Mondays with Morris: Meet Morris, A Foster African Grey Parrot and Star of Project Parrot Positive

IMGP6337When I decided to start a training/boarding program, I knew from the inception of the idea that wanted to take in a foster bird. My space is limited, as well as my time, but I firmly believe no one truly has a successful business without giving back. I would make the space and I would make the time.

So I was absolutely thrilled when I approached Caitec about sponsoring a bird by supplying their products and he agreed. I knew that Caitec was focused on innovations that would help parrots lead fuller lives and I was especially interested in their line of foraging products. We both agreed that our joint efforts could be best served by trying to help a parrot that could benefit from foraging, an enriching environment, training for better living, and a healthy diet.

My next step was to find my project bird. I approached PEAC hoping they might have a bird needing foster care that also could benefit from what we had to offer. PEAC jumped at the opportunity and serendipitously had a parrot that was ready to be welcomed into Project Parrot Positive, Morris the African grey.

Morris is 39 years-old and spent most of his life with a single owner, who had to move into assisted living. Unfortunately, assisted living situations do not allow for pets. I imagine this was an incredibly difficult situation for Morris’ person to be in. I know that this person tried to re-home Morris in advance of the situation, but Morris didn’t adjust well. He exhibited feather destructive tendencies; he plucked. So the Morris’ owner took him back. Ultimately, when the move was imminent, there was no choice. And once again, Morris worried his feathers.

Plucking is an awful lot like a person biting their finger nails. Once you get in the habit it gets worse and worse. Even if you stop, it only takes a small relapse to get right back to the habit. Sometimes the reason for the habit is medical. Sometimes it’s stress. Sometimes it’s boredom. Sometimes it’s dietary. Sometimes, it’s anyone’s guess why a person or an animal twirls their hair, bites their nails, plucks their feathers or self mutilates.

I don’t blame anyone for this situation, which I think is an important point. Life happens and life is not always fair. There are an amazing number of birds in re-homing situations that have landed there through no fault of their behavior or ability to be an excellent pet. There are so many people who have had to find a landing place for their birds even though they truly wanted to keep them.  We can’t assume any of this is ever so black and white.

Morris is not entirely naked, but his chest and neck are trimmed back closely. He has some down coming in, but the gorgeous old man is a pretty bare. The majority of his feathers are over-preened by a busy beak. It’s hard to see such a distinguished old man in disarray. He should be at the prime of his life. I hope I can help.

There is no guarantee that we can get him to stop exhibiting feather destructive behavior, but here are the steps we are taking and that I suggest:

  • Consult a vet.
  • Medicate if necessary.
  • Adjust diet if necessary.
  • Train parrot to interact with environment.
  • Reward parrot for interactive behaviors.
  • Create a foraging environment.
  • Change strategies as you have more information and as you go.



Morris arrived in December. He has been to a vet and is currently on Haldol, which is meant to eliminate anxiety and keep him calm enough not to pluck. Before he came to me, he was put on a more nutritious diet and encouraged to play with toys. Currently, he is being weaned off of Haldol, being trained to interact with his environment and learning to forage for food. Also, I already adore him.

I’m going to share the process, from the arrival of his cage, food and extras from Caitec to his ultimate placement in his new family. (Although I already know that placing him is going to break my heart as much as it makes someone else happy.)  I hope you will follow along, glean some information that is helpful to you through my experience as well as my mistakes. I hope that you will fall in love too. Because, trust me. Morris is one cool dude.

PEAC joins Project Parrot Positive!

PEAC logoIt’s feeling a lot like Christmas around here and 2013 is ending with a bang! I’m excited to announce that Project Parrot Positive has a third partner, Parrot Education and Adoption Center (PEAC) of San Diego.  

PEAC is a 501(c)3 non-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to educating current and potential bird owners on the proper care of companion parrots.  Based in San Diego and covering all of Southern California, with chapters in Anchorage, Alaska, Cleveland, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, PEAC began operations in 1996.

I have been a fan of PEAC for many years and gave a lecture in Ohio a few years ago, where I was incredibly impressed by the members and their passion for parrots and bettering their lives through education. PEAC was a natural fit for this project and I was thrilled that they were interested in working with me and with Caitec.

PEAC offers quality educational opportunities in quality companion parrot care and this is one of the reasons I am so excited about this partnership. My goal of Project Parrot Positive is not simply one of giving a parrot a beak up to finding and staying in a wonderful permanent home, but of raising awareness, sharing simple training possibilities and helping others learn more about the wonderful possibilities of offering a home to a relinquished parrot. Barbara Crouse, Executive Director of PEAC, says, “We pride ourselves in staying abreast of current information on husbandry, enrichment, training, behavioral management and all aspects of companion parrot care.”

PEAC also works to re-home relinquished parrots and has 17 parrots currently in their foster program. San Diego Department of Animal Services in particular relies solely on PEAC to place any parrot larger than cockatiels. Of course, PEAC is always challenged with the limited availability of foster homes and volunteers. So following a home inspection last weekend, I am officially vetted to be one of these foster homes.

MorrisCaitec has shipped a bevy of wonderful toys and foraging instruments as well as food for Morris, a wonderful elderly African grey parrot who will be arriving to stay with me as a foster until he is ready for adoption. Morris has some feather destructive issues and after a visit to the veterinarian has been placed on a more nutritious diet, given a prescription for Haldol and has been introduced to a more enriching environment. Once he is settled and comfortable, I will be focusing on teaching Morris to forage for meals and play.

“He is a remarkable bird who has a way of entering into your heart quite quickly.” Says Eric Kern, who is the Director of Marketing for PEAC and his current foster home. “I am so excited to see how he continues to grow and with great hopes that he will overcome his FDB and eventually be taken off his Haldol. It will be sad to see him go, though I remind myself it provides a space for the next foster bird to enter my home.”

I can’t wait to meet Morris and although I’m little nervous (We all have big expectations!), I can’t wait to see what I can do to help Morris on his journey to adoption. “This arrangement is a win-win for everyone: Rebecca, Caitec, PEAC and the birds,” says Barb.  “PEAC exists primarily to provide education and in order to expand our past success we’ll benefit greatly from the publicity.”

So I hope everyone will follow along and spread the word as Morris and I launch Project Parrot Positive with the help of Caitec and PEAC. I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with everyone!!


To find out more about how you can help PEAC visit their website and friend them on Facebook! If you feel inspired by all their great work DONATE!! Currently PEAC has a goal of raising $5,000 through Global giving and they’ve almost reached their goal!!


Announcing Project Parrot Positive

CAITEC_LOGO.134131105_stdI am incredibly excited to announce a partnership with Caitec Corporation, a leading producer of parrot toys, food, foraging instruments, and enclosures. Caitec has agreed to sponsor a foster parrot in my Parrot Boarding & Training Program.

Founded in 1992, Caitec Corporation continues to lead the way in pet product innovation by offering pet owners a wide range of high-quality, affordable pet products. Their product line features an array of foraging devices and toys that are designed to keep parrots busy and engaged in their environment. They offer excellent stainless steel cages, perching, bird toys and have recently released Oven Fresh Bites, a baked diet designed to be more enriching to parrots as well as nutritious. Caitec strives to create products that can give parrots a better way of life. My new lucky foster bird will receive the benefits of all of Caitec Corporation’s innovative products.

My component of this partnership is an agreement to donate the time and space in my boarding/training program for as long the parrot needs to prepare for adoption. I will be training the parrot to play, forage, and eat a varied diet. I will also work through training the behaviors from the “Training for a Better Living” chapter of The Perfectly Trained Parrot. And I will be documenting progress, training, setbacks and triumphs here on Heckled by Parrots.

My hope is that this will help others consider and learn ways to manage the challenges they have with parrots in their own home. We are specifically looking for a bird with some feather destructive issues. Although plucking is a complicated and challenging problem to address, this will give me an opportunity to demonstrate approaching feather destruction from as many angles as possible. I also want the world to see that “relinquished” doesn’t mean broken. There are so many wonderful parrots out there waiting for a good home, even if they are short a few feathers!

Caitec and I are very excited to get started and I am currently on the hunt for the special bird that will be a part of this project  — which I am dubbing Project Parrot Positive. I hope to have an announcement soon as we seek a Parrot Rescue/Education Organization as the third critical partner. I hope you’ll visit often and follow our journey!!