Quaker Parrots as Pets: Featuring Guest Blogger Joanna Grinberg-Ayala

Quaker Parrots, also known as Monk Parakeets, are said to be vivacious and noisy ‘big’ birds tucked into 90-140 gram bodies. For guest blogger Joanna Grinberg-Ayala, founder of Diary of a Kooky Parrot blog, this definitely holds true. She explores what life with quirky quaker parrot ‘Basil’ is really like – the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is one real owner’s perspective on what these small parrots are like as pets; the post is part of an ongoing series that seeks to educate the public about life with pet birds. Let’s give Joanna and the fabulous Basil a warm welcome!

You can also follow Basil’s antics on either of her Facebook pages (or Twitter):

https://www.facebook.com/ScreechandSquawk

https://www.facebook.com/basilthequaker

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Quaker Parrot – what to do?

I was asked to write about my life with a quaker parrot… to show prospective quaker parrot owners what they’re in for. So here it comes – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Our quaker parrot is a huge loud personality bursting out of a small green body.

We’ve had our quaker, Basil, for over 2.5 years now. It’s been wonderful. We all love her like crazy. And she annoys us to no end. Basil shares her space with 3 budgies. Basil is, most likely, a girl. It was never confirmed, but from watching her personality traits and certain behaviors, I think it is pretty safe to assume she is a female.

 So, what is life with my quaker like? I will try to summarize her quirky colorful personality:

 

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Basil of Screech and Squawk

Grouchy – The main sound we hear the most coming from Basil all day are grunts and grumbles. She sounds like a cranky grump. She grunts when she’s annoyed. She grunts when she’s content. But, when she’s really upset, she yells.

Messy – When Basil eats, the whole room gets trashed. She doesn’t eat in her cage. She doesn’t eat next to her food dish. She takes a seed in her beak, walks all the way to the edge of the cage, chews, and discards the shells onto the floor under the cage. When she gets veggies, she picks out stuff she doesn’t want, and throws it in all directions. When she eats peas, she extracts the filling, and scatters the skins everywhere. Needless to say, no matter how much I vacuum and clean, the floor in the parrot’s part of the room is always covered with bird food.

Noisy – Basil squawks rhythmically every morning for a couple of hours. Especially on the weekends, when we are trying to sleep in, and she wants us to come to the living room. The squawking is loud and annoying, but it only happens at intervals during the day. She probably is not quite as loud as some of the big parrots, but her piercing screeches can be heard from our 4th floor apartment all the way in the street. She’s not shy about reprimanding everyone, from budgies to humans. And, when her cage is locked, she clanks on the cage bars really loudly in protest – often for hours.

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Noisy quaker parrot

 

Nosy – Basil needs to see everything, check everything, and participate in everything. She likes to watch what I do from her spot on her playground, and loudly comments on everything. She usually chatters or grunts, occasionally resorting to yelling when she disapproves of something, like vacuuming, for example.

Jealous – Whenever I dare to talk to the budgies or snap their pictures, Basil rushes over, photo-bombs my pictures, jumps on my shoulder, nips my neck, anything to divert my attention away from the budgies. Same thing happens when the Kid comes over to cuddle with me. Basil immediately appears, places herself on my shoulder between us, and starts biting the Kid.

Picky – Basil has her favorite foods and nothing else will do. No matter how much I try to mix it up for her, she will only eat a few chosen veggies and fruit. No substitutes accepted. They either get ignored completely, or tossed on the floor with disgust.

Talented – All Basil’s senses seem to have extraordinary sharpness. She can spot a cookie from all the way across the room. She can smell gummy bears hidden deep in my pocket. Her sense of taste is so well developed that she manages to pick out the smallest pieces of favorite foods from my plate and discard anything else on the floor. She can hear me creeping on my tippy toes to the bathroom on early Sunday morning, and starts calling me loudly to come over to the living room. In short, there’s no hiding anything from Basil.

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Basil’s serious now.

Persistent – Basil never gives up. She will do anything and everything to get what she wants. To score human food, she will bite, dive inside my mouth, wrap herself around my whole face while sitting on my shoulder to reach my lips, lower herself down my face when sitting on top of my head, walk right into my plate and dig in my dish in search of her favorite foods, try to rip food out of my hand, lick the plate, the table and my blouse… You name it. There is nothing Basil wouldn’t do to get what she wants. When she first saw budgies land on the window frame, she went berserk! She could not stand to see the budgies do something she wasn’t able to do. So she started practicing. She tried and tried for days until she learned how to do it too. It wasn’t easy. She’s nowhere nearly as agile as the budgies, she’s big and bulky, and not a great flyer. She kept crashing into the window and falling onto the windowsill, but she never gave up. Until one day, she learned how to do it. Only to triumphantly chase the budgies off!

Nippy – When you read on Facebook about these birds that cuddle with their owners, or sit in their pockets… well, it certainly won’t be about Basil. She must have an obsessive-compulsive disorder of some sort. She can’t stop nipping. Ever! We can never relax when she’s around. She plucks our body hair. She removes moles and pimples. She picks on freckles, scars, and scabs. She nibbles on our necks. She pinches our cheeks. She gnaws on our clothes. She removes our buttons. She never stops chewing on our clothes and us. Results? Holes in our shirts and blouses, missing buttons, bleeding moles, scabs that won’t heal for weeks because they’re constantly picked on… and constant shrieks of – “Ouch!” whenever Basil is around.

High-strung – Basil hardly ever relaxes. Ever. She has to see everything the budgies and we are doing. She can be getting a massage, half comatose from pleasure, but she keeps jumping nervously at every sound the budgies make. And, often, just has to fly back to show the budgies who’s in charge.

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Basil wields her bean.

Bossy – She rules the flock. She cannot stand to see the budgies sitting around and relaxing. She will do anything to keep them on their toes. She controls their eating times. She decides where they get to sit. She chases them back and forth all day long. No budgie can relax when Basil is around.

Volatile and vindictive – When Basil gets mad it’s either ear-piercing yelling and wing flapping, or vicious biting and trashing her surroundings. When I don’t share my food with her, she walks over to the computer mouse, tries to push it off the desk and bite through the cable. Or, she tries to vandalize my computer keyboard. Or shred whatever papers are lying around. She never lets anything go. Someone or something has to pay, be it one of us, our clothes, or whatever object is at a near distance.

Cunning – Basil learned to sing her own rendition of Happy Birthday song, which sounds like – Appy Poo Day. As a treat, I offer her a piece of cereal, and call it a cookie. She learned to demand the cookie by yelling really loudly. In the past, she would attempt to sing and dance through the entire song, but, with time, she got wiser. Now all she does is sing one phrase – “Appy Poo Day”, and immediately yells – “COOKIEEE? COOKIEEE?”

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Destructive – This goes without saying… Like every parrot, Basil loves to chew and shred her surroundings, which includes but is not limited to computer keyboard, computer mouse, cables, furniture, books, documents, walls, curtains, blinds, doors, pictures, frames, and so on… and so on…

Strong-willed – Everything has to be on Basil’s terms. She will only step up when she feels like it, she will only fly over when she’s in the mood, she will only graciously allow us to pet her, when she decides it’s time for a massage. And even then, she will less than gently redirect our fingers with bites, when the massage is not up to her expectations. When she’s not in the mood for pleasantries, it’s stink eye, painful bites, or ignoring our attempts at affection. In other words, don’t mess with the quaker!

Exclusive – Basil only tolerates the three members of our Family. No one else can get near her. She will ignore them; give them a stink eye, and outright bite if they try to get too close. Occasionally, she will graciously honor some people, like Grandpa or Aunt, by agreeing to sit on their shoulder, but they better not be trying to get too chummy with her. Or else!

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Manipulative – When I eat something yummy, Basil nearly jumps out of her skin. She tries everything, from biting my lips to diving inside my mouth. When nothing works, she places herself on my shoulder, kisses my cheek and repeats – “I love you”, in hope that that will score her a piece.

Stubborn – When Basil wants to be with Dad on the couch, she flies over a million times in a row. She starts nipping on him, he gets annoyed, puts her back on her cage, she flies over to the couch and waits for him before he’s made it back. He puts her back on the cage, she flies over. He puts her back, she flies over… See where this is going? Same happens with the swing on her playground. She likes to twist it upside down so the budgies cannot use it. Dad fixes it. Basil goes back and turns it upside down. Dad fixes it, Basil turns it, dad fixes… All day long!

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Independent – Basil self entertains herself all day by chasing budgies, destroying toys, papers, and furniture, and planning her shenanigans.  She does not need us much. She does come over for scratches occasionally, and to try to wrestle food form us, but other than that she is very self reliant. Maybe it’s because she has other birds to occupy her attention. Maybe it’s her personality.

Competitive – Basil competes with the budgies over everything – space, food, toys, and my attention. She competes with the Kid over access to Dad and me.   She fights for what she thinks is rightfully hers, and firmly asserts her position in the Family hierarchy. At the top, that is.

Spoiled – What can I say… Basil owns the apartment and us. She flies over to the table on the weekends for breakfast. She walks all over the table. She dives into our plates. We humbly offer her pieces of our meal, and she picks and chooses discarding unwanted pieces all over the table and the floor. She has us all wrapped around her little tail. We feed her, massage her, and tend to her as she wishes. In return, she graciously honors us with her occasional attention on her terms.

Occasionally sweet – Basil has moments of weakness, when she fluffs up on one of our shoulders, naps a little and repeats – I love you! Kiss? Of course that causes our hearts to melt. Or, she joins us on the couch, snuggles under the blanket, and allows us to massage her little fluffy body. Recently she has been allowing us to reach under her wings, which is a huge accomplishment for us, since she is not a very trusting birdie.

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I do not know how my experience compares with other quaker parrot owners, or rather people owned by quaker parrots. I only knew one other quaker personally. His name was Oscar, and he was much calmer and much less annoying. When Basil and Oscar met, he minded his own business, while Basil did all she could to bite him. I suspect it had to do with their gender. Female birds are usually way more snippy and nosy.

 What else can I say? Like every crazy parrot lady I am nuts about my birds. Every time Basil perches on my finger, I feel grateful that I have been honored with a bird’s trust and love. I love Basil’s green fluff. I love her warm feet. I love to massage her around her beak. I love to kiss her, and sniff her, and pet her, and just have her next to me, whenever she lets me, of course. Her colorful personality has been a great source of entertainment to all of us. And when we go for vacation, we miss her and the budgies every single moment. We would not trade her for any other bird. She has become an integral part of our family, with all her quirks and demands.

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Quirky Quaker Parrot

 

 

 

Blue-Crowned Conures as Pets: Featuring Guest Blogger Jennie Huntoon.

Blue-Crowned Conures, Aratinga Acuticaudata – what are these medium-sized conures really like as pets, and what are the pros and cons of owning one? Today, guest blogger and Dragon-tamer (er, I mean, conure owner!) Jennie Huntoon explores these questions in an effort to help new owners figure out if a blue-crowned conure might really be the parrot for them.

As ever, the aim of this ongoing guest series is to provide real owners’ stories about life with specific kinds of birds (in this case, blue-crowns). If you would also like to be a part, feel free to get in contact! Students with Birds always welcomes submissions.

And without further ado, here are Jennie and Dragon…!

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House Huntoon

Blue-Crowned Conure: Early 2008, House Huntoon. (He looks so young!)

Our journey begins on the day before Thanksgiving, 2006, with a girl of eighteen and a blue-crown conure of six months. It was love at first sight, through the glass of an avian complex at a Petco in Maryland, as the bird tried to step up through the glass onto her finger. The attendant let him out; he stepped onto her hand without hesitation, clicked his approval, and pooped.

Fast forward a little over seven years, seven hundred miles, and eighty million poops (a conservative estimate) to the present day, where the girl and the bird are still just as inseparable as the day they met.

Ladies and gentlemen of the internet, please allow me to introduce you to Dragon!

And, well, myself, I suppose. But you donʼt come to this blog to learn about not-quite-twenty-six-year-old composers, or graduate students in the music department at Eastern Illinois University.

Jennie Huntoon, at your service.

I can tell you right upfront that if youʼre in school right now, or if youʼre heading off to school in the near future, youʼve got some doubt in your mind about having birds. Maybe you have a bird, maybe you want one. Iʼll bet thereʼs at least one person in your life telling you to that school plus birds doesnʼt work. Your twenties is a turbulent time!

“You donʼt know where youʼre going to end up!” “Youʼre not responsible enough yet to manage a bird on your own.”

Shhhhh. There, there, naysayers. Itʼs okay, I get where youʼre coming from.

Blue-crowned conure on head

He does this all the time and I donʼt know why. Strategic preening spot, perhaps? (late 2010)

Birds are high maintenance, messy, loud, moody, expensive, and most of them are a lifetime commitment. Hell, one of the most prominent rescue organizations back home will automatically turn away anyone that tries to adopt a parrot in need of a home if that person is under the age of thirty. Iʼm sure itʼs not the only one. Their concerns are valid, and accurate in some cases.

However, dear internet friends, I assure you that if you possess the responsibility and the dedication, itʼs doable and so very worth it. You wouldnʼt believe how strongly a human and an avian could bond until youʼve done it yourself.

Take, for example, the day one summer that my dad woke me up after rescuing a baby chickadee from underneath the tire of the car. He left it in my charge. Halfway through the internet search for wildlife rehabilitators in the area, I looked over at the poor creature and it had died. I sobbed, of course, as my brother took care of it outside for me. Then there was a ruffle at my shoulder – Dragon had climbed onto the couch, silently, until he got to his favorite place to sit. “Good bird,” he said softly, rubbing his beak on me. “Pretty bird. What a good bird” – as if to say, “Itʼs okay. I know youʼre good at taking care of birds.”

He always knows just what to do to cheer me up.

I brought you this

Blue-Crowned Conure: “I brought you this!” (2011)

But I digress. Iʼm supposed to be telling you about life with a blue-crown conure, but itʼs difficult to make such generalizations when our story is a bit unique. Counting my parentsʼ house, weʼve lived in seven different places over the past seven years. (2010 was rough.) People have come and gone in our lives – past housemates, boyfriends, neighbors. Cockatiels entered the picture in late 2011 and early 2013.

At one point, after our house was broken into and I worried for their safety, he lived with our friend Nicole for six weeks while I stayed with my boyfriend just around the corner. When we moved to Illinois, it was with boyfriend (who, granted, wasnʼt much of a big life change since Dragon loved him since day one). Thanksgiving break, we broke down halfway home and had to spend a couple of hours sitting in a Goodwill to keep Dragon out of the cold. Every time thereʼs a new place, a new face, or a bunch of boxes sitting around the cage, heʼs pretty much unfazed. He had the time of his life in that Goodwill making friends with the patrons.

Even the six hundred and fifty three miles down interstate 70 to our new home was an adventure (until he got bored, but even then the screaming wasnʼt too bad).

Guard duty

Dragon takes guard duty very seriously. (2011)

The point is, if your bond with your bird is strong enough, not only can you make it work, but itʼs second nature. Moneyʼs tight? You donʼt think twice about not eating out for a month so that you can get the good brand of food. Dream apartment doesnʼt allow pets? No thanks, not worth it. Something is wrong in the middle of your work day? You take a half day unpaid without question.

It goes the other way, too, from the birdʼs point of view. Oh, weʼre moving again? No big deal, as long as weʼre still together.

I suppose it helps that I got him so young – he went from breeder to pet store to me, unlike some of the birds you may encounter that may have had multiple homes. But that just demonstrates how important it is that birds have forever homes – the bond of trust is unbreakable.

So, whatʼs life like with a blue-crowned conure? Hilarious. Wonderful. Sometimes, a pain in the ass, but very much worth it.

Conures vary in size – Iʼve met some green cheeks that are probably about half the size of Dragon. Iʼd say your average blue-crown is about the size of your average Senegal parrot, with a longer tail. I read somewhere on the internet that conures have the highest decibel scream of any captive species, sun conures being the worst. Having met a few of the smaller species of conure, Iʼd venture to guess that the blue-crown plays a close second to that.

dinner time with a parrot

If Dragon fancies it, heʼll find a way to snatch it when weʼre not looking. Weʼre super careful to only prepare/eat avocado or chocolate when he is locked in his cage and canʼt get to it! (2013)

If the windowʼs open, you can hear our parrot a block away. (It is frankly a small miracle that of all of the small apartments Iʼve ever lived in, we have never received a noise complaint. Not once. You may not be so lucky, so beware.) However, blue-crowns are also the best talkers of any conure species. Dragon knows at least fifteen phrases off the top of my head, and he strings them together sometimes. Heʼs really smart, too – after after about two or three days of training, he learned to associate saying “come on” as what will earn him a treat, not screaming. Later, using the same techniques, now he says “come see me” when he wants attention.

Blue-crowns are curious as anything. Dragon loves to chew and he loves to rub his beak on things to see what kind of noise it makes. (Heʼs doing it on the laptop right now.) Heʼll get into anything he can – recently heʼs figured out that he can climb down the back of his cage to get onto the kitchen counter and chew on whatever homework Iʼve left there.

They are super smart, but you know, still a bit bird-brained: when we lived with my parents, they had two couches opposite each other. Iʼd be sitting on one, and he would fly into the room and land on the other – then scream at me until I got up from across the room and picked him up! I think in close proximity he forgot he could just fly again.

Despite the incriminating photographic evidence, he really is overall quite well-behaved. The mess is about average for a bird of his size, Iʼd say, but we do have to watch out for him putting holes in our clothes. Heʼll scream at the usual times: when he wakes up in the morning, when he wants to go to bed, when that damn squirrel is on his lawn again, and anytime one of us either leaves or comes home. Iʼm convinced sometimes he just likes to hear himself talk – he goes on for upwards of 45 minutes sometimes!

Blue-crowns are incredibly playful, too. He swings his bell toy to make the noise, then gets mad when it swings back and nudges him. Or, heʼll pull the clapper out of the bell, but swing it anyway and get confused when it doesnʼt make a sound anymore. He loves wooden, colorful toys; I have to buy toys designed for a slightly larger bird, because he will go through things marketed for conures in a day, maximum. He finds his own entertainment, as Iʼm sure youʼve gathered – plastic bottle caps, pieces of paper, and once, he discovered that if he grabbed one of the cockatielsʼ tails with his beak, he could make her run in place. I about died laughing that day. Heʼs scared of millet, but he loves the hair dryer/vacuum noises, and heʼll “sing” along to me practicing or playing music.

Heʼs not really a fan of children – my sister is fourteen now and heʼs only really warmed up to her in the last year or two – so if you live with kids, a blue-crown might not be a good idea. Iʼm not planning on procreating anytime in at minimum the next five years, if ever, so I suppose Iʼll cross that bridge when the time comes.

no respect

He also has no personal boundaries

Our conure is kind of like a child himself; if he doesnʼt get a couple of hours of attention today, he gets pretty cranky. Fortunately, the attention can be low maintenance: if I set him on my shoulder and set to studying or even playing a game, heʼs happy. Sometimes heʼll go after my pen/ headphones/controller/phone/whatever Iʼve got that is distracting me from gazing upon his glorious presence, but sometimes, like right now, heʼll sit and preen, or talk, or entertain himself somehow.

get off my lawn

Blue-Crowned Conure ‘Dragon’ and cockatiels – “Get off my lawn!”

So, yes, if you have an adequate living space and possess the capability to put up with mess and high decibel noise, even if youʼre in school right now – and you are committed to keeping a bird for the next thirty years or so! – blue-crowns as a species come highly recommended from me.

Every bird is different, of course – and the key difference is going to be the bond that you cultivate with your bird early on. That makes all the difference, though, and Iʼve never found him to be a burden on any facet of my life. Iʼve been able to go out and enjoy my twenties, take the occasional overnight trip (so long as I give him extra attention the next day!), host dinner parties, and hell, move halfway across the country to pursue my mastersʼ degree – and my parrot is still just as happy and well-adjusted as ever.

Be good to your birdies, and they will be good to you.

Zebra Finches As Pets – By Guest Blogger Chelsea of @TWFA.

Zebra Finch – Taeniopygia guttata – a lot of people want to know what these small finches are really like as pets, and what the pros and cons are of owning one. Guest blogger Chelsea of The White Finch Aviary explores these questions and more in an effort to help educate the public about her beautiful finches.

This article is a part of an ongoing series on Students with Birds that strives to provide real owners’ perspectives on bird species. If you’d like to be a part, feel free to get in contact by leaving a comment. Submissions are very welcome.

Let’s give Chelsea a warm welcome today!

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The White Finch Aviary

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Who I am and How I got started in the Bird World: Chelsea Le Pinson Blanc.

When I was growing up, I had a great grandmother who I spent most of my days with. She cared for any abandoned or injured birds that she could find, releasing them into her yard of giant pine trees when they could take care of themselves. Those experiences stuck with me, and as a result, I’ve always shared her love of birds. When I found myself in a giant new city with ample room in the house I lived in, my first idea was to adopt.

As I searched for a species of bird that suits my hectic work life, I came across Zebra Finches – specifically the Chestnut Flanked White Zebra Finches (CFWs). I fell instantly in love with their tiny white cuteness!

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Nesting Zebra Finch.

When I felt I was ready, I drove 16 hours round trip to pick up my first pair of Chestnut-Flanked White Zebra Finches: Oedipus and Ophelia, who are currently enjoying their retirement. Though their beauty alone was enough to fill me with pride, it was their charm and kindness towards people that amazed me. To say I was in love was an understatement. They had my entire soul wrapped around their little claws.

Today TWFA has almost every Zebra mutation available in the U.S.A. We have donated samples to research, been in the spotlight a few times, and are ever-growing as a family and community.

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Zebra Finch pair.

Life with Zebra Finches from a real owner’s perspective:

Zebra Finches (also known as Zebras) are a good bird for a beginner, or someone with a very busy schedule. As pets, Zebra Finches don’t bite hard enough to draw blood, they only make a mess inside of their cage (mostly), they don’t need physical human interaction, and they are very inexpensive. This often results in them being labelled as “very easy to care for.”

Unfortunately for them, this mindset of finches “not needing much”  is where all of the neglect and abuse to their species stems from. People pay a small amount of money for them, set them up on an all-seed diet, and leave them in their cage without any interaction.

Simply put, Zebra Finches are just as emotionally deep as parrots are, but many owners never get the chance to see it. If you take the time to give it special attention and treats, let it get to know you better as with a parrot, then you will find that this is incredibly true. They have the personalities of parrots fit into a mouse-sized package. They feel the same as parrots and people do: boredom, depression, joy, excitement, love, happiness, sadness, loss, jealousy… You just have to know what to look for.

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The White Finch Aviary

The Pros & Cons of Zebra Finches

  • Pro – Straightforward Care: Once they’re set up in the proper environment with the right diet, their care becomes second nature. If they’re given greens, seed, and vitamins, they will thrive.
  • Pro – Variety: There are many different color mutations of Zebra Finches, ranging from white to brown to red, and many different details in between.
  • Pro – Breeding: They are easily bred, and do not typically require a license or permit to do so. If they are healthy and given the proper diet, they produce offspring regularly and with ease. The issue lies in the decision to breed or not to breed. As long as potential adopters are already in line, there is enough space to accommodate the babies if they aren’t adopted, and the proper diet/environment are given, then breeding of Zebra Finches is acceptable.
  • Pro – Tameness: They are hard to win over but once you do, you have a friend for life. Zebra Finches as pets will talk directly to you, sing for you, come close to you, and provide hours of silly entertainment.
Miles

Tame Zebra Finch ‘Miles.’

  • Con – Potential Aggression While Breeding: One of the biggest and most frustrating issues that people face with Zebras is their husbandry, or where they are kept and with whom. Zebra Finches can be very aggressive towards one another, especially if the proper stimuli for breeding are present. The best way for them to get along is in a separate flight cage with a mate. This way they do not have any aggressive tendencies, and are never lonely. They prefer company.
  • Con – Bad Info: Misinformation runs rampant in Zebra Finch circles. People who don’t quote their sources or provide legitimate ones should not be trusted. You can generally tell when someone knows what they’re talking about, and when a person is regurgitating information they were told by someone else. This misinformation can hurt our birds.
  • Con – Health: Zebra Finches are considered hardy, but that does not make them immune. They are susceptible to health issues such as air sac mites, avian pox, and many more. What makes things even more difficult is the fact that they are symptom-hiders, and they do not respond well to vet visits. They can easily get sick from leaving the house. If they’re scared enough, too, they will thrash against the sides of the cage and injure or kill themselves, or can die of a heart attack.

Note: The best way to get vet advice is via phone or email FIRST.

Broccoli.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are a part of any bird’s diet.

  • Con – Pet Shop Mysteries: You don’t know what you’re getting from pet stores, especially the major chains. Their conditions for keeping birds are sometimes pretty deplorable. They do not ask breeders for genetic information at all, not even sex. Many shops pay about $2 per finch, and don’t keep track of them very well, with birds ending up ill before they even make it to their new homes. Small-time breeders are a much safer option – or going through a local rescue.
  • Con – Maybe Too Easy To Breed?: Backyard breeders who are more concerned with profit than quality are a problem. Zebra Finches’ breeding habits are a pro, but this can result in people breeding them without proper knowledge or resources. If everyone only chooses the best breeders, it puts these types out of business.
  • One question that comes up for every owner is “should I breed my Zebra Finches?” My first answer is always no. Just let them enjoy being your pet! Most people do not know what they’re getting into when they decide to breed. It requires a whole new diet that most people aren’t prepared for financially, because Zebra Finches are supposed to be inexpensive. Basically, do it right, or don’t do it at all.
  • Con – Life Happens: Even if you have all of the proper tools and do everything right, that does not mean you won’t experience setbacks. When bad things happen, you have to be able to let it go, pick yourself up, and move forward.
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Despite not being a ‘simple’ as people believe, Zebra Finches are wonderful pets.

Zebra Finches and children

An adult Zebra Finch is a great pet for a child. It offers them the experience of caring for another life, allowing birds to be dependent on their caretaker. Zebras don’t bite hard, and they don’t demand your every waking hour like a parrot does.

How demanding is a Zebra Finch, really?

How hard is it to keep Zebra Finches? Generally the only people who are asking this are the ones who are experiencing difficulties. They can’t get their birds to breed (malnutrition). Their babies keep dying (malnutrition or inbreeding). Their pair suddenly dropped dead (illness or over-exhaustion).

All of these issues are not uncommon, but they are avoidable.

Once they’re set up properly, Zebra Finch care becomes second nature. It requires cleaning their cage regularly, changing their food and water every other day, and providing the proper range in diet. They do not do well with being handled unless hand-raised, so the only socialization needed is the type that can be given just by spending time in the room with them. Their cages are easy set up, and with access to the internet, their supplies are easy to acquire.

Miles and babies

Miles and his babies.

Noise level of Zebra Finches

None!

Compared to a parrot, Zebra Finches hardly make any noise. They do constantly communicate with a “beep” call back and forth, and the males will sing beautifully, but these are very tiny birds making very tiny noises. However, get a room full of them together and the chorus will really begin!

I have over a dozen pairs making that much sound, so a few pairs are  moderately noisy with constant chatter. A single pair is very quiet.

“Should I buy a Zebra Finch?”

The most important thing to think about when you’re adopting a Finch is how you are going to make their life special. If you can give them attention, treats, and special care if required, then you’ll be everything they need. But if you’re adopting a Finch merely as a decoration for your home, then do the birds a favor and buy decorations instead. These birds need your love just as any other animal or person does.

Tame babies

Part of finding the right pet for you is finding a good breeder.

My life after Zebra Finches

Let me paint the picture of a typical morning at The White Finch Aviary.

I awake just after dawn, making formula and bringing it into the bird room. As I open the door, four little faces meet mine in a mess of squawks and beeps. By the time I take a step inside, they have all conveniently landed in their favorite spots all over me. Then the feeding begins.

Once everyone is fed and the babies are hopping about the couch, I settle in to answer emails and social media. (TWFA is also on Facebook!) An hour later it’s time for another feeding, and that’s how it continues throughout the day – two hours or so between each. Feedings, socialization, sometimes hours spent just keeping them company. My day revolves around them and their needs, stealing away as needed to rejuvenate or run errands.

If I had made the decision to continue my full-time career, I wouldn’t have adopted all of the pairs that I have now. I would have more money. I probably would have made the bird room into a walk-in closet. I’d imagine my life would be fairly boring and miserable, believe it or not!

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Baby Zebra Finch ‘Penguin.’

My life as it is fits me perfectly. I enjoy doing what I do more than anything else, and I would never want to live in a world without my little birds. I don’t make a profit off of them, truly, but they are always happy and make us happy too. The bond that I have with my tame babies is not able to be put into words.

Life with Zebras is rich with love and affection. They may not be the easiest birds to win over, but when you do, that moment is all the more important. I could not live without my Miles looking up at me and cooing in affection, asking for a kiss!

Celestial Parrotlets as Pets: A Guest Series.

What is life like with a parrotlet? Forpus Coelestis – a very fiesty bird.

I’ve been planning an ongoing feature for 2014 where I strive to get other bloggers and bird owners from the forums where I’m involved (if mostly lurking counts as ‘involved!) here on Students with Birds. This series will feature real owners’ stories about specific species of birds, because I feel that this is a far more accurate way for potential owners to judge what will suit them. The watered-down information available on the web is very generalised (Greys are always neurotic! Scarlet Macaws are nippy! Pionus and Hyacinth Macaws are gentle!) and while it holds true to an extent, even a large one, one can never know what they’re getting into until they have that bird home.

Parrots are individuals. You can estimate what a species will be like based on the generalised species profiles, but it may surprise you.

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Mishka the cockatiel has never been like the Internet insists – instead of a curious, charming, confident bird, we had a noisy, screaming, furious parrot with some serious phobias.

The questions I want readers to find answers to are:

‘Who this blogger is, and how they got started in the bird world.’

‘What is life with a [species] like?’

‘What are the pros and cons of a [species] as a pet? ‘

‘How did my life change after buying this bird?’

‘Is a [species] a good pet for a child?’

‘How demanding is a [bird], really?’

‘What’s the noise level like?’

‘Some basic facts – weight, size, etc.’

If they have other birds in their flocks, ‘How does this species compare?’

Finally, I want readers to be able to find this post and see whether any given parrot or finch lives up to the information already found on the web. If not, what has been different? What advice would these owners offer to a potential owner? What challenges did they meet, etc.?

Hearing or reading owners’ stories are one of the most important parts of buying a new bird. This series is going to ideally run throughout 2014 – so the goal is to post a feature a couple times a month.

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So if you found this because you’re wondering, ‘What is life with a Celestial (otherwise known as Pacific) Parrotlet like?’ here is your answer:

I can safely tell you that it is just as demanding as life with a large parrot. Our parrotlet is just one 30-gram bird, but he absolutely lives up to the big-bird-little-body reputation. He is feisty and wild, yet can switch quite suddenly into a very gentle mood. Ours needs a lot of attention to stay tame and happy. Parrots in general are social creatures, but parrotlets in particular live in complex societies. This just means that captive parrotlets also rely heavily on their human flocks. Don’t buy one if you don’t have several hours a day to dedicate to it.

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Small size doesn’t mean less work. (Photo of Pacific Parrotlet Ptak.)

Parrotlets are typically described as bipolar….I suppose ours lives up to this. Ptak can certainly be nippy, as he honestly seems to enjoy it despite our training, but life with him is generally smooth. He is territorial – best to house him alone, thank you – and sometimes hormonal. Mainly, his activity level presents the biggest challenge! Our parrotlet is always on the move, foraging, playing, dangling upside down, or climbing up and down our legs. He thinks he doesn’t need sleep, and would happily play through the night if we let him.

If you want an active and engaging pet, a parrotlet is it. However, the downside of that hyperactivity is that if you don’t entertain him to his standards, your parrotlet will make his own entertainment up. Maybe this is biting you to get your attention, or perhaps it will be chewing through something you love. With one of these birds in the house, you always need to be alert. That small beak can wield a surprisingly powerful bite.

Like big birds, Parrotlets require a lot of toys and mental stimulation. We buy Ptak toys meant for much larger parrots, as he goes through ‘small’ toys far too quickly to enjoy them. His kind may be small, but don’t underestimate them. Averaging 30 grams, they are known for their big personalities packed in tiny 3″-5″ bodies. They’re actually described as ‘mini amazon parrots,’ and I’d say this is true. Ptak does not know he is so small – and don’t tell him!

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Cobalt Celestial Parrotlet playing.

Honestly, Ptak  is the joy of my life. As much as I adore my other birds, my parrotlet is bonded very closely to me. They are amazing creatures. Their intelligence will astound you every day. Ours is a very active parrot, and so not ideal for children or skittish people. Because he is so clever, he will manipulate anyone he thinks will give in (read: timid or inexperienced people). Parrotlets can be real bullies, and as such need potential owners to invest in training.

They are said to be good apartment birds, though, which is true to an extent. They simply do not have the lung capacity a larger parrot does, but can still be extremely loud. Some of their vocalisations are also piercing and rather uncomfortable. They are vocal birds, and while they can’t scream exactly, they can learn to mimic the screams of bigger birds.

Regarding mimicry, many people ask, ‘Can parrotlets talk?’ The talking ability of parrotlets is known to be moderate. They won’t ever have as clear a voice as an African Grey or Amazon Parrot, for example, but many can and do learn. Ptak is forever chattering away. He says lots of things, including his name, ‘Peekaboo,’ ‘You silly bird,’ and ‘You’re so pretty, bird – let’s open the door!’

(Ptak the Celetial Parrotlet is chatting to us from his travel cage.)

So what are the advantages of buying or adopting a parrotlet? The biggest by far is simply that their bites won’t seriously injure you. Sure, they can and do bite – rather readily, in some cases – but it will never require an immediate hospital visit. The same can’t be said for many larger birds, such as macaws or cockatoos. The noise level is also vastly less, and they present all the personality of a bigger bird without the massive price tag.

In summary, Parrotlets as pets – with a firm and consistent handler – are a wonderful choice. They will bring owners a lot of joy. The public just needs to be aware that these are not good starter pets; nor could they ever be labelled as ‘easy to own.’