Carly & Piper active, in the air and otherwise!

Posted by Raz on Apr 29th, 2012
2012
Apr 29
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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.
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2008
Jun 26
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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.

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