Bird, Interrupted.

An important post by thelittlebluedog.wordpress.com! Bird People & Parronts, take a second to read it!

The Little Blue Dog

It never ceases to amaze me how destructive we, as humans, are to this planet.  My efforts are typically focused on dog rescue, but I have recently become interested in bird rescue and found out the following startling, upsetting and very sad statistics about the sale of birds as pets:

  • Prior to 1992 it was a legal and common practice for humans to take many species of parrots from the wild in other countries to be brought here to be kept as pets.  Parrots are native to Africa, Australia, Continental Asia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Philippines, and Southwest Pacific.  There is no species native to the US. The US native Carolina Parakeet was hunted to extinction by 1939.
  • Post 1992, parrots sold as pets in the US are from breeding mills and private breeders.
  • Parrots can live from 15 to nearly 100 years depending on the the species.  In the wild…

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This is a Post About a Wizard.

Well… sort of. This is a post about Ollie, whose full name is Olórin, which was one of Gandalf’s names once upon a time before Middle Earth. I don’t think he gets enough screen time, you see:


(I’ll warn you, this has my voice in it. It’s weird, and I’m sorry.)

So, this little guy has a bit of story. First of all, truth. He’s not very little, regardless of the fact that he is the youngest. And yes, he is a pet store bird. I got him before I knew any better — before I understood that birds like Ollie are more commonly bought as decoration or as a first pet and then left in their cage without any attempt at interaction whatsoever. But enough; I have rambled on that topic before.

I drew this when Ollie first came home. It is hanging on my mom's fridge at the moment.

I drew this when Ollie first came home. It is hanging on my mom’s fridge at the moment.

Ollie was the only bird in the store of his kind — a yellow face recessive pied. Pet shops tend to call anything besides the normal green or blue varieties “Rare Parakeets.” They’re not rare, exactly. They just have less common genetics. (If you want to see a really rare parakeet, however — totally check out this.) All of my budgies, besides Gimli, are rares by pet store vernacular — King and Quill are your normal recessive pieds. So then there’s Ollie, being entirely too adorable and entirely different from the rest of the flock. I got him about a year and a half ago in Middletown, NY — and the only reason I picked him up was because he was the last one labeled “rare.” Also, even though he seemed really chirpy and enthusiastic, nobody liked him. This hasn’t changed much, as you might have seen in the video above. (My other parakeet Gimli likes him though.)

This is Ollie when he was a baby!

This is Ollie when he was a baby! Notice how he is the same size as then-2-year-old Gimli.

On Thursday, I had the flock out of their cages for general shenanigans while my friend was over and I cleaned up their dishes. My favorite thing is watching the pudgy parakeets walk across the top of the cage. Even better — running across a wooden surface. The sound is adorable. But — watching Ollie chase after Baby, this beast-bird of unusual size — well that’s just plain funny. And this happens every single time I let all of them out at once. Baby obviously thinks Ollie is annoying, but I appreciate his shenanigans. He just wants to be friends with everyone.

And ya know? Even among the parakeets, he isn’t so popular. He’s really big now that he’s full grown — heavy, too. That’s kind of unusual for ‘keets. To make matters more irritating to the others, Ollie likes to hang upside down and tweet, trill and coo like a dove into the other birds’ faces. Really, he’s a sweetheart and just wants to be friends. It’s comical to watch him try and fail each day. He’s like the geeky kid in middle school that everyone else would only tolerate for so long before walking away. (I know this from experience.) Kind of an underdog– underbird, rather.

He’s not so fond of humans, to tell you the truth. He was born and raised in a flock environment, and was added to a flock when I brought him home. He prefers bird company over human company — but if you catch him in the right mood, he’ll sit on your shoulder and sing your ear off. Sometimes he’ll trill like he’s made of an old school video game console on the inside, and sometimes — especially when he’s sleepy — he’ll coo like the neighboring dove from back in his petshop days. I can’t help but wish he’d be more willing to interact with humans — with me specifically. You really have to be in the right place, at the right time. People talk of cats doing only want they want — and while you can probably train birds easier than cats — birds will still ONLY do as they want. Nothing more.

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Gimli & Ollie being floofy and adorkable.

But Ollie is, after all, named for Gandalf the Grey, who wanders away halfway through pretty much any book set in Middle Earth. He does his own thing. He continues to teach me that every being has its own personality, no matter how much people fight otherwise.  He’s a beautiful bird who is way more of a character than I could’ve imagined. So what if he doesn’t like me (or any human, for that matter) very much? So what if he doesn’t talk? He dances, and trills and chirps and it’s still just as awesome. I am the sort that can tell apart the sounds each bird makes, and me noticing which was which started with his trills. So what if this bird isn’t actually magical or did not really achieve the job of Wizard? Maybe to most others, he looks pretty boring compared to other parrots. Who knows? It doesn’t matter. He is definitely unusual in the best possible ways, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

The Balsa Fiend Chronicles: New Bird Toys, Destroyed in Seconds

Breaking News: Miniature Pterodactyls wreak havoc in author K.M. Alleena’s old, drafty college apartment.

Balsa-Destruction by Baby, terror of the forests.

Balsa-Destruction by Baby, terror of the forests.

Just kidding — I just received my order of a ton of handmade bird toys from Crystal’s Bird Toys in Canada. If I can help it, this will be the only company I will use for the majority of the bird toys from now on. Providing I can keep the $100+ box of them in tact for long enough to save up and wait for the next shipment. It actually doesn’t seem at all possible. The ‘tiels are complete balsa-fiends, and I didn’t even realize it until I had ordered stuff from Crystal for the first time. I suppose the sound of Ochroma pyramidale snapping satisfactorily is the bird equivalent of an all-night gaming spree. I couldn’t even get the first balsa toy in the cage before the beasts waddled over and began trying to tear it out of my fingers. Really. I can’t make this stuff up.

Awww. Birdie Bread Happy Face.

Awww. Birdie Bread Happy Face.

A while back, I had picked up a treat for the feathered children — egg biscuit birdie bread. (Don’t go shouting about cannibalism. Hawks eat Parrots, after all. That’s life.) It comes in a bird-safe orange box with a plastic hanger. Turns out the budgies were scared of it, and didn’t touch it, but the ‘tiels were all over that. Turns out they weren’t as interested in the birdie bread as they were in the bright orange box. Dapple would expertly snip a long strip of the cardboard off, where baby would just shred the crap out of the box; little bits of orange fluff clinging to his beak. He’d get jealous of Dapple’s box-pieces and try to steal them from her. She would take the paper in her left foot and use her now-free beak to peck at Baby until he left well enough alone. It took a while and a number of squabbles until he gave up. Determined little bugger, huh?

Baby defeating the terrible beastie.

Baby defeating the terrible beastie.

Well the point of that tangent was to introduce why I chose to include a bright orange bird toy called the Doe after a bit of pondering. At first, as I initially expected, they were a little afraid of it, and avoided the bottom left side of their cage like the plague all of yesterday. (That’s okay, they would’ve said, we’ve got all this balsa stuff over here, no big deal.) Today, as soon as I got home from work, however — I was greeted first with Baby’s rendition of something like a mashup of “Happy and You Know It” and “The Song of Time,” from Legend of Zelda. (Total dork, I know. He knows Final Fantasy’s Fanfare, too!) It was amusing. The terror was happy to see me, and I was thrilled to just sit. (And of course, observe the shenanigans.) He descended to the lower perches as I sat to untie my boots, and that’s when he decided that the new bright orange toy might not be such a terrible beastie after all. After he realized it was made of balsa, there went the eyes pinning. It’s a little harder to see, because Baby’s eyes are so dark. The yellow feathers on their head also show their mood; so when the eyes are pinning and the crest is up and angled back, this means a very content and very much NOT bored ‘tiel.

Something many a parront fails to pay attention to is favorites. Just like you and I, birds can have favorites — from a type of material, to a color, to a song, to a temperature — certainly this applies to food, too. It could also apply to a person. Even though Baby is friendly with everyone, I’m not his favorite person by far. Probably my roommate’s boyfriend is — but mostly because he’s as tall as a tree in Baby’s opinion. It’s rather weird, but hey. So be it. I might be Mama bird, but my mom can tell you — teenagers…literally UGH. At least, regardless of favorite people, Baby lives in a place where all the other favorites are paid attention to still! Orange/Red colors, classic rock / anything the humans will sing to, attention, wicker and balsa — broccoli on occasion, too. They’ve got a huge cage, relative to

This was the terrible beastie. Was.

This was the terrible beastie. Was.

body size, and get attention whenever I am home. I try and teach them tricks and new whistles. (They are more interested in shenanigans than orchestrated tricks, and only one likes to talk and whistle.) They get spoiled with all kinds of great food, too. By paying close attention, I can figure out what becomes the favorites — what makes them most cozy.

The fact that balsa was such a big deal was a new discovery, and honestly one of my favorites to date due to how adorable the birds acted about it. That, and it kept their squawking to a minimum and their nagging to be released from their well-decorated prison was eliminated for a goodly chunk of time. I’m almost inclined to tell newcomers to always have a piece of balsa and a sprig of millet in their pocket upon arrival to cement their friendship with the miniature pterodactyls. As for the future? New presents will be forever balsa, and these tiny feathered fiends will thus love me for the rest of their days.

Sometimes Birds are Quiet. Keyword: Sometimes.

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Today was another of the endless cage cleaning days. In fact, I cleaned pretty much the entire house. It was alright. Not my favorite thing to do, but alas. Totally necessary. I usually let the birds out, because while I clean their cages, this affords them over an hour straight of shenanigans where my hands are not free enough to stop them from perching where I’d rather they don’t. Usually, this means they are all over me, perched on my hair clip, or right up in my face on my glasses. For the first part of their escapades, however — they remained pretty quiet. Shocking. They sat on their playstand and preened, fluffing out their feathers contentedly. I was relieved, for sure. But while this is a rather rare occurrence, they are really just as cute as when they are incredibly animated.


See what I mean?

Back when I still lived in the dorms, I had just the two parakeets, Quill & Gimli. They also had to be all up in my business relentlessly, but I didn’t mind. (My then-roommate may have, however.) It was ONLY at those times that they would be quiet. Even when settling in for a nap, the parakeets will sing into their feathers with their beaks tucked into their wings. It’s tough to get a video of that, but I will try like heck until I do!

My mom has a conure named Cookie, whose normal vocalizations sound like pig snorts. She occasionally sends me photos of her being way too adorable and snuggly.

Cookie, Mom's Conure

Cookie, Mom’s Conure

She is the same as the parakeets — she will be quietest when she has a chance to be with Mom — the rest of the day will be spent making as much noise as those birdie lungs allow.

Today, after the chaos of the cage cleaning calmed considerably, I come in to finish organizing my room. An hour passes, and I turn off my music off for a moment. That’s when I notice the silence. So I go out to check on the birds. The radio is on, playing some sweet 80s music, and yet — all of the birds are napping except for Dapple. She is sitting all cute and fluffy on her sun deck perch, simply observing.

As I walk out towards her, she yawns and fluffs out her feathers, meandering over to the other sun deck perch nearest to the door of the cage. She does something new these days — She expects scritches instantaneously whenever I am within her range of sight.

I sigh, and wander over to her. She’s way too cute to ignore after a long day of cleaning the birdie mansions and the house itself. So I open the door, and she waddles as close as she can before using her beak to climb foot over head out onto the rope perch closest to me on the outside of her cage. She hangs her head upside down and fluffs out all of those feathers. When I don’t pet her at first, she lifts her head, turns it and stares at me before making an indignant sound.

Scritches for Dapple.

Scritches for Dapple.

She then returns her head to the same position it was in and once again fluffs out all those feathers, as if to say, “insolent human! Pet me, already!” Sometimes, if I stop petting her, she will nip at my fingers. Not in the painful way, but more in the bossy way.

So, of course — I oblige. It goes on like this for a half an hour exactly before Baby wakes up. He is groggy, just like me most mornings. With one eye towards me, beak still tucked back into his feathers, he says, “Birdie?” with that intonation at the end that feels quite interrogative. I have stopped petting Dapple in order to greet Baby. Since I have looked away, she bites the tip of my finger and makes her indignant sound. No fair that Baby ever gets attention, I suppose. Baby wakes up slowly and waddles over as close as he can get without leaving his cage. He makes small kissy noises, and then wanders away to go snack on some sunflower seeds left over from earlier. Dapple still expects pets, but this time I pick her up, kiss her head and put her back in the cage. Still everyone is relatively quiet as I leave, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” blaring in the background.

While birds are not known to be the quietest pets on the planet, it is in these moments of silence that I find their personality shows through quite well. I would still suggest not getting a bird unless you’re prepped for the noise. No such thing as a constantly quiet bird exists. To those of you who already have birds of your own — savor these moments. Record them. Photograph them. Cherish them. We know all too well how few and far between they are.

Interview: Jen Budrock-Flaherty of No Feather Left Behind

Hello everyone!

Tonight, I have guest post for you guys from one of my friends who runs the rescue, No Feather Left Behind!
Please Consider donating to the rescue if possible — all information to do so is below!

~*~

564913_441303509214074_2011071974_n Name: Jen Budrock-Flahery

25946_532061356839039_1471051362_nOrganization: No Feather Left Behind

nofeatherleftbehind@gmail.com | 561-703-3194 | Operating in South Florida | Veternarian: Bako’s Bird Clinic [954.427.0777 — call about the NFLB Account for Donations] | nofeatherleftbehind.org | facebook.com/nofeatherleftbehind

If you see animals not being cared for properly, speak up. A small act of kindness can make a big difference.~ J. Budrock-Flaherty

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Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your personal flock?

A: Since I was a kid, we’d always have animals in our home – from guinea pigs, pigeons, pigs, dogs, cats, quail…

I loved and remember them all.

In high school, I would buy all the one-eyed fish from the local Pet Supermarket. I couldn’t bear them getting picked-on to death by the normals. The special fish got along just fine and lived for a good while. That change when the “normal” fish my friend bought for me from Walmart gave them all ick. I tried to treat the tank to no avail. Walmart has no business selling animals. I really miss them. You wouldn’t think fish would have personalities, but they honestly they did.

My folks help with fostering on occasion. They always pitch a mild fit when I bring one home, until they get to know the bird, or hear it’s story. They’re mood changes real quick and turns into that of a welcoming party.

I didn’t really get into parrots until Elly, the Dusky Conure came into my life. She came from PetCo back in 2003, before I knew about rescue birds, bird mills, and that whole hot mess.

Elly

Elly

Typical of a young bird, she was dancing and being all cute; wanting to come out to get attention and affection. They gave me a form to sign that I honestly didn’t properly read, rung me up, and that was that. (Granted, I would never take in an animal I wouldn’t give a good life to.) She gave me a few good years of lovey, funny antics… however, I moved out of my parents’ home, and I decided it was best she stayed there. After the baby-phase wore off, she stopped cuddling me, and became obsessed with my Dad. Now she is like his little, green guard-bird. There’s no separating those two. This taught me a valuable lesson to teach others: just because you have a bird from a young age, it doesn’t mean it’s going to bond to you like that forever. Birds mature, get hormonal, and you need to do your best to work with them and find what makes them happy. It could take years, but it’s not impossible.

Clifford

Clifford

Then came Clifford from the South FL Wildlife Center. He was a splay-legged, young, cherry-headed conure. He was my baby. I took him everywhere. He was well-behaved and everyone loved him. To make a long, heart-wrenching story short, out of the blue, he started to have seizures. I rushed him to the emergency clinic, where we would get the dreaded phone call…his passing tore into me like nothing ever has before. Why wasn’t I there to hold him as he passed. Did he think I abandoned him? I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t leave my bed, I sat there for days, crying. It’s how I imagine loosing your child would feel like. In his memory, to combat the sorrow, I started to volunteer at the place that saved him, that didn’t give up on him, that showed me proper rescue protocol – home inspections, adoption forms, and wellness exams.

(By the way, I could write a book about each bird. Actually, once I start talking about birds, it’s tough for me to shut up… So I’ll try not to ramble too much. It’s called PASSION! You need it in rescue to sustain you from all the stress and the depressing “I used to have a bird but…” stories…)

Let’s continue with Mikey. He was left at Broward Avian & Exotic Vet Clinic’s door step with a broken wing. They asked me if I wanted to take him during a trip with Elly. This is right after Clifford’s passing. I said no at first, but I showed my mom a picture of him and we couldn’t resist.

Mikey

Mikey

He’s still like glue to me. I kid you not, if I’m sobbing or sad, he we waddle over anything and anyone, to get to me, and give me a kissy. His whole demenor will change, like he’s on a mission to cheer me up. You can think I’m crazy or I looking too far into it, but I have a witness. When I first moved in with my husband, Mikey was afraid of him (he hates strangers). I was having an emotional moment, he walked over my oh-so-scary husband, got to me, stuck his face in my face, and gave a big kiss and stared at me like “Are you ok? Do you need another one?”

The compassion I see in these birds is the reason why I rescue. Anything that loving deserves to be given the same love. This love isn’t exclusive to birds, but I ended up taking a shine to them.

Pako was a Mitred Conure. He was another amazing bird. He loved strangers, loved my family, was a total ham. Toys? Toys are for birds, Pako is people. Pako taught me that a bird’s age doesn’t matter, all birds are individuals, and are capable of developing strong bond to humans. Also, stupid things will offend them, like nail polish, and glittery glasses. He also taught me the importance of wellness exams. I got him from someone who put an ad online… His test came back positive for Aspergillious, a fungal infection of his air sacs.We treated him for years,

Pako

Pako

almost did surgery, but the new medication he was put on started working, and the vet decided against it which was fine at the time… Eventually his immune system just gave up and he passed in an incubator at Dr. Backos’ office. It was as though Pako waited until after my folks visited, then I visited him right after work… then that night he said good night. I’m glad we showed him that we didn’t abandon him…(I’m getting all emotional again…) I’m glad he doesn’t have to endure the medications and the incubator box. Despite these unpleasantries, he still loved us. He still wanted to be involved. He never held a grudge. Pako was well loved by many. People drew fan-art of him to cheer me up.

Then there was Georgie. (Oh, Georgie-boy. I’ll talk more about Georgie in another question. He was a very special Scarlet-Fronted Conure)

Next up is Louie the elderly, yellow-crowned amazon. There was this crazy woman known for flipping birds, though I didn’t know it at the time. She let me stop by to see her birds since we made friends at a bird event. I ended up begging her to let me get him vetted. I did. He needed eye drops and a ton of gunk was flushed out of his nose. In order give him his necessary continued care, I begged her to let me keep him. She agreed and she’s still on craigslist taking in animals, not vetting them, bouncing them all over

Louie

Louie

the country to breeders and brokers, in trade to get another one…Louie taught me to be more cautious about where birds go, why birds shouldn’t be free, or traded. Dr. Grant would flush his nose for me once a month. She helped me greatly with the misfit birds I’d bring to her. Louie was a gentle boy. He would put his beak next to my nose and go to sleep. He would climb to the top of the cage and start flapping his wings and I’d cheer him on “Goooo Louie! Louie Lou!” He’d stop and take in the encouragement and would get back to it. At a certain point, you could tell he wasn’t enjoying life anymore and there wasn’t much to be done medically… So after cuddling him for hours, we had to say good-bye to him. We were there for him in his end. I was grateful I could help give him a good last few years. I take a shine to senior amazons. My dream is to have a sanctuary for the special needs and elderly parrots to live out the rest of their days in joy and comfort.

Birds can be like Pandora’s Box. Everyone needs to take that into account when they take one into their home. Love them for better or for worse. They become family.” ~ J. Budrock-Flaherty

mikey and piko

Mikey and Piko

Piko came after Pako passed. She’s a clownish Finsch’s Conure. She’s like glue to me and is best friends with Mikey. Mikey took her under her wing immediately. Pako used to shun Mikey. Elly would preen Mikey, but Mikey likes to hold hands. He likes to hold Elly’s food with his foot and just stand there. Elly would flip out, Mikey was stand there confused to the source of her offense. Piko has embraced Mikey’s desire to hold hands. Piko reminds me much of Clifford. She came to us from SFWCC too. Was a young feral conure left in the wall, starving. Only had one feather on her butt. SFWCC rehabbed her and let me take her home.

Chickadee

Chickadee

There’s Chickadee the senior, blind, lovebird that wants nothing more in life than to cuddle in your hand.

Cody is a splay legged red factor peach faced lovebird that people adore due to his cuddliness and his colors. He is No Feather Left Behind’s birdy ambassador. You can’t just not smile upon seeing Cody in his Cody-bed. My friend made him that bed and gave it to

Buddha Bird, Cody

Buddha Bird, Cody

me at my wedding in June. It’s perfect to exchange him into other hands without him having the need to get comfortable again.

miss cockatiel

Miss Cockatiel

Miss Cockatiel used to love my dad and hiss/hate me. She started to have health problems, diarrhea that wasn’t going away. It was something like birdy-diabetes. My folks aren’t good with giving meds, so I took her into my flock. To my surprise, she loves me now. She’ll bow her head for scritches, she’ll step up. Whatever the actual reason is, she’s another bird that changed. Went from hating to loving. Birds can be like Pandora’s Box. Everyone needs to take that into account when they take one into their home. Love them for better or for worse. They become family. If you don’t consider them family, you probably shouldn’t get/have one.

I have a small collection of handicapped and bullied finches. They all get along swimmingly, even the 3 blind, albino finches that my friends donated. The bullied finches took parenting duties in the beginning when they were young, now they get along fine. They even let you pet them and love on them.

mr kakapo

Mr. Kakapo

There’s Mr. Kakapo, which, along with Chickadee came from Birds of Paradise Sanctuary. He’s a green lineolated parakeet. (AKA a linnie.) He laughs, says “Hey Weezer” (Weezer being his original name) “What are you doing” “A what? A what?” and a bunch of other entertaining noises. He and Pako are who fully converted my husband into a bird lover. Mr. Kakapo got a hurt toe and he mourned for weeks. Don’t mess with ‘Po.

Sushi

Sushi

Sushi is a teal linnie that came to us and has a chronic poopy problem. We’ve taken many tests, but nothing has come up yet. It is on and off. She’s a shy girl, every once in awhile you’ll hear her make giggling noises. She’s not as flamboyant as my other birds, but we make sure she’s happy and comfortable.

Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge you face as a Parront? (Or, bird parent?)
A: Time and Money pose a big challenge. I’m trying to give them enough attention, making sure they’re happy, well-fed, safe, clean, healthy. I wish I could stay home and tend to their needs all day. They are wild animals with a strong need for companionship. They have the ability to fly, yet they’re stuck with us. I’m trying to make up for their loss with my love and income.

Q: What is your funniest bird-related story?
A: Georgie’s story is a funny one. He was a very very special bird. Very endearing, very… unique. I loved his antics. When he was adopted from South FL Wildlife Center, it was important for me to take his wife with him. His wife was yard wreath. Georgie would tell it off, wrestle it, preen it, snuggle it, and at night, he would put his head through the center and go to sleep. He looked like a derpy lion. Then he cheated on his wife with Elly, the dusky conure. They were great friends. When Elly would talk to Mikey, Georgie would lecture them both and wouldn’t stop until Elly was by his side. I actually have a video of it.

George and EllyGeorgie was a funny bird. He passed away from a bad seizure that he would not recover fully from. However, he left his legacy: Georgie would say “Oh, Shut Up!” in succession around sundown. Mikey inevitably learned it, which later on, Piko would learn. I now have 2 birds telling each other to shut up.

Q: What is your scariest bird-related story?
A: It would have to be the time Mikey flew out into the night, and how much of a miracle it was that I got him back.

I was overloading myself with rescue stuff and I really wanted time with Mikey, so I brought him with me to pick up some kittens for NPLB around 11pm – This family wasn’t taken good care of them, so we took the back, I went to Tamarac to give them to Jacquelyn.

Mikey II

Mikey

Well, somehow Mikey got spooked and flew into the night. He WAS clipped, but not enough; the feathers had grown back. It was dark, so he made no noise. We did eventually find him in a tree down the street, so we got a pool net and tried to catch him… NOPE, THAT’S when he really flew, high into the sky. I couldn’t even see the direction he flew… I was devastated. It was my fault. My screw up that my buddy flew away. I was a total wreck.

We headed back into the area the next morning when the sun came up. My dad came along with me, and we took Elly with us to try to call out to him since they were friends. I walked around the entire block with her. Some people were walking together, and I asked if they had seen a blue headed green bird, they said no. I said to myself “maybe he wants to be free.” Right as I got back to the car, I heard something. I ran down the street and I heard him. He was in the opposite direction of the path he took off in. I heard a squawk and an Oh Shut Up –

I flipped out. He was through this dude’s yard, fence, and in the golf course, in a palm tree. I didn’t mean to trespass, but I needed my bird. He was high up, I couldn’t climb to reach him. My dad went to get a ladder from Jacq’s mom’s house.

Turns out, the neighbor of the guy who I trespassed on, knew Lee, Jacq’s mom, so he let Dad come through his yard with the ladder. Right when we got it to the tree, little Mikey took off…AGAIN. Across the golf course was a huge forest patch, and I thought I saw him go in there. I tried to look for him, but the little ass didn’t make a sound. It made it really difficult to locate anything.

Mikey VAgain, I said to myself “Maybe he really wants to be free.”

Lee’s friend said that he was off that day and wouldn’t mind if Elly stayed with him up in his tiki hut to try to keep Mikey in the area. So I left and came back with Mikey’s cage and toys and food. At one point in this adventure, I crossed a log that was over a ditch or something full of tall grass and spiders. I was climbing things, calling to Mikey, Golf staff asking what I was doing. I begged them not to kick me out, I was just trying to get Mikey back. I think they understood.

I went back and forth a few times and before I knew it, it was sundown. I was crying, I was going to have to make posters and hope for the best, and what if Mikey just flew off again? I prayed to God, “Remember when you helped me find that Guinea Pig when I was a child, and I said I’d love you forever, can you do that for me one more time?”Mikey IV

So my last trip that day, sun setting, was to go get Elly bird. At that point, it looked like it rained in the area. Someone on FB said “they can’t fly if they’re wet,” which is true. Well! Not only was Mikey wet, but he was offended and screaming for me. He was way down left of where I thought he first flew in in the first place. I took Elly and climbed that damn tree like a monkey and lost my sandals in the process. I wiggled the branch, and he fluttered next to Elly, and I scooped his stupid butt up and ran like I won the olympics! Frickin’ bird! And that’s Mikey’s Miracle.

I promised the vets who gave him to me that I’d have him for his entire life, and despite THAT whole ordeal, I still have him.

Q:What is your opinion on Conservation projects and efforts globally? Which ones do you follow more closely?

A: There was a speaker at a local bird event discussing how some conservation groups are pro-city parrots, whilst another believes funding is better spent saving them in the wild. I feel they are both valid missions and I choose to stick to the middle ground. All birds matter! I’d prefer to see wild parrots in their natural habitat, but I also want to see laws made to protect the parrots flourishing in the states. Humans wiped-out the Carolina Parakeet because fashion-driven dolts wanted their feathers for hats – egrets almost met the same fate. Let these guys fill the void and work to embrace them. I would love for eco-tourism to take the place financially of the bird trade in their native habitat.

Thinking selflessly, would you rather have a parrot locked in a cage or would you rather see them flying free in their natural habitat? In the states, for a proper cockatoo set-up, you might as well fly out to Australia and make some memories! The price of the bird, the cage, the food, the vetting… I think it equates. Educational programs need to be taken to locals. Show them the value of keeping them in the wild both economically and environmentally.

Audubon is an organization I’m fond of. Fly Free, Born Free USA, I adore the Kakapo Recovery Program because KAKAPOS! If readers have no idea what I’m talking about, I highly recommend them to do an internet search. I didn’t even know they existed until a few years ago and their plight is heart-breaking! The pet trade, hunting, and invasive species (all human related) caused their decline. It’s a relief that the Kakapo Recovery Program exists to give them the assistance they need. I’m started to learn more about Keas as well, also from New Zealand.

Q:What is your opinion and perspective on the captive breeding of pet birds in the United States?

A: There’s a few types of breeding going on in the US. I primarily speak against breeding for the pet industry. Breeding solely for profit/for the pet trade is something I stand firmly against. Similar to the problems we are seeing with dogs and cats, parrots are also subject to. The main differences with dogs and cats as compared to parrots – parrots are not domesticated, they are wild animals, and they can live as long as we do in many instances (depends on the species). There also aren’t as many shelters that will even take in birds, instead they find their way to brokers, breeders, flippers, pet stores, and individuals who don’t know the first things about the complexities of parrot ownership.

The only way for this cycle to stop is at the beginning; unfortunately, money still trumps the well-being of these animals.~ J. Budrock-Flaherty

Consider that home that purchased a bird bred for profit. They could’ve been a good home for a rescued bird that already has a need. Rescue birds were once a cute, needy, baby birds that inevitably became mature birds with mature needs. When said home can no longer meet these needs, they get rid of the bird. If lucky enough, it will find it’s way into a loving home or rescue instead of forever being bounced around from home to home or getting into the hands of the types I just named. The only way for this cycle to stop is at the beginning; unfortunately, money still trumps the well-being of these animals. Personally, I have to worry about “Should I make this car payment, or can I pay to get this poor, neglected bird proper vet care?” I’m stressed and weary cleaning up the mess consciously made by breeders. There is breeding to replenish birds in their native habitats/conservation. I’m not opposed to it — my hopes are that there’s also education taking place as to discourage these birds from being subject to poaching.

Q: Before “No Feather Left Behind,” was established, in what ways were you involved with birds and the aviculture community?
A: As I’ve mentioned earlier, Clifford lead me to South FL Wildlife Center. I learned a great deal from volunteering there. My duties were answering phones for the hospital admissions office after work. With every question I asked, to better answer callers, I learned something new. They taught me how important it is to keep wild animals wild. I would also do injured animal pick-ups in the Boca-Fort Lauderdale area. Peacocks, coopers hawk, osprey, pelicans, gannets… If they were too hurt to heal, at least I knew they wouldn’t further suffer upon humanely putting them to sleep. If they could be rehabilitated, amazing! That is a great feeling.

Q: What is the mission statement for “No Feather Left Behind,” and how did it get started?
A: Our mission is to find quality homes for relinquished birds, get care for those with health issues and special needs, and spread education about the proper care of these “tiny-people with feathers,” in honor of any abandoned, neglected, abused bird.

bird rescueThere were two mentors/friends in particular who worked at SFWC, Michelle and Jacquelyn. Michelle was the one who taught by example as adoptions co-ordinator. Jacquelyn was volunteer co-ordinator at the time ran her own rescue No Paw Left Behind.

Dealing with the crazy lady who relinquished Louie was also pretty fundamental in the start of NFLB. Due to this, Jacquelyn saw a need to help birds and she extended No Paw Left Behind into bird territory through NFLB. NPLB specializes in dogs and cats, but there’s been gerbils, guinea pigs… We both feel all animals deserve love.

I encourage those who care and share this passion to go forth and try to establish or join a rescue if means allow.

Q: Can you describe your location and set up for No Feather Left Behind? How is it managed?
A: We operate through foster homes and networking through other rescues. I drive daily from Boca to Fort Lauderdale, so if there’s an bird in need, I can go pick him up on the way home. If I’m ever unable, I’ll call on Bird Lovers Club to help out, and they’re always willing. They’re an amazing group.

As for management – it’s a team effort. Birds are put online via petfinder.com, shared on facebook, and through word of mouth. We get a lot of help from our Vet’s office, Backos Bird Clinic.

My family has been a great help and have been converted to Bird People, as is my husband. Recently, we’ve had adopters helping out to find homes for birds and offering to foster.

Q: Can you share the story of your most rewarding rescue?
A: Georgie I’ve mentioned him through out this interview, because of those reasons, because he was so afraid, so rough, and became something happy and beautiful, he gave me lots of happy memories.

Q: What was the most dramatic way you had a bird come to be in your shelter?
A: After work, I remember there was a call to pick up a few birds from Hillsboro Peer for Wildlife Center. A gannet, a tern, and a pelican. There were 2 gannets, one chewing on my hand, through my glove, as I was trying to get the other in my carrier. There were two terns, one I had to hold, the other I had to put in a box. The pelican was not contained. I had to go out to the shore, scoop him up and put him in the carrier. It was obvious he wasn’t feeling good. Probably ate fish hooks, which is sad and typical of shorebirds. My whole little Yaris hatchback was full of shorebirds but I got them all!

I’m trying my best, please be nice to me! I don’t want to fight. I just want to help birds. The happy side of things is that I meet genuine people who sincerely care, that DO go the extra mile for a needy bird… People like that keep me sane.~ J. Budrock-Flaherty

Q: What is the most difficult aspect of managing a rescue?
A: Subjecting myself to horror stories. People feel the need to tell me how they once had a bird and it met a horrible demise.

I have actual nightmares of walking into a hoarder’s house, with occasional addition of zombies or some other apocalyptic scenario. When I wake up, it’s not a pleasant feeling.

And the stress! There’s so much stress. I work full time, Monday through Friday as a graphic designer because I don’t make money from rescuing birds… I’m actually more inclined to spend money to help them… I’m running around doing a million things and you misstep and someone makes you into the worst person in the world over something silly. I’m trying my best, please be nice to me! I don’t want to fight. I just want to help birds. The happy side of things is that I meet genuine people who sincerely care, that DO go the extra mile for a needy bird… People like that keep me sane.Birdy snuggles

Q: In a perfect world, there would be enough Parronts for all the captive parrots in the world. Can you describe your ideal situation for the birds in your care right now?
A: To simply put it, I wish for the birds in my care to find homes where they’ll be appreciated and loved just as a child should be treated. Anyone who’s shared their home with a parrot knows how similar they can be to toddlers. Yeah, they can be troublesome, but you still love them, you still want to do what’s best for them, and it makes your heart happy when they’re happy.

Q: What is one important piece of literature or media a prospective Parront should peruse? Why?
A: I am ever so grateful to PBS for creating a well-rounded documentary, “Parrot Confidential” which is free online and something I actually purchased to play at future events. I cried a few times, but man, it spoke the truth. Anyone and everyone interested in animal rescue and birds in general should watch it.

For the mission to educate the public about the needs of companion birds, I recommend: http://www.forparrots.com/ and http://www.avianwelfare.org/index.htm. HSUS did a nice piece about bird rescue called “No Fly Zone”

A Parrot’s Bill of Rights by Steward A. Metz, M.D. is circling the internet. I also hand those out a photoshopped version at adoption events. Top 10 Bird killers is another flier I hand out. What better way to save birds than to teach honestly about what can harm them?

Q: In your opinion, what are the Pros and Cons of volunteering for a bird shelter?
A: NFLB isn’t a shelter (yet), it’s a network of foster homes, but it sprouted forth from experience in one. I highly recommend people get involved, but it DOES take a certain type of person. One needs to be committed, cautious, patient, willing to learn, willing to take orders, granted that they’re ethical and for the benefit of the shelter. Also a strong heart because not all animals meet a pleasant fate. This list of requirements might come off as a little difficult for some, especially since many volunteers work in Elly IIaddition to volunteering, but I ask to consider the rewards. Yes, they could be doing something else, but when you see an animal thrive, for that moment, you forget all the bad. Your heart is filled with so much joy.

Q: What is the most needed donation, besides time and money, to keep your bird rescue up and running?
A: Toys, food, transports, fosters, kindness, event organizers, and participants. If my fosters are happy, I know of other organizations that can use any surplus.

Q: If you could share some personal wisdom with prospective Parronts, what would it be?
A: Read, learn, educate yourself before and after you get a bird. Be patient. Be accepting, not forceful. Watch mannerisms. NEVER punish a bird with neglect, violence, or screaming. Focus on positive re-enforcement techniques like ones found on goodbirdinc.com

Georgie used to be afraid of hands. I covered them with a blanket one day, he hopped right on. It took him 3 years to get him to step-up onto my finger, but he did! Don’t give up on a bird. Birds are like tiny feathered people. Learn their likes and dislikes.

Never give a bird away for free or to just anybody.Wanted

DON’T rely on children for the upkeep of a bird or any pet, they loose interest. Adopting a pet is a family affair and it’s the parents’ responsibility to make sure that pet is healthy, happy, clean, and fed.

I’ve heard stories about kids starving animals to death and the parents just shrug. That is NOT OK. That is CRUEL. All animals deserve respect.

Be sure to take your bird(s) for their yearly wellness exam; they don’t typically show signs of illness until it’s too late.

Before feeding your bird new things, check online to see if it’s safe. Heck, just read my Bird Care section and fliers on nofeatherleftbehind.org – Lots of goodies I’ve collected over the years. Check out cityparrots.org for important bird news, avianwelfare.org for ways you can help birds.

If you see animals not being cared for properly, speak up.

A small act of kindness can make a big difference.

Budgie Politics: What’s Ours is Ours — What’s Yours is Ours, Too.

IMG_0837Recently, I got a new bird cage for the ‘tiels! It was most exciting — all the pieces and instructions and my utter inability to put it together for myself. It sat around for a couple weeks while I tried to make my schedule work with someone — anyone — who could lend a hand. A friend whose major is Technology Education invaded my house one day, and helped me out. Best day ever! Afterwards, I was able to decorate for them with all kinds of new, great stuff from Crystal’s Bird Toys and Drs Foster & Smith. As I was setting up shop, the ‘tiels were curious enough to fly on in all by themselves, no persuasion required. I was okay with this — as they are usually notoriously awful at wanting to go back to their cage.

Fast forward two days. I am home after work, and I have already brewed my cup of coffee — and as all the birds well know, that means it’s out-of-cage time. I sigh, and wrap a scarf around my shoulders for two reasons: One, to keep Dapple from preening my necklace, and thus my neck and two, to keep the crap off of my work uniform top — a necessary precaution. I always open the budgie cage first, because that crowd is usually much more cautious. I don’t have to brace myself, because they won’t immediately fly out and land on me. (Or anywhere, really.) They’re careful, unlike the ‘tiels, who greet me like they always do — by hitting me in the face and head with a mix of primaries and zygodactyl feet, excusing it as clumsy landing.

IMG_0838Well, surprise, surprise! All of the budgies flew up and out of their cage all at once in a rush of colors, feathers and cheeping. Guess where they landed?  Yup — right on the ‘tiels’ new cage, where they proceeded to break and enter, after a brief political conversation amongst themselves.
These are the same birds who do not hesitate to bite the toes of stray ‘tiels wandering wayward across the top of the budgie cage — and yet here they were where they oughtn’t have ever been. To be fair, the ‘tiel cage is huge; there is more than enough room in there for the two of them. The budgie cage is the next size down, and has always been filled with the best stuff, too. And, relative to body IMG_0847size, their cage is basically a mansion. Well, I suppose for these distinguished feathered critters, that simply will not do. More is better, always.

I’ve noticed that my budgies really do have some sort of political system in place, albeit an inherently wrong one. For instance, the claiming of the ‘tiel cage as their own is not the first instance of this greed. But this is how their world works. You give them anything, it is obviously theirs.claim all the things You sit and do homework at your desk while they are out? The pen, paper, texts, TV, Wii, coffee, mug, computer and desk itself are theirs. There is no compromise. There are no votes, no vetoes. It simply is and will always be. So, who might be the leader of these budgie politics? Who makes all the decisions? (I’ll give you a hint, it’s certainly not me.) Which feathered politician sits amongst perches proclaiming which misdeeds should be done this day? Fingers would point to Quill, but really — the pioneer of this lifestyle is none other than Gimli. It wasn’t always this way. In another time, in a cage more akin to an apartment than a mansion, the budgies were docile, for the most part — if not sometimes a little more on the screechy side. Land is power, I suppose.

The other day, my friends Carrie and Jeremy came over to visit. Jeremy has never been to my apartment. The last time he had seen them all at once was about one year ago — and even then, King was the new bee. As with most new things, even the guest had to adhere not weird pic of germy being attacked by birds to budgie law. The guest belonged to the budgies — no questions asked. Anyone attempting to say otherwise got dive bombed. I have photographic evidence and scar tissue to prove this.

I know what you’re probably thinking. “Aww! But wee little parakeets are so darn doofy that they are adorable! They would never form an inherently totalitarian government amongst themselves!

You’re thinking wrong. Absolutely wrong.

Even parakeetsbudgies, as the rest of the world calls them — are parrots. And as I’ve tried to explain to the best of my ability so far, parrots take over your entire life. No — rather, they are your entire life, small or large, loud or… sometimes quiet. You have to roll with the punches, and deal with their quirks — no matter how odd these quirks are.

You can’t yell at a bird. For one, they won’t listen to such negativity, and for two — any loud noise is competition and attention for them. For me, dealing with my feathered politicians — to get them to do something other than strut about all over my guests and belongings, I have to present another area for them to occupy and distract them with millet. Sometimes (rarely) it works, but I’ve gotta say — they enforce their laws. So I suppose this entire post is a PSA for future guests. “Can we play with the birdies?” will quickly turn into “Oh god, it shat on me! GET IT OFF.

No matter where you go, reader — be aware of the local law. I am finding that budgie law is the most stringent of all.

The Song of My People: Wake-up Calls and Sleep-Mumbling

Good Morning! (It doesn’t really matter what time it is when you read this, because as long as there is any form of light — sun, lamp, candle, computer screen — it’s automatically morning to a bird.) Want to know what makes each one of my mornings equally annoying and amazing?

Yup, you guessed it. The screech in the above video. This is daily. This happens every. single. morning. I try to be as quiet as possible while I get ready for my morning classes — I catch the 7:20a 2B bus to  get to campus — in order  to appease my roommates, who are generally still asleep. (One of which works overnight and will be just going to sleep as Baby begins his shenanigans.) No matter  how silently I creep around to get ready, the bird is ready and waiting to greet me. I whistle quietly sometimes by their cages in order to encourage a softer song — but it doesn’t always work. Even if he spends hours practicing the Final Fantasy Victory Fanfare that I taught him, sometimes, he is just plain loud. So, sometimes said night-shift-working roommate complains of bird noises. Sometimes I feel horrible, but it seems we’re all getting used to his reality.

This song he sings is not in malice, no. Baby really is singing the song of his people. He is greeting me when he hears me awake and about. Sometimes, if nobody is moving around the house first thing in the morning, he’ll still sing right to the sun as She rises. All he wants is to let everyone know how happy and content he is, generally speaking. What we, as humans and companion parrot keepers fail to realize is that these parrots are still WILD birds — even if we have them commonly as pets, they are not very many generations removed from their wild ancestors. Cockatiels — Nymphicus hollandicus — are native to Australia. Imagine for a second Australia. Now think of Oswego-Basically-Canada, New York. Wouldn’t you sing to the Sun too?

Besides the random bird chatter that mimics human speech I am so used to by now, Baby does know a specific song which he learned off of YouTube:

Just like your average college student watching their favorite television shows, the bird has his favorite YouTube episodes. More like a preschooler, actually, because this is how he learns to speak and sing. He can mimic people well, actually, and knows how to say and use a few words his previous owner taught him, as well as one phrase I taught him inadvertently, “Birdie Bedtime.” I originally used that phrase first as a signal to teach my parakeets to settle down when they lived in the dorms with me. After a while of repeating the phrase, the birds began to find places to roost before I covered them, signaled by hearing and understanding the phrase. (That’s not to say there weren’t occasional squabbles over the ‘best perches’ on which to roost. Sigh.) Baby has since equated this to “NOPE.” (He uses BIRDIE BEDTIME! In a way that sounds enunciated, to me, like a swear word.) He doesn’t particularly care for bedtime. He enjoys company and being out of the cage way more. Can’t blame him, though. I just wish got a guaranteed 10 hours of sleep a night, minimum. Shenanigans start at birdie bedtime, too, often at a decibel higher than actually necessary. Basically, the bird is like a child. He’s enjoying whatever it is he’s occupying his time with, and when time runs out? All he wants is FIVE MORE MINUTES!!! (Whining included.)

All craziness aside, my favorite thing that my birds do, when they finally settle down, is sing softly into their feathers. I wish I could get a picture, but I almost never can bring myself to disturb them. They tuck their beaks back under their wing as they roost. The parakeets especially are wicked adorable, singing their video-game-esque trills and whistles with their eyes too heavy to keep open. But Baby? He’ll speak Human, or say words he knows. He’ll keep only one eye open and tilt his head a little before asking, “Whatcha doin’?” beak tucked back into feathers. However, if I answer him — and he does expect an answer — he’ll take the interaction as granting  him 5 more minutes before birdie bedtime, and think of more ways to chatter and interact. He always does. And no matter how loud he is, or how many “days off” he has woken me up at the actual crack of dawn — that will always be freakin’ adorable. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Parrot Beaks: Really Good Tools for Shredding Memos.

1526282_10201443059829486_1823720812_nTrue story.

This picture was  staged, I  have to admit. I gave Dapple a memo as I was trying to catch a bird-shaming picture. That venture didn’t work out too great. She promptly took the note and shredded it, carefully placing  whatever little pieces she could get off of it in the food bowl behind  her. Any other time, she’s fine to carry around a note in her beak. In fact, on my desk is a box of memo notes. She’ll take one at  a time really carefully, and waltz over to the edge of my desk and drop it off, turning  her head sideways to watch it float to the ground. I sigh, and pick it up. Every time. Rinse and repeat.

WP_001399My desk — second favorite perch is my monitor.
First favorite perch is me.

She really doesn’t make the best homework helper. I call her a semi-velcro bird. If she is out of the cage, she has to be sitting on or near me. I don’t like when any of the birds sit on my head while I’m busy, though. So instead, Dapple takes to rearranging my office supplies for me. She’ll pluck pens out of my coffee  cup holder and chew the caps beyond recognition. She’ll replace the pens with her stick of millet, especially if it is all gone. I think it’s her version of protest. Oh — and forget paper. If there was any animal to which the excuse “my pet ate my homework” would apply, it would be a parrot. I try not to use my notebooks that  I have to bring to class when parrots are present, due to the efficiency of beaks. I use scrap paper, and then transfer or type up my notes or assignments.

Sometimes, I’m forced to put my laptop on and play some netflix for the birds, because they literally won’t stay out of my hair while I’m working. This is another thing we as parronts (that is, parents of parrots) have to accept. They are trouble makers. But they are trouble makers that love you. From the second you bring them into your house, your life is birds, 100% of the time.

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Some folks don’t understand this. They buy their bird and when it wants literally ALL the attention — and won’t stop screaming otherwise — these folks rehome their pets. This is the reality of the situation. I didn’t know what I was getting  into when I adopted my cockatiels. True story. But now, I’m responsible as if they were children. I’m okay with that, and I have the resources to manage. So if you find yourself wishing you had a pet bird, try volunteering for a bird rescue first. Do some research about the state of the parrot trade today. Try cleaning bird poop out of your hair after such time spent volunteering. Try doing your homework with parrots scouting the desk for nesting materials. Try to take a nap when the birds are serenading you with the song of their people. Anyone who befriends me can borrow my living room to test any of these things, I assure you. But really be absolutely sure you can handle this responsibility. The bigger the bird, the bigger the mess, and the louder they scream. Just so you know.

All that aside — on a more positive note: I do have a my other birds, and they are excellent, well-behaved homework buddies — not very clingy. I feed them and turn on ELO (I blame my dad for this — though I do love the band, the birds like them more because Dad would  play his records on the stereo in the living room often), and they sing, dance and munch whilst sitting on their parrot stand without a fuss. Some parrots are more suited for a student’s lifestyle than others.

1897891_10201551737746366_1181910862_nThis is Gimli, whose favorite song is Rockaria! by ELO…
you know, because there are no songs about millet.

I’m going to try and figure out how to add a video for you guys of bird-dancing shenanigans. I think it’s one of the most awesome things to witness, such little creatures with their own taste in music. They really are wonderful, beautiful creatures. I advocate for anyone who knows for sure they can handle this kind of crazy to adopt a bird. But definitely, the lesson I have learned is to roll with all the punches no matter what.

 

Obviously, This Human is Brainless and Also, Wingless.

tumblr_mor0nvb85w1qbi0ero1_500

Parrots — any parrots — are absolute tricksters at the core of their being. Even the most cute and gentle budgie in the world will be a weirdo at heart, waiting for a way to outsmart the primate who dared keep them in cages. I speak from experience.

On Tuesday afternoons, 12:30p until 3:30p give or take, I have an apprenticeship I should be present at downtown at The Fey Dragon. Here’s a bit of back story. The birds have a bedtime between 9:30p and 10:30p on any given day in order to let them sleep until between 9:30a – 10:30a, thus keeping them more quiet for my roommate who works overnights. It was at about 11:30 that I started changing out the food and water for both cages. For the cockatiels, I try to use the food-dish doors on the side of their cage, because I am vaguely aware that at least one of them is a master escape artist. I figure he would be less likely to get out of the side door. However, I have been proven wrong  in this assumption before. Really. But I always assume the best anyway.

So, Tuesday. Time is ticking down, and there is Baby, perched on the empty food dish holder as I bring their breakfast out of the kitchen. He steps aside onto a perch as I open the door to put the dishes in — but in the blink of an eye, he squishes his oddly shaped avian body out of a 3 inch rectangular door space, and flies away into the kitchen.

Damn it, not again…

I lock up the door, and Dapple, unfazed, eats breakfast and makes her usual mess. I grab a spare perch and begin the process of retrieving this bird before I have to leave the house. I mean, it’s as if I never let the birds out at all! Completely irrational and untrue.

In my kitchen, there is a console-esque shelf thing (articulate, I know) with a bunch of hooks for pots and pans above the range. I don’t consider myself a short person, but to reach where Baby had perched was…impossible at best. Usually, just nudging him with the spare plastic perch would get him flying. But not today, oh no. He sat there, not giving a crap. He wouldn’t move — absolutely refused. In fact, during the process, as if to mock me, he started preening his tail feathers.

It was 12:09 when I finally got him back in the cage. Or rather, he decided he was done being a terror, and flew back on his own. I was late to  my apprenticeship by almost 15 minutes. And yet — I should’ve known better.

Here’s a few things I learned from this experience, which is not altogether different from any of the other times my miniscule escape artist made a performance:

1. Parrots think they can outsmart Humans. It’s probably our job not to let them, but come on — we’re  only human.
2. A bird cares not at all about your “schedule.” Your time is their time. Your everything is also theirs. Best get used to it.
3. I should remember to let down my decorative net whilst feeding the birds to keep them from flying into the kitchen. I never do.
4. This sort of gallivanting is great fun for birds — they love to explore things and cause a general ruckus. They’ll stay quieter afterwards, trust them.
5. You can’t scold (read: withhold fruitloops from) a bird that’s literally flying all over the house. They don’t care. They’re  perpetual toddlers.
6. Think of ways to outsmart the bird before you have to. You’ll forget them in the moment, because, again — you’re  only human.
Believe it or not, us awkward bird people are frequently made a fool of by our avian companions. Every single day of the year is really April fools’ day. And well. We are  the fools. Or so it appears.

Surgeon General’s Warning: Parrots Are Expensive, Addictive, and May Impair the Ability to Use Common Sense.

You know what’s weird?

I’m a bird person. No really — think back to everyone you know. How many of those people own happy, healthy pet birds? How many of those people let their birds out of their cages? And of those, how many talk about their bird(s) as if they were people?
I can count the number on one hand. It’s kind of rare. Birds are, after all, considered exotic pets. Specifically parrots — because 9 out of 10 times you walk into a pet store, the wall of birds will pretty much be parrots, with the occasional finch or canary.
My goal is to introduce you guys to the birds that own me — because gods know, that’s how it goes. This is the story of a flock which includes a human, not a story of a house which includes birds. This human doesn’t blink when she uses up all the she saved during winter break to purchase a new cage. While most people would cringe at the mere mention of bird poop, this human only sighs in mild annoyance if a parrot lands on her head and leaves some of that behind. This human would prefer not to be out past 9:30-10:00p because that is birdie bedtime. This human buys organic produce and saves almost all of it for the birds. This human’s favorite sound is of bird feet walking on wooden surfaces. These birds have this human, as they say, wrapped around their zygodactyl toes.

The thing is, this human has realized there’s something about Parrots that pretty much nobody in her life had ever realized — they’re way too smart. Almost to a fault. So part of this blog is me trying to work out how to explain to other people this version of non-human intelligence, while sharing with you guys the hilarity that is being a parrot owner.

So let’s first go over a few quirks you probably didn’t know:

1. Birds are absolutely NOT decoration.

I have four budgies (most Americans simply call them Parakeets) and none of them are very socialized with humans. They stick to each other like glue. In the wild, Budgies do this, too. They have strength in numbers — and ask the Australian farmers — NUMBERS. Huge flocks that turn the sky black as they fly over it. But for some folks, if they get two birds at the same time and then they want nothing to do with being with the owner, these folks will just leave the birds in their often too-small cages. They turn into decoration.

Here’s the thing — most of the parrot problems occur from boredom and the fact that these birds are indeed still wild. Besides that, they are incredibly smart — they need to solve puzzles, forage, explore — they can’t be cage bound. They can’t be decorations — because most of the time, they will scream their beaks off and be unmanageable if left in their cages all of the time with zero human interaction.

2. Birds are not domesticated.

Yup, you heard right! However cute and tame some birds are, they’re still wild. Even if they were bred here in captivity, most birds are not more than a few generations from their wild counterparts, which makes them quite wild. I read a wonderful quote once — a bird owner knows parrot beaks and parrot bites — it’s not a matter of IF we will get bitten, it’s when. The reason is because sometimes they can’t otherwise communicate that something WE (the humans) are doing is bothering them. That’s all. Of course, they may find things annoying that don’t make that much sense (for instance, my cockatiel Baby bites when he doesn’t want to go back in the cage, regardless of how well behaved he was a minute ago.) This can be redirected with training, but mostly WE need to figure out what WE are doing to incite this behavior. Even the most well trained birds are going to bite at one point or the next.

3. Birds get bored really easily.

As I began this post by saying, birds are incredibly intelligent — especially parrots. They need constant sources of enrichment in order to occupy themselves while you are unavailable. (Well, one key is to make yourself available as often as possible so they can get out and fly/explore.) They need opportunities to use their minds, so we need to provide them with toys that are also puzzles. They need ways to forage for their food, like they do in the wild — which is also a puzzle for them, and apparently the most fun thing ever. If we teach them new whistles, songs, or words, you’ll begin to see they understand how our language works, and will attempt to communicate with us. (Not all birds will be talkers, and of those that do, some will only mimic.) As long as you can provide those things, you’ll generally have a better-behaved bird. But see #2 because there’s no such thing as a bird that is 100% well behaved 100% of the time.

4. Birds are EXPENSIVE.

When you are a Parront (that is a parent of a parrot), you begin to feel differently about money. You have different priorities and a different grocery list. You can drop $500 you worked your butt off to save up in less than an hour, because you realize if you buy bird food in bulk with their new cage, it’ll be cheaper in the long run and you won’t have to reorder right away or find a way to the pet store in the middle of a snowstorm. You’re okay if a $20 bird toy becomes woodchips in the span of a day — and you’ll keep buying that particular toy because you now know it’s a favorite. You’ll be okay eating canned green beans while the fids (feathered kids) have their fresh organic raw broccoli for supper. You’ll figure out really fast that Avian Veterinarians are few and far between. When you finally find one, instead of complaining about their absolutely huge office fees, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief. However expensive all this is, even if you’re a poor college kid, the birds have to come first. They’re your responsibility now, and now that you are aware of the suffering of captive birds worldwide, you’ll do your best to make their forever home comfortable, no matter the cost.

5. Birds have minds of their own.

Don’t get me wrong, bird training is possible. Actually, part of this blog will chronicle the journey I’m having trying to train my ‘tiel Baby. It’s hilarious, let me tell you. But I’ve learned, most importantly of all, that these critters have a mind all their own. What is theirs is theirs. What is yours is theirs. Currently, I’ve got two ‘tiels perched on my monitor preening and letting their feather fluff and dust go absolutely everywhere. Sometimes they’ll get into my memos and tear them to shreds for the heck of it. It’s fun. Sometimes, as I move my mouse on screen, the birds will follow it and peck at it, getting right in the way of whatever I’m trying to read or write. You have to be okay with these things if you’re going to do well with birds. Sometimes birds will make pretty sounds, and sometimes they will shriek and screech and yell for whatever reason. They will wake up with the sun and sing you the song of their people. You’ll still be asleep, and you’ll have to be okay with that. They will make crashing noises as they slam their toys against their cage or upend their metal food dishes. You will be in the middle of writing a paper due in an hour. You’ll have to be okay with this. They will make a mess and kick all of the healthiest seeds and pellets out of their bowls, out of their cages on to the floor. You will have to sweep up their mess every single day, at least once, even if you have had 12 hours of class and haven’t eaten dinner yet. You will have to be okay with this.

Point blank, as small as some parrots are, they are HUGE responsibility. They’re funny and bring so much joy, but holy crap guys — sometimes they are the absolute worst and make life insanely difficult.

So yeah. I’m a bird person. I accept all of this nonsense. And I guess that’s weird.