On October 6/7 I had the pleasure of being the headline speaker at the 2018 Bird Paradise Parrot Palooza. The Parrot Palooza is the huge annual event with the biggest sale of the year at the Bird Paradise store.
Located in Burlington New Jersey, Bird Paradise is one of the largest bird stores in the US. They have an enormous selection of toys, bird food, and supplies to choose from. The annual Parrot Palooza event is one of the biggest parrot events in the country and the world. With over 2,000 attendees coming from far and wide, it's a parrot extravaganza like no other.
In addition to headline speakers, the Parrot Palooza also features: free food, door prizes, penguine races, face painting, chinese auction, parrot shows, make your own bird toy, pumpkin carving, cage building contest, toy making contest, vendors, and huge sale. Fun for bird lovers of all ages.
Now the first time I had gone to Parrot Palooza was back in 2010 when Truman was still a baby. Back then it was a smaller event and didn't have the enormous parking lot tent. I got to meet Dr. Irene Pepperburg from the Alex Studies and attend her talks. So now, 8 years later, it was my honor and pleasure to get to fill that same role as headline speaker at the Parrot Palooza as the Parrot Wizard.
What can I say? The birds were good. Kili did all of her tricks like a champ. Truman was a chatter box as usual. Rachel was big and pretty and drew a lot of praise. All three wore their Aviator Harnesses all day long and were ambassadors for how a pet parrot should safely go outside.
Countless people asked me "how did you get that harness on them!?" or exclaimed, "my parrot would never let me stick one on it." Every time my response was, "we don't get the harness onto the parrot, they put it on themselves." When the parrot is trained how to put on the harness and wants to put it on, it looks something like this:
Truman meets a Golden Conure
Michael presenting at Parrot Palooza
Parrotsrus with Curacao
Lori with Rachel
Lori, the one who adopted Santina from me, came to the event to help us out. Rachel and Lori quickly became friends. Lori really enjoyed the Palooza and said she was "still grinning from ear to ear... Beautiful friends. Beautiful Parrots. Great time!!" She was thrilled to meet people she had been following online and mentioned, "for me, I enjoyed meeting instagram people."
It was a thrill getting to meet so many fans at the event. I signed books and chatted with parrot owners. My presentations were routine but enthusiastically watched by huge audiences. Kili helped me demonstrate how exciting trick training can be and Truman and Rachel helped illustrate how parrots can be taught to play with their toys.
All in all, it was an exciting event, great food, wonderful participants, big sales, and an all around fantastic way for people to be excited about their pet parrots. Here's a video recap of all the Parrot Palooza action:
Marianna and I recently took a trip to Pigeon Forge Tennessee. While visiting Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the beautiful Smokey Mountains, we had a chance to go to Parrot Mountain. Parrot Mountain is unlike any zoo or bird park you have ever seen!
Parrot Mountain is a one of a kind experience for parrot lovers. It is the only major bird park I'm aware of that focuses primarily on parrots. They do have a nice collection of other birds as well, but their focus on parrots is quite unique.
A visit to the park starts with some exhibits of various bird species. Then it takes you through a walk through flight aviary. But most exciting of all is the parrot feeding area. They have probably a hundred parrots out on stands that you can see up close and feed. Buy a handful of seeds from the vending machine for a quarter and then you can be the parrots' favorite visitor!
We got to see up close and experience too many different species to count but just a few of the more exotic ones included Sun Conure, Blue Crowned Conure, Patagonian Conure, Alexandrine Parakeet, Great Billed Parrot, African Grey, Cape Parrot, Eclectus, Scarlet Macaw, Military Macaw, Hyacinth Macaw, Moluccan Cockatoo, Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, and Red Tailed Black Cockatoo. Marianna had a field day getting to feed and hold the female Red Tailed Black Cockatoo. She recalled how we got to see them in the wild in Australia, but not anywhere near as close!
Some of the parrots on exhibit were brought a long time ago from the wild, others were bred at Parrot Mountain, and others were relinquished. The park acts as a complete facilitator of parrots in the region. They breed, sell, display, and accept rescued parrots. You can see the babies for sale in their nursery building.
Parrot Mountain is famous for offering to have your picture taken with close to a dozen birds. I was amazed not only how cooperative and patient their photo-parrots were but also how well they all got along with each other. The woman who brings them over for photos can be seen walking with a dozen parrots hanging off her chewed up shirt from every side. It was almost as though their beak was a carabiner hook for clipping onto her shirt. She was truly a parrot taxi!
They have a lorikeet feeding aviary where you can have lorikeets fly up to you and sip nectar. Parrot Mountain also houses the "garden of eden," a secluded Christian exhibit in the forest covered country side. They also have a small cafe (with parrot on the menu) and a gift shop with lots of parrot related merch. All around a must-see sight for any parrot lover visiting the Pigeon Forge area in Tennessee and even a reason in itself to head out there.
Here's a video of my visit to Parrot Mountain including an interview with the parks owner:
There are so many great reasons why you need to get an Aviator Harness and start taking your parrot outside!
First of all, safety! No matter how bonded your parrot is to you, no matter how well trained it is, no matter whether its wings are clipped or not, any parrot can accidentally fly away and be lost outside. Quite likely your parrot will not be able to find its way back to you and will not be able to survive on its own. For this reason, a leash is a great safety net.
Now I certainly don't recommend using a harness as a primary means of keeping your parrot from flying away. Your bond, relationship, training, etc should always be the main reason that your parrot chooses to stay with you. The harness is merely a very unlikely backup plan just in case anything unexpected goes wrong. Think of the harness as a seat belt and not as a chain. Just because you wear a seat belt, isn't a license to drive dangerously. Instead, it is only an important line of protection in the event that something unexpectedly goes wrong. Some folks make excuses not to wear a seat belt, maybe even calling it uncomfortable, but it is the best safety catch in the event of an accident. Likewise, for your parrot's safety it is a reasonable compromise.
That said, the harness should not be a point of torture. Forcing a terrified parrot into a harness just for the purpose of taking it outside is cruel and counterproductive. The bird will be so distraught by the harness on its body that it will not have a chance to notice or enjoy the surroundings. This will also harm the parrot's relationship with you. It is better to take a parrot out in a travel cage or not at all than to mistreat it by misusing a harness. But, there is a way to teach the parrot to wear the harness voluntarily.
Parrots are very intelligent and capable learners. So if we teach them the purpose and method of putting on a harness such that they agree to wear it, then there is no problem. The most important thing that I teach my students is to ask the parrot if it agrees to wear the harness and until the parrot says yes (through its behavior), you are not to make the parrot wear it. Instead, I teach parrot owners how to use positive reinforcement and a carefully developed training regime to teach the parrot to want to wear the harness.
Watching my videos, you might get the impression that it's easy to put a harness on a parrot. And guess what? It is! On a parrot that was properly trained to wear it that is. Of course it is not easy at all to wrestle a resisting parrot into a leash and maybe impossible the next time when it knows what it is used for. However, after spending the initial effort to complete the training, they really do put the harness on easily for the rest of their lives. Realizing how long parrots can live, that's a lot of years of great harness wearing and outdoor adventures that you can have. It more than justifies the cost and effort to learn to teach your parrot to wear a harness properly.
This is just the beginning! There are so many more ways you can involve your parrot in your outdoor life and the Aviator Harness is your tool to being able to do that! Hiking in the forest, roller skating, maybe even rock climbing are just some possibilities. Get your parrot more involved in your active life.
The good news is that when you order a copy of the book and an Aviator Harness from ParrotWizard.com. the $19.99 Harness Training DVD comes free! Patiently follow the steps in the book and DVD to harness train your parrot and you can partake in outdoor Aviator Harness Adventures with your parrot for life!
So what are you waiting for? Your bird isn't going to learn to wear a harness by itself! If you want to enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle with your parrot, you have to start somewhere. You have to set yourself a goal to get the tools and start using them. Then, you have to take a deep breath and calm down. The harness training process requires patience. Patience is the quickest way to successfully teaching a bird to wear the aviator harness. Any attempt to rush this process will only set you back when the bird develops a distrust for the harness. This is where the tortoise beats the hare every time. Slowly work on following the steps you'll learn from me until the parrot is completely comfortable with the harness. And then you can scale mountains and do anything outside as long as you and your parrot are having fun!
Happy 10th Birthday Kili! Kili my Senegal Parrot turns 10 years old today. I have had her for almost as long since she was 4 months old.
It is amazing to look back at all the amazing things we have done together. In the beginning, Kili and I learned parrot training together. On one hand I was training her to do tricks but on the other hand she also taught me all about what works and doesn't. By the time Kili was a year old, she already learned and was able to perform 20 tricks in 2 minutes.
My next challenge was teaching Kili to fly. Her wings were originally clipped by the store I got her from. However, never again. I let Kili's flight feathers grow back out and she has been flying ever since. I used a similar method as the trick training to teach her to fly to me and where she should and shouldn't go. Although, a bird, Kili's first flight was with me in an airplane! Before her feathers grew back and she learned to fly under her own power, I had been taking Kili flying with my in airplanes. She has always been a bird of the air.
I taught Kili to wear an Aviator Harness leash so that I could take her outdoors with me for fresh air, flying, and socialization. We were a team and would go anywhere together. She has traveled across the country with me to Wisconsin, Texas, Arizona, and many more places.
By the time Kili was 2, Kili was no longer an only bird. I added Truman to the family and Kili had to learn to share my attention with others. I continued training Kili and Truman together and they formed the basis of the Trained Parrot team.
I kept training Kili to fly outside with an Aviator Harness and for some time even let her fly free.
Kili got to perform in public for audience big and small. She did trick shows for classrooms, for entire schools, parrot clubs, and even on TV. She performed tricks on America's Got Talent, the Steve Harvey Show, and the Late Show with David Letterman. She also continued to star in her own hit youtube videos including Wrecking Ball, Shake it Off, and Shot my Parrot Dead. Kili has been an ace at playing dead and does a very convincing performance. So convincing in fact, that a follow up video had to be made to analyze whether or not she had really died in another video.
Kili also helps people learn how to teach tricks to their own parrots and has appeared both on How Cast and the Parrot Wizard Youtube channel with valuable lessons. Kili was also the Best Bird at my wedding while Truman was the Bird of Honor.
Lately, Kili enjoys flying in my enclosed backyard and spending time with me. She has always been my go to bird. She is just so good at training and so reliable that I know if the other birds can't manage, that she definitely will.
Some potential parrot owners wonder at what age is it best to get a parrot? It is a very important and responsible question. And I don't mean what the age of the parrot should be when it is acquired but rather what the age of the owner is.
You'll hear a lot of people saying how young people are too young to have a parrot, old people are too old to have a parrot because the parrot will outlive them, and everyone in between is too busy with work and kids to have a parrot. That doesn't leave any age at which a person could responsibly acquire a parrot and yet lots of people of all ages do it all the time.
What it really comes down to isn't age but responsibility. Instead of focusing on how old someone needs to be to make a good parrot owner, what it really comes down to is what they are able and willing to put in. Anyone at any age who is going to neglect and take poor care of an animal, shouldn't subject a living being to that.
So instead of looking at an age, let's look at some qualities and requirements that parrot ownership entails. First of all, taking care of a parrot takes money. Quite a lot of it because our human lifestyle often is not conducive to keeping birds in our homes. Not only do you need to budget toward direct bird expenses such as a cage, toys, perches, and food, but also indirect expenses such as changing to non-PTFE cookware, possibly altering doors/windows to provide a safe environment, and having sufficient savings for emergency vet care.
Money alone isn't enough though. Time is perhaps the single biggest expense of parrot keeping. It takes a lot of time to keep a parrot. Cleaning, feeding, and training are big time consumptions but just spending time with the parrot and making it a part of your lifestyle is by far the biggest. Everyone thinks they will have time for this and at first they usually do. However, you really have to think ahead by years and decades because parrots live for a very long time.
Another way in which age can indirectly play a big role in parrot care is the individual's standing and authority within the household. Does the potential parrot owner have the authority within a family to say, doors/windows have to remain closed while the parrot is out or choose how much money is spent on the animal's care? This does not only have to do with age but in general with the person's standing and relationship within the family. Ideally, the entire family should be in agreement and on board with sharing their entire home with a parrot.
You will hear lots of people say “you should not get a parrot that will outlive you” or “anyone over 50 should not get a baby parrot because it will outlive them.” And although it may not be the most sensible thing for an 85 year old to get a hatchling, the reality of parrot ownership is that few people actually keep them long enough for natural death by age to be the biggest factor. Many parrots are rehomed or die from other causes. Instead of solely focusing on keeping a parrot for its entire life, it is best to focus on giving a parrot the best possible life while in your care. Also, regardless of how long you intend to keep the bird, it is best to prepare it for life with or without you. If you should for any reason have to give it up or not be around any more, it is best to prepare that parrot to do alright living with other people.
My parrots have been socialized extensively to other people so I know that even without me, they will still be comfortable being cared for by others. These birds are great with my wife, family, and even random strangers. I do not deliberately get a parrot that I don't plan to keep, but on the other hand if this turns out to be the case, they are prepared. I had to rehome Santina the Green-Winged Macaw to a new owner and all of the training and preparation helped her adjust to her new home an owner very quickly.
Although taking care of a parrot is both time consuming and expensive, it really comes down to how big of a priority and passion it is for you. Just about anyone with any paycheck can afford at least a smaller parrot if it is one of their top passions. However, if you have a car modding hobby, a drinking hobby, TV watching past time, etc that are a higher priority than the pet, then perhaps not enough time/money will be left for the bird. But for someone for whom parrots are a life passion, most of the time they can find a way to make it work out. What you put in largely affects what you get out.
I hope this little summary helps you understand that it is not so much about age but about priority and responsibility that it takes to be able to be a good caretaker for a companion parrot. You can learn more about how to take care of a parrot and develop a great relationship with the help of my book, The Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots.