Kevin Blaylock, One Of A Kind

Kevin was supremely devoted to his family – his wife Kami and their children Chandler and Maddi. I remember when they joined us for a parrot care class back in July 2006, soon after they acquired their first bird, a macaw. We were so impressed with their dedication to learning right from the start, especially because the whole family was involved. For Kevin, family was everything.

DSC_0187 copyOver the years, as Kevin became more involved with Phoenix Landing, we felt like his lucky adopted family. We went on ecotour vacations together, many of which he had adeptly organized. Beginning in 2010, we spent several weekends a year teaching intense training “Step-Up” workshops. Kevin never missed one of these workshops, because he so enjoyed the time with new students and old friends.

Kevin helped us with countless projects – especially at The Landing, our only facility. StepUpKevinWhen in doubt, we would say “let’s ask Kevin” because he usually had a new and insightful idea. As a highly successful businessman, Kevin joined the Board of Directors as our Treasurer and he knew how to steer the organization solidly into the future. Lastly, Kevin took stunning photographs of amazing wild and captive parrots, something that gave him great joy and satisfaction. His love for birds just radiates through these photos.

 

Kevin’s dedication to helping parrots was monumental. Avid learners become good teachers, and Kevin was one of our best, with a special interest in behavior. He also put his positive reinforcement training skills to work in every aspect of his life, always seeing the good in everyone.

 

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Kevin’s family lost him way too soon, he was a young 44 years old. His Phoenix Landing family lost one of its brightest young stars. There are no words to convey the void Kevin leaves behind – one of goodwill, smiles and genuine affection for all those he befriended. I hope you are able to fly in your new life, Kevin, because we know how much you deserve the joy that would bring you! ~ Love always, Ann

Finding Reliable Parrot Information on the Web

Is locating accurate and relevant information about behavior, nutrition, health and enrichment as difficult for parrot caretakers as finding a Quick Link in a pile of shredded newspapers? It doesn’t have to be.

First, when reviewing content, consider these questions:

Who is the author? Whether vet, behaviorist, parrot owner, volunteer at a non-profit or breeder, consider what certifications the person has, how many years they have worked with birds and under what circumstance, and why they might be sharing the information. If the underlying motivation is to get a reader to pay for a service or buy a product, beware.

What sources do the author cite? Are the sources well-trusted? Does the author provide references in the form of links or book/article titles? How current is the information?

Does the information apply to your bird’s species, age, or disposition?

Does the information make sense to you? Is it a claim that goes against everything you have read? Does it claim to be an instant and easy fix? Does it speak negatively about other reliable sources (“Most vets don’t know what they are talking about.”)?

Most importantly: Will following the advice on the site build or destroy trust with your bird?

I recently asked Phoenix Landing volunteers which web sites they recommend, and phoenixlanding.org is on the top of the list. Below, they share more trusted sites and the methods they use to determine the quality of the content.

Michelle Czaikowski-Underhill, Education Coordinator for Raleigh NC, said, “whether I want to use a certain site or not often depends on what I am researching. Even good sites might include some information that isn’t the greatest. I like to look for currency of the page/article and authority of the author or organization.

“When doing a general Google search, I look for information on web sites from veterinary clinics, veterinary schools, AZA-accredited zoos, animal trainers, etc. depending on what the topic is.”

Some of Michelle’s go to sites include:

Nina Roshon, Adoption Coordinator from Wilmington, NC, recommends the Harrison’s Bird Food site: http://www.harrisonsbirdfoods.com.

This site also allows you to watch the Captive Foraging video by Dr. Scott Echols, which teaches parrot caretakers how to train their birds to forage, a vital, natural behavior. Watch it for free at http://www.harrisonsbirdfoods.com/captive-foraging-video/.

Nina also uses information from the Association of Avian Veterinarians: aav.org. For a detailed analysis of bird cages:  http://theparrotforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=4647/. Finally, a great source for hearing natural bird sounds:  https://www.macaulaylibrary.org.

Sheila Carpenter, Cage Coordinator, said: “I have used birdchannel.com (now called petcha.com)  most often to learn about species with which I am not familiar when an applicant for whom I am doing a home visit is interested in that species.  Most of my info comes from PL’s meetings and biannual national retreat held in May.”

(The next retreat is scheduled for May 2018. Keep an eye on our web site (phoenixlanding.org) for details about this incredible event!)

Melissa Kowalski, Home Visit Coordinator for WV and owner of Critters and Conservation, has adopted multiple birds from Phoenix Landing, some of whom star in her animal shows teaching kids about creatures from reptiles and insects to parrots and tenrecs.

She suggests:

  • Jason Crean’s Facebook page called Avian Raw Whole Food Nutrition at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AVIANRAW/
    Jason Crean is a wealth of information, is very active and responds to most posts.
  • Patricia Sund’s website and blog called Parrot Nation at: https://parrotnation.com/
    Patricia has been a huge proponent of “chop” – a variety of many, many fresh ingredients chopped up for birds. I use this method for my parrots, toucan/lorikeets, and sometimes my lizards and tortoise.
  • The Cornell Lab or Ornithology (http://www.birds.cornell.edu/) has lots of information about native North American birds,

In general, Melissa says, “When doing research online about a particular subject or species, I always use multiple sources. I start with Wikipedia, try forums, and other websites.”

Mary Ault, our Resource Coordinator, recommends understandingparrots.com, while Debbie Russell our MD Adoption Coordinator, endorses the site of the World Parrot Trust: parrots.org.

Finally, Michelle Czaikowski-Underhill uses Google Alerts (https://www.google.com/alerts) set up for different topics, and often finds articles of interest using this method. She says the alerts “give me a stream of articles that are current, but sometimes they are not the most authoritative. A small-town newspaper had an article about birds as pets and recommended seed diets, for instance. That was in the last few months. So, just because something has been published somewhere, doesn’t mean it is credible.”

Share your favorite sites in the comments!

Birdie Walk, A Ceiling Playground

By Suzanne Cromwell

Background: My husband, Larry, and I adopted two Timneh African greys from Phoenix Landing, Napoleon and Josephine. These birds are former breeders, now 48 years old. Over the years, we have tried to give them plenty of personal space so they feel safe and comfortable, and to facilitate their ability to fly so they are empowered to make choices about their activities. While living in Virginia, the birds liked to fly to a wooden beam running between the bird room and the breakfast area. When we decided to move to Florida, it was a good time to design a room for the birds that supported their ability to fly, and to have a high space to land.

What did I want to create in our bird room?  Our new room for the birds has an 11′ ceiling and no existing beams. I wanted to make sure the greys could still get exercise and the benefits from flight, as well as incorporate full spectrum lighting, a structure for the birds to fly to and play on, and something from which to hang toys. I also did not want to have any electrical wiring exposed and the light bulbs protected.  The following is a description of what we created and call the “birdie walk.”

The birdie walk is a 21 foot rectangular structure made out of bird-safe untreated wood. It is 8 inches wide and hung from the ceiling.  We made sure the structure hung low enough so that the birds could not eat the ceiling.

The side pieces of bird-safe wood are 6 inches on both sides, with ½ round trim.  The trim molding is screwed in with stainless steel screws so once it is destroyed it can easily be replaced without destroying the structure.  If the birds chew the ½ round trim, this can easily be replaced!

Birdie Walk

The birdie walk is secured to the ceiling rafters by metal rods and HVAC straps. Electrical wiring for the lights are attached to ceiling junction boxes located above the ceiling. The metal rod supports, HVAC straps and electrical wiring are enclosed in PVC tubing to keep the birds from chewing through these important structural elements. Full spectrum lighting is installed in the unit, and the lights are included in boxes with a removable plastic grate.

We use hemp rope around the supports to hang natural wood perches or baskets full of toys and chew pieces. You could screw into the bottom of the structure to hang more toys or activities depending on the capabilities of your birds. The birdie walk provides many creative opportunities for hanging bird play and foraging activities!

Birdie Walk2

The birdie walk is visually attractive and our greys spend many hours playing on it or with the toys, flying up and down, or just overseeing all the activity in the room.

Our birdie walk is 21 foot square but the same idea can be made in any configuration to work in your bird room. Our birds like to go around the whole surface of the birdie walk or fly from one side to the other. Our Timnehs love the bird walk and use it daily. Good luck with yours!

Learning from life with a foster parrot

By Carrie J. Sidener, Foster for Phoenix Landing

It’s been a month since Simon moved in.

This is roughly the halfway point in our foster relationship to determine if this particular little green quaker parrot is a good fit in my home and if my home is a good fit for him. If everything works out, this relationship between us will become a permanent one.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about Simon in this short period of time, in no particular order:

1. I’ve given him the nickname “The Flying Alarm Clock.” He yells as he flies, in the same pattern and roughly the same tone as an alarm clock. Why? I have no idea, but he certainly can’t sneak up on you.

2. Put corn, carrots, peas and scrambled eggs in front of this boy, and he will tear it up. What he won’t touch are some of my personal favorites — just about any berries. He likes apples, but I don’t really care for them.

And he likes cold things. He’ll shake his head when the cold touches his tongue, but will reach for more.

3. Simon is a bird that hasn’t learned how to relax. When he is awake and away from his cage, he is perpetually trying to groom me as though he wants to make sure all my feathers are straight and looking good.

I hate to tell him my feathers — or rather my hair — is always out of place and no semblance of grooming will fix it.

Also, he has some weird obsession with my ears.

4. This little guy is very social, which has endeared him into the hearts of the friends and family who have met him thus far. He loves to have his head scratched and will head butt you if your focus lapses on those wonderful head scratches.

Simon Quaker 20175. Simon has gained a particular attachment and affection for me. When his cage door is open, Simon becomes my little shadow. One morning last week, he ended up clutching my dress at the hip as I prepared his food and packed my lunch.

I managed to snag a photograph of him looking very much like a child clutched to my leg, begging me not to go to work.

6. Simon came to me with a fear of water and while there are a number of suggestions to combat this, I chose what I’m now calling the “Dance Party Method.”

In this method, I bring Simon into the bathroom and let him perch on the top of the shower door so he can watch as I take a shower. But here’s the thing — we have a dance party, and slowly Simon has allowed me to bring him into the shower with the water running. We still have to dance and sing and play, but as long as the energy remains high, he’s OK with it.

I’m a little concerned that I may bust a move a little too vigorously and end up falling in the shower, but so far so good.

7. Simon is a bobber. He will vigorously nod his head up and down to express his happiness or to ask me for something. It’s really adorable, and I’m considering teaching him to do this on command to somehow make it into a trick. Any suggestions?Simon Quaker2 2017

Also, I’m pretty sure I can teach him to dance.

8. He loves to whistle. And he will use his skills to challenge people to a game of Simon Says. Most of the time he wins, but he’s never beaten me.

That’s because I can’t play. I never learned how to whistle.

9. So far, Simon has been a man of few words. The only thing I’ve managed to decipher from him is “Step Up.”

Maybe he’ll say more or maybe he won’t. I don’t really care. He’s a pretty great companion, just as he is.

First published on May 9, 2017 in Lynchburg, VA by The News & Advance

Lost Birds, What Do We Do?

By Suzanne Cromwell

IF YOU HAVE LOST YOUR COMPANION PARROT

  • Don’t panic and don’t take time to beat yourself up
  • Realize that your bird most likely got startled and took off
  • Have heart and don’t give-up. Many parrots are found because most parrots will seek out humans, especially when they get hungry.

1. If you can see your bird:

Call to him. It might help him find you. Try to keep your bird in sight.

Watch the direction the bird is flying, the height, how windy it is, available trees in the area and also how tired your bird looks. These are all cues to where he might land, especially if you lose sight of him.

Use your cell phone: If you can see your bird or not call/ text everyone you can to come help you locate your bird, notify everyone on your Facebook or other social medium that you use to spread the word and to get help looking for your bird if possible.   Take photos when you see him.

Ask for local help: Do not hesitate to ask people you see if they have seen a parrot flying around or perched somewhere. Don’t forget to ask kids too; they can be very helpful in the reach. Tell your postal carrier!

Try to communicate: Birds respond to familiar sounds; call out to him as you search and also use words or sounds that are familiar to him and give time to listen in case he responds. This could help you locate him. If you have an established contact call, this is the perfect time to use it.lost bird sign

Create a sign: As quickly as possible, make a sign that can be posted inside and outside. If you have a recent photo, make it the largest part of the sign to catch people’s attention. Add his name and your phone number.   DO NOT DO NOT PUT YOUR BIRD’s BAND NUMBER OR MICROCHIP NUMBER in any publication or signage, this is the only proof that you have that the bird belongs to you.

2. If you cannot see your bird and need to search:

Start from where you last saw him. If you have a group, then spread out and circle the area you last saw him in realizing that you need to cover a 1 mile radius.

Try to communicate: See note above

Search with awareness: You bird may not be sitting on an exposed branch but might be hiding in the branches and although very colorful you might not be able to see him but you can watch for movements within the foliage. Your bird might see you and relax and remain quiet. Remember early mornings and late afternoons/evenings are the most likely time the bird will come to you.   It is especially important for you to look at dawn and dusk during the first 4 days, because this is when your bird is most likely to be vocal and active.


Use your technology:
If you have your bird recorded on your iPad, cell phone or any other device put it on speaker and play it while you search.

Bird buddy: If your parrot has a bird he likes in your flock bring the bird to the area you last saw the missing parrot. Walk away and the second bird might call out and the lost bird may call back, by listening you might be able to locate him.

Put a small cage outside.   Place a cage with food and water inside in a place close to the house.   Your bird will be hungriest by the 3rd day, and that is a very common time for the bird to return to a cage for sustenance.   If you leave the cage outside at night, close the door so predators won’t get inside.Quaker in tree.png

3. If you can see your bird but can’t reach him:

Do not: Freak-out, have a crowd of people around, try to grab him, hose him, or scare him in any way. Avoid ladders and cherry pickers to reach him. Don’t ask him to fly down to you from a high distance or in a steep angle, if he is not in danger let him stay where he is. If he just landed he probably won’t fly again any time soon.

Enticements: Bring bird’s favorite foods (bowl), treats, person and birdie friend (in a cage), if possible to the area your bird is located in.

Fly down steps:
1. Try to position yourself or birdie friend to allow for short flights or short climbs to a lower branch, preferably ones that are similar to the one he is on.
2.  Use your bird training tools to help lure him down.
3. Be patient especially if the bird has to land on different surfaces. He will probably be scared so don’t introduce unfamiliar sticks, etc. If scared he may fly again.
4. You may want to hide from your bird to get his interest in coming to you but be ready to come back into plain site once he is ready to fly.
5. Watch and listen to your bird: birds usually eliminate before flying, start to move around and (in this type of situation) may scream before or as they fly – be ready!
6. Give the bird’s favorite person lots of room – don’t crowd him. Be ready to move if he flies so you can track him.
7. When your bird looks like he is ready to try to fly down call to him, but don’t overdo it. 8. If you have reached him but are afraid he might take off again you can wrap him in a towel or if size permits it put him under your jacket until you get him to his cage.

If your bird doesn’t want to come down, he/she is probably afraid or doesn’t know how to get to you. If you climb up to get him, take a pillowcase with you. If you can reach the bird, put him quickly into the pillowcase for safety and transport.

Watch his body language – if he is preening or playing with leaves and/or branches he is relaxed. You can try calling to him to get him excited enough to come to you.   Have food and water visible and ready!

End of the day, the sun is setting and he still is in the tree if he is fluffing his feathers he is getting ready to roost for the night. Unless something scares him he won’t fly again until morning

Sunrise – make sure someone is there because he may be ready to fly and it may be difficult to locate him again. Try again to get him to come to you.

4. If  you can’t hear or locate your bird – the bird has been lost for 24 hours

Put up poster of your bird with a picture of him. (see example) You want to include the bird’s name, time, date and location the bird was lost. Contact information to include email, pone, etc. If you are offering a reward. Words or phrases your bird might respond too. Make it personal from your companion parrot. Reach out up to 10 mile radius from the location the bird was lost from.

Contact the following:

  1. 911 Parrot Alert: http://911parrotalert.com/index.asp this should be your first posting. Copy and paste the entry for use on other boards.
  2. On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/911ParrotAlertOfficial/
  3. Call local animal control
  4. Call the SPCA/Humane Society
  5. Call any local parrot/bird organizations or clubs
  6. Call local wildlife rescue centers
  7. Call local veterinarians
  8. Call local pet stores
  9. Call local zoos
  10. Call the police
  11. Call local Fish and Wildlife
  12. Put an ad in the local newspaper and also your community newspaper, if applicable. DO NOT PUT YOUR BIRD’s BAND NUMBER OR MICROCHIP NUMBER in any publication or signage
  13. Post it on all the social media you are in
  14. You can also notify local TV and radio stations to put out your message
  15. **Tell your postal carrier, as they are active in your neighborhood and may have seen or heard something.

If your bird has a MICROCHIP, it will not help you find your parrot because it is not a GPS. But it will help an animal shelter or vet find you so that you can get your bird back. Animal shelters will scan a bird before adopting out (or euthanizing it).

DO NOT GIVE UP!!   Many parrots are found within 24 hours – in many cases it is more about finding out who and where it is.  Sometimes it takes 3-5 days for the bird to be hungry enough to come down.

Be prepared just in case you lose your bird in the future  Have a picture of your bird with his info and contact numbers on file and in your phone, so you can expedite a search, if necessary.

The Wild Magical Parrots of Peru

Our 2016 ecotour took us back to the beautiful rainforest of Peru along the Tambopata River, and time with one of our favorite conservation and research scientists, Dr. Donald Brightsmith. Seeing parrots in the wild always leaves me with mixed feelings – to see birds flying, interacting and responding to their native environment is majestic and overwhelmingly beautiful. On the other hand, I feel so frustrated by the limitations placed on the captive parrots in our homes. No matter how much space, enrichment and opportunity we give them, it just doesn’t compare. However, after viewing the antics and busyness of wild parrots, we can’t help but be inspired to do more for the birds in our homes.

Here are some photos and movies from our trip. I hope these give you some new ideas about how to make life better for your parrot.

Thanks to the group that joined us for this trip, we were able to make a donation of $3,750 to Dr. Brightsmith for his work at the Macaw Project at the Tambopata Research Center. It’s important that we help conserve areas where wild parrots can thrive, and also learn as much as possible about their way of life. Please help support conservation and research for wild parrots! We also hope you’ll join us on a future ecotour, we will be planning another one soon.

This video includes mealy Amazons, blue headed pionus and severe macaws at the Chuncho claylick: youtu.be/WOvbU8MlO3E.

Here is a video of a greenwing macaw and a blue and gold macaw having a “discussion.” They hang from the branch and hold each other’s feet.https://youtu.be/996f2oSPaHw. Thanks to Angie Yeung from Celltei.com for this amazing video!

pl-pionus

Blue headed pionus parrots

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Greenwing and scarlet macaws at the Chunco claylick along the Tambopata River

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Greenwing, scarlet and blue and gold macaws at the claylick

pl-blue-and-gold

Two blue and gold macaws.  What might they be discussing?

Personal Space, Birds Need It Too

By Emily Sharp

If you have a bird, there is a chance that you may be giving it too much phyiscal affection. Yes, there is such a thing as too much love, especially with birds.

Imagine being a bird in captivity, where an entirely different species than your own is gawking all over you. It doesn’t feel natural for them, and it certainly doesn’t build a trusting relationship. Birds need their own space in order to feel safe. Being too touchy-feely with a bird can be smothering and uncomfortable. In order to build a trusting relationship with your bird, focus more on using positive reinforcement to teach other hands-off type activities.

Using positive reinforcement with your bird for behaviors that you wish to increase (think of different training exercises) is much more satisfying for them. In training, parrots are using similar thought processes as they would in the wild. This gives them a vital element of mental health while they learn new concepts. Providing training opportunities using positive reinforcement for success is giving them recognition for their accomplishments, while respecting their intelligence.

I know it is difficult to avoid over cuddling your parrot, but it’s something we must do in order to give birds a satisfying life in captivity. If your bird notices the lack of physical contact, I’m sure it will have even more appreciation for you because you are respecting its needs.

Emily lives in South Carolina.  As part of a school project, she fostered Cupid for Phoenix Landing. She taught Cupid many skills and tricks using positive reinforcement, and realized that one of the best ways to build trust with a parrot is to do things together that don’t always involve touching, which can make some birds uncomfortable.  Emily has recently been accepted to work with the Blue Throated Macaw Conservation Project in Bolivia.  We thank her for her dedication to wild and captive parrots!  

Here is a video that Emily made for her project:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0shOapmOavpMHF6VllaUk1UY28/view