Monday, December 27, 2010

Our December Gift to Mother Nature

For those of you parrot lovers that live in the United States you know that there are (or were) two distinct species of native parrot here, the Carolina Parakeet and the Thick-billed Parrot. But if you didn't know that we held two lovely and distinct birds of the psittacine order in the U.S., then surprise! I trust that you will now be dutifully taking time to learn about these interesting ad exciting animals, no?

So anyways the exciting news! Take a gander at what the press has to say about attempting to get one of our parrots back into a thriving situation. Image by Andrew Zuckerman.

By FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press – Thu Dec 16, 2:11 pm ET

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The federal government has agreed to draft a recovery plan for an endangered parrot with a historical range that included Arizona and New Mexico.
Environmentalists sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over what it said was a decades-long delay in developing such a plan.
The two sides settled the lawsuit this week.
About 2,800 of the adult thick-billed parrots still live in the wild, mostly in northern Mexico. Environmentalists say the last credible reports of naturally occurring flocks in the U.S. are from southeastern Arizona in 1938 and southwestern New Mexico in 1964.

A Fish and Wildlife spokesman says the agency will review Mexico's recovery plan and have a U.S. version available for public comment in 2012.
So there it is folks! Starting almost a full year from now we get a recovery plan for our parrots! And from the sound of things it wasn't easy to get. I don't think I could blame the Fish and Wildlife Service for perhaps putting up a fuss either. It is not cheap or easy to grow native parrot populations especially when there has not been one in seventy-two years, and this species hasn't had huge flocks to begin with! This doesn't look like a cinch.

The plan is going to take many years, but wouldn't it be worth it? How amazing would it be to have our own native parrot species? How proud would you be to visit Arizona just to go watch our own parrots flying in their natural habitat? I would have to make it a yearly trip to visit, just as a treat for myself.

We missed our chance with the Carolina Parakeet and I hope that this chance is all that we need for our proudly native Thick-billed.

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird

Monday, December 13, 2010

On a Cold Winter's Day

Last week I was given a shocker, I found bleeding red scabs on Achilles's back. Before I found them on my cockatiel I noticed odd preening behavior from her. She would be perching perfectly happy and content when all of a sudden she would start to vigorously preen her back but it wasn't just her feathers, it was skin she was attacking. And while it may seem silly I just thought she was preening. I honestly thought she was preening the fluffier down feathers located near the skin. So I took little notice of it and thought it was just normal 'tiel behavior because if you own a cockatiel you know how much they love to preen. But one winter Sunday morning, while Achilles was preening on my shoulder and I was grabbing a cardboard box of corn chex for  breakfast, I glanced over to see my bird pull (and I mean she pulled) a matted feather from her back and it was lightly spotted in blood.

After seeing that matted feather I calmly sat down with her and understood what was happening; she was irritated with her back and wasn't just cleaning it hardily. So I began to inspect her back to see where that blood had come from. She was still preening the same area so I simply started to "help" her preen it, which she likes, but this time I needed to move past all the thick, white cockatiel fluff to see her skin. After a little work I made my way through the forest of feathers and found the pink plains of skin. There it was, a little nick of epidermis slightly oozing with drying blood.

"Okay" said my brain to itself. "It's not bad, I'll just give her a warm bath and snip some fresh aloe for her. I bet it's just the dry winter air." And that's exactly what I did. But I found two more areas on her that had scabs or new wounds. This area is the worst one.

What was I to do? I really started freaking out now that I saw she was covered. My regular vet, and all other vets, are closed today. But should I take her to the Emergency Clinic? Probably not as she was not in a life or death situation, the damage on her showed that she must had been picking like this for a while. So what's a caring mother do? I whipped up a mix of oatmeal and home-grown aloe in a blender and filtered it out so that only a refined liquid was left. The process was a bit messy and I had to be careful not to get it on her feathers, as they would never dry out if the mix touched them. I kept a close eye on her all day and the problem appeared to be solved, she wasn't scratching any more.

The next day she was taken to my regular avian vet and Achilles was sent home with a clean bill of health, a bottle of lotion and a bottle of baytril. My vet said she probably got a cut that she scratched at and she didn't stop scratching. She also gave me high praise for doing what I did for Achilles because she was half healed already. I took a look while apply her new cream that day and by golly, she was already healing wonderfully.
Three days later and she looks fully healed. Five days later the meds ended and she's still fine. One week later and she still seems to be doing well. The photo below is what she looked like after three days.

But this all leaves me wondering how it all got started. If it was a scratch that started it how was something able to scratch her? I had to go through a forest of soft feathers before I got to her skin but could something else get through? Could it not be a scratch but instead a crack of dry skin from the cold weather? The vet did say her skin looked a little dry. And as I continue to hypothesize I begin to think about allergies, infections, bugs and boredom! Innumerable possibilities but only one answer. It remains an enigma to me.

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Friday, September 10, 2010

Most Evasive & Least Invasive Training

As if evasive/invasive wasn't confusing enough (I dare you to say that five-times fast) I now present to you my latest concoction! Explaining away -at least half-way decently- why it is a great idea to train the most evasively and least invasively, and how at least one person tripped up.

Without further ado I present a half asleep, half running on caffeine, and half particularly annoyed parrot trainer (did you notice? that adds up to 150%) VLOGGING, well it is more of a video reply but a vlog works too. Don't you love this tiny font? It is so annoying!

And if you are so inclined to look FWCAS (Florida West Coast Avian Society) kindly provided the materials to build this toy I made last night at their final meeting at the Animals By Nature Store.

All the favorites for a cockatiel

Copyright 2011 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Up and Coming: Deconstructing the Womach Brothers!

I've figured it has been a long time since my last audio blog post, and with any luck this next topic will be a video blog! The first one I have ever done I might add...

So anyway the topic will be about that annoying duo of internet "Parrot Training Experts" known as the Womach Brothers! I currently have not kept too up to date with what new and nasty schemes that they have devised to poison the minds of the honest and gentle animal-lovers out there, nor have I noticed much activity from one member of the brotherly band of behavior bashers on the net. But I'll ask around and do some of my own research before I throw everything together to analyse it.

Lastly I just want to mention that if you have any input about this topic I would love to hear what you know/have to say. Posting is open to everyone so feel free to write something. If there is one thing that will need to be pointed out again and again in the upcoming video it will be to read body language, body language, body language!!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Antipodes Island Parakeet

Something that caught my attention recently was a parrot called the Antipodes Island Parakeet, and the reason is because -unlike many parrot species- they scavenge and kill for meat. According to Wikipedia, a very scholarly source I am sure:
The Antipodes Parakeet or Antipodes Island Parakeet (Cyanoramphus unicolor) is endemic to the Antipodes Islands, one of two parrot species found on the islands. It is the largest species in the genus Cyanoramphus at 30 cm (12 in) long. The parakeets eat leaves, buds, grass, and tussock stalks, as well as sometimes feeding on seeds, flowers, and will scavenge dead seabirds. The Antipodes Parakeet also preys on Grey-backed Storm-petrels. It will enter burrows to kill incubating adults, even dig at the entrance if it is too small.

I thought to myself "Wow!" what an amazing example of the evolution of a species! With the change in behavior of being prey and a vegetable and berry forager, to learning hunting tactics and being the predator! With some bird of prey species being, genetically, closely related to parrots (sorry guys but pigeons win when it comes to being evolutionarily closest) it become much easier for the layperson to connect the dots without having to look at haphazard strands of DNA. I wonder what other changes in behavior and physiology will occur if meat became a more staple part of it's diet? (group dynamics, beak, claw, eye modification)

But that doesn't mean that you should feed Polly a greasy chicken leg once a week to make sure she gets all the protein she needs. It's very likely she is already getting a great amount of protein from those pellets and beans that you are feeding her, some species do not well on a high protein diet and kidney damage will occur. Just make sure you know about your bird's species and pick up a few good books about parrots and what they eat. A great source would be Forshaw's Parrots of the World, I am finding myself constantly consulting this for the bird nutrition/cookbook I am starting to help write. Forshaw's book will never go out of your use!

An example from the book, did you know that:

Feeding observations from all parts of the island showed that 65% of the diet of C. Unicolor was leaves of the Poa tussock and sedges, with other important foods being seeds (12%), berries (9%), and fragments from corpses of penguins and other birds (7%).

This shows that meat, even for parrots that are becoming adapted to eat it, do not eat (as of yet) it as a main source of food and is likely a replacement protein source because the birds cannot find it elsewhere.

Life is cool isn't it?

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Parrots as Pets...wait, PETS?!

So I've been obsessed with these magnificently winged and eccentrically colored birds, they have been put into a phylogenetic group known as parrots! It is this obsession that has gripped me since I was eight years old because that is the year a budgie named Polly came into my life. Any time I saw a parrot on a billboard advertisement was cause for celebration. Seeing a parrot on an educational television program gave me even greater joy, it would cause my ears to prick up because I wanted to hold on to every word the show's host had to say about these fantastical creatures. It was as if my life depended on me knowing those words. And when I got close to a real, live parrot? I worshipped it. My eyes would be wide with excitement, goosebumps would raise my hairs up, and I was filled with a desperate longing to be privileged enough to hold such a magical creature.

Given my history of absolute infatuation with the psittacine species, imagine my surprise when I heard -out of the mouth of my own mother- that parrots should be deemed unsuitable as pets, period! My initial reaction was o_O? To place a emoticon on it.

This got me to thinking, there seems to be two loud voices supporting two opposing radical views in the pet trade of parrots. One over-encourages parrots as pets while the other completely discourages them. PETA discourages parrots as pets at all costs and it is very prominent on the internet they err on the "Parrots are hard to care for, emotionally, financially, and they involve a lot of your time. They need to fly otherwise they are depressed! They cannot be kept in cages because it was not meant to be! They are too hard to care for so they need to be sent back to their homeland to be set free."
-nonPETA, usually the people who own parrots- say "Parrots are hard to care for, emotionally, financially, and they involve a lot of your time. But they are SO hard to care for I doubt you could EVER have a single parrot as a pet. They are so mean, they bite, kids cannot play with them, and they only bond to one person, why just look at my bird as proof! Imagine living with this for 60 years?!" And I would reply with a "Yikes!" When was the last time they actually tried to read the bird's body language?

You can clearly see that these two views are complimentary, they fully embrace the idea that parrots should be completely discouraged as pets. They have their reasons, but I find that these people focus way too strongly on one side of the argument; the pitfalls. "Time, money, and more time!" And what about the highlights of caring for such an animal? Are they touting any of the highlights? Let's go to the next extreme case: the pet shop and the large breeder.

I find that both the shop and larger scale breeder tend to stand in on the same views: "Parrots are a cool exotic pet you can show off. They'll love you for 60 years and they love to play, especially the macaws. Macaws are like the dog in the bird world and love to play rough and tumble games, get this $1,000 macaw!" Of course these are only the most extreme of cases, many shops and breeders are more level-headed. But this should be something to be aware of.

So what is my point? I've just shown that some people over-encourage parrots as pets without giving downsides, and some people under-encourage them as pets without including all the upsides. So why is this important, why does this issue of people not getting the full view worry me so? It is important to have a balanced view of aviculture
because without it aviculture will fail. If there is too much focus on how "cool" your new pet is going to be, with fewer people taking aviculture seriously, then the quality of aviculture will fail. More birds, but more birds will also suffer a low quality life, and from the stories I have heard when parrots where being imported by the thousands this is exactly what happened.
If there were too many parrots as pets...
When parrots where being imported there was no information about how these animals survived
in the wild, what they ate, how they flocked, or when they are active. We were just in the baby stages of American aviculture. But if importation started up again and any person who wanted a cheap parrot could get one, would you doubt a repeat situation? We know that a pellet-based diet is so much better than an oily, seed-based one, yet the standards in every shop is to feed a basic seed mix. And they encourage their customers to feed their birds the same as well? Are we really out of the dark ages yet? And I still see the common misapplied mistakes and misunderstandings of basic behavior science in every corner of the bird world. Bad advice, and bad techniques are thrown around willy-nilly, not unlike in the days of importation.
And if parrots should never be pets...
Need I say that if PETA gets its way then there will be no parrots, as pets, breeders, in zoos or otherwise? All those crazed animal rights
extremists have been shouting is "Set the birds free!" without a thought of how parrots need to learn how to survive. There is no well thought out conservation efforts on their part, all they know is that is it "not natural" for a bird to be clipped and put in a cage so, through the difficult effort of a false dichotomy *sarcasm*, assume the birds are depressed and are living a horrible life. Extremists play on human emotions, not human thinking ability. This would be why they over-use images of beaten, starving, manged, and dead animals on their websites. They use sex to sell ideas too. They will do anything to attract attention to their shameless cause that is brimming with under flatulence of the brain. And if there are no animals to pique interest from kids then conservation efforts would not pull in new recruits from the pet industry.
If the majority have a balanced view on parrots...
thrives on participation and growing interest from the public, from local bird fairs and club meetings to far reaching events like Houston Parrot Festival and the International Parrot Convention in Loro Parque, Tenerife. To keep it thriving we need people with calm, balanced views, people who are not hard headed and are willing to check information sources if an already established idea in aviculture needs to be revised. People can still breed parrots, and people will always need to rescue parrots, so long as there is such a thing as aviculture. Young people still need to be brought into this ever decreasing interest and if they are, there will be more support for habitat conservation as well. With an educated "balanced" view there will be parrots to play with, toys to buy, and species to save.
The middle ground is this: parrots are perfectly good pets if people are ready and well planned for them (Anyone got a Will?). Which is what I need to tell my mom...

My view? "Parrots are fun, messy, will be your forever companion if you are committed to understanding them, smart, cost a frickn
' lot of $$, they help you meet cool people that like parrots too, are super fun to learn about, are fun to train, and a definitely worthwhile to have as pets. Responsibly caring for and learning about a wild animal encourages peoples' interest in what is outside their little suburban bubble, it encourages them to conserve and care for the world outside themselves; a selfless act. And in the case of this college student; it got her onto a career in preserving what evolution has molded into the psittacine species."
It is parrots in captivity that led me to love them, it is that love that keeps me spoiling the one I have, and it is this one bird that keeps me wanting to pursue a degree in Biology so I can further help the world to understand, love, and preserve these practically mythologically
beautiful creatures.

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Workshops and Conventions? Oh My!

If you guys don't know about a little place called Ara Ptero then I need to know; Where have you been?

This is a bunch of stuff taken at the May 2010 3-day immersion free flight Workshop. Hosted by the spunky Linda Hodgens and taught by the renowned Barbara Heidenreich.

You can catch Ara Ptero within the upcoming months at the AFA convention in St. Pete, FL and NPRPF's Houston Parrot Festival in 2011.

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Freely Flighted Macaw

I just came across a beautiful post on another blog highlighting a professional photographer's experience with a lovely Blue-throated Macaw named Ingrid. I think you should check it out.

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Arguments from Authority: A Common Mistake

The pet shops in our town do not have the highest ethical or medical standards. Animals in one particular store are handled roughly or chased around the cage until they step up or give in to the intruding hand. Out of the 10 years or randomly dropping into this store not once have I seen the budgerigar and cockatiel cages or their dowel rod perches free from a nice coating of bird droppings. The base diet of their animals (except the carnivores) is seed -but I must mention that they sometimes they do try to make the large parrot diets a little more healthy by occasionally offering mixed frozen veggies-, and lastly (and most horrifically of all) they regularly buy and swap birds without a care about how healthy the bird is. There is absolutely no oversight in screening for health problems in the birds, there is not even a minimum 30 day isolation period for new birds. This scares the be-he-jeebers out of me; especially when I see birds sneezing with runny noses, bobbing tails, labored breathing, ratty feathers or just sitting tired in a corner on a bright, sunny morning.

From the description that I gave above I doubt that any distinguished pet owner would want to purchase anything from that store, it is simply not worth the risk.
Let's call the man who owns the store Rob. Now Rob has been working in the business of animals for 30 odd years and is considered a well respected "expert", according to the locals, in his profession. He can tell you how to raise any kind of creature; from Chameleons to Chinchillas.

Recently Rob hired a co-worker of mine, Kasey. Kasey and I love learning about animals, and apparently she had been learning a lot more about animals at Rob's store. Kasey is a nice person, and since joining Rob's staff she has been enthusiastically learning about our little fuzzy, feathered, and scaled friends. She starts up conversations with "Did you know?" questions about exotic animals, and when she talks about them she has an excited light in her eyes. Animals add a touch of magic into people's lives, and it is this kind of excitement that I like to see in people.
After hearing about Kasey's new job and talking excitedly with her about animals, I noticed that some of her newly gained knowledge was not quite right. She said "Did you know that prairie dogs need a companion? If they don't have one they become depressed and die." And after hearing that (who doesn't know of that same fallacy with lovebirds?) I tried to get her to question that statement. I replied "Well people used to say the same thing about lovebirds and other kinds of parrots, but we now know that this is not true. Like any animal they need to forage, play, socialize and stay busy." Kasey looked a little confused but she did agree that animals do need these things. She told me, being full of conviction, that Rob must be right because he owns the shop and has a lot of experience. I give Kasey kudos for being an eager learner, but it seems that she was absorbing too much information from authority figures without researching and fact-checking the answers.

And besides there is nothing terribly wrong with accepting what Rob says, the expert with 30 years of experience under his belt, as nothing but true gospel right? With all of his experience he must know how to do it all right, right? Wrong.

This is a classic case of "Trust the Authority Figure" AKA an argument from authority. This is how many consumer products -both effective and bogus- make a selling point as well. Phrases like "supported by scientific research" or "four out of five doctors recommend" or "a new study shows" are all examples you see and hear of every day. So how do we know when something is true? Here is a short and simple guideline I pulled from page 223 of the book "Appeal to Expert Opinion."

1. Expertise question: How credible is E (Rob) as an expert source?
2. Field question: Is E (Rob) an expert in the field that A (Prairie dogs) is/are in?
3. Opinion question: What did E (Rob) assert that implies A (Dying from no companion)?
4. Trustworthiness question: Is E (Rob) personally reliable as a source?
5. Consistency question: Is A (dying from no companion) consistent with what other experts assort?
6. Backup evidence question: Is A's (Rob's) assertion based on evidence?

You can probably already see the problem with a short, simple, and broad checklist such as this. It can lead people who are not as adept with critical thinking astray, or to start asking the wrong kind of questions and getting the wrong conclusions. So let’s narrow the Expertise question down, just a tad.

1. What is E's name, Job or official capacity, location, and employer?
2. What degrees, professional qualifications or certification by license agencies does E hold?
3. Can testimony of peer experts in the same field be given to support E’s competence?
4. What is E's record of experience, or other indications of practiced skill in S?
5. What is E’s record of peer-reviewed publications or contributions to knowledge in S?

And to trudge this out even further you would need to research the history of the company through it's licenses, its health checks, possible felony charges, who they hire, and who likes/dislikes the company and for what reasons. But of course this is all just common sense. Apart from actually doing background checks sometimes people can tell what the history of a place just by looking around. It is a little mental checklist in our head; in a matter of seconds we make decisions on whether we like something or not based on pre-set criteria of how we like things to be, for one reason or another. From liking or disliking a glass of wine, to walking into the ambiance of a restaurant, we carry our speedy, handy dandy, little mental checklist wherever we go. The same applies to pet shops and how people care for their animals. Is the place clean? Are the animals treated with respect? Are the animals fed a healthy diet for their species? Are the employees empathetic, knowledgeable, and good listeners? These are some of the things on my mental checklist that I take with me as I walk into a pet store. And if I am found wanting I do not support them with my dollar.

To simplify the above 5 question checklist: Each of these require, a little friend of mine that I know as evidence. Is there evidence of high morals and professionalism? And in Rob's case experience in not necessarily evidence, but there can be evidence of a person's experience. And unfortunately for Rob (as stated in the very beginning) it is evident that he does not run his store in a professional, 30 year experience, manner, the evidence speaks against him. And when responsibly taken care of, prairie dogs will not die without another prairie dog. Case closed.

(but don't take my assertion as true until you know it is. Be a free thinker!)

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I Need the Love to Be Real

This past Sunday I did not plan for it, but I went to our local and grimy flea market. It was a horrible day to do much of anything; other than to pant in the heat waves. In this particular market there are two shops I visit, both of them dealing in parrots. I have checked into these shops from time to time just to check in on the parrots; I need to make sure they are being treated fairly.

In first shop I spent about 30 minutes inside, I carefully looked at each bird that was stuffed in the 30 cages the shop had. In the back there is a young scarlet macaw named "Skittles" who was returned to the shop when only a baby, and that was an entire year ago. This macaw is unruly and untrained, the shop owner has tried to wheedle me into buying her on more than one occasion, but alas college students are not wealthy.
The shop owner likes to think he knows how to train a parrot and get it to like you. Yet this bird hates everyone. Has he heard of Barbara Heidenreich? Has he studied Applied Behavior Analysis, or does he even know what it is? The answers are; Yes. And no. I've been more than willing to give him my card with Barbara's business information on the back, and I've briefly mentioned how and why she trains all species of exotic beasts. And even with my perseverance of a gentle leading hand of "train like this, not that" I see no headway in his training techniques.

For instance, he has recently brought in some help, a family member, a young lad about the age of 12 years. I spotted him when I first walked into the store, I obliged him a smile, and hoped that the techniques from his uncle had not rubbed off on him. I continued into the bird-dropping laden store and calmly presented myself to the scarlet macaw, Skittles, who was frustrated at being stuck in a cage. We talked and played for several minutes and Skittles had a nasty habit of screaming and biting her foot in frustration at random intervals of our playful interaction. So to help quell the beast I walked away from her, showed her my back, and started to interact with another bird for 5 seconds. After that I would resume our interactions. This worked very well, and after several more minutes the shop owner let her out so that she could hang outside the cage. Not long after that Skittles let out a bloody scream, so I just turned my back. But then I heard a immature person's voice come from the other side of the store that yelled "Be quiet!" and soon that young 12 year old came striding towards the bird threatening her with a large, wooden, plank. "You be quiet!" He demanded. And the bird shrank to the back of the cage with fear. The child still brandished the weapon; "You know what will happen if you are not quiet, ok?" and the child backed down, apparently deciding that that was enough to scare the bird to not be loud again. He placed the plank leaning against a stack of crap covered Bourke’s cages and left.
I could not have that child threaten and/or abuse the innocent macaw. So I hid the plank behind leftover construction material in the corner of the store. Apparently there are plenty of wooden leftovers to beat birds with. And why, why beat birds at all? Who gave these people the right to "train" birds this way? Whose gives these people the right to spoil the minds of young children with crap like this instead of the REAL science of behavior? We know why it is not good to use Positive Punishment and Negative Reinforcement, we know the reasons for using only the most positive and least invasive interactions.

Building a relationship with an animal by threatening to use a plank does not create real love or a real bond. It creates fear, aggression, and apathy, the animal now must comply with your demands (or else!) but he just doesn't want to. People are conditioning animals to avoid human contact, and then make the animals grudgingly accept it. That is not real love, it is not real passion for the living soul that is under your care. These actions are treason, treason of the heart to the poor animal and it splinters their imagination and their loyalty to you.

I will continue to be a pleasant, but persistent person to the owner. After all I now know that calm, positive interactions win hearts. Not grouchy, enemy-making, confrontational interactions. Just treat birds respectfully, like you do your customers.

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Friday, March 12, 2010

Winging It

Just a quick post on a new parrot book coming out in two days, "Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me" By Jenny Gardiner

By no means does this look to be a book on "properly" caring for a parrot, but instead it looks like it might be good for some fun reading. At 256 pages the book might be a bit too large for the subject matter, I would hope it's got a good story without having predictable outcomes. Here is the review I tore off Amazon for you. Sounds like it would have gone easier if the new adoptees knew a little about +R!

"A hilarious and poignant cautionary tale about two very different types of creatures, thrown together by fate, who learn to make the best of a challenging situation -- feather by feather.
Like many new bird owners, Jenny and Scott Gardiner hoped for a smart, talkative, friendly companion. Instead, as they took on the unexpected task of raising a curmudgeonly wild African gray parrot and a newborn, they learned an important lesson: parrothood is way harder than parenthood.

A gift from Scott's brother who was living in Zaire, Graycie arrived scrawny, pissed-off, and missing a lot of her feathers -- definitely not the Polly-wants-a-cracker type the Gardiners anticipated. Every day became a constant game of chicken with a bird that would do anything to ruffle their feathers. The old adage about not biting the hand that feeds you -- literally -- never applied to Graycie.

But Jenny and Scott learned to adapt as the family grew to three children, a menagerie of dogs and cats, and, of course, Graycie. In this laugh-out-loud funny and touching memoir, Jenny vividly shares the many hazards of parrot ownership, from the endless avian latrine duty and the joyful day the bird learned to mimic the sound of the smoke detector, to the multiple ways a beak can pierce human flesh. Graycie is a court jester, a karaoke partner, an unusual audio record of their family history, and, at times, a nemesis. But most of all, she has taught the family volumes about tolerance, going with the flow, and realizing that you can no sooner make your child fit into a mold than you can turn a wild parrot into a docile house pet. Winging It is an utterly engrossing reminder of the importance of patience, loyalty, and humor when it comes to dealing with even the most unpleasant members of the family. "

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird

The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Friday, February 12, 2010

A New Level in Motivation

Ever thought about self rewarding behavior? I've heard about it sometimes when a behavior in parrots becomes comforting. Like that Moluccan Cockatoo that used to scream just for attention, but now he does it all the time with or without a reward. Or that feather picking African Grey that simply picks as a way to occupy his time, but now the behavior has become a self-soothing perpetuating behavior. Like the way I bite my nails...

These issuse might be considered a bit more simplistic in the way of behavior, compared to what Mr. Pink talks about (it is a simplistic task for an instant reward). But this gets me to wonder about how his topic could influence what behavior techniques we use in the world of animals. Crows and Keas as examples; these birds have shown extra ordinary abilities to quickly solve unclear tasks (Like Pink talks about humans in the video) for a food reward. Odly, he points out that this kind of bribery works poorly on us humans, compared to an alternative view he expresses.

Then again I remember some faint memory of the birds just standing around just looking at the food based reward puzzle, for several minutes, before attempting it. This is the same thing that humans do in trying to figure out multiple step problems, yet bribery works poorly. Could any of Mr. Pink's research be applied to animals? Can the Keas and Crows actualy perform better at thier tasks like the test subjects he talks about, and if so how do we go about setting up a task for animals like that? I hope I find out in my lifetime.

I've often dreamed about reaching a point with my animals where they can learn "just for the fun of it" but is this possible for creatures other than humans? Or will animals always do better at tasks if given a bribe for simple tasks, like us humans? The jury is still out on that one.

Don't forget to comment and share the insight you've gained from this video or any research you may have come across on the topic. This "New Science" stuff is always interesting!

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Saturday, February 6, 2010


It's not often that you see a great little Poicephalus in the news. I've only seen meyers and a female red bellied as pets. Some people say that red bellies are more interactive and less jittery than the meyers, yet other people claim the exact opposite. Who to believe? In my experience all three of the meyers I've met have been jittery around new people, they tend to be comfortable most around "their" people. And some of these birds have gotten outright nasty with me if I asked for a step-up! But the most recent meyers I know is a sweetheart with everyone. When you take the dear bird out of his cage his feathers automatically slick down and he is on the alert, and this would support the hypothesis that meyers are jittery birds. But I think there might be a little more to the story, the owner of the meyers has a lot of dogs, and a pair of cats always following us ,and the bird around. This could be causing the bird anxiety and be perpetuating a myth that meyers are a jittery parrot.
What about the meyers and Poicephalus you've met? What kind of characteristics have you noticed about them?

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Everyone who is into parrots knows about foraging. It plays an important role in parrot's lives, as well as all other animals on Earth. The creator of the Captive Foraging DVD, Dr. Scott Echols DVM, is coming out with a new series of DVDs on the care of birds.

I am currently unaware as to what the marketing price will be. I feel that $15 may be reasonalable, depending on the content. But the fact that a series of videos is coming out from a known, respectable professional in the feild of medicine is encouraging to me. It's a lot better than some run of the mill "expert" at the petshop on the corner.

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

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