Thursday, February 25, 2010

Same Toy, Different Place

Have you had the experience with your bird of moving a toy from one location to another, only to have it ignored or suddenly become interesting? Or if a toy that lost interest is returned to the original location it once again regains its preferred toy status?

A toy may evoke a different response based upon location, the environment, and other factors. This can also apply to food. For example, this morning I filled the budgies' seed dish, and placed it in the usual location. Instead of adding pellet to the seed mix, I placed a second dish containing only pellets in a different/new location in the fort.

Suddenly, all 3 boys went running to the 'new' pellet dish! They began jockeying for position, and anxiously eating the pellets.

Anxious to eat pellets you ask? I know... shocking! Especially in the presence of a freshly prepared seed mix!

These are the same pellets that in other instances (such as when mixed with the seed) do not hold top billing. In the presence of a new location, or unique presentation, we may very well evoke a completely different response. In addition, over time I have served a variety of unique and fun foods in this dish. Now, simply seeing this special food dish evokes a response in the budgies and Coco as they have learned to expect it to contain something tasty. Even if it is a new food, they will usually try it if it is presented in this special dish.

When we consider encouraging natural foraging instincts, we may also want to look beyond the cage or bird room to the totality of the home environment. A bird coming upon a stash of carrot and nutmeats while walking across the cupboard, 'finding' a piece of nut or seed on the arm of the couch, or discovering a seed on the coffee table, will begin to learn to see all areas of its environment as possible foraging sources. An item found within the confines of the cage or bird room may be completely ignored, while the same food discovered on the cupboard or other unexpected location is treated with great interest, intrigue, may become a toy or even be tasted!

Expanding the foraging horizons will provide additional opportunities to hone those foraging instincts!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Squawk, Squawk, Shake!

Many of you may have heard about the earthquake 5 days ago affecting Chicago?! Thank goodness it is not near the coast so no chance of a tsunami!

But an interesting story has come from this - and reflects yet again the intelligence and survival instincts of our feathered friends.

Arlene (aka Blog Graphic Artist) had a restless night of sleep one particular evening and happened to be awake. At around 5 minutes before 4:00 am, she heard extreme thrashing and noise coming from the bird room where Nicky, Rosie and the finches live. She rushed into the room, and found Nicky and Rosie still screaming, thrashing, and on the cage floor. A few feathers were lost during the incident. Naturally, she assumed a night fright - the most logical conclusion. However, the finches were in on the action as well.

She spent a minute or so calming them down by turning on a soft night light and speaking softly to them. They were visibly upset.

But then - - - she heard a low rumbling noise.

Her first thought:

" was the guy with the plow outside."

Now, c'mon Arlene... really? The guy with the plow outside? They plow at your house at 4:00 am? Wow!
Ok, we'll let her stick with her story.. moving along...

I quote her in her email message to me:

"...Then I thought he was on the roof stomping around."

Is that how they plow the roads in the windy city? Did the guy have on a red suit and a long white beard? And a jolly belly?

Ok - move it along, Robin, move it along...

Now, of course you know how this story ends...

Nicky, Rosie and the finches sensed the impending earthquake like little feathered seismologists! Arlene woke up to the morning newspapers advising that an earthquake registering 3.5 had hit the area at 3:58 am! Now, that's pretty darn impressive!
Just another reason we are all in love with our feathered companions! Not a day goes by that they do not amaze us!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Levels of Relationship Intimacy

After having Sammy the cockatiel and a myriad of parrots over the past 30 years, the arrival of budgie-boys has been an interesting and joyful learning experience. As I have related countless times, watching them brings me such immense pleasure they should charge me a millet entrance fee!

Once Bucky and Penske had finished quarantine and were ready to be introduced to Strider, I immediately noticed that there were different levels of intimacy in their relationships. And, I would expect this. Bucky and Penske already seemed quite bonded to one another. However, I did have one surprise coming to me.If someone had asked me, "what behavior is more intimate between birds, regurgitating or preening" I may have responded regurgitation. It is a behavior between mates tending to one another as the hen sits on the eggs, and as the couple feed the new hatchlings. One could make the case that this behavior would be more reflective of a bonded relationship than simply preening might be.

However, observation of the budgie-boys over these past few months since their introduction has shown otherwise.

Within a week they began regurgitating to one another. Of course, Bucky and Penske were already familiar with one another having gone through quarantine together. But regurgitation with Strider followed soon after they met.

After some time passed, Penske began accepted preening from Strider. It took a bit longer, but eventually Bucky accepted preening from Strider as well. It was a wonderful moment to see! However, no one was preening Strider. He always had pin feathers. I wondered if perhaps I simply hadn't witnessed it. But Bucky and Penske had beautiful pin-free heads while Strider did not. That is... until this past weekend. Strider has been in a heavy molt, is a total pin-head, and I caught Bucky extensively preening him!
So in my observations of these three, this leads me to believe that preening seems to be reflective of a deeper level of relationship and bonding between my three. This is interesting from the standpoint of how we interact with our birds, and perhaps the opposite of what we might have guessed.

When we see birds regurgitate toward us, I often hear people say something like, "my bird thinks of me as a mate." Since the three budgie-boys well know each other's genders, it would seem to me that the regurgitation between them has nothing to do with perceiving one another as a mate, and everything to do with friendship and perhaps even common courtesy.

Inasmuch as they know that they are not each other's "mates", I believe that when our birds regurgitate in our presence they also understand that we are not their mates. But this is a whole different discussion that I will abstain from delving into at this point. Perhaps food for thought in a future post (pardon the pun)!

If my observations of the budgie-boys hold any application to our companion relationships, it might help guide our approach in developing those relationships slowly over time. I shudder every time I read the advice given a new bird companion to "stick their hand in the cage" and leave it there for an extended period of time, not moving, and giving the bird a chance to learn that "the hand means it no harm". I've never quite understood this. If I am in a room alone with a spider, the fact that the spider doesn't move for an hour doesn't lead me to believe it means me no harm. I only believe it hasn't harmed me yet!!!

I wonder how I might feel if a motionless hand/arm came into my space.... See spider analogy above... use imagination!
If instead we began by offering food reinforcers and associating ourselves (and hands) with them, how much more quickly would the same bird progress in its relationship with the new companion?

For a bird unwilling to take a bite of millet even from a long stick, and most certainly unwilling to take food by hand, we can simply drop a treat in the bowl each time we walk by. If every time I walk past the cage I drop a treat in the bowl, it may not take much time before upon seeing me, the bird goes to the food bowl in anticipation of the treat! It is a place to start to develop that relationship and associate ourselves and hands with something that our particular bird finds reinforcing! It also gives the bird a chance to learn how to predict one aspect of my behavior.

A relationship builds over time, but in the process, there are some beautiful and rewarding moments!


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland

Because we are so prepared with the generator, food, water, etc., no doubt is the reason we have only lost electricity for about an hour (this morning). We've had plenty of brownouts, and those around us have not had power for over 30 hours. The winter wonderland continues, as does my knitting!


Friday, February 5, 2010

Frozen, or on the Rocks?

Ok, we've got plenty of cold, ice and snow... where's the tequila, margarita mix and salt?

Another winter storm has made its way through. We are under a storm and flood warning until tomorrow evening, and due to get another storm on Tuesday. Can you say - long weekend?? !!

Meanwhile, I'm getting plenty of knitting done! We are still all set with the food, water, generator, camping stove and lantern, flash lights, batteries, candles...

Unfortunately, Barney is still dreaming of Jamaica...

He is just not built for cold weather, poor guy!

More ice, wind and snow expected tomorrow. Already, things are a mess outside. A lot of trees and branches down.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How Much Wood Can a Woodchuck Chuck?

I know that I haven't said much lately, but given that today is 'Groundhog's Day', I could keep quiet no longer!

Do we have a parrot day? A macaw day? A love your parrot parade? Does Hallmark set aside a special day, create cards, and encourage folks to buy expensive nuts and toys for their beloved companions?

Of course you see my point.... and yet, the silly groundhog gets its own day? That's just crazy tawk!

Regardless, in honor of Groundhog's day, I have decided to ignore the groundhog (easy enough), and address the woodchuck. Stick with me... I have a plan here...
The groundhog has already received entirely too much attention.

Forget about how much wood can a woodchuck chuck... what about the chucking ability of a beautiful (and humble) parrot such as myself? Let the woodchucks and beavers step forward... I can give any of them a run for their money!

Therefore, I spit on groundhogs, woodchucks and other lower species of animals such as common dogs (Barney comes to mind).

Tell me, does Barney ever do anything besides sleep? I truly don't get the fuss over this mottled mess of fur... Can he say the simplest of things such as 'hello' or 'pretty bird'?

Yeah- um, no he cannot. He cannot say one simple word. Clearly, he is lazy - and I have proof!!!!

But, I wanted to write to tell you about the most wonderful day I had yesterday! And, this ties into my woodchuck theme.

My dad graciously entertained me for quite some time by replacing the steps on the ladder down to my lower area. And just when they were nice and round! I'd been working on those things for months, and nearly had the screws exposed!

Hah! Joke was on him, though!

He wasn't even out of the room before I went over there and took a hunk out of the first rung, and the second, and the third.... all the way down....

I detest square edges... Why does he not get that? The male human is so, um, inexplicably dense....

So all you woodchucks, beavers and even groundhogs (do they chew wood?) pay close attention! This is how a parrot properly chucks wood!

Notice that even the perch I am sitting on 'used' to be square... hah!

And, I've only just begun! So much wood to chew, so little time (between screams, foraging, and looking pretty!)