Sunday, August 30, 2009

Polly wants a parrot picnic

Parrots, it is said, have their own personalities.

Snuggles shows off for the camera, spreading her white wings to reveal their yellow undersides, like the surprisingly extravagant lining of a suit coat.

Socko doesn’t like anyone, even her owner, Mike Edwards, to peek under her wings.

Some birds nervously pluck out their own feathers. Others will give their owners a sociable little kiss. Some are sweet-natured, and others – often helped along by neglect or abuse – can be mean.

The people who gathered Saturday in Franklin Park like all kinds.

“Their personalities are just amazing,” said Chris Sheasley, 27, who works at a pet store and helps run a bird rescue operation for cockatiels. “You watch any bird long enough and they all have their own individual personalities. You have dog people, cat people – I’m a bird person.”

Organized by Pampered Parrots Avian Rescue, the picnic brought together parrot lovers of all kinds. More than 20 people and 10 parrots – ranging from umbrella cockatoos to cockatiels to green-cheeked conures to African grays – gathered for the event.

Several of those attending met through Pampered Parrots, owned by Bret and Tracy Conant, and have taken up the cause of bird rescue.

There’s a pretty big need. The Conants have rescued and found homes for more than 500 birds in nine years; Sheasley has 23 birds under his care now. Bret Conant said a lot of people buy parrots without realizing that they can take some effort.

“People will get into birds without researching it,” he said. “They don’t realize that all birds make noise, all birds can destroy furniture and other things, all birds can make a mess.”

Most of the people at Saturday’s picnic know one another; many carried someone else’s bird on their shoulder. And most of them have more birds at home.

Jeanne Ettenborough, 67, of Spokane, had to stop and think before saying how many parrots she has. She has “a lesser cockatoo, a severe mini-mackaw, a brown-eyed Meyer parrot, a regular little Meyer parrot, and I’ve just got a Jardine, two cockatiels and a little parakeet,” she said.

“About nine, I think,” she said. “Oh – I have a love bird, too. I forgot the love bird.”

Ettenborough said her parrot habit became serious about 14 years ago, when a little Meyer parrot followed her around in a store.

“The bird actually picked me,” she said.

Other bird owners tell a similar tale.

“My granddad taught me you never pick the dog, the dog picks you,” said Edwards, eating a sandwich while Socko perched on his shoulder. “That’s pretty much how this was. … He picked me.”

Favorite snack foods for parrots

George Sommers wrote:-

The munchies: an overwhelming craving for food, especially of the junk persuasion - parrots get it, too! Pippy the Goffin's cockatoo offers the following culinary suggestions.

Millet spray is clusters of tiny grain seeds bound together which Pippy likes to grasp in one foot while crunching. Bonus point: small, often finicky birds like parakeets love it, too.

Summertime is the berries - and blueberries are a delicious seasonal treat. They're small, manageable and eagerly devoured, so they don't make as much of a mess as many other foods. Strawberries are another favorite fruit treat - but the juice that stains birdy's beak will make him look like a miniature vulture!

Pippy espcecially enjoys picking the kernels off ears of raw corn on the cob. Another veggie fave is sliced carrots.

When our late blooming summer segues into fall (hopefully not for several weeks) chopped or sliced apples are on the menu. Make sure to rinse off these or any other fruits or vegetables before offering.

When the house people are dining, Pippy is not shy about announcing her desire for a piece of the action, especially when the action consists of rice from the local Mexican takeout, pasta and pizza - and don't skimp on the tomato sauce!

Unsalted peanuts in the shell double as a treat and an activity as your bird eagerly cracks open that shell to get at the delicious prize inside.strawberries, millet

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Device to aid farmers, save parrots

Wonderful! Now if you could just start a program replanting the parrot’s natural food sources, and nesting boxes, maybe they could rebound. What about asking some of the men in Northward to build boxes for the parrots? And, while helping parrots, what about building nesting boxes for your owls? The sugar planters here in Florida have started building owl boxes and the rodent problem is decreasing dramatically. Just a suggestion. - Dianne Jones

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bird’s brain: Nature center’s parrot stays sharp with movies, mischief

Tino, a scarlet macaw at the Prairie Park Nature Center, can shout out hello and goodbye to visitors as well as mimic several other laughs and bits of communication.

Tino, a scarlet macaw at the Prairie Park Nature Center, can shout out hello and goodbye to visitors as well as mimic several other laughs and bits of communication.

Twenty-year-old Tino’s favorite movie is “The Wizard of Oz.” He likes to dance and sing along when he watches.

And if that’s not absurd enough, it gets better: Tino’s a bird. He’s a scarlet macaw — a colorful type of parrot native to South America — who lives at the Prairie Park Nature Center, 2730 Harper St.

“He seems to get a kick out of anything musical,” says Marty Birrell, nature interpretive supervisor. “He’s alternately adorable and obnoxious.”

According to workers at Prairie Park, Tino’s got rhythm. He likes to strut his stuff whenever he can. He loves movies — particularly musicals — bobs his body back and forth rhythmically with song. Singing along also comes naturally. He’s been known to spout out lyrics to the Oompa-Loompa songs from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

And he also likes cartoons. Birrell speculates that’s because the programs are as animated as Tino himself. A neurotic attention hound, Tino likes to mess around with the kids who come to see him. His antics can be entertaining or annoying.

Entertaining: When children say hi to Tino, he waves his wings back and says “hello.”

Tino - Scarlet Macaw

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Tino is a Scarlet Macaw at the Prairie Park Nature Center who can welcome visitors with a "hello" or a "goodbye" plus vocalize other bits and pieces of conversation and laughter. Two of Tino's favorite things to do is to get a spray water bath and watch musicals like "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" Enlarge video

Annoying: While children are at the center, Tino randomly shrieks or screams, using, as Birrell calls it, his loud voice.

“Here at the nature center, he’s best known for frightening small children,” Birrell says. “We have a big sign up warning everyone. It’s kind of tiresome.”

When kids shuffle into the nature center, they tend to crowd around Tino in awe. They instantly try to beckon a response. They’ll call out things like, “pretty bird,” and “Polly want a cracker?”

Tino usually sits smugly on his perch, unresponsive, until the children grow bored and amble off. The moment their backs are turned, though, Tino launches into a loud shriek, evoking tears and screams in the youngsters. Older kids get a charge from Tino’s scare tactics, but toddlers react differently.

“He can make a small toddler’s ears hurt,” Birrell says. “We’ll hear his shriek and then hear the sobs and know he’s gotten another victim.”

But Tino doesn’t shriek and scream to be malicious. It’s all in fun. After screaming loudly, he throws his head and wings back and cackles, as if it’s all a big joke.

And Tino doesn’t just play tricks on visitors. He also works. He’s a regular prop in the nature center’s educational programs that feature rain forest animals. The programs are designed to educate children about birds, rain forests and adaptation.

Tino loves participating, but when he’s not working, he gets to have some fun: The center is closed on Mondays, known to Tino as “movie night.” Viewed as enrichment time, movie night serves to stimulate Tino and the other birds at Prairie Park. Parrots are intelligent birds, and they crave interaction. If they aren’t properly stimulated they will misbehave, self-mutilate or can even go insane.

All of the parrots at the nature center watch movies on Mondays. Duncan and Maury, brother and sister African Greys, enjoy wildlife movies the most. Anything featuring other birds is a big hit. And cartoons also are a favorite. To top it off, Birrell sometimes will cart in the crow, Edgar, to watch movies with the parrots. The birds talk, sing and have a good time.

Andy Wolff has worked at the nature center for three years, and it took him two just to get comfortable handling Tino without gloves.

Now Wolff and Tino have a good relationship,

and Wolf more or less trusts the bird. Andy Wolf and Tino have a pretty good relationship and Wolf can handle the scarlet macaw without gloves. Tino can’t fly, so he can’t physically hurt visitors, but some children get upset when Tino shrieks loudly for attention.

Andy Wolf and Tino have a pretty good relationship and Wolf can handle the scarlet macaw without gloves. Tino can’t fly, so he can’t physically hurt visitors, but some children get upset when Tino shrieks loudly for attention.

“Tino has a gentle side too,” Wolff says. “He’ll hold my hand and preen my arm hairs, taking care of me. He’s a pretty sweet guy, really.”

Sunday, August 09, 2009

There's no place like home

Lola back in her cage where she belongs

HAMPTON — Sharon Chang said her beloved parrot, Lola, is back home where she belongs after disappearing last week. After three days Lola was discovered four towns away in Epping.

"She had a little adventure, but she is happy to be home, and we are happy she is home," said Chang.

The four-year-old African gray parrot, which had never been outside before, was safely returned to Chang thanks to an Epping couple who found the exotic gray bird with a bright red tail. The couple contacted Epping's animal control officer who remarkably located Chang via an Internet Web site.

"It really was a miracle they found her," said Chang, who had been desperately searching for Lola since she accidently flew out of her home on Sunday, July 26. "I couldn't sleep or eat."

Chang said Lola flew out a sliding door that was partly open in her family's newly installed sun room at their home on Towle Farm Road.

"Something startled her and instead of flying back to her cage like she usually does, she flew out the door and up into the trees," said Chang. "We couldn't get her to come down."

Lola eventually left the tree, her owner said, and headed west.

"I was up all night," Chang said. "I kept going out and calling her name.

"I would also whistle because she likes to do the music of the 'Charge' baseball theme," the Hampton woman said. "I was hoping she would respond, but there was nothing.'

Chang spent the next morning going door-to-door asking her neighbors if they had seen the parrot and spent the afternoon contacting every local veterinarian in hopes that someone had turned Lola in.

She also put ads in the newspaper, hung flyers all around town, and posted a description of her pet on the lost-and-found section on

"She was more than just a pet to me," Chang said. "She was like my little baby."

After three days, Chang began to think the worst.

"Now I'm not Catholic, but I was praying to Saint Anthony because I know he helps people find lost things," Chang said. "I really didn't think I would see her again."

It was then she received a call from Epping Animal Control Officer Bill Hansen who informed her that he had Lola in his possession.

"I couldn't believe it," Chang said. "She flew 15 miles away.

"I'm not sure where she thought she was going, but God bless her, she was OK," the Hampton woman said.

Hansen picked up the bird after a couple who lives on Prescott Road called around 7 a.m. on Wednesday, July 29, to report finding a "lonely bird."

"They knew the bird was domesticated because it was just sitting on their porch even though their cat was there," Chang said.

"Lola is not afraid of cats," she said. "I have five cats and Lola loves to terrorize them. She loves to chase them and bite their tales."

Chang said Hansen picked up the bird, brought it home and went on the Internet to see if anyone reported a lost parrot in the area.

That's when he discovered Chang's ad posted on

"Craigslist has gotten a bad name, but it does do good," Chang said. "I'm eternally thankful for whoever Craig really is."

Chang said Hansen took great care of Lola.

"She was just tired and very stressed," Chang said of the bird. "When we got into the car she kept saying 'Good night Lola. Good night Lola.'

"That is what she says every night when she wants to go back in her cage and go to sleep," her owner said.

Chang said she tried to give Hansen a cash reward, but he refused to take it. So she ended up giving the award to the couple who found Lola.

Since being home, Chang said Lola hasn't left her side.

"It was nice to hear her voice again," Chang said. "A lot of people think parrots just mimic what you say, but she actually carries on a conversation.

"The very first morning she was back home she watched as I poured more coffee and said, 'Do you want more coffee?'" Chang said. "I thought 'Ahhh, my baby's home.'"

Banham Zoo breeding endangered parrots

Banham Zoo's latest and most colourful arrivals have shocked staff by suddenly being classified endangered - but staff are aiming to save the species.

The zoo received two sun conure parrots in June, thinking at the time that the birds were common in their native South America.

However, since then, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has officially labelled them an endangered species.

It is now thought there may be just one flock remaining in the wild, found in Guyana, containing as few as 200 birds.

Numbers of the brightly-coloured creatures have dwindled because of illegal trapping, as birds can be sold for profit as pets.

“The news came as a real surprise as there had been no indication that the species was in such trouble,” said animal manager Mike Woolham.

“Banham Zoo has held sun conures for a number of years now and we have had considerable breeding success which I am sure we will be able to achieve again.”

The two birds were received this summer from a specialist parrot zoo in Lincolnshire, and joined an existing pair at Banham

Soon the group of four will have a lot more company.

Before the end of the month another 10 birds are due to arrive, which the zoo is hoping will form the basis of a breeding group that can bolster numbers of the endangered species.

The parrots can be seen in the Bird Garden at Banham Zoo.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Threatened species – Wallum Ground Parrot

Date: Saturday 22nd August 2009
Location: Noosa National Park

Only three in the world and there’s one right here

Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus)

The Ground Parrot is a stunningly beautiful bird and one of only three ground dwelling parrots in the world. Sightings of parrot have been recorded in the Noosa National Park including Marcoola, Coolum, Emu Swamp, Weyba and Noosa Link section.

During the free spring Wildflower Festival 15 – 29 August, don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about this elusive bird, hear its distinctive song and maybe even catch a glimpse.

Date & Time: 22 August, 5.20 pm – 6.15 pm
Wildflower Festival: 15 – 29 August
What: Join Lyn Boston in the closed heath and sedge lands of Noosa National Park to learn more about the endangered Ground Parrot.
Where: Noosa National Park
Bookings: Sunshine Coast Council on 5420 8200 – Places limited – Bookings essential
Cost: Free

The following article has been written by Lyn Boston from the Bat Rescue Group

The Ground Parrot is listed as a “vulnerable” species under the Queensland Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 1994. It is a distinctive bright green and yellow bird with a head and body similar in length to a lorikeet. The ground parrot has long toes and a very long yellow-barred green tail.

The ground parrot is a specialist of sedgeland and heathlands on the Sunshine Coast, eats up to 40 different seed types and fashions a domed nest cavity on the ground. As the name suggests the ground parrot spends most of its time on the ground making it particularly available to predators such as feral cats and foxes.

The nest is screened from view, and generally forms a tunnel. The female incubates the eggs and broods the young from September to December. The incubation period lasts for up to four weeks, during which incubation the female is fed by the male, as are the young when they hatch. Clutch size ranges from one to six.

The ground parrot is shy, elusive and a reluctant flyer. If disturbed all you will hear is the flapping of wings, and see a yellowish-green blur before it dives back into the vegetation for cover.

Probably the most interesting behaviour of these birds is the timing of their calls. They are crepuscular, that is they call pre sunrise and post sunset and are rarely heard outside these times. They are first birds to call in the morning and the last ones at night. Often the only way of determining the presence of these shy birds is to listen for their call. The call consists of a series of piercing, resonating whistles, rising in steps, with each note flowing on almost unbroken, but abruptly higher than the preceding note.

The ground parrot’s habitat – coastal heathland – has been under threat for some time along our coastline, as many areas are cleared for housing and development. The ground parrot has found sanctuary in national parks stretching from Marcoola to Noosa. These habitats provide a high abundance and diversity of food, adequate cover and suitable roosting and nesting opportunities for the ground parrot.

Monitoring of this species to determine the distribution and abundance has been undertaken in Noosa National Park for a number of years and will be continued to ensure all possible measures are taken to preserve this special bird.

Friday, August 07, 2009

A parrot diet of pellets . . . and pizza?

When it comes to chowing down, variety is the spice of life and everyone wants a change of taste, including the feathered members of the family. “Pet birds can be allowed to eat the same food you might prepare for yourself, and in fact, prefer such food, and it can be healthy for them”, says Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, a veterinarian who specializes in birds at Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine. “It's usually okay to give birds what you might be eating at the time.”

Of course, fresh fruits and vegetables are the healthiest (for them and for us!), but eggs, cheese, pasta, rice, potatoes, noodles, bits of meat or fish and other people foods are okay for your bird to ingest. "In general, foods that are rich in protein, vitamins and calcium are good for birds," Blue-McLendon says.

However, there are some foods that can be detrimental to the bird’s long-term health and should be given in moderation—like those containing a high sugar content. Most foods with sugar are perfectly safe for birds to have a bite or even two, but the quantities should be limited to a very small amount and only on rare occasions rather than daily. Parrots seem to love sweets and can become little junk food junkies if allowed.

Foods high in salt aren’t good for most people or for birds, either; since parrots are so much smaller, a little bit goes a long way. Some foods can simply be taken out of the preparation cycle before salt is added so the parrot can enjoy a safe serving. If your parrot goes nuts over cooked veggies and you salt your food, then give them their serving before adding the seasoning. Unsalted crackers and other processed foods low on sodium can be can safely shared with the flock.

Any food that has a high fat content should likewise be limited. In the wild, parrots eat very little fat; what they do eat is mainly from bugs and other protein sources. Certain parrot species, particularly Amazons and cockatoos, can become obese and suffer from food- related issues like us. "Some birds need a low-fat diet. Too much cholesterol may contribute to heart disease. Also, many types of birds are prone to get hardening of the arteries much the same way as it occurs in people," Blue-McLendon notes.

There are a few things that can actually kill your parrot as far as human food goes, ones they should never, ever, be allowed to sample. These absolute no-no’s include avocadoes, chocolate, alcoholic beverages, seeds of any fruit, raw meat, uncooked eggs, or any food that are moldy or have spoiled.

Most everything else that you eat can be shared with your parrot. The more variety your bird eats, the better its health will be, the more vibrant the feather colors and the happier it will be. But remember to always use some common sense and dole out the delectable tidbits in small, bird-sized portions.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Endangered bird on display

The endangered Swift Parrot goes on show in a Tasmanian zoo today for the first time.

A Hobart breeder gave 15 parrots to Tasmania Zoo near Launceston to take part in a breeding program.

The zoo's owner Dick Warren says it's a great coup for any wildlife park.

"It's been on the endangered list for a long time and they're getting very rare," Mr Warren said.

"We've been fighting for six years to get the Swift Parrot and to have a breeding program."

"We've been fighting for a fair while now for permits and we've just got them through - we've had to build a special enclosure," he said.