<strong><strong>A Bolivian Adventure, Wild Parrot Conservation</strong></strong>

A Bolivian Adventure, Wild Parrot Conservation

We have just returned from an adventurous two weeks in Bolivia. As with all our ecotours, the goal is to learn about native parrots and support conservation efforts. There are 54 psittacine species in Bolivia, ranging from the critically endangered red-fronted and blue-throated macaws, to a diverse number of other macaws, Amazons, conures, and pionus species. The Bolivian constitution is committed to the rights of all living creatures, but it is not an easy country to create NGOs (non-governmental organization). This poses challenges for much needed conservation organizations.

Our tour was organized by José Antonio Díaz Luque, a brilliant researcher and scientist from Spain who has spent the last 13 years of his life committed to helping the critically endangered blue-throated macaw, and other threatened species like the red-fronted macaw. Both of these macaws are down to small numbers and live in very remote areas.

The infrastructure of Bolivia is not set up for tourism, especially for seeing these particular birds. So, we found ourselves on many bumpy roads (and rivers!) traveling to remote areas; definitely an adventure. Sometimes if we want to see something rare, we have to work hard to get there, right?

In the Jardin Cactaceas Municipal Protected Area, community of Anamales, we parked in front of the roosting areas of the red-fronted macaw. There were a few individuals flying around and “shopping” for potential nesting areas. 

There are only an estimated SIX breeding pairs remaining in this protected area. However, thanks to the CLB Foundation (www.fclbolivia.org/, Facebook and Instagram), this small community is developing a true appreciation for the need to preserve the species. We were greeted kindly by the park ranger and families of the area, who provided us a wonderful lunch and friendly welcome. The children even wrote a poem about the birds which they recited for us.

Our tour group contributed some much appreciated medical supplies to the community. And thanks to Angie Yeung, owner of the Celltei company, Phoenix Landing was able to make a $1,000 donation for a community garden. This garden will benefit the local families as well as the rare stingless bees they are also breeding for medicinal honey, providing new economic opportunities for the families of this community.

When we show support for a community in the name of parrots, the people understand how much we care about the birds and this encourages them to invest in their protection as well. 

During our travels, we also saw many other species like the canary winged parakeet, conures (white eyed, green cheek, mitred), blue front Amazons, and other macaws (military, hahns, severe, and yellow collared). We thoroughly enjoyed watching their social behavior and the kinds of food they eat (flowers, pods, nuts).

We also came across an illegally kept captive blue and gold macaw on a home patio. This bird has severe feather destruction and has been deprived of baths and proper nutrition for many years. The government was notified and the bird was rapidly picked up for rehoming. More about that shortly!

One of the highlights of our trip was visiting CIESA – the Endangered Species Research Center, (Facebook and Instagram), where there are plans to breed blue-throated macaws for future reintroduction. We also visited the Gran Mojos Municipal Protected Area, where there are an estimated 50 wild blue throats in this protected area, and we saw about 12 that morning. Beautiful and rare!

At the CIESA center we met the blue-throated macaws who will be part of a future breeding program. CIESA does a great job of caring for the birds, and we were especially impressed with their diet program, which involves a wide variety of fresh foods rotated on a daily basis. Laura Epperson picked out some toys from our store to take along, to include skewers from Expandable Habitats. Just like our birds in captivity, skewers are a great way to encourage foraging and activity. Here is one of the skewers being used for food, and the blue-throat who was so excited to try it out!

We also met a group of very young canary wing parakeets that will be released soon. Look at this brilliant approach to teaching foraging and feeding. They put food on the browse and placed it in a carrier with the young birds. This simulates wild foraging and teaches the birds how to find food once they are released. Sheila Carpenter and Kathleen O’Neill generously donated money onsite to help the center build a larger enclosure for the birds, as the next step towards their future release.

We had the privilege of meeting the blue and gold macaw who was rescued a couple of days earlier. Dr. Rhoda Stevenson (ABVP-Avian) from the Exotic Bird Hospital in Jacksonville, FL was part of our group, and she was able to consult with Dr. Vania Gonzalez Rodriquez, a World Parrot Trust funded veterinarian onsite at CIESA. They even named her Phoenix, since we were instrumental in helping this distraught macaw to move forward to a better life!   

We would like to thank the incredible leaders of CLB (Lyliam Gonzalez, Pamela Suárez, and Cecelia Nuñez Poggi) for the efforts in facilitating our adventure and telling us about their exemplary work in the protected area communities; as well as the members of CIESA who hosted us at their center which will have an important role in the future survival of the blue-throated macaw (Vania Gonzalez, Marcella Franco, and Michael Arce). Phoenix Landing, along with the Lafeber Company, will be supporting the purchase of a much needed microscope and medical supplies for the CIESA center. Let us know if you would like to help too!

Most photos courtesy of Angie Yeung, thanks Angie!

23 Trees: A story of a macaw getting loose, and what it took to get her home again

by John Kerns

“Six days on the road and I’m a gonna make it home tonight.”  Words from an old country truck driving song from long ago. 

Day one: The nightmare begins

Harley in a tree

On a warm Monday in late October around lunch time here in Northern Virginia our 20 year old female Blue and Gold Macaw named Harley accidently got outside and flew away.  We, Bobbie and I, saw the general direction she went in and started scouring the neighborhood and woods in that direction.  After several hours, we saw and heard nothing.  Finally, around 4:30 p.m. a neighbor heard her squawk and located her in a tree next to a very busy road a few hundred yards from our house.  We stayed with her until dark and with great reluctance, went home.  Fortunately, during the night she didn’t fly and we were back there at first light on Tuesday.  

Day two: Tree one

We tried to coax her to come down to us.  The tree was such that she couldn’t climb down and I doubt now that she was sufficiently hungry or thirsty enough to even try.  We also deduced that because she is a prey animal, she will not naturally fly to the ground. So we camped out near the tree where she could see us and hear us calling her name, offering her food, etc.  We even brought our other BGM (in a carrier) to see if that would be any motivation.  It wasn’t.  So she spent Tuesday in the first tree. 

Day three: Four more trees

Harley flies away from the bucket truck

On Wednesday, a friend brought a small bucket truck that was able to get close to the tree.  Unfortunately, the boom was about four feet too short.  When I reached to gently pull the branch toward me, she flew.  She flew about 100 yards to a very high tree across the busy road.  The Fire Department, via Animal Control, brought their big tower truck.  We got within about six feet and she flew off again.  From our high vantage point, we could see the direction she flew in and the area where she may have landed.  After an hour or so, we found her in a tree in a neighbor’s backyard.  For the rest of Wednesday, she flew to four more trees.  Each tree was several hundred yards away and with the help of wonderful neighbors, we were able to locate her each time.  By dark, she was in a tree across the street behind a neighbor’s house where she spent Wednesday night. 

More days, more trees

We were with her from first light to last light each day.  From Wednesday to Saturday, she flew to 23 different trees.  Each time was to the top of a high tree on the outside branches.  There was one time when she flew north.  As we were searching a likely landing zone, I saw her flying from even further north heading south toward us.  If she hadn’t flown back toward us, we would have never known where she was. 

Help from friends and neighbors

Everyone in the neighborhood, without exception, was helpful and supportive.  The NextDoor App was humming.  Our neighbor Josh said that was about as much drama as NextDoor has ever seen. Ted has Superman eyes.  He spotted her in trees that I missed.  Mike has Superman ears.  He could hear Harley clucking in a tree a hundred feet away.  The last two nights, Thursday and Friday, she flew right at dark and we had to go to be bed not knowing where she was.  Thanks to Mike and Ted, we were able to locate her the next morning after a couple of hours searching and calling. 

The weather was perfect, generally sunny with highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s.  One morning was a dense, cold fog that burned away by late morning.  The first couple of days when we saw Harley flying, it was a frantic, rapid flapping.  By Friday, it was a slower beat.  At first we thought she might be running out of gas.  Nope.  She was actually getting very efficient with her flying.  It was perversely beautiful to watch. 

Day six: Trees 22 and 23

By Saturday afternoon, she was working on day six with no food and water.  Tree 22 was the highest tree yet and it was on the edge of woods.  If she had continued to fly north into the woods, we likely could never have located her.  Instead she flew west.  From her wing flapping, she was clearly running out of gas.  Unable to get or maintain altitude (?), she landed in a low tree in a front yard.  When Ted spotted her, she was in the middle of the tree about 15 feet over my head.  Long story short, a neighbor brought a small ladder that I leaned against the trunk and she climbed down the small branches to my hand.  It was 2:30 p.m.  But who was counting?  It was into a pillow case and a kind neighbor drove us home. 

Finally home

Harley, home at last!

She was clearly worn out.  I estimate that she flew a total distance of around three miles, plus or minus.  When we got her home, she immediately drank a lot of water after which she ate.  She had lost about 170 grams or about 15% of her normal body weight.  By evening, her poop was all urine and urates.  The next morning, there was some feces in the poop. 

If we had not gotten her back Saturday afternoon, we aren’t sure we ever would have.  She was probably quite depleted by that time and the weather turned colder.  Saturday night and Sunday, the weather was in the 40’s with a cold rain.  But she is finally home, warm, hydrated, fed, and resting. 

It’s Cherry Season! Cherries are wonderful for parrots

by Ann Brooks

Cherries have many positive health benefits. They lower total cholesterol, are anti-inflammatory,  contain antioxidants, and are a natural source of melatonin.

As we learned from Dr. Rhoda Stevenson, DVM Diplomate ABVP-Avian during our recent Wellness Retreat, cherries are also a superstar healthy food for birds. Dr. Stevenson owns the Exotic Bird Hospital in Jacksonville, FL and gave us an informative talk about holistic supplements in avian practice.

Birds with poor kidney function often test high for uric acid. At some point, high uric acid can lead to gout, which is a very serious problem for parrots. Cherries can help to decrease uric acid and manage gout.

Having regular labwork can help your bird stay ahead of this problem, although sometimes the disease has seriously progressed before uric acid is noted. So maintaining a healthy diet is the key!

One of the main causes of kidney problems for birds is a seed-based diet. Please make sure your parrot enjoys a wholesome fresh veggie, fruit, legume, and grain diet, with access to plenty of fresh water and a quality pellet. Providing fresh foods takes more time and resources, but feeding cheap, unhealthy seeds to your bird will only cause ill health, high vet bills, and probable early death.

Here is Bertie enjoying her cherries and she likes to roll the cherry seed in her beak for awhile. We are not aware of cherry seeds being a problem for birds, they know how to discard them after a bit of fun!

A Space for Parakeets: Creating an Enriched Environment for Small Birds

by Tricia McManus

I never planned on adopting birds, until a cute little parakeet appeared in my backyard about five years ago. Since then I’ve become enamored with these small birds. In my desire to set up a good environment, I read a lot of books, took courses from Phoenix Landing, found ideas on the Internet, and sought advice from my vet.

Parakeet on top of a cage in a bird room with lots of enrichmentCages and perches – encourage exercise

Based on my vet’s advice, I chose double flight cages to provide plenty of room for exercise, including keeping a clear path for flight from end to end.  Perches of different materials, textures and thicknesses are provided for interest and foot health, including lots of different types of natural branches, rope, ladders, wood and metal platforms, along with a few wood dowels and concrete/pumice perches.  Rope perches are used on the outside of the cage and at the door entrances to make it easy for the birds to get in and out, and to provide additional places to play or hang out.  I like the ropes, because they can be configured in many ways, and the plastic end caps are safe inside the cage.  Long ladders can also be used between the floor and the cage doors if your bird spends time on the floor.

Two blue parakeets are seen in a room - on a cage. In the room there are playstands and perches. There are also toys, swings, perches and tents on the shelving in the room for the birds.Toys – Projects to keep birds active and busy    

Toys are the fun part!  There are an incredible variety of toys available to keep our birds busy and active and give them choices.   Swinging and moving toys and perches provide variety and help with balance.  I look for a variety of material types, such as balsa wood, yucca or mahogany for chewing, different types of straw and vines, leather, bells and rattles, paper shreds, cardboard, plastic, and non-pill fleece.  The ends of paper cord often used for toy-making are also great chewing material.  One area for caution is bells.  Parakeets love them but some bells have heavy clappers that can contain lead.  If the clapper does not appear to be made from the same material as the bell, you might want to replace it with a plastic toy link.

Parakeets inside their cages, with ladders, toys, many different perches of different materials.Multiple places for food, water, light, and privacy (when needed)

My cages are set up to have multiple food and water areas to give every bird an opportunity in the event one bird becomes protective of the dishes.  Full spectrum daylight lamps are used during daylight hours, along with a UVA/UVB bird lamp for short intervals each day.  Each cage also has a few quiet resting areas that are shaded and hidden from view.  In setting up the cages, I also considered that each half of the cage could function independently with everything needed and varied experiences for one bird, in the event the divider needs to be inserted to separate the birds.

Evaluating and setting up the space: Safety, flexibility, and more

Parakeet room with hanging ladders and perches visibleThe first consideration is to evaluate your space and think about how the room will function, including identifying potential hazards.  I put decals on the windows and installed Venetian blinds to provide a buffer for potential crashes.  I also removed carpets and used furniture that’s easy to wipe clean.  I keep paper towels and a spray bottle with water handy for clean-up, along with a small broom & dustpan and a covered trash can.  If you notice a particular out-of-cage location where your bird spends time, placing paper towels or newspaper below that spot makes clean up easier.

My intent for the room was to provide lots of choices for flight and exercise, along with additional variety in experiences from what could be provided inside the cage.  Ideally, the birds would explore and use the entire room.  Moveable tables with play stands allow the room configuration to be changed.  A large dogwood tree branch was potted to provide views out the window, and spray oats or millet is sometimes clipped to it to encourage foraging.  Untreated baskets provide perches and play stations along the walls.  Hanging perches and ladders provide opportunities for swinging and movement.  A stud finder was used to locate structural ceiling joists, and eye bolts were installed to hang the toys.

Parakeet room - Playstands in view

Parakeet out in his playroom. Different play areas well in viewThe room and cages are evolving all the time as I continue to learn and come across new ideas and examples.  You will learn your bird’s preferences and what works best for you!

Lights, sideways basket on the wall, hanging toys, and more

What is your 2020 resolution for you and your parrot? How can Phoenix Landing help you achieve it?

What's your 2020 resolution for you and your parrot? Greenwing macaw picturedHappy 2020! A new year is a time of hope for many. We think about what goals we have for ourselves, and what we’d like to do better. Perhaps we want to eat healthier, exercise more, kick a habit, or take our careers to the next level. Perhaps we simply want to make more time for ourselves and our families.

The new year is also a great time to think about our parrots, and our relationships with them. What goals do you have for your parrots for the next year? Would you like to provide more choices or enrichment for them? Increase the amount of time they spend foraging? Perhaps they need to lose a few grams, and you want to start making gradual changes to their diet and exercise plan so they can lose that extra weight. Is your goal to make new, healthy foods for them? Perhaps you and your parrot could use a relationship reboot, and you would like to improve your trust in them, and theirs in you. Maybe your goal is to do positive reinforcement training with them to improve trust and communication with them.

Please take a few minutes and think about what goals you have for you and your parrot, and please share it with us! Is there a way Phoenix Landing can help you achieve it? Perhaps we can provide information, classes, tips, or more that might help. Perhaps we can check in quarterly to see how you and your parrot are doing as it relates to your goal. Let us know your goal, and also let us know how we can help you achieve it!

Share your 2020 parrot goals or resolutions at https://bit.ly/parrotgoals.