Friday, June 1, 2007

2 additions in 2 months

In August 2006, we had Max, Calypso, and Daphne, and were quite happy with our lives. We did not intend on adding any more parrots to the mix. But within two months, we would be living with two more.

First came Rocky, a severe macaw hatched in 1987. He had been surrendered to the parrot rehabilitation center where we volunteer. He was discovered to have an enlarged preen gland, and his vet recommended treatment including soaking it several times a day and medication.

Thomas and I decided to foster Rocky so that the volunteers at the shelter would not have to worry about his medication and soaking schedule. We had no intention of keeping him, but he loved it at our house and fell in love with Thomas. We officially adopted him several months later.

Rocky has kind of a sad story. He was loved very much by his previous owner, but when that man died, he was passed to a family member that didn't want him. He spent at least the 6 years prior to being released to the shelter locked in his too-small cage, with very few toys. And after living with Rocky for almost a year now, I can understand (but certainly not condone) keeping him in his cage. When Rocky doesn't like someone (and severe macaws rarely like more than one person), he chases them and tries to attack them. And for being a smaller bird, he has a vicious bite! I have since learned to read his body language and while I can't handle him (unless it's on a stick), I haven't received a bite since that first month. It is very important for parrots, especially macaws, to have hands-on attention, and Rocky gets that from Thomas.

About a month later, I found out that a black-headed caique was being surrendered to the shelter. This little guy was about 8 years old. His previous previous owner was going to release him outside to his certain death because he bit her and sent her to the emergency room. A wonderfully kind family took him in for about 9 months, saving his life, but they didn't have parrot experience and were scared of him. They made the tough decision to surrender him to the rescue. Thomas and I have a soft spot for caiques, who are much more difficult parrots than their size would suggest! We took him home the same day he was surrendered.
We renamed him Beeps. Normally we like to give our parrots people names, but this guy beeped all of the time, and while we were waiting for his DNA-sexing to come back, we started calling him Beeps, which eventually stuck.
Beeps is an amazing parrot, and more proof that not all rescue birds have problems, especially in the right environment. We've had him over 8 months now, and he has never bitten us, rarely screams, talks quite a bit (although he only has 2 phrases that he keeps repeating), a voracious eater, wonderful toy-player, etc., etc. He also picked up clicker training very quickly and is now the parrot that I bring with me when I teach other people how to train! I am so thankful every day that he was saved from his certain death outside and brought home to us because we can't imagine our lives without him!

Daphne joins the flock

After losing Ethel in April 2006, we realized that we really missed having budgie chatter in the house. In May, about 4 weeks after losing Ethel, we brought Daphne into our house. Daphne was supposed to be a breeder, but she loved people and didn't like other birds. Her dad is a champion English budgie and her mom is an American budgie.

In this picture, the right side of Daphne's face is orange due to the red palm oil and carrots that she eats for dinner!

Daphne is a total delight. She loves to play with toys. In this picture, she is by a wood dome, which is her favorite toy. Thomas made it as a prototype foraging toy for our larger birds, but none of them were interested in it. I placed it in Daphne's cage, and she loves it! She spends a long time every day spinning it around or just hanging out by it. We find it rather strange, but also quite endearing.

Daphne loves her foraging bucket. She goes into it and throws things out of it that are bigger than she is! She also loves chewing on some wood toys that were intended for larger parrots -- they last a lot longer in her cage!

Daphne is incredibly tame and friendly. She'll go to anyone, but perfers to be by Mary and Thomas. Many people think of budgies as throwaway pets because they are so inexpensive. Nothing could be further from the truth! A tame budgie is such a delight, and these guys deserve so much more than a small cage with few toys. I know I can never be without a budgie in my life!

2005 and the worst day (so far) of our lives

In June 2005, we moved into a different house and were just starting to meet the neighbors. One of them asked me if I would bring my parrots outside so he could meet them. Now, Thomas and I had a rule that the parrots were never allowed outside unless they were in their harness or in a secure carrying cage and closely monitored because of the risks. They could be snatched by a predator, or a gust of wind could take them away, even though their wings were trimmed.

However, I wanted to be a good neighbor and decided to take Max out for less than a minute so he could see her. I had been running for well over an hour that morning and knew there was no wind. And if something spooked her, she would fly and land in a yard across the way where I could easily scoop her up, right?

As you might imagine, things didn't turn out the way I expected. At 8:00 am on Thursday July 28, 2005, a gust of wind carried Max over the roofs of the houses across the street and out of my sight. I followed her trajectory, but lost sight of her. I called Thomas at work and he came home to help look. We looked nonstop until 10:00 pm, calling her name. Friends came over to help, including someone with a dog to try to sniff her out. We gave posters to everyone in the neighborhood and placed a lost ad in the paper. We spent a sleepless night and were back out looking for her at 4:00 am Friday morning (we had read that they are more active at dawn and dusk). We looked for several hours, then I went to work to get a few things done, but I was crying and came home after Thomas called and said he couldn't be alone right now. We resumed our search.

We called and whistled for her, but didn't hear any response. How far could she have gotten? Did someone find her? Was she eaten by someone's cat? We decided to take Calypso out in his carrier to help us look. They always enjoyed whistling back and forth to each other and maybe she would respond to him. Around 6:00 pm on Friday, about 34 hours after she went missing, she responded to Calypso's call. Unsure of whether the noise was made by her, something else, or just in our imaginations, Thomas headed into chest-high weeds searching for Max. He heard a rustling and thumping. Still unsure of what he would find (the weeds were VERY thick), he pounced on the creature and it was Max!

This was the happiest moment of our lives! Thomas clasped her to his chest. She looked up at him, said "I love you," and we ran her back to the house. She eagerly ate and drank, and surprisingly was no worse for wear.

I like to think that things happen for a reason, and perhaps I had to go through this so I could tell my story to others. Even if your bird's wings are clipped, he can fly. Even if he never has before. A little wind and adrenaline can take them MUCH farther than you'd imagine. Max was found over 1/4 mile from our house, very close to a pond. We are so lucky that we found her. Many people are not so lucky.