Where have all the Amazons gone?

Posted by Raz on Aug 29th, 2014
Aug 29

After the 2-in-one-day sightings of August 1st at the far northwest and far northeast of Pacific Beach, there has been a long lull. Some 3rd hand reports, and some strange calls, but nothing very firm. What’s odd is that the Red-crowned Amazons that she was usually near, and sometimes spotted with, have also gone silent. During the SoCal Parrot mini-count on August 23 — with spotters visiting NW Pacific Beach up into Mt Soledad, Ocean Beach/Pt Loma and Coronado — the only sightings were conures.

Anyone seen Amazon flocks around San Diego in the last week or so? See the How to Spot Red-Crowned Amazons post to tell them apart from the conures that also frequent this area.

The only Greys reported recently were in Coronado, which I’ve now searched and posted pretty well. In fact, when a Coronado resident’s Grey escaped and was found, the finder got a barrage of messages telling him to contact me. It turns out that bird lives about half a block from where one was sighted up on a telephone wire. Another report near there was of 2 Greys. A couple doors down is a house with a Hyacinth and a Scarlet Macaw also, so maybe the Greys — Carly? — were investigating. Seems like a long distance, but from south Mission Bay it’s about the same distance to north Pacific Beach or Coronado if you go by air.

The excitement this week was when someone called with a Carly sighting — two sitting on a wire by their house in the Nautilus St area of Mt Soledad, where I’ve been hoping to find the Amazons. They rushed out to find one of the posters they had seen and called while the birds were still there. Then I rushed over and searched (they had flown while I was driving) but didn’t see anything parrotlike at all until 2 Cherry-headed Conures flew into a sycamore two doors down from the caller’s house, at — of all the strange street names — Avenida Bizarro. I walked back over to talk to them again, a woman and her 10-yr old daughter. “Did you get a good look at the color?” Mom: “Not really, they had the sun behind them. Did you see what color they were?” Daughter: “Green.” [facepalm]

Bizarro World African Greys


Carly Lu is Missing – Possibly Stolen

Posted by Raz on Jun 27th, 2014
Jun 27

UPDATE: Link to NEW Carly Alert Poster. Please post on social media or anywhere around San Diego County.

Please help put the word out to help find Carly. She had been flying at the bay Tuesday 6/24 around sunset as we often do and a friend inadvertently allowed her to fly again after dark. She was last seen doing her normal loop around the park by the visitor center, and apparently went up to roost somewhere. This is why I don’t let them fly for very long after sunset. They will suddenly decide it’s time for bed and settle in for the night, and it can be impossible to find where they’ve roosted.

Carly will come to me immediately after daylight, or sometimes fly down to someone else if I’m not where she is. She wears a small dog tag with my phone number just in case she goes visiting, since she used to be so incurably social. But I have not been able to find her after exhaustive searching, and there have been no phone calls or sightings at all in the vicinity.

UPDATE: Many sightings now! See follow-up posts.

She and Piper have flown between the bay and my house many times, and their flying area is quite large (as you can see in the post below), so she is comfortable and knows her way around. In other words, she is not likely to be wandering around scared or disoriented. The metal name/phone tag is on a stainless steel screw link attached to her leg band, and she has never taken it off (even when I’ve forgotten to). You can see it in the photo of her and Piper below.

She is so gregarious, it is difficult to imagine her staying out for 3 4 so many days now without approaching someone. She visits with people at the park all the time with me. That said, she is not nearly as “people crazy” (or red-haired guy crazy) as she used to be.

My fear of course is that she approached someone early the following morning who was enough of a lowlife to try to keep or sell an animal that was wearing an ID tag.

I need to know if anyone in the San Diego area has seen someone with a new African Grey fitting her description, or has heard a new parrot nearby. The photos below are quite accurate for how she looks right now.

Additional info:

  • She is very friendly with people, especially men or anyone who has handled birds before.
  • Common vocalizations are:   What?     Nowwww what?     Porker!   as well as whistling tunes. She is especially fond of the “Bridge on the River Kwai” song (aka “Comet Song”).
  • Contact calls: a YOOHOO! type whistle, and a whistle like when calling a dog.
  • If she has been kept by someone she may very well have snipped her feathers down very short on her chest and shoulders.


Anyone with solid information who has seen or heard her on or after WEDS JUNE 25 can email me through my website CONTACT page. (Please forgive me if I don’t reply immediately to personal notes at this time.) There are posts on Craigslist, 911-ParrotAlert, etc., and I’m going around in person to pet stores and vets with her information.




Flying Mission Bay

Posted by Raz on Feb 10th, 2014
Feb 10

Our move to within walking distance of Mission Bay has been a windfall for the beasts: it’s turning out to be an awesome flying spot. Lots of open space along the park and out over the bay. They have covered a huge amount of territory, and it’s gorgeous at sunset.
MB panorama

Other exciting developments:

  • Piper and Carly are flying together! It used to be an invitation to distraction to let them go together, and they’d inevitably end up going in different directions, or just go off exploring for awhile. They are a tight flying duo now, screaming and diving over beachgoers.
  • We have an inflight contact call. I used to use my refs whistle as a “call back” signal, but it’s now morphed into an inflight update. I tweet — they let out a loud chirp — or vice versa, every few seconds. It is quite handy since there are buildings, trees, and hills they fly behind where I can’t keep them in view. I credit the idea to Carly, who often did this in flight before, and finally I took her cue and chirped back! They have been tiny specks on the horizon and I can still hear the callback. Really nice.
  • Emergency descents are awesome. There are very rarely any type of raptor here, but occasionally a Red-tail or Red-shouldered hawk. They have had plenty of experience flying with these types, but I still like them to get out of the air ASAP. Carly has always been ridiculously responsive to my “urgent recall”: GET DOWN HERE NOW! I don’t really know why as it’s not something we specifically trained. Piper, on the other hand, had the more natural instinct to keep flying fast and try to lose the pursuer. Which sometimes meant losing me for a while after he landed safely, until he relaxed enough (I guess) to call or make his way back. But we had a hawk show up at the bay last week right after they started flying, when they are their most rambunctious, and he zoomed down right after he saw Carly respond to my GDHN! Nice.
  • Recall training drills still work wonders. When we started flying here they were both quite “adventurous” — i.e., lots of exploring, horrible responding. It had been so long since we’d had a real flying routine, I’d gotten out of my habits too. So I paid more attention to the timing of their food (smaller breakfast on flying days), and started doing indoor recalls before dinner, and bingo — total turnaround. So much so that I wondered if it was just coincidence and perhaps they’d just had enough exploring and knew the territory to their satisfaction. (Since the training is supposed to have this effect, I guess I’ll go with that. I don’t know much about parrot exploratory habits… but an interesting question.)
  • It’s official: Carly is a Porker. My scale has had dead batteries for at least 2 years, and through 2 moves. I decided it was time to do a weight check. Piper weighed in just slightly above his previous normal weight, at 511 g. Carly when young was a reliable 440 g. When we got into the flying routine several years ago, she settled at a very stable 465. (I attributed that to just “filling in” as she became an adult, though I’m not sure what the normal pattern is.) Now she is 495! I don’t feel fat on either of them, and wonder if maybe this is increased muscle…? They really are putting in some mileage.
  • Regarding mileage… Here’s a map of some of their longer routes (approximately). They did the yellow one yesterday, with a few more loop-de-loops. I estimate the distance as about 6-7 km (about 4 miles). They were up for quite awhile!

As the Bird Flies

And a sampling of this winter’s incredible sunsets, plus iPhone video of the beasts in action.

Do Not Feed the Beasts

Discriminatory Signage

sunset november

More pics here.


Mr Roo goes to a new home

Posted by Raz on Jul 29th, 2013
Jul 29

After a long search, Mr Roo finally has a new home: Papa’s Garden free range egg ranch!  A friend found them at a local farmer’s market, and they were in the market for a nice Cochin banty rooster.  They just moved onto a 3 acre property in Alpine, and he’ll have lots of girlfriends to choose from there.

In our training he had learned how to target, jump up 2 feet in the air to touch a stick, hop up onto a perch, and step up and sit on my arm.  And in just the last couple days I discovered he liked to be held and scratched on the neck. He got a little injury on his beak and while I cleaned it and put ointment on he just layed his head on my arm and closed his eyes.

This is Roo on his last afternoon at home, napping with Eliza Doo after a long, vigorous dirt bath.  Gonna miss this guy.

Mr Roo and Eliza Doo, 27 July 2013

Mr Roo and Eliza Doo, 27 July 2013


Papa’s Garden

Roo's new mom

Roo’s new mom


Found lurking in the garden

Posted by Raz on Jul 2nd, 2013
Jul 2

Carly loves her orange tree frolics when the leaves are wet.

Piper not into it. Stands guard.


Carly & Piper active, in the air and otherwise!

Posted by Raz on Apr 29th, 2012
Apr 29

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. It has been 7 months since my last blog post.

Carly’s beach flying was on a bit of a hiatus for awhile after I discovered last fall that there were two nesting pairs of Peregrine falcons whose territories overlapped right around Scripps Pier (our usual starting point). So we have been flying a bit around the Cuyamaca College campus — with Piper — and hit the beach again this weekend on a beautiful warm day after a kelp tank dive (see the nice new Kelp Cam!)

Instead of flying by the pier, where there are fewer human distractions, I let her fly around La Jolla Shores area where there is less likelihood of falcon distractions. Lots of pigeons and seagulls there, and fortunately the crows that had been abundant and always harassing her were no longer around. But instead of getting lots of exercise in the air she chose to do just a couple trips and then spend time visiting with people. What can you do? You can lead a bird to the beach…. She met a nice family of surfers who had just been competing in a girls competition — ages 8 to adult — and enjoyed a lot of time being adored. A new trend? Girls??

Carly & Piper's love nest.

Carly & Piper's love nest.

On the home front, breeding season has been highly active! Piper (4 years old) has still not quite figured out the mechanics, but they are working on it daily. I don’t know about other Grey couples, but this one is not shy about when or where. Carly has been in full nesting furor. I had to put up a sliding door to block off the kitchen because she was so determined to make use of the kitchen cupboards. I think I have successfully set up an area around the cage that is keeping their interest with lots of stuff to chew on and crawl inside: bottlebrush branches, bamboo cuttings, baskets, a wooden nest box, and other goodies. Right now Carly is over there chewing while Piper is keeping watch. When I walk up he does a very fierce display of floofed feathers. At least I think it’s supposed to be fierce.

The nest watch.

The nest watch.

This morning I was biking through Balboa Park, and the San Diego Bird Rescue group was there as usual on Sundays. They have a very nice 7-month old Grey named Siri (great name for a Grey!) who is up for adoption. From what I have heard them say about training it seems the group is on the right track. They have an application process for adoption that includes a home visit, discussion about the responsibilities involved in having a parrot in the home, a visit to their aviary to find a good match, and classes on caring for parrots for those who need them. They directed me to the web site for more info — I asked if they offered classes for other parrot owners — but the web site doesn’t say much. I’d like to know more about how they operate, and their facilities, training methods, etc. It’s nice that they bring a group out to the park to be outdoors and be around different people. (All clipped of course…)

Siri, age 7 months.

Siri, age 7 months.

San Diego Bird Rescue at Balboa Park.

Piper Comes Out!

Posted by Raz on Sep 1st, 2011
Sep 1

My boy Piper is growing up and getting used to the world. He is the one I rarely took out because he behaved so skittishly around new people or environments, and has shown little interest in going with us. (No flying to the door to come along, like Carly does.) I decided early on to just let him take things at his own pace, and I didn’t know if he’d ever change his preferences. Now he and Carly love the new digs, and both want to be outside all the time. They play outside on the stairs, we do training down in the courtyard every evening, and they can hang out in the trees. I think the way it is semi-enclosed felt comfortable to Piper. However, he has also become a great fan of flying in the nearby park — big rambunctious flights, high and fast, with lots of screaming. For some reason he has never had a big problem with learning to fly down, even though he hasn’t been outside that much. He will often make a few passes if he gets going too fast, but doesn’t hesitate to take the plunge. Perhaps flying like a kamakaze inside my old apartment got him over the fear of crashing. (He certainly crashed often enough.)

In addition to the flying, he is becoming friendly with new people. The other day he was seriously flirting with a neighbor woman on the stairs. We’re talking kisses and the whole nine yards. Fergus the cat was getting quite pissed off at the shift in attention. He is also getting much more comfortable around men, as well as larger groups, and he often goes with Carly and I to the neighborhood pub now. Here they are making out on the stairs:


His behavior change seems to be closely related to the new environment, though I’m not sure exactly why. But I think we’re all happier and more relaxed here, so that may have something to do with it. I would not have thought that moving away from a large, suburban greenbelt area into the heart of the city would be an improvement from the birds’ perspective, but this little piece of garden heaven in the city is unique.

And did I mention there are palm nuts on the property?! (That’s the tree in the background, one of many in the neighborhood.)

palm nut

As with Carly, I’m glad that I let him take his time with this and “come out” when he felt comfortable. He is actually the same age now as she was when she first started flying at the beach. She showed no interest in getting off my shoulder there for 3 years, including 6 months when she was flying outside at home. It is possible both could have been pushed harder in their training to acclimate sooner, but I personally find it much more interesting, and respectful of the animal, to let them find their own pace. We’re not doing a show, and this is all about their enrichment, not mine. I must say though, it is great to get madman Piper doing some vigorous flying, for the sanity of the whole household!

Playing on the stairs… (Piper goofing, Carly sneaking, Fergus being sneaked upon.)



Posted by Raz on Dec 1st, 2010
Dec 1

Now Carly gets to teach me how to fly.

Stay tuned.

Carly doing safety check of the gliderport.

Carly doing safety check of the gliderport.

Here are our instructors:


Peak flying season

Posted by Raz on Sep 30th, 2010
Sep 30

Some photos from the start of fall flying season.  (Fall flying season: Permissable to shoot stray tourists and high school students cutting class.)

Thanks to newbie flight photographer Frank Rodrick for signing photo rights over to Carly.

[click for larger images]


That thing you just did (IAATE Conference 2010)

Posted by Raz on Mar 22nd, 2010
Mar 22

Back from the IAATE mega-road trip and easing back into the blog life…. Here are a couple of great quotes I saw as people’s signature lines today:

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.  — Bill Gates

A learning experience is one of those things that says, “You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.” —  Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Yeah, success is sure fun, but it doesn’t always teach you everything you need to know.
Susan Friedman gave an excellent talk at the IAATE meeting in Albuquerque this month, and one of my favorite lines was how you don’t need to be a chemist to be a gourmet cook, or be a scientist to be a good trainer. But the science of applied behavior analysis is what you use “when the souffle doesn’t rise.” I actually used that in my talk a couple days later, because that’s what ABA has been for me, and why I have written blog posts like Beyond the How-To. The basic training recipes are great and should be learned and practiced. But even the best trainers know things can and do go wrong. That’s when it pays to know some of the science behind behavior and to try to use it to think through your own unique situation, the one that’s not covered in the cookbook. And in daily life with our birds, there is a lot that’s not in the cookbook!

The talks at the meeting were consistently excellent. On the subject of learning from failures, Jeff Ewalt from the Beartooth Nature Center (Red Lodge, Montana) gave a hilarious account of using these experiences to make oneself a better trainer, called, “Relax, It Will be Funny One Day.” It’s great when we can all share in these and get a laugh as well as learn from someone else’s experiences. But the main message was: relax, things happen to everyone. The important thing is to use that information to change your future behavior. Hey, sounds like applied behavior analysis! And reminds me of another favorite:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. — Albert Einstein

Yet how many times do we just keep doing the same thing interacting with our birds because that’s the way we’ve always done it, then put the burden on our animal to figure out what it is we want? Expecting them to change a behavior that is apparently reinforcing to them, for no reason they can possibly recognize? Fortunately there are those infamous learning experiences where something comes along and smacks us over the head hard enough that we finally realize, “hey, that thing I just did….” The cool thing about studying behavior however is that you start to train yourself to question methods that aren’t getting results before the big smack on the head comes. Sometimes.

Since I wasn’t able to prepare the presentation until after the deadline for the conference CD, here is a link to the slides online.

The last segment of the talk is a short video, from very raw footage that Pablo Anchante is putting together as a story called Wind and Whispers. Sneak preview!

Carly Lu, “Wind & Whispers” raw video

I’ll be posting more on some of my favorite talks which were about falconry, and interesting similarities between very old and new approaches. The highlight for me was Steven Bodio’s keynote address about hunting with eagles and large, lanky sight hounds, including his experiences in Central Asia. Here’s a sneak peak of that, a blog about Lauren McGough (below, on left), who is learning to become the first female “berkutchi,” (Kazakh eagle hunter) in Mongolia, on a Fubright Foundation scholarship. (Click on image to go to web site.)

My traveling partners on the road trip were Carly, Piper and Peter Topping. Critters came because I’ve been so busy the last couple months I really didn’t want to board them for a week, so all they had was a few days in Albuquerque at an avian vet’s office where I could visit. Peter now has more bird trainer friends than any 15 year old alive, and I’m hooked on Lada Gaga.

Cassie and Helen train Peter on the latest techniques for getting birds out of trees

All in all it was a fantastic meeting and learning experience. Sid Price and Nance were unsurpassable hosts. I hope they are taking a well-deserved rest now!


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