It was great having a chance to present at Parrot Palooza again this year. My headline presentation was 5 Things you can do with your parrot today to improve your parrot's behavior.
Here is a brief summary of the talk followed by a video of the actual presentation.
#1 - Double up on toys
Parrots are extremely intelligent animals that get bored easily. They need a lot to keep them occupied. Otherwise they will find other ways to occupy themselves and these things generally don't mesh well with the household. If a parrot is out of the cage and bored, it may opt to fly around and chew on moldings, furniture, your keyboard or phone, and wreak havoc on a home.
Locked away in the cage, a bored parrot may be more limited in what it can get its beak on. If destroying toys isn't the go-to option, the next one will be destroying perches. However, when both of those are short to come by, their next favorite misbehavior tends to be screaming! Parrots love the sound of their own voice, which can be quite loud, and they can go on all day. Unlike you, parrots aren't prone to hearing damage or loss so there's nothing to stop them. When the screaming runs out, then parrots turn to feather plucking or self-mutilation. Once it starts, it is often difficult or impossible to reverse. Likewise, bad behavior is seldom untaught.
For these, reasons it is far more worthwhile to pile up the bird toys and shovel out hoards of splinters from the bottom of the cage than to leave the parrot to entertain itself. You will want about 8-12 toys in the bird's cage at any given time and 5+ perches to help them get around and get access to those toys. Not only do you need the quantity of toys, but also the quality. Find bird toys that will last your parrot about 2 weeks. That means that after about 2-4 weeks, there is nothing but the chain or rope left behind because the parrot destroyed all of the rest. Toys that last for less time are great too but you will have to keep replacing them frequently so it will get costly. Learning your bird's chewing abilities and habits will help you shop smart and find the toys that will be the right level of challenge to keep your parrot interested and chewing for a reasonable length of time.
Be sure to check out the selection of bird toys and particularly the Woodland Parrot line of artisan bird toys from the Parrot Wizard store.
#2 - 12 hours of sleep
It is very important to give your parrot 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep all year round. This not only ensures that your bird isn't misbehaving from being sleep deprived but also helps tone down the hormones. By reducing the effects of seasons, through variation in daylight cycles, you can largely reduce the highly undesired consequences of a hormonal parrot. A lot of biting, territorial aggression, excessive preference for specific people, and unpredictable mood swings can be curbed by managing the light schedule.
You can cover the cage with a black bed sheet when it is time for the parrot to fall asleep and until it is time to wake up. My preferred way is to have the bird room lights on a timer so that they turn on and off automatically to help control the bird's sleep schedule. Some black out curtains or automatic shutters on a timer are also important in order to keep the sun out when the natural daylight period is longer than 12 hours.
#3 - Provide a tree stand
A fantastic way to improve or maintain your parrot's behavior is to provide a tree stand or activity center for your parrot away from the cage. All too often, people allow their parrot to hang out on top of the cage or playtop. This breeds some pretty strongly undesirable behavior. Parrots tend to be territorial and weird around their cages as it is. And on top of the cage it only gets worse. With a tall cage it is difficult to reach the bird so it runs to the distant ends of the cage while you are chasing and it only makes things worse. Instead, having the daily routine of taking the bird to a remote playstand every day not only provides the parrot with something to do but also strengthens the bond.
It's important to provide an extensive, exciting, climbable tree stand with the ability to hang toys. A simple Training Perch or Tabletop Perch is not suitable for this particular purpose. Simple perches are great for the purpose of training or interacting with the parrot. However, when you wish to put the parrot down and for the bird to keep itself busy, a complete tree stand or activity center is required.
Now having a bare tree stand alone isn't enough either. Just like in point 1, double up on those toys! Don't let your bored get bored and revert to undesirable behavior. Outfit the tree stand with toys, ropes, swings, foraging opportunities, and as many things to do as possible. Don't fill the food bowls with food though! Fill them with foot toys and activities instead.
The Parrot Wizard line of NU Perch Climbing Trees provides tree stands ideally suited for this purpose! These, ready to ship online, purpose built tree stands are designed so that your parrot could actually get around on them and reach the toys and activities you set up. The Parrot Wizard Trees are highly customizable to assist you in creating a captivating out of cage experience for your bird! Explore the Parrot Wizard Lifestyle to further learn how you can use the complete line of Parrot Wizard products as behavioral bird furniture to perfect your parrot keeping experience!
#4 - Enrich with variety of foods
Keep your parrot engaged with a more interesting variety of foods. Mix things up and keep it entertaining. Now this isn't to say to feed your parrot unhealthy. It is very important that you research and determine a healthy staple diet for your parrot's well-being. About 50-80% of the diet will be for nutritional purposes. However, for the remainder of your bird's daily intake, providing alternative, fun, and interesting foods will enhance their behavior as well.
Rather than just giving your bird it's favorite treats all the time, holding them back and getting your parrot to explore an assortment of tastes will actually drive better behavior! The parrot will be kept more busy weaving through the different foods, picking and choosing, deciding what it likes and doesn't like. Getting favorite foods all the time just doesn't do that. And a great benefit of this is that the favorite foods will become even more effective treats for training.
Explore a variety of natural fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds for your bird. Not the typical seeds you see in a bird-store seed mix, but completely different stuff. Flax seeds, quinoa, sweet potato, papaya, and other exotic things like that. You can shop for some special mixes or come up with your own. But as you expand your parrot's pallet from just pellets + seeds to a wide variety, your bird will be more engaged and also drive a higher motivation for training. Which leads me to the 5th thing you can start doing to improve your parrot's behavior.
#5 - Clicker Training
Incorporating clicker training into your daily routine with your parrot will greatly improve your parrot's behavior in so many ways! First and most obviously, you can use clicker training to practice essential skills with your parrot such as step-up, handling, and flight recall. However, the benefits go far beyond just the basics. As you continue teaching your parrot more and more things, you will inadvertently be making the more basic things second nature.
In order to perform many of the tricks that you can teach, your parrot will inevitably have to step-up, be touched, or be in close proximity to hands in the process. As the parrot focuses on dunking the basketball or sorting colors, it won't even notice the proximity to hands or step-ups that it is doing while focused on a goal. This builds a much higher and more automatic level of good-behavior for general pet interactions with your bird throughout the day.
Not only does a daily training habit help build a relationship, it also helps the bird burn off energy in a productive way. Rather than screaming, getting overly amped up and biting, or becoming too destructive, by performing daily training you are having the bird spend energy in a beneficial rather than harmful way! It's a win-win. The bird learns good behavior and the bird is less tempted to engage in bad behavior simultaneously because it is more calm and relaxed after training!
Treat training as a necessary part of your daily parrot care routine. Just as it is important to change food, water, and cage papers, treat training as an equally simple, quick, and essential part of parrot care! Just a few minutes of focused training every day will go a long way in improving your parrot's behavior both directly and indirectly for life!
Grab a copy of my book, The Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots. It comes with a free bonus clicker and target stick to get you started right away! In addition, you'll want a Parrot Training Perch Kit as a comfortable platform for engaging in the training. Not only are the Training Perches going to make it easy to do the training, they will also help your parrot focus and be in the mood for training every day!
So, there are 5 things you can do to start improving your parrot's behavior! Of course, there is a bit more to it, but these 5 things are a great start. You can start making big progress toward having your perfect magical parrot keeping experience with these 5 things. I hope that this advice can help you improve your parrot's behavior and I hope that the Parrot Wizard supplies I came up with will aid you in making this parrot behavior be as simple to achieve as possible! Wishing you success.
Here is a video of my presentation at the 2019 Bird Paradise Parrot Palooza:
Everyone knows that bird stores sell birds, toys, food, etc., but here are some things you didn't know! Here are 8 bird store secrets that bird stores won't tell you exposed.
At the end of the article is a video of these bird store secrets being revealed at Bird Paradise in Burlington, NJ. But for those who prefer to read rather than watch, this article goes over those secrets in text form.
So here are 8 bird store secrets that bird stores won't tell you:
Secret #1 - Rugs have disinfectant on them
At least at Bird Paradise, they moisten the floor mats at the entrance down with a disinfectant solution to prevent avian diseases from hitching a ride into the store on the bottom of people's shoes. Who knows if those people have a sick bird at home or stepped in some wild bird poop on the way? Best to keep those shoes clean and disinfected before exposing the immune suppressed baby birds!
Different bird stores will have different measures or policies when it comes to preventing diseases. Not a bad idea to look into a bird store's policies and health guarantee on baby birds.
Secret #2 - Stores don't recommend bird shampoos
Bird shampoos don't serve a purpose. Unlike people and dogs, birds don't have hair so they don't need shampoo. In fact parrot's secret their own oils to serve as a conditioner for their feathers naturally so no shampoo needed. Stores sell those products only because customers keep asking for them.
Secret #3 - Food in bulk bins may be fresher than in packages
Some bird stores have a very high turn around on their bulk bin foods. Sometimes the food in the factory packaging is sitting around longer than the food in the dispensers or bins. On the other hand, at smaller stores it may be the other way around. Learn about package shelf life and keep an eye on what is being bought more at the cashier to ensure that you are getting the freshest food for your parrot.
Secret #4 - Don't feed sunflower seeds
Even though bird stores sell them, I have not been to a single bird store in recent years that actually recommends that anyone feeds them to parrots. Everyone with any experience in the bird world will tell you that sunflower seeds are not a suitable diet and in fact unhealthy for pet parrots. Why do stores still sell them? Some customers have older birds that were fed sunflower seeds their whole life and are set in their ways. Other times there are younger birds with older owners that are too set in their ways. If you're going to give sunflower seeds to your parrot, only use them as training treats in extreme moderation (hint if you don't have enough fingers to count them, it's too much).
Secret #5 - Save money by making your own toys
Your parrot needs a lot of toys and activities to prevent boredom, screaming, and self-mutilating behavior while in the cage. This is an important part of parrot ownership and you shouldn't short change the highly intelligent parrot on these activities. However, this can also get quite costly. You can save money by making your own bird toys whether you buy bird toy parts at the bird store or find your own (bird safe, non-toxic) alternatives. But, there's nothing like letting your feathered friend indulge in a nice retail toy every now and then!
Secret #6 - Boarding can be hazardous to your bird's health
Boarding your bird when you go away can be challenging. Options may be limited and it can get pretty costly. However, take caution because many bird stores that offer boarding have no precautions or health requirements and your bird could pick up an illness from another bird boarding there. Even with a treatable illness, the vet costs are astronomical and many diseases are only preventable but not treatable. Only consider boarding at stores or vet clinics that have health testing requirements. While it may seem like a costly burden to get your bird tested to be able to board, using a facility that mandates this from every bird will help keep yours safe.
Secret #7 - Out of season parrots are "leftovers"
There are specific breeding seasons that vary by species. Although some like conures and greys will breed year round, most parrots will breed a certain time of year. If you come at the right time of year for the specific species, you will be met with the biggest selection of babies and get to choose the one for you. However, if you come out of season you may not be able to find the species you are looking for. But, if you do find the species, it may be a leftover baby that was passed over by others for one reason or another. Sometimes it is because it has a nastier personality, poor feathering, or a physical abnormality. Other times it could be nothing wrong with the bird at all and just excessive supply and insufficient demand. But whatever the reason, if you take your time and start looking for your baby in the right season, you will have the best chance of finding the one for you.
Secret #8 - Don't get a bird on the spot, plan ahead
Getting a bird from a store shouldn't be a spontaneous decision. You want to take your time and plan ahead. If you start your search early, you will be there when the new batch of baby birds arrives and you will have the best chance to get to know them and pick the one for you. You will get first "dibs" and get to choose the one you want instead of being left getting one only because it is the last one remaining. Put a deposit down early to hold your spot in the line and get first choice on the baby that is right for you.
So there's 8 bird store secrets revealed. Feel free to share your bird store secrets in the comments. And watch this video of these bird store secrets exposed at Bird Paradise:
Come out to Bird Paradise October 12/13 2019 for the Bird Paradise Parrot Palooza and come to my free presentations, book signings, and Q&A.
Christine rescued an African Grey with major malnourishment problems and had to learn how to fix this bird's diet and nurse it back to health. As she started chopping away at loads of fresh vegetables, she learned that other people wanted some too and the Chop Shop was born.
Among many nutritional recommendations, Christine suggests that, "some of the best veggies are dark leafy greens. Any of the greens: carrot tops, beet tops... chard, bok choy, any of the fancy lettuces, the dark leafy greens have the most nutrients. And it's best for the parrots. It's lower in calories and so you can feed them more if you give them the dark leafy greens."
Some parrots tend to be deficient in calcium so Christine adds that, "you also need to feed, especially if you have an African Grey or a Cockatoo (one of the dusty birds), they need a diet that's higher in calcium. Broccoli is great, it's high in calcium. So is Kale, kale is one of top ingredients of what I feed my birds." Keep in mind that in order for the body to properly absorb calcium, Vitamin D is required. The most effective source of Vitamin D is natural outdoor sunlight so be sure to grab an Aviator Harness to get your parrot outside safely!
Christine believes that variety is very important both nutritionally and to keep the parrots entertained. Christine notes that, "the large majority of parrots have Vitamin A deficiencies. They need produce that's high in Vitamin A. The dark winter squashes: butternut squash, acorn squash... those are really high in Vitamin A. Cantelopes if they want something a little sweeter and carrots." What do all those Vitamin A rich foods have in common? They're orange! If your bird is Vitamin A deficient, you can look into feeding more of those orange veggies or get Christine's Mega A Blend that already has just that.
The way I understood it, the advantage of buying Christine's Chop Mix is that it comes with a massive assortment of veggies already in it. Even Christine agrees that feeding fresh is best. But there are plenty of reasons to buy the dehydrated of freeze dried chop mixes. Most notably is the included variety. If you only have one small parrot, buying some 25+ ingredients will get expensive and wasteful. Sure, if you have a huge flock to feed, you might go through it all. But on a small bird or small number of birds, it might be easier to get the benefit of the full variety by ordering your mix instead.
Christine says "I cannot preach enough how important variety is." This is why her chop mix starts with a 15-20% base of barley, quinoa, cooked dried beans, chia and flax seed, no more than 10% fresh seasonal fruits, 70-75% fresh, seasonal vegetables. Ingredients may include; kale and other greens, cabbages, bok choy, carrots, corn, peas, string beans, zucchini and yellow squash, cooked sweet potatoes, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, bell and chili peppers, jicama, radish, snow peas, brussel sprouts, assorted apples, papaya, assorted, seasonal berries and other seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Christine explains that the freeze drying process allows her to ship raw produce around the country while safely preserving it. She says that "when you freeze dry vegetables or produce your retain 97% of the nutrients and so that is considered raw."
Watch the complete discussion with Christine Wood both about her business and lots of tips on fresh feeding for your parrot. And check out what Christine has to offer at ChristinesChopShop.com.
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 donít 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.
During my recent visit to Phoenix Arizona, I took Kili & Truman in to see Dr. Driggers. His is the first exclusively Avian and Exotic veterinary clinic in the country to have a CT scanner. He took some time to tell me about the machine and how it works.
It's really fascinating. The scanner takes 720 images in the span of about 30 seconds. The computer reconstructs these images into a full 3 dimensional display of the animal. The doctor is able to look through the organs and bones without ever hurting or cutting the animal open in the process.
I decided to get Truman scanned to check on how his prior injury has healed and also to check just in case for new ones because he is very accident prone. So they gassed him for a few minutes to anesthetize him. They need the animal to lay perfectly still during the capture so that all of the images line up for the final 3D image. Then they laid Truman out on the bed of the scanner. A team of several vet techs works together to make the process go as quickly and smoothly as possible. They hyperventilate the bird prior to the scan and then stop the breathing during the scan. It's like holding your breath to go underwater. Everyone gets out of the room while the scanner is going. The moment it stops, they were already getting a stethoscope on Truman and checking his condition. Once the scan was complete, they used a hand pump to get him breathing room air again.
The analysis of Truman's bloodwork and CAT scan showed him to be healthy and organs in good shape. A 3D look at his skeleton showed that his original injury has healed well and is barely visible any more. On the other hand it also revealed that he has a slightly crooked keel and that he has busted his tail at some point. Nonetheless, these do not currently affect him but it's good to know what's going on. It is also reassuring to know that the previous injury has not worsened and that his organs look healthy.
I am glad to see the new CT scan technology moving along so well. I bet in a case where there is organ issues, something lodged inside the bird's gut, or a hard to locate injury, being able to use this CT scan technology will drastically improve avian medicine.
Since the Avian and Exotic Clinic is the first in the country to have a CT scanner and since Truman is their first ever Cape Parrot to be scanned, most likely this is the first and currently only 3D CT scan of the internals of a Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus fuscicollis). Check out this video of Dr Driggers explaining the technology and Truman, the first Cape Parrot to get CT scanned, showing us how it's done: