock, we cannot undo bringing bird into our homes as pets, we cannot undo the ozone layer, in fact we cannot undo the damage that we have done to their habitats or this planet we live on either.   It’s time to start looking at the things that we can do.  Working together as a community instead of closing our minds and start saving the avian world that we have instead of “wishing” it would be better. Activism, advocation and action are the ways that circumstances regarding parrots in captivity will change.

I got Geoffrey here.

I got Geoffrey here.

As a very outspoken and vocal kid (nothing like today), my aunt Wendy used to say “god gave you two ears and one mouth, so that you can listen twice as much as you speak” and that is what we need to do.  Listen. Open yourself up to solutions, and support your local bird community rescues and sanctuaries.  Advocate rescues and adopting birds that may not be babies but are going to make great additions to families.  Talk to breeders and find out why they are in the business, instead of assuming.  Encourage kids and their curiosity of parrots, hopefully by doing this you will pass the spark.  Because those people who are just complaining and bitching about the situation and doing nothing about it, unfortunately will be dead and gone and there will still be thousands and thousands of birds out there that are unwanted and homeless.  We have to get the next generation involved!

It’s important after watching this film to know, parrots aren’t the glamorous pets that the media and movies portray.  They are a labor of love but can be the biggest blessing that can come into your life, if you’re prepared, have done the research and truly know what you are getting yourself into after opening Pandora’s box.  Find the right information from reputable trainers and behaviorists, learn about diet and nutrition and all of the in’s and out’s of the bird you want.  If after doing all of this, and doing a life inventory to see if you are stable enough to own a parrot, then by all means do it.  Parrots are one of the most amazing creatures on the planet!

It will change your life… and in this writer’s opinion “for good”.

Copyright 2013 – Parrot Earth – A Bird’s Eye View of Parrot Confidential