Thursday, July 30, 2009

Reading your parrot’s body language can help relationship

We all use non-verbal cues to convey our thoughts and feelings. An attentive listener will tilt their head slightly forward, while a bored person looks anywhere but at the person who is talking to them. Leaning one’s body towards another person says “I would like to be closer to you”, while crossing one’s arms in front of their chest telegraphs “don’t come any closer”.

New parrot owners are sometimes quick to misjudge their bird's behavior and wonder why they received a bite or why the bird fluttered off their hand. Does the bird want you to come to it, or move away? If you start to understand what bird body language means, it's easy to read bird behavior. Here are a few things to watch for:

The “Sucker Punch”: Parrots, notably the African grey, will put their head down, as if wanting to be scratched. But the moment you begin to rub its head, it reaches around and gives you a big nip. Avian behavioral consultant Liz Wilson has coined this “the sucker punch” and says when the bird has its head down with eyes looking to the side or closed, it is usually prepared to bite.

Eye pinning: In some parrots with light colored eyes, you will notice the pupil dilating in and out when the bird becomes excited. This happens a lot in Amazon parrots, macaws, Poicephalus, and greys, but is not uncommon with any parrot. Eye pinning means a heightened excited state, so this isn't a good time to stick your finger into your parrot's face –you might just get a bloody finger.

Tail flaring: Birds shake their tails after preening or to release tension, but tail flaring is different –this is when the tail feathers are flared out like a fan. Amazons are prone to this, but other types of parrots do this as well. This indicates an excited state, and often appears with eye pinning.

Beak clicking: The clicking of the beak can indicate an excited state, but can also be a warning to stay away.

Feather fluffing: A bird will ruffle and fluff its feathers after preening to remove debris, and will also fluff its feathers when it's cold. If a bird has its feathers continually fluffed, it may be ill and is trying to keep warm.

Beak wiping: A bird will wipe its beak on a perch or cage bars after eating to remove debris. This is normal behavior and is nothing to worry about.

Crest position: Some birds, like cockatiels, cockatoos, and hawk headed parrots have head crests that are raised or lowered to indicate emotional state. If you have one of these types of birds, watch to see what prompts the bird to raise its crest - is it excited, fearful, or happy?

Shivering: Birds shiver and shake after taking a bath -- their breast muscles involuntarily contract and expand to create heat in the body. A bird may also seem to shiver when it's very excited. Quaker parrots are known to "quake," which is how they got their name.

Flapping wings: Birds often hold tight to the perch and flap madly as if wanting to take off in flight. They do this for exercise and when they're happy, and it can also be part of breeding behavior.

Head bobbing: Head bobbing can indicate that a bird is anxious to go somewhere, or perhaps is regurgitating to you in an effort to bond with you. Very young parrots bob their heads a lot, as do Quaker parrots.

Studying your bird’s body language and understanding what they are expressing can make a difference if they’re content—or determined to send you to a quick trip to the first aid kit!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The playful parrots who play catch with the family dog

Game on: One of the two-year-old Macaws chases after Flitzer the dog

Teasing the family dog and raiding apple trees, these playful parrots love nothing more than to cause mischief.

Pictured in the German countryside, female Macaws Ava and Mio cruise the skies looking for fun and food.

The yellow and blue pair of birds, aged two, have proved themselves to be quite a handful for their owner Julian Knott.

Steer clear! The bright blue and yellow bird charges directly for the hapless dog

The birds often charge at Julian's dog Flitzer and have even riled a neighbour's horse.

'Its an interactive game between the birds and Flitzer our dog,' says 25-year-old Julian from Hamburg.

'The games are sometimes initiated by the parrots and sometimes by Flitzer.

'But in the blink of an eye the hunter becomes the hunted and Flitzer follows the Macaws.

Carry on racing: The other bird joins in as the trio zoom around the field

'We let them out each morning and it only takes a few minutes before they have emptied the apple tree,' adds Julian, a helicopter pilot.

'After they have eaten they both rest in a tree, just to become active towards the evening.

'This is playtime for the parrots and they even manage to play with Lasso, a 15-year-old horse from the stable behind us.'

Out of breath: Flitzer has a rest while the parrots refuel for more fun

Julian says that even the locals have become acquainted to the exotic birds, who have a wingspan of 130 centimetres.

'Sometimes they call me, that they have seen them on the river, bathing or visiting a shop,' he says.

'We don't care - they come home every evening. They feel totally at home with us and we don't have to be scared - until the next morning.'

On horseback: The mischievous pair make friends with a neighbour's horse
Winged menace: The notorious pair fly free during the day before returning home to rest at nigh

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rare swift parrot sightings south of Narooma

LOCAL birdwatchers have reported the arrival of up to 30 per cent of the total population of the highly endangered Swift Parrot in forests on the Far South Coast within the past fortnight.

The small green Swift Parrot is among the most endangered parrots in the country with less than a thousand breeding pairs remaining.

The species annually migrates between Tasmania and southeastern Australia but has dramatically declined in numbers because of habitat disturbance and an unfortunate habit of colliding into windows.

NPWS Ranger, Robyn Kesby, said today that anyone who knows anything about this rare species is very excited about the news they have arrived in such numbers on the Far South Coast.

"Seeing one would be a real treat but local bird group, the Far South Coast Birdwatchers and experts from Birds Australia, have reported seeing as many as 350 in one group at Corunna State Forest south of Narooma and another group of 200 at Nelsons Beach in Mimosa Rocks National Park," Ms Kesby said.

Chris Tzaros from Birds Australia said that there was some concern earlier when Swift Parrots were not appearing at their more regular locations this season.

"I think that it is likely the serious drought conditions which have impacted on their favoured locations such as the box-ironbark woodlands of central Victoria and the inland slopes of the divide in NSW combined with favourable flowering in coastal spotted gum forests is why we are seeing them in such numbers on the Far South Coast.

Local birdwatcher and photographer, Max Sutcliffe said today that he was thrilled to be able to see and photograph this rare visitor.

"When I heard that Chris Tzaros from Birds Australia had found over 350 in Corunna State Forest feeding on spotted gum I immediately thought of Nelsons Beach in Mimosa Rocks National Park.

"I went out there on June 20 and much to my delight saw more than 20 feeding on blossom and lerp.

"On following visits their numbers increased to more than 100 within two weeks, some seen feeding on Banksia flowers also. This was an awesome experience as I watched two flocks of over 50 fly in and they filled the sky," Mr Sutcliffe said.

Because it is so rare the Swift Parrot is the focus of intensive efforts nationally to reverse its decline. A National Recovery Program is active for the Swift Parrot with the help of volunteers in NSW, ACT, Qld, Vic and SA who help conduct national surveys twice annually that track the movement of this species across the landscape.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

NOT to be outdone by their feathered cousins in the pavilion next door, the Gympie Cage Bird Club also held its annual bird show at the showgrounds last weekend.

The show was a popular drawcard among breeders, with 24 exhibitors and 319 birds on display.

Some of the birds exhibited on the day included canaries, budgerigars, cockatiels, parrots and finches.

The day was a busy one for all involved. Besides the judging there were other attractions including a cent auction and a bird sale.

Winners included Pamela Window who won the champion cockatiel, Zoe Doyle who took out champion large parrot, Jenny Stolberg was awarded champion finch and Betty D'Arcy won champion border canary.

Cage Bird Club secretary Betsy Quince said it was a great family day.

“There was a continual flow of people - very rewarding for all the people concerned,” she said.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Taxidermy in his blood

O some, Ben Carrillo’s backyard shed could be considered a mortuary.

It’s filled with the carcasses of mammals, fish and birds.

At times the stench of rotting crustaceans or strong chemicals permeate the surrounding air.

But to Mr Carillo, it is a time capsule of what could be lost.

For about 20 years he has been a taxidermist and sees taxidermy as one way to preserve rare animals and capture their beauty.

“I’m a bird lover and animal lover,” he said.

“I don’t want to see nice animals going to waste – that’s probably the biggest attraction to it.”

His obsession with taxidermy began when he was breeding budgies in his early twenties.

He wanted to preserve his rare crested budgie and decided to mount it himself after discovering the price to get it done professionally.

Mr Carrillo said the budgie ultimately looked more like a giraffe than a bird, but he was not disheartened.

He has since specialised in mounting fish and birds but will mount “just about anything.”

“I’ve seen it all. I’ve done a camel, I’ve done a monkey, I’ve done all types of things that you can think of,” he said.

His clientele includes hunters, pet owners and museums.

“There’s not really too much that I find strange because I’ve had people bring around their pet rats and they have little costumes with them.”

But Mr Carrillo also said taxidermy played an important role in preserving the memory of endangered or extinct wildlife.

“There are species lost every week,” he said.

“This is the only way we’re going to be able to see them.”

He said that it also provided a way for pet owners to hold on to their beloved animals.

Mr Carrillo said the taxidermy industry was cut-throat and the future was not looking good for what he called a “very secretive business”.

He said five Victorian taxidermists retired last year and with no courses in Melbourne, the business relied solely on mentorship.

“I’m probably the youngest taxidermist out there at the moment, and I’m 43 years old. Now everyone is getting older in this game and there aren’t many newcomers,” he said.

He said that not many taxidermists would take on apprentices for fear of them stealing clients.

“You’ll see a couple of newcomers in the Yellow Pages and then they’ll be gone.”

Mr Carrillo said with little money to be made, his venture into the industry came from love.

“Honestly, once taxidermy is in your blood you can’t get away from it,” he said.