Monday, January 31, 2011


Basil will frequently sleep while we hang out in the living room. This is just fascinating to me as none of my birds will sleep in front of me. Daphne did towards the end of her life, but not when she was younger. This may seem hard to believe, but I have never seen any of my birds sleep. They must do so. Maybe they have to stay on the lookout as they're afraid we're going to get them? But then why would Basil feel comfortable doing so?

Even when I've gone downstairs in the middle of the night and peeked in on them, they must hear me coming down and they're up!Brian is quite possibly the cutest guy ever. He's been with us over a month now, and every day I am so happy to have him in my life. He was preening Thomas's hair:And then moved on to his beard stubble. He is so gentle when he does this; it's amazing. Rocky had to come up to see what was going on. He is not bird-aggressive at all, so was fine once he realized that Brian would preen Thomas, leaving all of Thomas's attention for Rocky.
To me, she looks like she really wants to sleep, but instead she just fluffs up a bit (in the stream of the humidifier). This is the closest I have come to seeing any of my birds sleep -- perched, standing still, not getting into trouble.
Weekend recap on the owls:

Friday morning, Thomas and I heard (but did not see) a great-horned owl, getting our owl weekend off to an early start! Friday evening, we joined a naturalist for a presentation on owls and then a short hike to look for owls. We saw and heard a screech owl! Saturday, we went out to look for short-eared owls, but they apparently had left the area. Still, it was a successful owl weekend!


I could not find Rocky yesterday. He was nowhere to be found, which worried me. Luckily, he responds when I call his name, so I was able to track him down to a general area; however, I just couldn't find him. Finally, I realized he'd climbed into Beeps's cage and was camouflaged among Beeps's toys:Yesterday, Thomas was removing the birds' dinner dishes so they could be washed. Rocky was apparently not yet ready to stop eating, as he climbed on the dish and then found a nut while Thomas went into the kitchen.
He also was attacking Thomas over the weekend when Thomas was wearing normal clothes (i.e. not scrub pants, a mostly-white old T-shirt, and an old housecoat). Rocky has gotten very particular about what Thomas can wear. We decided to experiment, so I put on scrub pants, a mostly-white old T-shirt, and an old housecoat. We thought maybe that would make Rocky like me, but it didn't work. He seemed a bit confused (why are you in Thomas's clothes?) but it didn't change his mind.

Attention sponges

Over the weekend, we noticed that Brian has a new way of demanding attention. It's something that's so similar to what the larger parrots do, and just adorable when it's a budgie. When he wants to come out of his cage, he bangs this blue plastic toy (the one that's hanging down, near his head) against the front of his cage. I'm going to have to put a toy in there that's a little noisier so he gets more satisfaction out of showing us his disapproval for being in his cage!He thrives on being out -- I don't know how he lasted 10 years inside!

Rocky is a bit more obvious when he wants attention -- he just climbs up!
Yesterday, I had my laundry basket near the top of the stairs so I would remember to take it down with me. Max flew over. I could tell she wanted attention, so she went someplace she thought she wasn't allowed (so that we'd tell her to get off.) However, I didn't really care if she was on the basket, as it was empty, so she had to escalate.

She walked to the other side of the basket, near the wall, and started running her beak up and down the wall so it sounded like she was eating the wall. This did get her the attention she desired, as I wanted to avoid another escalation -- one that might actually include eating the wall:And Beeps. He was in his cage as he was launching attacks (still hormonal!) and he needed some time to calm down. That didn't stop him from strutting all over his cage, flashing his eyes, trying to get attention:Once he calmed down, we did let him out.

Friday, January 28, 2011


One of the highlights of my day has become spending some breakfast time with Brian while the other parrots are still sleeping in their cages. Or if not sleeping, at least quiet. Or if not quiet, at least pleasant noises (I hear a lot of "Hello Basil!" "Up!" and "Wanna come out?" -- but it's quiet and soothing.)

Here he is, going for his near-daily bite of Thomas's wheat toast:Since Thomas was in a hurry this morning, he ate his toast quickly and left a few crumbs for Brian:
However, as soon as Thomas was no longer near the toast, Brian lost interest. Instead, he came over by me to impede my completion of the sudoku puzzle:
He always stands right where I need to make a mark, and then tries to eat my pen!

Later, when Brian was safely caged and Thomas was commuting to work, I was putting tonight's dinner in the slow cooker. Since the large parrots were out, this was not as easy at it should have been. The greys came over to throw my soaked beans around. As expected, Max started this and Stella followed her lead:
I got some breathing room by giving everyone carrots. Max:
Not that I needed breathing room from Calypso, who is so low-maintenance. He's just happy being in the same room with me, even if I'm not paying direct attention to him. The greys should take lessons!

Stella doesn't like raw carrots, so she flew to the island and watched the backyard:
In a surprising, but pleasant, turn of events, Rocky did not scream at all this morning. Not even once. I had to pull out a new pair of running shoes this morning, so as soon as the parrots woke up, I gave him a shoe box. He was busy opening up a hole on the side and then hanging out in his box. Unfortunately, this only lasts a day and I don't go through shoes that quickly!

Hanging out

Package of hormones

I told Thomas it looked like he had an alien about to spring forth from his body:It was a hormonal caique:
I'm hoping his hormones calm down soon! Luckily we are still managing, and with minimal bites. We have found a couple of new triggers -- chopping onions, and me touching Thomas in front of Beeps. I was giving him a chair back massage yesterday that could have turned into a bloodbath! It's rather funny -- when we hug each other, Max makes a kiss sound and Beeps flies over to attack. Opposite reactions. I prefer Max's.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A couple of rescue updates

D. Richard asked in the comments last week whatever happened to the mitred conure I mentioned back in 2008, here. She never did find a retirement hospice home, but we like to think she found some sort of happiness at the rescue. She was found dead in the bottom of her cage in March 2009. (I used male pronouns in the original post, but we got her DNA sexing back and she was female.) Her cage was near other aratinga conures and she learned to squawk back and forth with them and play with toys.

Since I'm doing updates, and the first one was rather sad, I have a couple of others. I had written here about a cockatoo with extreme aggression problems. Several very knowledgeable people had tried everything they could think of, but he kept sending people to the emergency room and was also very bird aggressive. He got his miracle -- a woman stopped by the rescue. She didn't currently have any birds, but was thinking about adopting someone. It was love at first sight between the two of them. They've been living together for almost two years now, and she still sends us updates about how wonderful things are. This was such a great outcome! In the right environment, without other birds, and with a person he chose, his aggression all but disappeared.

Finally, the severe macaw pictured here (down a bit -- not Rocky), a bird who had been at the rescue for over a year and who had completely stolen my heart, a bird with special needs who made me feel guilty for having so many able-bodied parrots that I couldn't take him in, one of the most personable and wonderful parrots I have ever known...found an amazing home!

He lives with a vet tech, so his special needs are not a concern. He has charmed his way into their hearts and is currently tame to both of his owners (rare among severe macaws who tend to be extreme one-person birds.) She sends me updates several times a month and I just couldn't be happier with the way things turned out for him. And now the woman who runs the rescue no longer has to live in fear I'm going to swap Rocky out for a severe macaw that loves me (I joke!)

However, I just found out yesterday that the rescue, already full of parrots waiting for homes and with a waiting list for surrenders, had to take in 18 birds from an emergency impound. A woman had died in her home, and it was several days before anyone found her. She had no close friends or relatives, so we took the birds in. Although the birds had been well-cared for at some point, they had not had adequate care for quite some time, as evident by their condition and environment. Among the birds? A grey and a special-needs severe macaw. It's going to be a tough day for me tomorrow when I make my weekly visit to the rescue.

Rocky kisses

Last night before bed, Thomas was giving Rocky kisses on the top of his head. As he kissed Rocky, Rocky made loud kiss sounds. For some reason, he had Rocky's head restrained and asked me to give Rocky a kiss on the top of his head. I did, but Rocky was silent. We alternated for a while, but Rocky changed it up a bit -- loud kisses for Thomas and hissing for me! Then riotous laughter -- first from Rocky and then the laughter infected us as well. I live with a couple of goofballs!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


This morning, I used up the last of my chapstick, so I threw the container in the garbage. The cap was separate. I then ran downstairs to switch the laundry around, leaving the greys and Calypso temporarily unsupervised in the kitchen.

When I returned, I looked to make sure everyone was where I had left them. I was surprised to see Max on the lower perch on her stand as she had been on the upper perch a minute earlier. When I got closer to her, I realized that she'd flown to the garbage, taken my chapstick cap out, and then returned with it to the stand.

She played with this during the 15 minutes or so until I picked her up (cap still in beak) and deposited her in her cage. When I went to say my goodbyes before leaving for work, she'd placed the cap in a special part of her cage. I wonder where it will be tonight?************************
Sometimes Basil holds himself so that it looks like he doesn't have a neck:
His owner had a health setback, so it looks like he may be staying with us a bit longer than originally anticipated. Good thing he's such a good houseguest, though I know he misses his family and they miss him.

Stella and her shoe obsession:
I have made an exception to my no-shoulders rule for Brian. He is very gentle, can't do any permanent damage to my face, feels safer up there, and his poop is easily removable. Thomas was trying to get a picture of him preening me, but he was a bit too interested in the camera.
He just loves preening us! Last night Thomas, Brian, and I were all on the couch, close together. While on my shoulder, Brian reached over and started preening Thomas's hair! I told him to focus on me, but I don't think he listened.

This morning, I got back from running to find Thomas and Brian breakfasting together. Although Brian was eating Thomas's crumbs when I saw him, Thomas had earlier taken a few pictures of Brian attempting to eat pictures of cookies:
I spoke with a naturalist about my squirrel questions from yesterday. He told me that the squirrel was probably not eating bark, but just chewing on it in order to keep his teeth in shape (he actually said "to prevent them from growing into his skull" but I think he was kidding!) Also, it was probably a red-tailed hawk or great-horned owl who had attempted to get him when he lost his tail. Apparently, squirrels are very scrappy, so hawks and owls will only try to get them if they are stuck for other alternatives as the squirrel can damage the bird and also escape. Finally, he said that the squirrel will quickly learn to navigate without his tail. I had assumed the tail was used for balance, but he told me it's more of a defense mechanism (that worked very well in this case for the squirrel -- not so much for the hawk or owl!) So interesting!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Basil flies

Basil usually just stays on top of his cage; occasionally he flies around. Over the weekend, he flew into the kitchen. His flight skills are not strong, so he just flew up and couldn't maneuver to a stand -- he landed on our light fixture. It's been years, but Max used to land here as well.He happily stepped up and was brought back to the safety of his cage.

Winter backyard wildlife

Thomas noticed this fat, tailless squirrel eating bark off of our large tree in the backyard:We haven't seen this guy in our yard before; our squirrels are more svelte. I wonder what happened to his tail -- I'd imagine that would affect his balance, so hopefully he can survive and our resident squirrels will allow him in their territory.

I thought it was interesting that we can see the squirrel tracks in our backyard -- they appear to only have a couple of routes that they follow:
(If you look closely, you can see the squirrel still sitting in the right crook of the tree.)

It has been really cold around here. I had to do my 20 mile run this morning, and it was so unpleasant! The temperature was 1.6 degrees at the start. I may never do a winter marathon again. The good news is that I am now officially tapering, which means I get to decrease my mileage. We'll probably get a winter heat wave so I can't go out and enjoy it!

Next week, we are going owling twice, so hopefully I will have some pictures to post, though I suspect owls are rather elusive!

Beeps attacks

Mostly because he ignores Beeps's triggers, Thomas has been getting attacked regularly. He is usually able to avoid getting bit, but if you play with fire enough, you will get burned: Thomas got bit today. I'm hoping this will be a wake-up call to Thomas to listen to me!

For example, one of Beeps's triggers is the plastic container in which we keep the lizards' food. I left early this morning to go running, so Thomas had to feed the animals this morning. I keep Beeps in his cage until the lizards are fed, but Thomas likes to live life on the edge, so he lets Beeps out. As he just said to me, "I live my life. I don't let him dictate what I do."

Beeps launched six attacks this morning, though Thomas was always able to avoid getting bit. Once, apparently, Beeps actually landed in the container. Thomas said Beeps was so shocked he wasn't sure what to do -- so then he threw the greens on the floor and Andreas had to eat floor food.

Beeps also does not like it when we put our hands behind our neck extend our elbows out -- the stereotypical relaxed pose. I never make this pose, but since Thomas realized this triggers Beeps, he's been making it more (at least that's how it seems -- Thomas denies this.)

This morning, Thomas successfully thwarted two attacks launched by Beeps due to this pose, but Beeps won the third (ninth if you count the earlier attacks) round -- he bit Thomas on the inside of his ear (good aim!)

Thomas fell to the floor in pain, a bit melodramatically. I immediately jumped up to get Beeps securely locked in his cage, then started to put the rest of the birds away, figuring Thomas would want time away from them for a few minutes. When I finally returned to the kitchen to see how Thomas was and get Stella, the only parrot still free, I found the two of them on the floor together. She was preening him.

That's when Thomas made his comment about Stella being the only one in the house who cared about him. Almost immediately after he hit the floor, she flew down and started preening him and giving him kisses. He wasn't seriously injured (no blood, but definite beak indentations inside his ear), so I let all of the parrots out again.

Hopefully Thomas learned his lesson, but I doubt it.

Grey mischief

Yesterday, Thomas was eating scrambled eggs for lunch. The parrots love this, though we joke it's a bit cannibalistic. Stella, as usual, wanted Thomas to hold the eggs for her. He kept saying, "This isn't an egg buffet!" and "Hold your own eggs!"After a short time, after she remembered how much she loves eggs, she decided it was worth it to hold the eggs herself. Stella is in stark contrast to Max who prefers to hold everything herself, if possible.
Later, he was cooking and left the cabinet door open slightly. Stella is always on the lookout for an opening, so she flew down and was about to enter when I took this picture. Not wanting to encourage nesting, I removed her right after taking this picture.
Earlier today, we were all eating lunch in the living room. The greys flew into the kitchen. We were on the listen for trouble, but they are getting better at creating noiseless trouble. We found them on the island, taking turns biting our paper towel roll. Later, we realized that they also had taken bites out of Thomas's last banana. Max is the only one who had any evidence left (a bit of banana on her beak) but we suspect Stella was at least complicit.
They also knocked a bunch of magnets off of our fridge (this made noise, which brought us in to get them).

This was all forgotten when Stella later proved that "she's the only one who cares about me [Thomas] in this house" -- a story I will tell in the next entry.

Brian's tumor

Thanks again for everyone's good wishes regarding Brian. I did speak with the director of the rescue about his regurgitation/vomiting and she wasn't worried at this point since he hasn't done it again and also because he didn't end up with a mess on his face. If needed, we can take him to the vet, but I am more apprehensive about taking budgies in due to their size. He was seen about a month ago, right before we took him in, so probably nothing has changed in that time.

He's not showing any signs of slowing down and is even going through a molt! I took this picture in an effort to get a picture of his tumor. You can see his left side sticks out a bit more than it should, though this picture isn't the greatest.At night, he climbs over Thomas and me and preens us. He's so gentle! Have I mentioned how much I love budgies?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Steve Update

I haven't written much (anything?) on Steve since he went to live in his forever home with Shannon last September. I didn't want to steal her thunder, and figured people could keep up with his progress at her blog.

But after reading yesterday's entry, I can no longer control myself.

Shannon has done such amazing things with Steve that I wanted to post.

I don't think I ever truly made it clear how dire Steve's situation was. On his vet records, the vet recommended euthanasia. Right there in black and white. Between his physical problems (severe mutilation under both wings) and emotional problems, as well as lack of progress (i.e. deterioration) during the time he spent at the rescue, she felt his quality of life was such that it would be far kinder to put him out of his misery.

Even though I do believe that euthanasia can be the best choice at times, it's one thing for me to say that generally, and another for me to think about it while looking into Steve's eyes while he sat in his cage at the rescue -- isn't there something that could be done?

Knowing we had a no new pet ban on (limits!), the woman who runs the rescue once again approached us to see if we'd make an exception and see if Steve could make any progress in our home, where things are quieter and there is more routine. I agonized over this decision. We have a history of failing fostering (Rocky, Beeps, and Stella were never supposed to stay). Steve is a male while my two greys are females. What problems might that cause for the parrots already under my care? Also, Steve was in really bad shape. Who would be willing to take that on eventually? Was this really adoption disguised as fostering? Finally, would taking on another parrot stretch us past our limits? I'm constantly reminding myself about limits and making sure that the parrots we've already committed to get the same care they're used to and deserve -- something that becomes harder to do the more parrots in the house!

The day we were supposed to pick him up at the rescue, I got up there and started crying; I'd convinced myself Steve would be the straw that broke the camel's back and worried about Max and Stella too much. I tearfully told her we couldn't take him home. But then I couldn't get him out of my mind, and Thomas picked him up two days later as a surprise.

When Shannon contacted me to ask if I might consider letting her adopt Steve, I was shocked. I may have sounded a bit pessimistic at first, but I wanted her to know exactly how he was and what she might be getting herself into -- I didn't want to sugarcoat things and leave her disappointed. Steve was going to be a lot of work. Luckily, Shannon was up to the task, as there really has been an amazing connection between the two of them from the start.

I've been following their journey on the blog and via e-mail (hope I haven't been too much of a pest!) and have been thrilled by how quickly Steve has been improving. And then I read yesterday's entry. It brought tears to my eyes. I loved that picture, and then when Shannon described that he voluntarily climbed out of the cage and up to her shoulder in order to receive more affection -- now I have goosebumps!

What an amazing testament to the power of choices, and to the resiliency of parrots. Shannon let Steve set the pace. She watched his body language and used positive reinforcement to help him progress. She gained his trust, and now she's reaping the benefits of her patience. Steve has no idea how lucky he was to have found his way to such a wonderful, caring person. I look forward to watching his continued progress.

Shannon, I've said this a million times, but thank you so much for taking Steve into your heart and home and providing him with the best family/flock he could have hoped for. Thank you for paying attention to his subtle communication attempts and not forcing him or getting disappointed in him. Thank you for sharing his story so that others in seemingly hopeless parrot situations can see what's worked for you and what might work for them. Thank you for being an amazing person and becoming a friend. When we took Steve in, I never could have imagined such a happy ending for all involved.

Thank you.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More jealousy

Another one from last night -- Thomas had Max on his hand and they were talking. Stella immediately flew to his shoulder to supervise. After I took this picture, I realized that Beeps was also keeping an eye on things.Parrots are so nosy!

Long grey story

Last night after work, Thomas was trying to read the paper, but Max had other plans. She was preening herself while standing on the paper, offering her neck to him, and being adorable:It worked -- she knows how to get what she wants:
Noticing something was up, Stella flew over from her stand to perch on the back of his chair:
However, that did not afford her a good view of what was going on, so she jumped on to perch on Thomas's shoulder:
I'm not sure if she wanted in on the head pets or just wanted to prevent Max from getting them, but Stella soon flew down to the table:
I know I'm anthropomorphizing, but it looks like she's giving Max such an angry look!:
Thomas tried to give her head pets, but she just nipped at his fingers (nothing painful):
So he went back to Max:
Apparently, Stella's work here was done, so she jumped on his arm and climbed to her favorite perch:
His shoulder:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Max and Rocky weird togetherness

I've written before, for example, here, about this strange relationship that Max and Rocky occasionally have. Most of the time they completely ignore each other. If anything, Max gets jealous of Rocky's attention from Thomas and tries to buzz Rocky away from him. A few times a year, however, they play somewhat together, with infrequent posturing warning the other bird away.

Usually this involves towels or some kind of fabric, like pants. Last night, it was Thomas's housecoat that he'd left on the back of a chair (rips and tears previously provided by the parrots.)

Can you see Rocky?
He's a little more obvious in this picture:
And then a quick video, to show them in action:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rocky fun

(If the timeline seems a bit weird, that's because I wrote this entry Sunday but had trouble with the videos so couldn't post until Tuesday.)

Since Rocky was a little sad that I've returned to the household, Thomas was trying to give him a little bit of extra attention. During the past few days, Max has also become obsessed with Rocky. She's been following him around and frequently buzzing him. Yesterday, she and Rocky were on the shower curtain rod as Thomas showered. Apparently Max tackled Rocky and the two of them tumbled down to the shower floor. So Max will be in some of these videos/pictures, and she was probably close but cropped out of those where she doesn't appear!For these videos -- sorry about my background laughing (though some of the laughing is from the birds as well), but it was so funny in person. At first, Thomas was pretending that Rocky was a hidden weapon and drawing him out of his jacket. Then, he started mimicking one of the scenes from one of our favorite TV shows, The Office (British version).

In the final video, Thomas was playing with Rocky, who loves this kind of hands-on interaction. It also helps keep him healthy between vet visits, as Thomas can check him over for more tumors and keep tabs on the tumor on his uropygial gland to make sure it's not increasing in size.