Monday, January 31, 2005

Parrot Nanny has a job that's for the birds

She calls herself the Parrot Nanny, but Gayle Reece is not just looking to pamper birds. What the fixture of the East Bay bird community really wants to do is educate owners.

"It's more working with the people than it is working with the birds," she said. "How you react and behave around the bird is what gets the bird to react and behave around you."

In her years working at Feathered Follies, a Lafayette shop for avian aficionados, and as an editor at Alameda-based Companion Parrot Quarterly, Reece saw scores of people purchase parrots for the novelty and then grow weary. While the exotically colored talking birds can be enchanting, she said, they can also be messy, noisy and moody.

"They'll take it home and then they find out how complex it is," she said.

Reece's goal for Parrot Nanny is to help people overcome the rocky early stages of parrot ownership -- or companionship, as she prefers to call it -- and develop a rewarding relationship. To get there, she conducts home visits, "parrot/human conflict resolution," "extreme cage makeovers," some boarding when human companions go on vacation, and some "spa" services like nail and wing trimming.

Parrot Nanny is a unique business in the area, said Jeanni Landry, manager of Feathered Follies.

"It's like an untapped market," she said. "People are always wanting to know why their bird is acting the way it is or why they can't socialize it."

For Reece, Parrot Nanny is the culmination of years of immersion in the culture of birds and their human admirers. The Lafayette native has had parrots ever since she was a child, but for much of her adult life it was merely a hobby as she worked for Bell Atlantic and Mailboxes Etc.

Then when Laurie Baker founded Feathered Follies, Reece became the store's first manager. She often advised customers on just the sorts of issues that would later form the basis for Parrot Nanny.

Diane Lees of San Ramon was referred to Reece by Feathered Follies after she sought advice on training her family's African gray parrot, Daisy.

"She was very helpful in giving us information that would help the parrot thrive," Lees said. "Information that's not necessarily in the books."

Since opening the business earlier this month, Reece has seen about 10 clients, traveling as far as Santa Rosa. She has begun to draw referrals from veterinarians as well as the bird shop, and she hopes that doctors will be a channel for future business.

Reece's base price is $30 per hour plus travel expenses. Services like grooming and bird sitting are extra.

Meanwhile, she is exploring other innovative services like something she calls "peace of mind placement." It is a mechanism by which she would get to know a bird and agree to take responsibility for it in the event of an owner's death, something she said can be traumatic both for the bird itself and whoever inherits it.

At her Lafayette home this week, Reece played with Lucy, a gregarious Scarlet Macaw that is one of her seven parrots.

"Hi," Lucy said, bobbing up and down and craning her neck toward a visitor.

"This is her excited look," Reece said as the bird flapped its wings and crawled up her shoulder.

Talking about the future of Parrot Nanny, Reece expressed hope the business could one day be a force for change in the pet world, but then she laughed off the statement as "way too profound."

She said, "I just want to keep parrots in their homes."

Friday, January 28, 2005

Keep Your Budgies Busy And Happy

A Suspension Ladder Bridge

I made a brand new toy for my budgies using Eucalyptus branches and palm grass ropes.

A Suspension Ladder Bridge!

My budgies spend a long time up there nibbling millet and shredding herbs.

The same perches at the same places, the same toys, the same food all the time through the whole life.

Suppose you are a bird living in such a terribly boring environment. .....No way!

If your budgies look busy and happy, it is time to use more imagination to keep them busy and enrich their life.

Give them a lot to do every day, and that will make them happier.

Why not get them a playmate or a playgym to stop boredom setting in again


Thursday, January 27, 2005

Angelique's 'Free' Budgies

They're quite feral. They're allowed to fly free in the living room. The cage, always opened, is just there as a food and rest stop...What can I say... birds gotta fly...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Danielle's budgies & cockatiels

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Nice Compliment

Thank you for your mail. The leaves arrived last Friday and were perfect!

The budgies say Hello and thank you. :-)

(They're quite feral. They're allowed to fly free in the living room. The cage, always opened, is just there as a food and rest stop...What can I say... birds gotta fly...)

Thank You For The Compliment. (Budgies are thanking YOU Too)

Monday, January 24, 2005

Friends For Fine Feathers

(From The Register-Guard )

ike your average toddler, Sydney gets a kick out of throwing things on the floor.

On a recent sunny morning, the 16-month-old blue and gold macaw - a South American parrot - sat on a large perch in the middle of Andrea Larsen's kitchen, grabbed a spotless metal bowl in his beak and dropped it on Larsen's unsuspecting dog Elvis, an aging pug who skittered out of the way.

"He's pretty outgoing and boisterous," Larsen said. "He's still got baby tendencies and won't mature for four or five years."

But Sydney's not just your average playful youngster. He's a bird with two serious problems: torn ligaments in his left leg that make it impossible to stand on both feet and a scissor beak with upper and lower parts crossing over, making it more difficult for him to climb around or to munch the fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts that make up his diet.

He's come to Larsen's north Eugene home because his owners could not give him the care he needed. Larsen, the chairwoman of Exotic Bird Rescue of Oregon, is providing foster care for Sydney, hoping to find an adoptive home for the bird.

She'd also like to get him to the vet for a beak trim and an operation to repair the ligaments, but that costs $800 and her nonprofit network of volunteers has 89 other birds in foster care and not enough in the bank to pay for Sydney's operation.

He needs it soon, Larsen said. Parrots spend their entire lives on their feet, often standing on one to rest the other. Sydney doesn't have that luxury and his good foot already has pressure sores, she said.

For a bird that can live a century, it's an untenable situation.

Exotic Bird Rescue, a 10-year-old Eugene nonprofit, takes in birds throughout Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Northern California from owners who can no longer care for them, Larsen said.

The very things that attract people to cockatoos, cockatiels, macaws, parakeets, lories and conures, the family of birds commonly known as parrots, also make them challenging to live with. The birds are smart, loud, long-lived and require plenty of attention and discipline. Larger birds like Sydney have a powerful beak that can crack a walnut or break a finger.

More people have been contacting Exotic Bird Rescue, said Larsen, seeking to give up a problem bird that's developed destructive habits such as self-mutilation, pulling its feathers or constant screaming. Some well-behaved birds come to the group because owners can't provide the attention the birds need.

Sydney belonged to a Newberg resident who purchased him from a Louisiana breeder, hoping her local veterinarian could correct the bird's ligament problem, Larsen said.

But that vet didn't have avian training and was unable to help Sydney, so the owner contacted Exotic Bird Rescue, Larsen said.

Larsen's home is alive with the birds. In addition to fostering four birds needing adoption, Larsen has also purchased or adopted 10 others. They range in size from tiny Sweetie, a 5-inch Pacific parrotlet to imposing Zelda, an umbrella cockatoo about 18 inches tall.

Larsen's love of the species surprised her, she said. She and her fiance first purchased Presley, a cockatiel about three years ago when they lived in an apartment that didn't allow cats or dogs.

"He blasted all my misconceptions about birds," she said. "They're more than something you put in a corner and show to your friends. ... The relationship is way more intense than you would get with a cat or a dog. They recognize you. They call out to you. They listen to you. They understand you."

Soon after that, she got involved with the local bird rescue group and after buying a house, more birds came into her life. Some she adopted; others she purchased. The birds all have different personalities.

For play, she turns to Scrunchie, a blue front Amazon. For conversation, it's Spock, an African gray.

"He'll sit there and listen to every word I say, and I know he understands," she said.

Most of the birds talk, saying things like, "Good morning" early in the day, and "Good night" in the evening. They know "good bye" and "hello" and "peekaboo," a game they enjoy playing.

Scrunchie, the blue front Amazon who once lived with people in a house by a lake, always greets her when she comes home, saying "Did you catch any fish?"

Larsen believes that such birds should not be domesticated, that they belong in the wild. But once they are habituated to people, it's almost impossible to return them to their native habitats, she said.

While fewer birds are captured in the wild now, a proliferation of breeders churn them out for purchase by people who don't always understand what they're getting into.

That's why groups like hers have become part of the avian landscape, Larsen said. Occasionally they get birds that are on endangered species lists and try to move them into conservation breeding programs, she said.

Currently, the rescue group has 40 people providing foster homes for birds that can be adopted, but they won't let just anyone take one of their parrots.

Adoption is a lengthy process that includes a class, several in-home visits with the bird in foster care, site visits at the prospective owner's home and the approval of the Exotic Bird Rescue board and the foster care provider. After the adoption there is a probationary period that can last up to six months.

"After that, they're tied to us for life," she said, with a contract that allows the group to take the bird back if it isn't well-cared for or the relationship doesn't work out.

"Lots of people don't understand how much work it is," she said.

Larsen herself spends between 40 and 60 hours a week, either taking care of her birds or working on issues related to the rescue group. Her fiance, an automobile mechanic, is supportive of her passion, helping out especially with the group's senior and disabled companion program.

She'd like to see more members, more people providing foster care, and financial support from the broader community.

Sydney's not the only bird with medical needs. Larsen is also caring for a Sammy, a sun conure with a fungal infection in need of about $300 worth of blood work and cultures.

The group's main income comes from its $20 annual membership fee. They currently have about 100 members, Larsen said. The money goes to provide food, cages, toys and medical attention for the birds in their care.

Some area vets already provide free and reduced-cost services to the group, Larsen said.

"We need the help because we have such a small membership and the number of birds needing a place to go has tripled," she said.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Its A Boy!!!

Greetings, all!!!

Recently, I have had the priviledge of working with Phoenix Landing Foundation (a parrot rescue in
Alexandria, VA) to begin an application to adopt a bird from them.

The application was sent, a home visit was done, and their wonderful coordinators and care-givers bent over
backwards to help put things in place.

I am pleased and proud to announce a new member of my family, brought to his Forever Home just yesterday!!!

He's a cobalt-blue budgie of around 4-5 years of age and he's very calm and tolerant, just like Morning
Sun. I haven't figured out just yet what he'd like to be called, so if you think of a prospective name, do
tell :)

I'm really grateful to PLF and their wonderful, patient and persistent folks for everything they did o help me adopt a new feathered family member (I recommend going this route if you want to adopt a bird into your family).

Just wanted to share my happiness with everyone - will try to get a photo up of him as soon as I can.



This is a note I have just received from FEATHERCHASER

Monday, January 17, 2005

Grow Your Own Greens For Budgies

Fresh greens from your garden will provide much more pleasure and nutrition than
supermarket greens.

I hear the statements like 50% of all pet birds die from malnutuirition, and one of the
biggest problems is Vitamin A deficiency.
Here in Japan, safe vegetables are hardly available since most of vegetables and foods on the
market are non-organic. So I came up with this idea "Why don't I grow my own greens?"
Yes, this is more than fun!

Arugula, kelp, sunflower, radish, barleygrass, broccoli, watercress, chickweed, dandelion, etc,etc...
Dark green color is best. Every morning I pick some of them and feed my budgies
saying "Here are the freshest and most delicious greens in the world for you!"
They really love it.

Wild parrots spend their lives in the greenery, and green foods make up the majority of
their diet. Captive parrots also should be offered more various greens on a daily basis.
Fresh greens are very rich in vitamin A, dietary fiber and phytochemicals.
Enjoy your Kitchen Gardening and share the benefits with your budgies.

From Yoko

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Make a Small Nature for Your Budgies

My budgies' favorite perch is Eucalyptus branch.

I always wonder how birds in captivity can enjoy their whole life as "birds".

I think we bird owners should learn more about wild budgies and let our

budgies have more chance to do, eat and have the same things as their

wild counterparts. Budgie World's articles told me what wild budgies life is

like, and there I found some good points to make my budgies happier.

I often ask Neil to make various types of Eucalyptus branch's and those

do give my budgies good exercise and pleasure. One of my budgies

P-chan had not been very active and not been good at playing with toys

and swings untll I gave him Eucalyptus multi-branch perches.

Now he is jumping and swinging and bounsing on thin branches just

like wild budgies in Australia, swinging in the wind on Eucalyptus trees.

His favorite is pecking spray millet on his Eucalyptus.

Let's emulate the natural world and give caged birds real pleasure

and health.

Wishing You and Your Budgie's a VERY Happy and Prosporous New Year


Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Pet Doctor

QUESTION: My parakeet's beak has grown very long, but he still seems able to eat. Do I need to take him to a vet?

ANSWER: I'll assume you're talking about a budgerigar, a small Australian parrot that in the United States is commonly sold as a parakeet. There are dozens of species of birds that also may be named "parakeet," but most of these are expensive and difficult to acquire.

Also known as a budgie, this bird has been domesticated for a relatively short time, compared to dogs or cattle, but dozens of variants abound. The wild type budgie has a bright green body, a yellow head and dark blue and black wings and tail feathers. A common variant lacks the yellow color and has a white head and blue body. Some varieties are larger than others, or seem oddly proportioned compared to the wild budgie.

The reason I'm telling you this
is that different varieties of budgies are selected for traits pleasing to someone's eye and not necessarily with the overall health of the bird as a priority. Some of the hardier breeds of budgies will live to a ripe old age of 12 to 15 or so, but the majority of birds available through pet stores seems less apt to achieve this longevity. Many of them start to show signs of advanced age when they are only 5 or 6 years old and die soon after. Tumors are a fact of life for many budgies, ranging from abnormal fat deposits called lipomas to tumors of the thyroid gland, adrenal glands and reproductive organs. Adrenal gland tumors in particular seem to cause the beak to grow at an excessive rate, although thyroid tumors and testicular neoplasia also may increase the growth rate.

Husbandry can also play a role in what is happening with your parakeet. A good diet includes a balanced pellet diet, seeds, greens, fresh vegetables and occasional treats of animal protein such as boiled egg or chicken meat. If the diet is out of balance, the jaw may deform slightly and the upper and lower parts of the beak no longer fit together well. Even if the diet is good, the beak needs a little wear and tear to balance out the growth. If your parakeet gets twigs to gnaw on as well as tough mineral blocks and cuttlebone, it has less of a chance of developing an overgrown beak.

Of course, you can do everything right and still end up with a budgie that develops a long, curving beak without an obvious cause. Take your budgie to a veterinarian for evaluation.