During my two recent trips to Ginger's Parrot Rescue in Casa Grande Arizona, I got to see first hand the winding story of the lost and found Galah. I was visiting the rescue on my first trip to help get things set up for the new facility grand opening event and then I returned in a week with my birds to give presentations at the event itself. While this was all happening, a mysterious Galah came into our lives.
On the cold rainy morning of February 21, 2019, while out shopping for supplies, Ginger received a phone call from a lady that spotted a parrot outside her window. She described the bird as being "grey with a red mane". Ginger was not completely convinced that it was a parrot and worried that it may have just been one of the feral lovebirds that are frequently spotted in the valley. Ginger asked the woman to text her a photo of the bird and the moment she saw the picture, Ginger knew right away that it was a Rose Breasted Cockatoo (Galah).
We dropped what we were doing and started to drive to Queen Creek. Already on the road, Ginger was instructing the woman who found the bird on how to try to catch it. By the time Ginger would get to the neighborhood, the bird could be long gone and impossible to find so it was very important to either catch or keep an eye on it. The woman called Ginger back and told her that she managed to catch the bird but that she was leaving in 15 minutes to the airport for a flight! She asked her mother-in-law to come over and wait for Ginger to come and pick up the bird.
Ginger was caught a bit off guard because she was out shopping and did not have a carrier to take the bird in. So, she stopped by a pet store and bought a carrier to be able to transport the found parrot in.
When Ginger arrived to the house, the mother-in-law was waiting and showed the bird being held in a laundry basket. Ginger swiftly picked up the bird and discovered that it was really emaciated by the protruding keel bone. She wasted no time in getting the bird an emergency visit at the local avian veterinarian.
Once the parrot was stabilized by the veterinarian, Ginger set about the task of reuniting the parrot with its rightful owner. At first, it seemed like a pretty easy task. Ginger came across a few lost Galah ads online and thought it was likely it was one of those peoples' bird. But pretty soon things started to get more crazy. Ginger's phone was going off all day with calls from people saying it could be their bird. To make things even more confusing, some people messaged and called which made Ginger feel even more overwhelmed as though there is an even greater number of people who think it is their bird.
Some of the potential owners were weeded out more quickly. For example, some stated that their bird had light eyes indicating that it is a female whereas the found Cockatoo had dark eyes indicating that it is a male. Other people were just way too far away, like out of state. Pretty quickly, Ginger narrowed down the list to just a few people that could legitimately be the parrot's owner. However, the bird was still in dire condition at the vet's office. It was still being given fluids and was weak and tired. It was unlikely that the owner would be able to recognize the bird because of how bad it looked and how sedate it was. Ginger had to postpone any meetings with potential owners until the next week in order to give the bird time to recover.
Ginger and I went to check up on the bird over the weekend and found it to be better but still pretty rough. He had started eating but looked tired and sedate. He seemed more indifferent to our presence than interested or scared.
A few days later Ginger got a call from the vet that the Cockatoo was doing better and was moved into the room with other boarding birds. However, the Cockatoo did not seem interested in other birds or people. At this point, Ginger started setting up meetings with some of the people who had recently lost a Galah to see if it is their bird. Ginger had those people come to the vet office to see the Cockatoo.
Ginger wheeled the cage into the visiting room and had the possible owner interact with the bird. Ginger was trying to see if the bird would make any known vocalizations, show a reaction, or step up for the person. Unfortunately the Galah was not responding to the people who would come to visit. In fact it would try to retreat to a distant part of the cage and absolutely would not step up. It was clear to both Ginger and the folks who came to visit that it was not their lost Galah.
I went back home to prepare to come back for Ginger's big event while Ginger continued the search for the rightful owner. Proving ownership of the bird was proving to be a difficult but important task. Without a microchip or leg band, there was no simple way to prove that someone owned the bird. Ginger was afraid that someone could lie that it is their bird so that they could claim and then sell it. This is why Ginger had to be a bit secretive and tricky in order to avoid any potential scammers. She asked callers particular questions that might help identify the bird.
With the bird in better condition and no owner found, Ginger had to take the Galah away from the vet and back to her rescue. She set up a large cage and continued feeding the bird well so he would regain weight. Ginger was becoming less optimistic about finding the original owner and was beginning to plan to search for an adopter once the 30 day owner search period was over.
I flew back to Arizona for the big event. This time in my airplane with wife, birds, and supplies. The new facility grand opening event and open house were a huge success. People from all over the Phoenix area came out to see the new rescue. Many of them marveled at the Galah and wished him a good home.
Then, one day before I was scheduled to depart, an incredible thing happened! Ginger got a call from a woman who was already on her way to pick her son up from school to come and see if it was their lost Cockatoo. When Ginger heard that they had lost their parrot 2 years ago, Ginger's optimism waned and she didn't want to waste their time. However, in half an hour they showed up at her door and were convinced there was a greater calling that brought them there.
From the moment they walked into the room, the Galah seemed to perk up. For the first time since we met him, he raised his crest. Not all the way, but it was more than any time prior (even when we tried to get him excited). He let out a few chirps but was otherwise pretty calm. Ok, he seemed alert but maybe it was just because of visitors and by now all the meds wore off. The boy went up to the cage and the bird did not seem scared. At first, the parrot just watched but soon he started to come closer.
The mom went over to the cage and showed a video of her son playing the harp. The bird seemed curious but for all we knew, it could have been curious about any music. But then he walked up to the edge of the cage and gave the mom a kiss! He had not made contact with anyone else including the vet, myself, and Ginger! Soon after, the bird was giving kisses to the boy as well. And before long, with the door open, the Galah came out all by himself! He stepped up onto the mother's hand and recognized his carrier that they brought with them. It was the bird that recognized and showed us who his owner was!
The family got the Galah, named Echo, as a baby and he was just 1 year old when he flew out of a window. He had been missing for 2 years. It was amazing that he had spent more than 2/3 of his life away from them but that they were the only people he responded to. However, after bring apart so long and growing up as such on his own, there would be a lot of work getting him back to being tame and good with people. So, I gave them a signed copy of my book, The Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots to help them rekindle their relationship. They took Echo home that night and he immediately recognized his cage and went to his favorite perch.
So if you or anyone you know has lost a pet, never give up! There is always a chance that it will come back to you. Here is the story of one such miracle of a Cockatoo that was lost for 2 years and ended up back with his family!
Although you may have seen glimpses of the various special features of my bird room throughout my videos, I have never specifically done a video that shows everything in one place until now.
I had my custom purpose built bird room put in when I moved from apartment to house. I selected the back of the house, immediately off the bedroom as the best location. This puts the birds on the quietest side of the house and furthest away from the street. Also by keeping them close to the bedroom it is actually an effective noise mitigation strategy. The parrots sleep more hours than I do so it is guaranteed that they are quiet when I am in bed. On the other hand, it puts the bedroom (and other rooms) between them and me during the day time when I might choose to spend time in the kitchen or living room without them. This places the greatest distance and most noise reduction for those kinds of times. Keeping the parrots away from the kitchen also reduces the danger of potentially toxic fumes.
While I occasionally get nasty comments about how I "just keep those parrots in the bathroom" there is only a hint of truth to that. No, they are not in a bathroom. The tile walls were deliberately built to contain the mess! However, the current cage room was formerly a stand alone bathroom and the big bird room was at some point a kitchen. I had the house plan reorganized and it made the dimensions of those kitchen and bathroom be perfect for setting up as bird rooms. However, nothing, not even the original plumbing remained when it was rebuilt entirely to become the bird room.
I had to have the electrically wiring run with outlets throughout the room to code. However, I had those lines shut off and tiled over to avoid having exposed outlets near birds or water. The only accessible power outlets are inside the closet which is closed when a bird is out unsupervised. The light switch was initially wired just inside the room by the door like a normal room but then immediately rewired to outside the room on purpose. This way there are no light switches inside the bird room. Instead, I can control the lights to both the big bird room and the adjoining cage room without setting foot inside. Further still, the lights are controlled by a timer so that the birds could maintain a more consistent schedule and receive a more natural tropical duration of daylight and darkness. This way, even if I am away from home, the birds can maintain their familiar schedule.
However, just turning the lights on/off at a specific time would not ensure that the birds are sleeping when they are supposed to. At different times of the year the sun rise would wake the birds before the lights would come on. So, I have a second timer that controls the motorized gates across both rooms windows. Thus in the early morning, although it may be light outside, it is still dark in the bird room and the birds don't go waking up the house and neighbors.
I have an outside door dividing the bird room from my bedroom because it is waterproof and provides greater isolation from drafts and noise than a regular door. The entire bird room is tiled and has a concrete floor with drain. The walls and floor can be hosed down and washed on a regular basis. Except for the cages, nothing else stands on the floor. All of the bird stands are hanging so that it is easy to wash underneath them. The bird stands hang using stainless steel cable and not chain so that the birds could not climb up the cable to the ceiling.
The bird room is divided into the main bird room and the cage room so that a bird could be left out all day while the others are in their cages. Since my birds are different sizes and can't be left out together, this is the most effective way to give them a chance to take turns enjoying the big room on their own.
There are two large sliding doors which reveal not only a closer but also a countertop and sink for washing bird bowls and bottles. Several more closets provide plenty of storage space for bird supplies. The air conditioner is covered by a custom built stainless steel cover to ensure that the bird cannot chew on the air conditioner and more importantly the wires. This also covers the dedicated thermostat. The bird room has its own heating zone so that I can keep the temperature independent and consistent for the birds. The heat comes from the floor which helps evaporate water after washing. The tiles help keep the moisture in so in the winter it is like a natural humidifier, keeping the moisture level more comfortable as well.
Here is a video tour to show you these various features of the Parrot Wizard bird room:
Now you are familiar with the layout of my bird room. Check out the whole line of Parrot Wizard trees and stands to help you create your dream bird room as well!
Happy New Year! 2018 has been such an exciting year with so much great Parrot Wizard stuff going on. I'm thrilled looking back at how much has happened in the course of 2018 and looking forward to what 2019 may bring.
I wish you and your flock success, health, happiness, and mutual harmony! Happy New Year to you your flock from the Parrot Wizard!
Here is a recap of some of the highlights of 2018:
I would like to extend a warm thank you to Andreas Zenger, Tor Arne Fallingen, Zac Marcus, Jack Lance, Lori Thorpe, Giovanna, Fletcher Hollingsworth for allowing me to be part of their events and visits! And I would like to especially thank all of my viewers, readers, buyers, followers, and friends for being a part of this whole 2018 Parrot Wizard experience. Thank you very much and have a Happy New Year!
Here's a Parrot Wizard 2018 Recap compilation video to sum it all up:
Step 2: Make sure that your parrot is fetch trained. If it isn't, teach it to fetch before you start teaching the darts trick. If it is already fetch trained, just do a quick review to remind it what to do.
Step 3: Desensitize the parrot to the dart board and darts. 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 dart board is to target it near the toy. Place the dart board 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 darts or it may get suspicious. Target it around randomly but little by little, more and more toward the dart board. Let the parrot pay more attention to the targeting exercise and forget about the darts until you are able to target it right by the board 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: The Birdie Darts trick comes with 3 magnetic darts. You can set two extra ones aside for now and just use one dart. Give the dart to your parrot from one hand and then present your other hand and ask it to fetch the dart to your open palm. Using a clicker, click when the bird drops the dart in your hand and give it a treat. Positive reinforcement goes a long way!
Step 5: Now it's time to teach the parrot to put the dart on the board. Hold your open hand in front of the dart board and ask your parrot to fetch the dart to your hand. Get the bird used to fetching the dart to your hand near the dart board.
Step 6: Continue having the bird fetch the dart to your open hand in front of the dart board, but now pull your hand away just before the bird drops the dart. When the bird is about to drop the dart into your hand, pull your hand back and away. The bird will end up dropping the dart straight down but the magnetic dart will grab onto the dart board. Click the clicker when the dart ends up on the board and give your bird a treat so that it realizes that the purpose is to put the dart on the board.
Step 7: Teach the parrot to make a bullseye by rewarding less frequently when the dart is placed far from the center. When the bird puts the dart closer to center than previously, click and reward. However, if the parrot puts the dart far from center, ignore. As the parrot learns to put the dart closer to the center, become more demanding by rejecting times when the parrot puts the dart further away. Eventually it can learn to make a bullseye with the dart on the dart board.
You can place all 3 darts on the table and have the parrot fetch all of them onto the dart board for a full game of darts!
Here's a short tutorial I made with Kili to illustrate the key steps of the process:
You can even have your parrot fly with the dart from far away like a long distance cruise-dart.
It's not only a thrill having my parrots fly in my yard, it's also great exercise for them!
Rather than a small free standing aviary, my entire yard is enclosed so that I could be there together with my parrots. This allows me full use of the yard space with or without the birds and it gives the birds a lot of space to fly.
Flying is by far the best form of exercise for a parrot. It not only works their wing muscles, but their entire body! They need to tuck their feet in, steer with their tail, adjust their feathers, user their mind, and of course breath and move blood quickly! It is only during flight that the parrots entire body is working up to its capacity.
However, don't expect that just because you put your parrot in a large enclosure that it will just fly. Parrots are generally pretty lazy and won't fly unless they really want to or there is danger. Of course in the wild, necessity is what gets parrots to fly many miles in search of food sources. At home, flight training using positive reinforcement will be the closest simulation to their natural ways while also building a bond with you.
Parrot Wizard Training Perches are the best way to get a parrot trained and accustomed to flying at home. Not only is it necessary to teach the parrot how to fly in a home environment but it is also essential to provide the physical therapy to get their muscles and systems strong enough to be able to fly effortlessly.
Then, the commands and methods used to train the parrot to fly indoors can be extended to large indoor spaces such as a gym or outdoors. However, it is imperative to have a back up safety measure when flying a parrot outdoors. When spooked, even well-trained parrots can fly away. So make sure that you do any outdoor flight in an aviary or with the use of an Aviator Harness as a safety net.
Although it may look effortless in the video, it is actually quite difficult to teach parrots to fly on command (especially outdoors). It takes weeks of consistent, and sometimes frustrating, training to get the parrots not only mentally in shape to fly but also physically. After a long winter restricted to indoor flying, it takes a bit of exercise before they can be good at flying longer distances again.
In this video, you can see how well Kili, Truman, and Rachel fly their daily exercise routines in my enclosed back yard flying area: