- Blue headed macaw (5)
- Blue headed pionus (1)
- Bronze wing pionus (3)
- Buffons macaw (5)
- Crimson bellied conure (16)
- Cuban amazon (18)
- Illegers macaw (8)
- Hawk headed parrot (5)
- Hyacinth macaw (6)
- Moluccan cockatoo (8)
- Patagonian parrot (6)
- Red browed amazon (3)
- Red fronted macaw (16)
- Rose crown conure (33)
- Severe macaw (4)
- Tucumans amazon (6)
- Umbrella cockatoo (8)
- White fronted amazon (17)
- Yellow naped amazon (5)
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
I hope that some of you bought the latest ABK Magazine and had a chance to read about my experiences with Lola, my Yellow-crowned Amazon parrot. I think it’s a good little story and one that shares the simple fact that it doesn’t matter how experienced you are, or how much you think you’re prepared, life with parrots is always full of new challenges and reminders that you’ve still got a whole darn lot more to learn. If you didn’t get the mag, and therefore didn’t read my article, well, ah, may your parrot poop on your best shirt tomorrow! Anyway – I’ve just sent off the Pet Parrot Pointers column for the Dec/Jan issue, which will be out in the second week of December. I thought about doing some kind of daggy `What to buy your parrot for Christmas’ thing but I just couldn’t. Read `Bird Talk’ for that – guaranteed to have a parrot somewhere in an issue at that time of year wearing a Santa hat or some other barf inducing prop (God I hope they Photoshop those images). Nope – I thought I’d give the gift that keeps on giving and write up an article on Target Training J Hey, maybe that’s what you can buy your parrot for Christmas – a Target Training stick! One of those super-dooper telescopic ones that extend out like a TV antenna (for those of you who are pre-plasma generation and actually know what an antenna is). Actually those target sticks are pretty neat – I have one and love it. You can pick them up from http://www.myparrotshop.com if you’re in Australia. Either that or just nick a chop-stick next time you’re out feasting on a Sweet ‘n Sour dish at your local greasy spoon.
One of the applications of stationing a parrot to touch a target that I’ve been applying is with Lola – the aforementioned Amazon Parrot. She’s never been keen on tactile handling, always been a little on the averse side to hands, and not been one for a good old ruffle of the nape feathers. With a little use of the target and pairing some approximations of reduced proximity of my fingers towards her head, then a touch, then increasing touch duration, she’s come around and is now a bit of a glutton for a good old preen and cranial massage J Nice work Jimbo – and thanks for the patience Lola! The other pic is PJ, my Caique. He used to go into pet packs no problemo, but I’ve been slack in keeping this up. A good reminder about training some of these behaviours – use it or lose it! Anyway, I’m back to working with him and getting him re-acquainted with the scary plastic box again. The target helps and hopefully this time we’ll keep it up. Read more in the ABK Dec/Jan issue. Available at newsstands absolutely everywhere on Earth from mid-December J
So here we are – `Numero Uno’ reason for being a parrot behaviour and enrichment consultant eh? Hmmm. You know, any of the previous reasons I shared in earlier posts is enough to keep me motivated to do what I do. But there is one reason that really out-does the others. I want you to take a good look at the image above. It’s a nice little head study of an African Grey parrot. Neat looking bird huh? The thing about African Greys is that when you look into their eyes, I mean really look, you can’t help but be a little overawed with the realisation that there is some serious neuron firing going on inside that head of theirs. Any of you who have been up close and personal with a Grey will know what I mean. It’s different. I mean, these guys really do look back at you as if to say - `Yeah - I breathe, I think, I make decisions, I’m a complex, sensitive creature – what are you gonna do to keep me occupied today?’ Obviously I have no real idea what that Grey, or any other parrot for that matter, is `really’ thinking – but that doesn’t stop me from making a double take every time I look at one of these guys and just wonder – just wonder.
Anyway, thinking that Greys are pretty darn neat isn’t what I’m on about here for my `Number 1’. The thing about that headshot above is that it’s actually a close-up of the bird below. My bird. Not someone asking for my help for his or her feather plucked parrot, my bird. You see, the number one reason why I do what I do is because I’ve actually lived through the problems, the traumas, the heartaches, the frustrations, the sense of despair, and the self-evaluation as a parrot owner that often leaves you asking... `Why?’
When I’m supporting a client, it’s not just with a few snippets of advice I gleaned from an Internet chat board, or read in a magazine, or heard about from Barry the breeder down the road, or just made up because I have no `real’ reference point to work from but it sounds good in theory. More often than not, I’ve lived it. I’ve walked in your shoes. I understand the sadness, the relationship strains, and the confusion that often envelops your life when things go bad with a parrot that you brought into your home. The flipside is that I also know what it takes to get to the other side – to get that parrot trusting me again, to get its feathers back, to communicate with me in a way other than screaming its lungs out. That’s because I haven’t just lived through the problems, I’ve taken the weeks, months, and sometimes years, to live through the solutions.
That African Grey in the picture? His name is Cheeky. He came to us 5 years ago at the age of 25, in the same state he is in today. He’s probably plucked himself like that for a good 27 or 28 of those 30 years and unfortunately, it’s unlikely he’ll ever experience the sensation of lift beneath his wings. He has some of the most intensely stereotypical picking behaviour I’ve seen in a parrot. It doesn’t make me feel any better knowing that he’s always been that bad though. When I go around to my birds each day, I stop and have a chat with Cheek, look at him in the eye, and get reminded of a simple goal – Don’t give up, keep doing what you do, keep trying to make a difference. So, when Cheeky looks at me as if to say, `What are you gonna do for me today?’ – the answer is try – just keep on trying. In the process, the knowledge I gain will inevitably help someone else, and the ripple effect flows on from there. That little bald guy is the most important parrot in my aviaries, my inspiration, and my reminder that I owe it to them to do what I do – bigtime. Number one reason why I do what I do as a matter of fact J
Sometimes just getting a pet parrot to step back up onto the hand of an owner it has lost trust in is a monumental achievement and worthy of celebration. What most parrot owners consider the `simplest’ of behaviours that their parrot will present for them is also, in my opinion, one of the most important foundations of their relationship, and undoubtedly the best example of how good learning and relationship building is achieved through small, positively reinforced approximations.
Success in supporting a client to achieve a goal with their parrots, whether it be behavioural or environmental, is absolutely one of the top 5 reasons why I do what do ☺
Check out the neat little sequence below as an example of the approximations that were reinforced to achieve the final goal of this Quaker stepping onto the hand of a client I was working with – without the bite!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
I mean, I’m all for recycling right? Good for the environment, keepin’ it `green’ and all. I guess for some it’s logical to think – `Hmmm... spare sheet of tin, few old car tyres lyin’ around, bit of round tube and some old chicken wire – make a run to the Tip with it?’ Hell no! Why not make an aviary and stick a Galah in it! Classic, genius, Aussie improvisation. And hey, if the little pink and grey guy gets bored, just throw a few chickens in there to keep him company – eggs for breakfast and a built-in floor cleaning system for picking up all those darned sunflower husks. Imagine sitting back and reflecting on such a masterpiece after it’s completed and considering all of the avian possibilities that could be manifest within this backyard abode. Why stop at the chooks – surely there’s scope for a flock of budgies escorted by a dozen or so Zebra finches making themselves right at home in there. OK – now I’m getting ridiculous, but if I hadn’t actually seen things like that I wouldn’t be inclined to sink into sarcasm. Hopefully, you’re actually just as confused as I was as to exactly how people get the idea that this is what a parrot aviary is all about.
So, here we have No.3 in my little series here of what inspires me to keep `doing what I do’ as a parrot behaviour and enrichment consultant. Sure, it’s along the same lines as No. 5 but let’s consider just how wrong they got this whole concept. The picture unfortunately doesn’t reveal the full story – that being of a Galah that spent most of the time I was watching it pacing up and down his log, spinning his head around and around as he waddled, and then doing it all again – over, and over, and over... You get the picture. You can see from the close-up that he’s started to pluck the feathers on his chest – a sad indictment on how the environments we establish for parrots often fall way short of maintaining functional behaviour in their inhabitants. The thing is, we can achieve engaging, enriching, stimulating and socially happening outdoors enclosures for our pet parrots – but this isn’t how.
Designing outdoor aviary environments for pet parrots is absolutely one of the most pleasurable aspects of what I do. Seeing the end results of those designs is the sealer! Outdoor enclosure design for interactive pet birds is something I would dearly love to spend more of my time doing and at the Parrots 2010 Convention next year I will be giving a presentation on exactly this topic. The picture below is a good representation of where we can go with taking the `next step’ in creating an environment and daily experience set for our birds that extends beyond the limitations of the indoor cage. It’s a backyard enclosure that I designed for a client and one that is now home to their `flock’ of parrots. We designed it to actually wrap around that magnificent Melaleuca tree and, unlike how a lot of aviaries tend to be, it’s actually a really nice compliment to their garden aesthetic when you see it in the flesh. Hopefully, we’ll start to see spacious outdoor enrichment enclosures become a natural part of pet parrot keeping in the future. Don’t give up on recycling though! Just give it some more thought if it involves housing your parrot ;-)
Over the past 5 years I have developed a workshop format for companion parrot owners that I honestly feel offers the most comprehensive and supportive set of learning experiences available here in Australia. My yearly gig at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has now educated over 100 parrot owners on progressive approaches towards the care, enrichment, housing and training of their birds – something I am immensely proud of. I have had the opportunity to expand the scope and audience of my own workshop this year with a special presentation day at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, and also by teaming up with some of my colleagues for the `Step Up’ workshop in Brisbane. We are also looking towards holding workshops in Hobart, Melbourne, and hopefully Adelaide in 2010 (Perth – I would love to get there but you have to make it happen ;-).
These events, the culmination of years of hands-on learning and experience, really are what keep me motivated and engaged as an educator and trainer. The opportunity to meet other parrot owners, to feed off their enthusiasm and commitment, to share my experience and insight, and to work with some of the best and most gifted bird trainers in the field is something I never take for granted and always appreciate. There is a huge sense of satisfaction in keeping the ripple effect of lifelong education flowing and knowing that in some small way, I may have made a positive and meaningful contribution to the knowledge and understanding of parrot owners. In achieving this, the ultimate goal is to improve the lives of parrots kept as companion animals – as good a reason as any to continue doing what I do J
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Ya know – you can do some crazy stuff with Photoshop, like, even make it appear as though there’s actually a Sun Conure and Green-cheeked Conure living in these cages. Imagine that huh? I mean, wouldn’t it be nuts to put a bird in... Hmmm - hang on a second here, that’s not Photoshopped is it? There actually is a `real’ Sun and Green-cheeked Conure chilling in those Victorian era `Domes of Doom’. Oh dear...
I was sent this photo recently and, well, knock me down with a feather (pardon the pun) but I could have sworn this was 2009 and I was living in a well-developed nation that offers plenty of education on bird care and the environmental enrichment needs of parrots as pets. It prompted me to come up with an idea for a series of Blog posts - `Top 5 Reasons Why I Do What I Do’. Each fortnight over the next 10 weeks I’ll post the next in line for the Top 5. So, in no real order of significance, here we have `Number 5’ to kick things off.
Having seen what Conures get up to in the wilds of Central America first hand, I shudder to think about the level of boredom, frustration and stress that such active little extroverts face during the hours upon hours a day these guys are caged as they are. And we still scratch our heads when they pull their own feathers out. I mean, really... wouldn’t you?
If you guys ever wonder why someone like me spends most of their spare time educating parrot owners, working with people to improve the standard of understanding out there on what a parrot needs to be a functional, engaging and behaviourally well adapted critter in captivity – the image above is as good a reason as any. It sure ain’t for the money, so for those of you out there who think parrot behaviour consultancy is a `good little earner’ – I hate to burst your ambitious bubble. At best, even for those of us getting significant client numbers and running workshops, it might cover part of your feed and enrichment bill over the course of the year. It’s pretty much a pathway that constantly challenges you and, at times, whilst you do unfortunately get to see the worst, you also meet some of the most dedicated and incredibly caring parrot owners who have birds that are thriving! This Top 5 won’t be just about the negative side – hopefully it will be balanced by some real positives. Maybe it should have been a `Top 6’ then? Anyway, as long as parrot owners are sticking their birds in ornamental domes and think that’s just fine and dandy, I’ve obviously still got some work to do ;-)
I gotta tell ya, I’ve been proud of a lot of things over the years, number one being the birth of my daughter, but this is pretty neat for a parrot obsessive like me. I finally made a cover photo! The August 2009 edition of the World Parrot Trust Magazine features a cover image that I took whilst birding in Costa Rica in 2007. Folks, I can tell you exactly where the shot was taken, put you exactly in the same spot, and guarantee exactly the same experience – you just have to pay for me to accompany you to Costa and I’ll reveal everything when we get there J
WPT – do your bit for supporting conservation of parrot species and joining today. Check their website out at www.parrots.org
Outside of bird training, surfing and playing the guitar – birdwatching is quickly becoming my most consuming passion. Whilst down at the AVES Convention last week I met Simon Brusland-Jensen, curator of the famous Walsrode Bird Park in Germany. Simon ventured north to the Sunshine Coast with his girlfriend Nicky after AVES and stayed at El Rancho Jimbo for a few days to take in some of the great birding opportunities on offer here on the Sunshine Coast.
Birdwatching can be pretty hit and miss, and it’s always a little daunting when you take people out from overseas who are keen birders and kinda relying on you to get them to the `spot’ where they will be able to add some new species to their lists. I always find really hardcore birders a little intimidating and I had a disastrous day last year taking Don Brightsmith out birding and having him, an American on his first trip to Australia, identify more native birds than me that day – soooo embarrassing! This was a little different and Simon and Nicky seemed as happy to get a look at the ubiquitous Lewin’s Honeyeater as they were seeing a White-bellied Sea Eagle fishing on the wing over Lake MacDonald. It was certainly the first time I had ever seen anyone actually stop to take a photo of a Noisy Miner nest but hey, I guess you don’t have Noisy Miners in every suburban backyard in Germany? :-)
As it turned out we had the most unbelievable day of Silvereye spotting, Osprey observing, Honeyeater hunting, Wren wrangling, Pardolote purving, Wagtail watching, Galah gazing... (alright, I know – enough alliteration already). All up we counted 73 species on our list later that night, including three newbies for my personal Noosa list. As much as I’d like to take credit and big note my `Bird Guide’ abilities, I’m about as amateur as you get and it was just a darn lucky day in the field (but you gotta agree, getting 15 Glossy Black Cockatoos drinking at the end of the day right where I said they would be should justify a little quiet satisfaction in one’s skills – there’s a pair in the pic above). That night we rested the binoculars and field guides and soaked up some good Aussie amber ale – still debating if it was an Oriental Pratincole we saw darting over the Lake, but damn happy with the experience. Always keen to impress, I thought we might add some nocturnal birds to our list before the stroke of midnight so I took Simon out for some spotlighting. Didn’t see a damn thing, despite my assurances of a resident Tawny Frogmouth and regular Boobook Owl visitations on our block. Should have quit with the `Bird Guide’ thing while I was ahead!
Simon and Nicky – if you read this, thanks for an awesome day! Hopefully we’ll meet again on your side of the equator ;-)
I ventured down to Grafton last week for the biennial AVES Parrot Convention. This is an event hosted by the Northern Rivers Avicultural Society in NSW and features 3 days of presentations from International and Australian aviculturists. The 2009 programme featured some really fine talks and I was most impressed with the two lectures from Ricardo Valentin on the Puerto Rican Amazon Conservation Project. Ricardo is a fantastic aviculturist, a dedicated observer of the behaviour of his birds, and a keen breeding problem solver – skills that have made a huge contribution to the increase in numbers of Puerto Rican Amazons over the past 10 years. Ricardo’s presentations exemplified the critical partnership roles that can be established between aviculture and conservation. Inspiring stuff!
The AVES weekend finishes off with a traditional BBQ at Casuarina Parrot Gardens. Whilst wandering around the aviaries I took the photo above of an Umbrella Cockatoo and a Galah in synchronous preening. They were quite a pair and a wonderful example of the benefits of social housing of compatible parrots in captive environments.
If you missed out on AVES then make sure you’re planning a trip to Brisbane in July 2010 to be a part of the Parrots 2010 Convention. This will be held over three days from July 2nd to 4th and will feature an innovative programme of breakout lectures covering two streams – Avian Husbandry, Breeding & Handrearing and Avian Behaviour, Training & Enrichment. You can register your interest via the Parrots 2010 website at www.parrotsociety.org.au/Parrots2010/index.html. I will have plenty more to `blog’ about on Parrots 2010 as the event draws nearer!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
In the March/April 2009 edition of Australian Birdkeeper Magazine I wrote about the process of making a decision to acquire another parrot as part of my educational workshop, training and vet clinic consultancy `crew’. If you didn’t get the chance to read the article you can grab a copy of the back issue via the new ABK website at http://www.birdkeeper.com.au. I will be updating readers on how things have turned out since acquiring `Lola’ our Yellow-crowned Amazon as the learning journey has certainly continued. Unfortunately, that journey hasn’t exactly taken the road I thought we prepared and planned so well for. Whilst parrots with behavioural issues seem to gravitate my way like a dung beetle to a cow pat, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had to rarely deal with any serious injuries or major health complications in my birds over the past 15 years. I’ll save the elaborations, dramas and hard lessons learned for the ABK follow-up article (should appear in the Oct/Nov edition), but just wanted to share a quick insight here. As you can see – with the wonders of modern technology, advancements in avian veterinary care, and an absolutely awesome team of professionals at Brisbane Bird & Exotics Veterinary Service, when your Amazon busts its leg it gets a pretty darn neat looking pin, cast and best of all you get to take home the x-ray images on CD! Lola is back flying around in her aviary just fine and despite some major withdrawals from her `trust account' during the rehabilitation period is impressing me with her resilience and increasing confidence. Hopefully it’s a good story for everyone to learn from when it’s published later this year.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Think about those two words - `Lifelong Education’. It’s a common phrase in the teaching world and one that I desperately would love to see more and more companion parrot owners adopt as somewhat of a mantra. Potentially, they are two of the most important words for anyone who cares for a parrot in captivity to be consciously aware of. It’s a mindset that, regardless of our perceived level of experience or expertise, sets one up with an openness to view each day, each engagement with a parrot, each meeting with another parrot owner, each magazine article, workshop experience or bird watching encounter as an opportunity to further the understanding we have about parrot behaviour, enrichment, and how to better achieve our goals and fulfil our responsibilities as a parrot owner. I know from personal experience how important it has been to keep the continuum of learning flowing over the past 15 years and to constantly challenge myself to re-evaluate whether my knowledge base is progressing or stagnating. I know what you’re probably thinking - `Yeah Jim, you’re trying to guilt us all into going to your workshop right?’. Well, maybe – can’t say it’s a bad idea actually :-) But you know, the real point here is to try and motivate anyone who reads this to make a commitment that some time in the next few days, week or month you will follow through on at least one experience that you know will keep your learning continuum moving forward as a parrot owner. How? Here’s just a few options that I think will get you moving, motivated and hopefully reinvigorated to learn more about that feathered zygodactyl living in your home or backyard...
*Subscribe to a parrot magazine or journal – I never fail to find something that piques my interest or kick starts a new enrichment idea whilst I’m flicking through the latest issue of a good old bird magazine. Check out...
*Read a Blog other than Jim’s! – There are some really neat Blogs out there that that can be educational, inspiring and just plain good for a laff! Whenever I start taking myself too seriously I like to make a good `cup of joe’ and prepare myself to lose the next hour or so checking out some of these gems...
*Attend a Parrot Workshop – I can’t be unbiased here so really, there is probably no better education experience than actually immersing yourself in a veritable `psittafest’ of fun learning about parrots than what you will experience via a workshop presented by experienced and qualified parrot trainers and educators. Check out...
*Can’t get to a workshop? – Let the workshop be delivered to your inbox! Just a few times a year, the genius of Dr. Susan Friedman and her talented team of teachers open up a `Living & Learning with Parrots’ class. This is absolutely the most significant learning opportunity available out there if you want to really understand behaviour. It should probably be considered a prerequisite to actually owning a bird in captivity. The waiting list is long but I can guarantee that if you commit to the course it will be a life changer for many of you. Register at http://www.behaviorworks.org/
*Join a Bird Club or Society. It’s mighty daunting to turn up to a Bird Club or Parrot Society meeting on your own and not knowing anyone – I know, I did it myself one night as a geeky 21 year old owner of a single pet Conure. I swear I was the youngest there by about 30 years but you know, I’ve met people through being a member of an organization like the Parrot Society of Australia that will probably forget more in their lifetime about breeding and keeping birds than I’ll probably learn. It’s worth the effort and can open up the door to some great new friendships and networking opportunities. If you’re feeling like your local Club isn’t heading in the `right’ direction – get in there, get involved, be respectful, stay out of the politics, and most importantly be the change you want to see happen. The Internet has replaced the traditional `Club’ as the key meeting point for parrot enthusiasts these days and whilst the `Net’ is home to some great communities and can be an invaluable reference source, in many ways it’s a shame seeing the decline in Club or Society patronage. Perhaps it’s time to bust out of the `alias’ laden cyber world. Sure, `Featherduster69’ kinda seems to know just about everything there is to know about parrots after having bought `Polly' last week and caught that Nat Geo special on Budgerigar survival in the outback, but I would love to see us get back to really meeting like-minded people, face to face, and building `human’ relationships that keep us inspired to further our `parrot’ relationships.
*Last (but certainly not least) – Go Parrot Watching!!! Get off the internet, grab a set of binoculars, don your best khaki, multi-pocketed clothing, put on a funny looking saggy brimmed towelling hat and get out there amongst it all to see what these guys really do with their lives in the wild. Actually spending time in the field, watching and listening to parrots is probably the best myth busting, generalisation killer and downright enlightening experience you can get. There has been no greater teacher for me than my time observing parrots in the wild. Don’t live in a country with parrots? Time to start planning an eco-tour and make it your goal to give back in one of the most effective ways that we can all contribute to parrot conservation.
Go on... do it!
Time... Don’t we all wish we had a heck of a lot more of it? The fact that I’m only just now writing a `first Blog’ for the PBEC website, more than 6 months after the site went live, is a pretty good indication of just how time poor I am these days. This was actually supposed to be a kind of `take it easy’ year for me – you know how those New Year’s resolutions go, a few drinks and you’re waxing all nostalgic about the days when you took the time to surf more, go birdwatching more, walk the dogs more, hang with the parrots more, sit around and do absolutely nothing more! I had planned from that moment to make a commitment that 2009 would be a year to focus solely on teaching, parenthood, delivering just the one parrot workshop, and finally putting a serious dent in a book project that I am desperate to complete. As the year has unravelled though, it’s turned out to be busier, more demanding, and at times more challenging, than my pathetic little effort at `commitment’ to the simpler life could possibly allow. Through it all though, the first six months of 2009 have offered some of the richest and most positively reinforcing times for what I do as a parrot educator. Right now I’m super inspired to keep the behavioural momentum flowing and share some insights from more than 15 years working with parrots via the words found here. Hopefully from time to time that sharing will be of benefit and interest to you, the reader or casual observer of what’s going on in the parrot world. At times it might also be challenging but hey, if you don’t appreciate a good challenge then you probably wouldn’t own a parrot right? Even though I’m still getting my head around exactly what a Blog is all about, I plan to use my energies in this forum to cover a fairly diverse range of issues, food for thought, and personal comment related to life working with parrots, bird owners, and doing my best to be an exponent of positive reinforcement principles. Better late than never? I hope so ;-)