Friday, September 29, 2006

J-Bird, the adventuring parrot,

On a Saturday morning in mid-August, Oxford Road resident Daniel Rinehart cleaned out the cage usually occupied by his pet parrot, J-Bird, and left it outdoors to air-dry.
Nothing too unusual about the activity, until Rinehart opened the door to carry the sizeable cage back inside. At that same moment J-Bird decided to take flight and instead of settling on his favored perch — his owner’s shoulder — the bird started off on what would become a different kind of vacation for the parrot.
J-Bird has traveled all over the United States, his owner explained, but usually as a passenger sitting on the front seat or the steering wheel of an automobile. The bird had never tried solo travel, said Rinehart, at least not until that day back in August.
“It was just perfect timing on his part,” recalled Rinehart about the day J-Bird … well… flew the coop.
For the rest of that day, as well as the next several days, Rinehart searched the surrounding woods, whistling and calling for his best friend, which he has owned for six years and which typically follows him around like a little puppy dog.
Having no luck finding the bird, Rinehart became disheartened.
“J-Bird always answers my calls,” said Rhinehart, admitting that he began thinking the worst, fearing a vehicle on the heavily trafficked U.S. 158 had hit the bird.
“I left the cage outdoors for four days,” he said, explaining he thought that perhaps if the bird saw his house he might fly back into the familiar safe haven. But after several days and still no sign of his green-feathered friend, Rinehart said, he had “pretty much given up” any hope of ever seeing his beloved J-Bird again.
Meanwhile …
About three miles away, later on that same Saturday J-Bird took flight, Beth Farabaugh was outdoors and out of the corner of her eye, she caught the glimpse of a flying green streak.
Farabaugh recalled thinking at the time, “What in the world is that?” Once the parrot landed on her roof she wondered, “Where in the world did it come from?”
Farabaugh, with assistance from her father who stood on the porch banister, attempted to scoop the bird into a box only to have the parrot fly to the neighbor’s roof.
Then the wandering bird decided to attempt a landing on the slippery hood of Farabaugh’s father’s truck, not an ideal landing surface for a parrot.
“The bird kept slipping around and my dad slowly backed up to the bird and it just stepped onto his shoulder,” explained Farabaugh.
“We gave it some oats and water. It was drinking water, but we didn’t know what to do with it.”
Then Farabaugh remembered that one of her co-workers owns parrots and made a call for help to Steve and Sherry Carpenter.
The Carpenters lost no time coming to the aid of the little lost bird and promptly rode to the Allensville Road location with a cage to pick up the willful traveler and, hopefully, solve the mystery of the little lost bird by locating its owner.
“We looked over the bird and it was in good shape,” said Steve Carpenter, who is manager of Person County when he’s not out rescuing parrots. And once they realized the bird was banded, both Steve and Sherry admitted they thought it would be an easy course to locate the owner.
“We knew it was a Meyers parrot,” said Steve, describing it as a “pretty green bird with a black cape — not rare,” he said, “but not that common either; and they are prone to fly,” he added
“Sherry spent the night on the Internet,” said Steve, explaining she spent time e-mailing aviary veterinarians and contacting breeders throughout the state, since the Carpenters had no idea where the bird had come from or how far it had traveled.
She also contacted Person County veterinarians and even called 911. The following Monday she took the bird to the animal shelter to have it scanned for possible microchip identification.
The Carpenters even contacted seed places and pet stores in case the owner put up notices of the lost bird — all to no avail.
From the bird’s band number the Carpenters could tell the bird’s age and that the bird had been bred in North Carolina. There are about six to eight Meyers breeders including one in nearby Haw River, said Steve.
But when they contacted the branding company, which generally keeps track of breeders and birds through records coinciding with numbers on the band, the Carpenters learned the company was no longer in business. They were advised there was no way to assess the defunct company’s records.
The sleuths had reached a dead-end.
Without knowing the bird’s given name, Steve and Sherry began calling their guest “Doc,” after a local veterinarian.
Armed with experience and knowledge on how to care for parrots, the Carpenters integrated the little bird into their own household, while keeping their two jenday conures and umbrella cockatoo isolated from the newcomer.
And just in case Doc decided to again take flight, the Carpenters clipped their new houseguest’s wings to ensure that he stop his nomadic ways.
“We clipped him, and he gained altitude; and we clipped him again. He still could go the length of the house. These birds are notorious for flight,” emphasized Steve, referring to Meyers parrots.
After two weeks and seemingly no closer to finding the owner, the Carpenters decided to put a classified ad in the “Lost and Found” section of The Courier-Times. The ad came out in the next Saturday edition. Without identifying the bird, the ad requested that the owner identify the band number to verify ownership, explained Steve.
That Saturday, the Carpenters received a few calls offering to give the bird a home if the owner could not be found, but still no owner.
And then Sunday morning came a call from a gentleman who identified the bird, but admitted he hadn’t a clue to the band number. Instead, he offered to bring photographs for positive identification.
The Carpenters were comfortably sure it was caller’s bird.
Rinehart was trembling with anticipation when he arrived at the Carpenters’ home, explained Steve, and when the owner and bird re-united, the bird’s response immediately affirmed the bond and relationship.
“From the bird’s reaction, I knew this was definitely his bird,” said Sherry.
A happy ending for bird and owner and yet another missing bird case resolved thanks to the tenacity of the Carpenters, for which Daniel Rinehart is grateful. He also is appreciative of the care given to J-Bird by the Carpenters.
“They are super people,” said Rinehart.
Yet despite the very good care he enjoyed at the Carpenters, J-Bird seems to be happier still to be back home — clipped wings and all.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sugar Gliders

Karen Says

my gliders who are my kids. they are with me for the past 7 yrs and they are loved and spoiled with love. I just adopted a couple more. and in spring possibly a forth. then I will have my hands full. they have free roam of my office when I'm in it at night and I stay up with them half the night. I want only the best for them. as they are so special to me. my angel is almost like human she understands everything I say to her. shes the old one.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Parrots call their baby chicks by name, German experts say

From Monsters and
Nature News By Ernest Gill

Hamburg - In a discovery that is likely to rekindle the debate about language in the animal kingdom, researchers in Germany have discovered that some parrots appear to give their offspring individual names.
Animal behavioural scientists at the University of Hamburg say that spectacled parrotlets use a distinctive call for each of their chicks, with no two chicks being given the same 'name' call.
The small South American parrots also apparently have name calls for their mates.
'The birds very definitely use a particular call exclusively with a particular bird and never for any other bird,' says Dr. Rolf Wanker, head of the Hamburg University Zoological Institute's behavioural research laboratory.
Wanker and his team have spent years assessing video and audio recordings of parrot chatter and squawking.
'What is not yet clear, however, is whether these calls can be equated with what we would call names such as Hans or Fritz or whether they could be more generic labels such as 'my baby' or 'my mate',' he adds.
'For that reason we prefer to refer to these calls as labels or name equivalents,'
The studies were inspired by observations in the spectacled parrotlet's natural habitat in Colombia. There, researchers from Hamburg noted that individual parrots seemed to respond to specific calls that other parrots in the same flock ignored.
'A mother bird had the uncanny ability to utter a cry that would result in her chick returning to the nest immediately amidst the cacophany of the other parrots all around,' Wanker recalls.
'It was obvious that the baby knew it was being called,' he says.
At the Hamburg lab, studies showed that these name equivalents are fractional cries lasting between 90 and 120 milliseconds.
The cry is distinctive enough to provide acoustic clues as to the identity of the individual uttering the call and also to the identity of the intended recipient bird.
'A mother bird uses a different call for her baby from the one she uses for her mate, and they respond with calls that correspondent to her identity,' he says.
Similar findings have been achieved with certain primates and with dolphins. Many years ago, British TV science producer David Attenborough showed that macaque monkeys use distinctive alarm calls to alert other monkeys to danger.
Macaques will use one call to identify a panther, thus telling other monkeys to climb up a tree. But they will use a different call to identify a python, thus ensuring that all the monkeys climb down a tree that has a snake lurking in its branches.
The Attenborough findings are of interest because they involve primates in the wild that have had little or no contact with humans.
That contrasts with studies involving chimpanzees and gorillas in captivity in America over the past four decades which have produced startling but highly controversial evidence that primates can learn and use deaf human sign language.
Other studies have determined that birds develop regional 'accents' and 'dialects' depending on their location. Sparrows in the eastern United States, for example, are known to have subtly different chirps from their cousins on the west coast.
The German findings are the first involving parrots. The spectacled parrotlet is among the smallest parrots, only slightly larger than budgerigars. The bright green birds with a distinctive yellow ring around their eyes live in eastern Panama and northern Colombia.
In the Hamburg study, parent birds and their chicks were placed in separate cages within earshot of each other but out of view of each other.
The birds' calls to each other were recorded and later played back to the individual birds to ascertain their response. The findings demonstrated that name-specific calls were used by each bird.
Wanker shies away from calling this labelling behaviour any form of language, noting that it has yet to be proved conclusively whether humans are the only animals capable of abstract linguistic structures.
He also notes that a fierce debate has been raging for decades among ornithologists and linguists over whether songbirds might be using a form of language. But he points out that, in the avian world, parrots are a special case.
'Parrots are unique among avians,' he says. 'They are the primates of the avian world and are very highly developed creatures with complex social systems and prodigious cognitive skills.'

Some readers comments

Parrots are quite intelligent, and some definitely have language (albeit simpler
than ours, obviously). African Grey Congos in particular seem to have a
more evolved ability to speak, having both superior sound
reproduction compared
to other parrot species and typically several times
larger vocabularies than
other talking species.Birds are mostly of interest
in language research because
they are able to learn and communicate with us
in our language. Alex and Dr.
Pepperberg (of the Alex Foundation) are
probably the most notorious; her
research clearly indicates Alex's ability
to verbally identify various objects
and attributes (e.g. colour, matter,
and shape) by visual and tactile
identification.I used to be close friends
with a Soviet Union expat in town with
a degree in linguistics. She raised
her Grey, Picadilly, as though it were her
child -- and taught it as she
would a young child to speak both English and
Russian. The bird learned not
only to parrot the words it heard, but also how to
conjugate basic verbs in
both English and Russian. Speaking from my own personal
experience with my
Grey, he is less of a talker and more of a whistler (a sound
Greys are more
familiar with as their own 'native' calls are similar in sound).
We both
share certain whistles that corrolate to specific meanings: One for
excitement/jubilation, another for mourning when I'm lonely because my wife
out of town, and another that means both "goodbye [to you]" and "I want
to go to
bed" (which involves putting a cover over the cage, equating to
much the same
thing, I suppose).The notion that someone is just now
discovering that some
parrots use "words" to describe identity suggests
they're a couple decades
behind the times. That being said, do parrots
sometimes just "parrot" the sounds
they hear back? Of course! They have a
special preference for sounds that get
your attention, including the loud,
funny, and especially those things you
shouldn't have said.

Some human languages can be whistled, an interesting experiment might be to
use one of them for training a young parrot. That way less effort on producing
the sounds is needed on the part of the bird and, presumably, more into the
grammar and syntax of the language.

This has interested me before but sadly I'm not from the South American
regions that employ it (as apparently it is convenient for communicating across
distances of miles in the hills of the Andes) nor do I know anyone who is. As I
understand it, the "language" is in fact little more than a phrasebook of
perhaps a hundred or so useful phrases for communicating with family/colleagues
about having found something, heading home for the day, that sort of thing; It
might therefore be better just to get an idea of the language then adapt it for
activities that are meaningful for the bird's environment.

I wrote that comment based on vague childhood recollections of someone else's travellogue, but from that recall that it was an actual language rather than a code book of phrases.
Doing a very quick and sloppy search, I find one at least:
Silbo. If only four vowels and four consonants sounds limiting, keep in mind how well the Spanish equivalent of pig latin works though all the vowels are changed to i.
Anyway, it might be easier to take some fresh birds to people already using Silbo for a study.

I've said it before, and I shall now say it again:
We really don't
understand what "thinking" is, and I think that as we find out more what
thinking is, we will find that we humans think far less than we think we think,
and that animals think far more than we think they think.
I think.

I have 10 small birds, but have owned many others on and off over the
years. Yep, they are totally smart, as well as smarties too lol (I
dont know where the small brain stuff came from...)none of them say any english
words, but they sure know their names I gave them and respond. :)

I took care of my friend's cockatoo for a week or so when she was on
vacation, and they're definitely not dumb animals. It not only had a vocabulary,
but if I ever mentioned her name, it would get visibly excited, raising it's
feathers and whatnot. It obviously associated her name with her, as it also
associated the phrase "cover up" with loud screeching.Andrew, the "small brain
stuff" is about how their brains are physically smaller than ours, thus there is
less there.

I don't know if parrots can talk.I kwon they can fly. Or shoud if were
not caged.Put a bird in a cage is one of the worst things that "intelligent"
humans do..

Most pet birds spend plenty of time out of their cages; Mine spends more out
than in, not counting sleep. That said, feels most secure when he is close to or
completely inside his cage, and he is happiest when his human flock are within
calling distance. He was raised in captivity to be part of a captive breeding
program but wasn't interested in mating; he couldn't live in the wild even if
this were his native biome. Presumably you'd rather he were euthanised than have
him live out an untroubled, "flightless" existance as a pet and part of a family
unit -- something that is more important to parrots (most of which live and die
as a flock species, for whom the flock is everything to them) than humans. What
about captive breeding programs to try to revive nearly-extinct species like
Spix's macaw? You'd rather look at them in a history book too, apparently,
probably near the pages dedicated to the Dodo.Someone here mentioned taking care
of a pet cockatoo for a week or two; I mentioned the Grey Congo. You do know
that these parrots are considered pests in their native countries, right?
Farmers trap and slaughter them by the hundreds with clubs to prevent them from
decimating their crops. But I'm glad you'd rather see them "flying free" as ash
from a bonfire than in the hands of some malevolent human.

About parrots considered pests in their country, I made a quick research
and didn't find anything about that. I'm not saying that isn't true. I'm saying
that I didn't find anything ab
out that. What I know is that exists a illegal
commerce of wild birds. My country, shame of the shames, is a source of these
pour animals, specialy macaws and parrots. It's usual to see news about police
operations against these criminals. But they still exist and, money talks loud,
they are growing. More shame.
About captive breeding programs there are two
faces: one about nearly-extinct species, a very brave and beautiful
iniciative no doubt. Other face is to provide "legal" pets and "preserve"
the wild ones that remain. Sounds good, at first sight. But, the fact is that
kind of program just incentivate people to have birds and who can't pay for
a legal one goes to the illegal others. I'm just asking: why do we need so hard
to have a bird? If no one buy the illegal wild birds, no one will sold
I like birds a lot. I made a place for then out of my house.
And I put fruits (bananas, oranges, papayas, pomegranates, etc), fodder,
seeds and water for then there. There are different kinds of birds at
different hours of the day. And only once there was a parrot there. But it is
very usual to see a lot of "maritacas" (I don't know how it is named in english,
but the bird is very similar to a parrot except their head are smaller and they
can't vocalize, just whistle. Better: scream. They're very noisy). All birds are
wellcome and they are free to come in and get out when they want.. It's a very
special sensation when they come back. I know they don't like me: they like the
food. But still something special.
It's not necessary a cage to take care of
a bird. Of course: if they never leaved the cage, they don't know how to live
out there. But we need to act to convert the captive population of birds into
free birds. It's not something fast to change. But I think if more and more
people become aware of that birds were not made for a cage maybe in two or
three hundred years it can be done.
"You may say I'm a dreamer. But
I'm not the only one." You know who said that. You know the rest.
Here, where
I live, if a policeman catch you killing a bird, even to eat,
even it is a regular bird finded by the thousands you will be jailed. No
bail allowed (yeah, despite all the shame I've mentionated before, third world
has laws too). Of course birds can cause damage at farms here too. But the
farmers found alternative ways to deal with it. And, of course, some of
then still using the bad methods that have been mentionated or worse. But
it is changing. There is a light in tunnel's end. And it's not the train, I
hope. You may think that is discordant what I said early about growing criminals
that sales wild birds (and other animals) and it realy is. But it is
There are, certainly, some situations that turns some birds life in
nature impossible. There's nothing wrong to take care of these birds (or any
other animal). It's a very beatiful act in fact. But I think these cases
are not most of full population of caged birds.

I was on vacation and the place I was staying had a sofa, a good bookshelf, the
sound of the surf and a light tropical breeze coming in through an open door and
a large picture-window-sized opening in the wall, food and drink and a several
parrots in large cages around the area. One of them was right at the end of the
After several days of blissful vegetation on that sofa I thought I
must be dreaming. I heard "c'mere! c'mere!" coming from the parrot behind my
head. I twisted myself around, and the parrot was looking right at me. I don't
know if it said it again. I got up, went to the cage door, opened it, put my
hand in, the parrot (his name was Moses) climbed on my hand and from there up my
arm to my shoulder, and that was it. For the rest of the two weeks we were
inseparable. One afternoon while I was feeding him peanuts or popcorn or
something he decided to clean my eyelashes with his beak. It took me about a
beat to decide to trust him on that one.
When I went to put him back in the
cage on the day I left, he fought me. I still miss that bird, and it's been more
than ten years.
He never spoke except for those first words. I never tried
to get him to.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Parrots return to Adams County Fair

Birds need intellectual stimulation, owner says

Will Stedman's parrots drive a car. They ride a bicycle and a scooter. They ring the dinner bell and they say "Hi" and "Bye-bye."And all this week, they make their return. Stedman and his show, the Hollywood Educated Parrots, so named for their experiences on TV and in the movies, are back at the Adams County Fair for a second year."They must have liked what we did last year," Stedman said. "And we love it over here."
'When he was a child, Stedman would visit Othello because he had relatives who owned an apple orchard in the area. His brother-in-law's mother and brother still live in Othello, he said."There are family ties here, and I do remember coming over here as a very young child," he said. "We'll be here as long as they have it, this is one of our favorite fairs. It's the people. You walk in the gate and you feel like you're amongst friends."Based in Seattle, Stedman began performing as a magician when he was 14 years old."It was an interesting progression," he said of making the move from magic to parrots. About 20 years ago, he began working for one of the leading names in magic, who was in the process of becoming semi-retired. The veteran magician hired several younger performers who knew their way around magic. He had purchased the parrot act, performing at shopping malls, fairs and as the middle act in his magic show."Over the years in working with him, he noticed that I got along with the birds and the birds got along with me," Stedman said.Stedman was eager to work with the birds, and starting performing with them, ultimately purchasing the act seven years ago when the magician retired."Even when I was a magician, you depend on rabbits, doves, ducks," Stedman said. "Animals have always been part of what I do. I feel very strongly, not just as a performer. Me, I'm very much an animal person. And whether it be wildlife or livestock, animals are as equally important to the world we live in as we are."For fairs and festivals, Stedman and three birds -- blue and gold macaws Billy, Barney and cockatoo Fred -- perform as the Hollywood Educated Parrot Show, primarily throughout the northwest United States. For school assemblies, the birds do a lot of the same tricks, but with an emphasis on environmental education.Stedman also has several other rescued birds. He noted sometimes an owner decides they don't want a bird anymore, which can be very traumatic."When we hear those situations, my wife and I, we take in rescued birds," he said. "And you think I'm an animal person, you should meet my wife."Because of their intelligence, Stedman compared parrots to toddlers."You also have to stimulate them - you have to play with them, provide a variety of cars so they don't get bored. It's like having a child in the house," he said. "To really take care of a pet bird properly, you've got to be willing to put the time in to take care of them that way."Play time for parrotsWhile some trainers use starvation as a way to train parrots for a performance act, Stedman does not."Our animals are never trained by depravation," he said. His birds eat whatever they want, but sunflower seeds are removed from their diet, so the only way parrots can get a seed is from his hand. "They can eat their vegetables, they can eat their food, but the treat, the candy, comes from the training periods."Parrots learn their act backwards from the way they perform, Stedman said."A bird, you start at the end of the behavior you want," he said. In teaching a parrot to drive the small car across a table, for example, he waits until the bird is on the car at the end of the table and touches the control handle with its beak.The minute that happens, Stedman says "Good!" and gives the bird a sunflower seed. The cry of praise is a vocal cue that the bird did something right and the seed a reward, he explained. So pretty soon, the parrot knows it gets a reward and every time it is on the car, it will touch the handle."When they're doing it every single time, now you have to hold off and they have to actually grab it," Stedman said. The praise and the seed will continue. Next they have to grab and pull."What will happen, they'll grab and get frustrated, so to get your attention," the bird pulls back on the handle, Stedman said. This action is again rewarded and learned.Then he puts batteries in the car and moves it back a little bit."Now when they pull, the car's going to move," Stedman said. "It takes getting used to, so the minute they do it, 'Good!' 'Oh, that's what it's supposed to do.' And then you move the car back farther and farther ... You start at the end of the behavior, and you work up to the front of the behavior."Once a parrot knows the routine of learning, it can learn a trick in a few weeks, being taught two to three times a day in 20 minute increments."It's important that people understand that the birds are not being manipulated, it truly is play time for them to be out here," he said.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Exotic existence: Parakeets nesting in Louisiana back yard

When Lois Martin walks out into her back yard, she can hear the raucous call of parrots. Sometimes, they land on her fence and visit for a while.
Martin doesn't live south of the border, but just slightly south of Lafayette. Her home is in Lafayette Parish, where Duson meets Maurice.

Wild monk parakeets are nesting in a neigboring tree, just across her fence. Martin said she has spotted five of them. The birds, which are actually small parrots, are also called Quaker parrots. Martin, a former bird breeder from Virginia, owns four monk parakeets of her own - domesticated birds that live in wrought iron cages on her patio. "(The wild parrots) hear them and I'm sure that's what calls them to my back yard - maybe what attracted them to this neighborhood," Martin said.
Although it's unusual for wild exotic birds to establish colonies in the Lafayette area, there are monk parakeets living and thriving in New Orleans, said Nature Station curator Bill Fontenot.
"They're established in Chicago, Portland (Ore.), in the Northeast, Florida, Texas and in Louisiana, now," Fontenot said. "They can only make it in urban settings. In New Orleans, the palms are providing them a nesting substrate and something to eat. I'm intrigued to know what these birds are eating."
Where the birds came from is a mystery.
They could have escaped from a local home, said LSU ornithology professor Van Remson. "There could have been enough of them that they formed their own colony. Or two could have come from New Orleans, although Lafayette isn't exactly next door. Or they could have come from someplace else. There's no way to distinguish."
Monk parakeets aren't the first non-native birds to establish themselves in the United States, Remsen said. "From Europe, we have house sparrows, European starlings, the rock pigeon, the common city pigeon and the Eurasian collared dove.
The monk parakeet is just one of the latest arrivals that is able to survive in its new environment, he said.

While the birds are a novelty here, in some areas, they are considered to be an environmental threat.
"At one time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was going to try to exterminate them," Remsen said. "In Argentina, they are a severe agricultural pest."
Martin is familiar with the potential for problems.
"They build huge community nests and they like the high tension wires. Especially in Florida, they're always having to go out and knock nests down."
Even so, Martin said she wishes she had a tree large enough in her own yard to accommodate them.
"It's thrilling for me to see them in the wild."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bird Flu Update

I have received this important letter from one of my colleagues. Please take your time to read it carefully as I have.

It's printed below as I received it.

Today I am sending you one of the most important announcements I've ever made... about a soon-to-be-released book that can help you personally, help all of us in general, but that certain politicians and big businesses hope will NEVER hit the New York Times best-seller list.

This major new book by world-renowned physician and dietary expert Dr. Joseph Mercola is called The Great Bird Flu Hoax: The Truth They Don't Want You to Know About the "Next Big Pandemic" -- and believe me, it covers SO MUCH MORE than just the bird flu.

Of course, protecting yourself and your family from diseases (truly epidemic ones like cancer and heart disease, as well as the extremely rare ones like bird flu) is vitally important... and Dr. Mercola will show you exactly how to do that.

But this book's true power comes from exposing the HOAX perpetrated by the government, the drug companies, the giant food and agri-businesses, and the mainstream media... a hoax that diverts your attention away from the REAL health and societal crises they don't want you to know about.

And that's exactly WHY this book deserves best-seller status... because a best-selling nonfiction book gets EXPOSURE... whether the media, politicians, and big business like it or not.

Just some of the issues Dr. Mercola exposes in depth in this book include responsible agriculture, the systematic obliteration of small local farms, inhumane and unethical bird farms and other corporate animal farming, GMOs and big food corporations, pesticides/herbicides versus organics, and pending Big Pharma legislation, which may actually destroy the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution.

Yes, there are frightening truths THEY don't want you to know. And this major book finally blasts open all the doors, and when it hits the New York Times best-seller list, it will FINALLY force these crucial issues into the mainstream media's spotlight.

Because you can play a crucial role in taking down the perpetrators of these frauds and deceptions, I hope you will check out this book and bonuses at The Great Bird Flu Hoax. In this fascinating and well-researched 240-page hardcover book you'll discover:
· How and why the media has deceived you about the bird flu (and why they're not talking about the far more serious threats to your health than any bird flu) ...
· The real culprit in the spread of bird flu (hint: it's not the wild or migratory birds that are currently being blamed) ...
· Who is really profiting the most from the bird flu panic (you will be quite surprised ... and you will learn why they are intent on misdirecting attention away from true public health issues) ...
· How you can protect yourself and your family from any disease -- even the bird flu -- by simply and easily modifying your body's natural defense system ...
· Why any bird flu vaccine is virtually guaranteed to fail (after billions of dollars are paid to certain key pharmaceutical giants just to stockpile worthless drugs) ...
· How the bird flu scare is similar to previous alarms that never materialized (remember swine flu, Ebola, West Nile virus, SARS, anthrax, and 'mad cow' disease?) ...
· Find out how major meat and other food producers are using the threat of terrorism to enforce oppressive federal regulations to snuff out their small farm competition (if you allow this to proceed unchecked, you'll lose your ability to obtain truly healthy meat) ...
· The devious "bag of tricks" big corporations use to distort the media (you'll see how they manipulate your view of reality so they can control your behavior to make the most profit) ...
· The one common risk factor that nearly everyone infected with bird flu has (you probably don't have it, but they don't want you to know this) ...
· How new legislation being pushed through by the big drug companies may be the consumer's worst nightmare (and may actually destroy the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution) ...
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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Passion for Parrots and the Fight to Save Them in the Wild

On a sweltering afternoon this summer, Joseph M. Forshaw, an Australian ornithologist, strolled through Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, scanning the trees for feral monk parrots. No one knows how these squawking green birds, usually native to Argentina, first arrived in New York. But they thrive in wooded corners throughout the city.

Stephen Baldwin, 50, founder of the Brooklyn Parrot Society, explained that the birds eat whatever they find — “pine buds, berries, pizza.”
Mr. Forshaw, 67. smiled. “Ah, parrots are such wonderful generalists,” he said.
The former head of wildlife conservation for the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Mr. Forshaw knows parrots’ talents. The author or co-author of 16 ornithological books, he is considered the world’s leading expert on the parrot. His latest, from Princeton University Press, is “Parrots of the World: An Identification Guide,” which he hopes will give “conservationists new tools for fighting the traffic in wild birds for the pet trade.”
“It was the pet trade that probably first brought your monk parrots to Brooklyn,” he says. “These fellows are managing well. But elsewhere, the results are often tragic.”
Q. For how long have parrots had an association with humans?
A. Certainly for much of recorded human history. Alexander the Great brought parrots back from his Asian expeditions. The ancient Romans had them, too. When Australia and South America were opened up to Europeans by the voyages of discovery of the 16th and 17th century, the international trade in the birds really began. Today the parakeet is second to the goldfish as the world’s most popular pet.

Q. For how long have parrots had an association with humans?
A. Certainly for much of recorded human history. Alexander the Great brought parrots back from his Asian expeditions. The ancient Romans had them, too. When Australia and South America were opened up to Europeans by the voyages of discovery of the 16th and 17th century, the international trade in the birds really began. Today the parakeet is second to the goldfish as the world’s most popular pet.
Q. Do you have any insight why parrots make such good pets?
A. Unlike most other birds, they can imitate human speech. That endears them to people and creates a bond. If you keep a blue jay or a sparrow, it’s not going to do more than hop around in a cage. A parrot will talk to you.
One of the most memorable birds I’d ever encountered was a corella, a kind of Australian cockatoo. In the 1970’s, a woman rang up a research institute where I worked complaining of a bird she’d inherited from her deceased grandfather. We took it off her hands. It turned out this corella had originally been given to her grandfather by some Aboriginals. As a young man, in 1910, the grandfather had worked on the construction of the Australian railway system, and somewhere the Aboriginals had gifted him with this bird. Well, the corella had a repertoire of camp noises from the railway, pots and pans, brash talk — and he did all this in an Aboriginal dialect! Sixty years later! These birds have an amazing learning capacity.
Q. Some biologists believe that parrots can actually understand the words they speak. Do you agree?
A. I think that’s probably taking parrot intelligence a little too far. What the birds have probably done is learned the association between words and actions. They’ve learned that certain words generate certain actions — whether that equates with “understanding,” I don’t know.
Wild parrots make contact calls to each other which are mainly given in flight to maintain cohesion within flocks or between birds in trees and those flying overhead. What happens with pets is they substitute their owners for flock members and learn to imitate their “calls,” which are words.
We do know that parrots in the wild make their calls in regional dialects. A study of wild birds in Trinidad established that the dialect sounds are learned by the young from their parrot-parents. A researcher took parrot chicks from nests in one area and moved them into nests elsewhere. He found that the chicks learned the dialectical calls of the adopted parents.
Q. So do we love these birds because they’re smart?
A. They are very clever birds. Plus, they are beautiful, affectionate and loyal. They bond with you as if you are their mate. My pet red-capped parrot will allow me to scratch her neck, but she retreats if my wife comes to her. In fact, she’s jealous of my wife, who is actually very good-natured about it.

The thing I see as I travel is that people truly love their parrots. Once I was in Brazil doing field research. Word got around in this little village that this crazy Australian had come from the other side of the world to see parrots. So when I came out of the hotel, a dozen villagers had lined the sidewalk holding their caged pets for me to inspect. Most of the birds were quite ordinary, but included among them were Amazona vinacea, an uncommon species I’d been searching for, but had been unable to find in the wild.

Q. Are people loving parrots to death?
A. I think so. A third of all parrot species are threatened or endangered. The bird is at once ubiquitous and endangered. The most pressing threat is habitat destruction because of logging and agriculture. There’s additional pressure from the pet trade where wild parrots are being taken from the tropics for sale in Europe and North America. There’s tremendous mortality when the birds are transported. It is estimated that for every wild bird who makes it to the pet shop, at least 10 die.
Q. So should people stop keeping parrots at all?
A. I think they should probably only purchase captive-bred birds. Frankly, I question whether we need to take parrots from the wild at all. One of the biggest problems with the pet trade is that there’s a huge demand for rare species, like the hyacinth macaw. These birds just can’t sustain the assault of organized harvesting.
Q. Australia has stringent prohibitions against the export of wild parrots. Should other countries follow suit?
A. For us, this policy works. There still is some smuggling, but it’s minimal. So when you get off at Sydney International Airport, you walk out of the terminal, and there are cockatoos in front of you and following you around. If you go to Indonesia, you can be there for three weeks and you might never see one. They have virtually uncontrolled export. The comparison speaks for itself.
Q. In the tropics, it’s common for people to eat parrots. Have you ever done it?
A. Terrible to say: I have. And the ones I’ve eaten were not too bad. It was a sulphur-crested cockatoo. We were in the outback, collecting specimens of birds that had been killed for agriculture protection. The airplane that was supposed to bring supplies was delayed, and things got difficult. So when we finished our measurements of the birds, we just chopped the breasts up and dropped them into the pot. We did it out of desperation.
Q. Did it taste like chicken?
A. No, they are very gamy.
Q. How did parrots become your life’s work?
A. If you grow up in Australia, you can’t help but be interested in them because they are everywhere. Australia has the highest diversity of parrots in the world.
As a child, I kept an aviary with them. At university in the 1950’s, I studied pharmacy. In those times, there was no such thing then as professional ornithology studies. But then in 1962, at a meeting of an amateur ornithology society, I met someone who invited me to work in wildlife research at the Australian Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. That was the beginning of my professional career.
Today, I live in Canberra, and if I put a feeder in my backyard, I’ll see five or six different parrot species in a day. If I travel to the outback, I can see great big flocks of them. That makes me glad to be an Australian. I can’t imagine what life would be like without parrots.