Monday, March 31, 2008

More breakfast time

I know I've been posting a lot of pictures lately of the parrots trying to eat Thomas's breakfast. I was going to stop this, but then this happened over the weekend, and I thought it was so adorable, I couldn't resist.

Rocky and Max were getting along, waiting for food. Surprisingly, Beeps was hanging out on his stand.

Every time Thomas would raise the bowl to his mouth to drink some of the milk, they would stare longingly at him:
And then when he brought the bowl down, they'd rush over and try to get a few sips. Like in the picture, Thomas would usually hold his spoon up for Rocky so that they both didn't have their heads in the bowl at the same time.
I've also posted shower pictures before, but they were having such a good time yesterday. Calypso didn't want to shower (and Daphne can't be in the bathroom as she starts to have trouble breathing with the steam), but the other three were singing and dancing.
Beeps has definite song preferences. I'm so curious to know whether it's a certain beat that he likes, or whether he recognizes certain songs from his previous home. In any case, there are several songs that elicit dancing from him. Rocky and Max are not so particular -- they'll dance to pretty much anything!

Friday, March 28, 2008

In praise of "used" parrots

I've been thinking a lot about this topic lately, and decided to write about it after a lunch I had with my friend the other day. I'll call her J. J has 4 parrots -- one she bought from a pet store several years ago, and the other 3 have had previous homes.

One has wings that contain healed breaks that could only have been caused by intentional abuse. Another was owned by a person who intentionally pulled out the feathers of and mutilated the bird. The third was left outside in the street on a hot day, where you'd put your garbage, with a "for sale" sign attached to her tiny cage -- and owners who had been gone and left her out there with no supervision for several hours.

Of our 5 parrots, we purchased Max from a breeder, and the other 4 had previous homes. I don't believe that any of mine were physically abused, but they definitely had hardships in their past.

And they are fantastic! All 7 of these used birds -- abused, neglected, unwanted -- are in loving homes where they are happy and thriving. If someone were to come into our house and observe the interactions we have with our parrots, I don't think they'd be able to tell which one we got as a baby. And our stories are not unique. Through the Internet and real life, I have met many people successfully living with parrots with a past. Parrots are so incredibly resiliant and able to overcome a lot.

When we were researching and trying to decide whether a parrot was right for us and what kind of parrot to get, I read articles stating that you had to get a baby in order to forge a bond. This is not true at all! I know a lady who has four birds -- three she got as babies and one she acquired when the bird was in her teens. The only bird this lady can handle? The one she met after the parrot was well into her second decade. And if you peruse the stories I've posted on this blog, hopefully you'll see the incredible bonds that one or both of us has with every one of our birds.
Then I read articles talking about the problems second-hand (or more!) parrots have to overcome and basically saying that you have to be an expert or a martyr in order to take on this responsibility. Once again, not true! While this may be true for certain extremely phobic birds, the vast majority of older parrots needing homes will thrive in a parrot-appropriate home.

Parrots are wild animals: loud, messy, destructive, demanding, and extremely intelligent. Most homes are not equipped to deal with having a parrot as a pet. That's why there's so many looking for new homes. But I truly believe that most homes that would be appropriate for a baby parrot would also be appropriate for a used parrot. After all, that baby is going to grow up!

Personally, I love the mystery of living with a pre-owned parrot. How did Rocky learn so many funny phrases? Why did Beeps start dancing to a certain song on the radio -- had he heard it before? These guys have been around the block and seem to appreciate the new chance they were given.
I like to think about the parrots that are living right now that will someday live with us. There are two blue-front amazons that will be willed to us should they outlive their current owners (I'm hoping their owners are around for a long time because they are fantastic people!) Probably some caiques (I am a sucker for those guys!) Maybe some mini macaws (Thomas has such a way with them). And hopefully a special lory that I am trying to convince Thomas we should adopt now.

If anyone out there is considering taking home a used parrot but has been scared away by the thought that they're not good enough -- try it! With commitment, common sense, and a willingness to seek help, I think you'll be amazed at the relationship you'll build with your older bird.

Two organizations that I know are absolutely fantastic and can personally vouch for are Birdlovers Only Rescue in Northwest Indiana and Rosebud's House in Texas. If you live near them, I'd highly recommend looking there for your next companion.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring is near!

I was ecstatic to notice this Tuesday night as I came home from work:

Spring is definitely near, as evidenced of my tiger lilies poking their heads through the ground. Yesterday, the snow in the above picture had all melted. Yea!

Here's Rocky during last night's dinner preparation. He was enthralled by the garlic and kept coming over to try to sneak some. After I took this picture, I realized he was kind of perching on a knife! His wings are outstretched because I was near -- he wasn't threatening the garlic.

Here's Max, doing one of her tricks. In our clicker training, as part of our routine, I ask her if she wants to open a bait shop and sell worms. At the cue "worm," she turns her head sideways. I'm sure she has no idea what that means, but she'll sometimes do some of her tricks if she sees something that she wants, like if I'm eating some cheese (which was the case last night). She's a little wet because she had recently been sprayed down.

And I thought I'd include a video of Calypso since I seem to short-change him on the blog. He is so adorable and well-behaved that I don't write about him very often. Also, he doesn't really like the camera and usually stops what he's doing to puff up and stare at it. Lately I've been lightly cupping him in my hands, which makes him go, "kush kush kush" in his little caique voice and I reciprocate. Then he whistles and I whistle back. Still no luck on teaching him the Mozart -- he seems to be happy with whistling charge and random sounds!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A normal day at our house

Beeps has been so incredibly playful lately. On the day of this video, he had been perching nicely on his stand. Max flew to the top of the stand and swung this chain of plastic links, trying to hit him. Deciding to get even, Beeps climbed up the chain and threatened her. I started filming right after Max took off.

But, Beeps decided to stay and play on the chain for a bit. As I've mentioned before, he loves to get the links free of each other, with the result that he falls to the ground -- but he rights himself and flies a lap around the room before any damage is done.

And here is a still, showing off his acrobatics. By the way, I absolutely love these links. I bought them from The Parrot Asylum here. I use them to attach toys in my parrots' cages, as linked toys, seen here, and I also link them individually over the cage bars. They love playing with them!

Calypso has recently decided that he should use his water dish as a toilet. Needless to say, this does not please me. I am changing his water at least 4 times every day. The particular morning of this picture, this was the 3rd time I was changing the water before work. His aim recently has been such that not only do I have to remove his water dish, but also the holder on the side of his cage. I was able to get this decent picture of him through the hole where the holder normally is.Of course I am biased, but I find him incredibly beautiful. I haven't been able to throw away any of his molted tail feathers as they contain a large amount of beautiful orange and yellow hues.

After his unsuccessful attempts to lure Thomas into his nest last season, Rocky appears to have decided that the reason he was unsuccessful was that Thomas couldn't fit under his cage. He's decided to return to under our kitchen table. He goes to our newspaper recycling bag, pulls out several sections of the paper, drags them under the table, and shreds them.

This picture was taken at the beginning of his nest-making; it got much larger. I will try to remember to take a picture, assuming he decides to work on it some more. He is particularly excited about this when Thomas's feet are under the table with him. Parrot toys don't come much cheaper!

Monday, March 24, 2008


I unexpectedly had the day off of work on Friday as this was happening to my neighborhood:
A snowstorm! And it's almost April! Over a foot of snow fell, and I didn't feel like driving in it, so I stayed in. I hung out with the parrots, did a lot of knitting, some reading, and thought about how wonderful it would be if I were independently wealthy and could do this all of the time!

Here is a picture from Sunday morning. I know I've been posting a lot of these lately, but I love the way that Beeps is hanging on, as though he's investigating the Circuit City ad to see what he wants to get. It's particularly ironic since he hates technology!
Here Beeps had flown to the top of the fridge, joining Max. After this picture was taken, they were moved to more appropriate perches! I just hope Beeps doesn't make a habit of hanging out here.
This video is pretty dark, but I mentioned something in yesterday's post and then Calypso did this. I tried videotaping him doing this with better lighting and closer to him earlier in the day, but he stopped as soon as he realized what I was doing.

I mentioned that caiques can be loud toy players. In fact, it seems like they can derive great pleasure from making noises (this can be said of most parrots, but I've found it to be particularly true of caiques). Calypso had removed his toy from the metal quicklink hanger, and then proceeded to walk around the top of his cage and bang the hanger on many different things. It looked like he was experimenting by banging it against various surfaces. This kept him busy for probably 15 minutes.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

My thoughts on caiques...

In my comments from March 20, I received this question, which I decided to answer as a new entry instead of just in the comments:

I've been reading your blog with great interest for a little bit now. We recently adopted a 2 year old female Maximillian Pionus. We want to add a second bird to our family and are considering a newly weaned male Caique. Would you tell me the real truth about living with Caiques? Noise level, need for interaction and getting along with our other bird are my main concerns. I'd like to hear an account of your experiences. Most people I have found opinions from have very young birds which I think is not the best representation for a lifetime with a bird companion. I'd be really greatful for your opinion!

First, thanks for your comment! I apologize in advance for my lengthy response. Brevity is not one of my strong points!

A little background: both of my caiques are at least third-hand. I got Calypso in 2004 when he was 9 years old, and Beeps entered our house in 2006 when he was 8 years old. I don't have much experience with young caiques, therefore, as mine were mature when we got them!

Calypso came from a home where he was kept covered 24 hours a day because he was too noisy for the house. "Too noisy" is definitely a relative concept, as he was not as loud as the only bird we had at the time, our timneh grey, Max. Because of his previous deprivation, when we got him and gave him a good diet, proper lighting, etc., his hormones went out of control and he plucked all of the orange feathers on his legs and mutilated sores into them. This happened in August 2004, and we have not seen a repeat of this.

Beeps was going to be released outside in February 2006 because he had bit his owner so badly that she had to go to the emergency room. Or at least that's what we were told. A very wonderful person found out about this and took him into her life for about 9 months. However, given his reputation, they were afraid of him and knew they weren't giving him the life he needed. That's when he came to live with us.

I guess what I'm trying to say by retelling their backgrounds is that I'm not sure how representative my sample is. Would their personalities be different if they had been raised in a loving environment from the start?

To address your main concerns: noise level, need for interaction, and getting along with your other bird:

Noise level -- as I mentioned above, Calypso was considered too noisy for his previous home. I don't think they're that loud. Beeps does beep almost constantly (hence his name!) but it really fades into the background of our lives. I really don't even notice it until I watch videos and hear him in the background. They both have loud alarm calls that they occasionally do when a perceived threat passes by a window. Calypso, not confident in his flight skills, will make a different, and rather loud, call when he wants me to ferry him around. They also will make a pig squeal kind of noise when they are really excited or playing with their toys. Unless you are extremely noise sensitive (or happen to get a really loud caique), this shouldn't be a major issue. They also love to play with bells and are aggressive toy-players, so that noise also needs to be considered. Although I wouldn't recommend it as each individual is different, I think I could live in an apartment with my caiques and not get complaints from the neighbors.

Need for interaction -- caiques, as most parrots, love interacting with their humans. I would really recommend looking into some kind of trick training (I clicker train my parrots). This site shows a caique that knows all kinds of tricks, taught through a similar method. They are quite intelligent and love showing off! They tend to be beaky parrots, and need to be taught proper beak pressure. Many caiques love surfing on their favorite people. With his new-found flight skills, we've noticed that Beeps now will fly over to one of us for a little attention, and then we toss him back to his cage after 20 seconds or so, and he's happy. My caiques are nowhere near as needy as my macaw or grey -- I'd say they're similar to the pionus parrots I've met in that respect. But they need to be consistently handled and suffer greatly when left cagebound.

Interaction with other bird -- this is my major concern with caiques. They tend not to like other parrots. I'd strongly recommend separate play stands and cages placed so that it's not easy for them to interact, at least until you feel comfortable with them. When we brought Beeps home, we'd hoped that he and Calypso would form a friendship. However, they want nothing to do with each other and in the beginning, would get into minor fights. Beeps jumped Daphne (budgie) once when she had escaped from her cage (luckily she flew away and wasn't hurt) and Calypso jumped a cockatiel we were watching (I intervened in time). Beeps and Max have also had minor fights. They are also known to hate dogs, and Calypso did attack a dog we were dog-sitting for once. Here again, I think it depends on your expectations. Do you want them to preen each other? Doubtful. Share a cage? I wouldn't recommend it. Live in peace with each other? Very doable.

I absolutely adore caiques. They have tremendous personalities! One thing that I love about them is how expressive their body language is. Once you understand that (eye flashing, feather puffing, head bobbing), you can pretty much avoid getting bit. Another thing that seems to be rather unique to them is their reaction to things that they hate. For example, both Rocky (severe macaw) and Beeps hate brooms. When Rocky sees a broom, he runs to the other side of the room to get as far away from the broom as possible. When Beeps sees one, he gets excited and attacks the person sweeping. (Knowing this, we make sure they are both safely away in their cages before sweeping). They also tend to launch themselves at and attack people they don't like, even if not provoked (I have heard this from other caique owners). So you need to be very aware with them and arrange their environments so that they don't resort to that.

I am a little biased towards caiques, but realize they aren't for everyone. Another place you can go to find out more information is here. I'd particularly recommend the pages marked "other pets," "biting," and "escaped." I think they give a pretty accurate picture of what living with a caique can be like.

If I missed anything or if you have any other questions about them (realizing that I am dealing with a limited sample of 2!) feel free to ask!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Leave my food alone!

Last night, we had chili for dinner. Thomas placed his bowl on the floor in front of the couch and left the living room to make another trip for his drink. (Yes, we eat in the living room. I was not brought up this way! But it's easier because the parrots behave better on their cages than if we tried to get them to stay on stands in the kitchen).

Rocky, seeing an opportunity, ran over there while the bowl was unoccupied, grabbed a saltine cracker off of the top, and ran back under his cage and started eating it (you can see the crumbs under his cage and on his beak). I wish I had this on video!

An entire cracker is a MUCH bigger portion than he would normally get, so he thought he'd hit the jackpot. Thomas didn't want him eating the cracker under the cage because of the crumbs, so he convinced Rocky to come out, and then gave him a portion of the cracker after he perched on his cage.
The negotiations:

Then, this morning happened. Thomas usually has left for work before I get the parrots up in the morning. This morning I was done running early, so I let everyone out about 20 minutes before their usual wake-up time.
They were so happy to spend time with Thomas before he left. However, because of the chaos they caused, I had to promise to not do this every day!
He couldn't read the paper and eat his breakfast in peace:
I swear that photo is not posed. Max, Rocky, and Beeps, seeing cereal was being eaten, all flew or walked over to the table and took turns taking bites. In this picture, Beeps has a Grapenut in his beak. This is why we eat dinner in the living room!

I've still been knitting away: hats and scarves. I made the brown hat on the right as a surprise for Thomas last week. Then, I decided that I didn't like a light green hat that I'd previously made (on the left). It was too big, and I had made a few mistakes. So I decided to unravel it and knit a new hat (in the center). I'm probably not doing this the "right" way, but I am knitting from one hat to the other. I hope I like this one better as I don't want to knit 3 hats out of the same yarn!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Report on Rocky's vet visit

This was a picture I tried to take last July (hence the shorts on Thomas) of Rocky's enlarged preen gland. It's about the size of a large marble, and his feathers cover it completely -- you'd never know it was there unless you're looking for it.

We knew about this when we took him in. However, an avian vet has recently started working at our local animal emergency center (open 24 hours!) and so we thought it prudent to get Rocky checked out there so that his records would be readily accessible in case his gland ever exploded, or any other incident befell our 20 year old bird.
Here he is, waiting in the exam room on Thomas's lap.That got boring, so they played a little bit (that's a feather on Thomas's jeans and not some sort of strange stain).Here he is, at home on the examining table. He is not the one who chewed off part of the table, but he kept going over to investigate.. I am proud to say he didn't enlarge it, either!And here is a video. He loves to walk around with his beak dragging on the floor. I've mentioned before that he also likes to play with towels. Here, he was able to do both at the same time!

Our vet told us that Rocky most likely does not have cancer. The cases he's seen personally or in the literature that have been cancer were all greys. Additionally, there has not been any sustained increase in size for at least 18 months.

He said we could do surgery to remove it, but it's kind of a tricky surgery for vascular reasons. I am also terrified of anesthesia for birds and would prefer that Rocky not be put under. His gram stain and physical examination were normal, and we should receive the results of his blood tests (CBC and chem panel) later this week; perhaps as early as this afternoon.

Rocky mostly behaved, although he hates being in his carrier, so he cried like a baby and yelled a few times (thankfully, no swear words). The receptionists were taken with his singing and dancing.

All in all, it went about as well as I could have hoped, assuming the blood tests don't turn up something unexpected!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Apparently we starve our grey

A visitor to our house would suspect us of starving Max if they just watched her behavior.

The larger parrots get a bowl of seed for dinner, topped with a veggie mash. The food comes in large bags. I keep these in the freezer, and pour enough of the seed mix to last a couple of weeks into a smaller container. I had just replenished my smaller container and sealed the bag, when Max had to come over and try to get some seeds, even though she saw me preparing their dinner.
We usually have a large glass of ice water around when we're home. Since we've given up soda, it's what we drink most of the time. Max loves ice and ice water. What I love in this picture is how she was smart enough to stand on the edge of the sink to give her a few centimeters' boost.
Thomas and I love cheese! We buy cheese curds from our farmer and will often have a few as a snack while we're making dinner. Thomas was transferring them from the plastic bag to a sturdier container. Max loves cheese almost as much as we do.
She is very sneaky and managed to grab a curd even though Thomas was right there guarding them! This was much too big of a piece for her, so we took it away (under protest!) after I snapped this picture. You can see there is already a bite or two missing. When she gets something she knows she's not supposed to have, she eats it as quickly as she possibly can, knowing we're going to try to wrestle it from her.

Monday, March 17, 2008

An aquarium miracle

Friday night, I hear an excited call from the living room: "Get in here right now! This may be the most exciting thing you will ever write in your aquarium log!"

(Side note: I keep an aquarium log. I write down all exciting events, like fish or plant additions, dead bodies fished out, water quality test results, and periodic fish inventories. I am a big dork.)

What did he find? Our pleco! She had last been seen in December 2006. We went 14 1/2 months without seeing her, and she was presumed dead. She hasn't been on a fish inventory list since last summer.

In the picture below, you can see her bristles coming out between the wood. She almost looks like a plant.
It seems like she's chosen a new hiding place with our tank reorganization that took place last weekend.

Lots of parrot stuff happened over the weekend, but I'm going to parcel it out so as to not have a ridiculously long entry today and then risk having nothing the rest of the week.

Since I often have a runny nose, we keep a box of Puffs on our kitchen table. Rocky likes to play on the kitchen table, but has always ignored this box and its contents. Over the weekend, he walked up, grabbed a single tissue out of the box, and began shredding it.
As you can maybe see from the pictures, Rocky's tail has been beautiful lately. It used to be scraggly from all of his floor walking and squishing himself into small spaces. He hasn't been playing under his cage for a few months, and that has made a huge difference.

Friday, March 14, 2008

More foraging fun

As Easter approaches, that means some bright, colorful, inexpensive foraging material is hitting store shelves. That's right -- paper Easter grass! I'm sure I could make my own with some colored paper and a paper shredder; however it's so easy to pick up a few bags of this stuff.

We went to the store last week and picked up about 20 bags of paper Easter grass. The cashier made comments about how we're getting ready for Easter, and I was thinking about how I was getting ready to give my parrots a holiday year-round!

They love it! To the left is an easy foraging toy. The red ball is a dog toy that can be picked up at any pet store for about $2. I hang it in their cages, but it could also be used as a floor toy. Stuff it with various things (here, I'm showing it just with the paper Easter grass -- I don't know if the plastic stuff is safe -- but I'll usually add some pellets or little toys for them to find).

In the picture below, this is what Max's cage bottom looks like after a day of foraging and destroying. I had changed her paper that morning, and when I got home from work, I was met with the aftermath of a day spent in fun activities:

In addition to the paper Easter grass, there are several bowls and mats purchased from The Parrot Asylum. The little white balls are what's left after she's found and eaten her pellets that are hidden around her cage.

On a complete change of topic, here is Andreas.

I don't write much about the lizards as they are pretty boring compared to the parrots! Elsa continues her mini-brumation (are they ever looking forward to summer!) I had just given them their evening meal of veggie mash, and Andreas proceeded to walk over there and smush his feet into it! I don't know what goes through their minds.

We've begun sprouting again after a lapse of several months. We started sprouting for the parrots, but Daphne is the only one who will eat sprouts (although we keep trying with the others). The lizards absolutely love the sprouts, and we've decided to try to keep a supply of them (and not have any more lapses) for the lizards.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Another Beeps video

I quickly reviewed my last few days of posts, and realized that it's mostly been Rocky pictures and Beeps videos. I'm continuing that trend today, with another video of the most photogenic caique in my house.

He was playing on a stand in the kitchen last night. Caiques have the reputation of being aggressive toy-players, and that's certainly true of him! Notice how he looks at me a couple of times during the filming. You can also hear frequent beeping, which is how he got his name. Finally, towards the end of the video, he starts moving his head in a jerky fashion. He does this when he gets super excited. We call it "caiqueoverload", and if we're not careful, there's the possibility we'll receive a bite if we try to handle him before reminding him to calm down.

I was hoping to capture him falling off of the toy. He tries to unhook the toys from the plastic hooks we use to hang them. Often, he does this while on the toy, sending him falling. With his quick reacion time and great flight skills, that means he takes off from the falling toy and does an impromptu circle around the room. You'd think by now he wouldn't be surprised when that happens!

His flight skills have advanced in the past week, in a fun way. If he's airborne, and heading in any direction, if Thomas or I put our hand out and say, "Beeps, come here!" he abruptly changes directions and lands on us. We're still working on getting him to come to us on command while perched somewhere.

Thomas made another kind of bread last night. This one was sourdough, and involved several days of sitting out and being stirred. Normally, I don't like sourdough bread, but this was absolutely fantastic. Here are a couple of pictures, in its pre-baking stage, and finished. I was so eager to eat some I forgot to take a picture before we'd sliced some off!

As summer arrives and we start getting fresh vegetables, we will be making a lot more non-bread items. We've also made our own nut butter, which is healthier and tastier than anything we've found commercially. And it's so easy! We buy a bag of roasted, unsalted mixed nuts from Trader Joe's and then blend the nuts until they're creamy. No additives. The parrots love this and they get a little taste every morning.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Over the weekend, Thomas cleaned the aquarium. I've probably mentioned before that he loves the aquarium plants. We have a CO2 reactor on our tank, and the plants are fertilized and lovingly cared for. Over the past few months, they had also grown out of control. I don't have a "before" picture, but it was seriously hard to find any fish in the tank because there were so many plants.

Here is Thomas cleaning the tank, with a helper at his feet.
Rocky was quickly moved to his cage, as we didn't want him drinking aquarium water. The tank is right by Calypso's cage, and he loves to watch any activity going on there. He puts himself as close to the aquarium as he can, and he stares at you until you're finished working. It's strange.

Thomas removed over a 10-gallon bucket's worth of plants from the tank. Most were given to a friend who has a tank with fish that eat plants. It's a good relationship -- just as he needs more plants, we're trying to find homes for ours!

This is a picture I took this morning. The fish have room to swim again! I can't overestimate the change in their personalities! Everyone was coming out to explore. I was happy to see that all 9 Australian Rainbowfish and 3 Clown Loaches are still alive and appear to be doing well. As far as I can tell, we also have 4 Otos, 7 Red Skirt Tetras, 7 Glowlight Tetras, and one Bronze Cory Cat. It's been over 6 months since we've added any fish. I'd like to get some more cory cats since they are my favorite and they tend to like being in groups (our solitary one has been trying to hang with the loaches).
Since it's still been pretty dry in our house, I've been spraying the parrots most mornings. They love getting baths, especially Max and the caiques. Max and Beeps will actually fly over when I'm spraying a different bird and try to get in the stream. Beeps takes baths in his water dish several times a week in addition to being sprayed. He may be half fish.

Rocky was threatening me this morning as I was taking the picture of the aquarium, so I took his picture. He is still slightly wet, and those feathers look kind of brown.
After we went upstairs last night, Rocky was talking and saying funny things. We couldn't understand most of it, but he was using a silly voice and then laughing afterwards. We haven't adjusted the lizards' lights or the aquarium for daylight savings time, so we are putting the parrots to bed while there is still some light in the living room, which has resulted in more activity than we're used to at night. I say it's kind of like having a sunset, as the light gradually decreases in their environment. We'll probably adjust the timers this weekend.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bodyguard Rocky

Thomas is back to a rotation of overnight call, so I am home alone more frequently with the parrots. When Thomas returns after a night of being away, the parrots (especially Rocky!) are so happy to have him back again!

Here Thomas is, resting on the couch after working 30 hours straight, with his companion. Later on in the evening, Beeps kept flying by him as well, so he had two parrots climbing on him on clamoring for his attention. So outbursts of "I am not a jungle gym!" and "Please get a hobby!" were heard in our house over the weekend.

He was on overnight call yesterday, so I'm anticipating a similar reaction when I get home from work.

Friday, March 7, 2008

I guess he likes the food

Rocky's cage is ostensibly big enough for large macaws and cockatoos, which means that the bowls are giant when compared to my little mini macaw. I get a little chuckle out of seeing him immersed in his food dish, rooting around for the component of his seed mix that he wants to eat.

Of course, as soon as he realized I was standing near his cage, taking his picture, he had to lift up his head and get into a scary pose (his head feathers are raised, which is what he does right before lifting his wings and swaying back and forth to show me how big he is).
We're taking Rocky to a new vet as soon as we can figure out scheduling with Thomas's hectic schedule (with his medical background and rapport with Rocky, I want to make sure he's there, too!). Rocky has a cyst on his preening gland which has become more enlarged of late.

We have a three-page questionnaire to fill out before our appointment, for the vet to get an idea of his environment. Answering these questions has made us reflect on how little we know about the first 19 years of his life. He's lived with us for 19 months, so only about 5% of his life!

Not for the first time, I wish these guys could talk meaningfully so I could know what he's been through. Thomas thinks it would just make us sad. But I wonder are there things in his past that bring him comfort that he'd like? A special song perhaps, or food item that we don't eat in our house?

Since that's impossible, we just continue giving him the best life that we can and hope that he's happy!

UPDATE: His vet appointment is scheduled for Tuesday, March 18, so I should have a report that Wednesday. Not sure if they'll let me take pictures inside the examining room!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hi Babycakes!

Last night, I was in the living room taking pictures of the parrots, hoping to capture something for the blog.

As I've mentioned many times, Beeps is not a huge fan of technology, and starts posturing when I get too close with a camera, phone, or other electronic device.

One way he shows off is to go to his latest favorite toy (or whatever's closest) and chew on it while keeping an eye on me. He did that last night, grabbing a piece of corkwood to chew on. He did this while I was taking a still picture of him and then said, "Hi babycakes!" which is why, in this video, I am calling him Babycakes -- trying to get him to say that again (which he does, towards the end of the video).

His eyes are flashing red, letting me know he's excited. He also does a mini posture with a quick head movement. Those of us with caiques must learn their expressive body language in order to live harmoniously with these little bundles of energy!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Eating healthier

Thomas and I have been on a kind of health kick of late. We've decided that we eat too many processed foods and we need to get a grip on our diets. I gave up soda in January, and he followed suit in February, despite the days of headaches he suffered from caffeine withdrawal.

We've signed up for a CSA share for the summer, and continue to get as many of our dairy products as possible from a local farmer. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and what that means is we've contracted with a local farmer to deliver a box of fresh vegetables to us on a weekly basis during the summer. We are quite excited about this as many of the vegetables are picked the morning of delivery, so we'll have extremely fresh and tasty food on our table.

I had considered starting a new blog to chart our cooking adventures, but then decided just to add them to this one, as I'm sure there will be parrot involvement in the cooking and eating! The reason I want to blog about our CSA is to have a certain measure of accountability in finding ways to use all of the vegetables that are provided to us.

Thomas has been baking bread over the past few days. We recently purchased the book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. I have never been so impressed with a cookbook before! I would highly recommend this book to everyone, and will likely be giving copies as gifts this year. (He also wrote a non-vegetarian version which I assume is just as high quality as this one).

Here is the first loaf of bread that Thomas made:
Encouraged with that success, he made a different kind yesterday:
The bread was so delicious, and really can't compare to store-bought bread. I'm sad we were missing out on this for so long!

Max is also enamored with the bread. In fact, when the bread was still in its dough phase, I caught her eating some. And this morning, she was spotted eating the bread through the plastic wrap I'd placed on it to keep it fresh.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Flock dynamics

With the emergence of Beeps as a proficient flyer, we've noticed a change in flock dynamics.

As I've mentioned before, none of my parrots interact much with each other. Occasionally Max and Calypso will call back and forth (which saved Max's life a few years back), although months can go by without this happening. Rocky's screaming will incite the caiques to beep and squawk (although it's hard to hear them over Rocky!) When Max is in a particularly jealous mood, she may buzz Beeps or Rocky, especially if she thinks they're getting too much attention from Thomas or me. We noticed that she'd never buzz Calypso, no matter what attention he might be receiving. And despite the fact that they're both caiques, Beeps and Calypso almost never interact, verbally or physically.

Beeps's flight skills have increased his confidence, which is a delight for us, and probably an annoyance for Max! Instead of staying on his stand, he'll fly over to her stand. To show her displeasure, Max will try to hit him with a hanging toy, or dislodge it and drop it on him (in the picture, you can see that there is no toy hanging from the top of the circle -- she unscrewed the quicklink and tried to drop it on Beeps). A side note -- she also takes things out of her foraging bucket and throws them at Thomas when he's playing video games near her cage. She has decent aim.

We used to intervene as soon as we saw something start to happen. However, we noticed an increased frequency of irritation. Maybe they needed to work things out for themselves? And so they have. We were always supervising, so that we could stop them if anything was getting out of control. There was one mid-air tangle when they ended up falling out of the air and onto the floor; feet entangled.

During the past couple of weeks, they have reached some sort of understanding. They are able to share a playstand most of the time. Max will occasionally run Beeps off, but she just needs to make her way towards him and he'll fly off. This is very similar to when Calypso runs Max off of his cage (usually he's willing to share, but sometimes he must want his cage to himself!)

The reason we decided to allow them to work things out for themselves is that they are of similar size and we know their personalities. I would never allow any of my other birds access to Daphne, for example. Plus, since they are both proficient flyers, they had an easy escape method.

In other news, the shelter where I volunteer had 13 more budgies surrendered last weekend, which brings our budgie total to around 60. And supposedly there are 20 more coming from another house in the next couple of weeks. Among those 13 were 7 babies (unintentional breeding -- started with 2 in a rather small cage and soon had almost 30 in that same cage. Others were surrendered in February). One of the babies was suffering from a foot injury. I was so close to taking her home as a companion for Daphne. I was rationalizing it by saying that since this was a baby, she'd learn to get along with Daphne. And then I could keep a close eye on her injury and make sure she recovers properly.

But then I remembered that Daphne really didn't seem to take to Jeff Saturday. Was that a personality clash (or her instinct kicking in since he wasn't well) or a genuine desire to be a sole budgie? She is molting now and has a ton of pin feathers, which my human fingers struggle to free. A budgie companion could take care of her with ease. But would Daphne allow it?

Thomas said he'd leave the decision to me. I know he doesn't want to add another bird at this time. But I've been having a hard time getting that little girl out of my mind and he said if I'm going to be obsessing about her, he'd rather she come to live with us so I can think of other things.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do, although I'm leaning towards letting things stay the way they are. Now I just have to try to forget about that baby, and hope she's found a home by the next time I'm at the shelter.