Piper in the Great Outdoors

Posted by Raz on Aug 23rd, 2008
Aug 23

We’ve mostly been taking it easy and letting Piper get used to his new home and buddies. We’re doing a bit of recall practice indoors each day, as well as targeting which he is great at! As for outdoors, he’s been getting used to the park and beach and his harness. He is relaxing quite quickly, though it still strikes me how different he, being a baby, compared to Carly. I had almost forgotten all they have to learn the first few months to a year. But notice the relaxed, fluffed feathers in many of the photos, even on his first times trying new things.

Here’s his first outing to the beach on August 12, about a week after arriving — surveying the new scene!

piper at beach

And walking around while the big boys flew.

piper beach shoulder

Today we did some recalls on the harness on our park walk. Lookin’ around a bit first…

piper park wassup

Then a big fluff.

piper park bigfluff

Ready…. set…..

piper park launch


piper airborne park

Carly is still feeding him when he’ll let her. She’s eating a lot and maintaining her weight, and he just broke 500 grams the other day — a 30 g gain since his arrival a few weeks ago. Carly’s a good mom :-)

This week we’re moving to a different apartment, which is one reason why I’ve taken it pretty easy letting Piper get used to everyone. Wendy’s babies really are confident and happy though. That foundation is quite apparent in the ease with which he adapts to new things.

Photos by Raz’s LG cu500 cell phone, except shoulder shot by Hugh Choi.

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.

Jun 5

I have been curious what difference a top-rate trainer would see in training a pre-weaned baby, and training an older bird who is already weaned and fledged. If both are trained well with positive reinforcement and small increments, is there a difference in the outcome? The following is from a post by Barbara Heidenreich, used by permission from her Good Bird forum.


Flying in open fields with no perching options and relying on a “baby
bond” are in my opinion are unreliable crutches for outdoor flight
behaviors. To me it signals some important training steps are being

Question from forum:

May I ask why “baby bond” isn’t good to BUILD a +R history with the bird?
How can you say you don’t like to hear about training fledging birds
because “it signals some important training steps are being missed”?

Barbara Heidenreich:

I am not a big fan of teaching flight on the Internet, which is why I don’t participate in those discussions anymore. Although I am still a member of a few lists and check in to read posts periodically. As you know the discussions get quite heated and getting into arguments on flight training do not accomplish much towards my teaching goals. Kinda just sucks up lots of time.

With that in mind I will share a response to your questions….but I will not be sharing all my thoughts, philosophies and teachings on flight training here. Even my two days teaching at Chris shank’s is not enough to send someone off to free fly safely in my opinion without additional guidance.

So here is the deal…… Continue Reading »


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?

Continue Reading »