Friday, February 26, 2010

Thursday

I went to the rescue yesterday after work. I got to see and interact with some of my favorite parrots not living with me.

First, as promised, here's a picture of Steve. His mutilation is under his wings, so you can't see it.The rescue has a severe macaw up for adoption, so of course I had him out for a bit. He was just wonderful, snuggling against the crook of my arm, singing, dancing, etc. This is the best picture I could get, as he tries to attack the camera:When I got home, I was so happy to see my own parrots again. As Thomas was preparing dinner, he had Rocky on his shoulder (which is something we rarely do). Somehow, one of Rocky's feathers got turned around. It was like this for about an hour. Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore and made Thomas smooth it out.
We had a very pleasant evening together. The more I think about adding another bird to our home, the more I think that the time just isn't right. It kills me to think that I could be doing more, but I need to be fair to our current parrots and to Thomas and me. Things are going really well right now and I worry about upsetting that balance.

In other news, last night was the first night Calypso spent in his cage (instead of the hot box) in almost two months. It worked out really well. No night frights or mutilation. Thomas is just working a half-day today, so we left him in his cage this morning as well. We're hoping to transition him back to his cage permanently.

He absolutely loved his hot box (though he loves his cage, too -- he's very easy to please!) but it will be nice to get it off of our kitchen table!

I can't believe it's the weekend again. I hope that everyone has a nice one! More long running is planned here, so I'm hoping for decent weather.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

More cookies

My boss recently won a giant tray of cookies in a raffle (sign me up for raffles like that!) Apparently this cookie tray was so large that he managed to stuff himself, his sons, and his sons' hockey teams with cookies, and still have some left over! Nice guy that he is, he brought a bag into work for Thomas and me.

I had set the cookies on the counter and then let the birds out of their cages. Max's cookie magnet was working, as she immediately flew over, excitedly saying, "want some!" and trying to get at them:After several unsuccessful attempts, she tried to get me to give her some by being adorable:
Which of course I did -- all of the parrots got a really small piece of cookie. When I told my boss how well they went over, he said he'd bring me some more tomorrow. I will have to hide these from the parrots!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Another phone call

While we're still contemplating what to do about Steve -- though we're leaning against bringing him home -- we got phone call yesterday (from the rescue where we volunteer) about a different bird in need.

A baby caique was abandoned at a local vet because he has an incurable heart defect. This is in no way contagious, but will require a great diet, plentiful exercise, and daily medication. I am waiting to hear more details so I can do some research to see exactly what we'd be getting into.

While looking at this rationally, by making a pros vs. cons list, it is clear that we should not bring this caique home. As I've mentioned before, we're in a good spot, parrot-wise. Our current caiques are still a bit hormonal; what impact will bringing another caique into the same space have? Also, while baby parrots are adorable, Thomas and I much prefer the spice and spunk of parrots who've been around the block. If we were starting from scratch, with our current knowledge, we'd probably exclusively adopt 25+ year old blue and gold macaws.

But of course, rationality is not the only thing in play here. While I am very much a grey person and Thomas is a macaw person, caiques are kind of our compromise bird -- our common ground. And not "compromise" in any kind of negative or bad way, as we are both crazy about caiques.

When I call Thomas and begin a conversation, "The rescue called and would like us to think about fostering this bird..." Thomas usually just sighs and lists reasons why we shouldn't add anyone else. When I called him yesterday about this caique, his first response was "we have to bring him home." So I'm the one being cautious this time. Thomas already has names picked out.

The woman who runs the rescue knows how Thomas and I like to obsess over these kinds of decisions, so we have several days to make a decision. Thomas and I will be going on a 10 mile run this afternoon, during which we will discuss this topic and hopefully arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lounging around with parrots

Saturday afternoon we decided to relax for a bit while watching the Olympics. When you have as many parrots as we do, relaxing is never as relaxing as it should be!

Things started out fairly well. Max was playing in her foraging bucket:Stella was preening herself on her cage:Daphne was (as always) playing nicely on her cage:Calypso was eating (sorry for the blurriness!):Beeps was playing on Rocky's cage. He loves to climb to the top of this toy hanger and then slide down. Sometimes he spins while he slides down; I'm trying to get a video of this!Then he started playing with the toys on top of Rocky's cage:Where was Rocky? Where else?:Doing some chipping while trying to fit in Thomas's pants:
video

Thomas kept alternating between the floor and the couch. While on the couch, he was reading a magazine when Stella flew over to join him:Rocky was not happy that she intruded on his person. Even though he had been peacefully playing by himself, he had to run over as soon as he spotted Stella on Thomas's feet. En route:He climbed up on the couch:
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A small fight followed:

video

But Rocky quickly lost interest and headed towards Thomas and me. He is fake attacking Thomas while looking at me. However, these fake attacks can still be quite painful! Luckily Thomas has a pretty high pain tolerance so it doesn't bother him:

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The afternoon ended up being a little more stressful than originally planned.

Another breakfast post

On Saturday, the five larger parrots were with us in the kitchen while we ate breakfast. As usual, Thomas shared his breakfast with the parrots. After they were done eating, Rocky and Stella made their way over to the table:A problem often arises during breakfast because Calypso is an extraordinarily slow eater. He likes to savor his food; therefore it takes him much longer to finish. The other parrots quickly take a bite or two and then throw the food to the ground; Calypso eats the entire morsel.

Here he is with some grapefruit:The reason this becomes a problem is that the other parrots, more specifically Max, realize when they're done with their food that Calypso still has some. Max will often go over to Calypso and try to get him to give up his food. After a few unsuccessful attempts, Thomas restored order by placing Max on his lap until Calypso was done with breakfast:As usual, I had a CD going. As soon as this song came on, Rocky started dancing. If you listen closely, you can hear him clicking along with the music as well:
video

Friday, February 19, 2010

This morning

Thomas got to start work a bit later than usual, which meant breakfast was more like on the weekends. Here are Rocky, Calypso, and Max enjoying a little piece of toast:
When Rocky finished his toast, he saw that Thomas was eating an apple, so he climbed down from the stand and climbed up on the table to help himself to his favorite food:I can't believe another work week has flown by! My marathon is in exactly two months (April 19). It has not been pleasant getting my long runs in despite the cold weather and icy conditions. I've been doing way more treadmill running that I would like.

On plan for this weekend is a slow 9-10 miler with Thomas on Saturday and a fast 20 miler with friends on Sunday. I'm trying to keep a positive attitude, but it just doesn't sound like fun!

Last night

I went to the rescue yesterday on my way home from work. I planned on just stopping by for 15 minutes to drop off some toys, pick up some toy parts, and say hello. I ended up staying almost 2 hours!

We have about eight greys at the facility right now. I was hanging out near them, and they were so funny. There's one in particular who looks so pitiful -- almost no feathers except for her head and some wings. She doesn't even have a tail! But she has a great personality. I was singing to her, and she started dancing, and then two of the other greys started dancing. Then she started making a purring sound, so I repeated it, and then several of the other greys did, too. I was almost in tears when I left because I want to give them all a home.

Steve is still there -- he's making a little bit of progress. I forgot my camera, or I'd post a picture of him. Maybe next week I'll remember. Then, there's this severe macaw who reminds me so much of Rocky that I had to spend time with him as well. I also heard several stories of what birds up there had been through that broke my heart, again.

When I left, I just wanted to get home and give my parrots head pets and kisses.

Luckily they were all in good moods and we had a great evening together.

Thomas had arrived home before me, so the mail was on the counter, being devoured by Max:
Then she started going after the noodles:
Stella had to fly over and see what was going on, displacing Max:Stella has this very odd habit of shaking her head so that her beak hits against glass objects. Maybe she likes the noise? Last night, she was doing this to our wine bottle:We put all of the parrots back on stands; of course, that didn't last long. Before I knew it, Max was over eating cheese:As soon as we removed her, someone else stepped in:Spending time at the rescue really makes me appreciate the birds I have. I am really lucky!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Solo bottling

I don't have any pictures to accompany this story since it took place yesterday while I was at work. Thomas got to leave work early, so decided to bottle some beer that was ready to go. This is something that's easier to do with two people. He could have waited a couple of hours until I got home, or we could have done it this weekend. Instead, he did it himself, and chaos ensued.

I knew something had happened when I walked in the kitchen and only Calypso was out with Thomas. The rest of the parrots were in their cages. I was then informed that Thomas and Max were not speaking to each other right now. Then I got the whole story.

As I've mentioned before, Thomas is more of a soft touch than I am. He feels guilty when he's home and the parrots are in their cages. While I try to have the parrots out as much as possible when I'm home, I realize there are circumstances under which it's easier for everyone if the parrots are caged. This would have been one of those circumstances.

He kept Daphne caged (due to her smaller size and the potential for a disastrous bird-on-bird incident to occur) but let everyone else out. Of course, everyone quickly migrated into the kitchen where he was brewing, as they wanted to be part of the action. As he was assembling his bottling supplies, Beeps started attacking him, so Beeps had to go in his cage. (Add beer bottling to the list of things that sets of a flying attack by this caique).

Thomas then got into bottling and reached a point in the process that required his constant presence. He was siphoning beer from the bucket into the bottles and couldn't stop because he'd have to set the hose on an unsterilized surface, which would add a lot of extra work and time for him.

Max noticed this weakness and pounced. She flew to the top of the fridge, where she is not allowed to be. She'll usually listen to the "Off!" command; however, she wasn't listening this time. Instead, she started strutting around the top of the fridge while saying, "good girl!" Thomas repeatedly told her she was not acting like a good girl and she needed to get down. She strutted some more. So he started throwing my chapstick tubes to get her off! He made sure he wouldn't hit her, but still. (I was not happy about this when he was telling me the story, and he has promised not to do it again.) She finally got off, but was angry that he was throwing chapsticks at her (understandably so).

So, she started buzzing Thomas as he was bottling, flying low and pushing off of his head. When this didn't provoke a reaction, she started buzzing Calypso! This is very strange, as the two of them generally get along. But she'd found a way to get a reaction since Calypso started freaking out and Thomas told her to go to her stand. Instead she just buzzed him some more!

Thomas claims that on one of these buzzes, he put his hand up and plucked her out of the air. Then, he set his bottling stuff down and went to put her in her cage. Of course she was squawking and unhappy with her undignified treatment. Stella came to her rescue by buzzing Thomas, and then Rocky flew over, grabbed on to Thomas's arm and attacked him. They really do protect their own!

The result was that Max, Stella, and Rocky all got put in their cages, Thomas had to resterilize his bottling equipment, and finished the process with only the quiet and well-behaved Calypso as a witness.

I came home shortly after this had gone on -- he had just finished capping the last bottle -- to find an upset husband, chapstick tubes all over the kitchen, and angry parrots.

After we put the bottles away and everyone had calmed down, we let the parrots out, Thomas gave everyone a nut, and peace was restored. Thomas and Max are speaking again.

So, Thomas and I had a big discussion about this incident. He knows that I'm a big fan of setting the environment up for success. Knowing the personalities of our parrots, it is not reasonable to expect that he could bottle for 30-45 minutes without having to physically intervene, especially if the parrots (read: Max) know that he is otherwise occupied. He should have caged everyone before starting or waited for me to come home since the role I play in bottling allows me to stop and easily restart. (I keep him company during most of it and then put caps on the bottles.)

We also started discussing about how the parrots behave much better when both of us are there than they do for either one of us individually. I'm not sure if having an extra human there evens the field a bit, or if they act out when their whole flock isn't together -- who knows!

In any case, no lasting harm was done and hopefully Thomas has a plan in place to prevent anything like this from happening again on his watch.

And it's incidents like this that make me think we're at our parrot limit.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Stella and eggs

Not the kind she could lay, but the kind she could eat!

Thomas was making omelets over the weekend, when his stalker decided to get in on the action:
Earlier in the weekend, she insisted on having him hold a hard-boiled egg for her to eat:Everyone else grabs the food so they have control, but not her.

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For the past few months, when I bend down to pick Stella up off of the ground, Max will say "Up!" a second before it comes out of my mouth. Since I think this is funny, I've been reinforcing her with attention and laughter, which means she's been doing it more frequently.

This past weekend, she started doing something new -- when Stella puts her beak on my fingers, Max says, "No biting!" I never say this to Stella -- she is very gentle and likes to preen my fingers. When she starts getting rough, I will say "gentle," but never "no biting!"

I think it's because Thomas was off on vacation last week, and therefore spending a lot of time at home. Since Beeps is very hormonal, Thomas was frequently saying "No biting" when he'd get rough while preening Thomas's fingers, and Max generalized that to say it when Stella put her beak on my fingers.

They are just so intelligent!

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We spent much of Sunday at home, watching the Olympics. The parrots were really excited about this! They love having us around, and were out of their cages most of the day. In the early afternoon, I went upstairs to do yoga. Thomas was invited to join me, but decided to stay downstairs with the parrots.

When I came back down, he just kept saying "The greys are driving me crazy!" I think he's trying to dissuade me from taking Steve home as I didn't find the greys to be particularly irritating yesterday.

We still haven't made a decision. I'm planning to go to the rescue tomorrow to visit with him and check on his progress. I know that if I really pushed the issue, Thomas would acquiesce, but I want to make sure that he's totally on board before bringing anyone else home. Though I would try my best just to foster, I doubt that's a realistic ambition, so any decision will likely affect us for the majority of the rest of our lives. Thomas's main concerns center on how a male grey's presence would affect our two females, who are a bit hormonal right now. Since Stella used to mutilate, he also doesn't want Steve to trigger mutilation in her (I think this is unlikely and don't share this concern).

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More Olympics tonight! We don't have cable, which means that normally our sports options are quite limited, and are usually just the mainstream football, baseball, basketball, and golf, with (very) occasional hockey, track and field, or something else. I absolutely love watching cross-country skiing and many of the other events. I am just amazed at the speed of these athletes!

Greys vs. flashing light

As a thank you for volunteer work I did at a recent race, I got a pair of gloves with a pocket for a flashing light so that I am more visible while running in darkness.

I got home from work to find that Thomas had offered it to Max, who regarded it as a toy.

I can't imagine it's good for her eyes to have that flashing light, so we didn't let her play with it for very long; she was just so interested that I had to take a video.
video

And then I wondered what Stella's reaction would be. She pretty much ignored it, until it got in her way, and then she took care of business.

video

I love how she has to look down after throwing it to the ground!

Friday, February 12, 2010

To foster or not?

Last December, the woman who runs the rescue where we volunteer approached us and asked us if we'd be willing to foster an african grey parrot, Steve. He's mutilating, and greys tend not to do well in the chaos of a shelter environment. She thought he had a better chance of healing in a private home.

She knows that we tend to fail fostering by keeping the parrot, but thought this might be different since this parrot is a male and she knew we didn't want to add any male greys to our house as our two are female.

We managed to defer making a decision as we were dealing with the hormonal caiques. She understood that we didn't want to add any more male hormones into our house until things had quieted down on that front.

During the past two months, Steve's condition has deteriorated. He's had every conceivable test, but the vet can't find any physical reason for his mutilation.

I truly believe the best thing for him would be to come to our house. He'd have our greys as role models (part of the reason I believe that Stella healed so quickly was forming a flock with Max) and live in a quieter, less stressful environment. He'd also get more one-on-one attention, including clicker training, and learn to fly.

However, this would likely be a long-term foster. Months, maybe years. Could we really adopt him out after he lived with us for so long? Especially if he bonds to us? Quite honestly, Thomas and I become quite attached, so we'd probably end up keeping him.

Right now, things are well in our flock. We've got a good routine, everyone gets adequate attention, and we're not overwhelmed. Might Steve be the straw that breaks the camel's back, negatively impacting the well-being of the parrots we currently have in our house? After all, they must be our top priority.

On the other hand, if he ends up mutilating himself to death (currently a real concern), can I live with the guilt that we could have saved him?

We do have the physical space for one more bird in our house. The reason we didn't adopt the caique I talked about a few months ago was because he was healthy and active. He'd do well in any caique-ready home, and I wanted to reserve our one remaining place for someone who really needed us. Steve fits this bill perfectly.

My ultimate dream is to have a grey hospice/retirement home someday. We'd take in and rehabilitate old and/or sick greys and allow them to live out their lives in a flock environment. This is not currently in Thomas's plans, so I'm not sure if it will come to fruition. Steve is exactly the kind of bird I envision taking in someday -- should we just take him in now?

But it is important to recognize our limits. I know I can't save everyone. If we do take Steve in and end up keeping him, what happens when the next needy grey arrives? Could we manage to take him in and then adopt him out in a few years once he's healthy again?

Also, we currently have two blue-fronted amazons and a cockatiel that are willed to us. Their owners are still in good health, so we'd likely not receive them for decades, if ever, but if something does happen, we'd need to be able to take them in. We only plan to stay in our current house for 5 years at the most, moving to a larger, more parrot-friendly place after Thomas has established his practice, which will eliminate this concern.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. I just wanted to get some of the thoughts swimming around my head in print. We are just so conflicted and I wish there was an easy answer.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cookie Monsters

For the past several months, I have been on a quest to make the perfect oatmeal cookie. I feel like I'm getting close! Generally, the parrots get a tiny piece of cookie several times a week.

Yesterday, Thomas had the cookie container open while Rocky was on the counter. He thought that Rocky would take a bite out of a cookie. But Rocky had other ideas:As I approached him to take away the cookie, he took off, flying to Thomas who was in the hall. This was pretty exciting news -- he flew with volition -- and it made us laugh since he managed to land, cookie intact!

But Rocky was wrong if he thought escaping me for Thomas meant he'd get to eat the whole cookie. First, Thomas asked him nicely to surrender it:And when that didn't work, he had to resort to a more hands-on approach:After Thomas got the cookie away from him, he handed out tiny pieces to all of the parrots. The greys were not satisfied with that, and flew over to the counter to try their luck at getting a whole cookie from the purple container where we keep them:I think Max climbed on the coffee container to get a better angle on the cookies; Stella's attention quickly turned from cookies to irritating Max.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lap bird

Max does not often want to sit on us -- she prefers to be in the same room, near but not on us. This day, she had been causing too much trouble with Beeps and Stella, so Thomas put her on his lap to cool down.She immediately grabbed the drawstring from his pants and began chewing it.

Snowday

I took an unexpected vacation day from work yesterday as there was more snow than I like to drive in. Luckily I have a very flexible job and boss!

I had to take two conference calls (so I suppose not exactly a vacation day!) and was a bit worried about doing this with loud parrots in the house. Luckily, all they did was beep and make other mechanical-sounding noises. My boss told me he couldn't hear them, though he may have and just thought that someone had a microwave alarm going off in the background.

During the past two years, the heavy snow fell came when Thomas had to spend the night at the hospital. Seriously. The weathermen could have saved time doing their forecasts and just looked at Thomas's call schedule to announce feet of snow. I do not even want to think about how many hours I spent shoveling.

That has not been the case this year! Thomas is on vacation this week, so he got to do the snowblowing (I don't like using the snowblower and will shovel instead).I'm glad I live in an area that is used to snow. The roads were great today. My friends who live in DC have told me they're not as lucky.

New friends?

Stella likes to fly over to Calypso's cage and eat his food. Calypso is not really a fan of this, but when I took this picture, he was tolerating her presence.This was probably a freak occurrence, though!

Beer and the greys

Obviously, we do not allow our greys to drink any beer, but they are intrigued when we do so. Stella came over and started banging her beak against the glass:Then, Thomas provoked Max into dancing:
video

Sadly, for Thomas, Beeps was in the room and got a bit overexcited. Shortly after taking this video, Beeps did a fly-by bite and Thomas's ear erupted in blood. He's fine today, though will have to refrain from using headphones for about a week.

Why it is hard for us to stay informed

After work, I will often read the paper while standing at the counter. Before I even get through one section, I usually have a visitor:And when one visitor comes, the other usually has to see what all of the fuss is about:(Nothing! Just let me read the paper in peace!)

That same day, Rocky and Thomas came to a detente -- Rocky had been trying to perch on Thomas's magazine, but ultimately settled on ripping up paper near Thomas:

Standoff

Who is bigger and scarier? Who will win this stand-off?No contest...Rocky won. Thomas changed his shirt (Rocky doesn't like it when he wears orange).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Toys and ramblings

Over the weekend, I was assembling some toys for the parrots at the rescue. I had some loofahs (purchased from The Parrot Asylum) and asked Thomas if he'd cut them into slices for me. He did so like it was a loaf of bread instead of using a saw!Even though most of the slices will go into toys for the rescue birds, my guys all got one too:It was a toy-filled weekend!I have a few more toys to assemble tonight and hope to stop by the rescue later this week to drop off a box of toys for the parrots who are waiting to find their new home. I was up there last week, and came away a bit sad.

There are just so many birds looking for good homes! The blue crowned conure that I love is still there, as is a severe macaw whose personality is so similar to Rocky's that I worry about where he'll end up. I also met an parrot who was surrendered when his owner died -- after spending almost 50 years with her. What a shock for this poor guy. Almost 50 years of stability and then *poof* an entirely different world. How scary that must be.

As usual, I walked away wishing I could do more.

Brewing

I came home on Friday to find this:Usually, my job is the capper, but Thomas took care of that himself since he got home from work early and didn't want to wait for me. Unfortunately, I fear this is a beer that I won't really like. But we shall see -- it should be ready to drink in a few weeks!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The evening routine

I have been meaning to get this on video for a few months now, but wouldn't remember until it was too late. This isn't the best example, but it gets pretty close.

As soon as the greys knows that Thomas is coming home from work, they fly over near the door. Stella has already done that when this video starts; you can hear Max flying over to the top of the fridge in the background.

Then, Stella play attacks his shoes as Thomas greets them. Usually she'll follow the first shoe into the shoe pile, but she didn't do that here. (Don't worry, though it kind of looks like he's kicking her, he's not. They do this routine every day and he is very careful not to hurt her.)

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Sometimes he'll taunt her a bit with his shoe:
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I had stopped filming after this, but as he walks away to change into after-work clothes, she follows him, but she's like the ghosts in Super Mario Brothers. She creeps up behind him, but as soon as he turns his head to look at her, she stops walking and acts innocent. Then he turns his head away from her, and she hurriedly chases after him again. It is really funny to watch. We don't know what she'd do if she ever caught up to him; usually he'll go over to her, pick her up, and send her to a perch with a kiss.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Answering a comment

I received this comment on a post from earlier this year:

Hi Even tho this is a macaw page i would to have some advise on my 15 month oh thinmen african grey. i am trying to train her to let me strok her wings let me stroke her head out of the cage as she onli alows this if she is in the cage with the door closed she also bites when you get her to step up of her cage or on somwhere where she has gone her self, i have tried rewarding her but when i give her the food she just throws it i've also tried a high pitched exited voice to praise which she just looks at me funny. basically i would like to get tips on how to make her tame where i can stroke her anywhere as you can tell she is dying for the attension, sadly she cannot be out of her cage throughout the day as we have three dogs that would like her for dinner but she comes up to my room when i get home from schools for about too hours a night and when i clean her cage but she has got toys to play with thank you too any one who relpies really need advice thanks

I have a timneh grey and a congo grey also, so hopefully some things that I write can be applicable to your situation.

1.My first question is: why do you want to stroke her wings? In general, this is a bad idea. Since she's so young, you probably won't see breeding behavior yet, but you want to do everything you can to not send her mixed signals, which might save you from hormone-related issues down the road. Touching/stroking on the wings is something that parrots save for their mates. Since, no matter how hard you try, you can never be a true mate to her, you don't want to confuse her. Keep your petting to the head area.

Greys in general do not tolerate touching. Of course, there are always exceptions, but your grey does not appear to be one! I've had my timneh for almost 8 years; she is extremely bonded to both my husband and me. She loves getting her head scratched, but does not like any touching below her neck. If I were to go up and try to pet her wings, I'd likely get bit -- and with good reason. I need to respect her boundaries. You wouldn't like it if people came up to you and started shoving their fingers in your ears; it's basically the same thing with her.

Watch her body language closely. If you insist on trying to touch her wings, she will likely have to become more aggressive to keep you away. This will serve only to make her a better biter, and for her to not want to be around you. You don't want this!

It's hard sometimes to remember that greys are wild animals. They are not little people. As people, we like to cuddle and hug -- it's our way of showing affection. But for prey animals like grey parrots, that can be terrifying. If my grey's wings are constricted by me petting her, that means she can't make an escape if a dangerous situation arises. My greys show their affection for me by perching on my arm, preening my fingers, and verbally (like mimicking what I do or when we whistle back and forth).

2. Does she always bite you after she steps up? If it's only sometimes, can you see a pattern? Long-term, you need to figure out a way to make her want to be near you. My parrots love stepping up for us because they like to be near us. Maybe we'll dance, or I'll whistle to them, or we'll take a shower. You want to make stepping up something that she wants to do.

You say you've tried feeding her but she just throws the food on the ground. Maybe you're not feeding her the right kind of food? I don't like cupcakes, so if someone was trying to reward me with cupcakes, it wouldn't work! But promise me pie and I'll do whatever you want!

Here's something to try: give her a bowl of seed and see what she eats first. Do this for several days to find a pattern and see what her favorite foods really are. My timneh LOVES cashews. She will do almost anything for one. She hates almonds. Therefore, if I tried to train her with almonds, we wouldn't get anywhere!

Once you know what your grey's favorite foods are, remove them from her daily diet. Let's say her favorite food is also cashews, for this example. If you feed her a seed mix, go through it and take out all of the cashews before you put it in her cage. If she wants her favorite food, she has to work for it! There is no incentive for her to work for you if she can get cashews in her cage.

Going back to the step-up issue, one thing you can try is to show her a cashew (or her favorite food, which I'm pretending is cashews, for simplicity's sake). Then ask her to step up. As soon as she steps up, immediately give her the cashew. This serves two purposes. First, she comes to associate stepping up on you with her favorite food! Second, she can't bite you if her mouth is full of cashew. She's less likely to throw it on the ground if she only gets them occasionally (as opposed to always having them available).

If she continues to bite, you may want to consider stick-training her. This is what we did with our macaw. He'd rather bite me than step up, and will bite Thomas in certain circumstances (like if he's in a particular hallway in our house).

3. As I've mentioned, parrots are prey animals and can become very stressed out by having predators looking at them. Even if she is safe in her cage, she may not feel safe if the dogs are staring at her. Can you move her cage to a room where the dogs are not allowed? It may also help to put some big toys up or cover half of her cage so that she has somewhere safe to retreat to if she feels scared. When parrots are scared, they will often lash out by biting. You want her to feel safe with you. I will try to take pictures of this tonight so you can see what I mean.

4. I mention this frequently, but I think you guys would be wonderful candidates for clicker training. Here is a link to a free yahoo group. In their files, you can learn how to do this. Using these methods, my timneh grey has learned several dozen tricks, like wave, take a bow, shake hands, fly to me, putting a bead in a cup, etc. Greys are very, very smart, and I'm sure she'd love the opportunity to learn new things and show off for you!

Clicker training is a wonderful way to create and cement a bond between you and your parrot. It's also a wonderful way to learn her body language. Even though most parrots can talk, the vast majority of their communication is done via body language. They are very expressive once you learn to listen to them!

I hope some of what I've written may be helpful to you. It is very good to hear that you are worried about her and are trying to provide her with a good home! Please let me know if you have any other questions, and if anyone else has any suggestions/comments, please put them in the comments!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Comprehension issues

Background: Thomas and I are in the kitchen, along with all 5 of the larger parrots. Max is on the counter. Stella is on the ground. The caiques are on stands. Rocky is on the table.

Me: Are you OK with her eating your mail?

Thomas: Sure. What? Nail?

Me: Mail

Thomas: Nail

Me: Mail

Thomas: Yes, she's eating my nail

Me: Mail

Finally, I stopped this conversation as it was apparent Thomas was talking about Stella preening his feet and I was talking about Max chewing on envelopes. Rhyming destruction!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Greys' favorite things

Stalking Thomas:
And eating cheese:
(Parrots should not really eat cheese. I removed Max from the cheese right after taking these pictures. She only got a few bites of the orange and I don't think she actually got any of the feta. But she is obsessed!)