This is not the falcon you’re looking for….

10October_AnakinSome of you may be familiar with my falcon Anakin. He has been my hunting companion for 10 years and is the impetus and the center of the story in my memoir LIFT. On May 2nd Anakin escaped from the chamber he was living in while on a breeding loan.  He is a tiercel peregrine (Cassini/Anatum subspecies), 2003 hatch, band number RV084010, wearing anklets, but no other equipment. He was lost in Moreno Valley, CA but he could end up anywhere.

I need to know where he is in order to convince him to come down and come home. Currently there have been no sightings of him. This may be a long game. He is an excellent hunter and likely doing fine in the wild. So it could be months or even years before he turns up.

If you are interested in sharing there is a page on FaceBook with updates and information:  www.facebook.com/JediAtLarge  I would love anyone’s help keeping an eye out for him.

Yesterday, Falcon Finders got word of a found falcon in Nuevo. The story was convoluted… something about a motorcyclist who was in an accident with a falcon on his bike. Possibly, he was dead and his falcon was found in a tree wearing a hood. When we all started calling, the contact person who initially found falcon got cold feet and didn’t want to share any more information. She was adamant that they had already found the owner.

None of this story made much sense…but okay. I know falconers can be intimidating when we are demanding information about a bird. We’ve all had sketchy moments with people who have found our lost raptors. We can be a little pushy when we think someone with no experience has a bird of prey in their possession.

Still, I knew it wasn’t Anakin. He wouldn’t be wearing a hood and no one is going to just pick him up. My only chance at getting him back is for someone to spot him. Then I’ll have to charm him into coming back. He isn’t looking for someone to save him. So I dismissed the story as general weirdness and prepared to move on with my day.

At this point, I got a message through my parrot connections that the person who had the falcon wanted to find a safe place for it until the owner recovered from his injuries. It was nice that people thought of me as a safe and dependable place for a bird to land. I was flattered, but I was still dubious. Still, I listened to the story again and called the woman who had the bird.

She was a lovely and kind-hearted person who swore she knew a falcon when she saw one. Then she told me about how there was a falconer nearby who drove out into the chaparral with a falcon on his dirt bike to train it. The hooded falcon they had found was surely his and that could only mean that the falconer had befallen some sort of tragedy on his motorcycle. In fact, he could be dead! However, no one knew his name or where he lived exactly. He was a loner who kept to himself and a bit of an enigma. The falcon had the initials BH and a heart on its hood though… perhaps that would help solve the mystery.

Okay, I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a good story and this one was divine. It had a broken hero, romance, tragedy, and the possibility for a happy ending. I swooned…. I would take this man’s falcon into my home, nurse it back to health and then I was going to Nancy Drew this. I would FIND this falconer and reunite him with his beloved bird. I hadn’t found Anakin, but I could give someone else a happy ending!

And then reminded myself of Occam’s razor –in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better. I was getting ahead of myself. I asked her to snap a photo and text it over.

This is what she sent:

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I took a very deep breath, choked back my laughter and said, “Well, that’s definitely not a falcon.”

It’s a pheasant wearing a blinder to keep it from picking at its cage mates. There are a couple of pheasant farms in Nuevo. I frequently purchase pheasants for food and training. And this pheasant had sealed its fate….

Fortunately for her, anything with a good story or a name gets pet status in house.

She’s hardly a replacement for Anakin, but she comes with the best story I’ve heard in a long time. Let’s name her, shall we?  Got any ideas? The winner will receive their choice of a signed copy of  The Perfectly Trained Parrot or Lift.

Pheasant Hood

You Get What You Reward

Attention Please

Attention Please

I do hope everyone is enjoying my more fanciful “Tuesdays with Ty” posts, but I realize I have been neglecting what was initially the core of this blog–   training and behavior advice. I need to get back at that as well.

I love writing the little essays for Tuesday, pondering what it is that the parrots remind me every week about what it means to be human. I’m lucky to be so easily inspired by my avian friends. Just don’t think for a minute that I think my parrots are little people or a magical mystery. What the birds do in my home, they do because I asked for it.  Every behavior my parrots repeat is a product of the consequences of that action.

Speculate, imagine, engage and have fun with your parrots! Just don’t ever forget the every behavior that repeats itself has been rewarded (likely by you). If you enjoy something your parrot does–  stop a minute and pay attention, give him a treat or a scratch on the head. If your parrot does something you don’t like, ignore it and do your best not to reward it. (ie– asking for a peanut while you’re working like Ty has been doing for the last ten minutes. Don’t turn and look at him, don’t talk to him and for goodness sake, don’t give in and get him a peanut. He’ll never never never stop asking for one. And you’ll never get to finish the article your writing.)

Behavior is simple and you are always shaping it. This is the key to animal training. If you ask me, it’s the crux of every rewarding relationship. What are you rewarding?

The Queens’ Lory

by Phil Bender  click through for further info

by Phil Bender click through for further info

The Rimatara lorikeet in French Polynesia has a wonderful conservation story

So many species of lory are endemic to tiny islands and even if locally abundant always stand the possibility of being wiped out with one fell swoop. The Kuhl’s or Rimatara is one of these species. And an amazingly beautiful one too.

About 100 years ago, the Queen of Rimatara forbade any harm be done to the remaining small population of Rimatara lorikeets (Vini kuhlii) which was frequently hunted for its feathers. Between humans and invasive rat species, the lory was struggling to survive and the Queen’s protection definitely helped them.

Flash forward to another Queen in present times. In 2007 the Queen of Atiu in the Cook islands gave the Rimatara lorikeet another helping hand. She and staff from the CRES from the San Diego Zoo accompanied 27 of the birds back to her Island, which had excellent habitat but where the lories had long ago disappeared. Since its reintroduction to Atiu, the Rimatara lorikeet (now referred to as Kura) has continued to do well and is even breeding on their new island home.

Two CRES field biologists will be back in Atiu in August to do a little research on what the little guys are up to.  I love conservation stories with happy endings!

Mixed Up

I was recently asked what to do when living with a mixed flock and wanting your birds to interact. There is no simple answer to this, because all species interact differently and your birds will have their own group dynamics that you need to read yourself, but here’s a couple of things to consider.
The first thing to think about is what species do you have in your home? And then look at their habits in the wild. Many of the South American parrots actually travel in groups of mixed species and perhaps have a propensity to interact without too much fuss. However, African grey parrots travel pretty much exclusively in a flock of greys. They may not have as much tolerance for other species.  Does this mean its simple to mix macaws or impossible to have a mixed flock of African parrots? No, but it may give you a way to gauge what your up against in training.

The next thing to consider is size difference. A big macaw can do a tremendous amount of damage to a pionus or some other small parrot. It isn’t unusual for veterinarians to deal with broken and damaged beaks in cases like this. Is it worth it to you to take a chance? Are you that confident that the birds can get along?

Remember too that sexual maturity and the breeding season can change the dynamics of relationships between birds. Just because your mixed species flock is getting along as babies doesn’t mean that this will continue when they are adults. Nor does it mean a steady relationship all through the year.

If you do see aggression, get the parrots away from each other right away. Don’t allow it to escalate. Aggression begets more aggression. If one of the parrots wants the other out their space, make it happen. And make sure that you are not a part of rewarding the aggression. Don’t play with the parrot displaying aggression to distract him, this is only rewarding the behavior.

I do firmly believe that anything can be trained and that appropriate behaviors can be shaped with effort. However, whenever you have animals involved, you never know what will happen. So mixed species, sharing space should always be supervised. You never know what will tip the dynamics in a relationship between two birds. In the wild, one would display agressive body language and the other bird would heed it and get the heck out of there. However, our parrots may be confined or clipped, so offender may get hurt before he can give his buddy space.

So in the end, I suppose you have to ask yourself, do your parrots need to physically interact with one another? If they have a tendency to display aggressive body language to one another, what are they really getting out of being close enough to touch one another? Safety first and then decide what makes the most sense for you in your home. The answer may be different for everyone.

‘Tis the Season – Spring and the Mature Parrot

If your parrot is one of those species that breeds in the spring, you might be dealing with some behaviors that are less than desirable lately. I seem to be getting more requests than usual for ideas on managing broody and suddenly territorial parrots. A bird that a chosen a mate in the household and is setting up nesting space to defend can be more than a handful. So here’s a few quick tips.

Yes, breeding is a natural behavior. No, parrots do not feel like they have less of a life if they cannot raise a brood of chicks. If you are worried about your parrot’s mental well-being make sure that it has plenty of activities to keep his or her mind occupied on things other than setting up a nest. Stimulation in the form of enrichment is incredibly important, but breeding does not have to be the enrichment of necessity. If you want to be anthropomorphic, then look at it this way, do you really want to torture your loved ones with your PMS? Well, your parrot probably doesn’t either.

So what can you do to battle something that is biological? Just be careful not to exacerbate the problem. It can make a huge difference if you don’t encourage breeding behavior in any way. If your bird is a hen, you really don’t want to stimulate egg laying. Egg binding can be difficult to spot and many a parrot has died from an impacted egg.  So what can you do?

  • Avoid touching your bird on the back, below the belly or anywhere that seems to encourage the presentation of mating body language. (wings out, body hunkered down, skirt puffed up, regurgitation for example.) And when you see any of these behaviors prompty put your bird away. This isn’t punishment, it’s simply not encouraging the behavior.
  • Remove any toys in the cage your bird has become extra “friendly” with and replace them with other toys.
  • Avoid allowing you bird under the couch, in a drawer, in a box or anywhere that simulates a nesting hollow.
  • If your bird has chosen a person in the house to bond to, then limit the time she spends with that person.
  • Give your bird space if he is wound up. Don’t give him an opportunity to bite and lunge.

Do encourage play that is nonsexual and try to give your bird as much to do with his time as possible. The more enrichment the better. Forgaging and puzzle toys are a great diversion. Spring will come and go quickly and your birds hormones will subside, returning that nice bird you remember before the breeding season started. In the meantime, good luck!

What Parrots Teach Us

I’m sure most of you by now have read this great story about the fire fighter whose parrots helped him regain his speech.  Brian Wilson had a horrendous accident in 1995 that left him paralized and unable to speak. His family was told there was little hope of him living unassisted or ever being able to talk again. The macaws in his life however, gave him the motivation to beat the odds. From BBC News:

“I would sit there for hours and just listen to them and try to talk to them, and all of a sudden, one word a day would pop out of my mouth and then it caused two or three other words to come out of my mouth each time,” he says.

Mr Wilson said it took three to four months before people could understand him and he could put sentences together, but eventually his speech improved.

Now his voice is nearly perfect and he can walk just fine. So he’s dedicated his life to his parrot rescue operation in honor of his feathered therapists.

When you have a passion for them, it seems the animals in our lives really can bring about great changes. My grey has taught me to laugh at myself. I am such an intense serious person, but all three of my parrots remind me daily that although that intense girl is a critical piece of who I am, it’s the silly side of me that everyone likes best. I wouldn’t have all the practice and encouragement to clown around if it wasn’t for my parrots-in-crime.

What about you? What have your parrots taught you to do, to be?

Out on a Limb with a Parrot

From South Africa:

     Paramedics and eThekwini Metro firefighters rushed to the rescue of an unusual damsel in distress stuck in a tree in Summerveld, Shongweni, on Monday afternoon.
     ER24 spokesperson Derrick Banks said the 16-year-old girl had been chasing her parrot which flitted from tree to tree. Banks said the girl scaled a large tree but lost her footing, fell and became wedged in branches below.
     The girl was uninjured and went home with a bruised ego but without her errant bird. – Mercury Reporter

Ever been out on a limb? Yeah. Me too. Only it was to untangle a redtailed hawk on a creance (line tied to her equipment because I wasn’t ready to free fly her) that was up in a pine tree. The fire department laughed when I called for help. I got her down, but it wasn’t enjoyable.

So what do you do when your parrot has flown off? Remember that flying down takes much more skill than flying up. Try to make the leap as easy as possible. Directly beneath the tree is not going to be as easy of a flight as further out and a nice glide down. A steady ladder is preferable to crawling out on a branch, where you’ll make the perch wobble and perhaps not have such steady hands yourself.

And check out Good Bird Inc’s article on parrot escapees. Barbara and I have stood under many a tree together trying to figure out how to get a wayward macaw back down from the branches. She knows her stuff better than I do! And this is the most comprehesive set of tips I’ve ever seen. Check it out here!

Do you have a lost and found parrot? Share your tips too!

Parrot Fumbles Football Game

I’m not one of those people who take their parrots with them everywhere. I’m certainly not opposed to it. You end up with a well-socialized bird that gets tons of your attention. However, this family in the UK learned the hard way that there are certain places where your parrot might be a wee bit disruptive.

I try to get the Senegal out of the house as much as I can because she loves a good drive. But the grey would much rather stay at home. He couldn’t get any clearer with his body language…feathers slicked, chewing on his nails, making this lovely high pitched squeak that drives me nuts. I could get him over it, desensitize him, make sure that outings are a positive.

Honestly though, it’s not a priority for me. I suppose that’s trainer speak for “I’m really kind of lazy.”  But come on, just because I wrote a book doesn’t mean I’m the perfect parrot owner. It just means that I know what a perfect parrot owner would look like and therefore can depend on a lifetime of self-flagellation.

Kidding. Love your parrots. Enjoy your home flock the best way you can. But really…even you perfect parrot owners should leave feathered sports fans at home and let them watch their team on the flat screen.

Top Five Things Your Parrot SHOULDN’T Say

5. Come In

Many of us have already discovered this the hard way, but when someone knocks on the door, go through the trouble of walking over and opening it. Even if you know who’s there, don’t call out an invitation to open the door. Otherwise you may come out of the shower one afternoon to find a stranger in the livingroom who your parrot was kind enough to invite to “come in.”

4. Oh baby!

Don’t keep the parrot too close to the bedroom. Even if you’ve seemed to have been safe so far, don’t forget that your parrot probably spends time when your gone working on his new repertoire. Your neighbors might be wondering if your filming “movies” in your home. 

3. &%$*  or  @#(^

Or any variation of four letter foulness. Don’t let your teenagers teach your parrot to curse either. Trust me, the novelty wears out, especially if your mother-in-law is a frequent dinner guest.

2. I’m gonna kill you.

Or anything else that might encourage your neighbors to call Child Protective Services. You might find yourself in the same kind of trouble as this woman who tweeted that she was going to smother her child.

1.  I love you (insert illicit lovers name here)

If you’re going to have an affair, don’t have it near the parrot. It’s best not to cheat on your spouse in general, but don’t trust your parrot to keep your secrets. If you don’t believe me, ask Suzy about keeping Gary on the side.