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

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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!

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!

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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

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

My Life in the Balance, A Medical Mystery

Hi there, my name is Jazzy. You all call me a blue and gold macaw. I’m 24 years old and I’m a girl.  I was adopted through Phoenix Landing in 2005.

jazzyHave I got a story for you. It’s about me being sick and Dr. Costanzo saving my life. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This story probably starts in October of 2015. I had gone to get my annual physical with Dr. Crum at Stahl’s Exotic Animal Veterinary Services (SEAVS). He was my primary care physician, a nice guy and a good doctor but he leaves a girl with no dignity. And after all of that poking and sticking me with needles, he told me everything was okay. Shucks, I could have told him that.

About a week later, though, my poop was shiny and black. The good folks at SEAVS said I had blood in my poop. They gave me some kind of stomach coating and some kind of antibiotic. I didn’t like the taste of it but I was forced to take it. And it seemed to work.

In November of 2015, I went back for a follow up visit. This time they gave me some kind of whoopee stuff that put me to sleep and they X-rayed me. After I woke up, they told me the X-rays were fine. That was good but was I ever glad to get out of there.

In April of 2016, I had some more blood in my poop. They gave me some more medicine for my stomach and an antibiotic which I was again forced to take. At this point my weight was about 1,010 grams. That is a good weight for me and I have a nice, girlish figure at that weight.

But by July of 2016, my weight was down to around 910 grams. My clothes were just hanging off of me and I just wasn’t feeling good. I pretty much stayed in my room and I didn’t even want to talk to or play with my mom.

I went back to SEAVS and met Dr. Gregory Costanzo (my new hero). He did every kind of test imaginable. He drew blood, he checked my poop which still had blood and a bunch of other stuff in it, and he gave me a shot of some sort. I know he was trying to be helpful and make me feel better, but was I ever glad to get out of there and get back home.

About a week later, my weight was down to about 875 grams so I went back to Dr. Costanzo. This time they kept me there all day. They gave me some stuff called Barium and then kept putting me to sleep and taking pictures. They did some more blood tests and even checked for avian Bornavirus. Fortunately I was negative for that, but I still had blood in my poop. And they sent me home with some more medicine. This time I had to get a shot twice a day and take some positively foul tasting stuff for two weeks. Yuck.

In early August, I still had blood in my poop and I had convulsed after getting one of those awful shots. By now my weight was down to about 830 grams. I went back to see Dr. Costanzo. He didn’t make me get those shots anymore but he did give me some new medicines to take. He also showed me the differences in the X-rays from last November and the Barium pictures from the week before. Something was clearly pushing up into my digestive track. He even suggested that maybe it might be the “C” word. They fed me that night before I went back home. I was expecting something a little romantic, you know, candlelight, white table cloth, some exotic fare. But no, they stuck a tube down my throat and force fed me some yucky stuff.

Over the next week or so, I went back for dinner a few more times (really, they should never open a restaurant). My poop still had blood in it and now there was some undigested food in it. Even my new blood tests had issues. They changed some of my meds and gave me some new meds. Dr. Costanzo assured me that I didn’t have PDD, another one of those terrible diseases. My weight was still down, my clothes were just hanging off of me, and I just wasn’t feeling good. I pretty much stayed in my room all day long.

Unbeknownst to me, Dr. Costanzo had been talking with other doctors about me behind my back. He talked to Dr. Crum and Dr. Stahl, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian) who are at SEAVS. I think Dr. Stahl is his boss. He talked about me with a Dr. Susan Orosz, PhD, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian) & Dipl ECZM (Avian). I can’t pronounce her last name much less understand what all of those letters mean after her last name. Then again maybe that name I can’t pronounce is really her middle name and I just can’t read or understand all of those letters that make up her last name. At any rate, she is a really smart doctor and Dr. Costanzo calls her Dr. O. I guess he can’t pronounce all those letters either. He even talked with a Dr. Robert Dahlhausen who owns Veterinary Molecular Diagnostics where some of my blood and stuff got sent for diagnosis.

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Drs. Susan Orosz, Robert Dahlhausen and Gregory Costanzo, August 2016

Even my Auntie Ann got involved. She’s in charge of something called Phoenix Landing. When my mom and dad can’t take care of me anymore, I’ll go live with her. I guess she was also checking around with a bunch of doctors trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I think she loves me, too.

About this time, Dr. Costanzo had to go out of town to a big meeting in Portland, Oregon. Apparently there were a lot of other doctors there that also treat boys and girls like me. He even took my X-rays and showed them to people trying to figure out what was wrong with me. He also had a meeting with Dr. O and Dr. Dahlhausen to talk about me. Out of those meetings, it was suggested that maybe I had heavy metal toxicity. So he called me from Portland and had me go in for another blood test for heavy metal toxicity. That test came back negative.

But before he left, he told me that the next step should probably be an endoscopy exam. I think that means they would cut me open somewhere below my neck and stick something in there and look around to see what they see.  And they would also cut me open in my tummy area and look around. Of course he told me that they would put me to sleep for all of this and I wouldn’t feel any pain. Dr. Costanzo also told me that if they saw something that was not medicinally fixable, they would let me stay asleep and not wake me up. That was a sad day and we cried. But I knew he was doing what was best for me.

In early September, when Dr. Costanzo got back from Portland, he changed the plan from doing an endoscopy to doing an ultrasound. He gave me some more whoopee gas and put me to sleep for that. He saw something wrapped around my intestine. It was definite and the findings were repeatable with the ultrasound and by palpitation. The good news was that he found something. The bad news was that he didn’t know what it was.

He scheduled me for exploratory surgery for two days later. He even arranged for his boss, Dr. Stahl, to be there to assist and advise. That made me feel pretty special. He again cautioned me that if they found something that wasn’t medicinally treatable, they would let me stay asleep and not wake me up. Again, I knew that he was doing what was best for me, but it was still a sad day and we cried again.

On the morning of September 8 I had my hugs and kisses and tears with my mom and dad and then I went to see Dr. Costanzo for my surgery. They gave me the whoopee gas and I went to sleep, not knowing if I was going to wake up again.

My next realization was waking up and through groggy eyes seeing that sweet face of Dr. Costanzo, beard and all. I was awake. You know what that meant? I was awake! They must have been able to fix something. That was the best day of my life.

It turned out that there was some kind of plant material that had perforated my duodenum. It had detached and sealed off from my duodenum and it was in a sac that was closed off on both ends. My duodenum had healed but it had been pinched by this thing all this time. It was pea soup green, kind of in a ragged semi-circle, and was hard enough to knock around inside the bottle that Dr. Costanzo had put it in. That thing accounted for all my symptoms and it was now out of my body. I don’t understand Latin, so you’ll have to ask Dr. Costanzo about the exact details.

jazzy-in-collarDr. Costanzo sewed me up, put a collar around my neck so I wouldn’t mess with the incision site, and put me in the intensive care unit for a few days. They fed me until I was eating on my own. Dr. Costanzo brought in some really good cucumbers. My poops got back to normal, I gained back some weight, and I got ready to go back home. The doctors and nurses at SEAVS took wonderful care of me. Nadia even speaks Macawinese. You know, that Oscar guy is kind of cute. I think he likes me.

After a few days I went home. I think my mom and dad were really glad to have me home. I know I was glad to be home. Dr. Costanzo had arranged for a hospital bed for me so I wouldn’t fall and hurt myself. I got out of bed a lot, walked around with my mom, and took a lot of naps. After a week or so the collar came off, I was weaned from the post-surgery meds, and Dr. Costanzo took out my stitches, I could now move around freely, brush my teeth and comb my hair, take a shower, and eat anything I wanted.

It is now near the end of October, my incision is healed, my weight is now up to a 1,000+ grams, my clothes fit again, and my poops are normal. I’m eating anything I want, I’m climbing around my room and my tree, I’m going over and messing around in my brothers’ and sisters’ rooms, I’m getting out of my room and walking through the house, I’m climbing the stairs looking for my mom, I’m talking back to my brothers and sisters, and life is just plain good.

It is good to be awake. Thank you, Dr. Costanzo.

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Jazzy and Bobbie Kerns

Wisdom from Avian Veterinarians

By Ann Brooks

Attending the annual Association of Avian Veterinarians conference is one of my greatest joys. While much of what is said involves a language beyond my knowledge base, I always learn something new. Here is a summary of my biggest takeaways from this year’s conference.

Thanks to the Grey Parrot Project initiated by Dr. Scott Echols, there is a growing body of evidence that a lack of exercise, sunlight and appropriate diet are highly detrimental to the long-term health of birds in captivity. These may seem like obvious statements, however proving their relationship to disease is easier said than done.

According to Dr. Echols, “a new technique involving radiographs (X-rays) is allowing researchers a means to clearly visualize bone density in birds. Preliminary evidence shows that birds flying outdoors in natural sunlight have better bone density than those housed indoors in small cages. In the attached pictures, cockatiel 1 has better bone density than cockatiel 2. Using the new imaging technique, one can readily see that cockatiel 1 has more red (indicating higher bone density) in the wing and leg bones.”

Since most birds don’t have the opportunity to fly or vigorously move, their bones start to disintegrate. In order to stay strong, bones need to have some stress. It is terrible to think that our birds are suffering in this regard, so we must find a way to get them moving. (For starters, provide more activities outside the cage, increase foraging opportunities, provide a wide variety of perches to encourage movement, and even offer flight when it can be accomplished safely).

The loss of bone structure is especially problematic for female birds in the “lay” mode. Unfortunately, many people touch their birds in sexually stimulating ways, which may encourage these hormonal responses. The healthiest relationship we can have with our companion birds is one that does not involve an excess of “petting” and mate-like behaviors.

Another common problem is nutrition. So many birds live on a diet of packaged seeds. Not only are these high in Omega 6’s (safflower, peanut, sunflower, corn), but most seed brands have very little nutritional value. Our parrots need more Omega 3’s, which can be found in fish oil, flax, pumpkin seeds, hemp, chia and walnuts. If you use flax oil, make sure to buy a very reputable brand, keep it in the refrigerator, and do not shake. And don’t forget to provide a wide variety of dark orange and green fruits and veggies. Here’s an interesting tidbit, if you have chickens, you can dramatically reduce reproductive cancer by including flaxseed as 10% of their diet.

From Drs Dahlhausen and Orosz, we learned that a very large number of birds are Avian Bornavirus positive (ABV), as many as 45% or more in some studies. If your bird is ABV positive, do not panic! Most of these birds remain healthy for their whole lives. Sometimes birds with ABV also develop PDD, but some birds that develop PDD are not positive for ABV.  So as you can see, it is a complicated issue that requires more research.

Possible PDD symptoms might include difficulty in digestion or problems with the nervous system (e.g. seizures). They usually experience some kind of of stressor that suppresses the immune system or alters its normal function as well. Some of these potential stressors include: concurrent infection with Campylobacter, extreme stress, avian gastric yeast, old age and/or reproductivity.  This is yet another reason why we should not sexually stimulate our birds by excessive petting, especially below the neck.  Just remember if your bird does develop PDD, there are ways to help. And if your bird is ABV positive this does not mean it will develop PDD!!

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Drs Susan Orosz, Robert Dahlhausen and Greg Costanzo

Another major health concern for birds in captivity is atherosclerosis. Countless birds die at a young age from this heart problem. Why?  Again — they don’t get enough exercise and they don’t have good diets. If we are going to have birds in our homes, we must learn to do better by them by providing healthy food and lots of mental & physical activities.

Lastly, there was another foraging study from UC Davis. Orange wing Amazons were fed an oversized pellet, similar to the size of the nut they eat in the wild. This pellet was made specifically for the study to see if the larger size caused eating activity time and manipulation to increase. In the wild, most parrots spend up to 60% of their day foraging. This means they have to find the food, pick the food, and then manipulate the food. In captivity, parrots usually spend 4 to 10% of their day eating.  So if we can make eating more complicated and physically challenging this will give birds more to do with their time and increase physical activity. The UC Davis researcher, Dr. Polley DVM, calls this “podomandibulation” because the Amazons use both their feet and beaks. This increase in activity helped to reduce stress and improve the welfare of the Amazons.

So, we know without a doubt that our companion parrots need and deserve better diets, more complex enrichment and absolutely more exercise!  What have you done for your parrot?

Companion Therapy Laser donated to Phoenix Landing

Dr. Robert Ness, DVM, demonstrating the Companion Therapy Laser

Dr. Ness, DVM, demonstrates proper use of the Class IV Companion Therapy Laser

Sometimes, the words “thank you” do not seem to be enough. This is one of those times.

In April, 2016, Companion Animal Health donated a Class IV Companion Therapy Laser to Phoenix Landing. The laser will be used to help some of the birds at the adoption center and in the Phoenix Landing program who might benefit from laser therapy.

Dr. Robert Ness, DVM, of Ness Exotic Wellness Center in Illinois, presented on the benefits of laser therapy for specific cases at the 2016 Phoenix Landing Wellness Retreat. Dr. Ness gave an overview on the proper use of the laser and safety protocols to Phoenix Landing President, Ann Brooks, and Vice President of Education, Dr. Frank Rutkowski, DVM. Companion Animal Health representative Jennifer Oliverio visited the adoption center in May and provided additional training. Companion Animal Health has also generously donated training from the American Institute of Medical Laser Applications. This training, too, is greatly appreciated!

Jennifer Oliverio, Companion Animal Health representative, with Echo

Echo (right) shows his thanks for the laser to Companion Animal Health representative Jennifer Oliverio by giving her a kiss.

To add to the literature available on the use of laser therapy with companion parrots, Phoenix Landing will work with veterinarians and participate in several case studies. Dr. Ness identified parrots at the adoption facility who were good candidates for case studies. Information collected will be shared via Phoenix Landing’s website, blog, and Facebook page. So, please be on the lookout for these stories!

Phoenix Landing extends a heartfelt thank you to Companion Animal Health for this donation, and to Dr. Robert Ness for his time and guidance. Together, we hope to make the lives of the birds in the program even better!

Adoptable Bird Pairs

Birds will often make friends with other birds. When the relationship is safe (they don’t hurt each other), and they aren’t mating, we like to see them enjoy their lives together. After all, having someone else in your family that looks, thinks and acts like you can be comforting and entertaining. Can you imagine being the only human?

Here are just a few of our bird pairs/friends looking for their next good home through Phoenix Landing. While they certainly enjoy and benefit from each other’s company, they can enjoy a human family’s time and attention too. Since people cannot mate with parrots, and we shouldn’t over-snuggle, stroke or pet them anyway, having two birds that keep each other good company makes for a healthier and happier household for everyone.

Here are a few of our current adoptable pairs, and there are several others of various species waiting for our help.

TORI and GABRIELLE are nanday conures. Their age is unknown but they’ve been together at least seven years. They are dedicated companions, snuggling every night. During the day, Tori is pleased to fly around and spend time exploring. Gabrielle always stays on or in the cage, and has a more cautious nature. Tori will land on your shoulder if you’re a trusted person, but Gabrielle prefers her personal space. We think they’re adorable, especially their little red ankles.

Tori Gabrielle

QUORK, a scarlet macaw, and BETSY, a military macaw, came from a rather horrid place many years ago. Their ages are unknown. They were not companions then but now they are cage mates and best buddies. Their past was left behind long ago and all that matters to them now is that they have places to go and things to do, keeping them mentally and physically active. They are terrific eaters of a wide variety of healthy foods. Quork will chatter upon occasion, and knows his name. He likes to have his tongue touched at bedtime. GIZMO is a 24 year old blue and gold macaw that likes to hang out with Quork and Betsy, and these three go together to an outside aviary almost every day. Macaws are so enchanting. Just watching their antics is usually more than satisfying.

GizmoQuorkBetsy

PIP SQUEEK, a 14 year old sun conure, and SWEET PEA, an 18 year old nanday conure, are a charming pair. They very much appreciate their human family too, especially Pip. She’s the first to come out and seek family interaction and easily hops up hoping for a walk about the house and an adventure. Pea is a bit more of a homebody, but he adores Pip. You may wonder why Pip is so bald. We wonder too. The feather follicles have long gone, and she’s been tested for every possible medical problem.  Her medical workups are always excellent.  She is just unique!

Pip and Pea

OLLIE, an 8 year old blue and gold macaw and LAYLA an 11 year old scarlet macaw are entertaining to say the least. They have been together for almost 8 years. Ollie is a boisterous, happy and clever macaw. He loves to trick train and even knows when to say “good!” Layla is very attached to Ollie and doesn’t like for him to be out of sight. They will often bicker, or maybe they are just having a significant discussion, but they love a bit of drama. We’re glad they have each other to keep life engaging for both.

Ollie and Layla on Atom

ESSIE is a 17 year old greenwing macaw and URSIE is an 18 year old blue and gold macaw. These two would fit best into a home where they are allowed lots of time outside the cage. They love sitting on a tree stand, and especially enjoy looking out the window. They entertain and take care of each other while you enjoy and admire their beautiful parrot dynamics. They relish their Harrison’s pellets and most any fresh fruits and vegetables. Ursie and Essie especially love almonds and walnuts in the shell. Like many birds, they are not very interested in being touched, but that’s OK.

Ursie and Essie

If you’re fascinated by birds and interested in adopting a pair, please go to our web site at phoenixlanding.org where you can learn more about our adoption and education program.   And don’t forget, birds don’t have to be bonded pairs like the ones listed here to enjoy simply having another bird in the family!