Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nothing unusual

I've just not been taking pictures lately. So much of what's been going on is stuff that I've already posted about here.

But, since it's been a few days since I've posted, I thought I should show some of that tedium.

Yesterday, I told Thomas to peel off more of Andreas's peeling skin. His hands are slightly bigger than mine; plus he does stuff kind of like this in his job, so that's his department. As soon as Thomas grabbed him out of the tank, Rocky ran over to Thomas's feet and started attacking him, as he does when he feels the need to protect another animal (previously, just another parrot) from one of us humans attacking them.

As soon as Rocky realized that Andreas was not protesting, he became very interested in what was happening. He tried to see, even jumping up and down a few times at Thomas's feet, and then he ran up the stairs to be at eye-level with Andreas. Unfortunately, I grabbed the camera after Rocky had decided that what was going on wasn't very interesting, after all. False expectations!************************
The parrots are still happy to have Thomas around so much! April has been a much better month, time-wise (Thomas's months start on the 28th of the previous month). As I was cooking dinner last night, he had a grey parrot at his feet:
A macaw in his lap:
And another grey parrot at his back:************************
Speaking of Stella, she is absolutely obsessed with Thomas, again. She will not stop flying after him. These hasn't been an increase in nesting or other hormonal behavior, and she is still acting the same towards me, but she wants to be on or near Thomas at all times. However, when he is not there, she isn't particularly upset about it. Like many things parrot, it's strange.

It starts the minute he walks in the door and does not let up. He asked me yesterday if he could clip her because it was getting to be too much. I think he was joking, as he realizes that won't happen, at least not for such a petty complaint!

A couple of pictures for illustration follow. He was trying to do the neti pot, and she wanted his attention! What better way to get it than by (roughly) preening his fingers? I removed her after taking this picture, before she escalated to biting over her frustration that he wasn't giving her all of his attention!She's gotten bolder, and is flying to his shoulder, even though she knows that parrots are not allowed on shoulders in our house. He was already in the process of removing her when I took this picture. At least she has retained her sweet disposition and readily steps up! Unfortunately, since she has incredible stamina and perhaps a short memory, she will quickly fly back to his shoulder after being removed.As always, I told him to be happy that he's so popular, but I have been on the receiving end of too much parrot-attention (hence the need for my radius of calm, which they ignore) and I know that can be easier said than done!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Night terrors and other things

The last time Stella had any night terrors was over 15 months ago; she had another one last night.

The whole experience was very similar to what happened last time. This time, the parrots went to bed around 7:30. I was woken up at around 11:25 by thrashing. When it continued, I went downstairs. I tried to comfort Stella through the cage bars, but it wasn't working, so I had her step up on my hand.

She freaked out and flew into the kitchen. It sounded like she landed pretty hard, but appeared to be OK when I got her. I comforted her for a few minutes. She refused to go in her cage, so I comforted her a bit more, then she reluctantly went back to bed.

During this time, Max also fell off of her perch; I'm not sure if that was for attention or if she was suffering from whatever Stella was. In any case, I reassured her verbally that everything was OK and told her to go back to sleep.

I was back upstairs at 11:35. Since Thomas was not home, I was tempted to take her upstairs with me to finish out the night. However, I did not want to start a precedent and give her an incentive to fake night frights so she can sleep upstairs with us.

Like last time, I had a hard time getting back to sleep. Finally, I put on a lecture about the Byzantine Empire and that did the trick!

This morning, the parrots all appeared to be normal.

Andreas's light burned out Wednesday evening. He was out at the time, and when the light switched off, he looked quizzically at the dark bulb. I had to wait a few minutes to change his bulb so the old bulb could cool down. I wasn't quick enough for him, apparently, as he went into his hide in protest.

As soon as the new light was installed, he came back out.

Last night should be the last night that Thomas ever has to work a 30+ hour overnight shift at the hospital! I am so excited about this! Now we just have to make it through the inevitable crabbiness that will present itself tonight after such sleep deprivation.

We are running a half marathon tomorrow. Thomas has ambitious goals for a finishing time. We will see what happens! I prefer to set easier goals because then it's exciting when you smash them. And there's less of a chance of disappointment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lentil/Split Pea recipe

Elizabeth, I did not forget your request for this recipe; I just had to double check with Thomas. Despite my best efforts, he's the chef in the family. I can bake, and I do try to cook, but if he's around and has the time, he's the one making dinner.

Of course, he doesn't exactly follow a recipe, but has a few things that he pretty much adds every time and adds others as we have them/he thinks of it.

Start with one bag of dried lentils or split peas. Max is kind enough to model the size I'm referring to:
We'll usually empty the bag in a bowl and fill with cold water about an inch or two and let the dried legumes soak for a few hours (or a workday). This isn't necessary, but makes the cooking time go by faster!

In a giant pot, he adds:
  • the soaked lentils, including the water they were soaking in
  • one rectangle of frozen acorn squash
  • olive oil
  • dried herbs
  • chopped onion
  • garlic
Stir pretty frequently until the acorn squash has completely unfrozen. Let the concoction simmer until the lentils or split peas are at the consistency you like. You may need to add a bit more water.

If we've pre-soaked the legumes, this usually takes around 40 minutes to cook; if not, it's closer to an hour. Stir occasionally.

After parceling it into bowls, we add some sour cream and other spices and mix it all together. Yum! This usually makes enough for both of us to have for dinner, plus enough for me for lunch for one day.

Other things we have added include sliced mushrooms, carrots, frozen cranberries, and dried cranberries. Plus other things, but I can't remember what! I'd like to try adding walnuts, but Thomas thinks that sounds gross. It's a super easy go-to meal since we always keep these ingredients on hand.

Max, with the split pea version:And the lentil version, before we mixed the sour cream in:Finally, since the greys are not great sharers, it usually works best to offer them their own bowls:

Rocky's competition

Thomas had Monday off from work, so I took the afternoon off and we went up to the rescue where we volunteer so Thomas could groom the macaws and greys.

While there, he fell in love...
There is just something about those 20+ year old large macaws. Since we currently do not have space for another mini macaw, much less a large one, he can't come home with us. Whoever will adopt him is one lucky person. And they don't even know it yet! Ah, to have unlimited space and resources...

Once home, Thomas focused on enjoying time with the macaw he does have.The minis are much more palmable!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Budgie in flight

Daphne had flown to the fruit bowl and was happily perched there. I tried to take a picture of her, but she had other ideas!She rarely flies with volition, so even though she messed up my picture, I was happy about the reason why.

Peace, interrupted

The greys decided to fight over a container of dried fruit. Neither of the greys will eat dried fruit! This would have made sense coming from the caiques (who have never met fruit, dried or fresh, that they didn't like).

Temporary peace

The greys and caiques, living in harmony.
This probably didn't last for very long!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Double take

Look familiar?
It's not Rocky! He's a severe macaw who's currently up for adoption at the rescue where I volunteer. I am getting pressure from all sides (including from Thomas!) to adopt him.

Most interesting argument: I like even numbers, and then I'd have two greys, two caiques, and two severes (and two uromastyx lizards). But touching on my math obsession is a bit low. Plus, he would bring the total number of parrots to seven, and Daphne has made it clear that she doesn't want a budgie companion.

He's just about the cutest thing ever, and he loves me. Proves that all severe macaws don't have poor human judgment (I mean, come on, how does Rocky NOT like me?)

After I visit with him, I tell Rocky about the affair I'm having with his counterpart, but it hasn't changed his attitude towards me.

Fight or flight

Occasionally something scary happens. These events are perceived only by the parrots, and usually only by the greys. The humans are extremely perplexed as to what these scary events are. There is no pattern.

In any case, something happens, and both greys take off, flying around the house. Usually the other parrots don't participate in this madness; however, occasionally a grey will fly into another parrot, forcing them to take off.

That's what happened this morning. Calypso got mixed up in their ridiculousness, through no fault of his own.Calypso isn't the greatest flier, so this morning he landed in a weird spot and then made begging noises until I had him step up on my hand and replaced him on his stand.

After their several second fly about, the greys were fine.

Rocky in the hall

A few posts ago, I mentioned how Rocky had been hanging out in the hall. This is one of his favorite places to go.

Thomas had gone running, and put his after-shower lounging clothes in the hall, partly to give Rocky something to do while he was gone.

And it worked -- this can keep him occupied for over 30 minutes. Personally, I don't get the appeal.

Though I do love it when he walks around while scraping his beak on the floor. He laughs a little bit, too, though it's a bit hard to hear on the video. Such a strange creature!

More Max

Max continues to go through stages of neediness. Times when all she wants to do is be on Thomas or me. I took this video on Wednesday night. I was trying to get her to go on her stand, but she was resisting my attempts. Sorry it's a bit dark and back-lit.

I was kind of irritating her feet so that she'd step onto the stand. I find it amusing how, towards the end, she grabs my finger away. I should have kept filming a few seconds more -- when I say "Up!" she knows I'm serious and immediately went on her stand. She was just pretending to not understand my body language command!

And, proof that I'm not always trying to get my parrots to not be near me:

She's so awkward when she walks on the ground. I just love it!

View to a Kill

Rocky absolutely hates it when Thomas wears running clothes. As with most things that set the parrots off, we don't know *why* this is, though of course we speculate. I think it's because he realizes that when Thomas wears running clothes he's leaving the house and won't be back for an hour or so.

Wednesday evening, the parrots were out and Thomas got ready to go for his run (I had run that morning, so was staying back to make dinner).

Rocky was hanging out in the hallway and attacking Thomas every time he walked by. Thomas was gracious enough to walk the gauntlet again, for the sole purpose of me filming a Rocky attack.

This did seem to be somewhat of a half-hearted attempt. Had Rocky really wanted to do damage, he could have bit Thomas on the leg. Instead, he aimed for the shoe.

Also, this is why I always carry a stick with me!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Head butting

I do not know where Thomas comes up with some of his ideas. This is a little thing that he and Stella frequently do. You can see her getting her head ready (they'd done this a few times before I asked him to do it for the camera). I do not do such things.

Out of control foraging

Of course the title refers to the greys. Who else do we starve? Last night, Thomas grabbed something out of the fridge and then didn't close it completely. Which led to this:
After taking that picture, I turned around to see Max helping herself to our dinner:Though it may look electric, it's actually a vegetarian split-pea dish made with acorn squash. At least she's getting some vitamin A!

America's Next Top Grey Parrot Model

Some of my running friends enjoy it when I send them pictures of Stella perching on my running shoes. Or maybe they're just humoring me. I've posted some of those pictures before.

Last night, she was on fire with her poses. I just kept snapping and she kept posing. Modeling the latest in feather destruction...
This is the scene that greeted me in her cage when I got home from work yesterday. All of this destruction, from one grey parrot, in about 6 hours (I left early). The little pieces of white paper are what I wrap her pellets in before hiding them in her cage. The rest is mostly chipped wood. She's going to chip us out of house and home if she keeps this up!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Back to the bigger guys

Thomas figured out a way to read his magazine with two fewer interruptions (though turning the pages can be challenging!):Too bad he doesn't have another two arms to take care of Rocky and Stella!

Beeps is wet because he'd just showered. And Max's feather is still wonky! I actually got hold of it yesterday and tried to pull it out, but it stayed in. I didn't pull hard -- just a gentle pull to see if I could help it come out, but the feather isn't yet ready to do so. Sometimes she's able to preen it back to where it belongs, but mostly she doesn't care. If she were a person, apparently she'd be the type to go grocery shopping in pajamas and slippers.

Trained budgies

Thomas just sent me a link to this picture. A budgie on a skateboard!

Also, this video from youtube, which I should probably embed, but am just going to link, shows more amazing little guys.

My blog is mostly focused on the bigger parrots, because that's what makes up the majority of the birds in my house, but people who overlook the little guys are really missing out.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Parrot weights

I was watching a DVD on parrot care (I hope to post a review in the next few days) when one of the presenters mentioned how important it is to weigh your bird once a week. Parrots are really good about hiding their illnesses, and weight gain/loss might be one of the first signs something is amiss.

With many things, the earlier you catch a problem, the easier it may be to correct. This vet said that a weight loss/gain of 5% of the parrot's body weight indicates a vet visit is in order (my vet has told me 10% in the past). I try to always weigh my parrots first thing in the morning, after they've eliminated everything from their system, and before they put any more in.

Although I know this, I don't always do it. I'll get in the groove and do weekly weigh-ins for several months, but then I just stop doing them and months go by again.

I pulled out the scale and weighed everyone this weekend. I don't have a fancy parrot scale with a perch; my parrots just perch on the flat surface.
Looking over the trends, it's interesting to see the weight gain the greys have made over the years. When Max was a baby, she was consistently around 300 grams. As she's matured, and especially since she started building muscles through flight, she now hovers around the 350 gram mark. That's near the upper limit for timnehs!

When Stella came to us, she weighed around 400 grams; pretty small for a congo. She's now in the 420 gram range. But she's still tiny compared to many of the greys I see at the rescue where I volunteer.

I really enjoy looking back over their log and seeing the changes; I need to remember to do this more frequently for all of the parrots (I need Thomas's help to get Rocky on the scale!)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Peeling Andreas

A few days ago, I noticed that the skin on Andreas's front left foot was peeling off. My lizards don't mind being handled (though I couldn't really say they like it). However, I'd prefer for his skin to molt without any human intervention. I've been told on several lizard boards that since uromastyx prefer high temperatures, they shouldn't be out of their tanks too frequently. They need the heat and the 68 degrees in my house just doesn't cut it!

You can see from his back legs and tail that he has some skin and scales that have not molted in the almost three years we've had him. His vet said not to worry about it, but of course I do! Once it gets a bit warmer out, they'll be going back in for check-ups. Good thing he's not entering any lizard beauty contests.

But of course I think he's absolutely adorable, and it does appear as though he's striking a pose for the camera:What I was trying to photograph was his front left foot with the skin, but it didn't turn out too well. Since the skin wasn't coming off, I needed to help him out a bit. His vet told me that if the dead skin isn't removed, it can constrict around his toes. During his well-lizard check we took him to the day after we purchased him, he lost two toes that had become necrotic from bad molts.

This is all skin that came from just one foot. Pretty gross! If I'm careful, sometimes the skin around his toes comes off in tubes.

I'm guessing that he'll begin the rest of his molt shortly, so I might be able to take some pictures.

After every molt, he becomes more and more beautiful. I can't wait to see what he'll look like in a few months!

More newspaper madness

On Friday, Thomas was working late, so I took the opportunity to work on the sudoku puzzle in the paper. Not surprisingly, as the parrots are not adhering to my radius of calm, I was prevented from doing so:Look at my puzzle, in the upper right hand corner, mostly blank. I was greeted about a thousand times by Rocky: "Hello! Hello Rock! Hello! Hello Rock!" Finally Thomas got home and I was able to finish my puzzle in peace.

On Sunday, it was his turn to have his radius of calm penetrated.

Beeps was on his lap, to protect him from any attempts by Max to buzz him, exiling him to the living room. Rocky seemed to be a bit displeased that he was on the opposite side of the paper from his mate (note the caique tail peeking through):
Since macaws are crafty and resourceful, Rocky was able to maneuver things to his liking:Of course, Thomas then had trouble reading the paper, but who needs to stay informed?

Forced allopreening

None of our parrots preen each other. They do it themselves or get some help from the humans in the home. Occasionally, Thomas tries to make them allopreen by securing one parrot (almost always Rocky) and giving another parrot access to his tail feathers.
Rocky does not mind this at all, though I can't recommend doing this with any other parrot since they probably would hate it! (Rocky and Thomas are very weird and I have no idea where they come up with this kind of stuff).

When Rocky was removed as her target, Max moved on to preening Thomas's pants:


We bought grapes for the first time in several months, and the parrots were so happy to partake in one of their favorite fruits!

Max:Stella (who likes it enough to hold onto it herself instead of expecting me to serve her):And Rocky (who was served by Thomas):
The caiques also had grapes, but I didn't take their pictures. The caiques have yet to meet a fruit, fresh or dried, that they haven't liked!

I love watching Max eat grapes; she is so quick and makes these funny noises when the grape is unpeeled:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Grey pictures

The greys often perch on stands on opposite sides of the kitchen. I encourage this, as that way there is no risk of them beaking each other.

Stella:And Max:
But usually, before I know it, they are back to their old tricks:
Which quickly turns into Stella climbing the ladder and some jostling for position.

But, in other instances, they can be near each other without fighting. Take the shower. Lately, I've been showering with Calypso and the greys. I used to put shampoo bottles up to separate them, but that hasn't been necessary with this group.

Here are the two of them after this morning's shower, contentedly perching on one foot:
It's not until I photograph the length of the shower that you can see exactly how close they are!
Stella appears to want to be friendly with Max; I think she'd be up for some allopreening. But Max is not interested. Perhaps it's because she was an only bird for several years. Maybe someday we'll adopt a bird that will be friendly with Stella!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Radius of calm

Last night, Thomas spent the night at the hospital. As I've mentioned before, the parrots are much needier when I'm alone with them. I'm really not sure if it's normal neediness, but I notice it more because there's not someone else to take some of the pressure? Or if they worry that since Thomas isn't here he's not coming back so they actually are needier? Who knows!

In any case, last night I let out all of the parrots, with the exception of Daphne, who stayed in her cage for her own safety (she got out a little later when I could supervise). They were in the living room. I went into the kitchen to finish reading the paper.

Within a few minutes, all of the room-mobile parrots (the parrots who actually leave rooms by flying/walking -- Max, Rocky, Beeps, and Stella) were in the kitchen. They flew/walked to their stands. Soon they started closing in on me. A few minutes after their arrival, they were all within a 1 foot radius of me!

Beeps was on my lap, seeking refuge from Max who likes to chase him. Stella had flown to the back of my chair. Max and Rocky were standing on the newspaper I was trying to read; Max was also pushing her head into my hand so that I would pet her.

I tried to give everyone enough attention, but they were insatiable! After a few minutes, I put everyone on their stands again, started making dinner, and told them to give me a three-foot radius of calm -- meaning no parrots allowed within three feet of me.

Of course they did not comply.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Thomas woke up angry with me. I knew something was up during the night because he'd built a blanket wall against me and slept further away from me than usual.

I got an answer this morning.

He had a dream that I let Max escape. Even though he eventually found her, he was so angry that I had allowed this to happen that he let it affect his behavior towards me! (I said, "So basically your dream was what actually happened in 2005?")

After a quick check this morning to make sure she was safe in his cage, he left for work, marital peace restored.

(Also, I had had a vivid dream about caiques. We are very weird.)

On another topic, Rocky has been so pleasant with me lately. I still make sure to keep a stick with me at all times, in case he's trying to lull me into a false sense of security. However, our paths cross multiple times a day in the hallways of our house (for instance, I'm walking into the living room and he's heading towards the kitchen) and he hasn't made any threatening gestures. Even his head feathers have stayed smooth against his head and his wings have not opened to show me how big and scary he is.

This is probably just a cycle in our relationship, but I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sunday Rocky

Sunday, Thomas was doing some brewing work. He had to transfer one beer from the primary to secondary fermenter, and bottle another beer.

An army of bottles, waiting to be filled:We decided to put everyone in their cages so we could work on this uninterrupted. Also, that way parrot feathers would not find their way into the beer. Rocky was the sole exception -- Thomas let him out.

And he didn't leave the living room for the hour or so we were in the kitchen! I'd check on him periodically to make sure he was OK -- he was always doing one of three things:

1. tending to the balls in the bottom of his cage (I have to get this on video)
2. attacking the blankets on the couch
3. destroying the paper in Beeps's cage tray

He was also singing, talking, laughing, etc. It was really quite amazing. Who was that macaw and what did he do with Rocky?

Arranging a successful environment

One of the most important realizations Thomas and I had when dealing with our parrots incorporated a change in our thought process. We're still working on doing this, as we're certainly not perfect, but I thought I'd blog about it in case it might be helpful to anyone else dealing with a parrot with behavioral issues.

Arrange the environment for success.

This certainly won't solve all issues -- these are wild animals living in our houses -- but it went a long way in creating harmony in our house.

In the beginning, when Max would do something unpleasant, we'd ask ourselves how we could change her behavior so that she'd do what we wanted/expected. This didn't pop up too frequently since Max was about the most perfect bird anyone could ask for. She rarely made unpleasant noises, was happy destroying her toys instead of our house, didn't bite, etc. Of course, she was still a baby, couldn't fly to cause mayhem in unexpected places, and was outnumbered 2 to 1 by the humans in the house, so we could keep an eye on her. If I'd had a blog in 2002, it would have been extremely boring.

After we started adding more parrots to the house, especially those who'd learned inappropriate behavior in a previous home, this became more of an issue. We're now outnumbered 6 to 2.

Somewhere along the way, we made the realization that it is so much easier to change our own behavior than our parrot's (or parrots') behavior. By watching our parrots, knowing what interests them, and trying to stay one step ahead of them, we'd be able to avoid many issues before they became problems! Also, we are asking them to make so many accommodations to us (living in captivity), so we can make a few accommodations of our own.

Let me give a few examples.

1. Beeps attacks us if we're on the couch and reading a magazine or catalog. He does not attack if we are on the couch reading a book or reading a magazine elsewhere. It is a very peculiar trigger! Instead of trying to figure out a way to get Beeps to accept magazine reading on the couch (I likely could have used clicker training to accomplish this), we no longer read magazines on the couch. We read them in the kitchen, or upstairs, but why upset Beeps unnecessarily? Plus, I'd rather use our clicker training time to teach him fun tricks!

2. When Stella first came to us, she was fascinated by the stove. Her favorite perch was a burner. Obviously this was something we needed to work on (and have -- she no longer views the stove as a play gym). However, until we knew that she wouldn't go to the stove, we put her in her cage whenever we were cooking. I didn't want to risk her going up in flames.

3. Sometimes Max likes to eat the mini blinds covering the window next to her cage. Instead of figuring out a way to get her to stop, we moved her cage a fraction of an inch further into the living room so even when she stretches she can't get at the blinds.

I could list so many more. When faced with behavior by one of our parrots that we don't want to encourage, we try to first think, "what can we do to change this situation?" Can we keep the apples in the fridge instead of the counter so no one goes over and nibbles on every single one? Can we keep Rocky in his cage until after I change the parrots' food and water so that he doesn't sneak attack me while my hands are full? Can I put a bottle of shampoo at the edge where the top of the shower door meets the wall so the greys won't chew the wall? Can I close my bedroom door when I do yoga so Rocky doesn't sneak away from Thomas and ruin my peaceful time?

You get the idea. The more we got into this, and saw it working, the more we took it as a challenge to continue avoiding problems instead of reacting to them. Of course, this can't solve everything, but it's a good start, at least in my experience!

In which Max eats our food

I know that about half of my posts could be titled this way, but it's all I took pictures of this weekend!

First, she helps herself to some of Thomas's sandwich when he was otherwise distracted. Look at the audacity she has -- putting her foot on his plate!
Then, she helped herself to some of the sour cream on this bowl of lentil soup. I grabbed her away before she could do too much damage:Do I live with a parrot or an oriole?
Edited to add: in that last picture, you can see that the feather sticking out of her left wing is still there! It looked like it had been fixed last night, but was weird again this morning. This is driving me nuts!

Friday, March 5, 2010


Thomas ran after work yesterday, which meant an evening shower. The parrots were so excited!

Beeps sits on the door:And Max and Rocky were up top. At first, the were ignoring each other:
Then Rocky tried to chase her off:
But once she got an acceptable distance from him, he changed his mind:Here's a short video:

Max has had a feather askew for over a day now. I'm pretty sure it's about to molt out, but she hasn't done anything to fix it. Hopefully it's gone when I get home tonight!
Hope everyone has a good weekend!