Friday, January 27, 2012

Valentine's Day contest for African Grey girls!

I have talked about Oliver's Garden Bird Toys before, a parrot toy store run by a friend of mine, Susan. Anyone who has looked through Susan's website knows that she is not only very creative (her toys are all handmade and quite original!) but also has an incredible sense of what parrots like. Anyone that has talked to Susan also knows how much fun she is! So naturally, owing to the former knowledge, any contest she holds with her toys as prizes is something I am very interested in. And owing to the latter knowledge, I know that any contest she holds will be unlike any other. So it is with the contest she is currently holding on her Facebook fan page, (you can also enter via the email on her website) in which she, or rather Oliver, her African Grey, is looking for his true love by making his own little black book. Any and all female greys, Congo or timneh, are welcome to enter with their picture, location, and a brief write-up about themselves. As the prize, Susan is making a dowry for Oliver's choice- a drawing will take place on Valentines Day, and the dowry already includes a platform perch, a new toy called Dinner 4-2, and a rescue rope, and Susan has said if she gets more entrants she will add more to the dowry. However, Oliver is looking for 50 girls for his book, and so far he only has 32! Anyone out there with a lonely grey girl to introduce? I know Oliver (and Susan!) would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oh my, Miss Clementine!

This post is about two months overdue, but I wanted to wait and see how things settled before posting. I was admittedly apprehensive, as I always am with a new bird, although it has been a while since my last. Really, I do not have hankerings for another bird even when I had far fewer- I wanted the budgies, I wanted a cockatiel after that, and I wanted an ekkie, though I had to wait years for that one. I am really not sure how the rest came to be permanents (ok, I admit I did want a friend for each), I think there must be a secret cue somewhere. The idea of bringing home another bird was not something I was going to do, I like my current mix, why change it? However, things just seemed to lead in this direction, and after taking the plunge, I can say it was actually one of the smoothest additions, and definitely the right choice! So without further ado, I would like to introduce Clementine, the newest member of this unorthodox clan.

Clementine is an African Grey. I would say  Congo African Grey, but quite frankly, after meeting her, I have to give some credence to the rumors of a third population of greys (whether a total subspecies or just distinct group) since she looks so very different from any other African Grey. For one thing, she is smaller than some Timneh greys, for another, her grey coloring seems different, plus her general head and beak is not the same shape as those I have seen, at least. Lastly, her tail is quite short, and her wing feather tips are almost an inch longer. Moving on to her other so-called vital statistics, she is around 65 years old, wild caught obviously, and has lived in 3 other homes besides mine, each for roughly the same amount of time. She is decidedly a she, since she laid 4 eggs in her last home (so over a period of 20 years) with her last egg being just a couple of years ago. She also loves tomatoes and does not approve of the red feathers that started coming in on her legs in the last few years. Tomatoes she eats and/or wears on her head as a not very effective bomb raid helmet, her red leg feathers she pulls. Overall she seems quite healthy, and is out of quarantine.

Clementine is very tame and friendly, and loves head scritches. I am trying to be very careful to limit any petting, even head scritches, since she has well-proven her preference for selecting one person and bonding to them heavily as mate, and thereby defending them from all others. Granted, living alone this may not seems a huge issue, but in general parrots, like people, are happier living in reality, and I just do not see myself making a very good grey husband, so I think boundaries are necessary to set.

Interestingly, as I was not sure if Clementine would not prefer to be kept in her own room away form the other parrots, she has really settled in, at least with the ekkies. In fact, she and Chester are quite close, they took an almost immediate liking to each other, after the first day when Chester gave me my first bite. Although I have never let them near each other out of their cages, they do carry on quite a bit. She starts to say or whistle or sing something, he finishes, and vice versa. Claudia, of course, likes everyone and had no problem with Clementine.

Clementine certainly does love her toys, I have to refill her foot toy bucket daily for all the chipping. She is very active, always up to something, and although her feet are not what I am sure they were in her younger days, she is quite acrobatic. She has probably an average (among pet parrots) affinity for fresh foods, although she did learn to accept my mash, and eats some fresh foods in the larger chopped pieces I give the ekkies. On the other hand, their are some fresh foods she eats that the ekkies will not, like figs (what is up with that? My ekkies also refuse papaya, and yet they really are good eaters otherwise), so that is nice.

Biggest difference with her age? She knows her stuff, and she does her own thing. She is quite confident, but that could easily be personality. But you just get the feeling around her that she knows people, easy-peasy. She has got it covered. If afraid, she does not panic, but takes it in stride and assesses the situation. Overall, though, she is just a fun bird that has had longer to learn to put her challenges and issues behind her.

Oh, she loves head scritches! It is hard to get action photos, 
since if I come over, she wants to dance, or sing, or scitches, hands on, etc-
not forage or play!

Chatty chatty, Miss Personality!

Window thoughts, she does love going outside-
I am working on harness training her, quite easy, actually.

Here you can see her wingtips- 
her wings are not held relaxed back in this photo.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Be gentle now, quakers!

My quakers are not always the, erm, nicest, finger-wise, anyway. Frank, for his own personal reasons, is very unpredictable, but Lola is fairly normal, a bit grouchy with her age, and she always was cage territorial, but it should be made clear she is not in the same category as Frank! Either way, the point remains the same- how do you redirect their energy when you need them to do something and they are not in the mood? There are many methods, spoken about in length in books and online, mostly focusing on having certain behaviors so well trained that you can always fall back on them. Stick training, for instance, or a trick, such as a wave, to distract them. And while I do have to go through some of Frank s repertoire of tricks every couple of minutes when I am interacting with him to keep him engaged and in a good mood, I have one specific routine I do whenever I need to get either one in a good mood so I can move on to whatever the necessary task may be.

Both Frank and Lola love giving kisses. I had Frank first, though, so I developed this with him. I gave Frank kisses all the time when we were interacting (ie, during highly positive moments) and this eventually turned into a bit of a trick. I ask him to give me a kiss, and either offer my finger or my forehead (above the hairline- he cannot do much beak damage there) and he leans forward, touches me with his beak, and makes a kissing sound. He often initiates it himself now by asking the question. This became, and still is, above and beyond his very favorite thing in the whole world, loved more than anything else, food, head scritches, singing, clapping, anything. In fact, I now use it as a reward training other tricks! More importantly, though, because this routine is so highly valued by Frank, I can use it to get him out of a depression or break an attack rampage, or get him away from something he should not be chewing on. He really loves it that much! I have now added another version of the kiss game, so when he shakes my finger, I tell him to be a gentleman, and he leans down and gives my finger a kiss while still holding it. Sometimes he gets a bit carried away, though, and becomes positively French (or Italian?) giving me many kisses up and down my finger! Hard to believe he is the same bird that can be so unpredictable and rather dangerous.

Lola, like many parrots, also came knowing a kiss sound. Hers was different from Frank, and she loves getting lots of little whispering kisses in a row, to which she responds by bouncing her head from side to side, looking at you with first one eye and then the other, while imitating you with her own kisses. She still loves this, it is one of our special things to do together. However, through Frank, she learned the kiss game, and now loves it (almost) as much as he does. I can not say whether it would convince her to stop chewing on an electrical cord, since she is so well behaved anyway, but it does get her to stop protecting her cage or Frank so vigorously so I can pick either one up or mess with their cage!

As you can well imagine, the kiss game has huge cuteness factor. I mean, is their anything cuter than a little green fluff ball leaning over and giving you a big kiss? Yes, my friends there is- a little green fluff ball asking his beloved (other) little green fluff ball if she would like a kiss, before leaning over a giving her one. That certainly takes the cake!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Am I the only one that missed this?

When my brother was here at Christmas, we were looking through my book Parrots, A Guide to Parrots of the World to identify some parakeets he had seen. We did eventually find those (turns out they were Northern Rosella, Hooded, and Scarlet Chested) but along the way I noticed something I had not before, namely, that there are several subspecies of caiques. Makes since, since I had wondered why some look so different. Still, I have to wonder if the reason I never knew more than the white-bellied and black-capped species was because I have never done a lot of in-depth research on them (I usually do general information, and in-depth when I have a need) or because it is not widely noted. According to this book, there are 2 subspecies of the black-capped, and 3 subspecies of the white-bellied. A google search does bring up basic articles mentioning different subspecies, but it is usually in a quick sentence, very little information and so therefore easily missable/forgettable.

Looking at the pictures, though, it seems to me that they should be identifiable from each other with a bit of thought. One of the black-capped subspecies, the P. m. melanocephala has orange feathers under the tail and on the legs, while the P. m. pallidus is pale yellow. Of the white-bellied, the P. l. leucogaster has some green on the legs and a darker orange head than the P. l. xanthurus, who only has yellow leg feathers. The P. l. xanthomeria has the darkest orange head, but most importantly, grey/black feet as compared to the pink feet of the other white-bellied subspecies. Obviously drawings are never the same as real life, but compared to other species that are harder to identify in drawings than in actuality, these seem pretty clear, however true that may be. Now I am interested in finding out if more than one subspecies is commonly kept in captivity, or if they are so cross-bred at this point that it is hard to to tell what they are.

This reminds me very much of the quaker subspecies issue. Those I have done a lot of research on, having two myself, but even so it was a fair bit  into it before I found out there were different subspecies(at the time I did not have a parrot identification book, unfortunately). There are usually considered to be 4 subspecies, although that is disputed by some. I am not clear which mine are, although it is possible only one of the subspecies was mainly brought to this country. I am sure they have been cross bred heavily if there were more than one subspecies captured for captivity. I really think the latter is the case, considering the differences I notice in my two. Lola is not only bigger, her head and eyes are a very different shape, and her coloration is slightly different. She is a bit darker, almost duller, with more blue in her grey, and a longer flatter head with smaller eyes. Frank is more round, and much brighter. It could be individual differences, but I do wonder.

Terrible picture from several years ago, but it is probably
the best one to show the difference between the two.

Of course eclectus have many subspecies fewer people know about- I vividly remember an argument with a self-proclaimed expert on whether they were more than two subspecies of eclectus- and many people assume they are all the same. Still, their subspecies I think are much more widely known and written/talked about that either quakers or caiques. Many of the cockatoos have subspecies whose notoriety lies somewhere in the middle. It is more logical that there would be more than one race for most species, truly. But I am now going to go through this book more seriously to look at the commonly kept species in search of other subspecies I have somehow in my ignorance managed to miss!