BIRDIE-WALKS: An Essential Part of Your Parrot’s Mental Health

By Suzanne and Larry Cromwell

Have you ever wondered how you could provide a high place in your home or in your aviary for your birds?

We have a high “birdie walk” in our Florida home. Our pair of Timneh greys are constantly either walking on it, resting on it, or climbing up and down from it. They love it and even need it. We knew before we left our home in Hobe Sound, Florida for our summer house in Milbridge, Maine, that one serious problem was going to be the lack of a birdie walk there. We have a high ceiling in our newly constructed bird room in Maine but had nothing for our Timneh greys to roost on higher than their cages. The result was not pretty. Our almost 54-year-old wild-caught, former breeder pair, mostly just moped in their cage for the first couple of weeks until we were able to construct a suitable substitute for their beloved high roost back home.

We all know that attaching to walls usually results in wall damage. And if you can’t or don’t want to hang something from the ceiling, what are your options? We knew it would have to be free-standing and sturdy.

With a great deal of help from one of the construction crew members, who built our bird room addition, we have come up with a way to build a simple platform for our Timneh Greys to hang out on.

Our birdy platform is 9 ½ feet off the ground but you can build yours at any height that is high enough to be above everything else in the room but low enough so the birds can’t damage the ceiling or the walls.

The support bases for the columns are two heavy duty Christmas tree stands that are tested for trees up to 10 feet tall with a trunk diameter of up to 7 inches.  In our case, our carpenter and very helpful friend provided two 9 foot tree trunks that are approximately 7 inches in diameter. He sawed them down on his land and transported them to our house. We screwed them into the stands and then screwed in a 4” x 1” board on the top of the trunk columns. Our board is 13 feet long but you can’t have a span of more than 6 feet if you don’t want the board to sag in the middle. So our board extends on both sides of the trunks.  We used poplar but any bird-safe wood can work.

We provided both a swing with bird-safe ropes that can be climbed as well as a rope spiral to climb up to the roost. We attached the spiral rope to the top of their cage and attached it to a hook on the platform.  The swing and the rope spiral are attached to hooks (facing in) which made replacing the rope swing and rope spiral easy to do.  We also attached two outriggers for the birds to sit on. This construction is heavy and is not intended to be moved, so place it where you can easily clean around it.

We chose the largest trunk that the stands could support for stability, which we would recommend but the height will depend on your space. Even a foot higher than the cage height will give them a great place to climb up to. 

Our Timneh greys are almost 54 years old and can no longer fly up due to arthritis, but they can and do climb and go up and down many times during the day. If your birds are able to fly up and down they will enjoy it too. We cannot put a tree in our bird room, but I can assure you that they enjoy this enrichment.  They rarely come down except to eat, bathe, and sleep. We think it has saved their lives. It has certainly made them better!

Editor’s note: See more about their Florida birdie-walk in an earlier blog post:
https://blog.phoenixlanding.org/2017/05/27/birdiewalk/

These wild caught Timneh greys were adopted through Phoenix Landing in 2013 and have been living their best possible life since. It’s very hard to find adopters who simply appreciate the magic of birds, without expectation, especially a bonded pair. Suzanne and Larry are extraordinary and we are so grateful!

<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!

The Blue and Gold Macaws of Trinidad

By John Kerns

In January 2018, a group of scientists, government officials and conservation representatives gathered in Trinidad to talk about parrots. This included those blue and golds trying to rebound in the wild, as well as the macaws now living in homes as pets. Since having captive parrots is still a bit controversial, there aren’t many resources for people to learn about how to care for them. Trinidad macaws

Bernadette Plair, who determined that wild macaws would not go extinct in Trinidad on her watch, decided that helping people to care for any parrots in their homes was equally important. Thus, Bernadette and her colleagues set out to provide an educational opportunity, and Phoenix Landing was asked to participate in this laudable endeavor.

I spent the first couple of days meeting with Forestry officials, game wardens, and conservation representatives. We talked about the needs of captive birds, including those confiscated and permanently living in cages at the Wildlife Section. Our goal was to provide officials with additional information they can share with local residents about caring for pet birds, and also use for those macaws living in government facilities. The need for enrichment, showers, good food, behavior knowledge, and medical support are relatively new topics for Trinidad residents.

Trinidad ForestryFor the last four days of my visit, we hosted parrot care classes for Trinidad residents and veterinary office staff. Well over 130 people attended! Although there is still some confusion about very old laws regarding parrots kept in homes, there is definitely a desire by the local people to acquire more information about how to care for their birds. We applaud their determination to make sure their companion birds thrive! We also hope that Bernadette Plair and her colleagues will continue to be successful in sustaining and growing the wild macaw population on Trinidad as well. They are working hard to inspire and educate the public about this conservation effort. We are so impressed with their success so far!

Trinidad classOn the last day we visited the Nariva Swamp to observe macaws that had been reintroduced into their native habitat. It was very fulfilling to see them flying free, but also sadly poignant knowing that the macaws in our homes will never fly free nor ever speak their native language.

On March 3rd, 2018 in Springfield VA, our guest speaker will be Dr. Leo Douglas, immediate past president of BirdsCaribbean. He will share more information with us about the parrots of Trinidad, as well as other areas in the Caribbean. We certainly hope you can join us!

Peg’s Second Chance

How an Eclectus with an amputated foot brought a hopeful end to the year
Peg Eclectus2
“An 18-week old female Eclectus was brought in today…” the veterinarian from SEAVS in Fairfax, VA said, as we spoke on the phone. “The bird’s right foot needs to be amputated and the owners did not want to pay for the surgery.”

The vet needed to find an experienced person who could care for the as-yet-unnamed female Eclectus. Someone needed to help post-surgery to medicate her and bring her back multiple times for follow-ups. Additionally, she needed to be weaned. An Eclectus should wean in no longer than 6 months. At four and a half months, this little one needed to transition to solid food.

The vet needed to find someone quickly, as her dead foot needed to be removed.  Could Phoenix Landing take her on?  Of course.

But who could take on the care of this very young, special needs parrot? Debbie, our MD adoption coordinator, stepped up to help.

First, the bird needed to survive the surgery. “We will try to leave as much of her leg as possible,” the vet assured me.

How did this happen to such a young bird? Caretaker neglect. A towel was wrapped around her leg and it was not removed for at least two weeks. Though many birds play with towels, or shred them when nesty, towels are not good toys. We have known birds who have ingested tiny bits of indigestible fabric, to the point where their digestive system was impacted and they died. Please be careful if you give your parrot a towel to play with, and always supervise.

About an hour later, the vet called and said the surgery was successful. They would care for her overnight, but the most important thing now was that she eat.

“She can’t leave until we know she is eating. We had to tube feed her.” We would talk the next day to see how she was doing.

Peg Eclectus

Peg, post-surgery at Debbie’s house, and now eating a wide variety of healthy foods!

The vet advised how to set up a cage for her. Her cage should be short, with lots of padding on the bottom. She would do well with flat perches. “She will probably adjust well to the missing foot, as she is so young,” the vet said. An Eclectus can live to be 40 years old.

It amazes me how resilient parrots are. This one was exceptional. Imagine the pain and fear this poor bird suffered in its short life. How could she ever trust humans? Native to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Autstralia, in the wild she would have already fledged (at 11 weeks). She would be foraging for fruits in the tops of rain forest trees. When she reaches sexual maturity between 2 and 3 years, her behavior will change drastically. She would be the queen of a harem of friendly males, a relationship described by academics as cooperative polyandry. She would sit in a hole in a tree for up to 11 months of the year, while males brought her food and helped her create and care for her clutches of 2 eggs. But instead of this life, she is in captivity, now missing a foot, and her future is uncertain.  But we will do the best we can by her. As often quoted from The Little Prince, “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”

The next day brought good news: the little one was walking, and was not messing with her bandages. She did not need a collar. Additionally, she was eating a little. She would be ready to go that evening.

Peg Eclectus3

But what should we call her? Debbie said, “Peg!” Debbie then made the 2 hour round trip journey to pick her up, and Peg is on the road to recovery.  She will need to stay on medications and have several bandage changes before we can look for her adopting home.  Stay tuned for an update!

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