Monday, August 31, 2009

Obsession

With the exception of Daphne, my parrots are obsessed with kissing. The greys constantly will yell, "Gimme a kiss!" and the other parrots respond with kiss sounds. When they're not on us and Thomas or I asks them for a kiss, they respond with the noise. When they're on us, they put their beak next to our (closed) lips and sometimes make the sound.

They occasionally get into what I call kissing contests, where they seem to compete to see who can give the loudest and/or longest kiss.

Stella was in a particularly kissy mood over the weekend. She kept running after Thomas, asking him for a kiss. He finally picked her up, and all she wanted to do was nuzzle against him:
More kisses:
She couldn't get enough!
He'd been having a tough week, and Stella knew just what to do to perk him up again!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Agitated Beeps

Late last week, Thomas was reading the paper at the table. Beeps was out and about, and decided that he wanted to be near Thomas. So he flew over and tried to land on the paper that was hanging off of the edge of the table, hovering over Thomas's lap. Luckily Thomas was able to lower the paper so Beeps could land safely on his lap. Beeps got another lecture about making sure that a spot is stable before trying to land!
Thomas placed him on the table. He decided to hang out under the newspaper.
He's just so photogenic, I couldn't resist putting up a couple of these pictures! He's starting to get a bit agitated in this picture. He's standing up straight, his feathers are puffy, and his eyes are starting to turn a bit red.
In this video, you can see him getting a bit more agitated. Had I stayed where I was much longer, there's a good chance I would have received a flying attack! The beeping he does here is a sure sign that he's gearing up for an attack. When added to the mechanical head movements and the deliberate plodding, that's almost a guarantee of an attack. One thing I love about him is how transparent he is! When he gets worked up, I know it!

video

After I hid the camera from his sight, he quickly calmed down.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Noisy

Thomas is finishing up a string of night shifts, which means he has to try to sleep during the day. Normally, this isn't a problem even though our house is filled with noisy parrots. They make noise constantly when we're on the level of our house where they are. However, when we go upstairs, as long as they can't hear us, they usually settle down after a few minutes and are pretty quiet, with the exception of toy playing (bells) and the occasional whistle or screech.

Not so yesterday.

I was at work and Thomas was trying to sleep. He called me in the afternoon to complain about the parrots.

Thomas: "I can't sleep because the parrots are being irritating."

Me: "I don't believe it. They're quiet during the day."

Thomas: "Not the greys, not today. Listen."

I do not know what got into the greys yesterday, but they were en pleine forme. Whistling, beeping, talking, screeching -- noisy.

Thomas: "They've been doing this for over an hour. I'm just going to get up."

He investigated and couldn't find any reason for the increase in noise. I guess they were just happy.

Personally, I love the noises greys make. I find the noise soothing and it makes me happy. Unlike, say, macaw screams or caique beeps. Thomas generally agrees, but not when he's trying to sleep!

Stella and the pantry

Stella is obsessed with the cabinet and pantry doors in our kitchen. When one is left open, she either flies to it and lands on top of the door, or she'll walk over and stare into the space:
She can be so strange!
A few nights ago, for the first time, she went inside the pantry:
I'm not sure if she's trying to seek out a dark, enclosed place for nesting, or if she's just curious about our dishes and stored food.

In any case, over the past few weeks, whenever we're not sure where she is, we just have to look around on the floor near the cabinets and we find her!

Monday, August 24, 2009

An accident waiting to happen

She needs to be a bit more careful of where she puts her head!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Watching DVDs

Our TV is right next to Rocky's cage. In order to put a DVD into the player, you have to squat down right next to his cage. When Thomas and I are both home, this is his responsibility. If I'm home alone, I have to either lock Rocky in his cage while I change the DVD (and then be on the lookout for his feet coming through the cage bars and trying to grab me) or hold him on a stick and attempt to change the DVD one-handed.

Last night, Thomas was a little miffed that I hadn't put the DVD we were going to watch into the player (Why? I'm not sure, as it's been three years that we've had to operate this way).

Rocky was playing on top of his cage.

Thomas: Why didn't you put the DVD in?

Me: Rocky's out. You know that.

Thomas: He's playing on his cage. He wouldn't bother you.

Me: Are we talking about the same macaw?

Thomas goes over there and squats in front of the TV. Rocky immediately races down his cage to be near him.

Me: See why you had to do this?

Thomas: What? He gave me a kiss! You don't want a kiss from him?

Me: I'd love one, but if I were over there, it would have been a bite.

Thomas kept insisting that Rocky would not have had any ill intentions towards me. However, I know better, and I think Thomas does, too.

Stella likes feet, too

Normally it's Rocky who hangs out by Thomas's feet; yesterday, it was Stella. I crouched down under the table to get this picture, and when I looked up, I saw this, curious about what I was doing:
Sometimes she is so adorable I can hardly stand it.

Why I would not make a good professional trainer

As I've written about before, Max learned to do the retrieve. In conjunction with my interpretation of "Nothing In Life Is Free" (where Max has to perform a trick or forage for her food -- work for it), I'll often make her do a flying retrieve before she gets some of my yogurt in the morning.

I'll place her somewhere, give her the bead, and she has to fly to the cup and deposit the bead. The next step is to get her to fly to a bead, pick it up, and deposit it in the cup, but neither one of us is motivated enough to do that yet.

In any case, yet again this morning, she deposited the bead into my food instead of the cup that was right next to the food!I think she does this intentionally because my reaction to her is reinforcing. I think she is so clever and funny! We all had a good laugh, but she did need to place it in the cup before she got her spoonful of yogurt.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Macaw vs. macaw

Thomas and I have occasionally thought about adding another severe macaw to our house. Are we nuts? Quite possibly, but there is sound reasoning behind this thought, but also behind our decision not to add to our current flock.

Rocky is so devoted to Thomas that it can be overwhelming at times. What if we could find a severe macaw that would bond with Rocky? The two of them could live happily together while still having interactions with us. The idea is very tempting.

However, the reality is that it's unlikely we'd be able to find an appropriate match. Parrots are individuals, and what are the chances that a macaw we brought home would bond with Rocky? Slim. I had hopes of my caiques bonding, and they ignore each other. With our luck, any severe macaw we brought home would bond with Thomas also, exacerbating the problem!

A few months ago, we were shopping and saw a stuffed scarlet macaw on the clearance table. For $1, we thought we'd give it a try to see how Rocky might react to a friend (partly in jest as obviously a reaction to a stuffed animal is different from a real one!)

Based on his reaction, it's a good thing we never tried to introduce another macaw to our house!

video

The noises in the background are generally what my house is like during waking hours. Calypso is squealing (he's taking a bath), Beeps and the greys are beeping. The only noise Rocky made was a quick vomit sound near the end.

Also, he is attacking this toy mostly as displacement behavior since I approached his cage. Every once in a while you see that he stops to make sure that I'm still there and watching him. If I weren't there, he would have stopped.

He really enjoys doing this. He'll often come near me and then attack the nearest soft item while looking at me. When he knows I'm upstairs alone, he climbs the stairs, pulls a piece of dirty laundry through the holes in our laundry basket, and then attacks it while watching me. He'll do this even if Thomas is home and Rocky could spend time with his favorite person instead.

He fascinates me. If he dislikes me so much, why go through so much trouble to seek me out? Just stay away! He's been calling my name more often and screaming when I leave the room. Thomas says he wants his whole flock together, which does appear to be the case even though he doesn't like me. The most dysfunctional relationship I have is with a macaw!

Calypso update

Since March, we've been locking Calypso in his cage only at night. During the day, he has the ability to choose where he goes, even when we're not there. In this post, about halfway down, I give some of his background.

I didn't write about this earlier as, in general, I believe that parrots should be safely enclosed when not supervised. This protects parrots from possibly hurting themselves (I've heard of a goffin's cockatoo that chewed through the wall into the wires and electrocuted himself, though not fatally) or another parrot if more than one are out unsupervised at once. This also helps to protect the home from curious beaks (I've linked to this site before. Can you imagine coming home to that?)

Of course, parrots are individuals, and what works for one parrot will not necessarily work for another. As parrot caregivers, I believe it's Thomas's and my responsibility to get to know our parrots and make decisions as to what's best for the individual.

In our continuing effort to raise Calypso's self-esteem and provide him with more opportunities to make decisions for himself, we decided to not lock him in his cage during the day. I would not try this with any of my other parrots. Calypso has been doing really well under this arrangement.

We started slowly. He would get to stay out for an hour when I went downstairs to work out. Then he'd stay out for a couple of hours when we ran errands. He was perfect. He'd play on his cage, or go to Max's cage and play. Max and Calypso never fight and she is fine with this arrangement. (I'm probably being sappy, but I attribute this to the fact that he saved her life).

He seems happier, to me. I think he enjoys this additional freedom. He's been playing more, and soliciting even more attention from me than he used to. He begs to shower with me pretty much every morning, and has initiated a few new nighttime rituals. (This prolongs bedtime, but he is so adorable I treasure every moment with him).

Last week, I came home to find that the foraging bucket attached to the side of his cage, a toy he'd ignored for years, had been emptied:
It's just toys, not food, so don't worry about that! I was so happy to see evidence of his play when we're gone. When I saw this, I said, in an excited voice, "Calypso! It looks like your bucket exploded!" and he started dancing up and down and making his happy squeaky sound. He's since emptied his bucket every day!

I don't know that we'll always be able to do this for him. For example, if he starts wandering around the house, we'd need to start locking him up again for his safety. However, I'm glad Thomas had the idea to do this and convinced me it was OK to experiment in such a way (I tend to worry a bit too much!)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Daphne and Thomas

Thomas and Daphne have never had a great relationship. There was no animosity; they just pretty much co-existed. She's extremely tame and would always step up for him, but she didn't seek out his attention (as she does mine) and he never really made an effort with her.

Our previous budgie, Ethel, was an amazing bird, and Thomas's constant companion. They had an incredible bond. I've heard dog people talk about a heart-dog -- that one dog that was more special to them than all of the others they've had. Of course they love all of their dogs, but there's one that rises above the others, even decades after they're gone. Ethel was Thomas's heart-bird.

After Ethel died, I could not stand how quiet is was in the house without budgie chatter. Thomas didn't want to get another budgie, fearing I was trying to replace Ethel, which of course could never happen. I didn't want to rush anything and thought we'd process through more of the grieving process before adding another budgie. And then Daphne, a failed breeder who loved people, needed a home. Thomas wasn't enthusiastic about adding another budgie only 6 weeks or so after losing Ethel, but he acquiesced.However, I think he hardened his heart, in part of the pain that losing Ethel caused. Budgies have a pretty short lifespan when compared to the larger parrots.

But he's been opening up to her lately, which makes me so happy. Last night, Thomas and I were on the couch. I was holding Daphne. I had to get up for a minute. I asked him if he'd mind holding her so I didn't have to put her in her cage. He said yes, and they played a bit until I got back.

Later that evening, Thomas and I were in the kitchen. Daphne was on the counter. He walked out of the room, and she flew after him! She so rarely flies with volition, so this was unexpected. The fact that she flew after him made this feel like a double victory! I went over to pick her up off of the floor (she hadn't quite made it all the way to Thomas) but Thomas beat me to her and said he'd take her with him.

I am so excited about this blossoming relationship, especially as I hope that means the pain of losing Ethel is fading for him. Yet still I have tears welling in my eyes as I think about Ethel. She was one special being and I suspect we'll miss her incredibly for the rest of our lives.

Cage envy

I still haven't been taking many pictures, but here are a couple.

Rocky loves to hang out on Beeps's cage and Stella's cage. This puzzles us as his cage is much larger than either of theirs. This doesn't cause too many problems as Beeps will fly away if Rocky climbs up, and Rocky only will climb on Stella's cage if she's in the kitchen.

Of course he had to show me how big and scary he was when I took a picture of him on Stella's cage. Almost all of his flight feathers have grown in, and he has not tried any flighted attacks on me! We're working on strengthening his flight muscles and hope that someday he may be flighted as well. It will depend on whether he can control himself from launching at me.
Then, he started to climb down from Stella's cage.
If I remember, he followed me into the kitchen and played on the table until Thomas came home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stella vs. the neti pot

I wish I had video editing capability/skills, as this would ideally be in one movie instead of three (pretty short) ones. Stella had been doing this for quite some time when I finally decided to take a video. Unfortunately, I captured the three components best in three different videos.

First: she attacks the neti pot as it's drying on the counter:

video

Then: she flies down after it (in this video, she is then soliciting head pets from the neti pot -- this was the only time she did that. Obviously, she did not get any head pets).
video

Finally: she attacks the neti pot on the floor. This morning she threw the pot, chased after it, threw it again, chased after it, etc., for at least 5 minutes. Thomas and I couldn't stop laughing.
video

As an added bonus, you can hear Rocky screaming from the living room!

Thinking out of the box

Rocky's screaming is not as bad as it was, but he's still not back to pre-hormone levels. We've tried many things, but keep trying more in the hopes that we'll stumble upon something that really works.

Earlier this week, he would not stop screaming. I don't know what his inspiration was, but Thomas placed him in the box where we collect all of our paper recycling to take outside:
Rocky loved it! He was shredding paper quietly! Well, not quietly, as he was singing, laughing, and talking his garbled macaw speech, but I love hearing that, so it was great.

The next morning, I tried this again. He wasn't as in to it, though it did keep him quiet. There were a few more papers in the box, enough for him to crawl his way out.
Stella didn't see me place him in the box, so she came over to investigate the strange noises.

We're definitely adding this to our arsenal to try to keep him from screaming, though we're still hoping this just ends soon and next year's hormonal season is more similar to last year's, where he quietly spent his days nesting under his cage. For a month or so, it was almost like we didn't have a macaw he was so occupied with his nest.

As an aside, this week is our three-year anniversary of having Rocky at our house. Since we don't know his hatch date, only his hatch year, this is when we celebrate. That means, officially, he is now 22 years old. What an interesting three years it has been. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

The evolving grey relationship

The greys and their evolving relationship fascinate me. There are times I wish that I had more greys, because I would love to see their interactions. This isn't going to happen anytime soon, though!

The first memory I have of these two interacting is the first day we brought Stella home. Max was displeased, and buzzed Stella who fell off of her perch and reopened her mutilation wound (we should have been supervising more closely). No harm done, luckily!

What a difference a few months makes! Now both flighted and of basically equal size, their interactions are not so one-sided.

Take this scene I came across the other day:
Max was playing happily on the counter when Stella started stalking her. In this second picture, you can see Max is uncomfortable, as she's placed her foot on the wall in an attempt to move further away from Stella.
Right after this picture was taken, they both took off on a loop around the kitchen and landed, separately, on their stand.

This morning, the greys were in the kitchen with me. I left the room for a minute, and when I came back, I couldn't see Max. I quickly found her in one of her favorite places: perched on the seat of a chair. Stella saw this and quickly took perched on the other chair seat.
Sorry for the blurriness; Stella has been sticking her face in the camera at every opportunity, making for some uncomfortable close-ups. I'm hoping this is just a stage.

Cucumbers 2

More cucumbers were eaten by the parrots last night. When Rocky really likes something, he won't take his beak off of it. We think he's afraid we'll try to take it from him, so he wants to lay physical claim to it! Also, in this video, I love how something startled him, yet he kept his wits about him enough to keep the cucumber!

video

Yesterday, we were brewing and bottling in the kitchen. Normally Rocky and Calypso stay in the living room on their cages, Max is in the kitchen with us, and the rest of the parrots are in their cages (Beeps and Stella because they fly around too much, risking getting feathers in the brew and Daphne because I need to keep a close eye on her for protection).

However, Rocky kept screaming. Finally, Thomas brought him in the kitchen with us, where he was content. Apparently he was feeling lazy and didn't want to have to walk into the kitchen. He wanted to hitch a ride! Max kept buzzing him (she wanted us to herself), so she had to go in her cage.

Luckily, with the exception of Rocky, the parrots are very happy in their cages. Sure, we get the occasional "Wanna come out?" but no one screams, so we had a very pleasant afternoon/early evening. Now, if only Rocky would do the same!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cucumbers

I have discovered a new form of Rocky crack. I have never seen him completely eat so much food and not leave any crumbs. I know they've had cucumber before, but I don't remember this reaction out of him. The farmer from whom I bought these will enjoy hearing about their popularity on Wednesday at the next farmers' market!

With the flash, he looks almost neon green:
The other parrots enjoyed theirs too, but not to the extent that Rocky did. I gave a piece to Max and tried to get a picture of her eating it. However, when she saw me standing there with the camera, she dropped the cucumber and ran over to me. Rocky ran over to the discarded vegetable, picked it up, and ran over to the other side of the table to eat it:
He is just attacking this cucumber! Eating it so quickly, and then making sure he grabs up any that had fallen to the table. We have enough to last us a few days, so we can experiment and see if this was a one-time thing, or if we've found a new favorite food!
video

Stella stories

Last night, while making dinner, I accidentally left a lower cabinet door open. Stella swooped down to investigate.Hmm... what's in there? Just dishes! Nothing interesting for parrots!
As an aside, I'd always heard that it's hard for parrots to learn to fly down, so it's a skill that people who live with flighted birds should practice with them in case the bird escapes as more than likely, they'll have to fly down to safety. While I've found that to be true with my other flighted birds (Ethel, Daphne, Max, and Beeps), Stella apparently didn't get that message. She is constantly flying down! Aside over.

She tried to open the drawer, but hasn't yet got that skill down:
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We often don't answer our phone at home since it's usually telemarketers or other people we don't want to speak to. Yesterday, Thomas and Rocky were showering, the greys were in the kitchen, and I was in the living room. The phone rang. After three rings, it stopped, I heard a crash, and the machine never picked up. I went into the kitchen to investigate. Stella had managed to knock the phone off of the cradle and push the button to answer it! By the time I got there, the person on the other side had hung up, so all I heard was a dial tone. I wish I would have caught this on videotape!

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Thomas is working night float again, which means shifts of 8 pm - 8 am during the week and 6 pm - 8 am on weekends. It's horrible! However, he does eat breakfast with the parrots when he gets home in the morning, so they like that.

This morning, Stella really wanted some of his cereal. First, she flew to the back of his chair. Then she flew to his head. Finally, she flew to the table and helped herself:Of course, then Max had to come over so there was a little fight over his grapenuts.

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Since Thomas is on this weird schedule, he has to sleep during the day. The parrots are quiet in general, but make noise for the first 30-60 minutes after he goes to bed in the morning. They know he's home and don't understand why they're in their cages. Luckily, it's nothing upsetting (like Rocky screaming), but he told me there's a lot of bell-ringing, whistling, and beeping. Frequently, the greys will get going, and call out, "Hello! Wanna come out? Up! Come here! Gimme kisses! How are you doing? Wanna come out?" It can be hard to resist them when they're talking like that, so he turns the fan on high to block them out and tries to get some sleep.

We'll all be happy when this month is over and he can go back to a more or less normal work schedule!

Grey fighting

The greys continue their attempt to both occupy the same space at the same time. I doubt they will be successful!

Max considers the top part of the stand hers -- she's the only one who had perched there for years. As Stella gains confidence, she's decided that she wants to perch there, so tries to dislodge Max. Once she's successful, Max flies over and tries to regain her place. This can become frustrating, and I usually step in and distract them, or this goes on for a really long time.

The angle is a bit hard to see, but Max has her right foot raised in an attempt to tell Stella to stay away:
That didn't work, so she had to resort to violence:
When they notice I'm taking pictures, they act innocent:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Backyard wildlife

Tuesday night, as I headed into the kitchen, I noticed a rather large animal through our patio window. I didn't have my glasses on and assumed it was a raccoon. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was a woodchuck! I have never seen one in the wild before, though they surely exist.

This one didn't seem to mind the rabbit in his territory. I'm kind of hoping this becomes a regular occurrence!

More Stella

Can't believe it's been a week since my last post. Don't worry -- things are fine chez crazy parrots. I guess I just haven't been in a picture-taking mood, and combined with an increased workload at work, the blog's taken a backseat.

Many thing happen that I think, "I should remember that for the blog," but then forget.

Last night, we were eating salads again, and Stella went up to the bowls, probably hoping for a nut, like here. However, I hadn't gotten around to putting the nuts on yet. Upset, she angrily threw three pieces of lettuce on the floor and would have thrown more if I hadn't managed to remove her from the counter. I couldn't get a picture of this, or half of the salad would have been on the floor.

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Last week, Thomas placed a couple of bottles of beer on the floor. Stella flew over, and tried to entice one of them to give her head pets, as seen here. When she wants head pets, she'll come over to Thomas or me, give a distinctive "click" sound, and bow her head.Obviously, the bottles did not oblige.

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As if this hasn't been obvious lately, Stella has been such an incredible joy to have in our house. She fits in amazingly well, and has really blossomed. How lucky we were to have, unintentionally, found such a jewel.