When 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!
I 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.
What 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
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.
Tell 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.
The 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.
Tell 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 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.
Do 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.
If 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