Thursday, July 31, 2008

Happy Times

Sorry about my whining yesterday! I need to start focusing on not getting upset about things that I can't change. Today will be entirely positive!

I've adjusted my morning routine again. I was feeling a bit sorry for Daphne since she gets the least amount of one-on-one time with either Thomas or me. The others are just more demanding, and she seems happy enough to play with her toys and get ambient attention.

Realizing that's not fair to her, I've been getting her up at 6:30, about 30 minutes before the rest of the parrots. Normally she doesn't shower with either of us because she has trouble breathing when the room gets steamy. But, with Thomas's schedule being a bit more relaxed this month, I've been able to bring her in the bathroom with him for just a few minutes, and she loves it!

Here she is, on the top of the shower, just like the big birds!
As I've mentioned before, she is extremely difficult to photograph well, but you can kind of see how wet she is here (Thomas put her under the spray for a moment):
Yesterday was my weekly farmers' market run, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that our favorite farmer had tomatoes already! He had two kinds, and I've already forgotten what they were. One is supposed to be less juicy than the other. Thomas was cutting up a tomato for last night's dinner, and I asked him which kind he took. He said he couldn't tell a difference! The distinction is even more apparent in person than in this photo, but clearly one is red with orange undertones (right) and one is red with blue undertones (left).
I just loved this photo of Beeps, so I had to include it in the blog. He's been spending more time on the plant stand lately to avoid getting buzzed by Max (we are still working on this, but she's stubborn!) He spends so much of his time upside down or doing other acrobatic moves!
Rocky has been extremely funny lately. Yesterday I was in the kitchen and Thomas was in the living room, sweeping. I heard riotous laughter coming from the living room, so I had to see what was going on. You have to look closely in this video to see Rocky -- and even then it's mostly the white patch on his face that's the most clear. As Thomas was sweeping near his cage, he was trying to attack the broom and laughing about it. When I call his name for the first time, you can hear him do this weird scream that he sometimes does.
Rocky has been a bit unpredictable, as usual. Especially when stepping up off of the floor. Since Thomas has to do physical exams of people, he can't very well have bites and bandages all over his hands, which means he sometimes uses creative items for Rocky to step up onto when a stick isn't available.

Rocky had followed him upstairs this morning when Thomas was getting dressed for work. They came down together, with Rocky hanging off of a sock. He kept striking all of these adorable poses, and these were among my favorites:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I've been hesitating whether to post this or not, but I will and maybe take it down later once I ramble on a bit and get this off of my chest...

I'm just so discouraged lately by the cavalier way in which so many people treat their animals. I understand that circumstances change and emergencies arrive, but so much of what I'm seeing seems to be a result of poor planning, impulse purchasing, and priorities.

In the past two weeks, I've had the following animals offered to me: 4 birds, 2 rabbits, and 2 ferrets. And that's just the past two weeks! It lays on my conscience that I had to say no to these animals, but I have to be aware of my limits and the effect that taking in more animals has on the ones currently in my home.

Also, how difficult is it to provide a lifetime home for a ferret? Their average lifespan is about 5 years. Over the past decade, my parents have taken in over 5 unwanted ferrets and have turned down many more. Why don't people research before they get a pet? Why do pet stores sell to anyone with the money? Often while providing bad information?

I have several friends who run rescue operations, and almost all of them have been inundated recently with surrenders. Several are very possibly close to their breaking point.

I guess I'm just getting worn out thinking about all of these homeless animals and feeling helpless to do much to ease their suffering. Blech.

Monday, July 28, 2008

3 year anniversary of the worst day of my life

Today marks the 3-year anniversary of the worst day of my life, when Max flew away, even though her wings were clipped. I blogged about that experience here, if anyone wants to revisit the details.

Even now, three years later, I beat myself up over the fact that I allowed this to happen. I should have known better! Luckily this experience did not have a permanent negative impact on her life (at least as far as we can tell) and we recovered her, albeit after a harrowing 34 hours.

It definitely made me more appreciative of her. Every single day since then, I've given her a few extra head pets and told her how lucky we were to find her, how much we love her, and how we'll always protect her. It's made us much more cautious in our daily lives, especially now that many of our parrots (including Max) can fly.

On to happier thoughts, the baby Australian Rainbowfish were finally big enough for us to clean the tank and do a partial water change. The larger Australian Rainbowfish had been enjoying swimming through the inflow of water, which is what I'm showing here. After each bucket of water was removed, we had to make sure that the three babies were still in the tank!

I bought some cherries at the store the other day. I love cherries, but hate having to deal with the pits. I had a bit of extra time on my hands yesterday, so I removed all of the pits and placed the cherries in a bowl for us to easily eat.

Curious Max came over and started doing that weird thing she's been doing with fruit lately -- licking it. She probably did this for about 10 minutes.

I went around and offered cherries to the rest of the parrots, and imagine my surprise when I came back to see that Max had moved from just licking the cherries to picking them up with her feet and eating them!

Cherries were a big hit in our house. All of the larger parrots (that is, everyone but Daphne) enjoyed them. We're still working with Stella on using her feet to help her eat -- she really likes it when we hold the food up to her beak for her. When I won't do that, she either has to use her feet or figure something else out, like here:

This was Stella's water dish on Sunday. I had given the parrots their new water and food in the morning, then I left to go running. I returned about two hours later and saw that Stella had been busy with chipping up her wood toy.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Plucking thoughts

This question was in my comments from yesterday, so I thought I would bring it out to a main blog post so that my response wasn't buried in the comments.
Do you have any suggestions on preventing birds from plucking? My mother-in-law
has a cockatiel that recently began plucking her feathers again. (Our theory is
that she feels neglected--my sister-in-law just had a baby who is getting all
the attention.) I know you have had birds with similar problems in the past, and
I was wondering how you helped them.Thanks for the help.

Plucking is something that is so complex and frustrating! The first thing I would recommend, especially with a cockatiel, is a vet workup to eliminate any physical causes. Cockatiels rarely pluck for behavioral reasons. The rescue where I volunteer gets about 100 cockatiels surrendered to us every year, which would mean I've seen about 500 cockatiels in the 5 years I've been volunteering. I've seen maybe 5 plucked tiels, and every single one of them has had a health issue (bacterial infection, ingrown feather, etc.). Once the medical issue was cleared up, the tiels regrew their feathers.
This tiel's plucking and mutilation was caused by an ingrown feather. Once the vet took care of that, he was able to regrow all of his feathers.

Of course that's not to say that your mother-in-law's plucking tiel couldn't be behavioral! Just because it's rare doesn't mean that it NEVER happens! Once any medical issues are ruled out, I'd start working on optimizing her environment, which is a good thing to try to do, even if the bird isn't plucking!

One thing that may help, especially if you think it relates to reduced attention is if your mother-in-law started clicker training her cockatiel. You might be thinking, "where will she find the time for that?" but once you get into a routine, it takes less than 5 minutes per day per bird, and the results you see are worth it! The attention you give your bird during this time is high quality, and it helps your bird keep her mind active. I'd recommend joining the Bird-Click yahoo group (it's free). You can learn how to do this by reading their files, and experts are there to answer your questions. The moderator has several tiels that she clicker trains.

Other things to consider include diet, air quality, humidity, number and types of toys, bathing frequency, etc.

Another thing she might consider doing, if the decrease in attention will be on more or less a constant basis now that the grandchild is in the picture, is get her cockatiel a friend (I'd recommend another female so that there's no accidental breeding). There are so many unwanted cockatiels in shelters, and she could probably find one close to her on petfinder. Of course there are some drawbacks to this idea -- namely her current cockatiel may become less tame to her or they may never get along well enough to cage them together so she has two cages now -- so it's something to really consider before bringing another one home.

The last thing I want to say is that plucking isn't the end of the world. I used to think that it was; especially before I had pluckers, and during the first few months of their plucking. After all, isn't it inconceivable that a well cared-for and happy bird would pluck? Not at all! These guys are wild animals and, despite our best efforts, we can't replicate the wild for them. Some just can't handle captivity well. I don't recommend collars for pluckers -- only in certain cases for mutilators -- and not long term.

Best of luck to your mother-in-law and her cockatiel!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Video Friday & Unsuccessful foraging

My weekly Wednesday farmers' market purchase included beets with the tops still on. Max was extremely interested in the greens on Wednesday evening:
Since we didn't have any plans for the tops, I decided to give Max a foraging opportunity yesterday and hoped to have a fun entry for today. I placed the beet greens on the bottom of her cage and sprinkled a little bit of seed mix for her to find in between the leaves.
When I came home, hoping to see the leaves destroyed signaling hours of entertainment, I was disappointed. It looks like she hardly touched her beet greens.

Later on during the night, one of the leaves found its way to the ground (not sure if Max threw it down or if I accidentally knocked it out of her cage). Rocky found it and started destroying the leaf. Next time we get these, I may parcel the leaves out and try again!My baby Australian Rainbowfish are all doing very well. The smaller two are now larger than the larger one when I first spotted him. You can see one of the smaller babies in this picture. She (he?) is about 2 inches in from the left and one inch down from the top -- in the upper left quadrant of this photo. You can see a couple of the adult fish for a size comparison. I think they're big enough for us to clean the tank this weekend.
Apparently I was video-happy last night and this morning. It all started with Calypso playing with one of his favorite toys that I made for him from veggie-tanned leather and beads. He must have played with this toy for 15 minutes.

He was in a whistling mood last night, so I was trying to capture him whistling "charge." It didn't work, but you can hear him giving me kisses and making his squeaky-toy noises. Max whistles a bit in the background.

Max had to go in her cage for a bit because she buzzed Beeps and needed to cool down. She kept trying to get my attention by talking about kissing and making kissing sounds.

I took this video this morning. We've gotten into a pretty good routine where I understand her body language, and she kept begging for head pets this morning. I was trying to get a video of that, but couldn't. However, I think this is very interesting also. She acts like she wants me to scratch her head, but when my fingers get close to her head, she gently takes my fingers in her beak and guides my hand down to a point where she can step up on my hand. She knows how to get what she wants!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Personal trainer

Thomas has a painful condition that necessitates that he workout every day to help ease the pain. When he's able to rise early, he does this in the morning when the parrots are sleeping. However, he's been pushing the snooze button on his alarm clock, which means the workouts are moved to after work.

This makes the parrots (well, Rocky and Max) happy as they love the basement. I don't know why they like it down there so much. They're not allowed to eat and nothing particularly special happens. However, if Max sees me heading towards the basement stairs, she immediately flies over, and has managed to squeeze her body through the closing door.

Rocky has a perch right next to the elliptical machine.

Max doesn't have a perch and she's only allowed down there when I'm visiting him because we don't want her flying off and getting into trouble (our basement is not parrot-proofed!) She loves hanging out on our equipment, whether it's in use or not. When she flies here, we joke that she's his personal trainer.
I have mentioned in previous posts that I will launch my flying parrots and tell them to go somewhere, but I've never shown what I meant. "Launch" can be a word with somewhat negative connotations, and that's not the case here. Plus, if I try to make them go somewhere they don't want to go, they just do a U-turn and return to me.
This is a short video of me launching Max to one of her favorite places -- my treadmill.
Back upstairs, Rocky is back in nesting mode. The entire living room had been swept and new newspaper set out the night before. All of this destruction happened in about two hours (and was cleaned up again shortly after this video was taken). We're fine with it since he just destroys toys, wood pieces, and newspaper, but I've had to drastically increase my sweeping duties!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Our first harvest of the year!

Excitement ran through our house as we had our first harvest of the year! We have many tomatoes and peppers growing on our plants, so this is just the first of what we hope will be many more to come.

With one pepper, we really couldn't do much cooking. As Max loves jalapenos, I decided to offer the pepper to her. Denied! She just kept turning her head so she wouldn't even have to look at the offending vegetable. The pepper remains uneaten but I will try again tonight.
I think this is the first time she's seen a bowl of cabbage, and she ran over to investigate. She didn't throw it out of the bowl like she does with greens, but she was licking it.
This picture doesn't go along with any theme I may have going today, but he's just so adorable, especially when he's trying to show me how big and scary he is. This was taken while he spent some time in the bathroom as I changed their food and water in the morning. He has been covering his head with his wing and chewing on one of his toes, which I'm trying to capture with the camera since that's such strange behavior!

But when he sees me come in with the camera, he starts posing before I can get a shot.
He just looks so cuddly and it's all I can do to not grab him up and hug him, like Thomas does. Luckily my brain has been able to restrain this impulse as I would surely be bloody if I ever tried such a stunt with him!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Parrot disagreements

I've mentioned that Beeps and Max sometimes get into little fights. In the past few months, there has been no aggression between any of the other parrots. I'm not sure why, but Max has been pursuing Beeps a bit more aggressively (with Beeps also joining in and antagonizing Max), so we've been much more careful about policing their interactions and keeping them separate.

Max will stalk Beeps until he flies into the plant stand, and then she sits there, watching him.Beeps seems to enjoy playing on the plant stand, but this is not acceptable behavior from Max. Also, we're not sure what the plant stand is made of and don't want him ingesting any metals that could affect his health.He also has taken to hanging out on Stella's kitchen stand. She doesn't seem to mind, but the other day, Max decided to intimidate her nemesis a bit:Thomas was brushing his teeth the other day when Beeps flew in and landed on his towel. He was having a good time, swinging around and beeping.

Over the weekend, Thomas made some bread. Rocky climbed up on the counter and started eating the raw dough. After I took this picture, I removed him from this apparently tempting scene.
One of Rocky's favorite toys is the Wheel Tweet Foot Toy from TNT Bird Toys, located towards the bottom of the page I linked to. He loves playing with these, either by himself or with us. Sometimes he'll drop a ball off at our feet, asking us to play fetch with him, like a dog. Other times he throws it up in the air as high as he can, shrieks as it comes back down, and then rushes over to attack it.

I've had a hard time capturing these games on video, but I think this one does an adequate job of illustrating the main idea. He was on our kitchen table playing when I decided to join him a bit. I just love how fast he goes to attack his toy!

Monday, July 21, 2008

At least she'll have good eyesight...

One of our weekly rituals is juicing. We usually have a base of carrots and add in various other fruits and vegetables. The parrots love fresh juice. It's a special favorite of Max and the caiques.

Here Max is investigating the bag of carrots -- she knows what's coming next!Although she prefers carrot juice to actual carrots, she couldn't wait and decided to help herself to a piece of one of her favorite vegetables. I am amazed at her skill of breaking through plastic barriers to get at the food she wants:

After the juice is done, we put it in large mason jars. Max was trying to figure out how she could get to the juice. She was licking the outside of the jar, hoping she might be able to get some.

This next string of events had me, once again, amazed at her intelligence and problem solving skills. I poured myself a small glass of juice and had not yet gotten around to offering some to the parrots. Max would not wait. First, she perched on an empty bowl that was next to the glass.

The next time I looked over, she was perched on the glass itself, slurping down the juice as fast as she could:

Here she is, satisfied, and with a major juicebeak.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hot Times

It has been so hot around here I feel like I am going to melt. The parrots are happy to be in air conditioning.

I was at the farmers' market on Wednesday. I felt bad for the farmers that had to stay out in the heat all day. Everyone was very sweaty! I stocked up on greens (for us and the lizards), leeks, carrots, honey, peas, and other vegetables. My favorite farmer threw in some jalapeno peppers, so the parrots got a little treat last night:

Yesterday, I mentioned our new morning routine where Rocky spends time in the bathroom instead of his cage. This morning, Max decided to join him. They were in there, singing and dancing along with the music I had playing in the living room.
Here's a closeup of Stella. I'm still working on getting photos of her that aren't blurry or washed out. She's been talking more, but has only picked up phrases from Max. In fact, I think I've heard her say everything that Max knows how to say. She also mimics my sneeze a lot (although I think she's actually mimicking Max mimicking my sneeze). I always reply "A tes souhaits!" in an effort to make her a bit bilingual. So far, it's not working!
Here are two more pictures of events that happen in our house pretty much every morning. Max has a plastic teaspoon that is her spoon. When she was a baby, we were careful not to have her eat off of our dishes because we worried about her catching something from us (we no longer worry about this!)
In any case, we would hold this spoon for her and offer her food. After a couple of times, when she was only about 5 months old, she grabbed the spoon from us to hold it herself. Since then, it saves us time as we can just give her food on a spoon and don't have to hold it for her. We've tried unsuccessfully to get any of our other parrots to do this, although my parents' quaker will also hold a spoon. As you can see from the glob of food in her mouth, she is an expert at eating from the spoon! After she's done, there's barely a trace of food left. Whenever she sees me with the spoon in hand, she gets excited and flies immediately to her stand to await a treat.
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New Rocky Routine

We've switched up Rocky's morning routine a bit, and we're all happier for it! I think I've mentioned it here in the past, but I used to let all of the parrots out except Rocky during the 15 minutes or so it takes me to feed and water everyone. Rocky didn't like this, and I can understand his gripe! However, since he tried to attack me when I let him out, he needed to stay locked up.

During the past few weeks, I've been letting him out when I let out everyone else, but bringing him into the bathroom where he hangs out on the shower curtain. He is so happy up there! Every few minutes I check in on him and we dance a little. I wish I would have thought of this sooner. There is something about the bathroom that calms him down and makes him happy.

In this video, he's a little wet as all of the parrots were sprayed down this morning. If you listen closely, starting around the halfway mark, he's making quiet hissing and clicking sounds. We've been working on whispering lately!

Max was in an inquisitive mood last night, and she flew over to the place on the counter where I put the mail and got to work shredding the junk mail.
Then she came over to investigate my camera bag. The main reason I'm posting this picture is because her tongue is so visible. I guess I never realized how much pink it had before!
Also, I forgot to mention a fun wildlife sighting I had yesterday. I was running in the state park with a friend of mine before work. As we made a left turn on the course, we came almost face to face with a deer! She stared at us for a few seconds -- we had to have been at most 6 feet away -- and then ran off away from the trail. I wish I would have had my camera! But running those hills just about kills me so I couldn't add any extra weight. Plus, my sweat would probably ruin the camera. In any case, it made my day!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Help yourself, Rock!

This scene presented itself to me yesterday, and I had to smile because it represents what we're trying to achieve with our parrots.

Thomas set his dessert of peaches and nuts on the kitchen table while he quickly ran downstairs. Instead of screaming because he wanted some, Rocky climbed onto the table and helped himself.

I've briefly mentioned our parrot philosophy of personal responsibility before, but will go into a bit more detail here.

In the wild, all of our parrots (with the possible exception of Stella who, at 5, is a bit young) would be raising families on their own. They would have responsibilities to their flock, to their mates, and to their offspring. If something was amiss (hunger, nesting site dispute, etc.) they would need to fix it themselves instead of screaming and hoping another parrot would.

While we realize that living in the artificial environment of our home is very different from the wild, these wild animals still retain enough of their instincts to act in ways that impact their own lives.

Our thinking has really been evolving since the addition of Rocky to our house two years ago. Prior to him, we just had Max, Calypso, and budgies, all of whom were quite easy going and content with life as we provided it to them.

And then our screamy macaw entered our lives. Screaming had been his main way of communicating, and he did that often. He'd scream when he was bored, hungry, thirsty, tired, angry, etc. Not acceptable!

In addition to working with him on learning a more appropriate way to communicate, we wanted him to learn that he could improve his circumstances without ever having to involve us.

For example, if we were in the kitchen and he was in the living room, we didn't want him screaming or calling to us to bring him in -- we wanted him to climb down from his cage and find us. If he was lonely and wanted attention, he needed to come and find one of us.

It's hard for me to succinctly explain how we accomplished this -- and it's something that we're constantly working on. Basically, we had talks with him (he understands so much more than you'd imagine!), called him to us when he'd make noises like he was lonely, offered him choices as often as possible, and praised him like crazy when he took the initiative.

After seeing how successful this was with Rocky, we've implemented it with the rest of the parrots. We try to offer them as many choices as possible so that they learn they CAN impact their lives.

I truly believe that it's made a more harmonious home for us, and more fulfilling lives for them. And that's why it brings a smile to my face when he climbs up to eat our food, or approaches one of us and drops a ball at our feet, asking for a game of fetch (trying to get this on video!)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Clown loaches

I narrowly avoided either old-fashioned hilarity or a potentially injurious fall upon exiting Thomas's car to go to lunch yesterday.
Seriously? Who leaves a banana peel in the parking lot? I thought that was the myth of cartoons and old British comedy.

The most exciting news in parrotland, although I don't have any pictures, is that Stella is flying well. She still doesn't voluntarily take flight, but she must have flown in a previous home, or at least fledged, as she knows how to navigate and land. This makes my life easier, as I can launch her from the kitchen and tell her "go to your cage" and she does, saving me a trip.

If you were in our living room right around dinner time, you'd think I had some sort of parrot cannon as I launch Beeps, Max, and Stella into the living room, keeping my hands free for bringing in dinner or the non-flying parrots.

I've read about the supposed stress-relieving benefits of aquariums, but mine can be stress-inducing. I worry all the time about providing the best possible home for all of the animals in my care, including the finned ones.

Last August and September, we decided to add some clown loaches to our tank. We purchased three from the most expensive fish store in town, but two died soon thereafter. These guys need to be in groups of at least three, so we went to another store and bought two more. They've all survived, but the two from the chain store pal around and often leave the one from the fancy store alone. Additionally, although they were all about the same size when we got them, the two from the chain store have grown considerably and are now more than twice the size of the little guy.

Yesterday was a rare sighting of all three out at the same time. The little guy is on the bottom of this picture, just to the left of center. The larger, silver fish are some of our Australian Rainbowfish -- the ones who had babies. The three babies are still doing well!

Here is a little video of them swimming around. It really can be nice to sit and watch, but I have to be careful to not stress out about their interpersonal relationships!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Max and food

Most of the Max stories I post seem to involve food in some way, and today was no exception. You would think we starve her for the foraging she does around our kitchen!

First, Stephanie had asked last week whether Max ever eats any of the greens or just plays with them. While I'm still not sure of the answer for raw greens, we found out that she absolutely loves cooked greens! Of course, this could have something to do with the fact that they were sauteed in olive oil and garlic! You can see her eye pinning. Not sure why it looks like we have red lights on. We do not live in a disco!
Beets, on the other hand, she wanted no part of. Thomas was rather disappointed since he loves them. I tend to side with Max on this vegetable, but am trying to get myself to like them since they are healthy!
Here she is, licking the water off of a peach, just like she's previously done with strawberries and apples. Like those other fruits, she will not eat them. But as soon as I put one on the counter to prepare, she flies over and starts licking the water.
I've mentioned before that when the rest of the family is in the living room, she'll sometimes fly into the kitchen and hang out alone. We find this rather strange, but usually allow it, listening for clues that she's left her stand and looking for trouble. Apparently we missed the sound of her flying over to the kitchen island (where she almost never goes).

I tried to get a picture of her in the middle of her crime, but she apparently wasn't proud of destroying the bananas, as she wouldn't stay by them:
As proof, though, you can see her banana beak:
Thomas was taking pictures of Daphne hanging out in the plants over the weekend, and captured some nice ones. I like the way that you can see the purple hue she has in this first one.
Another Daphne picture. She looks fat, but that's her English budgie genes! There's a little bit of red above her cere. I was wearing lightly tinted chapstick when I gave her a kiss -- oops!
I wish I knew how to edit videos, as Thomas, shirtless, encroached into my movie towards the end. Sorry about that! We're trying to keep our power bills low this year by not keeping our house too cool and instead dressing skimpily around the house.

In any case, in this video, Daphne is exploring one of our plants. She is so curious and playful!

Not parrot-related, but I ran across this really fun website via links on another blog. It's called Pandora Radio, and the tag is "Radio from the Music Genome Project (R)" It's free, although free registration is recommended.
You type in an artist, composer, or song that you like, and the website customizes a radio station for you by streaming music. Also, no commercials! Then, it plays songs that are similar to what you like. You can rate the songs it plays to customize what you want to hear even more. It gives you information about the songs, including a link so you can buy the CD if you want.
I had been getting kind of tired of listening to the songs on my itunes lately, so this has expanded my songs -- and it's all free!

Friday, July 11, 2008

My thoughts on budgies...

In my continuing series of writing about the birds sharing their lives with me (see my entries on caiques and timnehs), I move on to one of the parrot world's under appreciated jewels: budgies.

In my adult life, I've been lucky enough to share my home with 4 different budgies. Lenny and Jeff Saturday were not tame, and Ethel and Daphne were. Is there anything sweeter than a tame budgie?

Daphne (pictured at left) is the only one still around. Budgies tend to have relatively short lifespans, due in part to the fact that they are tumor-prone caused by inbreeding. Daphne is at least 4, and half-English (who tend to have shorter life-spans) so we optimistically hope to have at least 6 years left with her.

In my opinion, budgies are extremely underrated. There are many reasons for this. They are relatively inexpensive, so are easily purchased as impulse buys. They are relatively easy to breed, so there is an overabundance of them in captivity. Many people have memories of bitey, scared, cage-bound budgies from their youth, so immediately discount having one as an adult. There is a misconception that they don't have personalities, or that they are boring.

Nothing could be further from the truth! A hand-tame, friendly budgie is such a delight! And even not tame budgies can brighten up someone's home with their cheerful chattering.

Ethel (pictured below) was the first tame budgie who lived with us, and she opened our eyes to what they can be. She immediately fell in love with Thomas and followed him everywhere. She was very intelligent and could figure out rather complex problems. She had a fiery personality and made sure things were just how she wanted them. She loved playing with toys and learned to imitate Calypso's call. In the days after her death, our house was eerily silent without her chirps.

We had just over a year with Ethel, and even now, more than two years since her death, tears are rolling down my face as I think about how much I miss her.

Budgies make wonderful pets in houses with gentle children. Although they can bite, it's hard for a budgie to do serious damage. Their tiny feet can be just the right size to perch on a child's finger. They also fit more smoothly into the average family's lifestyle. They aren't as demanding, messy, loud, and destructive as the larger parrots.

As you can see, I am a huge fan of budgies! It breaks my heart that there is such an overpopulation of them in captivity and that most don't reach their potential as loving companions.

The picture of Daphne was taken by my friend J as she visited my house last week. I love it when people with large birds come to my house and handle her because they are often shocked at how tiny and tame she is.