Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I guess I'm not making banana bread...

I'm bringing this story into the present right now. My goal was to get this blog up to speed on the history of my parrots and then update it with the things that are going on currently. However, I went into my kitchen last night to find this...
Max sometimes likes to hang out in the kitchen by herself when the rest of us are in the living room. It's strange, but since she normally just hangs out on one of her playstands and there's nothing dangerous, we let her be. She likes to sing and order us to come and get her (but when we do she'll just fly back into the kitchen). Last night I entered the kitchen to find that one of the bananas that I had been planning to use for banana bread had been attacked!
Too bad, Max, since you like banana bread much more than just bananas, and now I'll have to buy more bananas and wait for them to ripen...

Friday, May 25, 2007

An addition and a loss

In 2004, we added a female budgie, Ethel. Ethel had a huge tumor that made her weigh more than twice what she should have! We took her home knowing that she didn't have much time to live, but wanting to give her a good end to her life. We also hoped that her presence would perk up Lenny, our other budgie. After several months, Lenny died from an internal tumor that he had (budgies are prone to tumors). But Ethel thrived!

Ethel showed us how wonderful and full of personality budgies can be! So often, budgies are considered disposable pets because they are so inexpensive. They are kept in small cages, rarely handled, and with few toys. Ethel loved Thomas and would follow him all around the house, flying to him on command. She began imitating the sounds that Max and Calypso made. She was such a delight to have around the house!

We were lucky to get over a year to spend with Ethel before she passed away. We will never forget her and the way she opened our hearts to budgies. I know I can never be budgie-free again! Their delightful chatter and wonderful nature brightens the day. And budgies can be great pets for people living in apartments (they aren't very noisy) and for gentle children.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Another new addition

During the interim years, we began volunteering at a local parrot rescue. Although it was hard not to take every bird home, we successfully resisted until March 2004 when an adorable 9 year old black-headed caique was surrendered. Max had been an only big bird for over 2 years when we brought Calypso home.

Calypso did not have a happy start to his life. We don't know much about his past. We do know that he was kept covered, sometimes all day long, to help control his noise. This still baffles me because caiques are not very loud birds! He was fed a poor diet consisting mostly of sunflower seeds and peanuts. When he first came to our house, he would climb down off of his cage, walk into the corner, sway gently, and repeat "Shut up! Stop it! Shut up! Stop it!" over and over. It was heartbreaking.

We converted him to a healthy pelleted diet, supplemented by fresh fruits and vegetables. He was no longer covered and had a cage more than twice the size of his previous cage that was filled with toys. Things were going well. Then, one morning, we awoke to find this:

Now that he was receiving what he needed, after being deprived for so long, his hormones went out of control! Overnight, he had ripped out all of the orange leg feathers on his legs and mutilated sores into each leg. We rushed him to the vet. We placed a collar on him so that he could not mutilate his legs anymore. He was quite upset with having to wear the collar, but after a few hours (maybe more like a day), he got used to it and was able to maneuver normally. After the sores healed, we removed the collar. He allowed his feathers to grow back in, and we have not had any problems with him since then (so far it's been 3 years).
Max was not entirely happy with this arrangement, but we made sure to treat her as first among equals so as not to lose her favored status in the house. And in 2005, Calypso would save Max's life.

A new addition

About 6 months after we brought Max home and after we had moved into our new house, Thomas's mom asked us if we would take her budgie, Lenny. He was quite old and was ignored in his home, except for the cats who would look at him in a menacing way. He was cagebound and not interested in people. Due to his age, we worried that handling him too much would give him a heart attack.

We brought him home and packed his cage with toys. Max was interested in the new arrival, but he didn't arouse much jealousy because he didn't require a lot of our attention.

However, the first jealous episode we saw from her did involve Lenny. Max was fledged (learned to fly) at her breeder's house, but we decided to keep her wings trimmed for safety (Max is now fully flighted, but we'll get to that later!) However, when she would start to molt, we would let her fly for a few weeks/months until she got a bit too sassy, at which point her wings would be clipped again.

Max loved to fly and land on the curtain rod that was in front of the doors leading to our breezeway. We did not like her hanging out up there, but if we went to remove her, it became a fun game for her. So we decided to ignore her when she was there. She did not like being ignored, so she would be extra cute saying, "Hello! Come here! Up!" and whistling little tunes, which made it very difficult for us to ignore her. After a few weeks of this, when Max would fly up there, I would turn my attention to Lenny and start talking about what a good boy he was. This was not acceptable to Max, who flew down from her perch, buzzing the top of my head in the process, land on her cage and exclaim "Good Boy!" (At the time, we thought Max was a boy). What a ham!

Early Max pictures

Here are some early pictures of Max. Look at her black eyes! When I look at how empty her cage was, I just cringe. We don't have a lot of digital pictures of her early years, but she looks pretty much the same now as she did then (with the exception of the eyes!)

Parrots need tons of toys, and different types of toys -- destructible, preening, knots, puzzle, foraging, etc. Max has tons of toys all over the inside and outside of her cage now. Greys have a tendency to get used to routine and to become afraid of new things, including toys. In fact, Max used to be afraid of new toys herself! But we kept working on her, and now she flies to us to inspect all of the new toys that we bring into the house!

What did we get ourselves into?

Max was about 4 1/2 months old when we brought her home. This was so exciting! But our reading and research had not prepared us for actually having her. Did we make a mistake? We were overwhelmed at first and were quietly discussing whether we should consider returning her to her breeder. She didn't seem happy (not exactly sure what we were hoping for!) At exactly that moment she looked at us and very clearly said, "I love you!" These were the first words we'd ever heard out of her, and she wouldn't say that phrase for another 2 years or so. We snapped out of it and decided to redouble our efforts and do everything we could to keep her and make her happy.

After we'd had her for a few weeks (or was it months?) she developed an annoying squawking habit. This actually is not a problem -- they were just normal timneh vocalizations, but we really didn't know that. We thought we were doing something wrong and needed to fix the problem. Conventional parrot wisdom at the time mandated that you cover the bird to stop him from screaming. We tried that, with the following result:

Poor, poor Max that she had to go through our learning curve! Luckily she is very resiliant and is a wonderful bird despite our inexperience in the beginning! And the lessons we learned from her have allowed us to successfully work with more difficult parrots.

Anyway, we saw her trying to be part of the family by looking at us while she was covered and decided that there had to be a better way to deal with the noise. We quickly sold our condo and moved into a house where she could be as loud as she wanted and not bother anyone. And now we can't imagine our lives without her grey noises!

And research leads to...

We did what we thought was adequate research. Since none of our friends owned parrots and we didn't know about bird clubs or bird rescues, we visited local pet stores with parrots and did a lot of reading on the Internet. Knowing about the horrors of pet stores and dogs, we knew that we weren't going to buy our new parrot from a pet store, but we visited to get experience with the various birds.

After our research, we had narrowed it down to either a Hahn's macaw or a timneh african grey. We found a lovely breeder of timneh african grey parrots, and that sealed our decision!

We purchased Max, a timneh african grey parrot, but she was still too young to come home, so our breeder sent pictures of her on a semi-regular basis! The breeder lived about 6 hours away from us, so we were not able to meet our new parrot before picking her up.

Here are some of her pictures, and some with her sibling. In the one with Max's name on it, her breeder was trying to take a picture of her sibling, but Max had to get in front of the camera! The reason we chose Max instead of her sibling is that Max's breeder told us that Max was more inquisitive and we're always up for a challenge!

First parrot experience

My first adult parrot experience occurred at a friends' cookout. We were all sitting in the driveway and could hear what sounded like a slow child calling "Hello! Come here! I love you!" I figured my friend just had a loud neighbor child (the houses are pretty close together). When I finally entered the house, I saw that it was a blue-fronted amazon making all of that noise! We were instantly captivated and proceeded to do tons of research on these amazing creatures!

General Purpose

The general purpose of this blog is for me to have an outlet to share stories, pictures, and videos of my parrots. I'm sure my non-parrot-owning friends are getting a bit sick of hearing about these guys that have taken over my life!

Due to the fact that I've had parrots since 2002 and it's 2007 now, there will be a bit of history to wade through; however I hope to shortly get to current stories!

Basically, I hope that this will become the kind of blog that I enjoy reading!