Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Education & Training Initiative at BBEVS

We are now offering special `Hands-on' sessions at the Brisbane Bird & Exotics Veterinary Service Parrot Behaviour Consult Clinics. These sessions will offer an opportunity for people interested in owning a parrot, but who have not yet made the leap, to develop an introductory understanding of the essentials of new parrot ownership. The consult will cover a discussion of enclosure, diet, and enrichment needs of companion parrots, an overview of the essential resources required by the new parrot owner, and an opportunity to develop some basic `hands-on' handling and training skills with one of our parrots. Clients will also be able to fire away with questions on selection, acquisition and suitability of parrots as pets. This will absolutely be the best point of access to information that will hopefully set the prospective parrot owner up to succeed. Most of you reading this will already be parrot owners so... I am hoping that if you are communicating with anyone interested in taking on the challenge of a parrot as a companion animal (and if they live in SE Qld obviously!), then please refer them to this service - it can really make the difference for people making an informed decision. If you are a breeder, then why not value add one of these consult sessions in as a pre-purchase service. If anyone is interested in finding out more about this service and/or would like to make a booking for one of these `pre-purchase' clinic consultations then please e-mail me directly via to discuss your goals so that I can tailor our session as directly as possible to your needs and situation. The sessions are available only on the third Saturday of each month at Brisbane Bird & Exotics Veterinary Service - Macgregor, Brisbane. To add to the incentive - You can also select from one of the parrots below to use as your `trainer' bird!!! (There may be times when one of these guys isn't available but just get in touch and we'll see what we can organise ☺).

Our `Trainer' birds...

`Lola' - Yellow-crowned Amazon

`PJ' - Black-headed Caique

`Wobbles' - WA Galah

`Nandy' - Nanday Conure

`Maya' - Green-winged Macaw

`Alphonso' - Yellow-naped Amazon

Feeding Our Parrots Well - New DVD

Last week I received a copy of a new DVD that has been produced by Kris Porter and Pamela Clark, titled `Feeding Our Parrots Well'. I finally had the chance to sit down today and have a full viewing of the DVD. There's not a lot out there these days that gets me thinking differently about my own approach to my parrots but this DVD really did get me excited and challenged to come up with new variations on not only what I am feeding my parrots, but also the way I go about preparing their food. The DVD runs in the same format as a classic `cooking show' - with Pamela and Kris presenting their `recipes' at the kitchen counter, complete with the `I prepared this earlier' timesavers :-) The feeding recipes are wonderfully explained, clear, simple, and not only that - each DVD has an accompanying recipe book so you can recreate everything using the good old fashioned cookbook approach!

Don't expect to see parrots on this DVD - it's all about you, and motivating you to get thinking creatively about preparing fresh, super nutritious, and healthy ways of feeding your companion birds. I was super impressed by Pamela's explanation of converting parrots from seed based diets to a healthy one. She really presents an honest and realistic approach to this in the context of her own experiences with her Moluccan Cockatoo. I personally loved the DVD and will be recommending it via my website and workshop education. For more information on Kris Porter's work on enrichment education make sure you take some time to check out her website at - Great Stuff! For further information on Pamela Clark check out

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

All Red African Grey

Well - here's something you don't see every day! I'm not usually interested in mutations in aviculture but this one is just too bizarre to pass up sharing around. What impresses me is that this mutation has come about through a nine year process of selective breeding and is a pure genetic mutation of the species - prevalent in its partial form in the wild. You can check out some video of it at

Designing & Building Enrichment Aviaries - Part 2

Well, thanks largely to the weather here in SE Qld, I've only managed to make some small progress on the new outdoor enrichment aviaries that will house our Lories. Last week I was able to get the three roofs wired up. This was a good hurdle to get over as doing the roofs is my least favourite part of wiring conventional aviary frames. I managed to do an OK job on two of them but completely botched the last one. All I can hope is that anyone who sees them will be too busy looking at the birds to take any notice of my dodgy roof wiring. I'll have some more `tech' info on the tools and materials I'm using in the next update - and some closeups of the technique used to get the wire nice and tight. The process of building these will hopefully feature in one of my presentations at Parrots 2010. Ya gotta be there people! In the meantime - if you have any questions about building an aviary for your pet bird then get in touch with me via Perhaps I'll write up the response as a post here so that everyone can share in the learning.

Parrots 2010 Convention - Program is complete!!!

As some of you may already be aware - the Parrots 2010 Convention program has recently been released to everyone who registered for early bird interest in the event. Registration forms have also been distributed to these people and registrations have already started flowing in! As the guest speaker coordinator for this event, and the person responsible for putting most of the program together, I have to say that I'm pretty darn proud of what we've put together and the opportunities it will provide for delegates to really deepen their knowledge and understanding of parrots in the wild, in aviculture, and in behaviour and training. The 3-day program features an Aviary Tour, Meet & Greet sessions with the speakers, 22 lectures and presentations from 16 different speakers over the weekend and a special Conservation Dinner. There has never been a parrot convention of this scope and kind held in Australia before.

The event is scheduled for Friday July 2nd to Sunday July 4th 2010 and will be hosted at the Bardon Convention Centre, just 6km from the Brisbane CBD. If you would like to receive a full colour PDF copy of the program then please e-mail me via and I will be happy to answer any questions of enquiries.

Looking forward to seeing many of you at this event - Don't miss it!!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Internet Chat Groups - Good for ruffling feathers but what else???

I was prompted recently to think about just how helpful the whole Internet chat group scene is for parrot enthusiasts when a friend of mine was explaining to me that she was booted off one. Her experience intrigued me as it often seems to be that many Internet discussion forums within the companion parrot community inevitably head down the path of conflict - much like the cartoon above if you're wondering why it's there ;-) I actually used to have a full discussion forum board linked to my original website and community initiative - `The Companion Parrot Support Network'. The `CPSN' (as we abbreviated it to at the time) website featured a free library full of articles, video clips of parrots in the wild, a page dedicated to working through behaviour management issues - the full deal. We even used to have `gatherings' - just casual opportunities for parrot owners to get together, network, share experiences etc. It was pretty neat for its time (it went online about 8 years ago and finished up in around 2006 or early 2007 maybe - I can't remember now). Anyway, we had a great discussion forum integrated into the site and I still have the odd person (we're all odd if we keep parrots BTW) tell me how much they liked the site and the way the forum operated. I can only remember a single incident where someone posted something on that discussion board that really should have been thought about a little harder (ie - not said at all) in all the years it was running. It was a good bunch of people who were involved in it that's for sure - many of who are still friends to this day. These days, I simply don't have the time to get involved in community forums as my life is beyond full already. It's been quite a few years since I have had anything to do with that side of the companion parrot community so I thought I would go take a look around and see what companion parrot folks talk about these days, what's topical, what's contentious, what's interesting, but most importantly - I was hoping to see that there had been an evolution in the approaches people were taking towards discussing the behaviour of their companion birds.

I realise that there are many discussion forums online that are incredibly supportive and important avenues for the sharing of information and experiences in keeping parrots. I certainly have browsed through a couple that seemed to have a very cool, positive, and family like vibe. Unfortunately, there were a few that, well... kinda sucked (I teach teenagers folks so occasionally I do slip into that mode of describing things). Where most of these forums seem to come unstuck is in the way they approach the discussion of `behaviour'. They can be wonderful little access points for people to share about random experiences, diets, where to go to get the best deal on the latest enrichment toys etc but man, that whole `evolution' hope I had towards the way people are addressing parrot behaviour, on some discussion forums (not all!), just seems to have stalled somewhere in the Cro-Magnon stage of the developmental timeline. Here's what I kinda think on the whole parrot discussion forum concept when it comes to the way these forums approach dealing with both experience sharing and advice giving on behaviour, and perhaps where I would dare venture to suggest areas for improvement...

The most common pathway that some companion parrot discussion forums seem to go down is to create a never ending stream of threads based on `He said...’, `She said...’, second-hand, third-hand, no-hand, advice and suggestions on parrot behaviour that almost always lack a common and definable reference point. These never seem to get anywhere and rarely solve a situation for the person asking the questions, whilst inevitably generating differences of opinion and conflict between those keen to get in on the advice giving race. I'm pretty confident that we have reached a point in our knowledge and understanding about behaviour where we can start to address such questions on forums from a common framework of understanding about how behaviour works, and use a common language to describe behaviour we observe. I think the approach that such forums need to take is to dispense with the traditional, communal paradigm of `let’s all put our 2 cents worth in here and hope that something makes sense’. To me – that’s no different to the John Edward technique of throwing out carefully crafted non-specific scenarios until eventually one sticks and people think he can speak to the dead! When people are desperate for help, the gullibility element is unfortunately always high. Most of the time, that approach is just embarrassingly off the mark and usually just serves to perpetuate myths, give credence to poorly considered generalisations, and continue the lifespan of outdated home spun remedies or supposed `reasons' for why a parrot just behaved the way it did.

In my view, a good, progressive forum will simply address all behaviour issues raised using the same, simple, and logical framework for working through the problem. As an example, let’s say someone asks a question about their parrot, who just bit them a few minutes ago and they've rushed to the keyboard to get an answer from the cyber experts about why and sympathy from those who are always keen to offer it. Instead of going down that `2 cents worth' path, a good forum will start by challenging that person to access the freely available online literature written by the likes of Dr. Susan Friedman, Steve Martin, Barbara Heidenreich (or... me, check my site - I have some freebies too :-), or one of a number of excellent authors who have made their works freely available online. This literature follows the same guiding principles of using an Applied Behaviour Analysis approach to evaluating behaviour and sets a common, scientific ground for everyone to work from. After that, the discussion group will then ask them if they have accessed printed material in the form of Barbara Heidenreich’s `Parrot Problem Solver’ or `Good Bird’. It will then ask them to reconsider their experience with their parrot in the context of the information given to them in those resources. Advice and strategies can still be given, but once again, these should be drawn from the literature we have available so that everyone is working from the same page, and only after the person has identified some possible strategies to work through the issue themselves. When we stick to referring to information that is `in print’ then it becomes less open to the dilution, re-interpretation, or complete misrepresentation that so often happens when we refer to word of mouth advice we hear. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have completely misquoted, taken out of context, or misrepresented what I have said in workshops or privately while trying to regurgitate that information to others. They always mean well but... The example I even set myself is simply `go to the source’, it’s all there in black and white and there’s no confusion in that. Hence why my own website encourages people to read all the `free’ stuff by a range of sources that I have put there for them - before they come see me, 'cause I charge :-). It works best - and there's nothing more satisfying for me than to work with a client who is committed to `self-help' first. They're inevitably the ones who have success.

If we all realise that the laws of behaviour are universal, clearly defined, and easily understood, and when we all work from the same consistent reference point, then we tend to have `real’ success in managing the behaviour of our birds and giving support to others. If we continue to reinforce apathy towards reading the brilliant work that is already out there, and continue to reinforce a lame reluctance to part with 30 bucks or so to buy a book like Barbara’s two volumes, then we will forever continue to have discussion forums where someone is always the `expert’ and there’s a sucker born everyday who will eat up their advice regardless of how valid it is - simply because it’s free, convenient, and in keeping with our cultural divergence towards the quick-fix, `drive-through’ solutions to all of our problems that society is so hell bent on providing. If I can suggest one thing after working with parrots and their behaviour for more than 15 years it's that rarely are there those nice little `quick-fix' moments. I wish it were so.

If you want to be a part of a good internet discussion forum for parrot owners then encourage people seeking support for problem behaviours in their parrots to develop self-help strategies, and don't allow them to develop dependencies on waiting for someone out there in the internet community to just tell them what they want to hear. Internet forums can unfortunately be the best places in the world for reinforcing lazy approaches to education and failing to promote the development of a progressive understanding about how to approach the behaviour of companion parrots. For those of us who know better, we need to make sure that we aren’t inadvertently reinforcing that through our own participation in the whole convoluted process of vague approaches to dealing with behavioural issues. We can do better.

If you are a member of a really good discussion forum that you think manages the handling of giving people advice on the way their parrot behaves using a similar framework to the one above then let me know. Send me a link to thread that is representative of that approach, I'll check it out, and if it rocks then I'll link it here on the blog!