Carly Lu’s Blueberry Mango Bread

Posted by Raz on Jul 13th, 2011
Jul 13

This is a staple at our house. Everyone has to fight over it: Greys, cockatiel, cats, and me. Some humans might not find it sweet enough, if they are used to a lot of added sugars. You can substitute in any number of things, like shredded carrots or greens, or other fruits or berries. I try to use ones that have the highest nutrient content (dark colored berries or fruits, orange vegetables).
Carly Lu, Cook's Supervisor

Carly Lu’s Blueberry Mango Bread

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray 9″x11″ pan or 24 muffin tins with cooking oil.


1 cup blueberries*
1 med. mango, diced
1 banana, mashed
1 cup diced raw yam, pumpkin or butternut squash
1/2 cup dried fruits (such as cranberries, cherries, apricots, papaya)

nuts (optional):

1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

grains & spices:

1 cup fine multi-grain or regular flour
2 cups 8-grain flour
2 T flaxseed meal
1/2 cup oats [Note: very important! — Carly]
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp eggshell powder**
pinch of salt

wet ingredients:

4 eggs
2 T vegetable oil (or red palm oil)
1 cup peach or plain organic yogurt

Blend ingredients listed in grains and spices in a large bowl. In another bowl beat together wet ingredients, then blend in mashed banana. Mix with dry ingredients until well blended. Stir in nuts. Stir in all fruits except blueberries. Gently fold in blueberries last.

Pour into tins or baking pan. Cook at 375 F for 25-35 minutes (toothpick or knife comes out clean; it should just be slightly brown on top)

* Tasty substitutions: Raw cranberries instead of blueberries for a tarter variety. Cooked pumpkin instead of bananas for a boost of Vitamin A.

** For calcium. You can just throw in the washed shells from the 4 eggs if you don’t mind crunchy. I save them, let them dry out in a warm oven, then grind them into a fine powder in a coffee grinder. I can use the powder in this bread, mix it into sprout toppings, or add to the kitties’ raw food.

Adapted from “Blueberry Almond Muffins” in The Healthy Bird Cookbook. Not just for birds!


Enrichment Corner: Ideas and Examples

Posted by Raz on Sep 2nd, 2009
Sep 2

For most birds — clipped, flighted, or even ones who freefly outdoors — a good deal of their day is spent on their own, whether in their cage, in an aviary, or alongside us as we’re busy doing other things. Enrichment is necessary for all companion birds. In the wild a great deal of their time is spent foraging through trees, bushes and for some species on the ground. As part of making connections to excellent parrot resources, this new feature will showcase some favorite sources for enrichment ideas, examples of interesting foraging setups, and visits to cool aviaries.

The first is Kris Porter’s site, Kris is the author of the enrichment bible, The Parrot Enrichment Activity Book (1st and 2nd editions) which is available there as a free download. Her web site gives many other ideas, both simple and involved, as well as short videos and tips on starting foraging activities with birds.

Enrichment doesn’t have to be complicated or costly, but providing places to climb around and search for food or other things to chew on or explore can occupy parrots happily for hours. I could not believe the difference that including food foraging in my birds’ cages and gyms made in their behavior. Not only are they busier with activities that are not destructive to my own things, but they are also much calmer overall. And it has made keeping them with me in the office at work a more relaxing experience for all involved (including my neighbors along the hall!)

Some previous foraging posts show examples of some of my birds’ favorite items. The more you think like a forager, the more you will find yourself stopping mid-toss to the trash can. Throw-away no-no’s at my house: bottle caps, small plastic bottles, small cardboard boxes, small paper bags, little hardware bags, broken toy bits, paper from the shredder. Some essential items from our local 99-Cent Store or Michael’s: tiny plastic zip-ties, sisal twine, and wooden clothespins for attaching things to toys; coffee filters for hiding things; miniature wooden boxes ($1.00!), mini ziplock bags (used for beads), unpainted wooden ornaments, and many more.

In addition, when you find yourself saying “don’t chew that!” to your little devil, is that another enrichment possibility? Your bird likes your toothbrush but you prefer to keep it to yourself? How about getting a pack of bright colored kids’ toothbrushes (make sure no metal under bristles). Always rushing to save that pen or pencil from certain death? How about saving old pens and removing the innards. Do your birds have a taste for fine literature? Phone books are quite tasteful too.

One of the main principles of applied behavior analysis is to show birds what TO do, instead of telling them what not to do. Providing an enriching environment is one of the most basic pro-active ways to prevent undesirable behaviors and keep both you and your birds more sane.


Thoughts on Stress & Feather Snipping

Posted by Raz on Aug 21st, 2009
Aug 21

I just got back from a 6 day trip, and when Carly was younger she was so unfazed by me leaving that I seriously wondered if it mattered at all that I was gone.  But since she started seasonal feather snipping at 3 years old she has also been snipping when under stress.   Her seasonal snipping was reduced to almost nothing with the help of lots and lots of foraging (for most all her food) as well as lupron shots every 4-6 weeks during the spring.  Since then her feathers have been growing back in nicely, with just a few exceptions, all of which are stress-related: me leaving town for a week (twice), and the death of another pet in the household.

This is her at her worst, after I was away for a week at the IAATE meeting in February; she stayed at Tex’s house with a pet sitter and did a lot of feather damage, both snipping and plucking.

Carly, 7 March 2009

Carly, 7 March 2009

The next snipping event occurred in mid-April, after she had stopped for about 6 weeks. It lasted 36 hours, starting the evening my vet came to the house to put my cat to sleep (after battle with lymphoma). This was such a short duration and intense bout of snipping it’s hard to see it as coincidental.

When Grace and Roelant visited at the beginning of June, many feathers had molted out and were starting to grow back in. That continued through July and into August.

Carly, 10 June 2009

Carly, 10 June 2009

She was a velcro bird when I was packing for my last trip, and for the first time gave me an enthusiastic greeting when I arrived home (instead of the cold shoulder). The snipping is not as bad as before on the belly, but she did crunch her upper wing feathers quite a lot.

Carly, 21 August 2009

Carly, 21 August 2009

During both trips she was with Piper, with lots and lots of foraging material. The latest trip she stayed at home, with familiar people taking care of her, and her snipping started the third day, immediately upon hearing me talk to her over speaker phone. (Note to self…. ) She had already been behaving oddly, including hanging upside down rubbing her back on the cage, even with the door open; something she’s never done in front of me.

Since I’ve been home she hasn’t touched a single feather except for normal preening, and is carefully de-sheathing some newly grown feathers.

It was nice back when she didn’t notice I was gone! I’m not sure what can be done to make these trips less stressful. Perhaps a few short overnighters to break the routine that every time I leave it’s for a week. But then when it gets to be day 3, day 4 on a longer trip…? I wonder if it’s possible to train an alternate behavior for stress relief.


UPDATED UPDATE: Freeflight for Companion Parrots

Posted by Raz on Jul 11th, 2009
Jul 11

This is officially a Pout Free Zone. I write about positive influences on my training. As in my professional life, personalities are not the topic. We don’t omit referencing important publications based on our personal feelings about the authors, and I have the same standards here.

The “Freeflight for Companion Parrots” post is a warning, not a publicity campaign.


nom nom nom — our foraging stuff

Posted by Raz on Mar 27th, 2009
Mar 27

Breakfast is served: our morning foraging tray

breakfast tray

Those little brown paper things contain seeds, sprouts, pellets, and are stuffed inside things everywhere. Sometimes they’re also put inside little plastic zip bags with beads & small toys.

I try to put small quantities (1/2 tsp or so) in each pack, so there are enough of them to spread out well and keep them busy for a long time. Afterwards, a lot of the goodies, as well as the paper, beads, etc., have fallen on the cage floor and they go down there to rummage the scraps. I also hide some things inside their buckets of toys so they don’t find them until later.

Some long lasting things help keep things available during the day too, like carrots, and branches of parsley or kale stuck in their hanging toys.

nom nom

Sometimes they are still going back to rummage through stuff in the evening after I’m home.

Yep, it takes 20-30 min to get all this ready in the morning (or night before), but they enjoy it so much it’s a battle to keep them out of their cage once it’s set up. I bring the same things to work with me when they come along, and I can’t tell you how much calmer they are during the day. It’s well worth the time!

An excellent DVD on foraging for pet birds: Cative Foraging for Parrots


Feather Snipping in Free-flighted Parrots

Posted by Raz on Jan 31st, 2009
Jan 31

This is an excerpt from a post I made to the Good Bird group this week:

Carly started barbering (snipping feather tips) last February when she was 3 years old. It coincided with the first instances of nesting- or mating-type behaviors (shredding paper, cardboard, wood, when she had never chewed at all before, and becoming obsessed with seeking out men at the beach to the point where she was uncontrollable.) She snipped her lower belly and the top of her wings, and it subsided in late spring.

This year her chewing started in December, along with some new behaviors such as incessantly seeking out small dark places (in bookcases, cupboards) and doing the squat-and-grunt routine (this has even occurred during a target training session). I have been doing extensive training with her to remedy her flying to strangers, and so far that has not been a problem; we’re just about back to normal flying routines, though I am very cautious to look for signs of distraction.

This year those behaviors are accompanied by even worse snipping of feather tips, all the way up her chest, further down her wings, and repeated snipping to the point where she now has patches of skin showing along her keel.

I took Carly out flying this afternoon at the beach and she did great. It’s starting to be fun again! Afterwards, in the office, she and Piper were playing with toys and preening. And as she was preening, she snipped, snipped, snipped. This is when she normally does it, during her usual preening. Preens gently down the feather shaft, then at the end, snip!

She’s getting daily baths, lots of foraging toys, twice daily training sessions, socializing, and flying
every few days. Today she had all of that, came home and ate dinner, then started relaxed preening alongside Piper. Within 10 minutes she had snipped off 20 feathers.

Carly is rarely caged, and since learning from Susan F and others a few years ago I make a concerted effort to “empower through choice” as much as possible in all of our daily routines.

I know it is an unpopular diagnosis, but this seems related to the onset of sexual maturity. Whether it is an excess of hormones, sexual frustration, or what, I don’t know. But as this is still early in the season, I am seriously considering something like Lupron injections. Just very frustrating. I am taking her in to my very good avian vet next week for a consult and exam to check other possible causes.

But maybe this puts to rest the idea that birds who are flighted, go outdoors, and have lots of enrichment don’t engage in FDB?


Parrots and Humidity (or lack thereof)

Posted by Raz on Jan 15th, 2009
Jan 15

Just came across an excellent blog post that got me thinking about the huge humidity swings we are having in southern California this year. One week we are having cold rain and fog, the next a warm and extremely dry Santa Ana wind. We’re having the latter this week, and I’ve noticed much more vigorous preening going on with Carly and Piper. It was actually on my mind in the wee hours tonight before I just happened on this post by Jamie in Austin.

Importance of Humidity for Companion Parrots


Harnesses: Coming Soon!

Posted by Raz on Dec 9th, 2008
Dec 9

I’ve been promising people for a long time that I’d post information about the harnesses I make. Well, photos have been taken and I should have something written up this week by end of March. (really!) I’ll include instructions for both designs of neck straps: over-the-head loops and around-the-neck buckles.

I found a very well behaved model for the job also.


Here is a page with more photos of this particular model, showing how it’s constructed.

Update soon!

Jun 26

Sid Price addresses some very important points about training older birds in his latest blog post, History Revisited, Again. Like Sid and his “new” dog Emma, I found training an adult very, very rewarding, both in terms of seeing Carly’s progress and enthusiasm, and because of how much I was able to learn in the process. Thanks also to Sid for recommending Carly’s training story here in this blog.

However, as you can read in these pages, I have a baby Grey coming in August. Why would I choose to get a baby as my next bird? And why go to one of the best breeders in the country, instead of starting with an unfortunate unfledged, baby-clipped bird like Carly was? Here are my reasons, and as Sid points out, it has everything to do with having the right situation, the right match between new bird and new home, so that the situation is set up for success. It is something I gave a lot of thought to when considering the next addition to my flock.

When I got Carly she was my first parrot, and a “love at first sight” situation. I’d had my pigeon for about 8 months at that time, but no other birds. Nothing could have dissuaded me from taking Carly, even if I’d found out in time that it is detrimental to clip babies before fledging or that it is best to purchase from breeders who allow babies to stay with their parents for some time before hand-feeding. I could not have left her to an unknown fate with some random customer at the bird store. Fortunately, my personal and home situation were perfect for taking on this kind of responsibility. I have a job where I can bring my birds to work with me. I lived alone, so I could spend any amount of time working or interacting with them. I had become a total bird nut after rescuing my pigeon as a baby, so I was willing to spend a lot of time reading and learning about parrots and training, which I started to do long before she was weaned and ready to come home.

So why not do this again? I am very opposed to the way most stores raise their babies, starting with days-old chicks and clipping before they even have a chance to learn how to use their wings. I don’t want to support these practices. (If I spent time in stores and handling their baby greys, I couldn’t promise I wouldn’t fall for one again though! Which is why I stay away.)

Then why not take on an older rehomed bird? That was actually my plan, when I was ready to get a companion for Carly. My current situation in terms of housing and time is not set up well for that however. We now live with Hugh and his 3 Red-fronted Macaws, all flighted, in a small apartment. It’s crucial that everyone be able to get along peacefully. We have been dealing with behavioral issues with the female Annie for the past year, some due to her multiple-rehoming and some due to her pairing up with the male Otis which has brought out some agression. It is still not clear if this will work in the long term, or even if it is in Annie’s best interest. (She actually seems most relaxed and playful when she is away from Otis. ) But it has made it very clear that the history of the birds and the behavior that brings with them is especially critical in such tight quarters.

Carly’s “companion timetable” isn’t quite in sync with mine however. She has started showing “coming of age” behavior quite young — developing strong (borderline unhealthy) interests in strangers we meet, engaging in nesting behaviors, making a “brood patch” on her belly, etc. I am not looking for a mate for her, but I do think it would be beneficial for her to have a same-species companion. According to Wendy Craig, her pet Greys tend to only socialize with other greys, not with her macaws. (The various species of macaws develop a variety of friendships amongst themselves.) At our house now, Carly will sometimes play-fight with Otis or Annie (sometimes real-fight with Annie) but she does not relax with them or with the other more mellow male, Gizmo. But whenever she has seen another African Grey away from home, she immediately approaches and wants a head scratch from it. So I think it is time for her to have a bird around who could be a potential companion.

So do I go for a rehome, with highly unpredictable results for all the birds involved as well as the people, and which might end up being unworkable, or do I choose a situation that has a better chance of success for all concerned? I’ve chosen the latter. I have also chosen to purchase from a highly respected breeder who I believe is influential in spreading the word about responsible breeding and raising of parrots, and who also actively supports conservation efforts for wild parrots. I have no doubt that Wendy is a “force for good” in the lives of parrots in general. In addition, I continue to try to do my part to “pay” for the priviledge of living with these fantastic animals by supporting parrot rescue, educational and conservation organizations (see sidebar) either through donations or by helping publicize their efforts.

And, I’m still a sucker for the hard-luck cases. Little Rocco, the wayward grey cockatiel who found us, has become an important member of the household. It was not clear if that situation would work at first, because of the size difference and a bit of jealousy from Carly, plus two cats not used to small birds, but after being forced to work with it while we looked for his owner things have settled into a good place and he will not have to go elsewhere. It’s not something I would have volunteered for, for some of the same reasons as above, but sometimes things just happen.

Thanks to Sid for clarifying the importance of taking into account the history of an animal, and how that is not incompatible with successful adoption and training of an older bird. But one does have to consider whether you would really be doing the bird a favor, or if you are doing it to fulfill a need of your own to rescue. Taking in a rescue or rehomed parrot is a very large responsibility, and worth serious thought about the long-term best interests of the bird. Having had all of my past and current pets, with the exception of Carly, come to me through unorthodox or unplanned channels, I also know it can be tremendously rewarding as well.


Guest Post: Unweaned Baby Birds

Posted by Raz on Jun 3rd, 2008
Jun 3

The following is a post I requested from Wendy Craig, of Wendy’s Parrots about the requirements for hand-feeding and weaning baby parrots. Wendy has been raising a wide variety of parrots for over a decade. Her flock is composed of African Greys, Amazons, Alexandrines & Macaws, including the highly endangered Blue-throated Macaws and Red-fronted Macaws of Bolivia, which she specializes in. She is widely regarded as one of best breeders in the country, with babies that are renowned for their excellent health and sociability. Wendy is also a trainer, and has several free-flighted Red-fronted Macaws who were trained as adults, and one Scarlet Macaw that was trained after weaning.

Purchasing unweaned baby birds is a recent fad among a minority of flight trainers, who believe it is necessary to have a “baby bond” when beginning outdoor flying, rather than patient training. In addition to birds inevitably outgrowing any baby bond, the dangers of inexperienced owners hand-feeding babies is well-known enough that the sale of unweaned birds is illegal in the state of California. For more on the baby bond being unnecessary with good training, see the guest post by Barbara Heidenreich.

So You Want To Buy An Unweaned Baby Bird?

by Wendy Craig

With all the knowledge out there these days I’m still surprised at the number of phone calls I get from people wanting to purchase an unweaned baby parrot as well as all of the information I read on the internet supporting it. So let’s take a look at it.

Why would you want to by an unweaned baby and why would someone want to sell one? Exactly who benefits from the sale of these unweaned babies? Is it the baby? The buyer? The seller?

I’ve heard it said that handfeeding a baby bird is an art. I’m not so sure I’d call it an art but it is a learned skill. And not all baby birds are the same. So you can’t really learn to hand feed properly from feeding only a few babies. Macaws, Grey, Cockatoos, Eclectus all feed differently. They like it at different consistencies, different temperatures, different rates of delivery etc. And then there are variances with each individual bird. Sound confusing? It can be! You can feed the formula too cold and get a bacterial infection or too hot and burn the crop. Then there is slow crop and what to do about that? Would a novice even know what constituted a slow crop? The number one injury from hand feeding is aspiration. One veterinarian even suggested that 79% of all hand feed baby birds aspirate to some degree. Did you know there were different degrees of aspiration? The one that is readily apparent is the immediate aspiration of a baby. That is when it dies right as you are feeding it or right after. Then there is a second degree aspiration where the baby becomes ill after a few days. Symptoms vary but a dose of antibiotics in time can sometimes solve the problem. Then there is the third degree aspiration or the sneaky kind. The one that isn’t apparent for months or years after it happens but ultimately leads to an early death, sometimes after a lengthy illness and sometimes quite suddenly. Still want to buy an unweaned baby bird?

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