Monday, October 31, 2011

Parrot alarm clock

Over the weekend, I had an idea for a product: the parrot alarm clock.

Let's say you set your alarm for 5 am.  For the first 5 minutes or so, it could be very sweet noises -- light chirping, a sweet grey saying, "wanna get up?  I love you!"  Maybe some pleasant whistling.

If you don't turn the alarm off and get out of bed, it slowly escalates the parrot noises -- repetitive caique beeping, perhaps, or violent bell-ringing.

If you're not up by 5:10, it starts in on amazon alarm calls or macaw squawking.

5:15?  The big guns are called in: cockatoo screaming.

Bath time!

Since the floor was getting washed, we decided it would be a good time for the parrots to get clean as well!  Max loves getting sprayed, though she dries quickly with a shake and rarely looks as wet as the other birds:
Like Calypso.  He had to go and bath a little more in his water dish after I'd sprayed him, even though I'd completely drenched him:
Basil also joined in on the fun:
The rest of the parrots were uninterested, so we didn't force the issue.

In the kitchen

I think one of the reasons Calypso loves being moved to the kitchen is he gets many more treats than he did in the living room.  Just because he sees us with food, and since he's right there, we acquiesce.  Here he is, eating some celery that he probably wouldn't have gotten if he were still in the living room:
Thomas was washing the living room floor, so he moved all of the parrots' cages out his way.  This meant that Basil got to spend the afternoon in the kitchen.  He really enjoyed it there as well.  We'll definitely have to get an open concept floor plan in our next house!  Basil, with celery:
Max had flown into the kitchen, as usual.  I was making cookies, and from the start, she started dancing and saying "want some!"  She would not be deterred, even when all I had was flour in the bowl.  Yes, here is Max, eating flour!  What is wrong with her?  Who eats just flour?
Of course I removed her as soon as I took this picture.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Taking a drink of water

Last night, I got home from work a bit later than usual, so Thomas had beaten me home.  As soon as he heard me, Beeps flew into the kitchen. (He's at that stage of his hormonal period where he wants nothing more than to be on, or at least near, me at all times.)

However, Beeps got a bit distracted when he saw a mug of water on the table and decided he was thirsty.  The mug was perfectly caique-sized, and it was so cute watching him drink out of it.  However, before I could take a picture, Max flew over and bullied him away from the water.

I don't even think she was thirsty; she just wanted to prevent Beeps from doing what he wanted to do.
Happy ending for Beeps -- I picked him up and spent some one-on-one time with him, which he much prefers anyway.

Greys and greens

I had some greens left over from making Andreas's food for the week.  Max loves tearing into greens, so I'd set the bunch on the stand; she immediately went down there to destroy.  I know I should have expected this, but Stella also climbed down and the two of them got to work:

Amazingly, this went on peacefully for probably 20 minutes or so.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Brian wants to come out of his cage

When Brian's in his cage, he's usually on his boing, trying to make it swing more.  Whenever we approach him, he leaps to the front of the cage, hoping to come out.  Unfortunately, I was on my way to work, so he just got some verbal attention and foot rubs.
If you listen closely at the very end, he starts to whistle, but I turned the camera off too soon to hear much of it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The potato eaters

Nope, not the Van Gogh masterpiece, but a little bit of weirdness from the greys.  Earlier this week, I had set some vegetables out on the counter so I could chop them up and throw into the slow cooker.

As soon as I left them unattended for a minute, the greys flew over to the counter and started creating havoc.  That's what they do best, after all.

Parrots do not eat raw potatoes, so I thought, if anything, they'd go after the carrots.  But I was wrong.
Of course, they are not eating any of the raw potato, just destroying it.  Max had been doing more destroying when I first came upon them, but when I came closer to make this movie, she stopped and came over to me, hoping I'd pick her up.

In which Rocky talks like a robot

Not sure what he's saying at all, but as Thomas was scratching his head yesterday, Rocky was talking like a robot.

Of course, at the beginning he has to come over to threaten me a bit (half-hearted attempt this time.) This ends up getting him a little too excited, so Thomas withdrew his hand as soon as Rocky started showing signs that he might regurgitate.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brian explores a bit

Over the weekend, we had Brian out on the table as we were eating.  He was very intrigued by an ice pack that was on the table:

I happened to catch him in mid-stretch when he was readjusting his wings:
He'd probably be embarrassed if he saw the angle of this picture.  Good thing he doesn't have Internet access!

Monday, October 24, 2011


Max was a little scared at first by this giant ear of corn (it's just regular-sized, but we always cut it up into chunks for the parrots), but eventually she realized it was corn and tried it:
But she really prefers it this way:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Max wants to step up

I guess I was in a video-taking mood earlier this week.  I thought I'd post this since I usually show Max getting into trouble, when that's only a small portion of her personality!
She does say "hello" after I greet her -- it's just hard to hear since Rocky's throwing a fit about something in the background.  It's also hard to hear her kisses, but she makes the sound the second time I ask her.  The first time, she did one of her contact calls -- she whistles the first part and I respond.  Sometimes I whistle the first part and she responds.  Or I whistle the first part and then she whistles the first part (again!) and I respond.

As you can see, she really wanted to step up!

Rocky greets me

Earlier this week, Thomas was working late, so I was home alone with the parrots. They'd already eaten dinner, as evidenced by the pieces of vegetable stuck to Rocky's beak. I was in the kitchen with a bunch of the parrots, but Rocky stayed in the living room.

I heard him saying "Hello" for a few minutes when I decided to grab my camera and make a video.
Normally we say "hello" back and forth; not sure if he was showing off for the camera or just hoping that by repeating the greeting, Thomas would arrive.  In any case, I find his behavior once I say "hello" to him quite funny -- he turns his back on me and then says bye bye!

It's hard to hear him, but at the end is another thing we frequently do together -- we repeat "gimme a kiss" and then make kiss sounds.  However, he almost whispers when he says this, so my voice is overpowering.  You can see his beak move and you can hear his kisses (which always start out more like clicks -- the video was getting quite long so I stopped before he started sounding a bit more like kisses.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Brian eats muffins

Over the weekend I made sweet potato squash muffins, using a pumpkin muffin recipe, as I had three sweet potato squash from the farmers' market and wasn't sure what to do with them. They turned out really well, and were particularly a hit with Brian:
Unfortunately for him, all of the muffins have been eaten, so he's back to toast and apples for breakfast.


Thomas has had to work a bit later than usual this month, and while it makes us all sad, Stella is probably the one who misses him the most. When he gets home at a normal, more reasonable time, she flies to the fridge when she hears the garage door open so she can be right there when he enters the back door. When he's (60-90 minutes) later than usual, she flies there frequently and makes sad sounds while staring at the door:
I tell her he's coming back soon and try to have fun without him, but she really wants him.

I took this picture about 5 minutes after he got home from work, just after he'd changed out of his work clothes (in case you were worried he wore a housecoat to the hospital -- nope!)  Rocky had walked into the kitchen, so the two of them were standing at the patio door, watching the squirrels.  Both greys missed him, so they flew over and then the four of them watched the squirrels:

Concetrated parrots

All four of these guys have their own cages, in this room, but they frequently all hang out on the stand:
Of course Rocky had to threaten me:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wood chips

If I'd known how well Calypso would take to the kitchen, I would have moved him years ago. He's loving it! He's been warming up to Thomas a lot, which has been great to see.

This morning, he grabbed a wood slice out of his foraging bucket and started chipping it up. He usually doesn't photograph well, but I thought this picture turned out beautifully:

Clown loach disappearing act

We have a very sneaky clown loach in our aquarium. She manages to completely disappear for hours at a time! We don't have that many hiding spaces, so I have no idea where she is. After several days of not being able to find her, I thought perhaps she'd died and been eaten by the other occupants of the tank, but yesterday when I got home from work, she was out and begging for food along with the other two:
This is reminiscent of our pleco, who would disappear for months at a time.  Ultimately, I was able to discover her hiding place.  Unfortunately, she died in August while we were on vacation.  It was a shock as we should have had her for many years yet.  We have not replaced her, opting for more frequent tank cleanings.

Rocky and boxes

I was a few seconds too late to get the picture I wanted. I had given Rocky a box yesterday morning. The first thing he did was chew an entrance hole so he could easily go inside. When I first saw him, he was completely inside the box. I'd called his name and he stuck his head up through the far right side top. Adorable!
By the time I got the camera, he was leaving the box in order to threaten me by banging his toys against the side of his cage:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Max needs a break

When we were bottling, the greys were in the kitchen. Of course they would occasionally start chasing each other around, usually instigated by Stella. Max must have gotten tired of this, as she went to sit on a chair that was pushed in to the table, giving her privacy:
She stayed down there for probably 30 minutes or so, until we left the kitchen and I took her with us into the living room.

Brian eats apples

During breakfast, Brian runs around on the table, stopping occasionally to eat some of Thomas's toast or my cut-up apple.

Over the weekend, Thomas was eating a whole apple, and was resting his hand on the table, when Brian ran over and started helping himself:
It's shocking that I managed to get a picture before he ran over to pose for the camera.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Beeps and the fish

Having moved Calypso into the kitchen, we needed to move one of the stands in order to have room for his cage. The stand is placed in front of our aquarium, across from Beeps's cage. Surprisingly, the parrots love having another stand in the living room, even though they have their cages as well.

Beeps particularly likes the stand. If he's on the end and stretches his body out, he can glimpse what's going on in the kitchen without having to fly in there. I'm not sure this will have a positive impact on his fitness level!

He also likes to watch the fish swimming around. I tried to get a picture of him watching the fish, but he turned to me as soon as he saw the camera (the camera is something that can trigger attacks.)

In this picture, it looks like the fish are ganging up on him to launch an attack!

Cage sharing

Yesterday, we were doing some bottling in the kitchen.  Our birds who live in the kitchen (Calypso and Brian) were there with us and so were the greys, who'd flown in as they like to be where we are.  Basil was hanging out on his cage.  Beeps was locked inside his cage as bottling is an activity that triggers him to attack us.  Rocky was free to roam around the living room, which usually means he's ripping up phone books under his cage.

What this boils down to is light supervision of the parrots in the living room (Basil, Beeps, and Rocky.)  By "light supervision" I mean that we listen closely for any sign of trouble (Rocky and Basil are notorious tattle-tales; we also listen for any flight) and I go in to check on everyone approximately every 3 minutes.  I must also add that Rocky and Beeps get along and ignore Basil.  I would never trust light supervision with Brian (due to size difference) or for any birds who have shown any problems with each other in the past (Max-Beeps, Calypso-Beeps, Max-Rocky, Calypso-Basil...)

On one of my three-minute checks, this is what I found:
Yes, that's right.  They were both in Beeps's cage!!!  Rocky will frequently spring Beeps from his cage by opening up one of the food doors.  However, yesterday, unlike previous times, Beeps decided to stay inside the cage with Rocky!  They were both happily playing with Beeps's toys!
This is not acceptable.  Even though they get along, I didn't want to run the risk of something happening in a confined space where it would be difficult to easily escape, as only the food door was open.  We opened the main door, as well as the nest box door, to provide options.  I stayed there until the cage no longer had two occupants.

Beeps immediately climbed on the nest box door; I wasn't fast enough to get a picture of him perching on it, as Rocky decided to exit as well, prompting Beeps to take flight:
Rocky on the nest box door; of course he had to come out to threaten me a bit, but then he went back inside Beeps's cage.  We decided to let Beeps stay out, as long as he didn't come into the kitchen to attack us.  He didn't; preferring to go inside Max's cage and play with her toys (Max was in the kitchen with us and does not know about her intruder.)
Back inside:
Every time I'd go in to check on them, he'd threaten me a bit through the door, but then retreat back to the inside of Beeps's cage once I'd left.
About a minute after one of my checks, Rocky started screaming.  Even though three doors were open (regular door, nest box door, food door), he was upset that he was inside the cage!  Due to our policy of parrot personal responsibility, I told him it was his duty to improve his situation.

With an audience, this is the first way he chose to approach his problem:
As soon as I returned to the kitchen, he got himself out of the cage and then walked in to the kitchen.  I suspect he wanted to show me that he knew how to get out all along.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Night fright club

On Fridays, we don't run, so we sleep in a bit later than usual and then have a more peaceful morning.  This morning, Thomas got up at 5:30 and I was still in bed.  About 10 minutes later, I hear one of the parrots thrashing about their cage.  It was Max, having a night fright.  Thomas went over to make sure she was OK, and then I heard him say something like, "I guess you can come out since you're up anyway."  The parrots are supposed to sleep until 7 so they get 12 hours of sleep.

Guess what happened next?

That's right -- Stella had a "night fright."  And yes, I am putting that in quotes as I suspect it was faked as she saw that it worked for Max.  Thomas thought the same, as I hear him say to her, "I probably shouldn't reward you for this, but if you want to come out so badly..."

I told him this better not have started a trend as they could injure themselves by having "night frights" frequently.  Yet again, these greys are too smart for their own good.


Yesterday morning, something alarmed Calypso. I have absolutely no idea what. He appeared to mostly be looking outside, but I could see no movement, and I don't think he'd be able to see hawks or anything like that, given the density of the trees in our backyard.

In any case, he did this for about 20 minutes and then all was well with the world again.

Warning: the audio on this video is irritating!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

...and so does Rocky

Right after Brian took his bath, Thomas went into the bathroom to shower. I grabbed Rocky and was bringing him in to shower with Thomas, but was met with a surprise: Brian had flown off of the kitchen table and found Thomas in the bathroom. I guess he didn't want to be left alone! So we exchanged parrots -- I took Brian and Thomas took Rocky. I think I got the better deal there!

It was pretty steamy in there today:
He started clicking, and then "singing and dancing" with no provocation.  He loves the shower!

Brian bathes

I had made a much better video of this, but apparently I hadn't pressed "record."  Argh!  As Thomas was drinking this morning, Brian kept trying to fly into his glass, a clear signal Brian wanted to take a bath!

Right before this, in the video I didn't actually take, he'd jumped all the way inside and splashed around a bit before exiting again.
A still shot, mid-bath:
After; my wet budgie:
We've tried other bathing methods, but this is what he prefers.  I have no idea why -- since he'd never been let out of his cage at his previous home, it's not like this is what he was used to.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Calypso forages

Being in the kitchen means Calypso is getting on the blog more frequently!  This morning, I looked over and he was standing on his foraging bucket, throwing out his foot toys and toy parts.  After he was done, I put everything back in and I'm sure he'll empty it again soon.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Kitchen birds

Calypso may have permanently become a kitchen bird.  We moved him in a month or so ago because his hormones were out of control.  We thought perhaps a change of scenery and removal from the presence of Beeps and Basil (the two parrots he'd try to attack) would do him some good -- and it did!

We tried bringing him back in the living room over the weekend.  Within minutes, he tried to attack Beeps; thwarted, he turned his attention to Basil (thwarted again.)  Needless to say, he immediately went back into the kitchen!

I think he likes getting more one-on-one attention in the kitchen, especially in the morning before we get the other birds up.  He's even starting to bond with Thomas a bit more, which has been great to see.  This could have something to do with receiving a near-daily piece of toast from him:
Brian continues to get his toast in the following way:
He mostly just rips tiny pieces of toast off (you can see the crumbs on the plate under his beak) rather than eat much.  It's a giant toast toy.

In other Brian news, he talks a lot when he's on my shoulder, but much of it is unintelligible budgie chatter.  So, it may go like this: "chatter chatter chatter gotta go chatter chatter shot and a beer chatter."  Or, "chatter get me a beer *whistle whistle whistle* chatter chatter do ya wanna."  With me understanding less than half of the words he says (and with much of what he says tantalizingly incomplete -- where do you gotta go?  Do I wanna what?)  This weekend, for the first time, included in that chatter, he said his name, but with a bit of an impediment -- he said "Bwian."  Can he get any cuter?  (I am trying to get this on video, but he really only talks when he's on our shoulders, and when he sees the camera, he quiets down and gazes into the lens.)  Maybe someday I will be successful!

A bit of Rocky

Rocky, who screams when he's locked inside his own cage, again willingly went into someone else's cage to play with toys:
He then came out and started throwing all of the foot toys and toy parts out of Calypso's foraging bucket:
He's gone back to doing one of my favorite things: hanging out underneath his cage.  This is nesting behavior.  This year, in a twist, he knocked a phone book off of the top of his cage and dragged it under so he can shred it.

Last night, Thomas was trying to get Rocky to come out as it was time to go to bed, but Rocky stayed under the cage, singing and talking.  We think he was trying to entice Thomas into his nest, but as it's barely big enough for a severe macaw to enter, a human certainly wouldn't fit.

Thomas was prone on the floor, asking Rocky to come out.  Of course, when I came over to take a picture, Rocky emerged to threaten me:
After he was in his cage, we had more sweeping to do.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Foraging for air

Last weekend I'd found an old foraging tower that Max used to use many years ago.  I don't think I've even had it out in the 3+ years Stella's been with us.  It was on the table, and there was a cashew in it, which (with my help), Max managed to dispense this morning.

Then, even though I hadn't replaced the cashew, which Max should have known since the toy is see-through, she started playing with the levers, hoping a nut might materialize.  Of course this brought Stella over, and for quite some time, both of them were banging on different sides of the tower.
I didn't get a good picture of both of them working on it at the same time, but it was funny to watch.  I don't think Stella had any idea why she was doing that, but I suspect Max was hoping for a cashew.
Maybe this weekend I'll put another nut in and see if they can figure it out.

Some recent questions

I had a few questions in the recent comments that I thought I might just address here instead of in the comments since it took me some time to finally get around to them!

phonelady asked: do greys just naturally get into everything ? sure sounds like they do from your gang

Of course I can't answer this for all greys since every parrot is an individual, but I do think that greys have the tendency to be very curious and intelligent and therefore get into everything, including trouble!  I must also add that when Max was a single grey, she did not get into nearly as much as she has since Stella arrived.  Because they are flock animals, I believe that the presence of another grey motivates them to explore.  I also believe that a big part of the reason why Stella transformed so quickly into a happy bird after her mutilation is the presence of Max -- even though they don't physically interact, I think that Max was a good role model for Stella.

Additionally, we encourage our parrots to explore and make their own choices as much as possible.  That, combined with the fact that they can fly, may make them more likely to get into things than an average grey who is clipped and may only come out of his cage a few times a month.  The fact that they frequently find food only reinforces this!

D. Richard asked: What if I may ask is the status of , Basil, Thought he would be home by now or do I not remember the proper dates ?

Officially, Basil is still just a foster bird.  He is willed to us, so we were expecting to have him full-time at some point, though we thought it would be decades yet until this happened.  Originally, he was just supposed to stay with us for a month or two, but it's not been nearly 10 months.  His owners aren't ready yet to officially sign him over to us, though I suspect that will happen soon.

Luckily, he is quite possibly the lowest-maintenance parrot I have ever met.  That's part of the reason I write about him so infrequently -- he's not doing many exciting things!  He has integrated well into our house, has learned our routines, and I think he's pretty happy.  I'd like to eventually get him playing with toys more frequently and stepping up nicely, but we have lots of time to work on that.

I do have a bit of guilt about keeping him, though if he is surrendered to us, he'll stay.  He took the last open spot in our house, which I'd been planning on using to foster birds for the rescue and adopt them out, like with Steve.  There's actually a (mutilating, seizure-prone so on meds twice a day, blind) grey at the rescue that I'd be fostering right now if it weren't for Basil.  It doesn't sit well with me that such an easy, low-maintenance bird is taking the place of someone who needs us more, but that's the way things are.

D Richard continues: I am no spring chicken myself and I am a little worried about what to do with my flock in any event . I was wondering after you sent a review of RIO . what do you think of my leaving money to have my flock released in their respective lands at least for the conures and lovebirds . Australia does not want the cockatiels back and the same with the quaker, Both considered agricultural pests . But do you have any thoughts ?  I don't have family or friends that would want them , Any of them

I am not aware of any programs that return former pets to the wild, but frankly, I'd be very hesitant to go this route.  While I do wish that all parrots could be wild and that we'd never brought them into our homes, I don't believe that those who've lived so long in captivity would possess the skills to survive and thrive in their native land.  I've read a bit about the work done by the Ara Project in breeding macaws to release in the wild, and spoke with a biologist doing that work in Costa Rica.  It's a lot of work to make sure that the bird is ready to live in the wild and won't just walk up to a human (to be recaptured) as that's what they know.  I've also read about work done by captive breeding programs by the International Crane Foundation (for cranes, obviously!) and was involved in helping to raise orphan baby wildlife when I volunteered at a wildlife rescue center, and I know they try very strongly to make sure that the animals will not associate humans with food.

That being said, if you can't find any individuals who will take your birds when you're no longer around, I think the best thing to do is connect with a parrot rescue to make plans.  This includes leaving money for them to be taken care of, possibly by means of an insurance policy.  This should help ensure that the facility will be able to take your birds when it's time (many rescues are currently full with long waiting lists for surrenders and this problem will only get worse every year.)  The good thing in your case is that your birds are smaller, so it should be easier to find someone to take them, even if it means they are split up.  It's very difficult to find a good home for a cockatoo or macaw.  I wish I had a better answer for you.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

More neti pot fun

Stella is obsessed with Thomas and with the neti pot, so the combination of the two is irresistible for her. This was the scene this morning; yes, she is perching on his ear:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pay attention to me!

Ran a marathon over the weekend, which meant that the afternoon was spent relaxing and eating.  Thomas was in the living room watching football.  I had been there as well, but then decided to go into the kitchen to listen to playoff baseball and catch up on the paper.

Of course, Max had to follow me in.  I think she was a little miffed that I wasn't paying attention to her, as she started doing cute things to make me notice her:

Then, she flew to the table, found a receipt, and started shredding it:
She wasn't interested in this pecan when I'd offered it to her a few days earlier, but when she found it on Brian's cage, then it was interesting:
I brought Calypso from his cage (which is still in the kitchen) to the table so he could roam around.  He decided to perch on my glass:
And then beg for me to pick him up:
So, not much roaming.  Mostly trying to figure out how to get me to pick him up.

Rocky was torn -- stay behind with his preferred person, or keep an eye on his nemesis (me)?  Several times, I caught him on the threshold of the hallway, trying to peek in on me.  You'd think he just would have enjoyed some alone time with Thomas.
More paper shredding from Max:
The afternoon turned out not to be as relaxing as I'd hoped.