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!

Birds Need Bird Friends Too

“Young birds are easy” as Liz Wilson used to say, to make a point.  It’s true.  They are eager and generally compliant. When sexual maturity rolls around, behavior and relationships may start to change. Remember your teenage years?

For parrots, natural behavior changes can mean that a favorite person or bird must be fiercely protected; Amazons are notorious for this. Cockatoos, especially males, can be highly unpredictable or will clamp onto you and try to bite when you put them down. Macaws will raise their wings in defense of whomever they are trying to protect (maybe teaching the “eagle” trick is not such a good idea?). Other behaviors could include charging the perceived interloper, screaming for more attention and interaction, nesting, egg laying and yes, masturbation.

Harley

Oftentimes, people are not willing to adjust their own behavior and expectations in order to live with a sexually mature parrot. Sometimes the advice is to get the bird a mate, or find it a new home, or punish it (yikes). Other times, the parrot is relegated permanently to its cage or to a back room, both less than optimal outcomes for the bird that is simply following its nature. Don’t get me wrong, there are positive ways of coping with these behaviors successfully; however, the number of sexually mature birds is usually greater than the number of people willing to learn how to live harmoniously with them.

Jake Tink

As a rehoming organization that never has enough homes for the birds needing our help, Phoenix Landing does not advocate simply providing a mate for a sexually mature bird. If all captive parrots started making more babies, we’d have an even greater homeless problem.

Tiels

However, birds living in captivity certainly deserve to follow their natures to the greatest extent possible, and one very important part of a parrot’s nature is the desire to have other bird friends. Some wild parrots live in large flocks, others live in small family groups; but all wild parrots live with other parrots to some extent. These social groups help to keep them safe from predation, and maximize their ability to find food, nests and other important resources. For this reason, Phoenix Landing does advocate that birds not live alone in households (in most cases).

Fred (BGM) keeping Peter (GWM) company in the hospital

Fred (blue and gold) keeping Peter (greenwing) company in the hospital

Here then lies the problem – many people want a parrot because of their expectations of what the parrot provides in that relationship; and when a young, “easy” bird grows up, they start to express their needs in the relationship also. But we are not their mates or parents, so we have to learn to have an appropriate relationship with them, primarily as their friends. They probably deserve some bird friends too.

Ollie and LaylaHaving more than one bird can be a space, time and finance challenge, but it can also be easier for everyone. Birds learn from each other, often teaching their friends how to eat better food, shower or play with toys.  They entertain each other, taking some of the burden off of the humans.  They don’t need to live in the same cage to enjoy all the benefits of having birdie friends.  Since even the smallest parrots should live a long time, it’s important that we find ways to sustain a long-term relationship for everyone.  Stay tuned next month for some stories of Phoenix Landing bird friendships, including some of our adoptable birds!

Smokie, Our 2,500th Adoptable Bird

Welcome Smokie! You are the 2,500th bird to enter the Phoenix Landing adoption program.

Smokie 2500th

Smokie was a very important member of his first family for 24 years.   He spent most of every day with his favorite person, but recently lost her to illness.   While we wish to keep our birds “forever,” that is rarely possible.   Not only should most birds live a long time, longer than our children stay at home, but our own lives can change very quickly due to health, finances, relationships, time and interest. So now Smokie is an important member of the Phoenix Landing family.

WHY BIRDS NEED NEW HOMES
With 2,500 birds now in our system, we can give you a pretty good idea about why most birds need new homes.   The most common reason: “not enough time and attention.”   If you live with a bird, you know that they are highly social creatures and require a bit more care than most other pets (cleaning and feeding for starters). It is hard to sustain any relationship, but especially when an animal is physically and mentally dependent on us for much of their daily lives.

The good news – birds are very resilient and adaptable. This means they can get through tough times with us. It also means they can learn to flourish in new places when needed.

FINDING NEW HOMES
Now comes the hard part. While every bird deserves to have a succession of good homes, finding new homes is not easy.   First we have to overcome concerns about a bird’s history and misconceptions about adoption. Phoenix Landing believes that every bird is adoptable, no matter their past; and even those few parrots that are truly “rescued” from negative situations can go on to lead healthy and happy lives.

BrandyOneWingOne-Winged Brandy Now Flourishes in an Aviary Most of the Year

Second, living with a bird is just different. Many of you reading this understand that what makes parrots different is also what makes them magical, entertaining, compelling and wonderful. You also know that extra effort and time is involved, not to mention financial resources, space, family cooperation, trust-building skills and a dedication to learning.   Parrots are not for everyone, and there are far more birds needing a place to live than there are places for them.

HOW OUR ADOPTION PROGRAM WORKS
The Phoenix Landing philosophy, first and foremost, is to look out for the bird’s best interests – not only when they first come to us, but over their entire lives.

When a bird enters our system, they are initially in foster care. Sometimes this is with a foster family just helping on a short-term basis. However, most birds are placed with a family that is hoping to adopt. The foster period, about 2 months, gives everyone, especially the bird, a chance to know each other and see if it is a good match. If it is, and the bird is adopted, our adoption contract stipulates that the bird remains under the legal protection of Phoenix Landing, and WHEN (not IF in most cases) they need their next good home, Phoenix Landing will be responsible for this placement.

TinkTink, Lilac Crown Amazon Looking for His 2nd Phoenix Landing Home

If you live with and love a bird, then you can understand why we are so adamant about looking after a bird for its entire life, not just its next placement.   EACH home should be a good one.

2,500 IS REALLY MORE LIKE 3,500
So, taking in 2,500 birds since our adoption program began in 2003 does not mean that we have found 2,500 homes. Oh no, it’s far more than that – closer to 3,500. In addition to some temporary foster homes, about 15% of our birds have already needed more than one adoptive home.

THE GREAT PEOPLE THAT MAKE IT HAPPEN
Finding new families, screening applicants, teaching classes, moving birds, going to the vet, following up after adoption — that’s a lot of work by our incredibly dedicated volunteers who work so hard, in addition to their own jobs and families. These remarkable individuals can never be thanked enough for all they do, but a well-placed parrot in a new home is one of the best rewards possible!

Volunteers PLJust a Few of Our Many Amazing Volunteers

Maybe you would like to be part of the solution and offer a bird a new place to land? We always have 150 or more birds waiting for our help, or some of the 2,500 that have already been adopted often need their next good home. If you have the time, resources and the willingness to learn, we’d love to hear from you.

Or if you already have a bird and just want to learn more about living with and caring for parrots, we offer many informative classes. If your bird is going to be with you for a long time, learning new things and sharing ideas will keep life interesting for both of you!

For more information about our adoption and education program, go to phoenixlanding.org.

EcoTour to the Pantanal in Brazil

Do you think parrots are magical?  If so, then nothing compares to witnessing a flighted parrot in the wild.  This is where they best express a bird’s true magnificent nature and beauty.  It will forever change the way you view parrots, and the lives they so deserve.

hy_fly_nestbox

If you would like to experience the elegance of wild parrots, you can join us for another Phoenix Landing ecotour to the Brazilian Pantanal this upcoming September. The Pantanal is a unique place, completely flooded in the spring and summer, very dry in the fall and winter. Since September is the end of the dry season, it’s possible to move around the area and enjoy a wide diversity of wildlife, including parrots from small conures to the once endangered hyacinth macaws.

This tour starts with a visit to meet acclaimed scientist Neiva Guedes. She almost single-handedly brought the hyacinth macaw back from the brink of extinction. Thanks to Neiva, this majestic macaw is now flourishing in several parts of Brazil.   Neiva also believes that parrots and humans must learn to live side-by-side in order for parrots to survive. She and her volunteers monitor macaw nests in the heart of a major city, Campo Grande. We enjoy visiting those nests and watching her scientific team at work.

Neiva Guedes and Luiz Paiva Filho

Neiva Guedes and Luiz Paiva Filho

Next, the trip includes a stay at two fazendas (or ranches) where wild parrots often abound. In past trips we watched nanday conures gulping down dung from farm animals, a pionus eating cashew flowers, macaws and Amazons flying overhead looking for mates or nesting sites, and quakers fiercely protecting their extraordinary nests.

quaker (2)

Nanda conuress eating dung

Nanday conures eating dung

Blue front Amazon foraging and having fun

Blue front Amazon foraging and having fun

The trip ends with a visit to the indescribable Buraco das Araras, known as the hole of the macaws, where greenwings and other parrots fly below into a deep sinkhole. Here is a brief movie to give you a flavor for this enchanted home to greenwings, peach front conures, very rare yellow-faced Amazons, and much other wildlife.

While visiting in 2014, we actually witnessed a pair of greenwings take on a pair of unfledged vultures. As you can see in this photo, they had a brief encounter and the vulture was thrown into the 300’ deep sinkhole by the macaw. It was shocking!   The macaws clearly wanted the vulture’s nest hole for their own, and they were willing to fight to the death for it. What might this say for some of the macaw behavior you see in your own home?

Greenwing macaw takes on a young vulture

Greenwing macaw takes on a young vulture

Lastly, we have an amazing guide, Luiz Paiva Filho. He has a gifted knowledge of Brazilian wildlife, is fluid in English, and most of all has a herculean heart when it comes to the lives of parrots. We cannot imagine a trip there without him by our side. Luiz will often say “life is beautiful!” and you just know he means it. Life is indeed beautiful in the rugged floodplains of the Pantanal.

You can also read about our 2014 trip in two exceptional blog posts by Susan Orosz, PhD,DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian), Dipl ECZM (Avian). It was extra special to have her and Dr. Rhoda Stevenson, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian) with us on the last trip!

If you’d like to join us for the next tour in September 2015, you can find more information about it at phoenixlanding.org.  All our trips include a tax-deductible donation for conservation projects in Brazil. Helping wild parrots is very important too!

The Social Relationships of Parrots

In the wild, parrots have many relationships.  These are predominately either as parents, mates or friends in a flock.  Social relationships are so important to the life of a parrot, that it is the theme of our 2015 calendar.

2015 calendar

Some parrots live in large single-species flocks, and rarely mingle with birds of other species.    They will fly, eat and sleep in large single-species groups.  These are predominately Old World parrots from Africa, Australia and Indonesia – like African greys, cockatoos, cockatiels and parakeets.

The New World parrots of South and Central America –  like macaws, Amazons, conures, pionus and quakers – will mingle with other species while foraging in the same area, such as the clay licks, or while roosting for sleep.   They will also mingle in large groups, but tend to spend lots of time in smaller family groups as well.

Buracas Brazil
Buracas das Araras, Brazil.  Photo by Kevin Blaylock

So what kind of relationship should we have with the birds in our homes?  It is helpful to know where your parrot species originated, because this can provide some clues about their innate behaviors.  For example, macaws and Amazons will often develop human family relationships with one primary person.  Cockatoos and conures, which tend to group in larger flocks, will often be more sociable with a wider range of people.

Regardless of the species, parrots in the wild always have other birds of their species for constant companionship.  As prey animals, it is dangerous to live alone, because that makes them vulnerable.  Does your bird live alone most of the day, or is she sequestered in a room by herself?  This type of living arrangement can be very stressful for a bird.

Phoenix and Buddy April 2012Phoenix and Nutty, greenwing macaws.  Photo by Paul M. Howey

SOCIAL OPPORTUNITIES
Every parrot is an individual, so we never want to label them in a way that may restrict their possible relationship opportunities. This includes avoiding labels like “just likes women” or “doesn’t like men.”  People often make these judgments based on very limited interactions; however, birds are extremely resilient and adaptable.  They usually adjust quickly to a new environment, and will respond positively to those who earn their trust and treat them with respect.

Regardless of who has a relationship with the parrot in your household, you can be assured that the she is watching everything that happens around her, and is learning from everyone in the family. Like all living creatures, birds learn who they can trust, or who might require them to be defensive. They watch and learn how the others play with toys, or what everyone is eating (human and parrot).

LEARNING VIA SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
One way to teach a bird  a new behavior is to be a good role model.  As highly social animals, parrots are very attentive to what others are doing.  If you like broccoli, or enjoy having fun, your bird is likely to as well.  This type of learning serves parrots well in the wild, as watching what other birds do can be a successful tool for survival.

COMMUNICATION TOOLS
Our parrots see details that we often miss.  For example, they see color in full spectrum, which we can’t even imagine.  They see things at a much faster speed than we do, this helps wild parrots avoid predators and make a quick escape.  It is likely that birds sense things about us such as our moods or physical condition.  When we are communicating with our parrots, it’s good to remember that our physical actions are supremely important, probably more than our vocalizations. Consider how fast you move, or what mood you are in as you approach your bird to interact.  Are you talking one way and acting another?  Do you expect them to understand your words while giving them unclear body language signals? Birds often communicate with simple subtleties such as posture, change in feather position, eye pinning, movement of a foot, opening of a beak or color on their face patch.  Get to know your bird’s body language so you can appreciate and respect the information they are giving you about what makes them comfortable or what gives them concern.  These details will help you develop a more positive long-term relationship.

Do you allow your bird on your shoulder?  Some birds enjoy this position so as to be with us, other birds may simply prefer a position of height and safety.  Others just want to minimize uncomfortable hand touches.  If you allow a bird on your shoulder, make sure you already have good two-way communication and understand your bird’s body language very well.

 

Larry Cromwell
Larry Cromwell and Duke.
  Photo by Jackie Garcia Photography

MATE OR FRIEND?
Almost every parrot will develop a drive to mate and reproduce, once they reach sexual maturity.  It is very hard to avoid this natural desire.  What we can do is make sure that they do not develop a mate-like relationship with us.  We don’t want to give our birds the wrong signals because this can cause many possible physical and behavioral problems.  For example, if you stroke a bird below the neck, especially under the wings and down the back, you are giving that bird very “sexy” signals. This can cause a bird to eventually prolapse (where the sex organs fall out of its body) or more commonly, to scream for your continued attention.  Neither outcome is positive, so avoid these kind of misplaced signals.

Some birds, especially males, may become more demanding when they want to mate with another bird or be with their perceived human mate.  Female birds may start to lay an excessive number of eggs.  Both of these problems can be significantly reduced if you don’t give your birds the wrong impression about your relationship, and minimize physical over-stimulation.

 

Tee and Virgil
Tee Underhill and his adopted Meyers parrot, Virgil.

The most positive social relationship for humans and parrots is that of friendship.  Birds like to have fun, just like us.  They also enjoy a good meal, and they certainly need regular showers. These are all things we can do with our birds in a companionable way.  In the wild, birds are also traveling long distances to find food or a safe place to rest.  So giving our birds lots of time out of their cage, room and/or the house can be mentally and physically enriching as well.  These are all things that we can enjoy with our parrots, and don’t require us to give them the wrong “signals” about our relationship.  And since most parrots are long-lived, it’s in everyone’s interest to create long-term, sustainable and positive social relationships.

A Dwindling Kingdom: Presley, the Last Male Spix’s Macaw in Brazil, Dies

The parrot community has been saddened to learn of the death at the age of 38 of one of the world’s most well–known birds, Presley, one of the few remaining Spix’s macaws. On recent trips to Brazil sponsored by Phoenix Landing, members of the tour group were fortunate enough to spend some time with him. His story was the inspiration for the recent movie Rio. In person, Presley was a lot less animated, a mellow old fellow, and the oldest recorded individual of the species. He spent his final years at the Lymington Foundation, in the Atlantic forest about 45 miles from Sao Paulo, under the care of Bill and Linda Wittkoff.

PresleybyFrankRutowski(Photo by Frank Rutowski, D.V.M.)

Presley was one of 78 individuals (as of 2011) of this rare species, and the future does not look good for them.  Of the captive population, many of the birds are old, their genetic pool is limited, and their health has been compromised from being smuggled from the wild. The population is also geographically isolated from each other, kept in private collections and zoos around the world. The challenges of maintaining the Spix’s macaw population are perhaps overwhelming, which made spending time in this bird’s gentle presence a true honor.  It also proved a bittersweet lesson: humans are responsible for the decline of this and many species, and our last-minute efforts to save them may not be enough. We should support the organizations that are on the forefront of conservation efforts, and educate people about the loss of fantastic creatures like the Spix’s before it’s too late.

Presley by Mary
(Photo by Mary Ault)

Presley was comfortable in the presence of strangers, the result of many years spent as a pet in the United States. He was brought to Lymington in 2007, but breeding attempts with him were not successful. This fragile creature, from a species that is no longer found in the wild, lived out his remaining days in comfort, in an aviary in the sunshine. His cage mate of many years, a golden conure, died in 2013. A Vinaceous Amazon was his companion during his final months.

Presley by Kevin
(Photo by Kevin Blaylock)

Sadly, Presley spent much of his life as many birds in captivity do, looking out from behind the bars of a cage because the world they belong in is no longer safe for them. They are refugees from their homelands. I hope Presley has somehow returned to freedom, the freedom that all parrots deserve.

Phoenix Landing sponsors conservation efforts every year, and the Lymington Foundation was the recipient of our 2013 grant of $2,000, based on the great work the Wittkoffs are doing with other endangered parrot species, such as the golden conures, the Lears macaw, and the Vinaceous Amazon.