Friday, February 29, 2008

Where's the caique?

I walked into the kitchen yesterday and heard beeping. I knew Beeps was around somewhere, but he wasn't on any of the stands or the wooden plant stand where he sometimes hangs out. With a few more beeps, I found him in the metal plant stand!
Rocky had been the gardener in our house, hanging out with the plants and singing and talking to them. Now he has some competition!

Here's a short video of Beeps in action. Be patient. You can't see him for the first few seconds (and I think you can get a better understanding of how he was missing at first!)

When Rocky hangs out with the plants, the term "gardener" is used quite loosely. He definitely has some competition with Beeps, who was going through and ripping off the dead leaves and stems! (My plant maintenance has taken a short vacation of late, I'm afraid).

I had placed this stem on the kitchen counter to show Thomas what a good job Beeps was doing. Of course, Ms. Nosy had to come over and investigate:
On a different note, Rocky is very dog-like, at least when it comes to Thomas. He follows him around the house, and is often at his feet. Thomas has to be very careful where he steps! Thomas was cooking last night, so he was running back and forth between the counter, cupboards, fridge, and stove, and Rocky was his shadow for the entire evening. When this gets too irritating, we give Rocky some food on his cage, and that keeps him busy for a few minutes.
If we had other people in our house often, or actual dogs, we wouldn't allow the parrots the freedom to roam so much, as we'd have to consider their safety. It's definitely not something that can be done in every house! However, we've had many discussions about it and have decided that's how we want to live with them. In fact, we encourage their self-reliance to get up and do something about their situation if they're unhappy instead of just sitting there squawking about it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Rocky, as anyone who's read this blog or met him can attest, is a strange bird. As much as we've tried to interest him in parrot toys, his favorite play things are old clothes, towels, and blankets.

He's been known to go up the stairs into our bedroom, climb into our dirty laundry basket, root around until he finds some socks, throw them out of the basket, and then descend and play with the socks for a few minutes.

One of his favorite nighttime rituals (which I must admit kind of grosses me out) is when I'm sitting on the couch after dinner. All of the parrots are on their cages. I take my socks off and throw them in the direction of the stairs leading to the bedroom. As soon as Rock sees this, he gets very excited, runs as fast as he can towards the socks, and then plays with them, throwing them around while singing. I think I did this in a fit of laziness a few months ago, and once I realized how much Rocky liked it, it became part of our evening routine.

Luckily, he does not ruin the fabric items. He just likes to throw them around and chase them. Strange.

Last night, Thomas took off the jacket he was wearing around the house and placed it on the kitchen table. Rocky was so happy! He spent quite a long time burrowing in the arm holes, throwing the jacket around, and otherwise just having a fun time.

When Max noticed how much fun Rocky was having with my socks, she came down a few times to investigate. However, she must not have understood the attraction, either, as she now stays on her cage for this. Beeps also likes fabric, but not as much as Rocky. I like to tie an old, holey (clean) sock on their playstands, and this simple toy has provided hours of interest for my parrots. (I don't put this inside their cages as I worry about the fabric unravelling and them finding a way to strangle themselves). I worry too much!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Things are pretty much back to normal

For the first time since we've returned, Calypso readily stepped up for me and was soliciting attention without freaking out. That means it only took him 2 1/2 days to get over us leaving him. I think that's an improvement from last time.

Here is a recent picture of Max, taken yesterday. As you can see from her pictures, she has some feather destruction issues. They started January 2, 2006 when she bit off about 30 feathers at the shaft, leaving her with a down chest. That winter steadily worsened, as she removed all of her outer feathers on her back, chest, and legs. Pretty much everything she could reach, with the exception of her wings.
She had a clean bill of health from the vet. It was at this point that we switched her diet, and tried MANY other things. Then, about a year later, I read that, in greys in particular, when they bite the feather off (as opposed to plucking out the whole feather), it's often due to lack of humidity in the house. Max's plucking coincided with the first winter in our new house, so we got a humidifier, which greatly improved things. Every winter, she has continued to bite off a few feathers, but nothing like that first winter!

In any case, she is molting now, and has, so far, been leaving her feathers alone. This is the most fully-feathered she's been since January 1, 2006.

Beeps has been in a particularly playful mood since we've returned. He's been showing off for us, flying more than ever, and regaling us with exclamations of "Pretty baby cakes!" and "Hi Beeps!" I took these yesterday, as he was jumping back and forth between the rope figure-8 on his stand and the cup holder, doing flips on each of them.
His white chest has been kind of peachy lately. We can't figure out why. He doesn't have any new toys, and we can't see anything that would be rubbing off on him and dyeing him. Calypso is as white as ever, so I don't think it's anything in their diet. We're going to keep investigating and I'll report back if we figure it out!

On the knitting front, I've still been knitting. One of my goals for 2008 was to learn to knit a hat. I made the hat below for my mom, from some yarn that she'd bought for herself. It's a super-easy pattern, found here:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Madrid vacation

We've safely returned from Madrid and encountered no major problems (well, they did lose our luggage, but then it was delivered to us the next day).

The parrots behaved pretty much the same way they did when we returned from Prague last year. On the morning of our departure, sensing something was up, Beeps bit me (on my right bicep!) and Rocky bit Thomas (hand). On our return, Beeps bit Thomas. I know they're just showing their displeasure, but biting is certainly not a way for them to endear themselves to us!

Calypso is not yet back to normal, but the others are back into our normal routine. It was nice that we had an extra day with them before returning to work, unlike our last trip.

Here are a couple of pictures:

We went to La Granja de San Ildefonso near Segovia, Spain. This palace was modeled after Versailles near Paris, France. Although the tour through the palaces was ok, what we loved was walking through their impressive gardens. These gardens would have been more impressive during a different time of year, but we still enjoyed them. Thomas spent about 20 minutes taking pictures of various pheasants that were wandering through.

We also saw a lot of these large, white birds. You can see this guy on his nest. At one point, our bus passed a tree that had at least 15 of these birds on separate nests. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a good picture. The tree pictured here was located by the La Granja bus stop, and as we just missed the bus (and therefore had an hour to wait until the next one), we were able to observe these birds.

In the town of Segovia, there is a ruin of a Roman aqueduct. This aqueduct actually carried water to the city until a couple of centuries ago. This was quite exciting for me as I have been doing a lot of reading on Ancient Rome lately, and seeing this brought some of what I had read home to me.

We also went to Toledo, which is a wonderfully preserved walled city near Madrid.

We had a wonderful time on our trip, and can't believe how quickly that week went by! Madrid is a treasure trove for art lovers -- the Prado is filled with pictures by Titian, Rubens, Goya, and many others. During our visit, we also saw works by Van Gogh, Caravaggio, Picasso, Rembrandt, Rafael, etc. It was almost overwhelming! There were a couple of paintings that had birds in them. I remember one with an african grey (congo, not timneh!) and one with a scarlet macaw.

The weather was not fantastic the entire week (lots of rain and overcast skies), but there were a few beautiful days. In any case, it was better than the sub-freezing temperature we would have faced had we stayed home! The food was delicious, and everyone was quite friendly.

And, although we missed the parrots, knowing they were in good hands made it easy for us to enjoy ourselves and not spend the whole time worried about them! Besides, Max's reaction when she sees us again is almost enough to make us want to leave again! She has been quite clingy, but absolutely wonderful since our return.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fake eating

This is something that I may have mentioned before. I know it's something that I've been trying to capture on video for a few months. This video isn't the greatest, but you can get an idea of what I'm talking about.

We first noticed Rocky's behavior of fake eating when he had been with us for only a few days. We were still in the honeymoon period, so I could offer him food from my hands and he would take it instead of trying to bite me, like he does now.

In an effort to offer our parrots more choices, when I eat mixed nuts, I usually take a handful and then offer them to the parrots, so each can pick their favorite (Max and Calypso always choose cashews. For Beeps, it depends on the day. He's been known to take all of the different nuts in the mix). I offered my hand to Rocky, and instead of taking a nut (we think he hadn't been exposed to them before), he made the motion as though he had taken the nut, then made a sound as though he were biting into an apple, and made chewing motions and sounds while "eating."

Since then, we've noticed that he does this pretty regularly. We get a kick out of it, so we usually laugh at him (which he loves), and we can sometimes get him to fake eat by asking him to do it. He does it when he's offered new food (does he think he's tricking us into believing that he ate it?) He does it when he wants to eat something that we have. Sometimes he fake eats Thomas, who has to remind him that he's a person and not food.

Earlier this week, he was watching Thomas eat and started in with his fake eating. I grabbed my camera and he obliged me by doing it again. Then you can hear him laughing at the end!

Snow update: it keeps coming! It's gotten to the point where it's dangerous to drive because there are giant snowbanks everywhere obstructing your views of the road. The next measurable snow is supposed to take place Sunday, when we'll be in Madrid. I am so looking forward to being somewhere snow-free!

This will be my last post for about a week as we're heading to Madrid and I won't have a computer. I'll post some pictures when I get back and update on how the animals fared while we were away (I am not too worried about this as we have a wonderful friend coming in to look after them and they survived our Prague trip well last fall!)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Max, the early years

I forgot my camera (again!) today, but hope to remember tomorrow as I have a video of Rocky that I want to share. Instead, I went looking through some old pictures to find some that I haven't yet shared.

We purchased Max from a breeder advertising on the Internet about 6 years ago. She was hatched on 10/31/01, and we took her home in March 2002. The breeder lived several (about 6?) hours away, so all communication was done via telephone and e-mail. We never met Max before we drove to pick her up. In fact, we had never seen a timneh in person! She was our first parrot, and we were woefully unprepared, to say the least.

Here are a couple of pictures that her breeder sent to us while we were waiting for her to wean so we could take her home:

Seeing the above picture made us run out and purchase 2 of those toys so that she'd have a familiar toy when she came to live with us. She never played with that toy in our house. So much for our good intentions!

I'm not sure which one is Max and which one is her sibling (I think Max is in the back):

When deciding which of the babies to purchase, we chose Max for two main reasons:
  • Our breeder sais she could tell by the shape of her head that Max was a boy and her sibling was a girl (later DNA tests proved that Max was a girl, so there goes the head shape sexing theory!) We'd heard the rumor that birds are more likely to bond to a member of the opposite sex (this is NOT true!) and Thomas graciously said he'd rather the bird bond to me because he knew it would mean more to me than to him.
  • From her description of the babies, Max was much more playful and curious. We were up to the challenge and wanted an inquisitive bird (we had no idea what we were in for!)

She was trying to take this picture of Max's sibling for that potential new owner, and Max had to stick her head in!

Here is a picture taken after Max had been with us only a few weeks, getting some cuddles from Thomas. You can see that her flight feathers are clipped. She also had a fair number of red feathers that disappeared after her first molt.
Here is a more recent picture, taken in April 2007, so about 10 months ago. She can be absolutely adorable when she wants to be picked up! She's got this head-tilt down to a science where it is almost impossible for me to not give in to her.
Max was the first parrot we acquired, and she's the reason we have the others now. As we approach the 6 year anniversary of her joining our lives, it's pretty difficult to imagine what our lives would have been like had we not introduced her!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Some thoughts on flying

A couple of weekends ago, I was speaking with a woman who told me that it is extremely unsafe to live with a flighted bird. I told her that 4 of my birds were not clipped, and their flying abilities ranged from beginner (Daphne) to reluctant flyer (Calypso) to proficient (Beeps) to expert (Max).

Now, before I go too far, I am not advocating that all parrots should be flighted. I truly believe that a decision should be made, taking into consideration the household and the individual parrot. Note that Rocky and Jeff Saturday (when he was with us) are/were clipped. And my birds that currently fly have been clipped in the past. When we first got Max, I believed what I had read and been told about the importance of clipping. But I do believe that it should be a conscious decision made by the parrot owner, and that the owner not just blindly follow the advice of people labeling themselves as experts.

What changed my mind was talking to a few people living with flighted parrots, and reading this article. I thought about the lives my parrots currently lived and what we could provide for them. About how Thomas and I are so active and love exercise -- was I taking something away from Max by not allowing her to fly? Would she be more susceptible to strokes/heart attacks/early death because I forced a sedentary life on her? When Max began plucking, that sealed it. We would try letting her wings grow out and see if allowing flight would stop her plucking.

I am very pleased with our decision. Max and Beeps love to fly. They get fantastic exercise and I believe it helps to bring out their personalities and give them (slightly) more autonomous lives. My "good" fliers, Max and Beeps, are able to navigate around our house and quickly made adjustments for unanticipated events (e.g. kitchen light is off so a U-turn is made to join the rest of the family in the living room). It's a bit of a challenge, especially at first, to train them to stay off of unacceptable perches. However, we view this as a minor inconvenience and have reached a point where we are all in agreement.

We're hoping that flight will start to come more easily to Calypso. I can gently toss him in the general direction and tell him where to go, and he'll do it. But, he'd much rather "fly" with me cupping him under his chest. We don't believe that he was fledged, and we didn't start teaching him to fly until he was about 11 (we got him when he was 9). We remain patient with him, and this assisted flight still gets him exercise.

Daphne is also on the assisted flight plan. Occasionally something will scare her and she'll take off in flight. She is proficient enough to turn corners, but she has not yet flown with volition.

We tried letting Rocky's wings grow out earlier this year in anticipation of teaching him to fly. However, he decided to use his powers for evil and launch himself at me from long distances, so he was clipped. We've had to be a bit more creative in finding ways to get him exercise!

If we had small children, we'd rethink each bird's wings. Because it's just the 2 adults in the house, and we use a double-door system to ensure no accidental escapes, we don't have that worry. Besides, when we lost Max outside, she was well-clipped, so even that's no guarantee of safety.

I think it just frustated me that this woman I was speaking to would not even consider the fact that there could be other options. What works for one person will not necessarily work for the next. After I realized she wasn't listening to anything I said, I politely smiled as she admonished me and warned me that it was only a matter of time until one of my flying parrots landed in a pot of boiling water, and took my leave as soon as was practicable.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A few random thoughts

Given what happened over the weekend, I haven't been in a picture-taking mood lately. Here is a picture of Rocky from last May (about 9 months ago) that I don't think I've posted here. He just loves to stretch his wings out and prove to me how big and scary he is!

Max is extremely in tune with my moods, and has been very well-behaved the past few days. Whevener I start crying over Jeff Saturday, she flies over and starts giving me kisses. Daphne also has been quite sad and has not really been playing with her toys. She either solicits additional attention from Thomas and me, or she stays in her cage. I haven't heard her make any happy chirps since Friday.

I know it just takes time to get over any loss. We're still not over the loss of Ethel, and that was almost two years ago.

On a different topic, the snow and cold have been continuing. I don't think I've ever had to cancel so many planned outdoor runs before. I have been forced on to the treadmill by icy and snow-covered roads, and by below-zero temperatures.

On Saturday, we went cross-country skiing (when it was a balmy 30 degrees F). Upon returning to our car, we realized that the parking lot was so ice- and snow-filled that our rear-wheel drive car would only go in reverse! We had to back out the 100 yards or so out of the parking lot. Once we got to the roads, we were luckily able to go forward again. That has never happened to us before, and has got us thinking about purchasing a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

We leave for Madrid on Saturday and can't wait to experience above-freezing temperatures again. My only fear is that we're going to return to a few feet of frozen snow on our driveway. Spring, please come quick!

Monday, February 11, 2008

RIP, Jeff Saturday

Jeff Saturday passed away over the weekend. Friday evening, Thomas noticed a tumor, which explained why Daphne had been picking at him -- trying to drive the unhealthy from the flock. When we went to bed Friday night, he was eating, chirping, and playing normally.

Saturday morning, he was huddled in the opposite side of his cage. I pulled him out and immediately knew that things were not well. I sat with him on the couch, pressed to my chest as I softly told him everything would be ok and preened the back of his neck. Thomas was preparing to rush him to the emergency vet; we knew most likely the only treatment would be euthanasia.

He didn't last that long. He died against my chest, enveloped in my hands. Once the ground thaws, we will bury him in the same area as our other deceased budgies, Lenny (2005) and Ethel (2006).

Jeff only lived with us for a little over two months, but we became quite attached to him in that short time. Daphne has been unusually quiet the past few days, and has been soliciting more attention from us than usual.

While I am happy that I was there to comfort him during his final moments, I wish we would have had more time with him, and I hope that he didn't suffer. I like to think he knew he was loved during the short time he spent in our house.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Snow and updates

Here is a picture of what our driveway looked like Wednesday, early evening. I have heard conflicting reports about how much snow fell in that 24 hour period, but it was definitely over a foot. Add drifting and the wind, and we shoveled a lot of snow! We hope to go skiing this weekend and take advantage of the weather. On Sunday, it is supposed to get down to minus 35 degrees with the windchill, so I am hoping to not leave my house much! That's Thomas shoveling. I did more than my fair share of shoveling; I just stopped briefly to take this picture :)

Here are Jeff Saturday and Daphne, on the last day that they shared a cage. I noticed that she was picking on him quite a bit -- she had actually picked out some of his feathers and caused him some minor discomfort. He is back temporarily in his hospital cage as we separate them until a new set-up can be made. I had been feeling better about their arrangement as they had been spending a lot of time together, but now I'm not willing to risk anything. I don't understand how the sweetest budgie in the world (Daphne) can be so nasty to other budgies!

Last week, we received another package of toys and toy components from The Parrot Asylum. Inside was a surprise: little pieces of candy -- wood wrapped in paper. My parrots loved this! Here is Max, working on a piece.
And here is Calypso. When he is very happy, sometimes he shuts his eyes. I imagine he gets caught up in the moment.
And here are a couple of videos that I think demonstrate the differences in their personalities. Max slowly and methodically works the paper until she unwraps what's inside. Calypso just attacks with caique abandon.

During his video, you can hear Rocky scream a bit. He sometimes gets jealous when attention is paid to a different parrot and doesn't always express his displeasure in appropriate ways! So, in many of my parrot videos, you can hear some severe macaw screams in the back. He actually has greatly decreased the amount of screaming that he does, and I'd say it's now at a tolerable amount, considering he is a wild parrot!

Here's wishing everyone a safe and warm weekend!

Thursday, February 7, 2008


We've been hit with tons of snow, but we're all ok! I left my camera at home, but hopefully I'll remember tomorrow so I can post some pictures.

I stayed home from work yesterday due to the snow, and the parrots were happy to have me around. Thomas came home early, and they probably thought it was like a weekend!

Anyway, hope that everyone is safe and warm and I'll update more tomorrow!

Monday, February 4, 2008

All About Beeps

If the parrots knew I had a blog and read it, the caiques might feel a bit slighted since the majority of my stories refer to my two more difficult parrots: Max and Rocky. Today is devoted to my wonderful caique, Beeps.

Last week, we noticed that Beeps had a piece of fuzz above his eye:
I was trying very hard to get a picture of this, but he kept showing off for the camera and mugging in ways that I couldn't get the fuzz to appear. At times, he almost seems like a contortionist, with the way he twists and turns his legs.

Here he is, playing with one of his favorite toys. When he really wants to show off, he goes over and starts banging his toy against the side of his cage. You can tell he's excited because his eyes are darker orange than normal. Actually, maybe you can't because his eyes are orange pretty much any time I take his picture as the camera gets him excited! But if you saw him normally, you can see the eye color change.