Sounds of Not-Silence

“Hey, wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?”

~Lloyd Christmas – from “Dumb and Dumber” ~

What do these things have in common:

  • Chainsaw
  • Lawn mower
  • Thunder clap
  • A Def Leppard concert

Give up? They’re all quieter than a cockatoo!

Each of the above peak at about 120 decibels. A Moluccan Cockatoo, however, can pierce your eardrums with sounds averaging that, according to the San Diego Zoo. And anyone elevenhaving spent time with them, knows full well what the scream of an attention craved cockatoo sounds like!

So, much in the same spirit of my blog entry with a similar theme, I bring you the top 6 “Sounds of Not-Silence”.

 

6. Amazons. Nope, it doesn’t matter which one you chose, just pick a bird at random  and you’ll have yourself a “screaming bloody murder, hide the kids, hit the deck” kind of noise-maker in your house. Bring them to your next New Year’s Eve celebration for some real fun… and please remember to fight the urge to leave them there afterwards!

IMG_0903

Happy New Aaawwwwk Aaaawwwk Aaaawwk Year!

5. Conures. Who said good things don’t come in little packa…. Oh right… I mean, horrendous eardrum-piercing trills, echoing through your house.  Never plan on having another peaceful phone conversation in your life. Ever. Again.

4. Caiques. What is it about these little spazoids that keep earning them a place on these lists? From microwave ovens, to trucks backing up, they seem to take the most simple, common sounds they hear and amplify them ten-fold to unleash Dante’s 9th circle of Hell on your eardrums! Even compared to some of the overtly louder birds on this list, the shrillness of these little birds can cause physical angst among anyone left in the room with them long enough!!

3. African Greys. You thought I’d place these lower, didn’t you? They might seem all sweet and innocent, with their stunning looks and intellectual charm, but that’s all just a guise to throw you off guard. When they want to train you (Ha! You thought you can actually train them?!) they just look at you from across a house and find the one single noise they just know, will piss you off and then repeat it for eternity… or until you get them what they want.

I’ve replaced a smoke detector batteries in my house 7 times in a year and replaced the entire damn thing before I realized my African Grey was secretly enjoying the gag.

IMG_1648

I didn’t do anything… honest!

2. Macaws. These birds are simply a battle of wills. You can give them their toy, play with them, give them a treat or just break down and start screaming at them yourself. Nothing works. They will just pick up their toy, throw it at you, try to take a portion of your finger off when they eat their treat while continuing to yelling at you the entire time. The end of this often results in you trying to out-do your bird; and that’s one battle, you will never be able to win!

1. Cockatoos, specifically Moluccan Cockatoos. The other species can have their moments, and believe me, several Umbrellas have left my ears ringing at times, but Moluccans have to be one of the loudest birds on Earth. Whomever thought a Moluccan Cockatoo would make a great “pet” ought to be locked in a small room with one until their ears bleed – which should only take a few minutes if the bird really craves attention!

I was feeling sympathetic to a Moluccan who really enjoyed my company one time. I brought him home from work to foster him for a while and get him more socialized. The second he open his beak, my dogs evacuated the house and wouldn’t step foot back through the door until he had left the next day. My other birds just looked at me, as if saying “Um…. yeah… he wins!”

So, no, birds are not quiet. You cannot (humanely) de-voice them. Your neighbors will know you have them, as will your neighbor’s neighbor’s neighbor. Size has no effect on the spine-shivering shrillness of some of them. And each bird is guaranteed to find that one wrong time in the wrong place to start making a scene.

The noises they’re capable of unleashing on a human eardrum will make you feel like anything but the emperor basking in the beauty of the nightingale’s song!

usbemporer

Yes, I meant this story! Check it out in Usborne’s Illustrated Fairytales available over at redrockreading.com

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Posted in Animals, Parrots, Uncategorized

You’re Sh****g Me!

Excuse me a second…

  • Grapes? Check.
  • Strawberries? Check.
  • Pomegranate? Check.
  • Cherries? Check.
  • Corn syrup? Check.
  • Molasses? Check.

Now, just stick them on the blender here. Oh, a lid! Nope, don’t need that! I’ll just set that down here and now to turn the speed setting to “11” and here we go!

Alright I’m back. Oh, that? Just ignore the goo oozing off my ceiling there. I’m here to talk about poop.

Poop?!

Seriously, yes… poop. It is, perhaps, one of the most common, simplest, and easiest indications for lay-persons such as ourselves to judge our parrot’s overall, digestive health.

Avian poop (can you tell I live with a 2 year old and had to change my vocabulary a bit?) has 2 parts. You can see that in the white and black colors. Ever wonder what each was (Of course you did! Doesn’t everybody?)? Here’s a hint – Why don’t birds pee?

bird_droppings_car-853x568

Thank God I don’t have to clean this up!

The white part of bird poop is concentrated uric acid. Mammals dilute theirs as urine, birds don’t. Therefore, bird poop is both solid and liquid waste in one.

The darker/black part of the poop is the solid waste. I don’t think I have to make the comparison to mammals on that one!

Birds also pass water through, which usually mixes in with the two and gives it that wonderful splatter ability.

Yeah, not exactly dinner conversation material, is it?

OK, poop. I get it, but… why?

Considering you have both of those, you can now get a fairly good idea of what you should be looking for in your bird’s poop, I hope.

If you notice excessive liquid or white “urine”, then if means your bird isn’t pooping any solid waste. It’s normal at times. Birds don’t always eat, sometimes they just drink and, well, they gotta pee at some point!

If, however, you see an excessive amount of this “urine”, or their poop is generally watery, it could indicate a problem with their diet and/or a health condition; they may be drinking a lot of water for another reason you may need to consider.

There’s also texture to think about. (Yes, we are a strange bunch, thinking about poop texture on a constant basis like this.)

A dry diet… or at least a bird that will eat a dry diet, will generally have more solid, darker poop than one who eats a wetter diet.

We have a Caique who will soak all his food into a soup before he eats it. (Yes, I have tried to explain to him that almond shells do not soften, but so far, it’s a lesson he’ll have no part of!) For months after he came to live with us, I was always worried about him before I connected the dots – wet food = wet poop. Of course, his cage is crusted over with poop on a weekly basis and it requires a metal scraper to even make a dent in the stuff, but in his case, his poop simply reflects his diet.

IMG_3588

Kiku’s water bowl after one freakin’ meal!

Don’t judge me like that! I feel you… Yes, I do line his cage with paper, but the little spaz rolls himself up in it and tears it to shreds within 5 minutes of cleaning his cage *sigh*.

Barring any obvious change in diet, an abnormal shape, color or smell is one of the first signs your bird may have a health issue they need to be checked out for.

Let me stress this one point here: Don’t ask on a message board. Don’t go to Yahoo Answers. Don’t ask a friend. Go to a vet. Go now, do not stop, do not pass go. Go directly to your avian vet.

The best poop?

Budgies. Hands down. Nice, neat little dots on the bottom of a cage floor are almost “cute” compared to an, oh, let’s say, macaw! Couple that by a rather dry diet of grains, seed and some produce and you have a relatively easy cage cleaning ahead of you.

The worst poop?

Lorikeets.

Lory

Just look at that face. You can almost hear him think, “Go ahead, walk under me. I dare ya!”

For the love of God, are they the absolute worst!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you don’t know what a Lorikeet is, you’re not alone. A Lorikeet is one of the only parrots that eats a nectar diet. Their tongues are specially designed to wick up their food, but they’ll eat fruits and other solids as well.

But remember, what goes in…

That blender experiment is exactly what you should expect from a Lorikeet. Take the stickiest, most colorful shades of brown mixed with the rainbow, stick it in a blender and just blast it across your house. You’ll have a slight idea of what to expect with this epic parrot-poop-from-Hell.

You not only get the wonderful glaze on anything and everything around them, but they can aim! Hot, sticky, sour-smelling, projectile bird poop everywhere!!!

The first person who held a Lori and saw that stream of liquid Hell shoot out of their rear, but still thought this was a bird that would be great in a home, should be tar, feathered, draw and quartered and then shot!!

———-

There you have it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a mess to go clean up… and some newspaper I have to buy stock in!

 

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New Featherhood… errr… Fatherhood. Yeah, Fatherhood.

To post this in my Daddy blog, or post this in my Parrot blog? Hrmm… conundrum!

I’ve been a father now for 3 months and to the people that gave me that crazy look before the baby was born… bite me! Let me backtrack.

People would often want to give parental advice to the would-be father and much of that centered around the baby’s needs and understanding his/her communication. I would compare it with that of parrot behavior. I got a lot of strange, dirty looks. Keep in mind, I live in Mormon country where most parents are “professional parents” with 10 + kids and man was put on this Earth to rule over animals, no questions asked.

Now, 3 months in to parenting, I can say that every comparison I made was right and these narrow-minded, species elitists can go bite me!

When do you clip a baby’s nails? When they’re quiet and subdued (sleeping). When do you clip a parrot’s nails? When they’re quiet and subdued (toweled… usually).

What will a baby do when they see something new and unusual? Stare at it and/or freak out. What will a parrot do? Stare at it and/or freak out.

What do you do when baby freaks out? Remove offending object and/or baby. What do you do when a parrot freaks out? Remove offending object and/or parrot.

What does a baby do when they hear a loud noise and startle? Throw hands and legs out and flail around a bit. What does a parrot do when they hear a loud noise and startle? Throw wings and feet out and flail around a bit.

How do you subdue/restrain an overexcited infant? Wrap them in a towel, swaddle. How do you subdue/restrain an overexcited bird? Towel them.

How do babies communicate? With eyes, body language and sound. How do parrots communicate? With eyes, body language and… well… actual words… sometimes.

What do you do if a baby hurts themselves? Make sure they’re ok and not make a big ordeal over it. What do you do if a parrot injures themselves? Make sure they’re ok and not make a big ordeal over it.

Seriously parents, what’s so hard about this again? Us “parrot people” have been taking care of these so-called “babies” for years now!

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Picky picky picky!

Has it really been… a while? I wanted to post this really quick while Baby sleeps. Haven’t forgotten about my plans for the blog, but still waiting until he has more muscle control before we do any real introductions!

I just finished reading a plethora of posts about parrots refusing to eat healthy foods. Here’s a question I have for everyone – What do YOU eat?

Parrots are naturally social eaters. One member eats, they all eat. Call it jealousy, call it instinct, whatever you like. If we admit parrots are intelligent, we have to admit they can tell the difference between their food and ours. If we’re part of their flock, what does it tell them that we won’t touch the stuff they eat?

Case in point – Coco, our African Grey, taught me a lesson about how picky he can be. I poured a mix of pellets in his bowl one day. He stood over it, looked down, then looked up at me and reached down with his foot… still taring directly at me. He picked up a footfull of the pellets, stared at me and threw them on the floor. He repeated this over and over again until I gave him a sip of orange juice out of my cup.

Birdie bread, chop, fresh veggies are all great foods! Problem is, if you have a picky eater who’s never seen the stuff, how are they supposed to know how good all of it is unless you also eat some?

My advice? Have a bird-safe meal now and then and let the bird pick some food out of your plate. Who knows, maybe they’ll discover how great “little trees” can taste!

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PBS

I have a blog about parrots, how could I not write about this show?  If you haven’t seen it yet, follow this link to Parrots Confidential, a PBS show on most of the points I make in this blog.

They focus on the instinctive nature of parrots and how that works in captivity.  Now, there are many people expressing concerns about “but what does this mean for the parrot adoption rescues out there!?” since the show does paint a very bleak picture of what happens once the birds lose their homes.

I have spoken to thousands… and I mean thousands of people over the years; people who don’t know anything about parrots and I have to introduce to the basics.  Usually it’s the Green, environmental, espresso drinking yuppies that look at me in shock with some of my first statements.  I would start each tour by asking how many people knew anything about birds and almost every time I’d see that poor sap dragged along with their spouse that likes to point out “I believe birds belong in the wild!” with a smug look on their mocha latte drinking faces.

My first step that wins over most of these types of people who would prefer to be walking a dog or two is stating bluntly that, “So do I!  In fact, parrots make awful pets!”  I’d then go into the details of that fine line that reputable avian rescues walk in trying to push for adoptions while also educating people on why they shouldn’t have birds as pets.

The entire thing is one huge, gray area.

Personally, I’d rather see a good person denied a bird than see the wrong person adopt a bird.  The damage a single lapse in judgment can cause is irreversible when the person leaves your door with a bird.  Will they keep in touch?  Will they take good care of it?  Will it end up homeless again?  Will it live a healthy life?  Will they breed or sell it?  There are no guarantees.

On the other hand, I’ve seen perfectly lovable, adoptable birds, very much bonded with humans, that get stuck in a “forever” sanctuary with a bunch of other birds who have no clue how to be a bird.  They beg for attention every time they see you, they want nothing but head scritches and one-on-one time.  It’s heartbreaking.  These birds definitely need to be with human companions, as the “imprinting” has already done its damage.

Yes, imprinting.  As a Wildlife Rehabber, you see it often enough and it’s considered a “disability”.  I suppose in legal terms, you would call it a “mental defect”.  The bird loses all ability to relate to their own species and considers themselves human.  That bird will never be able to go back to the wild… ever.

Unfortunately, the documentary failed to cover this.  It showed some very respectable people, doing some wonderful things, but never shows the reality of the aftermath.  How much enrichment time can a single person spend with a bird who falls in love with them, when they have 900 other birds who also need their attention?  I’ve been in that situation… it sucks.

Still when in doubt, I’d rather err on the side of caution and not have people bring birds into homes that aren’t equipped to handle them, even if that means denying a potential home to a person who might be a match.

So far, I’m still waiting to see that one sanctuary that does it right – weeding out the poor adopter choices by going on an anti-bird breeding, keeping, raising rant and then taking those that are left and showing them how much love and affection a bird can bring them.  I’d rather start with people who believe birds make poor pets and belong in the wild and convince that mindset of person to adopt a bird, than deal with the opposite!

As for this blog?  There’s going to be a major life-altering event taking place in our household soon and I’d like to take some time to use this blog as a way of documenting some of the trial and errors that come with raising a human baby with the feathered members of the household 🙂

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Parrot Careers (aka – The Rat-Bastards Who Make Money Off of Them)

I’m sick of it people!  I receive emails and subscribe to news feeds that keep me “in the loop” for many Animal Rights issues.  A larger part of them relate to Avian Welfare.

I’m sick and tired of the people looking to work with birds for no reason other than to make money and somehow profit off of their lives in captivity.  Listen carefully if you’re one of those people – SHAME ON YOU.

  • Avian Vets already walk that fine line, with some of them toppling off the other side into the profiteering world of private practices.  For all the Avian Vets out there looking to charge $1,000 for an office visit and only getting certified due to the dollar signs involved – SHAME ON YOU.
  • Trainers don’t even try to walk that same fine line.  There are some cases where training the bird to behave certain ways is beneficial for the bird… I’ve talked about that already.  For all the others that think teaching a bird (or any animal) to do stupid tricks is somehow enriching – SHAME ON YOU.
  • Behaviorists, that’s another one for ya.  Sounds innocent on the surface, but these people aren’t out in the Amazon rainforests trying to reintroduce species on the brink of extinction by studying their behavioral patterns.   These people put their money, education and careers on the fact that birds are pets and people will keep them as pets without ever trying to convince people otherwise – SHAME ON YOU.
  • Breeders.  Without these people, the ones mentioned above would have been out of business in the early 90’s when exotic bird importation became illegal.  Breeders are the entire lifeblood of the industry, keeping the rest of the blood-suckers in business.  You deserve a special SHAME ON YOU and may you BURN IN HELL for your efforts.

This doesn’t even include the individual people that are just plain stupid, arrogant, egotistical and impulsive enough to buy birds on a whim for some superficial reason and then claim to be a “parrot person”.  If you need a friend that badly, here’s a list of activities that might help.

  • Church Bingo night
  • Singles clubs
  • Happy hour
  • Sci-fi conventions
  • Online video games
  • RPG clubs
  • Concerts
  • Tailgate parties

If you want a non-human friend, get a dog.  If that doesn’t work, seek therapy.  The fuck makes you think a bird bred to live their life in a cage, putting up with your ignorant crap day after day, pulling their feathers out in frustration and chewing nickel-sized holes in their chest because it’s the only thing they’ve learned in their lives that makes them feel remotely good, is a happy bird?!

Maybe I’ll get another blog entry posted in the future, when I’m less pissed off at the human race…

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The Anatomy of the Parrot Bite

Alright.  Been having some really crazy dreams lately and this one last night just ended up pissing me off.  No, really, I woke up annoyed for no reason other than a freakin’ dream!

I was debating writing this post last night but put it off and then had the dream.  Guess I have to actually post the damn thing now, don’t I?

The Anatomy of the Parrot Bite

 

Anyone who’s worked with or lived with parrots has a side-hobby they only make public to other “parrot people”; battle scar showings.  We all have scars, bite marks, oddly shaped fingernails or some other side effect of working with these birds, after a certain point, it’s a guarantee!

So let me delve into, not the “why’s” but the “how’s” of parrot bites.

The “Little Guys”

People are terrified of Macaw and Cockatoo beaks, but they often underestimate the puncture strength a smaller beak can also have.  The equation of pressure is P = F/A (Pressure = Force/Area)  With these smaller guys, it all comes down to the A.  They might not have that great of a force, but the needle-point beak can create a nice little puncture!

The wounds usually aren’t much to talk about for anyone who’s been bitten by some of the larger counterparts, but if they get you in just the right spot (which the smaller ones seem to have a knack for finding) they can hurt like absolute hell!

They’re quick, sharp, in-and-out types of bites.  There’s usually not much more involved than just biting down as hard as they can and then baking off and letting go.

Some (but not nearly all) of the biggest offenders of these types of bites are:

  • Conures
  • Senegals
  • Quakers
  • Ringnecks

The Caique

Yep, this guys is one of those that gets his own special category in this list.  There’s nothing quite like a Caique bite to really compare it to.  The drama of having the little spazoid latched on tight to your body is almost as horrifying as the blood-gushing wound created when they let go.

Some of the worst scarring I’ve seen that just leaves a brutal “Oh my God, what the hell happened to you?!” reaction has come from Caique bites.

As I said though, the prolonged drama involved during the bite is almost as bad as the bite itself.  These guys can go from being nice and cuddly one minute to gnawing on your thumb bone the next with only as much as a 3 second window to evacuate any superfluous body parts within beak-distance!  Then you have to deal with the bird hanging off of you with their body weight, grinding their beak through your skin…

The Twist

Amazons are really talented at this one!  A lot of medieval and 18th century weaponry was designed to leave wounds that opened up wide and didn’t heal properly.  I’m convinced the brain-child behind this tactic lived with an Amazon!

Not only are Amazons a step up in beak size from the smaller guys, but they know how to inflict maximum damage with minimal effort!

The Amazon bite has a two-step motion.  Step 1 – Find soft tissue and bite down.  Step 2 – Twist beak and head as sharply and quickly as possible.

In my own experience, Amazon bites are the type of injury you’re actually in denial of just afterwards.  Yes, you see them bite you.  Yes , you feel the pain.  But it all happens with such speed and grace, your brain doesn’t have time to really process what just really happened.

I mean, I’ve literally had Red (our Red-Headed Amazon) bite and let go of me in under a second, feeling just a slight pinch, only to look down and see a small bloody hole left in my hand!

Mostly healed, but scab still remains.

Mostly healed, but scab still remains.

 

Corn on the Cob

To this day, the most memorable, painful bite I’ve experienced has been from an African Grey.

The important thing to remember about some bird bites, especially Greys, is what we call the “pressure bites”.  They bite down and chew…. HARD!  They don’t twist, pierce or go for any super-accurate locations like the smaller ones.  These guys just use brute force to bite and chew.

The chewing is the worst part of the bite.  Although faded, I have a scar that circles my arm like a bracelet; every half-inch you could make out distinct beak marks.  Silly me thought “I can deal with a pressure bite as long as he lets go…” problem came when he never let go.  The Grey simply chewed a ring around my arm, never letting enough pressure off to remove him!

Cockatoos

Yes, another bird with their own special category of bite.  Although they range in size, most Cockatoo bites happen the same way for the same reason regardless of the species – the bird gets pissed.

The only way I can really describe a Cockatoo bite is as an “angry bite”.  There’s a certain ferocity behind the bite that scars more than just your flesh.  An angry Cockatoo latching on to your arm isn’t a mental image you easily let go of .  These are mean bites that reflect exactly how angry the bird is at the moment they bit you!

Umbrella Too bite

There’s not really and specific technique behind the bites, just solid force.  Fortunately they will let go most of the times and you can escape any real damage, but it all depends on where the bite occurred.  And although it may sound odd and will still hurt like hell, a Cockatoo bite around a finger still isn’t as bad as a good, solid bite from one of the smaller guys on that same space.  Fortunately the size of their beak usually means it will wrap around smaller parts of your body so most of the bite happens inside the edges of the beak, not at the point.

The Monster-Beak

I should really just say Macaws, but some Cockatoos also fit this.  I’ve had macaws bite me on the arm, then I lose feeling in my finger tips!

Despite the size and pressure of their beaks, Macaw bites aren’t as bad as some of the others.  Most of that is due to their motives/reasons for biting you in the first place.  It’s usually a fearful bite that only happens for a split second when they’re under stress.  You can often see it coming from a mile away so avoiding the bite isn’t as challenging as, say, a Caique.

Still, the shear size of their beak makes it easy for them to do massive damage that requires multiple stitches!  Even if it only lasts for a couple of seconds, having a Macaw tear through your lip is one of those stories you can tell for years afterwards!

The good news?

Despite the damage a parrot bite can do, the best news out of all of this is the lack of any serious, long-term disease.  Their mouths aren’t filled with toxic bacteria and they don’t have saliva dripping from their beaks, so the most you have to sorry about after the initial damage, regardless of how severe the bite is, would be an infection like you would get in any other cut.

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