Saturday, July 4, 2009

Meet Nolan the African Grey!

Today I am featuring Nolan, an African Grey, who owns his mom, Rachel!

Rachel is a Preserve Zoologist at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve in Nevada. The preserve is home to native Mojave desert species. There, Rachel works with a variety of lizards and snakes. She attended Michigan State University, majoring in zoology, focusing on zoo and aquarium science, animal behavior and neurobiology. She was fortunate to have a wide variety of experiences, including spending 4 weeks in Africa studying African mammals! This may have started her interest in African Greys!

As a zoologist, Rachel has had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of animals, but is especially drawn to carnivores, bears, cats, hyenas and otters. She has worked with parrots in captivity for a little over 5 years, but Nolan was her first in home parrot.

And now, I am happy to introduce to you Nolan, in his mom's own words!

Nolan's Story

Nolan (Congo African Grey) came to live with Jeremy and I in April of 2008. He was almost 5 years old at that time, and we were his third (and final!) home. The woman who had him first was a police officer, didn't spend much time with him, and was actually afraid of him. So afraid, that the only way she would pick him up was if he stepped up on her hand backwards. So he can step up forwards and backwards now.

Sadly, she also left him alone for two or three days at a time with a water bottle and some pellets. I think this may be where his struggles with separation anxiety began.

Nolan's first name was Jack - obviously that changed!

We came across Nolan's when he was living with his second owner. She decided he needed a more refined name, since he is such a gentlemen, and thus he became (and remains) Nolan. His nicknames are Mr. Nolan and Nolers.

She also thought he was really mellow and well adjusted, and that he just plucked feathers out of his chest when he got stressed out. Feather plucking (also called FDB - feather destructive behavior) is another one of Nolan's hurdles. He has made great progress as you can see by the pictures below.

His second mom had 5 other birds at the time, and I think she may not have had the time to give Nolan the attention he needed. His FDB went undiagnosed and misunderstood. He was very attached to her, but when she was going through a divorce, and decided she couldn't keep all her birds, she chose to rehome Nolan. That is where my husband and I came into the picture!

The first time I met him, it took a little time for him to step up, but I got a kiss pretty quickly after that. Needless to say my heart was taken!

When Nolan came home with us in April, 2008, he immediately started pulling feathers out of his chest and legs. At first, it was just downy feathers. Eventually, he was pulling all of his feathers.

He had been accustomed to being out of his cage most of the day at his second mom's house. Since my husband and I both worked, he remained in his cage during the day.

He would sit in the corner of his cage, with his legs spread eagle (one on each wall of the cage), and just rip feathers out of his chest. Just awful - heartbreaking and frustrating.

After about a month of this, I was so upset, and so at a loss for what to do, that I got online and started looking for help. We were determined to turn over every leaf until our little man got the help he needed. This is when I found the Birds of a Feather Forum. After talking with Robin and another member, Jim, about what we could do to help him, we began giving Nolan multiple baths each day. I also started making newspaper and straw toys for him that he received when we went to work. This gave that busy little beak something extra to do. While we were making progress, we still had a ways to go.

Then we changed our office into Nolan's room. Once Nolan had his own room where he could have his cage open during the day, everything started clicking for him. Finally, we arrived - a fully feathered Mr. Nolan!

We have discovered that the key to Nolan's happiness is a routine. We do the same things everyday at around the same times. He gets up with me in the morning, we have breakfast, and then its shower time. He loves to sing in the shower while on his shower perch! Then he hangs out on the bathroom counter playing while I get ready for work. I have to make sure to "blow dry him" just a little when I am fixing my hair, because he loves the "whooo" as he calls it.

We then go into his room, get some more misting, a treat, and I turn on either the tv or radio. I head out to work at the Preserve, and he stays in his room all day with the cage door open. On the weekends, we keep the same daily routine, as if we are working. This seems better for him.

Often, his dad gets home from work first, brings Nolan out of his room, and sets him up in the living room on a play gym. The two of them hang out together until I arrive.

We all share dinner together, with Nolan sitting on a tv tray next to us. He receives his pellets, whatever veggies we are eating, and rice, pasta or beans. We hang out, as a flock, until it is time for bed.

Bed time means his cage door gets shut and he is covered. We have discovered that this works best for him; it provides security. Attempts to leave the cage door open and uncovered at bed time have resulted in a few night frights, and we cannot have that!

Nolan is pretty much my boy; he snuggles with me, and loves scritches. However, he also loves his daddy, because they play a lot of fun games together - including fetch! Nolan loves to play people fetch! He also plays "chase daddy's fingers around". He is learning to be really gentle with Jeremy.

Overall, he is quiet for a bird. He does say a number of words, phrases and mumbles:

Hi Nolan
Give me kisses
Whatcha doin
Come 'ere
Step up

He is exceptionally talented when it comes to imitating household noises such as the microwave, stove, water, hair dryer....hopefully he will not learn to imitate a smoke detector! He also whistles for the dogs whenever we open the slider door! He loves to sing/hum along with me when I sing songs such as You are My Sunshine and Take Me Out to the Ballgame. And, just to me, he makes this really sweet little rolling "r" sound when we are being cuddly.....heart melting!

His #1 favorite toys are anything plastic: bottles, caps, old soap dispensers... If it's plastic, he wants to play with it! He also likes to shred paper cups and hang upside down and ring his bells.

We still struggle with his separation issues and keeping his feathers on his body. Some days are better than others. He's my little boy - and I will always love him - feathers or no feathers!

He is going through a new stage of getting into anything and everything. It is wonderful to see; his curiosity and his exploration indicate a great deal of growth.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing him exploring and getting into new things (as long as they are not my things)!

But Nolan is not an only child... he has many brothers and sisters including two cats, two dogs, two ball pythons, one bearded dragon, my stepson Tony, and.........

A bun in the oven! That's right - my husband and I will be welcoming a new baby boy or girl into our home in about 8 weeks from now! Naturally, we are excited, and also know it will mean some changes in our routine. Since this is Nolan's forever home, we are prepared to work diligently to respond to his needs as we transition to adding one more member to our "flock".

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share Nolan's story! We are regular visitors to your blog; I like to read it, but Nolan likes to look at the pictures!


Bug said...

hello Mr. Nolan.. you are such a handsome guy!! my girl CAG, Gothic is just melting right now looking at your pictures =D...

you seem like a real gentle man indeed.. im glad Robin and her flock made this blog about you!!...

your new fans...

Bug and Gothic (you can see Gothics picture in the picture slide *hint* *hint*)...

Anonymous said...

Nolan LOVED seeing his pictures on your blog, Robin :) I hope his story can help others struggling with FDB!

Bug - Gothic is beautiful! Nolan says ~helllloooo!


Shirley Morgan said...

Wonderful story, wonderful progress, Rachel, Jeremy, and Nolan! He sure is handsome!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! Hehehe.."whooo"...oh I loved reading this! Only problem is that it makes me want to get an African grey even sooner (something that isn't at all possible - we live in a rather small apartment).

I too hope he won't start mimicking the fire alarm!

I saw a video once, though I can't recall where, of a cockatiel who imitated a baby's cries just perfectly. If Nolan learns that from your soon-to-arrive bundle of joy, you'll certainly have a hilarious answer to your son's or daughter's questions about Nolan's "crying" once they're older!

Rachel said...

We've discussed the baby crying sound.....I bet he gets that one quickly! Oy! Those little smarties are always getting me into trouble!


wolfgirl1987 said...

Thanks for introducing Nolan to us. He is a sweetie!

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