Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Thomas was making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as part of his lunch this morning. Max decided to get in on the action.

As he was spreading jelly on the bread, she helped herself:
When he was out of her way, washing the knife, she really got into the sandwich:
Notice her foot. On his bread!

He made the sandwich and walked away to get a container, thinking Max wouldn't eat bread. Was he wrong! You can see in her beak she'd pulled out a grain from his bread and was eating it. He accused her of making a hole in his sandwich and hoped that the filling wouldn't seep out.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Weekend ramblings

No pictures, again. I wasn't home much over the weekend, and when I was, we were mostly hanging out in the living room, watching football. So any pictures would have been pretty boring.

I spent some time volunteering at the rescue, including helping one family bring a new parrot into their home. It was a great match and hopefully a forever home.

I don't have much interaction with baby parrots, as most parrots surrendered to the rescue are adults who lose their home once they start exhibiting normal, adult-parrot behaviors and are no longer compliant, adorable babies. However, there is a baby parrot at the rescue right now -- a police confiscation. I can't go into too many details, but I can see how people can get smitten with a baby parrot and make an impulse purchase.

This little guy who, in my opinion, is much too young to have been removed from his parents, wanted nothing more than to snuggle on my lap while I preened his pin feathers. Holding him, I was trying to justify why we had to take him home. What is wrong with me? Luckily, logic prevailed and I realized that our current ban on bringing new animals into our house must be maintained.

There were other parrots, besides this baby, testing my resolve! Of course, there's my boyfriend, a blue-crowned conure (though he's the jealous sort and nips my hand when my attention strays from him). Not to mention a pair of greys (the evil voice inside of me insisting that Stella and Max would love a larger species flock), a yellow-naped amazon that loves me (give Thomas a taste of what I deal with with Rocky and have someone that will sing opera with me!), an incredible lory, a pair of elderly conures that I have known and loved for over 6 years, and the list goes on and on...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Starving Max

Once again I have photographic proof that we are such poor caretakers of Max, starving her, that she needs to find her own food.

These pictures were taken over the course of two days.

First, pizza day:

The pizza crust is trying to rise, but that can be difficult when a parrot is on the bowl! (Don't worry; there's plastic over the dough so her dirty feet aren't contaminating our food.)
I was tearing the basil leaves off of the stems in order to make pesto for the pizza. Max flew over and started dancing and saying "want some!" I explained that she didn't want basil stems, but she wouldn't give up. She knows her own mind!
Thomas had left the top off of our garlic keeper. Max actually decided to help herself to raw garlic cloves. Garlic cloves!

She is out of control! Will someone please feed this poor parrot?

The next day, we were having salads. I didn't take pictures, but we had our usual fights of Max trying to throw all of the lettuce leaves on the ground and then trying to eat way too much cheese.

I was getting ready to cut up this apple for our salad topping. Max doesn't even like apples! But when she sees one on the cutting board, she has to come over and lick the water off of them:
As I was at the sink, I turned my head and noticed that she was lapping up my dressing base! This is just a mixture of spices and water, marinating until I add vinegar and olive oil. She loved it! But, I figured it probably wasn't a good idea for her to eat a lot of spices, so I removed her shortly after taking this picture:
Finally, I was pouring the olive oil in the dressing base, and she grabbed the olive oil cap and started drinking the oil that stuck in the cap! Who does something like this? It was quite the production, getting the cap back. She even flew with it back to her stand.
If Max spent the day free, as Stella did yesterday, I don't even want to think about what I'd return home to see. She is so very curious!

Business trip recap

I'm back from Boston; I was only away for about 30 hours, which is the same amount of time Thomas is away when he's working!

After talking to Thomas on the phone Wednesday night, I didn't think I'd have anything interesting to report about what happened in my absence since he said things went quite smoothly.

When he picked me up at the airport Thursday evening, he said, "I have something to tell you about Stella."

Apparently he'd forgotten to do his final parrot check before work on Thursday and she'd spent the entire day free in the house!

We are very lucky in that she is not destructive. He found poop in the sink, poop on the counter, a pile of down feathers in front of the stove, and more pieces of carpet ripped out of the carpet scrap in front of our door. He found her perched on top of Max's cage and he claimed she had a satisfied look on her face (I think he was projecting!)

She was in for a rude awakening today as I had returned and made sure she was in her cage before I left!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Business trip

I am leaving for a whirlwind business trip to Boston in a few hours. The parrots definitely knew something was up this morning.

When he was trying to put her back in her cage this morning, Max bit Thomas -- the first time she has ever drawn blood on either one of us. It wasn't a bad bite, but completely unexpected. After she bit him, she started making kiss sounds towards him. I could not stop myself from laughing even though I didn't want to reinforce her.

I will be interested to hear how they behave in my absence. This will be the first time in over three years that Thomas will be home alone with them overnight. That's before we brought Rocky, Beeps, or Stella in to our house!

They're used to me being alone with them overnight, as Thomas often has to stay overnight at the hospital for his job. I instructed him on the bedtime and morning rituals I do with them, but my gut feeling is that he won't do them. Even if he tries, it won't be the same.

I should be back with a post on Friday!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Parrot gender

I've become lax on taking pictures again so I thought it would be the perfect time to write about something that one of my volunteer friends and I have been talking about lately: knowing (or correctly guessing) parrot gender. Of course, with ekkies it's easy!

There's no question he's a male!:

With most parrots, I am clueless. In fact, I should guess that they're the opposite of what my gut says.

Using my own parrots as examples: Max's breeder told us she could tell timneh gender by the shape of their head. She was convinced Max was male. In fact, that's part of the reason we chose Max as opposed to her sibling (whose head shape purportedly made her female); we'd heard that male birds were more likely to bond to females, and Thomas was gracious enough to want the parrot to prefer me. That (that parrots bond more strongly to someone of the opposite sex) turned out to not be true either!

For almost 4 years, we used male pronouns with Max. After she started plucking, we had a DNA test done and were shocked -- shocked! -- that she was female. It took me months to switch pronouns and Max will occasionally still throw out a "good boy!" That also explains why she has a masculine name.

Enter Calypso. He portrayed behaviors that I'd read on the web pretty much guaranteed he was female (once again, don't believe everything you read on the web!) After his mutilation, we DNA tested him, and he was a male! This switch was easier since we'd only been calling him female for a few months.

Two years later, Beeps arrived. Because we already had one caique, we DNA tested him immediately to give us a better idea of how careful we had to be if the two of them became friendly (we certainly don't want fertilized eggs around here, though our concern turned out to be for naught as they want nothing to do with each other!) We started calling him Beeps in the week while we were waiting for the test results to come back to know whether to give him a male or female name and Beeps stuck. It is quite appropriate as he beeps almost constantly.

We were pretty sure Beeps was female because his behavior was completely opposite of Calypso's. Wrong again!

Rocky and Stella had been tested before they came to our house, and we could tell Daphne was female by looking at her cere.

At the rescue where I volunteer, we frequently DNA test parrots. We all have our guesses before the test results come back. I am almost always wrong.

Last week, I was wrong on three greys! One, who turned out to be female, was one of the largest greys I have ever seen -- almost 200 grams larger than Stella. I was sure he was male. Another had a plucking pattern almost identical to Stella's. In my mind, that signifies probable female. Wrong! Then there was another I thought was female who turned out to be male. Knowing my history, I shouldn't be shocked when we get the results and find I was completely wrong, but I still was!

From now on, I'm going to guess the opposite of what I think and see what happens.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Still digging

Stella continues to try to dig a nest for herself by our shoes. I'm not as diligent as perhaps I should be in keeping her away from the carpet. I don't want to encourage breeding behavior in her as I really don't want to deal with any potential egg-binding problems. However, she is quite determined, and my alternatives are 1) giving up any hope of getting anything else done so that I can constantly remove her from the area; or 2) keeping her locked in her cage. Neither is a very attractive alternative. Notice all the carpet pieces on the floor to her left.
She does not show any adverse behavior when digging. Thomas or I can go to her mid-dig and ask her to step up. She immediately hops on to our hand, with no aggression issues. Also, I don't have any reason to think that she will lay an egg due to this behavior (if I did, you can be sure that I'd be keeping her away from the carpet!) She hasn't shown any signs of doing so in the year and a half we've had her -- I'm just trying to be careful!
Interestingly enough, she only appears to want to dig when Thomas or I are in the room. Several times during the past week, I've left the room while she was digging, only to return a few minutes later to find her perched on the playstand or wandering around looking for us.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I got some pears from the farmers' market yesterday. One was so perfectly ripe and delicious. Even though I wanted to keep it all to myself -- it was that good -- I decided I could share a bit with the parrots.

Max is easy. She doesn't like apples or pears. Even though she says "want some!" as she sees me cutting them up, when I offer her some, she just turns her head. I don't even cut her a piece anymore -- the one she rejects ends up going to the next bird!

The caiques are fruit monsters. I don't think they've ever met a fruit they didn't love.

Stella, as usual, didn't want to hold any, instead taking bites out of mine:
Even though Rocky loves pears, if I offer him some, he'd rather bite my hand than take the food. It doesn't make any sense to me, either. This is what I have to do:

Here he is with his pear:
Rocky likes pears, but he loves apples. Last week, Thomas played a trick on Rocky. He told Rocky he was going to give him some apple, but it was really a pear. Rocky was so disappointed, he didn't eat the pear, throwing it immediately to the ground in disgust. Yesterday, when he knew it was a pear and not an apple, he devoured the fruit.

I told Thomas he shouldn't play tricks on the parrots, but he said Rocky likes it. I'm not so sure!

Who wants a hug?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More neti pot

Stella is still obsessed with the neti pot. Since Thomas uses it every day, it's usually drying upside down on the counter. She flies directly over to where it is and throws it on the ground, then plays with it for a few minutes, either attacking it or asking it for head pets.

This morning, I was in the living room wrapping the greys' pellets and hiding them in their cages. The greys were in the kitchen and the rest of the parrots were with me. This happens most mornings, and I keep an ear on the kitchen and go in if I hear any unusual noises.

As I was wrapping pellets, I heard the neti pot drop on the ground, followed by Stella flying. A few seconds later, I heard a louder THUD, then some strange noises. It didn't sound like an issue I had to address immediately, so I finished feeding the greys and then went into the kitchen a minute later.

This is what I found:
For whatever reason, Stella is very intrigued by empty cans of beans. She'd gone over to where I'd placed the recycling, knocked the can of beans to the ground, and then maneuvered it over near the neti pot. She was walking between the two, variously attacking them or asking them for head pets.

Max was on the counter, watching the weirdness.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I was supposed to take the yogurt out of the yogurt maker before I left for work yesterday, but forgot to do so, leaving the yogurt an extra 7 hours or so in the maker. Thomas tried some and said it was still good; I haven't had any yet.

I tell this story because the yogurt maker was still on the counter when the parrots were released from their cages in the evening.

Stella flew over to the counter and started investigating the machine. Thomas had unplugged it, but the plate was still warm (not hot), so he put her on the plate. She really enjoyed it!Then he tried to put the cover on her, but she had no interest in taking things that far, so he didn't.
After work, I had to drop something off at the rescue, so I went up there. My boyfriend still has not been adopted (sorry the picture is blurry; I need to take a better one!):I hadn't seen him for a few weeks, so when he saw me, I was showered with kisses and his adorable voice saying "good morning!" He's one of the special ones that is so hard to not take home. I have to keep reminding myself we are at our limit, but I still feel guilt as he is always so happy to see me. We had the talk where I reminded him, once again, that he shouldn't bite people who are interested in adopting him or he'll never find a home. I don't think he listened. There were also several new greys who desperately need good homes. It's always hard not to take the greys home.

On the bright side, I got to play with a caique that was boarding. I know I have two caiques at home, but I just can't get enough of these guys! This morning, yet again, Calypso was so adorable that I left for work about 15 minutes later than planned as I couldn't tear myself away from him. I kept telling him I was going to eat him and then I'd scruff him a bit; he responded by fake growling, then laughing, then giving me a kiss. I certainly wasn't going to be the one to stop that game!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Show tunes

On Saturday, I had returned home after my training run of 22 miles. After my shower, I felt fantastic -- just so alive and happy. I went upstairs to my bedroom and started getting dressed. Unbeknownst to me, I had been followed upstairs by Rocky, who joyfully cried "hello!" as I jumped up from the shock and immediately went on my bed so he couldn't attack.

I started singing "Luck be a Lady" and he joined in. Well, he started moaning in the way that he sings, while dancing. Apparently attracted by the commotion, Max then popped her head in my bedroom after climbing the stairs to be with us. She also started dancing and whistling along.

After we went downstairs, I put the Guys and Dolls soundtrack on, and we had a singing/dancing party.

Here's Rocky:

I've mentioned before that I've been trying for years to get Max to whistle some Mozart. She does not want to do this, apparently. Over the weekend, I've decided to try to get her to whistle "Luck be a Lady" instead. It may be my imagination, but I think she's made some progress.

We're definitely not adding any new birds to our flock, and there's no guarantee that if we did they would do this anyway, but I was thinking how fun it would be to have a cockatiel that whistled, or an amazon that sang, show tunes.


Rocky was snuggling up against his stuffed worm, but pulled away before I could get a picture of it.
Yesterday he was playing in his blanket when Thomas grabbed him up and started giving him head pets.

Rocky absolutely loves this, but sometimes gets a little too excited and bites, so Thomas is careful to control Rocky's beak:
All of Rocky's flight feathers are in, and we're working on flying short distances. He's getting much better with his landings! He gets winded very quickly, but we're hoping that he'll soon build up his aerobic endurance.

Rocky seems to be accepting the inevitability of my presence in his house. Though I am still very careful around him, he will often walk right by me without even trying to attack. The other day, I had my arm resting on the kitchen table, and Rocky was walking around the table. He approached me and I spoke nicely to him. He gently placed one foot on my arm and it at first appeared as though he was going to step up. Suddenly, it's like he remembered who he was and he ran away from me and started attacking the paper on the table while looking at me.

It's hard to explain, but it really seemed as though he's got internal struggles -- on one hand, he's got the instinct to try to drive me away from his mate (my husband) while on the other hand, he wants to be friendly with me. I'm glad he's learning to control his impulse to attack.

Pumpkin beer

Thomas brewed a pumpkin beer over the weekend -- a little late, but we're hoping it will be ready for fall!

He'd placed the cans on pumpkin on the counter. Apparently these resembled perches as Max flew over immediately and started wandering around:
She does like to eat pumpkin, but I don't think she recognized what was in the cans at this point. Of course, she does tell us that she wants some of almost everything that finds its way to the counter, even though that's not always true!

I put some in her spoon for her to eat:
Even though she does this almost every day, I love watching her eat from a spoon. I didn't realize how long this video had gotten -- almost a minute. I had hoped to catch her throwing the spoon down, which she does in a very deliberate manner, but she was too concerned with making sure she ingested every bit of pumpkin she could:

Time out

Something got into Max last week where she became unable to exist peacefully with anyone. Thomas and I were cooking dinner, and the parrots were in their usual places.

First, Max started buzzing the humans. Then, she went on to the parrots (Rocky, Stella, and Beeps). Since I wasn't making progress on dinner as I had to keep removing her from inappropriate places, I put her in her cage until dinner was ready.Look at this innocent face. Don't let her trick you! A 10 minute or so break was all that she needed and when we let her out again, she was content to eat and play and not attack anyone else.


The greys were perched happily on their stand as we were doing some brewing.
Max started asking for head pets, and Thomas was within her reach, so I pointed this out to him. He obliged Max, but Stella noticed what was going on...
...and wasn't happy about it!
After chasing Max away, she asked for head pets of her own.


My favorite farmer had little Asian eggplants for sale last week, so I bought some. Thomas cooked them up, and they were a big fan with the parrots. Beeps ate the entire piece he's holding in his foot:
Stella, like usual, expected to be catered to:
This day, they also had butternut squash and green beans, two vegetables we don't eat as often as we should. No pictures, though, the food was gone too quickly!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dance party

We received a new CD in the mail yesterday, and some of the songs were very exciting for the parrots! Max starting dancing and Thomas eventually joined in:

The parrots seem to particularly appreciate any song with interesting percussion in the background.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How to teach your bird to bite

Whoever would want to teach their bird to bite? Unintentionally, many people do just that. I've seen quite a few up at the rescue lately, so I thought I'd write a post about it. Obviously this does not cover every kind of bite that a parrot may give, but by paying attention to body language, you can greatly reduce those kinds as well.

Parrots use their beaks for many things -- exploring, eating, showing affection, preening, etc., etc. However, the first thing many people think when they see a beak coming towards them is BITE!!! Even though that's likely one of the furthest things from the parrot's thoughts.

I have seen many people teach their birds to bite in the following manner: they ask the bird to step up. The bird wants to make sure he's stepping onto a stable perch, so he bends down, intending to gently grab the human's finger/hand to make sure it's a safe place to go (especially if the parrot can't fly away if the perch is unsteady). The human, worried about getting bit, quickly pulls her hand away.

The process is repeated, though the parrot starts to be a bit more aggressive in testing the offered hand -- either biting down a bit harder or going a bit quicker in order to get to the hand before it is taken away again. Before you know it, it's become a game. The human has taught their bird to bite.

So, what to do? Watch the parrot's body language closely. Do not assume that just because the parrot is approaching your hand with his beak open means he's planning to bite.

Stella, who almost always puts her beak on my hand before stepping up, was kind enough to agree to model this behavior. Notice how she continues to preen my hand after she's stepped up -- this is a sign of affection from her.

Some birds are beakier than others. For example, Max steps up without putting her beak on me probably 50% of the time. Beeps almost always gently rests the top of his beak against my hand, beak closed. Rocky rarely puts his beak on the stick when I ask him to step up.

As always, the key is closely watching your parrot's body language.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Scream

In the recent past, I've documented our frustration with Rocky's incessant screaming when his hormones were going crazy. Luckily, that phase seems to have passed us by and he's back to normal amounts of screaming, which we can handle.

However, when we were in the middle of scream season, it was driving me crazy! In an attempt to channel this into something positive, I contacted my friend Mary, who is an amazing artist and person. She's done portraits of all of my parrots and lizards, and had done a funny picture for me in the past (I still need to get some of these up on my blog!) I summarized my idea to her, and she was game.

As with every painting Mary's done for me, the end product turned out even better than I had imagined! Her creativity and talent just amaze me. I envisioned Edvard Munch's "The Scream" but with Rocky as the central figure. It seemed perfect because I'm sure it can't be pleasant for him to have to deal with the hormonal impulses stirring inside him, just as it wasn't pleasant for us to have to listen to all of the screaming.

Here was Rocky's first look at the painting:
Later, he happened to look at me at the same angle as the picture:
I am just so pleased with the way this turned out! I'm trying to think of other funny paintings Mary can do for me with other parrots playing the central figures, but inspiration has not yet hit me.