Archive for Training

Birdie Bread Mini-Muffins

Posted in Birds, Chloe, Chop, Kacey, Macaw, Nutrition, Simba, Training, Uncategorized, Zazu with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2010 by angelsofflight

The biggest enjoyment my flock gets in the morning is not me saying “good morning”, or the kisses they get, nor the “did everyone sleep well” speech.  It’s their undying love of breakfast!  A mix of strawberry yogurt, cut up fruit, 2 teaspoons of the famous “CHOP” and (drum roll please…)…Birdie Bread Mini-Muffins.  My flock goes absolutely nuts over these things.  Constantine tends to have a couple with his tea in the a.m. as well…when the birds are in a sharing mood.  The recipe is really easy and I promised a few people I would post it.

I personally use all organic ingredients because that is just my preference for my birds, but you can generally find all this at your local grocery store.  This recipe is great for making into a loaf as well.  I like the mini-muffin pan because it is easier for me to serve it up to the flock.  One mini-muffin in each bowl is a perfect size for everyone all the way around.  A small side note…I never cook with Teflon pots or pans when cooking for my parrots.  I have separate cookware for them consisting of a couple of pots, a pan a baking sheet and my mini-muffin pan.

The ingredients are as follows:

2 boxes Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
3/4 cup Rolled Oats
4 jars of baby food (I use 2 jars of sweet potatoes and 2 jars of carrots)
3/4 cup mashed Bananas
1/4 cup Peanut Butter (Smuckers Organic is the best!)
1/4 cup Parmesan/Romano grated cheese
2/3 cup grated Carrots
1/2 cup Broccoli Florets

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Stir together muffin mix, oats and cinnamon in a large bowl and set aside.  Put baby food, broccoli, mashed bananas and peanut butter in a blender and blend briefly (just until blended).  Add carrots and cheese to dry mix and mix until the carrots and cheese are lightly coated with the dry mix.  Add wet mix to the dry mix and fold together lightly with a wooden spoon JUST until mixed…Don’t over mix!

In a greased mini-muffin pan (I like to use the organic baking spray),  fill each muffin cup with a tablespoon of muffin mixture.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Pop them out of the pan and cool on baking racks.

These are great because you can freeze them too and just take out what you need for the next day.  Pop them in the microwave for a few seconds to warm them up and your good to go.  Vary the recipe too if you like!  You can use mixed frozen veggies instead of the carrots and broccoli.  Instead of the baby food, try some canned pumpkin or mashed sweet potatoes or squash.  Mix and match with your birds favorite foods.  They are even a great gift to a fellow avian friend when you go to visit.

In the end, your flock will love you more than they do already…I know mine do!  Bon appetite!

The Imaginarium

Posted in African Grey, Birds, Cage set up, Chloe, Chop, Cleaning, Education, Enrichment, Kacey, Macaw, Moluccan Cockatoo, Nutrition, Patricia Sund, Recall, Rescue & Rehabilitation, Simba, Training, Zazu with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2010 by angelsofflight

When I set out on this little adventure of building The Imaginarium I knew it was going to be a huge undertaking.  My father is an old man and really doesn’t use the downstairs of his house.  In fact he doesn’t even like to bend or climb stairs so it’s undeniably ridiculous that he built a 2-story house.  However, it benefited me and my flock.  While still in the beginning stages, I have cleaned up the cement slab and all that was “stuck” to it.  Some green slimy stuff and threw all the old decrepit furniture that he was saving (for god knows what) to the curb side for pick-up.  Now I have begun setting the stage for The Imaginarium.

The Imaginarium - After clean up

I chose the name, The Imaginarium, instead of simply saying “My Aviary” for the simple reason that not only do my birds need an Aviary, but I need some peace as well.  Here I will be able to relax, reflect, be alone or with friends, dream, escape and simply imagine.  I’ve added a few little friends to the landscaping.  There is “Diva: The Pink Gecko” for some character and of course the faithful “St. Francis” to watch over the birds and I while we are in The Imaginarium.  I imagined the most beautiful sanctuary complete with music, wind chimes, lush green trees, beautiful colorful flowers, and a small vegetable garden with herbs, strawberries, tomatoes and a few others I have yet to pick out.  It is a work in progress for sure.

St. Francis: To watch over my flock

Diva: The Pink Gecko

So needless to say, my 2 non-flyers are enjoying the scenery for the moment until the fencing is put up.  I’ve already started sitting out there with Chloe and Simba and imagining the day away.  Simba and Chloe have become really good friends.  They dance and sing together to the playlist I made for Angels Of Flight Productions.  It has all the music from all of our videos on it and a few Jimmy Buffet songs as well as Kenny Chesney’s “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” which has quickly adapted as the motto for hanging out at The Imaginarium.  There’s a big wooden sign going up on the wall with that motto on it.

Chloe & Simba: Enjoying the late afternoon

Chloe & Simba: Hanging out after a bath

I am anxiously awaiting the actual fence to go up.  The materials should be here sometime this week.  My contractor assures me that it will be finished by next weekend.  I can’t wait to let Kacey and Zazu out in it.  I love watching them hang upside down on their perches and do all the comical Macaw stuff.  I can only imagine what there going to do with a 20′ x 12′ x 11.5′ Imaginarium.  The possibilities are totally endless.  I’ll be blogging most of the construction and doing some video too.  But for now…relax, pour yourself a “Green Parrot” cocktail, kick off your flip flops and imagine…

A Conviction Of The Heart

Posted in Chloe, Kacey, Macaw, Moluccan Cockatoo, Rescue & Rehabilitation, Training, Uncategorized, Zazu with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2010 by angelsofflight

Kacey - My Inspiration

When people ask me the question, “What made you start Angels Of Flight?”; I tell them a story of a 6 year old girl who was at The Bronx Zoo in New York in the summer of 1976.  The story starts out as a normal family outing that went very wrong in the afternoon.  While visiting the World Of Birds exhibit, an Umbrella Cockatoo (obviously wild caught since we’re talking 1976) was being exhibited by one of the handlers.  The 6 year old girl was allowed to pet the Cockatoo and for reasons unknown back then, the Cockatoo quickly turned and jumped out of the handlers grip and landed on the little girl.  While the Cockatoo was fluttering about on the little girl he began to bite her and attack her face while the handler and the little girls parents tried rapidly to get the bird off of her.  Scared and crying and bleeding, the little 6 year old girl was deathly afraid of birds from that day on.  Every time she saw a bird she would remember the horrid experience of her childhood and become so scared that she would turn and run in the other direction.  That memory stayed in the little girls mind until she was 37 years old…That little 6 year old girl was me.

Fast Forward…June 2007…

After landing a job at a major pet store I immediately made it very adamant that I was deathly afraid of birds and did not want to have anything to do with them, the Operations Manager thought it quite funny and put me in charge of the bird department…he wasn’t a nice guy…in fact he was quite sinister.  With that being the only job availability in a failing economy, I suppose I had to comply to his outrageous request and take care of these flying creatures that wanted to take my face off.  Everyday was one disaster after another.  I would go home absolutely stressed out. Until one day I made up my mind to try and get over my fears.

Kacey playing with her "Peek-A-Boo" blanket

While working in that glorious bird department and cleaning cages I became friendly with a Sun Conure.  He was beautifully colored and quite a little smarty pants.  every morning I would say hello, he would “wolf whistle” at me and I would thank him for the compliment.  He would come out of his cage and greet me in the morning and I would proceed to clean his cage and give him fresh water and food.  When it was time to go back in his cage I had to get one of the other managers to do it because I was afraid to touch him (again…that damn Cockatoo memory).  One day when it was time to go back in his cage, he lifted his foot at me…cautiously I lifted my finger to him and he stepped up and while shaking like a leaf, I gently put him back in his cage.  I was so excited that I ran out around the store to tell everyone (I must have looked like a complete idiot!).  I was so proud of myself.  I started reading up on Sun Conures and what their true feeding requirements were.  The pet store provided the basics and as I know now…not very admirable or adequate basics.  After all, if I was going to save the $699.99 to buy this little guy from the pet store, I would need to know the correct way to care for him.

Fast Forward…December 2007…

Kacey - Enjoying her life

I finally had the money saved to buy this little guy.  I had a 4 day weekend and on Tuesday, December 4th, 2007 I was going to make the little guy who I named “Skye” mine.  Everybody knew how much I wanted him, that I was diligently saving the money for him and the little relationship I developed with him.  As I went to get the keys to unlock his cage the General Manager, a very nice man unlike his managing counter part, asked me to sit down.  It seemed pretty serious as he had a strange look on his face.  He proceeded to tell me that “Skye” had been sold over the weekend.  As the tears welt up in me I began to cry, I lost my little Sun Conure to the first $699.99 that came through the door.  I taught him how to wave hello, I taught him to hang from my finger and to lay on his back in my hand…he was supposed to be mine!  Now he was not with me, he was with strangers and I would never know if he was ever taken care of the proper way.  The General Manger had tears in his eyes as well and gave me a big hug…although it was a nice gesture, it wouldn’t take away the pain.  He did tell me he had good news though.  He told me of the Operations Manager at another store who was a breeder of exotic birds and had rescued them from time to time.  She had a Sun Conure that needed a home and he had already spoken to her over the weekend about me adopting it.  Well, that wouldn’t be “Skye” but, this little one needed a good home.

I waited a few days and then called the bird lady to inquire about the Sun Conure…which I had already named.  Yup…you guessed it “Skye”.

Helping with the dishes

The conversation somehow went from me adopting a Sun Conure to… “I have a Blue and Gold Macaw that needs a home”.  Ummm…ok…now we’re back to that everlasting “Cockatoo Memory”.  Me being the passive, inexperienced bird person I was, I asked “Isn’t that somewhat bigger than a Sun Conure?”  Yeah well…alot bigger and alot scarier!  So, a week goes by and I decide to go look at the 2 birds…the Sun Conure…and this huge Macaw.  Needless to say, I never got to see the Sun Conure, I found myself driving home with a rescued Blue and Gold Macaw that hated me, didn’t trust anybody, tried to attack me at the aviary and a cage to put together that was bigger than my little rented bedroom.  What in the hell was I thinking??  I knew absolutely nothing about taking care of these birds let alone trying to gain the trust of one that wanted to rip my face off.  Back to the drawing board…time for more research.  Books, internet, friends, bird store owners, sanctuaries and the original bird lady were all helpful.  I took everyone’s opinions and made my own conclusion.  In one week I had this huge bird stepping up without trying to take my arm or my face off…

…Nine months later, Kacey was my best friend…

Kacey & Me

Once I was able to get Kacey out of the cage willfully, we would spend time together watching TV in my room,  hanging out on the porch together or playing “peek-a-boo” on the bed with the covers.  While watching TV together one day, I fell asleep and forgot to put her up in her cage.  An hour later, I woke up to a huge beak wrapped around my nose making kissy noises at me.  Oh my gosh! Please don’t take off my face!…The moment I said that she stopped, flipped herself over on her back, grabbing my hand with her foot and placing it ever so gently in her beak.  The baby noises and kissy noises continued.  I got bold enough and kissed her tummy…Kacey finally accepted me and knew in her heart that I would always love her.

Almost 3 years have passed now and although most of my posting is about Zazu and Chloe, my heart belongs to my one true first.  Kacey is my heart and soul…she came to me when I lost everything in my life including my confidence as a human being.

Angels Of Flight was started for Kacey.  Originally trying to help out the other lost flighted souls that were not wanted and that needed re-homing, AOF branched off and grew into a production company to showcase the wonderful world of exotic birds.  Still working with the rescue portion of the operation, AOF has re-homed 35 birds in the last year.  From the smallest finch to the Mollucan Cockatoo.

I am now over my fear of birds.  They are my life and everything I live for.  My relationships with humans may come and go, but one thing that remains constant in my life is Kacey, Chloe, Zazu and Simba.  They are “The Ambassadors” of Angels Of Flight…but Kacey is the true heart and soul of why Angels Of Flight was started.  People always say it’s great that I rescued her…I correct them…Kacey rescued me.  Kacey has taught me that no matter how bad your life gets there’s always something good waiting around the corner for you.  If you hang in there long enough, life can be an amazing gift.  She is my conviction of the heart.

A Year In The Making

Posted in Birds, Chloe, Education, Enrichment, Kacey, Macaw, Moluccan Cockatoo, Nutrition, Recall, Rescue & Rehabilitation, Training, Zazu with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2010 by angelsofflight

Zazu at 16 weeks old

The  day my life was blessed by a little Blue and Gold Macaw was June 13, 2009.  She was 16 weeks old and for some reason I was drawn to this little one with 3 of her toes missing instead of the cosmetically perfect other young Macaws that  happened to be at Sue’s aviary.  I always wanted a baby of my own.  I had seen all the bonding and fun people around me had with their baby birds that I never got to experience.  Not that I am complaining about being the permanent rescue home for Kacey and Chloe but, I just wanted a baby to call my own and that would have the same home for the rest of my natural life…and one I could train properly with no hangups.  I guess you could say I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about.  I realized, there is no difference except in patience.

Kacey: The Mistress Of Mayhem

Kacey was by far my biggest challenge.  It took 9 months of training and getting to know her before she trusted me and I trusted her.  She was my first big bird and she will remain with me until I no longer exist.  She tests my patience on a daily basis to see if I will still respond.  Every now and then she will snap at me through the bars of her cage…I suppose it’s sort of a game to her to see if I still love her.  The snap comes and then the scratching of her head to say “YooHoo…I Love You…”  she’s very comical in her testing, I think that’s one of things I love about her so much.  She’s a content bird now and I adore her as my first child.  She’s a very independent bird…unlike the others.  She has adapted well to my fascination with different species and has excepted her other 2 sisters and her brother.  After all she was the only one in my life for a year until Chloe entered the scene.

"Lady Chloe"

Chloe was a sweetheart of a bird…she was  a barber of her wing feathers and every now and then would hit a blood feather that scared the wits out of me.  Back to the computer for more research.  This time I was searching for remedies on feather picking and barbering.  I quickly realized, there’s nothing much I could do except love this sweet beautiful bird who would eventually most likely start picking at other areas as well.  She has now started picking at her chest instead of her wings and I am once again beside myself.  I haven’t changed anything so my wits are strung out again.  I try everyday on a daily basis to help and correct it but this habit is stemmed from something much deeper than before I had her…I will never know Chloe’s whole true story.  All I know now is that she is loved by me and I will take the best care of her I can.

Now…a year after enters the famous Zazu

My friends have enthusiastically watched Zazu grow up on Facebook.  From the awkward, wing clipped, clumsy little Macaw with only 5 toes collectively to the magnificent Blue and Gold Angel she has become over the past year.  This past Wednesday (March 17, 2010…St. Patrick’s Day) was her 1 year birthday…we call it a hatch day.  I look back over the last year to see all that has gone on…  The controversy of me recalling a wing clipped bird at the beach, the fact that she was a baby and not a “real” rescue, the decision to harness train her or not, how to feed her, what to feed her…everyone has their opinion and I took all of those opinions and made my own opinion out of it.  With the help of  few trust worthy friends and a strong heart and mind, Zazu has turned into a dream come true.

Targeting started at the onset of my time with Zazu.  The first night I got her home, I was mixing formula and BOOM…I had a 16 week old Macaw recalling to me…yes it was because she was hungry…and no that is not how I trained her in the months that followed.  I was fortunate enough to know that she had fledged before her wing feathers were hacked so I did have a bit of an advantage.  The following months, once again, brought alot of online research, opinions, and training.  I started inside the confines of my home for the first 3-4 months and then ventured outside.  This was the scary part…although I had all the confidence in the world with Zazu’s and my relationship, accidents can happen.  I was getting the guidance I needed by a well-known trainer and without his help I would have never even thought about doing this.  Her first recalls were in the backyard…a place her and I were familiar with and where I knew if an accident should occur, I would be able to retrieve her.  These training, targeting (on ground and in flight) and recall sessions in the backyard went on for about 2-3 more months with the same sessions going on inside as well.

Let’s jump to the 6 month mark…the first outdoor experience in recall and target training away from the house.

Zazu recalling at the beach

Zazu had become confident as well as I had on the recall and targeting so I decided to take her to the beach one early morning.  Packed up with water, treats and a few birdie friends with their birds, we headed to Port Royal Beach in Naples, Florida on a Sunday morning.  I started out slow with some ground targeting work in the sand for about 20-30 minutes then we graduated to a few recalls ascending off the ground.  As the morning went on, we were recalling off the pilings on the edge of the shore and just had a grand old time.  Zazu was confident and bold and never skipped a beat or a perfect landing.  As the next 6 months went on, friendships were diminished, relationships were severed, and jobs were lost but the one thing that stayed constant was my relationship with Zazu.  She has always been there for me and has never disappointed me.  During the recall training process people kept telling me…be careful, are you worried she’ll fly off and never come back…so forth and so on.  Yes, of course that weighs in the back of my mind. But, with proper training and all the elements that come with proper training such as: Positive Reinforcement, Operant Conditioning, Food Management, etc. the scenario of Zazu flying off and never coming back under normal circumstances are highly unlikely.

Enter…the spook flight…

About a month ago Zazu  and I were having our normal training session in the backyard.  This consists of a few obstacles that I make her overcome on a daily basis such as flying down off the second story deck of the house while I stand in the backyard and recall her…as well as flying into and out of our favorite oak tree that I climb with her as well and have her target to the different branches downward for a safe recall land.  I live behind a middle school and take into account the different times that the kids are changing classes because they can be a distraction sometimes…I learned that this distraction needs to be dealt with.  This one particular day I did not time the distraction correctly and the physical education teacher decided to hold his class in the back of the school near my training session with Zazu.  A flood of children came running across the field and spooked Zazu into our training oak tree in the lot next door.  This wouldn’t have unnerved me as much as the fact that the spook flight occurred off the second story deck.  As I was frantically making sure I knew exactly where she landed I was thankful she targeted to her second obstacle.  Although watching her fly across the field was beautiful I do believe my heart skipped a beat as I walked calmly across the field.  Equipped with a referee whistle and a whole almond (her jackpot emergency recall treat) I could see exactly in the tree where she landed and, gave a quick chirp of the whistle, and a reinforcing “Come here Zazu”, she flew down out of the tree effortlessly, instantly on cue and directly into my hand.  Upon her landing I was greeted with an enthusiastic Macaw “Hi!!”  and a beak snuggle into my neck.  This particular recall could not have been achieved without proper training…and the circumstances could have been alot worse.  This has not stopped our training outside and now after a few sessions of training during the class change at the school, her distraction has turned around to a concentrated effort.  Zazu is by far the smartest Macaw I ever met…I may have that opinion because she is mine but she is very attentive and her concentration and willingness to work to get the job done is far more than I ever expected.

With only 3 more wing feathers on each side to grow out since that first and only hacking…and a year of training under our belt, she just celebrated her 1st birthday.  She gets stronger and more skills everyday.  Turns and banks on a dime like a Cessna and soars like an Eagle…The making of the past year has been one hell of an experience with Zazu…I am enthusiastically looking forward to the next as well as I think Zazu is too…

Zazu and Me: Best Friends Forever

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xcloa1_angels-of-flight-the-ambassadors_animals

Harness That Bird!!!!

Posted in Birds, Education, Enrichment, Recall, Training, Uncategorized, Zazu with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2010 by angelsofflight

Zazu...Unharnessed at the beach.

When it comes to harness training I have mixed feelings.  Some birds need it and some birds don’t.  If you are going to keep your birds fully flighted and train them for recall and free flight then the proper skills  need to be obtained, therefore removing the need for a harness.  However, there are those people that don’t train for such things but want to give their birds the opportunity to fly and that’s ok too.  Within the confines of a large aviary or in a well planned and thought out home catered towards your birds, training for flight can be very rewarding.  As far as the harness goes, some people use it for extra precaution when going to town or on vacation with their bird even though the bird is highly trained and a motivated flyer…this is acceptable as well.  However, if a harness is not used properly it is detrimental.  It can damage a birds crop, back, wings and possibly have fatal effects on your feathered companion.  For instance, it is heartbreaking and I cringe when I see a flighted bird on a harness, it is allowed to take off at full speed just to be pulled back by the person holding the other end and then hits the ground with an amazing “THUMP”.  Talk about damage!!!  Now you’ve #1…Ruined his self confidence about flying, #2…Choked the hell out of his crop and possibly damaged something and #3…possibly cracked his keel bone!!  Yeah!!  That’s Positive Reinforcement!!  For the seasoned harness users this could make you want to smack the person upside the head and wrap a dog collar around their neck attached to a leash and send them off the Empire State Building…but in a perfect society we can’t do that!

"Daphne" (Barb Saunders' D2) recalls on a harness

My friend Barb Saunders, author of BarbsBirdsandAviary, uses a harness on her birds when traveling on vacation and talk about a seasoned harness user…the woman knows EVERYTHING about using a harness (she taught me a few tricks when I used to use one with Zazu).  Her birds are trained for recall.  She is very cautious where she recalls her birds eliminating the startle flight as much as possible and just having fun.  In this case a harness is, in my opinion, a grand little accessory.  She is able to set her bird down and recall it in short flights off a railing, a rock, etc.  She doesn’t send her birds flying into the air just to retract them back.  The harness in this case is used properly without any damage to the bird and training has been obtained to make sure both Barb and her birds are safe. “Daphne”, Barbs’ Ducorps Cockatoo was trained at the early age of 3 months old to wear a harness.  This is an important factor.  While Barb has eliminated the use of harnessing, Daphne is a seasoned veteran when it comes to a harness and if need be will wear one without any fuss.  You can’t just slap on a harness and expect your feathered baby to enjoy wearing one!!  It is a patient process and one that needs to be introduced slowly.

Zazu wore a harness in the early stages of her training.

When I was initially training Zazu on her jump flights I admit I used a harness a couple of times.  This was in the early stages of her outdoor training away from her comfort zone and I didn’t want my young (baby) bird to get startled and fly off into a parking lot and get hit by a car…I’m sure you could understand that.  As the months went on, her confidence built as well as mine with different outings and socialization such as the beach, work, and outdoor restaurants.  Therefore I removed the harness after training her to fly down 25 feet out of an oak tree and off the roof of the house…just in case these issues ever came up.  Mind you, those were scary training sessions and SHOULD NOT be done without the help and guidance of a professional.  When going to work she would take off when I called her and fly from the register area to the aquatics department landing safely and securely in the palm of my hand…this is now a properly trained bird at 10 months old.  I have all the confidence in the world with her and I do not use a harness on her at all anymore…it’s my preference.  Her wing feathers are growing out nicely as well and training continues on a daily basis.  As she acquires more wing feathers, she acquires more height and more distance therefore increasing the training for recall.

Zazu...in flight during recall training at the beach.

In one of my seminars I did “Advanced Avian Education” I touched on the recall method and use of a harness.  Obviously there is always that one bad apple in the bushel so trying to convince this man that keeping his Ducorps Cockatoo fully flighted when she was just used as an accessory in his home to make it look more tropical was a bad idea…he found an invitation for an argument…and so my point began.  If you randomly let your bird fly with no recall training, food management, enrichment, positive reinforcement, and so on…you are headed for no where except disaster.  Trying to explain that to this man was a losing battle for me so I finished our argument by giving him my phone number and telling him to give me a call when his bird was up in a 25 foot tree and wouldn’t come down.  Funny thing is, I got a call from his wife 2 weeks later frantically telling me their bird was on the roof of their house and they couldn’t get her down.  They opted for me to teach them about harness training…hummm.

Barb harnesses her birds while on vacation.

So when it comes to wearing a harness…I am all for them providing they are used correctly, maintained in condition, used for the proper purpose, and the bird is trained to wear them (Yes…you need to train your bird to wear them or they think it’s another “scud missile” coming at them from afar!!!).  There are a variety of harnesses to choose from however, Barb and I choose the aviator harness which is available online or through your local pet supply store.  This is a fantastic little tool…use it wisely…PLEASE!!!!

The Fundamentals Of Being A Baby

Posted in Birds, Education, Enrichment, Macaw, Recall, Training, Zazu with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2010 by angelsofflight

Zazu

Although I have no human children of my own, I do know what it is like to be a mom and hear those first words spoken by my baby blue and gold macaw…Zazu.  The first time I heard her say “Hi” in the sweetest little baby macaw voice I got tears in my eyes.  Then came “Hi Mom” and now she promptly tells the dogs “Outside!”. and may I say it’s a very forceful tone.  Her constant chatter of mumbling and a “Hi” in every other mumble leads me to believe she is going to be an avid talker.

While most of you know that I have been recall training Zazu since the day I brought her home at 16 weeks old…you also know that I never say “Step Up” to her…it’s always “Come Here”.  Well, now she tells me to “Come Here”.  This is her little signal to me to say “I am ready for a training session”.  While we train she usually does her funny quirky things like roll over on her back, play dead and all the good things in a training session.  However there is one hysterical thing she does that just gets me everytime…she takes a 50 foot flight to me from the top of her cage, lands ever so gracefully in the palm of my hand and says with a big bold baby macaw voice “Hi!!!”  It’s the funniest thing I have ever encountered and to tell you the truth with her quirky little attitude, it’s just that much more funny (I have yet to be able to catch it on tape).

Favorite things to do...PLAY!!!

Another favorite...EAT!!!

While yes, birds do mimic what people say…they also seem to know and understand what the words mean.  More or less how to get a reaction out of you that they want.  For instance, when Zazu wants to come out of her cage, she’ll say “Come Here”…instead of a constant screaming and screeching.  She knows she gets more attention with a kind “Hi” instead of a 3000 decibel anxious scream.  Thank goodness cause that’s enough to knock you off your rocker when you got three of them going all at once!

I think the most fun of owning and raising a baby bird would have to be watching the development and enrichment that they totally get off on!  When Zazu finally gets a trick like dunking the basketball, the excitement she displays is amazing!!  She is so proud of herself and she knows her jackpot treat is waiting for her…she flaps those wings and then comes the “Hi!!!…Hi!!!…Hi!!!”  I am thoroughly impressed with her and she knows it…maybe sometimes I get overly enthusiastic with her but for the most part, it is definitely a bond that cannot be broken!

Zazu and I having a pep talk at the beach

I would have to say that my journey with Zazu as my first baby has been extraordinary.  It is filled on a daily basis of learning, teaching, excitement and fun but most of all love.  My love for my birds is an undieing one…a love that NO ONE can take away from me and an unbelievable learning experience of patience, kindness and heartfelt emotions.  They amaze me everyday…especially Zazu.  Her flicking of her wing to get my attention, her little gestures and sounds, trying to figure out what she is mumbling to see what her next word will be are just a few of the wonderful things life has to offer when we are together.  She helps me wash the dinner dishes by taking the clean pots and pans and throwing them to the tile floor…I think this is her way of putting them in the so called “floor cabinet”.  When drying the dinner dishes she seems to think that the drying towel is a peek-a-boo toy that she sticks her head under and yells “Hi!!” in a classic macaw voice.  The faucet of spraying water is a whole other world for her…she jumps in the sink and begins the ever popular macaw water dance as only they can do…SHAKE YOUR TAIL FEATHER SISTER!!!  The comical acts of a baby macaw are a fascinating thing…especially the wall paper of flung food like a scud missill…when you can actually hear the “thud” of food hitting the wall you know they are enjoying what you’ve given them for dinner.

She NEVER disappoints me!!

I’ve learned in the past that if you love something…set it free…if it comes back to you it was meant to be.  As much freedom and flight as I give Zazu…she has never disappointed me and she has always come back on recall.  She is an amazing friend, confidant and companion.  Life is a journey…especially when you own a baby Macaw!!! For your viewing pleasure…here’s a little video dedicated to my “Superstar”…enjoy!!

To Rescue Or Not To Rescue…That Is The Answer!

Posted in Education, Enrichment, Rescue & Rehabilitation with tags , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2009 by angelsofflight

Kacey01

…And what an answer it is!!!

I have had the pleasure of rescuing three birds (Kacey, Chloe, and Sophie) and let me tell you…it wasn’t always a pleasure but one heck of a learning experience!!  Between the distrust, feather shredding, biting and what have you…let’s just say I have a few…ummm…”Enrichment Battle Wounds“.  Unfortunately, the knowledge I have today I didn’t have back then so, I’m making up for lost time.

The body language of a parrot can tell you a whole bunch of things.  I often sit and observe my birds with such great awe marking their body movements, listening to their vocalizations and watching the way they interact with each other.  The same goes for that rescue parrot you brought home last month that you still can’t get near because he lunges at you through the cage!  Hence…the rehabilitation starts!

Trust is a big issue when it comes to a rescue bird.  The first step is gaining their trust.  If you are fortunate to know of any trauma that went on in the previous home then you are one step ahead of the game.  One of the toughest rescue situations is the “unknown”.  Patience is a virtue when it comes to this…because of the unknown we have no idea what has happened.  Through trial and error we make our decisions on how to go about the first steps of rehabilitation.  I am going to use Kacey (my 11 year old Blue and Gold Macaw) for an example.  I was fortunate enough to know about Kacey’s background.  She was 10 when I got her and for the first 7 years of her life she had been physically beaten and abused, knocked off her perch in her cage by a water hose on a daily basis, on a diet consisting of nothing but peanuts and with all of this combined…untrustworthy.  I would be too if you treated me that way.  She didn’t trust strangers and that was exactly what I was to her.  I had to be careful feeding her…she would lunge at me through the cage.  So, I figured she loves peanuts, I will use that to get her to step up.

Every morning I would wrap my arm in 2 towels, an ace bandage to keep the 2 towels on and a long sleeved sweatshirt with gloves on (I live in Florida…this is not proper attire!).  I would open the cage door, put my hand out to her and show her the peanut.  If she even just put one toe up to me…she would get the peanut…if she snapped at the peanut (and my hand) I would drop the peanut through the grate of her cage and close the door.  I would get a polite “Uh Oh” from her and then come back 10 minutes later and try it again.  Within a week I had her stepping up to me.  This is what we call Positive Reinforcement (R+).  She steps up or makes an attempt to…she gets the peanut.  She didn’t always get the peanut… an obnoxious, “GOOD GIRL” from me seemed to make the same impression.  This type of training is used with your baby birds as well.  While all cute and cuddly, they are eventually going to grow up.  R+ needs to be started immediately during weaning!  I cannot stress that enough!!  The last thing you want is a parrot that dominates your home.  Through R+ Training and Enrichment you obtain a mentally, physically and emotionally healthy parrot.  Great reading and DVD’s on this subject can be purchased at GoodBird, Inc. and The Leather Elves there are 2 major training tools I use and that is the book Good Bird by Barbara Heidenreich and the DVD Enriching Your Parrot’s Life by Robin Shewokis.  Thanks to Patricia Sund…these have become my bibles!!  This is a joint adventure.  It is a partnership…you work together to achieve the goal. 

So…the answer remains…To Rescue Or Not To Rescue…There is a sense of personal achievement when that rescue bird finally steps up to you instead of lunging at you.  It is a slow and patient process.  I will tell you from personal experience, it has been the greatest achievement of my life so far.  I am the Companion Animal Department Manager at a local Petco store and everyday I see animals being brought in by customers that cannot take care of them.  Some enter the store in a purse or a bag and left in a kennel on our shelves.  All I can say is this…there are so many unwanted animals out there in shelters and rescues that there aren’t enough people for.  Petco is already doing their part by lowering the animals they sell by 30%!  That is a big step for the pet industry!  I am happy to say that the discontinued sales of birds is on it’s way as well…an even bigger step!  Think adoption first before you go to the pet store and pay an astronomical amount of money for a bird (or any animal).  Do your homework and research on what species is appropriate for you, your family and your lifestyle.  Weigh the pros and cons, discuss WHY you want to add a bird to your home.  Remember…the idea of getting a bird to match the color of your couch and make your home look more tropical is NOT the reason to get one!!  I see it all the time…especially where I live in Florida.  People get a big bird to make their house look more ” Florida like”.  It doesn’t work, they have no idea how to train the bird, no resources, or the desire to learn and that’s when they wind up in the shelters here (it’s not the only reason but one of them).  For the “die-hard” bird lovers…we never let the novelty wear off of owning such beautiful creatures.  You own an exotic animal that was born to be wild…there is no “taming” that animal…only to teach them right from wrong.