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.
February 13, 2018 marks the 5 year anniversary of the Parrot Wizard company. Looking back across the years, there has been so much progress. I have really enjoyed working on all the novel parrot supplies and would like to thank my buyers and followers for helping me accomplish that.
Although it's officially 5 years, I've been making parrot supplies even longer.
Here's a brief timeline of my parrot activities over the years.
Even more cool new Parrot Wizard stuff coming soon.
Today, on the 5 year Anniversary of the Parrot Wizard company, I am releasing a new and improved version of the Birdie Ring Toss. Now it is made entirely of parrot safe plastic so that the rings and pegs match perfectly. Going to plastic allowed me to offer more sizes as well. So now the Ring Toss trick is available in 3 sizes and 6 colors for all parrots.
My line of NU Perches has been a pivotal part of Parrot Wizard company. I wanted to have a comfortable, natural, consistently reproducible, safe perch to use for my Parrot Training Perches but all natural perches that I could find had inconsistencies and potential hazards. So I focused my attention on developing the NU Perch. It has been the basis of a whole line of perching products including a tabletop perch, scale perch, window perch, trees, and more. Having familiar perches in the cage, for training, and around the house helps the parrot know the spots it is intended to go and helps keep the parrot off of furniture.
Looking for a fun and easy trick to teach your parrot? Wondering how you can teach a parrot to put coins in a piggy bank? This free trick training guide is about how you can train the Birdie Treasure Chest trick to your parrot!
I love the Birdie Treasure Chest trick because it's two tricks in one. First the bird can learn to put the coins or its toys away into the open chest. Later you can close the chest and teach it to deposit coins into it like a piggy bank. The advantage of the Treasure Chest toy over a regular piggy bank is that it allows the bird to learn and expand its ability. By practicing at first with the open chest, the bird can learn to be better at fetching things and will pick up on the piggy bank part even better later on. The Birdie Treasure Chest comes with safe plastic coins so that you don't risk contaminating your bird with real coins.
The Birdie Treasure Chest Trick is suitable for most sized parrots including Senegal Parrot, Caique, Sun Conure, Amazon, African Grey, Eclectus, Cockatoo, and Macaw. However, it is probably too big for most Cockatiels, Parakeets, and Green Cheek Conures.
So here's a step by step guide on teaching a parrot to hide its treasure:
Step 3: Desensitize the parrot to the treasure chest toy. Most parrots get scared of new stuff. The good news is that the more tricks you teach, the more the bird will get used to accepting new things. The best way to desensitize the bird to the treasure chest is to target it near the toy. Place the treasure chest on a table beforehand. Bring your parrot and set it on the table far from the toy. Get the bird into a rhythm targeting. Target it randomly in different directions and not strictly toward the chest or it may get suspicious. Target it around randomly but little by little, more and more toward the treasure chest. Let the parrot pay more attention to the targeting exercise and forget about the chest until you are able to target it right by the toy at ease. It is better to take the time to do the desensitization exercise even if the bird didn't get scared than to scare the bird with the toy first and then try to change its mind.
Step 4: Open the treasure chest and have the parrot fetch the included plastic coins to your hand near the treasure chest. Hold your open hand above the treasure chest and ask the parrot to fetch the coin to your hand. Click and reward the parrot as per usual training whenever it successfully puts coins in your hand. After practicing a few times, withdraw your hand just as the parrot is dropping the coin into your hand. It will fall into the open treasure chest by accident. Click and reward so that the parrot knows this was good. Show your hand above the treasure chest and have the parrot continue fetching the coin to the chest as you withdraw your hand. You can begin to replace the withdrawing hand with a point toward the treasure chest instead. Eventually you won't have to say or do anything. The parrot will just go and pick up a coin and drop it into the open treasure chest on its own. You just need to click and reward. You can further teach your parrot to put other objects into the treasure chest like its toys.
Step 5: Close the lid on the treasure chest and teach the parrot to put the coin into the piggy bank coin slot. The method for teaching this is similar to the prior step but with some modification. Hold your open hand above the coin slot and have the parrot fetch the coin to your hand. After a few times, pull your hand away so that the parrot ends up placing the coin on top of the treasure chest and reward this. Once the parrot is good and eager to put coins on top of the treasure chest, you just need to teach it to direct the coin into the slot better. You can help the parrot out by putting your finger near the slot and as the parrot is placing the coin down on top of the chest, you help aim it into the slot. When the parrot drops the coin into the slot, make a big deal about this with big rewards. Don't reward placing the coin near but not into the slot anymore. After a few more times, the parrot will learn to work the coin into the slot on its own. Now your parrot is a certified pirate and can stash away its plunder in a treasure chest! Argh!
Ever wonder if a parrot can make itself go deaf from its own screaming? Do parrots hear better than humans? Do parrots have particularly sensitive hearing? Read on to learn about parrot hearing!
I'm surprised to learn that some people think parrots have sensitive hearing. I have observed this mindset a few times over the years so I would like to address it in greater detail.
For example in my "Shot My Parrot Dead" trick video on youtube, there have been numerous viewers objecting to me yelling at Kili when pretending to be mad. Vicky Abramowitz commented, "Cute trick aside. Why do you two knuckleheads have to shout? Parrots have sensitive hearing. Try to keep that in mind."
At least they don't think the parrot is actually dead like a thousand other comments but they are still misinformed about avian hearing. For those still questioning if the parrot really dies or not in the video, then be sure to check this analysis video.
I had researched bird hearing years ago when I began taking my parrots flying with me in airplanes. While it is recommended that people, and even dogs, wear hearing protection while flying in small piston airplanes, there is no option for parrots. I was interested in whether or not there was a danger to my parrots. I learned that it is not. However, with little information on the subject and continued discussions, I decided to share with you what I have learned.
So how does bird hearing compare to human? Not as good. First of all, birds lack a certain organ that helps funnel in sound waves into the ear cavity. What could that be? Oh yeah, external ears! Birds do not have those floppy things sticking out of their heads. I guess so much for my idea of making bird-earrings or glasses (birds have excellent vision so I guess they won't be needing them anyway). Birds lack external ears to be more streamlined for flight so that is already one hearing advantage that they lack.
Not only do birds lack external ears, their internal ears are actually covered by feathers. You can't normally see their ears and could almost think they don't even have any. However, when the feathers are parted, we can in fact see that birds do have ears. The feathers covering the ear openings help keep wind out while flying and reduce wind noise similar to a fluffy mic muff cover. However, this adds a further reduction in sound that reaches the bird's ear.
As we travel deeper inside a bird's ear, the next difference we can find is a more primitive ear structure. Like their reptilian ancestors, birds have just one inner ear bone called the columella (analogous to the stapes bone in mammals). One of the defining features of mammals that distinguishes them from reptiles is the evolution of a 3 boned ear structure featuring the malleus, incus, and stapes ear bones. This 3 boned ear structure allows mammals to have more sensitive hearing, particularly in the higher pitch ranges.
For this reason, parrot hearing is limited to the 200 Hz-8.5 kHz range while humans can hear in the range of 31 Hz-19 kHz. That means your parrot won't hear the deep bass notes and high pitch cymbal crashes in your music. However, they can hear just fine across the human vocal range.
Ornithology 3rd Edition Frank B. Gill, Page 193
What this chart shows is that birds, with the exception of owls, need sound volume to be louder in order for them to be able to hear it in the first place than humans do.
This means that a parrot cannot hear a watch ticking, a pin drop, or leaves rustling because they simply are not loud enough for them to be able to hear. Since their hearing drops off precariously in the high pitch range, this also means that high pitch sounds have to be very loud for them to hear them at all. But don't worry, before you start speaking loudly to your parrot like it's your grandfather, parrots can hear normal human speech at 70db just fine! A quiet whisper just meets their minimum hearing threshold.
Now what about noise, how much does it bother them? Not nearly as much as it bothers us! Besides the somewhat reduced hearing ability in birds, they are better equipped to handle noise. This should be no surprise to parrot owners. Why is it that when a parrot screams in your ear, you can go temporarily deaf in that ear while a parrot can scream all day without causing hearing damage to itself or the other parrots near it? It turns out that it has to do with the inner ear hair cells.
Hair cells detect the transmission of sound vibrations and turn them into an electrical signal that gets processed by the brain. Extreme noise or prolonged exposure to loud noise in humans damages these hairs and causes hearing loss. However, in birds these hair cells regenerate and return full hearing ability! "Most NIHL [Noise Induced Hearing Loss] is caused by the damage and eventual death of these hair cells. Unlike bird and amphibian hair cells, human hair cells don’t grow back. They are gone for good." (National Institute on Deafness).
And this all makes perfect sense. Humans as all mammals, evolved from small nocturnal ancestors who relied heavily on hearing for navigation and predator avoidance. This explains why birds have superior vision but mammals have the better hearing.
But what about parrots being able to hear and learn to mimic sounds so well? Just because parrots learn to mimic speech and sounds exceptionally well does not mean they have the best hearing apparatus. This is mainly coming from their brain. Parrots live in a different time scale than we do. They can see and hear quicker than we can! They can distinguish more sounds or sights per second than we can. Similar to how blind people can learn to listen and distinguish sounds better, parrots can take the lesser sound they hear and do more with it!
If loud noise bothered our parrots, they would try harder to evade that noise and also wouldn't be so noisy themselves. If my yelling act bothered Kili too much while making the Shot My Parrot Dead video, she would have simply flown off to a quieter part of the room. People don't give the animal enough credit for having the sense to be able to take care of itself. Saltyspirit made a good observation in the video, commenting "It's amazing how he doesn't mind him yelling."
But before you get the impression that I'm suggesting that you yell at your parrot, think twice! Not because I'm worried for your bird's hearing. No, it will be just fine. Because of your hearing! Giving your parrot the impression that you're into yelling too could encourage the parrot to join in. You on the other hand will experience hearing loss and unlike your parrot, your hearing won't restore itself.
In conclusion, parrots have less sensitive hearing, less hearing frequency range, better hearing perception, and innate protection against hearing damage. So use the Parrot Wizard approach to quieting your parrot down or invest in a good set of ear plugs.