Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sharing is So... Delicious!

A funny thing happened on the way to the phone... last night a friend called, and I went into the bird room to answer the phone. I noticed that Coco was on Strider's cage, but it didn't occur to me to wonder why...

I picked her up, and she sat with me while I was on the phone. But a few minutes later, I heard a strange scratching noise... It was Sammy inside her house! I think she figured if he was going to be in her space, that she would just go visit Strider!

Sammy and Coco had been eating rice and beans, peas, corn and red pepper along with some broccoli slaw (broccoli, red cabbage and carrot). Upon further investigation, I discovered Sammy had eaten his entire bowl, so he was in Coco's house polishing off hers! OINK-OINK! (Coco does forage for all her food, but when it comes to veggies, rice and the like, she gets them in a bowl - a bit less messy for all of us!)

I gave them both some seed to share (a real treat), and snapped these photos (narrated by The Mr. Sammers himself):

Hey - what is
that over there?

Much better than rice & beans!

The doctor says I need to gain some weight.... this would be a good place to start! What pretty colors!

Look, I can see my reflection!

I am getting closer to my perfect weight with every bite!

Am I the only one hearing the 'theme from jaws'??

Umm... Did I mention...... you look great in green??

But...of course, I'll share! (It is
your house after all....)


I'd feel a bit better if you put your foot back down....

Did I mention you look lovely today??

I'm rather full, actually....

I'll just be sittin' over here...

You'll leave me some, right??

Look, I think I scared her off! She's walking away!

This can't be good...

nothing in my mouth! I swear!!!

I just felt like taking a break... yes, that was it... a little break....


Finally, my turn again!

This is my idea of a food bowl!

Uh, helloooo..

the gray thing there is my tail...

In case you weren't sure....

Sharing is so fun!

A Room With A View (sort of)!

Welcome, welcome! There are a few changes in Fort Sammy that I need to catch you up on, so I'm glad you stopped by!

...So, she comes to me a few days ago and says, "
We need to talk."

Look here, I'm 28 years old. When a woman says, we need to talk, I know that means she will be talking, and I will be listening!

Is it safe to come out?

Since Strider threw such a fuss about being near the window (he is such a whiner)....

I've been moved to his spot; he took mine. I now have some much needed (and, deserved I might add) privacy!

I've still got a view - but I LOVE the privacy and spaciousness.

It is good to be cautious in all things, though..

So alright mom, let's get to the point... since I'm willing to
allow you to move me, I get double millet, right?

Umm... why do you always bring up the "weight thing"? That gets old...

Ah - what a nice view! I'm like - king of this part of the room!

Look at all this space I have! Not only do I have my Fort, but I can run around on the table and play with all my toys!

For the first time, the "let's talk" thing had a happy ending! I love this new spot!

Bonus: I am closer to the box that the music comes out of! Genius!

Check this out - I have a new egg crate toy! It looks just like the one....

(Wait just a minute - - - MOM! is that a hand-me-down toy?!)

I love having this big play table in addition to my Fort! What a nifty idea! (It could use a few more 'decorations' though, if you ask me.) She started to paint the bottom.... I guess it has to start somewhere...

Yes, I love this! Private, but yet I can see everyone and everything from this vantage point! It is sort of a 'supervisory' role, which is appropriate given the wisdom of my age...

Back off kids - I'm in charge over here!

Look Close!

Bride of tiel! (A tiel body with a bride head!)

Ok, that was just a lit-
tiel joke....

This is, after all, a bird room - why all the wedding photos?

Yes, I think this is going to work out quite well for me! As long as Strider stays on his own fort, we won't need to call the sheriff!

Did you hear he is going to be in a singing contest? (I'm sure you did... the WHOLE WORLD has heard about it... and Coco and I are exposed to his
relentless practicing....)

I must be going much millet to eat, so few food dishes! Thank you for stopping by!

Leave me a comment if you love my new area as much as me!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Affect of Aversives on Trust

In my post: Flight or Bite, aversives were introduced. This post will specifically address the affect an aversive has on what we all desire: a trusting relationship with our birds.

An aversive is something a bird will work to avoid.

Recall: An example of something aversive (to most humans) is a seat belt buzzer. We want to make it stop, therefore we buckle our seat belts. Sometimes even before it starts buzzing!

To make the buzzing stop, we can:
  1. Choose not to drive/leave the car to get away from the buzzing.
  2. Rip out the electrical wires/dismantle the mechanism.
  3. Buckle the seat belt.
If the buzzer causes an increase in the buckling, then behavior was modified through negative reinforcement. (An example of increasing buckling through positive reinforcement would be for the car to spit money out of the dashboard, or candy out of the cigarette lighter, after buckling.)

The negative reinforcement did work to increase the behavior. While we accept the buzzing as a feature on the car, we may not like it (or the manufacturer for using it). However, if a car was made that spit out money when the seat belt was buckled, wouldn't we all want one? And wouldn't we all be anxious to buckle our seat belt? And wouldn't we have a very positive opinion of that manufacturer and want to do business with them in the future?

Behavior can be modified through means of positive reinforcement, negative punishment, negative reinforcement or positive punishment. The question is: how does each affect our goal of building a trusting relationship with our bird?

Positive reinforcement is the least obtrusive method of changing behavior and will not have a detrimental effect on the relationship.

None of us would knowingly choose an aversive or a punishment method when interacting with our birds. Especially given its affect on the relationship. Unfortunately, the advice often given by those in pet shops, on street corners, or even well meaning friends at times, when viewed in the light of day, are revealed to in fact use such methods.

Let's take the example of teaching a bird to step up. How many times have we read or heard: "Just gently press your finger into the birds belly... or, just gently nudge the bird's belly with your finger, and it will step on your finger (to avoid being poked, prodded, pushed and pressed)!"

If this results in the bird's step up behavior being increased, then it occurred through the use of negative reinforcement. In order to avoid the aversive (being nudged, poked, pushed or pressed by the finger), the bird steps up. No matter how "gentle" it may seem, the bird is working to avoid it and it is therefore aversive. Instead of stepping up to gain something good, the bird steps up to avoid something aversive.

(Note: the bird may also try to get away or even bite the aversive finger to make it go away!)

In order for negative reinforcement to work, there must be an aversive. This method turns one of our body parts, (our hand - something we want the bird to trust), into an aversive! That's awful! We would like the bird to learn to take food from the hand that was just an aversive! It is easy to see how this approach would be extremely counter-productive.

A difficulty in relationships with birds can be that we see ourselves as trustworthy. Therefore, it is tempting to believe our birds should see us in the same light, often by virtue of providing their daily needs of food, water and care. Some might say, "But he sees me give him food everyday! You would think he would learn to trust my hands... they are always bringing him fresh food and water!" Oh, if it were that simple! Unfortunately, caring for our birds' daily needs does not translate to trust. However, using aversives is a way to lose trust.

I have also heard and read folks say, "If I could just get the bird to step up, even with a 'gentle nudge', then once on my finger, it would see I meant it no harm and then trust me!" If someone grabbed us, put us in their car and then started talking sweet, would that work well for us? Talking sweet after the aversive tactic would not cancel out, or cause us to forget, how we got into the car to begin with.

As we make progress in the study of aversives and negative reinforcement, it becomes increasingly clear that the interaction initiated by these means will not end in a trusting relationship.

The key is to provide a bird consistent positive experiences utilizing positive reinforcement in all our interactions.

Taking the time to consider the methods or techniques used to create new behaviors (or modify behaviors) in our birds is certainly worth the effort! Our birds, and relationship with them, deserve the best that the science of behavior has to offer.

So the final question remaining is, "If I don't nudge/poke/prod my bird into stepping up, how will I ever get it to step up?" We now know the answer: through positive reinforcement! If the bird steps up, it gains something good such as a treat, a ride to a favorite window, etc.

Here again is Strider stepping up to gain something good:

For further reading:

Operant Conditioning

Articles by Dr. Susan Friedman:
How Parrots Learn Behavior
The ABC's of Behavior
The Facts About Punishment


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Window Seat!

Here I am, again - me, Strider... with my beautiful seafoam belly! Stunning, isn't it? I know it is! And it only becomes more beautiful with every molt!

Yes, yes - I see my companion gave you a run-down of what happened the other day in the bird room. For the most part, she got it right. I LOVE my new window seat! And also the outdoor birds! The indoor birds aren't too bad either. They are a little 'low energy' for my taste, but all in all, not too bad.

The outdoor birds are really much more fascinating. There are more of them, different types and colors, and I find them quite interesting!

When I was out on my own, before I came to this home by virtue of being snatched out of a tree, I did learn that there are certain outdoor birds that can intend a little guy like me harm! I found that shocking, you too? I thought so!

Back then, I was befriended by a Carolina Chickadee, about my same size, that informed me of the dangers of hawks. They just seem to not play well with others (especially those in my size range)! It can be kind of fun (in a scary way) to get a group and torment them a little. Very little. One must be careful and prepared to make a quick exit! Hawks have no sense of humor, and they seem to tire of games quickly. If you get into a pickle with one of them though, you can land near a rodent. It will totally distract their attention away from you, and works out every time (that is, for everyone but the rodent).

But, back to the bird room... goodness knows I love windows! I am really enjoying my new location smack-dab in the middle of all the excitement! There is so much activity outside, flying back and forth, the sun shine, and much conversation. I do not understand all of it, but I still like listening!

For the time being, Sammy has moved to where I used to be, and I have taken his space more directly in front of the window. Suits me just fine! Sammy seems happy with a bit more privacy as well, but that could change. If you ask me, Sammy can be a bit grumpy. My companion says this is because he is 28, but the green parrot told me privately that he has always had a bit of a chip on his wing. I think at some point he must have been teased about his weight and perhaps took it bad. I, myself have
never said anything about his weight (to his beak). Yes, I noticed it... hard not to... but I certainly never mentioned it! He claims to be 'big boned'. Being the svelte, handsome man-budgie that I am, it just wouldn't be polite to rub it in his beak!

Oh, I almost forgot the biggest news of the day! The local branch of the North Carolina Outdoor Bird Society has invited ME, yes me (!), to be a guest singer at their next meeting! (Normally, you must be a member in order to participate.) How exciting is that! Singers from the entire area will compete, and the winner gets the right of first refusal at the outdoor bird feeder for a full month!

Even though I wouldn't get to use the prize if I won, it is still an honor and a distinction! I shall positively blow them all away with my twirling, tweeting and twittering. I am sure to make lots of new friends and fans - - - maybe even meet a lady or two!

Wish me luck!!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Setup for Success!

When living with our birds, there are many ways we can set up their environment, and relationships, for success! Two chief tools are our knowledge of them and our powers of observation.

The ability of the three birds to interact positively (flock dynamics), as well as having their own personal space that is respected by others, is a top priority. The bird room, with its various forts and open-door cages, is simply a modified aviary. Whether in a large aviary or in my bird room, flock dynamics reign supreme.

Once quarantine was complete, Strider was introduced to the flock. But he was not immediately integrated into flock life. This has been a slow and metered process. Coco and Sammy have been together for 12 years, and have a relationship that allows them to share space, perches, treats and enjoy chatting. They provide one another companionship. An important part of their relationship is the mutual maintenance of invisible boundaries that mark their personal space within the fort system.

The first six months of Strider's flock time included my supervising, and reinforcing, positive flock interactions. This was integral in establishing a solid foundation and setting them up for success. Had he moved into full fort life immediately, relationships would have been strained in the same fashion as if my neighbors suddenly moved in with me. They would not know me, my habits, patterns, routines, likes or dislikes. By virtue of us having no relationship or basis of communication, the likelihood of a problem would be extremely high. Such would be an example of not setting up circumstances for success.

The past several days have been filled with flock activity in the bird room. It has been a true joy to watch. My role is to observe the totality of flock body language, as well as individual interactions, and make note of any concerns or opportunities for improvement in communication. With this information, I can set up the environment for success.

So I thought for purposes of this thread, it might be helpful to dissect the process of observing, analyzing and changing behavior.

When out with the flock, Strider has exhibited the behavior of going into Sammy's cage. He sings to Sammy, and does try to get close to him at times (as close as Sammy permits). When Sammy leaves the cage, Strider remains, settles in, and begins preening. One time Sammy left and went to Strider's cage!

Strider's behavior has increased over the past few days. Therefore, I know that there is a reinforcer at work.

While Sammy is being obviously tolerant of, but not overjoyed with, his new cage-mate, this behavior is contrary to my objective of providing each bird with their own personal space, that is respected by the others, while still able to share group spaces. Based upon Sammy's body language, I believe he agrees with me!

I began by theorizing what might be reinforcing Strider's behavior. Additionally, I observed what happened prior to the behavior (the antecedent), and after the behavior (the consequence). With this information, I can begin the process of making changes and observing what affect if any, there is on Strider's behavior of camping out in Sammy's cage.

The first possibility is that Strider simply wants to be near Sammy. If Sammy himself were the reinforcer for Strider's behavior, then I would expect to see Strider following Sammy, especially when he flew to Strider's cage. This did not occur. So I initially removed this from top consideration as a reinforcer, at least at the present time (bearing in mind that reinforcers can and do change).

The second possibility is that Strider "likes" Sammy's cage better. We have all seen instances where a child will not want a toy until another child begins to play with it. However, assuming that Strider simply 'likes' Sammy's cage better, and assigning human emotions such as jealousy to Strider's actions, will not help me analyze the behavior. I did, however, observe that Strider was not interested in playing with any of Sammy's toys. The cage contained the same food as Strider's cage. Strider did not attempt to claim the cage as his own, nor did he prevent Sammy from freely moving in and out or display territorialism body language.

The third consideration that came to mind is cage location. Sammy's cage is directly in front of the window. Strider's cage is slightly off to the side, still having a view of the window, but not as clear, direct and close as Sammy's.

Recall the two chief tools:
our knowledge of them
our powers of observation

I can be sure of one thing: Strider's behavior of camping in Sammy's cage is increasing. Therefore, it is being reinforced by something. My knowledge of Strider tells me he is very vocal and active when hearing outdoor birds, or birds on a nature cd. His singing increases.

A quick test helped me narrow down the possibilities. With Strider still inside Sammy's cage, and Sammy on his Fort outside of the cage (and Coco on her Fort), I moved Strider's cage placing it beside Sammy's cage. Both cages now had an equal window view. I then left the room.

After less than five minutes, I returned to the room. And, what did I find?

Strider had left Sammy's cage and was back inside his own!


The reinforcer was the window (the view, the birds outside, etc.) Strider was pleased to remain in his own cage where he now had the window view he desired and that was reinforcing his behavior.

Through this quick and easy test, I gained a critical piece of information that enabled me to set up the environment for success and improve flock dynamics. Once Strider's Fort is complete, I will use this knowledge to guide my placement of it.

Had I assigned the human emotion of jealousy to Strider's actions, or assumed that he simply wanted the cage that belonged to Sammy, I might have stopped there. No amount of my relocating Strider to his own cage would have curbed his behavior. Being next to the window was a strong reinforcer.

Despite Sammy's body language of discomfort at having Strider camp in his cage, I could have chosen to 'let them work it out'. There are certainly circumstances where this type of approach, or a modification thereof, is appropriate. Since my goal is for each bird having their personal space, allowing Strider to increase his behavior of being inside Sammy's cage is counter-productive. It would likely have led to relationship strain. If I was oblivious to Sammy's body language, as problems became more evident down the line, I might even have complained to my friends, "I just don't understand... Strider has been hanging out in Sammy's cage since the beginning, but suddenly it seems like a problem now!" Again we can use the analogy of a neighbor visiting... it is ok for awhile, but at some point we want them to return to their own home!

With his cage in front of the window, Strider now sits in or on it, and happily sings to the outdoor birds. Progress has been made toward my objective of each bird having their own spaces as well as sharing mutual spaces. The ability to identify the reinforcer, and change Strider's behavior, are monumental aids in shaping the flock's dynamics. Squabbles that would have affected everyone have now been avoided. Setting up the environment for success will reap a lifetime of benefits.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

The View Looking In

First, let me introduce myself:

I am SpokesBird for the local branch of the North Carolina Outdoor Birds Society! It is a flock consisting of members from a variety of species including orioles, finches, sparrows, crows, cardinals, tanagers, hummingbirds, indigo buntings, woodpeckers, chickadees, and many more.

Blue jays and cowbirds are the only species not permitted into our Society; it should be obvious why. They are simply bullies. We cannot encourage this behavior by giving them full membership privileges.

Two species have provisional membership: the pileated woodpeckers and the crows. We are working with them (positively, of course) to curb their excessively loud and repetitive vocalizations. We have explained to them that unless a squirrel, blue jay or cowbird is in the area, we would prefer they not carry on like a couple of human school girls at a slumber party! It severely disrupts feeder activity.

With regard to the indoor birds that are the subject of this blog, I must first say (and the membership agrees) that the green parrot is as loud (and virtually the same size) as the crows. We were quite disturbed to hear her imitate their vocalizations perfectly. The crows were brought before council and reminded that they represent the society at all times. Too late now, the damage is done. Nonetheless, we have requested that they stop egging her on....

The local hummingbird population has reported that the little gray bird is quite fascinating! He apparently acquired the ability to mimic their sounds as they were drinking from the local feeder.

Initially, it caused quite an uproar. He would not respond to their attempts at direct communication. They thought he was simply mocking them. (Head's up: don't use that term in front of the mocking birds. They can be quite sensitive.) Their complaints were brought to the Society. We did consider that since they overwinter in Mexico, their international accent might be confusing the gray guy. Upon further investigation, we discovered he is not from around here. He simply repeats what he hears; he doesn't understand a chirp of what he is saying.

The newest addition to the indoor group, the little blue guy, has a fabulous singing voice! We sit in the trees in awe of his abilities! We would love to have more of his kind in the neighborhood. He seems laid back, beautiful to look at, and a joy to listen to. He has been seen, on a number of occasions, dive bombing the large green parrot to knock her off her perch. While we don't officially condone this behavior, we find it entertaining! He has an impressive sense of self confidence for such a little dude!

Looking from the outside in, we are surprised to see there is quite a bit of flying going on, and that food is shared easily! The arguments that seem to plague our feeding stations are all but absent from the indoor bird area. If we could only discover why they get on so well....

Feeder etiquette is a frequent topic at Society meetings; no matter how much we encourage sharing, it seems there are always problems... always, always.... Not to be pointing talons, but the smaller birds seem to have a chip on their wing....

To give an example, here is a sample of the two smaller ones sharing millet! Amazingly, there was no fowl language!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

What's Mine is Yours.....

Friday was such a beautiful day! Nearly 80 degrees - just gorgeous! Puffy white clouds filled the blue sky. After a brief rain shower at 6:00 pm, a brilliant rainbow appeared and lasted until nearly sunset.

In the evening, Strider was out with the gang, and I noted a marked difference in his interaction with Coco and Sammy. Strider and I have progressed by leaps and bounds in our relationship this week. I am contemplating the possibility that the benefits gained in our relationship have complimented his interactions with the others!

We continue to move at his pace, and it has been rocket speed! He consistently jumps onto my finger with an 'up' cue, sitting on my hand for an extended period of time and accepting treats. After I ask him to step down and then withdraw my hand, he waits with his leading (right) foot up, for me to ask again!

He seemed much more relaxed and settled with Coco and Sammy, whereas past flock interactions have been a bit inept or forced at times. He fit in so well, that when he helped himself to the interior of Sammy's cage, it was readily accepted. The two of them shared cage space, went in and out multiple times, and Strider even ate from Sammy's food bowl with no fussing from the owner. Time was spent taking turns receiving treats while sitting on Sammy's fort, to reward and increase the positive interactions between Sammy and Strider.

My reward was watching them together, communicating in flight, and observing their ever-changing and fascinating body language. The relaxation in the air was marked by a fluidity of interactions between the three.

I left the room twice, each time for a few minutes. Upon returning the first time, everyone was in the same position: Sammy outside on his Fort and Strider inside Sammy's cage, and Coco eating dinner.

It was starting to get dark, and bed time was approaching. I left for a few more minutes. This time upon returning, Strider was still in Sammy's cage, but Sammy had flown across the room and was sitting on top of Strider's cage! Turn about is fair play it would seem! They both seemed quite content with the switch!

It was decision time, though... I closed the curtain to signal the end of the day's activities. Sure enough - everyone returned to their base - while it may be fun and exciting to visit new places, come bed time, there's no place like home!


Friday, April 24, 2009

He Loves This.... He Loves This Not!

Whether snowflakes or crystals, fingerprints or flowers, no two are alike! Naturally, this applies to our feathered friends as well. Knowing the unique attributes of your bird, natural abilities, personality characteristics, preferences and much more, can promote appropriate expectations and avoid unnecessary frustration.

Every day we spend with our birds we learn something new! With the realization that preferences can and do change, we are able to make the best use of natural tendencies while continuing to expand their horizons. Consider the following:
  • Favorite vegetables, nuts, etc.?
  • Prefers to have a main meal in the morning, at night, or to graze all day long?
  • Gravitates to a certain type of toy such as chew toys, shred toys or foraging toys?
  • Favorite types of music?
  • A 'morning' bird?
  • Time of the day most likely to nap?
  • Enjoys the company of other birds or the sounds of nature cd's?
These (and many more) are questions that you, as your bird's closest companion, are in the unique and singular position to answer!

How can we use these observations to broaden experiences and enrich their lives on a daily basis?

Here are some examples:

If I have observed that my bird particularly enjoys shredding toys, but has not shown much interest in foraging:
    • Encourage the foraging instinct by making the shredding toy visible, but slightly more challenging to obtain. Place a small seed or nut into the toy or in the hiding place itself.
If I have observed that my bird tends to eat a larger meal first thing in the morning, I can take advantage of this natural window of opportunity by offering new food items at this time of day.
    • At this meal, select small amounts of favorite vegetables, but include some new vegetables (or less favorite ones).
    • Use a variety of shapes, sizes, types of vegetables and textures. Gauge your bird's reaction; offer some from your hand or off a spoon to see if this piques interest. Even 'beaking' something new is progress (tasting) even if it is not eaten! Continue to offer.
    • Lightly toss new veggies in a mixture of almond butter and plain yogurt to attract interest.
If I have observed that my bird enjoys foraging toys and has a curious nature:
    • Certain veggies are natural foraging vehicles! Making a slit in the top of a jalapeno pepper or along the side of a snow pea allows it to be 'stuffed' with some select seeds, nuts or a few pieces of corn and then closed back up again.
    • Use a piece of high quality lettuce or a bok choy leaf to make a veggie wrap around some seeds, nuts, corn or other favorite food items.
    • Offer corn on the cob (even to smaller birds)! Larger birds can hold a piece of corn on the cob; smaller birds can have the cob secured to the cage or play area. It can be a messy proposition, but makes for great fun!
    • String plain (salt and butter free) popcorn and cheerios on a piece of sisal rope and hang in a difficult to reach place.
Have a day of music fun, hang out with the birds and play different styles of music and some nature cd's if possible. Observe your bird's reactions to the different styles. Do some make them very active and chirpy, while others cause them to intently, but quietly listen? Do some promote napping? It is fun to watch them, and handy to know how they react to different styles so we can work music and nature sounds into their daily routines, offering plenty of variety and enrichment! Coco has some types of music that she really does not seem to care for - by that I mean she begins screaming and will not stop until the music is changed. Strider - he loves ALL music! Everything makes him sing like a professional opera man! He is a happy little boy who has music in his soul! Sammy does not seem to have any observable reaction to music, but he really perks up when the nature cd's come on, especially the rain forest and thunderstorm cd's!

By observing my bird's natural cycles of rest and activity, I can plan the time spent together to be of optimal value. For most of us, attending a less than exciting lecture right after a big lunch is not the most productive use of time. Some of us do very well with a technically oriented class the first thing in the morning when we were 'fresh', while others of us are never 'fresh' the first thing in the morning!

In essence, any time I am around my birds, I am 'training' them. But not by means of a formal training session! They are always learning something about me, and from me, when they are with me. My goal is for that 'something' to be positive.

I find it fascinating to learn about each of my bird's preferences and, most especially, to see them change over time! One week a bird may go crazy for a banana chip and the next week the favorite is red cabbage!

As companions, we have the joy of exposing our friends to a variety of enriching sites, sounds and activities to broaden their horizons and deepen our relationships. It brings a special delight to provide them with a toy that totally enthralls them, to see them try a new vegetable and enjoy it, or to watch their confidence soar as they discover the joy of foraging.

What have you learned about your bird today? (Yesterday, I learned my bird likes wires!)


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ring-A-Ding Ding!!


Can you help me make this call??

Well, it would seem there was just a little bit of unusual activity going on in the Fort yesterday!

This looks like a simple futon with the customary comforter and blankets...

But oh - it is so much more than that!

This is actually the super-secret, secure location of:

The telephone!

When I last used the phone, I made a critical error, and inadvertently let the secret out of the 'blanket':

I may have missed this detail, but The Diva certainly did not!

Upon returning home from work, I found this:

As any mother would do, I began interrogating the most likely suspect, who was sitting on her Fort swing
with a poker-face:


"Hello Coco! What happened here?"

"I'll go see Sammers!"

"Sammers? No, I'm not believing this is Sammers' beak work.

"Hi, honey!"

"Hi, Coco - Do you want to tell me what happened, honey? I see you came down from your Fort and you were wandering around the room!"

"Are you hungry? Mmmmmmm!"

"I think you are changing the subject! You chewed the phone cord!"

"Scoobie Doobie Doooooooooo!"


Talk about not taking responsibility... clearly, she was sticking to her story, and there was no way she was going to admit guilt. I wasn't buying the "Sammers" defense, and I really didn't think this was the work of Scoobie....

Fortunately, there is not enough 'juice' in a phone cord to cause her harm. Nonetheless, I would prefer to be the only one using that phone!

The remainder of the room was left intact, so I suppose the lure of technology was too much for her to resist!

It just goes to show me - I might miss the details, but she never will!

(Note to self: Do NOT leave the cell phone laying around!
When trying to get a 10 hour phone call to Portugal taken off my bill, I don't think the Scoobie-Doobie-Doo defense [or Sammy defense] is going to cut it!!!!)


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

There Are No Kings Here!

I 'see' Barney has been talking about me behind my wing in his blog entries. As you might imagine, his descriptions of our encounters are not exactly accurate... and to think this sort of trash talk is from a dog who couldn't have passed third grade with a full time tutor!

He thinks I cannot read. Obviously, he is not aware that dolphins are nearly as intelligent as birds!

Not to dissuade you from reading Barney's Blog entries; they are an effective tool for insomniacs. But it must be obvious to you that he does have a bit of a tendency to be a drama-llama. It comes from the basset hound side of the family.

(For the record, when I backed him up against the wall to let him know which Diva runs this household, I left no marks.)

Leaving no marks takes true talent. You see, a parrot can determine exactly how hard to press in order to 'im'press. Yes, the same beak we use to peel the skin off a Spanish peanut can be used to break the shell of a walnut! (You can bet we know exactly how much pressure to exert to make the desired 'point'.)

Suffice to say, this Johnny-Come-Lately now knows there are no kings around here... only The Diva).

My companion is not quite as easy to control, but I still have her wrapped under my pinky-talon. When she is going to leave the room, I have trained her to give me a nut so I don't follow her (as I am busy eating the nut). All I need to do is sit on my swing. Was this not clever of me? I get one every time she leaves, even if I wasn't thinking of following! My favorites are English walnuts and authentic Georgia pecans. I detest hazelnuts; and I won't touch a peanut or an almond with a ten foot feather. Give them to Sammy... Sammy will eat them... he'll eat anything!

So, here's how it works: If I am in my room alone (well, with Sammy and Strider), I have everything I need in my Fort. I hang out there, and never roam around. Now, occasionally I will lap the room, sometimes several times in a row, and I always land back in my Fort. Even though I have quite a wing span, the papers on the floor of the Fort do not even rustle when I fly around! I have so many things to do, areas to play, and wood to chew that I am quite content in the Fort. It is like a mall for birds! Even the sisal rope that covers my main pole serves a purpose. I chew on it too, and can use it to polish my beak!

If she (Robin) comes in the room, I will climb down the ladder and start... you know... looking around a little. I check under the bed. Every day I wonder what is under there. Every day I check. As it turns out, every day the same thing is under the bed; nothing. But it is always good to check anyway.

I like to play in the bookshelves, although it rather defeats the purpose when she removes the books. I also enjoy investigating the inside of her slippers. But if she walks out of the room, I make a bee-line for my ladder, sometimes even flying! I make it my business to be about 'Fort Business' when she is not around. And if I am on my swing before she walks out, I get a piece of nut!

If she is going to be right back, she will say, "I'll be right back". That could mean anything from 2 seconds to 10 minutes. If I stay stuck to my spot, on the swing, I get another nut when she returns! Sweet, huh?!

If she says, "I'll be back later", then there's no telling. That means, settle in, enjoy the music, take a nap, chew some wood, throw bottle caps all over the floor, scream until the other two birds beg me to stop, and create a mess if possible! Until her husband (the hall monitor) walks in, it's pretty much a bird's world!

The minute he arrives, we all fall silent. This seems to confuse him, and then he leaves. (Actually, if I take a moment to ponder his overall behavior, I would have to say that he looks confused most of the time.)

As you can see in this typical photo of the bird room floor at days' end, clearly this is no place for a dog! Why, he could choke on these small plastic parts!


No worries, though; after our little chit-chat in the corner of the room, well, I repeat myself: there are no kings around here, just sweet littl' me!

~ The Diva ~