Marianna and I recently got to visit Steve Hartman from The Parrot University and learn about how the Aviator Harness is made. He took us on a personal tour of the production facility and shares with you in the video at the end.
This article is about how to make a bird harness in a professional way beyond just a nylon strap and some buckles. You will get to find out some of the hidden features of the Aviator Harness that you never knew about. Getting to see how the harness is made first hand, gave me an even greater appreciation of the product that I have been using and selling for years. Much more goes into making it than I had previously realized. Here are some things that you probably never heard about the Aviator Harness as it was pretty new to me as well:
It's all in the material. The strap material used to make the Aviator Harness is carefully chosen for a combination of strength and comfort. Not only has the company tested and rejected a multitude of materials, every batch of material is tested to conform to stringent standards.
Welded, not sewn.. I've known for some time that the Aviator Harness is "welded" but never truly understood what this means or why it is done this way. It turns out that they were originally sewn together but that the parrots would immediately go for the stitches and chew them out. The weld isn't exactly a weld. It's not like they take a hot torch or iron to melt the strap to itself. Instead, they have a special machine that vibrates a pin into the material so fast that it melts together locally. It's quite strange really. The machine does not apply heat. Instead, it uses the friction of the vibration to make the material melt itself. This creates a bunch of contact points that hold it all together that the parrot cannot separate.
One metal slide is all. There is only one point of adjustment on the Aviator Harness and that is the black metal slide. Not to be confused with plastic, the slide on the Aviator is made from black powder coated steel. I got to hold these in my hand and I realized that they are much heavier and tougher than they look. This would appear to be the single point of failure for a harness, but in all my years of using these harnesses, the slide is one part that never got damaged in the slightest.
Grooming is everything. They call it grooming but it's really just a process of smoothing everything out with a torch. There are naturally a lot of rough spots such as the ends, the welds, and contact points on the strap. Each strap is held up to a flame by hand to get it smoothed out wherever there is a rough edge. It might be hard to realize this with a finished harness in hand but when you feel how they come out before they are groomed, you would realize it would be quite uncomfortably poking the bird.
They're already stretched. The strapping itself is pretty firm, especially when scaled down for the smaller birds. I remember how I used to tell people to wash their new Aviator a few times before initial use to soften it up. Well, it turns out that now all of the Aviator Harnesses are per-processed to be ready for use out of the box. They are each stretched, shrunk, or washed as necessary to be soft and ready for use out of the box.
Each harness is tested. Not by a parrot but by multiple quality control checks built into the system. Because multiple different people are involved in the various stages of production, any mistakes or defects are caught early. There is virtually no chance that a bad Aviator makes it out to customers and breaks allowing the bird to fly away. They are pulled and checked over many times to make sure this does not happen.
They're made in the US. The Aviator Harnesses are made in the US by US employees. Steve employs local college students part time in addition to full time employees to produce the harnesses. He explained to me that he tried to have them made in China but that the quality was not sufficient or consistent enough to satisfy parrot owners. It is really important that each harness is safe and works out of the box but with outsourced manufacturing, it just wasn't possible to control this. So, the Aviator is put together in the US for the highest quality standards.
It takes a long time to make. By the looks of it, you'd think it could be made in a few minutes but that is not the case. There are over 20 steps in making an Aviator Harness. Multiply that by 8 sizes and 7 colors and that is a heck of a lot of steps! As the harnesses are produced, they can spend over a month moving from station to station to go through the various stages before they are finally packaged and shipped. If you wanted to make one yourself, it would take a really long time and even then, you would not have access to the specialized machinery and would have to compromise the quality. Basically, it would not be worth spending the kind of time it would take to make one from scratch.
I learned another secret during my visit, the price of the Aviator Harness is about to go up on November 1. If you don't have one or need another, order now before the price goes up worldwide at every store (including mine).
I have to say, I was genuinely impressed with how the Aviators are produced. A lot of thought, experience, and care for the parrots' welfare has gone into how they are made. It was a pleasure getting to meet Steve and his wife Judy. I'm as proud as ever to be one of the biggest vendors of the Aviator Harness in the United States. Every size and color is available for the lowest price at ParrotWizard.com. Also, please check out my own, personally made, support products such as my Training Perches, Book, and Harness Training DVD.
Here is a video of Steve showing Marianna the process of making an Aviator Harness for Parrots:
The weekend of September 9/10, 2017 was an exciting, action filled, time at Todd Marcus Birds Exotic in Delran, NJ. The exotic bird store held its biggest sale of the year during the 34th Anniversary event. Parrot enthusiasts came from near and far to partake in the festivities.
Face painting, free food, shopping, bird shows, and inflatable jumping pits for kids were just some of the featured activities. It seems that for most, the biggest highlight of the event was the social atmosphere. Folks sat around the store with baby birds in their arms while chatting with everybody.
I was invited to hold bird shows, provide education, and showcase Parrot Wizard brand products. Kili, Truman, and Rachel helped me debut my new Parrot Wizard NU Perch Tree line.
Since my performance area was outside, I kept all of my parrots harnessed for safety. Not surprisingly, they were not scared and handled very well. They have a lot of experience at even more bustling places. However, it is better safe than sorry, so they remained harnessed the entire time.
This presented a slight challenge for Kili. Since she was the main star of the tricks show, she had to get around the table while dragging the leash behind her. It would have been no trouble at all except that she always manages to twist herself up in it. She always turns in the same direction, so with time it gets twisted up and I have to help her fix it. Otherwise, she has no trouble doing all of her tricks including bowling, color matching ring toss, and her baby stroller routine.
I did not want to burden Kili with too many trick performances because we had to pace ourselves for 10 shows in 2 days. I tried to alternate other birds and talks in order not to overwhelm her. Well, she did all her shows and still had plenty of energy left to do more. I could hardly hold her back from jumping on the table and running to do tricks if she had the chance. She could have easily done even more than she was asked to.
I found a good role for Truman as well. While Truman is a bit boneheaded when it comes to doing tricks, he has grown to be a pretty reliable talker in public. He knows how to say "Hey Cutie," "Kili," "Truman," and gives kisses on command. For 6 years, "Hey Cutie" was Truman's signature phrase. He was the only parrot that could say something long and cute on command. Well, a few months ago Kili learned to say "Hey Cutie" as well. The whole time Truman was supposed to be talking, Kili would echo anything he would say but louder and with greater clarity. Kili tries to be best at everything!
Truman was good for a while but then he shut down. He almost fell asleep during one of the shows and then was seen with his eyes closed shortly after. Truman doesn't care. He can sleep through anything. Once he wants to do something, he just does. I guess it's just a Cape thing.
Rachel spent most of her time in the "showroom." She sat around on the newly released Large NU Perch Tree to show how luxurious and sturdy it is. She spent the better part of 2 days straight harnessed on that tree and did very well. She was a bit nervous about the kids bouncing in the inflatable gym nearby. But as the day went on, she got comfortable and enjoyed her new perch paradise. These trees are now available on ParrotWizard.com.
It was a pleasure getting to meet many fans at the event and sign so many books! And if you live in the NJ, PA, NY area and did not make it, there's always next year! Come see the Parrot Wizard at the Todd Marcus 35th Anniversary Event in 2018.
And finally, here's a video recap of the wonderful time we had at the event:
You are thinking of getting a parrot but you don't have any local stores, breeders, or rescues to consider so you turn to the internet. But, the internet is a mine field of scams. How do you find an internet vendor of parrots that will actually deliver a bird to you and isn't trying to scam you? Well, this article is about how to spot parrot scams on the internet!
I'm not going to get into how to find a good companion parrot or even the arguments for rescues vs baby birds. I'm going to focus specifically on avoiding internet scams that will run with your money and leave you empty handed entirely. Finding a good breeder or rehoming situation is a whole other topic.
Of course the absolute best way to avoid getting scammed online is not to get your parrot online. Any opportunity to find a parrot locally or even going somewhere far to see it in person makes for the highest chance that you won't get scammed. But if you have no choice but to deal with a breeder/seller remotely, here are 10 of the most common signs that a parrot breeder is really a scam!
1. The seller is not knowledgeable about parrots! Presumably a breeder or even someone rehoming their parrot should know some basic things about it. However, if they are talking complete nonsense or have major inconsistencies, it's likely a scam. It starts with the text in the listing talking about an entirely different species than the one depicted. The text appears combined from different sources/writers. Often times, the scammer does not even write the text but just copies it from other websites. If you copy/paste some text from the listing and find it on other sites, it's a scam. Also, keep an eye for similar inconsistencies or copying in the text of emails sent from them as well.
2. They are selling eggs! If someone claims to be selling parrot eggs on the internet, they are a scammer! Real parrot breeders sell live birds and not eggs. You cannot buy a parrot egg from someone, have it delivered to you, and pop a parrot out of it. Furthermore, legitimate breeders don't sell eggs that way. Even if you are thinking of purchasing a live baby parrot from a breeder, the presence or claim about selling eggs on their site or listing means it is a scam.
3. Using common pictures off the internet! A real breeder or someone rehoming their parrot should be able to provide an abundance of real pictures of the same bird. Scammers are often so lazy and incompetent that they copy one of the first pictures they find on a google search. Often times, these are pictures of well known celebrity parrots. If you can do a google search and find the same image on other websites, then you are witnessing a scam. The seller should be able to provide you with pictures from different angles of the exact same bird. And if you see any of my parrots in the listing and it is anywhere but my website, it is most certainly a scam!
4. Online communications only! If the seller insists on communicating to you only by email or via the messaging portal on a website, it's totally a scam. Legitimate breeders will talk to you on the phone and you will be able to get a sense of their experience in talking with them. Scammers don't know much about parrots so they can best hide this by cleverly putting together written responses at their leisure. Often times, these responses are copy/pasted responses they had previously written or that they copied entirely off the internet. Most of the scammers are from overseas so they can barely speak English and would not be able to talk to you on the phone. Insist on chatting on the phone before ever committing to an online purchase of a parrot.
5. Rush sale! Parrots are rarely available for immediate purchase from a real breeder. Since the breeding is seasonal, there are many months of the year when the breeder could not sell you a parrot. By the time the breeder has available breeders, they are usually already reserved by buyers from the low season. It is very rare that you can contact a breeder and get a bird immediately. You will usually have to wait for months or even a year for your baby to be laid, hatched, raised, and weaned. So, if the seller claims immediate availability of baby parrots, be suspicious. If the seller rushes you and tries to get you to make a quick decision and payment, it's a scam. A real breeder will give you time to think and decide about getting a baby and then after a deposit, you will be the one waiting for it to be ready.
6. Fake testimonials! Most real stores, breeders, and sellers of parrots couldn't be bothered to post testimonials on their website. They understand that anyone can post a bunch of fake testimonials on their site and nobody will fall for that. They are too busy raising real birds, because after all this takes a lot of effort, and promote their reputation by their results. You should be able to find mentions of that breeder on public parrot forums, social media, and other places online and not just read fake glowing testimonials on their page. On the other hand, by searching the internet for the seller's name or alias, you might be able to come across others who already mentioned that this seller is a scammer. Ask the seller if they could get one of their past customers to call you and tell you about the baby rearing experience. A scammer surely won't be able to provide that.
7. Worldwide shipping! It's hard enough shipping parrots to new owners around the US. Claiming to ship all over the world is most like a scam, particularly if the breeder doesn't even claim to be located in the US. The cost and complexity of shipping parrots between countries is so high that it isn't worthwhile to most breeders. In fact, the cost would be so much, that you would not end up agreeing to it. However, if someone is trying to convince you that they will ship a parrot to you from another country and it won't cost a crazy high amount of money, it's a scam!
8. Seller is outside the US! Most, but perhaps not all, of the parrot seller scams originate outside of the US. If the seller claims to be outside the US, don't even go there. If the seller claims to be in the US or does not make it clear where they are located, further investigation is certainly necessary. Try to find out where the seller is. Ask what city they are in. Offer to come and pick up the bird yourself (even if you will end up having it shipped) to see how uncomfortable the seller is with this idea. If the seller absolutely refuses for you to pick the parrot up in person, it is most likely a scam. Check if the business and website domain are registered in the US. If they are not, it is a scam. Poor English, misunderstanding of US geography, and strange time of emails (coming from a remote timezone) are also signs of a foreign scammer.
9. Requiring a money transfer by anonymous means! If the seller requires you to send money via a western union or similar transfer, it is definitely a scam!!! Legitimate sellers will accept or even insist on a personal check, cashiers check, credit card, or paypal payment. These can be traced as well as stopped. There are buyer protections when paying by credit card or paypal. These are useless to a scammer. If you are getting close to the payment part of your negotiations with an online parrot seller, insist on using a payment method like paypal and see their reaction. If they are completely against it, run for the hills cause it's a scam! Gift cards, bitcoin, money orders, and other anonymous payment methods all smell scammy the same way.
10. It sounds too good to be true! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true! If you come across a seller that claims to be selling a parrot species that you know is typically much more expensive, they are probably claiming a low price to trick people into their scam. A typical scam is an offer of a free parrot where you only have to pay for the shipping. Watch out for very exotic/expensive species being offered for cheap. This just doesn't usually happen. There is a pretty high demand for baby parrots so a breeder just isn't going to appear desperate to sell you a bird. If you are offered a cheap, quick, easy, exotic, unbelievable sale on a parrot, it's a scam!
So there you go. Ten ways to avoid falling victim to common internet parrot scams. Be smart. Look for clues. Ask unique questions. Take your time! You'll be well on your way to finding a legitimate parrot breeder and get the bird you really paid for.
Ever been scammed by a parrot vendor? Leave a comment so that others know scammers to avoid.
I visited the Gabriel Foundation outside of Denver recently. This is a spectacular parrot rescue that should serve as a role model not only for other rescues but even stores and private owners as well!
The Gabriel Foundation was started by Julie Weiss Murad over twenty years ago. The foundation is more than just a rescue. It is a parrot welfare center. They take in relinquished birds, they find homes and adopt out birds, they rescue abused birds in emergency need, and the provide lifelong sanctuary to birds that cannot be adopted to homes. But their efforts extend beyond the birds. They offer educational programs, assistance, and volunteer opportunities to people so that they could become better connected with their parrots.
I found several things extremely impressive during my brief two day visit to the Gabriel Foundation. The most noticeable thing is how incredibly clean everything is! The cages there are cleaner than those at any bird store, rescue, or even most private homes I have ever visited. And I know parrots well enough to tell you that it's not because the parrots aren't making a mess. It's the endless cleaning efforts of the staff that make this happen.
Every cage is filled with a multitude of perches and toys suitable to the parrot enclosed. Again, a better and more suitable effort than even many parrot owners in their home. The same holds for the feeding routine. They feed an extensive variety of foods on a twice daily schedule with proper portion sizing.
Perhaps the most impressive thing of all is that none of the parrots have their wings clipped! You cannot find a store or almost any other rescue where the birds don't have their mobility hindered for the convenience of the care takers. Yet, at the Gabriel Foundation, the birds are given the chance to be birds! Off the bat this ends up solving many of the problems that the birds may have been relinquished to the rescue for in the first place. Most parrot behavioral problems come as a side effect of wing clipping and the owner's misunderstanding of how to properly keep a bird.
One more thing that the birds at the Gabriel Foundation get that most other rescue, store, and even home pet birds don't is outside time with access to direct natural sunlight. This is as important for the birds' mental well-being as it is to their physical health. I am so impressed to encounter such a large scale organization that really gets it. The Grabriel Foundation is doing things right. They are not taking any shortcuts. They are providing the birds in their care with the kind of care the bird's should really be receiving in a home. Things are almost too good to be true and begs the question, why even adopt a parrot from the Gabriel Foundation if they have it so good there?
Well, according to Julie, the parrots are better off in a home because of the greater human contact. These parrots were domestically bred and raised in homes with people. Although they might have a grand time in aviaries with other parrots of their species, ultimately, they are more comfortable in the human environment in which they were brought up. The Gabriel Foundation simply offers those birds the best possible interim solution until they can find the right home. This also frees up a space at the foundation so that another parrot in need could have the opportunity to make it through the system as well.
By setting the standards so high and so right at the Foundation, it makes it a bit challenging for adopters to meet those kind of standards. The good news is that they are not without help. The foundation goes through great lengths to educate and assist adopters as much as they require so that they could continue the wonderful legacy that the Foundation had started.
I have to say that most times I visit a parrot store or rescue, I end up leaving with a painful feeling in my gut. I get quite upset at the dark, dirty, insufficient perch, insufficient toy, clipped, and ignorant conditions that I come across. Frankly, I tend to avoid visiting stores and rescues to shield myself from the distress that they cause me over the treatment of the birds. Coming to the Gabriel, I had heard good things, but didn't really know what to expect. Incredibly, it was the exact opposite of the typical experience. I would like to encourage any parrot owners, bird store owner, breeder, or rescue staff/volunteer visiting the Denver area to pay the Gabriel Foundation a visit and learn about how good parrot care and parrots themselves can be.
Ginger's Parrots Rescue is following a similar model but on a smaller scale and specifically focused on Senegal Parrots and Cockatiels in the Phoenix area.
Here's a video tour of a portion of my visit to the Gabriel Foundation:
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: