Monday, September 21, 2009

Top 5 Reasons Why I Do What I Do... No.3

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 ;-)

Top 5 Reason Why I Do What I Do... No.4

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