Man’s Best Friend…

…is a 50 year old macaw who once belonged to his ex-girlfriend’s mother. How does that happen?

Check out the story from the Lansing State Journal.


Blue & Gold Macaw

I guess we parrot folks are always on the lookout for the right home for our birds for if something happens to us. Ruth, the macaw’s owner knew when Jeff LaFlamme and Skipper met in the 1970s that it was a perfect match. What I would really be interested to know is what happened in the years in between…Ruth passed away in 1989. In small ways Jeff is living with his ex-girlfriend (he’s single) and her mother for the rest of Skipper’s life. He seems to be quite happy with it though and enjoying Skipper’s company immensely.

Although my mom is the obvious choice for my African grey, I have to admit that I have an ex-boyfriend in mind for Ty if anything ever happens to me. And two friends were decided upon years ago for my Senegal and red-bellied. It is more about what the birds told me than anything else.

Do you know who your parrots want to live with if something happens to you?

How Many Birds is too Many?

In Phelan, California a family that runs an exotic animal rescue is going to be featured in Extreme Home Makeover. Apparently the producers thought the family deserved a shiny new home. Perhaps they do, but according one article:

“The expenses have meant the Almquists’ own home has taken a back seat, even as Joel Almquist works a second job to support the shelter and Chemaine works to raise funds from the community. The family lives in a doublewide trailer without heat or air-conditioning, has leaking pipes, has gaping holes in the doors and is partially held together with duct tape.”

RTW Here

I think it’s wonderful that these folks are getting help, but I worry that perhaps the help is misguided. All of the parrot rescues I work with have a bevvy of volunteers with foster homes and the person running the rescue may have a couple of birds too many at any given time, but their homes are certainly not held together with duct tape. They have a business and they know the parrots depend on them running it wisely. They are Executive Directors, not collectors. 

Clients sometimes apologize to me, saying “I have too many birds.”  How many parrots is too many? I don’t judge. If you tell me things are just fine, I’m going to take it at face value. Three parrots is my limit. I have one more than I planned and space for one foster parrot if it’s not falconry season. I think I’m maxed. Others might not be maxed until they reach ten parrots. So again, how many parrots is too many?

Ask yourself the questions of addiction — is caring for all these birds effecting my job or my education (if you are pursing a degree)? Is it negatively impacting my significant relationships? Has the responsibility of caring for my birds significantly impacted the way I care for myself? Do I seek moments of enjoyment with your birds because the rest of my life is making my miserable? Do I feel overwhelmed with the work, but would take another bird in a heartbeat if someone offered? Am I in danger of maxing out my savings and credit to care for the flock? If the answer is yes to any of these, you may have too many birds or animals in general.  

There is a reason the flight attendents tell you to place the oxygen mask over your own face before you help another. You must take care of yourself before you can be help to others. Having a big heart is no crime, but we should all be honest with how much we have to give.

Something for Sunday

If you’re not really a football fan…like myself. Here’s a couple of things you should dial into this afternoon…

Animal Planet has Pepper, an African Grey parrot slated to sing the national anthem for the two-hour Puppy Bowl event. Kickoff starts at 3pm. Honestly, I have no idea what the Puppy Bowl is, but I’ve seen about 20 tweets that a parrot is singing the national anthem. Turns out that parrot is Pepper, an ambassador for Phoenix Landing (I’ll be presenting a lecture at one of their Chapters in Virginia late this year.)  So I’ll be watching.

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

My other suggestion is to listen to me blather on. I’ll be talking with Jennifer Shaw on Petline, from CFAX radio in Victoria, Canada at 4:30 pm. It will the be third time I’ve been on and I just love chatting with Jennifer. She’s a fantastic host. Stream it here.

Three Traveling Tips

A friend on Facebook noticed that I had just taken my traveling circus on a 7 hour drive and was wondering if I had any tips on the trip. Here are my top three:

Traveling Ty

Traveling Ty

1) Take a Day — Make a List

It takes a full day of your routine to remember all of the things that will make your life easier on a trip. Keep a piece of paper out for a day or two and jot down the things you will need as they occur to you. When you go to pack your car, it will ease the stress and stop you from worrying about what you forgot when you get to driving.

2) Make it Comfortable

Make sure your birds perches are lined up with the motion of the vehicle. Birds need to be able to lean into braking and excelerating in order to be comfortable. This will help with flailing and car sickness.

3) Bring lots of towels

Towels can be used to clean up messes and catch bird created detritus in hotel rooms. They can also be used to cover cages when birds are uncomfortable with headlights in the dark, semi trucks blowing by or any other big and scary. Take the tip from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the next level and make sure you’ve got plenty of towels.

Anybody else journey with their birds frequently? What are your tips and tricks.

A Parrot by Any Other Name

I’ve gotten superstitious about naming my animals over the years. However, all of my parrots were named 14 years ago, when I wasn’t quite so concerned about things like self-fulfilling prophesies.

For example… naming your Senegal parrot after the Norse god of mischief, LOKI, may not be the best move…

Loki has spent years living up to her name.

You can read about the time I went to work and accidentally left her out of the cage in my book, A Parrot for Life. Who would a thunk a little bird could unleash so much destruction?

I learned long ago to come running when I hear the African grey say sternly…”LOkiiiiiii!”


My African grey, Ty actually has a much longer moniker:

Pscitticus erithicus tyranosaurus vox.

I thought he sounded like a dinosaur when he was six weeks old. To this day, he has a “terrible lizard” voice — at least if lizards are good at exaggerated mocking.

I haven’t had a day of respect since the day the grey learned to say, “boo!”

It’s been non-stop mockery from the parrot and Pavlovian response from me ever since. (I know, he’s not REALLY mocking me, but I sound like a dork when he does his Rebecca imitation, so close enough!)

Apparently, idiots are great parrot enrichment.  Just ask the rockstar with the Dino DNA.

So what’s the story behind your parrot’s name?


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.

Love and Germs

A rather interesting (if not disturbing) blog post at the Worms & Germs blog describes an article in the Journal of Avian Pathology regarding tuberculosis transmission from pet owner to parrot. Is this something you should worry about?  Yes!

Well, maybe.

It depends on if you pre-chew food for your parrot.

I have yet to run across anyone who goes as far as to chew food for their birds, but often get asked what you should and should not feed your parrot. The food thing seems to be a constant worry. I had a lady call me once from New York asking where she should go to buy the freshest food in the city for her bird. “You know I’m in California?” I asked. And when she confirmed that she did all I could say was, “I have no idea.” Americans are just obsessed with food in general I guess.

There are people who feed their Amazon parrots simply peanuts because their (soon to be) green giant won’t eat anything else. Peanuts are bird food right? Um, they’re elephant and people food as well, but isn’t there some saying about how working for them sucks?

I’ve also heard of folks who won’t feed their bird a single peanut because the dangers of aflatoxins, a toxin left behind by mold. Something to worry about? Perhaps, but mold is everywhere. You could kill a friend with a loaf of bread if you left in the refrigerator long enough to get a nice coating of aspergillus.

by ZekaG

You will hear all sides of the feeding argument —from the dangerously careless to the stressed-out paranoid. My advice? Just use your common sense. If it isn’t good for us, don’t feed a bunch of it to your parrot. Ask your avian vet for a list of what is poisonous and should never be given to your bird and avoid what’s listed. Give your parrot the things you would eat if you were on a balanced diet — brown rice, lots of veggies, a little bit of fruit, a few nuts for a snack and change things up to make them interesting.

Oh… and don’t chew food for your parrot. If you want to show your love, just drop a spoonful of warm oatmeal into your friend’s bowl. To him it will taste just as good as regurgitated friendship.

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.