Saturday, August 17, 2013

Parrot Safe Wire Mesh

One of the biggest issues we have had here in Australia over the past few years is the supply of `parrot safe’ wire mesh suitable for outdoor enrichment enclosures and breeding aviaries. Previously we could always depend on the Australian made product `Waratah Weldmesh' for its consistent quality and lack of solder `dags’ on the mesh joins. It was a great, reliable and totally safe product. Unfortunately when production of that mesh ceased many birdkeepers were left with the only option of inferior imported mesh. These products were at best poorly made with welds that would quite easily snap and at worst full of those lethal solder dags at the weld joints that parrots have a tendency to snip off, consume and develop potentially fatal heavy metal toxicity.

Thankfully, a new, `bird proven’ and totally safe alternative is now available. The product is being imported from Italy by a good friend of mine who is a birdkeeper and has used the mesh in all of his aviaries with species ranging from Black Cockatoos to small lorikeets to Australian native grass parrots. The product is called `Esafort’ and you can find out more information at the following link…

My recommendation for most outside enclosures that will house parrots is to use 12.7mm x 12.7mm – 1.05mm mesh. Give the `Wire Supplier’ a call via the contact information that can be sourced through the link above for additional advice on the most suitable mesh for your needs.

If you are aware of any other proven wire mesh product that is safe for parrots then please let me know and I will post it here.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

WPT Podcast

Back in 2012 I was asked to record a `podcast’ with Charlie Moores from `Talking Naturally’ based on one of my Q&A replies on the World Parrot Trust `Ask the Experts’ resource. Charlie is an amazing guy with a serious passion for wild birding and it was a great experiencing `Skyping' with him to put this little media piece together. Take the time to check out his website at 

The conversation topic was `Keeping Parrots Flighted’ – something very important to me and a potent motivator for my work  as an educator of companion parrot keepers. The podcast is now available online via the new section of the World Parrot Trust website dedicated to a range of podcast recordings. I can thoroughly recommend taking some time to tune in and listen to all of the podcasts available over a cuppa (or whilst reclining back in bed with the iPad firmly in lap as the case may be these days!) You can check out the podcast via the following link…

If you have even more spare time on your hands then you might like to have a read of the original musings on the matter of keeping your parrot flighted, as well as my other contributions to the WPT Q and A initiative via…

Final 2013 Workshops - Sydney & Gold Coast

Just a couple of date claimers for my final workshops for 2013…

Workshop Title:  `The Training Toolkit’
Date: Saturday September 7th
Venue: Animal Referral Hospital – Homebush, Sydney.
Time: 9:00am to 1:30pm

  • Session 1: The Training Toolkit
  • Session 2: Nutritional Influences on Parrot Behaviour (Dr Stacey Gelis)
  • Session 3: What’s in it for me? – Motivating parrots for training success
  • Session 4: Training Troubleshooting – Tips for successful training and behaviour change management

Cost: $95
Registration Information: Please contact or phone 02 9758 8880 (Registrations close August 31st)

Workshop Title: `Annual Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Companion Parrot Workshop Day’
Date: Saturday September 28th
Venue: Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary – Gold Coast
Time: 9:00am to 4:00pm

  • 21st Century Approach to Companion Parrot Keeping
  • Environmental Enrichment
  • Diet Management
  • Practical Handling & Body Language Interpretation
  • Behind The Scenes – Free Flight Bird Show
  • Behaviour Management
  • Q&A

Cost: $135 ($95 for second household member)

`Hey - Get some education!!!'

Friday, July 5, 2013

The 80/20 Rule

In my last post I talked about some simple options for foraging foods that can encourage parrots to spend more time feeding in functionally relevant ways that match how these little guys are biologically built to behave. A few years ago I published an article in Australian Birdkeeper Magazine that discussed the disparity between variability vs predictability in a parrots daily experience set in captive environments compared to natural environments. It’s what I call the `80/20 rule’. No hard and fast science here – just an anecdotal generalization of activity budget and what a parrot is likely to experience on any given day either in the wild or as a pet in someone’s home that is simple enough for everyone to get the picture that life in the wild is a heck of a lot more variable than life in the living room.  

The simple equation suggests that a parrot in the wild is likely to have a high degree of variability (that’s the 80%) and low degree of predictability (that’s the 20%) in its daily experience set. Conversely, the captive parrot is likely to experience a low degree of variability (20%) and high degree of predictability (80%) in its daily experience set. This sets up the challenge to address the disparity and bridge the gap in that 80/20 ratio between predictability versus variability. It’s the key to long-term behavioural success in our birds. A simple way to start is to categorise all of the experiences your parrot has in a day – eg, feeding, bathing, social interaction, exploration, out of cage, in cage, on playstand etc. Think of alternative ways that each of those experiences can be presented and how you can reduce their predictability on a daily or even weekly schedule. In the next post I will illustrate one super simple way that you can make change the norm. Change and Choice – two great words to keep in mind when setting the environment up for your parrot to succeed and doing something proactive about that 80/20 rule.

Five Fab Foraging Foods

After nearly 20 years of daily parrot feeding I seriously still get a buzz from seeing my birds getting stuck into the fresh food that I prepare for them daily. Cleaning and re-perching, yep - that's a chore, feeding - definitely not. I have written about the value of foraging foods in a number of past blog posts but I wanted to revisit the idea with `5 Fab Foraging Foods’ – stuff that anyone can grab from their local produce and supermarket that get parrots working for food in ways that better replicates the functional foraging behaviours we observe from them in the wild. 

  1. Fresh Figs – Expensive little fellas but packed with gooey goodness. These represent everything that is good about a true forage food – inedible external layer hiding seed filled fleshy delight with the right texture to appeal to most species. A nice idea is to use a knife to `score’ the outside and just feed whole to let them do the rest of the demolition job on it. 
  2. Sugar Snap Peas – Another pricey piece of produce but again, a great replicator of nature’s parrot perfect packaging that demands some work and perseverance to get beyond the fibrous pod and into the peas inside. 
  3. Passionfruit – As with fresh figs, the best way to feed these to motivate work is to score the fruit casing with a knife and let them do the rest. I actually find that my birds don’t seem to eat much of the passionfruit at all. But the sight of an obliterated mess of purple and gold tells me that they whilst there was probably no nutritional value to be gained they had plenty of fun doing `stuff’ other than making noise and pulling out feathers.
  4. Chillies – Parrots lack the capsaicin receptors that result in us humans experiencing the sensation of `heat’ when eating peppers. Packed full of vitamins they can be a great addition to the daily diet. In all the years I have been feeding parrots I have seen every variation on the theme when it comes to consuming foods like chillies. Some eat the flesh, some only eat the seeds, some show little interest. Worth persevering and trying different colours as well to pique their interest. 
  5. Seed Sticks – Yep, not kidding. I’ll probably be lambasted by all the Parrot Police out there who want to rave about ridiculous restrictions on feeding anything not derived from ritually blessed organically certified soils of the hippy hinterland or picked from trees facing the mystic light shards of the northern summer solstice. But seriously, these humble little original bird treats are cheap, convenient, novel fun – especially for parrots that rarely get exposed to seed in their regular diet. In most cases very little is actually consumed and they really can be a highly effective redirector for destructive behaviour – particularly useful to have handy when you need a little quiet `busy’ time from your parrot. Just be sensible with the stick selection and the way you use them; choose the varieties with minimal sunflower seed, avoid the wire stick versions and only use the type shown in the pic above (Trill and Bird Munchies are best), only provide with a purpose (not as a substitute for the more nutritionally beneficial items of their daily food intake) and present for short windows of opportunity to access instead of leaving them in the cage for extended periods of time.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Education - The difference between poverty & prosperity

For the past few years my education efforts in the field of parrot behaviour have been almost solely focused on writing for Australian Birdkeeper Magazine and delivering workshops for both Parrot Behaviour & Enrichment Consultations and my new workshop co-initiative `Behaviourtects’ with my good buddy Nicholas Bishop. My client consultation work has become increasingly more difficult to maintain with an ever increasing set of competing priorities. What I am really passionate about are my workshops. These are incredibly rewarding experiences and the opportunity to teach to a group of passionate parrot people quenches my thirst for educating others. 

Research tells us what should be obvious - education is the number one influence on poverty or prosperity in the human condition. Likewise, it is our education levels as parrot owners that make the difference between our parrots living impoverished or prosperous lives whilst in our care. Parrot owners that actively engage in a life-long approach to continuing education of themselves are undoubtedly better equipped to offer their birds the enriched captive life they deserve. Even though I have been a parrot keeper for nearly 20 years and taught parrot owners for more than ten of those through my writing and workshops I consider myself a professional learner first, teacher second. I still attend workshop opportunities as a student and keenly listen to the anecdotes of others to embellish my own experience set with theirs. 

These days, most people look to the Internet as their primary learning environment. If you’re lucky you will find the good stuff early in your search. There’s plenty of gold out there if you start with the links below. If not, welcome to a whole world of poverty stricken thinking, most of which rears its ugly head in those great information shantytowns – the parrot discussion forum or the Facebook parrot whatever group. 

My advice - If you really want to deepen your education then there is no substitute for an immersion experience via workshops, conferences or conventions. If you can’t make a workshop then be sure to check the following sources to ensure your understanding of the behaviour and enrichment needs of your birds is going to prosper and not languish in poverty…

Poverty or Prosperity? Education makes the difference

Quick Update...

The past 5 years have been an amazing time of change with the addition of three children and an ever-increasing set of work responsibilities. I have recently decided to remove my old website completely and now my website address will redirect to this blog site until I develop a replacement site. That will hopefully happen this year but until then, parrot enthusiasts can keep in touch via my various blog ramblings at this site.  To keep things happening my plan is to upload a new blog post each fortnight (twice a month), something that I haven’t been able to allocate the time to do successfully over the past year but will endeavour to do so now. Check in every second weekend and hopefully there will be something new to read or an interesting link to share.

My main distraction over the past few years has been my focus on being `present’ with my family. I take that responsibility as being my most important in life and it certainly gets prioritized over my education work for bird owners. The upside for me is that my twin boys are starting to `help out’ with the bird round. Archie in particular really likes following me around and loves to be given little jobs to do – his favourite being to place the afternoon fruit chunk in each of the lory aviaries. 

Parrots and children can be a volatile mix. Whilst I don’t consider most parrot species to be suitable companion animals for kids, perhaps the more appropriate reality is that most kids aren’t really suitable carers for parrots (actually – most adults are probably worse but that’s for another time). There are a few exceptions but my experience definitely suggests that aside from the time period when a parrot is very young and very confiding, most become increasingly less tolerant of the variability in behaviour of small children. Of all of the parrots in my collection, most display aggression towards my three kids as they wander around the aviaries and some; the Amazons and Macaws in particular, are simply dangerous. 

My goal is for my children to grow up appreciating wildlife so I want them to have the most positive experience possible and to learn the importance of respecting all forms of life. To ensure that those experiences build confidence, engagement and wonder it’s definitely a `hands off’ situation while the kids are young. As they learn about how animals communicate with us through their body language they will hopefully develop the sorts of decision-making skills that ultimately make the critical difference between success and failure in their animal encounters. What an awesome responsibility it is to guide them through that learning journey!

Archie on the afternoon rounds serving up a fruit chunk for the Black Lories - his favourites.