Rescues; Deplumed (Part Two) by Caitlin Rice

I wasn’t able to visit Sebastian this month. I had a tremendous load of responsibility in February, 2014. I went on a rescue call for a bunch of small birds abandoned in a house while it was 4°F. It was rat infested. The owner died weeks earlier and the cigarette smoke still lingered. I suddenly had 9 Cockatiels and 10 Budgies quarantined in my apartment, and I had to give them several Dawn soap baths before they looked or smelled remotely clean. I was in the middle of moving. I took in a Conure who went neurotic when he was surrendered. He was driving other foster homes crazy with his constant screaming, and in addition to all that I also started fostering a wild African Ringneck.

Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Rice

Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Rice

The more I learned about shelter operations, the angrier I became. It was all such a complicated mess. More and more birds came in while there were good parrots who had been in foster care for years. They weren’t getting adopted and they were developing problems in the chaos. Foster homes were bursting at the seams with dozens of parrots in each home. Nobody wanted to talk about this devastating catastrophe. They wanted to use volunteer homes as warehouse space for birds and expect us not to complain about paying for everything ourselves. They always did more and spent more than we could imagine, our work was thankless and never good enough.  

I would think about Sebastian and my mind was temporarily cleared of these trauma-inducing thoughts. I had to get him out of there and I was going to put on a happy face no matter what.

February 22 I went down those steep steps and through the rickety old doorway that led me to my big red buddy. This time he had a bowl full of food and the man looked concerned.

“He hasn’t touched his food…..I don’t know what’s the matter with him.”

Sebastian was in a different cage now. The state inspector had been by for the yearly visit, perhaps she told him to make the change. Still, the new cage was hardly a step up from the old tiny one. He willingly stepped out of that cage and onto a perch for the man.

“Hold out your arm!”

I was nervous. He talked it up like this bird was so awful and now he was thrusting him into my arms.“You can pet him! He lets some people get all in there and scratch his head.”

Despite being in this dungeon with that man present, I felt nothing but indescribable joy. To finally hold Sebastian in my arms after all those tearful nights…words just don’t do it justice.

The man showed a softer side. I wouldn’t say it was huggy or emotional, or remotely indicative of someone who was [temporarily] leaving a pet they had for ten years, but it was softer. I could see how volunteers might be led on by these moments and feel the need to protect him, with hopes that he would suddenly become this person they imagine he could be. I, however, was not so easily romanced.

He drove Sebastian over to my house and let him out of the carrier. Suddenly I felt protective. I wanted him to feel safe and easy in the new environment.

“Give him the command! Tell him to step up!”

I pretty much ignored that and set the perch next to him, waiting for him to make the choice. Then I put him in his new cage, 78” tall and 46” wide, his old cage nearly fit inside twice.

“You’re going to have to be firm with him, he will be harder to control in a bigger cage. Do not underestimate this bird.”

I thought to myself, do not underestimate me.

Sebastian was finally in my home and I was so grateful for every moment we shared together. The first thing I did was take him to the vet. His nails were curling, his beak was overgrown, he had very foul-smelling excrement. The vet could feel his skeleton. I had to follow-up every month with the vet, getting him weighed and groomed until his feet and beak could function properly. He put me in touch with a special animal opthamologist and I made an appointment for July. It would take time to save money for that.

I was talking to another volunteer on the phone and she asked me how Sebastian was doing. I told her how I would hear him say things that sounded terrible. GET OVER THERE. GET OVER THERE. STEP UP. STEP UP.

“Did Mr. President tell you about how he rescued him?”

He did not.

Before he ever lived in a basement, Sebastian was violently abused. The first owner grabbed from his cage by his tail and flung into a dog crate. He shared the cage with a scarlet macaw named Happy who came along as well. They traveled away from that life with the man I was now dealing with.

“He said he felt like punching the guy in the face but he knew that he wouldn’t be able to get the birds out if he reacted harshly.”

Well…I guess for that moment he knew how I felt for the 5 months leading up to me re-rescuing him from this ‘rescue’. Happy got his happy ending, Sebastian seemed to have been lost in translation.

 I spent time with him every day, building a bond and training in approximations. For the first two weeks he did nothing but eat, sleep, and drink. He wasn’t difficult to control; he was just terribly afraid and very easily startled with his disability. His body often trembled in the presence of other people. I trained him to target outside the cage and he was gaining some confidence, but then he would get nervous and inch all the way to one side of his T stand until he stepped into thin air on his blind side.

Photo courtesy of Caitlin Rice

Photo courtesy of Caitlin Rice

He wanted to be up high. He wanted to sit on top of his cage and never come down. I built a big jungle gym for him, arranged in a square so his disability wouldn’t get in the way. It braced against the ceiling so he could flap those glorious wings with all his might. Working with him on this stand every day changed his whole world. He developed confidence and became remarkably easy to train. I am so proud of him for how brave he has been.

The man never once asked me how he was doing. He had made comments to others about the environment I set up.

“He’s going to be spoiled and difficult to handle when he comes back”.

I wanted to ask about keeping him but I was so afraid. I’d tell him how Sebastian was doing and all he had to say was,

“He’s my bird. You can’t have him.”

It made me sick. I didn’t want to ask him until it felt absolutely right.

 Caring for birds at home became my full-time occupation. I didn’t have time to help the president keep his basement clean every week. I went over about a month later and some unsettling information came to my attention. Other foster homes were in scary conditions, I overheard. Birds that were up for adoption had been dead for months. I was white as a ghost. I didn’t know these people. I could hardly help this guy, let alone a whole network of others just like him with basements full of birds like Sebastian. I felt horrified at the thought.

Foster homes weren’t given specific guidelines on cleaning and feeding. There were no limits, no standards, and no consequences. How could they enforce rules that were not in place? How could volunteers do home checks with the number of birds they each had to care for? Some of these people had 30 to 40 birds under their roof, in addition to children and jobs. This wasn’t fair to the birds, but it wasn’t fair to the people either. It wasn’t fair to their families and it made me really sad.

“What is on the home check sheet? How do you define clean water? How do people know what you expect of them?” I asked.

He wouldn’t give me a straight answer. Some people were “too anal” according to him. They didn’t know how to write standards because of….political reasons? It got personal because of the awful conditions? I didn’t know. But I knew who could define it for everyone: Kansas state laws.

I researched these laws and studied them like I was getting ready for the board exam. There were some really serious violations within this shelter, and foster homes had no idea what they were agreeing to. I spent months writing a proposal with solutions.

I went to help him clean again several weeks later. There was a noteworthy exchange that is still eery when I think of it. Every time I helped him clean I would bring a pad of recycled newsprint to line the cages. I never wanted to use that old newspaper he had because it harbors a mold that can cause aspergillus. I learned this from Irene Pepperberg when she spoke of Alex’s death in her memoir Alex and me.

I had been doing this for 6 months and he finally picked up my newsprint and commented,

“Wow this is handy. Fits right in the tray!”

I explained why I used it and immediately his demeanor changed, he put my newsprint down, and picked up his newspaper piles to continue lining the cage trays.

You see, he had wanted Irene Pepperberg to speak at an event for his shelter, but she charges a $4,000 fee. Much of that money benefits parrot conservation and scientific research. But he believes it is such an unreasonable amount of money, that he can’t stand to hear her name. Doesn’t matter that she changed the world’s perception of parrot intelligence and inspired people to raise the bar for parrot care and conservation all across the globe. He will spite her ‘outrageous’ fee by adamantly disregarding warnings about the potential deadliness of moldy old newspaper. Riiight.

“She overworked that bird you know. He started plucking.”

Meanwhile, not four feet behind him, an African grey sits in a dirty empty cage with no toys, in all the glory of her plucked chest and abdomen.

The next time I went into the basement was also my last. I was helping with an event at Mr. President’s house while he was at work. I smelled something wrong. It smelled like the rat house where I rescued the 19 little birds. I had to check. I didn’t want to but I had to.

The smell of rodent urine wafted in and out of my nose as I walked around, trying to find the origin. And something else I couldn’t put my finger on….fungus. There were piles of mold in the cage trays. Mold growing on the floor covering ⅓ of the cubic feet that I could see. Furry looking piles under the food bins. Roaches crawling in the food supply. Plants growing out of the mold. Ants crawling around the food debris caked with bird poop.

No wonder he had so many birds die down there. Now I understood why some of them would throw large volumes of their pellets into their tray, despite being hungry. The ones who ate all their pellets must have been the ones who died. Grain food becomes deadly when it harbors certain kinds of mold. When the air dries in the cold season, that mold powders into dust and they breathe it in. Bugs and rodents leave feces and urine everywhere they go. What would have happened if I didn’t help him that winter? And now I understand why there was such an unusual amount of dust. No precautions were taken during the summers and this must have happened over and over in cycles.

And the biggest irony of this?

He had once said something that chilled me to the bone.

“All those birds died and Sebastian is still here.”

sebastian.4

Photo courtesy of Caitlin Rice

Sebastian was the last one to be fed and I had even seen the man skip him because the bird was “too mean” to risk putting his arm in the cage. Mold and other contamination would be less present on food that is deeper in the bin. Sebastian was getting less food and the food he did get had less mold. Perhaps this monster gave Sebastian a terrible life for killing one of his only friendly birds, and his torturous treatment was the very thing that saved him.

One other volunteer was present and I showed her what I saw. I called the rescue adoptions coordinator. I sent her pictures of what I saw. I told her that he needed an intervention. I would help get every bird out of there ASAP, take care of them in my basement while he got a professional company to eradicate the mold and bugs, and we would have to get serious about what was going on in these other foster homes. She told me that if I were to take in any of those birds, I should not let a single cage from that environment enter my home. But she also began to worry. I told her I wrote a proposal and I was waiting to present it. She cut me off,

“We are doing EVERYTHING BY THE BOOKS, Caitlin. Do not use words like ‘law’ around the man. It will trigger him and he will shut down emotionally. He will not allow anyone down there anymore to check on those birds if you do that.”

I gave her an ultimatum: Help me get the birds out of there ASAP and make him do something different or I will report him. He is the president of this shelter and his actions are infecting the entire organization.

“Do you understand what that could do to the birds in this shelter?”

I did understand. But these people were made to believe that if the ring leader was shut down, all their birds would be taken away and euthanized. This is not the case but I could not waste any more time going in circles with her. She could look it up herself. She was choosing to believe this crazy man and stay ignorant. None of this was my problem anymore, I was done.

I ended up making a report. I used my proposal to cite all the laws; it was relatively easy to make sure the state would take immediate action since I had spent months doing all that work. The other volunteers helped him cover things up. The inspector didn’t enforce the laws he was still breaking. He passed inspection and got a stern talking to. For that entire week I could hardly sleep as my body surged with adrenaline. I was a victim of a heinous crime, years ago. I was suddenly triggered and afraid. My heart was constantly pounding. Then I got the text that I was dreading:

“I think its time for Sebastian to come home now.”

Copyright – 2014 – Parrot Earth – Rescues;Deplumed (Part Two) by Caitlin Rice

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