In my local bird-store* is a Citron Cockatoo. He is one and a half years old and has been there since he was a baby. Being older, he was moved to the consignment room: a place where birds wait for new homes when they are no longer wanted or can no longer be cared for properly. The cockatoo (who has no name so I will call him Beaker) was once a friendly bird but he showed signs of aggression to all the employees and they stopped taking him out for play. Since I have no problem handling Beaker, I decided to apply the A-B-C’s of behavior analysis to see if I could discover what was driving his behavior. As my teacher Dr. Friedman said, “Behavior is a function of its consequences.” Everyone does what they do for a reason. Discover the reason and you can find an appropriate “replacement behavior” that satisfies the need of the bird and the needs of the people in his world.
History: Beaker would be taken out daily and placed on a Java Tree in a central location in the main part of the store for play and socialization with humans. This location is along a hallway and is used frequently by customers and employees alike. He then began biting people and was promptly returned to his cage after each incident. Over time, he was let out less often.
I took Beaker out for observation. As soon as I entered the main room, he became nervous and trembled. I placed him on the arm of a chair located in a less-frequented part of the main room. Birds are prey animals and look around to see if a predator might be stalking them. Quiet corners are usually the safest place to put a bird to make them feel secure. I preened him for several hours and observed that he seemed oblivious to almost everything but preening. When no longer being preened or preening he became startled at any changes in the room. For example, a couple sat on the bench next to us. He was so busy preening that when one got up and the other moved over slightly, when he was done he looked over and then jumped. I also noticed that whenever an employee walked by, he froze, became nervous, and when they attempted to approach, took flight.
Using the information that I observed, I came up with these A-B-C’s:
Environmental: Employee attempts to move Beaker to a Java Tree
Antecedent (what happened just prior to behavior): employee approaches Beaker
Behavior: Beaker bites
Consequence: Employee moves Beaker back to his cage
My analysis of this situation is that Beakers’ nervous condition combined with his being placed in a central location with a lot of activity has made him prefer his cage to that location. His biting has rewarded him with being removed from that area and has therefore reinforced it. He has been taught that by acting aggressively or fearfully by flying away and being “uncontrollable” he will not have to do something he does not want to do.
When Beaker bit me (no bleeding), I did not respond by returning him. I responded by telling him softly “no bite” and to “calm down” and proceeded to pet and kiss him.
When a bird suddenly changes behavior, there is always a reason.
*I do frequent a local birdstore where the owners are helpful when I have issues with my birds or have questions. I do not support the buying and selling of birds. I am outspoken in my belief, a belief founded on solid scientific evidence, that birds should not be hand raised by humans because it causes functional autism and psychotic behavior, that they do not belong in cages, and that babies should be fed by their parents and not by the alien hands of humans.
[Ed: Those seeking proof of the effects of hand-rearing should read Hand-Rearing: Behavioral Impacts and Implications for Captive Parrot Welfare pp. 83 - 91, The Manual of Parrot Behavior, Andrew Luescher, Blackwell Publishing, 2006. This text is the gold standard for our current knowledge about psittacine behavior. One should never let a Google search do more than wet their appetite for information and always seek current, peer-reviewed, texts on the subject studied. The Manual is, at this time, that text.]
Chloe Sanctuary Mash Recipe and Variations
DEAR COOKS: If you know of anyone looking to adopt parrots or cockatoos, please send them our way. Finding those willing to allow a feathered heart into their home is a rough task indeed. Our free education seminars online and in person will help insure the human companion / animal bond!
[A good source for grains and beans is Sun Organics in San Marcos. They have a website or you can pick things up in person. Wear a jacket if you go there. They keep everything in the freezer: actually it’s not a freezer it just seems that way.]
Items to make ahead of time: Grain Mixture and Bean Mixture.
Grain Mixture: Triticale, Kamut, Spelt, Amaranth, Quinoa, Barley, Wheat, Millet, and Oat Groats. Use equal parts of each and don’t forget that grains soak up a “ton” of water.
Soak the grains for 4 hours in double the volume of purified water [I use reverse osmosis water]. Increase volume of water to double the volume of grains and bring to a boil. Cover and let cool. Store in freezer bags and freeze until the day before use.
Bean Mixture: Pinto, Navy, white, adzuki, mung, red beans and lentils. Clean, sort and soak overnight in purified water. Drain.
If you are using a pressure cooker do not fill past the halfway point! Be sure and add 1 Tablespoon of oil before cooking in a pressure cooker; this is a safety issue and not to be forgotten! In the pressure cooker add enough water to reach the 3/4 mark of the cooker [see manual of your cooker]. Bring up to pressure and cook for 3 minutes. Take off heat and let cool until the pressure cooker safety valve releases the handle. On older models be careful; be sure the cooker has dropped pressure. When cool enough to bag, put excess into freezer bags and freeze.
Alternately, you can cook on a stove cook for 30 minutes at a simmer. You will need to have a minimum of double the height of water in the pot to cook the beans.
Preparation for meal:
Note: In pressure cooking the vegetables I always add enough vegetable oil at the base of the cooker to form a 1/4 inch layer at the bottom and then add the chopped carrots first.
Use roughly equal parts of chopped each finely chopped vegetable. I use a food processor to chop.
Potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, celery, bok choy, cauliflower, broccoli, butternut squash, crookneck squash, zucchini, summer squash, banana squash, and seasonal additions. Rinse all vegetables prior to chopping in vinegar water. You make vinegar water by using 1 gallon of water with a half cup of vinegar added. This will strip off poison, dirt, and other junk. Drain. Chop the vegetables in a food processor. I usually jchop them into small pieces, about a quarter of an inch or less. Put on top of the carrots in the pressure cooker. If you do not put the carrots on the bottom some of the other vegetables have enough sugar in them but they might actually burn to the bottom of the pressure cooker. The carrots will protect you against this. How do I know? Experience.
In a pressure cooker ad 1 cup of water (see instructions for your cooker) and bring to pressure. Cook 3 minutes and cool in your sink.
In a pot on your stove add enough water to cover and cook until slightly tender. Be careful not to overcook.
Take frozen peas and frozen corn and put in the bottom of a mixing bowl. Pour the hot mixture of vegetables on top of the frozen ones (be sure and drain most of the water out of the vegetables if they were cooked on the stove ). Stir. This helps to cool down the hot vegetables and cook the frozen ones. This is a nice shortcut that helps to retain the flavor of the frozen vegetables as well.
Add a cup of beans and a cup of the grain mixture to the mash per quart of the veggie mixture. Add one cup of organic apple sauce; in this case it is important to use organic applesauce. Add seasonings: cayenne pepper and chili pepper to start. Some ideas: italian seasoning (basil, thyme), sage, coriander...
Variation: add a Tbs or two of almond butter, or a Tbs of low sodium mayonnaise,
Serve slightly warm and add powdered plant enzymes to the mix. Cooking kills plant enzymes and they are necessary for digestion!
Notice the three bowls of food: fruit cup, almond butter mash, and fresh chopped veggies. One other bowl is hidden behind her: the regular mash.
Welcome, dear heart!
Unfortunately, sometimes parrots do escape. Someone might have a cage open in the other room while someone else unknowingly opens the front door. A wing trip might not be done right or done often enough to keep the bird grounded. A bird might learn how to open its cage and sneak away. No matter how many times we as bird owners always think to ourselves that our birds love us and would never leave, the fact remains that when excited or startled, a bird’s first reaction is to fly away… from anything and everything. Including its human.
Saturday, April 28th, my husband called me at work. Our neighbor had heard an odd noise and had gone out on his patio to investigate. He found a little grey cockatiel there, which readily stepped up onto him. Knowing we had birds and thinking it might be ours, he brought the ‘tiel to my husband. We had food and a travel cage that would fit him, so we took him in. But the question is, what does one do with a bird that is someone else’s? What do you do if the worst thing happens, and you lose your own bird?
Prevention is the key, right? So the most important thing to do is to train your bird to prevent its escape. Clipping wings is one option, but its not fail safe, and there are a lot of detrimental behaviors that come along with wing clipping. The alternative is recall training. Teach your bird to come when called, and that will make all the difference. Also, whether wings are clipped, the bird is trained, or not, teach your bird to accept a harness if you plan on taking him out in public. The Aviator harness is the best brand for many reasons, and it comes with a dvd on how to teach your bird to wear it.
A problem with parrots that do get out is identifying them. Chances are, the person who finds them won’t be familiar with every species of parrot. And while we bird people can pick our babies out of a crowd, the average person cannot. So, if your bird has a leg band, write down the inscription. If your bird has a microchip, kept its registration up to date. If your bird has neither, look into it! Also, keep current pictures of your bird. You might need them to prove that you are your bird’s owner.
There are multiple websites available to owners of parrots that have gone MIA. One is www.ParrotAlert.com. I like this one because you can register for an account and get updates for missing birds in your area, so that you can keep an eye out for them. Another is www.911ParrotAlert.com. This one compiles ads from CraigList and other sites and puts them all into one big database for people missing their birds and people who have found birds. Posting lost or found ads on both sites is free and easy. Other print services, like the Penny Saver and the Union Tribune newspaper will run found ads for free, both online and in print. Pet stores and parrot rescues also will take information on lost or found birds and will pass them along to others. The key is to get the word out, and get it out in as broad an area as possible.
The fact that parrots can fly can pose an interesting challenge for parents of escaped birds, because they can fly for miles and miles before anyone finds them. There is a story on the front page of Parrot Alert about a cockatiels that was lost for sixteen months before its owners found him! Another story tells of a bird that was recovered over sixty miles from his home! Many bird species are very hardy, even through cold winters and hot summers, and they learn to survive in the wild. So if you lose a bird, don’t ever give up looking for it. And if you find a bird, please don’t ever give up on finding it’s parents.
So far I have had many heartbreaking inquiries, but no matches to the cockatiel in my care. But he is a very sweet boy and I’m sure someone is desperately missing him. And during the day, he sits on his cages and lets out a flock call, I’m sure to the person or people who he knows as family. Any parrot owner knows that a bond between person and bird is something special. Something that is beyond expression or even comprehension. So we will love him and care for this lost cockatiel no matter what, but will always hope that the family he misses will find their way to him.
Mina will be visiting a girl scout troop and teaching the girls about cockatoos soon. She has done this before and her lessor sulphur crested cockatoo, Haley, is always a big hit.
Chloe is up front in the picture, glowing. Coco is the bird with the lady in blue, and Wilhelmina is the lovely girl with just her head poking up in the crowd.
It is a great place to socialize birds if you are careful to screen people. You need to explain that birds have no hands and that they often use their beaks to get from one person to another. When in doubt: say no. You never know when you have a sue-happy person baiting you wherever you go. Another issue is hawks. Hawks frequent Felicita Park and you should not carry your bird on your shoulder unless someone with “hawk eyes” is watching the sky. The reason for this is clear in this video from the Los Angeles Zoo. With the exception of the cooper’s hawk, hawks dive at tremendous speed with the intent of breaking the neck of the bird. Hawks directly overhead, even at high altitudes, are an immediate threat to your bird. That said, Chloe missed her trip because of weather last fall and I just got myself out of the penalty box by taking her to it last weekend.
Chloe and friend
Wilhelmina (willa) and worshippers
Now Melissa has her with her forever in the form of a tattoo. That tattoo was done on the one year anniversary of Claude’s passing.
How much do we love our feathered companions? More than the general public will ever understand.
Most bird owners are aware that “poopology” is an important part of proper bird care. Put simply, birds are prey animals so they hide symptoms of illness or injury to preserve their lives and the lives of their flock. Makes sense, right? So if your bird acts normal when he/she is sick, how do you know? The proof is in the poop. Yes, your birds droppings do not lie. This is just one reason you want to use paper to line your trays and clean it daily. You need to check for changes in the droppings. So, what are you looking for?
Bird droppings consist of three different factors:
Feces: they are the green part that is usually shaped like a worm. This should have a good shape to it. My birds tend to hold their poop all night and have one very large morning dropping. This makes their first dropping have less shape. The others are normal and that’s important. Now, if your bird is a big fruit eater (like my caique) do NOT freak out if the feces are more brown. What goes in the beak comes out the vent. So much like anything in life, what you put into it is what you get out of it. I have also found that fresh fruit and veggies can sometimes make this have less shape. When you inspect this, always consider what you fed your bird.
Urates: this is the pasty white part of the dropping. It usually looks like your bird ate correction fluid. (Wite-out) This should be white. If this gets yellow, that is a sign of liver issues and you need to go to the vet for a blood work up right away.
Urine: this is the clear wet substance that surrounds the dropping. This should always be clear. Red is an indication of lead poisoning. You cannot get to the vet fast enough if this is the case!
Now, here’s an interesting story of how all this information can steer you wrong. Last week my cockatoo, Haley, had a red tint to the urine of her morning dropping. The second dropping was near it, with less tint. All the others were normal. Naturally I flipped out and felt the need to text local bird friends at 5am. My vet was consulting me by 8am. I emailed him a picture I took on my cell phone and he was confident it would end well since her following droppings were normal. He guessed that the red was blood and was caused by swelling in the cloaca, usually brought on by strain. Strain and swelling in the cloaca can be from constipation and/or mating behavior. I instantly Googled it all and by the time I left work I was ready to have a repeat the following morning and get a referral to Penn University for experts to exam my sweetie pie. When I got home and saw all the other droppings were still normal, I felt a bit better. (in my mind still packing the carrier) Then I remembered one article a vet wrote that I found in my Google-madness. I turned the paper with the dropping over and yes, there was a bright red car ad on the back of my black and white newspaper! The ink had bled through. I drizzled some water on the newspaper around the dropping to be certain it came up the exact same color. After thanking the Universe for the vet who wrote the article advising to check the back of the paper, I exhaled. So as a tip: Make certain the paper is NOT colored on the underside before you wake people at 5am and pack your bags.
The following morning her fresh paper had a dropping that landed where two papers overlapped each other. Her dropping was perfectly clear and normal on one side and red tinted on the other. I took a picture that you can view to show how a perfectly healthy dropping can appear to be a sickly one for you to see.
By Father Don
There are certain basics that apply in nearly every situation. It is important not to give the bird too much attention when they first become a part of your family. This is especially important if the bird has a rough time of it recently. Dazed and confused by the move, the new surroundings, the new people, a change in diet and a new schedule, they need time to get their bearings. It is even worse if they do not have their original cage with them, no matter how bad that cage may have been. It is often a good idea to leave the cage door open and just go about your business as would normally without making a fuss. If they show any interest in you then respond to it but be careful not to move too fast.
There’s one other reason but you should avoid spending too much time with a new bird. A parrot will expect you to give them the same amount of time as when you first brought them into the home. Unfortunately, most people spend a large amount of time with the bird the first few weeks it is in their home and then begin going back to the daily routine of their lives. This leaves the bird feeling, at the very least, left out. This is not the beginning of a good relationship. Buildup to spending as much time with the bird and you plan to spend with that each day for the rest of its life. That being said, most birds require at least 2 hours of attention today and more time playing by themselves. If you can’t do that you shouldn’t have a bird. No one wants a biting, screaming companion; and no bird enjoys screaming and biting. We know normal bird behavior from biologists who have done fieldwork.
There are many aspects to bringing a new bird into your home. The two mentioned above: leaving the cage door open and giving them a proper amount of attention are important. It will save you much grief if you keep them in mind. Also be aware that each bird is a study of one and that you may need to modify some guidelines depending on the bird in your care. Be careful though and take action with care, the early days in your relationship are the foundation of the future.
Love and understanding are two tools best used when a new bird comes into your home. With those who your guide you cannot fail.
Another thing that might frighten you is completely harmless. Be sure and check the other side of the newspaper where you found the unusual color. It might be ink on the other side as in the picture below.
It does look like blood but it is from the print on the other side.
Remember that checking the poop daily is our obligation as concerned parrot parents!
Thanks for all the cages that you donated and everything that you have done for us over the years.
Thank you, Lisa!
Each bird’s needs must be addressed and the safety of all concerned kept in mind. Frankly, it’s a tangle…
When will the season end? It never seems to follow a clear pattern.