Parrots Bring Laughter to Your Home.

The video is Bobo doing his strut for the camera yesterday. I was re-watching it today, and it made me laugh a little when I heard his feet go clickety-clack on our wood floor. You just can’t watch it without smiling at least a bit!

Well, my laugh cued the birds’ laughter. Ever since that moment, Bobo and Mavi have been setting each other off into fits of giggles.

Mavi mutters something, Bobo laughs, Mavi giggles, which makes Bobo laugh some more. Ptak chuckles belated from the other room, setting off Mishka’s evil cackle, and then I join in, which sets them all off again. I’m attempting to catch this hilarity on video as we speak. Unfortunately, the phone comes out and they either promptly stop (picture time is serious business, eh?) or make camera shutter noises. Sigh.

In the immortal words of my parrotlet, ‘You SILLY birds!’

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Talking Parrot: A Video.

We had another glorious day of sun today, and the birds spent it basking on the couch by the window. The smallest one was particularly enamoured, as you can see in the video. Sunlight is rather flattering to his blues.

Ptak has also, just by the by, mastered Mishka’s song. It’s quite adorable, as he’ll sing along (a couple octaves up) when Mishka starts – but she doesn’t like this, so she stops.

He’ll just keep singing, and Mishka is basically left waiting for a quiet moment to jump in and sing her own song. If Ptak does relent, she will pick up at exactly the same point. It’s like a weird duet.

I find it quite amusing.

Speaking of Mishka, she has decided that she is, er, in love with Pip, and spends most of the day following her around as closely as possible. Cockatiel in love with canary? At least she knows she’s a bird, I suppose. She also adored Charlie, and would spend all day trailing in his footsteps – she was very upset when he died. Maybe it’s displacement or something? Whatever the case, Pip is terribly displeased with all this, and stares at me in horror as Mishka tries to sidle closer.

We humans were inclined to ignore the behaviour at first, but we don’t want it to progress any farther for poor Pip’s sake – she is a he, after all, and a canary at that. Mishka quickly became extremely aggressive and territorial over her perceived ‘friend.’ (The ensuing chase as we try to remove her does at least encourage our fat little canary to fly around a little more.)

Yeah… There’s a new rule in place that Pip and Mishka aren’t allowed out at the same time.

Pip approves.

How a Parrot Learns Its Name: Video.

I thought this video about wild green-rumped parrotlets and their mimicry was well worth sharing.

Parrots’ names are not biological; they are derived in the nest. The experiment in this video examines eggs that are taken from one nest and placed in another.

The most impressive thing, though, is not only do parrots have their own names, they can share and learn other birds’ names, too, AND use them in context.

Further evidence of my talking parrot.

Just in case, y’know, you thought I was making it up or something.

He’s a little chatterbox. At the time of filming this, I was sneakily hiding behind O.’s computer monitor with just the camera lense poking out. I am allowed to look, but the camera isn’t… if he spots it, he’ll only make camera noises.

Parrotlet says ‘tickle.’

Ptak has a new game… talking when you gently shake him.

Parrots and the Yearly Process of Moulting.

Ptak has become a scritches fiend… He keeps bowing his head and head-butting my finger whenever I ask him to step up. If I end a preening session too soon, he’ll impatiently head-butt my finger. The mere mention of scritches makes him fluff up in anticipation. And sometimes he’ll just bump into random things and fluff up his face feathers, like, ‘Scritches, please, Mr Ball Toy?’ It’s happened with a number of his cage accessories, my leg, my arm, my fingers, clothes, and the duvet cover that is over his cage. Sometimes he’s been naughty and even ends up self-rewarding… He’s very cheeky! It’s because he’s moutling, though. His head looks mostly normal, but the lower half of all his feathers seem to still be pins. It must be extremely irritating.

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Itchy bird.

To try and help him during the moult, we preen him when I can. He’s not always in the mood (although he is generally very good natured about telling us when or when not), and sometimes will let me gently roll his pin feathers between my nails. If they don’t break up immediately, they’re too hard and will hurt him. Most of the time they simply break away into a fine powder. That simply means that they’re ‘ready.’

Pin feathers are new feathers growing in after the old one is removed; the growing feather is wrapped in a wax-like keratin sheath and has a blood source flowing to them. It looks like a white, plastic quill. If broken, it can/will bleed profusely. Styptic powder or corn starch on the wound will stop the bleeding. (I’m lucky enough that this hasn’t happened yet.) Because there is a live blood source, the pin feathers are also sore and itchy. If one is pushed or brushed the wrong way, Ptak gets very sensitive. I’ve only been nipped once for that – and I must say rather nicely. Our parrotlet is a good boy…

Bathing extra seems to help him feel a bit better. He gets a mildly warm bath whenever he wants. I’ve made a bathing monster out of him, too. He can’t see or hear running water without wanting to nip in for a quick shower! He’s not so keen on mistings with a spray bottle, but this can also help alleviate itchiness.

Diet is always important, but at this time it becomes critical. You should always be feeding your bird greens, fruits, cooked brown rice or cooked quinoa, etc. It’s good to offer a bit of hard-boiled egg with shell once a week or so, too. A general increase of protein-rich foods in the diet will help grow strong feathers.

It’s a draining process. Your bird may be more tired, less willing to play or come out, and grumpier than usual. There will probably be feathers everywhere, and your bird will be covered in uncomfortable pins.

Poor Ptak’s favourite words at the moment are ‘TICKLE TICKLE TICKLE’ (very demandingly, with a flip of the wings) and ‘scritch, scritch-ee.’ I feel like this is no coincidence.

As I was leaving the room yesterday, though, he looked at me and said, ‘You silly bird! Wanna open the door? SCRITCH SCRITCH-EE.’ (I’ve counted more than 30 things that he says or mimics so far. He has very good timing, I must say.)

I hope the moult is over soon… My flat is overridden with feathers. You can’t sweep them to save your own life. A bird loses a few feathers at a time – symmetrically on its body so that it can still fly – and so this process can take quite awhile.

I’m sure we’ll all be grateful when it’s over.

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He will.

Source: Tail Feathers Network.

Parrots Love Jingle Bells.

My cockatiel won’t stop singing Jingle Bells in my ear. Mishka thinks it’s the most acoustically sound place to sing her songs.

I haven’t been blogging as often as I’d promised because, well, there wasn’t a lot happening. O. went away last weekend, and Mishka spent the entire time pining. The horror! Ptak, of course, didn’t notice anything, and went about his usual business of destroying things.

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A toy AND food?

He has also improved both his kiss noise (‘MWAAAH’) and his camera noise, which isn’t really describable. Let it suffice to say, it sounds like a camera shutter. Call David Attenborough, get rid of the lyre bird on Life of Birds – our parrotlet has a future in television.

MIshka spent her weekend alternating between being sad and screaming. She gets bored sometimes, since persuading her to play with actual toys is a bit of a challenge (read: sometimes nigh impossible). We have to get creative.

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Ptak isn’t quite as fond of the foraging log… However, he does understand that if he stands on the millet stems, he can reach more of the untouched bits. He also likes to help himself to EVERYTHING first.

The best toy is food! While Ptak enjoys a big piece of cucumber or carrot skewered in his cage, Mishka loves big chunks of broccoli served in her foraging log. I tuck in some millet and Cheerios, and she is kept busy for a few minutes, anyway. Once in awhile, I can even get her to have a gnaw on the log itself, but not often. She’s more interested in sitting on my shoulder and singing. If you’ve never had a cockatiel sit on your should and serenade you with its lovely, dulcet voice, let me assure you… Cockatiels’ cries are noisy, ear-piercing… um, and did I mention noisy?

There is a whole debate over whether birds should be allowed on their humans’ shoulders. On the whole, I say as long as they come off nicely, they can be up there. The problems, however, that people argue are these: First, a bird sitting on your head could very well try to bite you – even if it is not aggressive. The reasons why your bird bites are for another post – there could be many. Because so many soft, vulnerable parts are well within reach of a lunging beak, it’s probably best to keep big or untrained birds away from your face.

Second, and just as importantly, a bird on your shoulder is dependent. Because we owners can’t be around all the time, it’s important to foster independence in your bird. You need him to be able to play happily while you’re not around – otherwise, behaviours like plucking and feather mutation could arrive, or your parrot could quite simply develop a screaming problem. Rewarding your bird while he’s playing happily in his cage will help. But when he’s sitting on your shoulder, he’s not learning (or remembering) how to amuse himself.

A wild bird spends its days foraging for food, bathing, and actively socialising with its flock. As owners, it’s important for us to try to mimic these naturals habits so that our companions stay happy and healthy – and don’t start the devastating behaviours of screaming, biting, or plucking.

One last thing said about shoulders is also also that a bird feels ‘dominant’ when perched there, as it is higher than you. I feel this is untrue. Birds don’t see hierarchies (in the flock, they all co-exist on equal footing), and while they definitely think higher up is better/safer, I have never seen one of my birds think it’s ‘superior’ to me. Ptak and Mishka do treat the shoulders as a bit of a privilege – or at least the best crash-landing platforms, though…

Anyway, since O.’s return, Mishka’s temper has improved. She’s played a little more and screamed a little less, and spent all evening hiding from the brown and cream coloured blanket that we’ve thrown over the back of the office chair to keep her from chewing and going nutty.

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And this is why the brown and cream blanket went up.

Aye, we still have lots of work to do with her.