Parrot Blogger - Sam Williams

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Sam received support from the World Parrot Trust to research the Yellow-Shouldered Amazons on Bonaire.

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December 19 2011

Even Fat Parrots Need Help

by Sam Williams


Unlike Fat Sally, Kota had never tried to convince himself that he had big bones. He had tried to hide his growing proportions, but it was clear to him that he was getting fat. He took to sitting with his feathers fluffed up all the time. It was a bit like wearing ever-baggier T-shirts and yes it sort of worked, at first.

It wasn’t long though before his growth was so considerable that bare skin emerged from between his dull feathers. The low slung under carriage that drooped between his legs grew and grew, as did “the padding” on his hips. Soon he altogether stopped looking like a parrot and started looking rather more like a giant bell.

Kota was fat, it was obvious and he didn’t like it. His liver too was in terrible shape, possibly worse then an alcoholics he said. Sadly poor Kota was powerless to do anything about it. All he was fed were those delicious, oily and addictive sunflower seeds. They were like a dieters nightmare encased in a cute black and white striped suit. It goes without saying that Kota’s living conditions were so diabolical that there was never a hope of him getting exercise.

It was as though Kota came from Houston. He ate too much fatty food and he never got any exercise. This situation is unfortunately normal for many people in Houston and it is normal for many parrots on Bonaire. Kota weighed about twice the weight he should have. So it was like a handsome Spanish man who might typically weigh 75 kgs (150lbs) actually weighing 150kgs or 300lbs.

Kota became so fat that his bell-bottom couldn’t hold any more and so another rather more unsightly fatty lump grew on his neck. It was a grotesque double chin and Kota thought it made him look like a Turkey. For any parrot, and parrots Dear Reader as you know are second only to the great apes in terms of intelligence and rather more beautiful besides, to be treated this way was a humiliation.

Sadly for Kota, he was like a turkey and at best he could only waddle along. It seemed there was no hope of him ever flying again. In a strange way Kota was glad that the lump appeared and grew on the front of his neck. He had been having trouble perching and the weight on his neck helped balance that hanging on his behind. It did however mean there was even more weight on his feet.

Poor Kota had terrible feet problems. His ancestors had evolved over millions of years to perch on the branches of trees and yet here he was on a metal perch with a uniform diameter. Whenever he climbed down the rusty cage wire to the floor of his home the joints of his feet hurt as they arthritically flattened and stretched out.

From the floor of his cage Kota would occasionally see wild parrots as they flew past shimmering in the sunlight. Seeing the wild parrots inspired Kota but at the same time it left him utterly depressed and dejected, as he knew there was no hope for him. A wild parrot may live for over 40 years but the chance of Kota getting past 10 were incredibly slim. Truth be known in these moments Kota actually wished he was a Turkey.
Kota wished he was a turkey, especially at this time of year, because he knew then there would be a good chance that some human or other would end his misery and roast him. This poor Kota believed was the only hope of changing his miserable life.

Dear Reader you will of course be aware that it doesn’t have to be this way. You may not however be aware that you can help Kota. You can change Kota’s life and many other parrots like him. With your support the Echo team will be able to provide veterinary care for these incredible individuals who have no option to choose a better life. Fatty lumps like Kota’s can be removed with a simple surgery. In addition our charming Spanish vet Jon will be able to discuss with parrot owners how they could improve the care of their pet parrots. With your support the Echo team will be able to make repeat house visits to ensure these parrots are getting the good care they deserve.

Please visit and help birds like Kota by donating today.

(Donations are US tax deductible).

Does Kota's bum look big to you?

Please donate today and help improve the care of pet birds like these and also injured wild birds

Posted by Sam Williams on 12/19 at 12:09 PM
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December 06 2011

Life goes downhill for Sid and Marvin

by Sam Williams


Sid was the youngest and possibly the most adorable of the parrots rescued on July 1st. In the past five months he had changed from a tiny pink bundle of joy into the one of the most handsome of birds. His condition was tiptop and his glossy green feathers shimmered in the light. He was, too beautiful.

Marvin had arrived starvin’ a little later in the year. The Echo team’s diligent care of the poor bird had produced a pleasantly plump parrot. Marvin too, was a most handsome and eligible young chap.

In many respects Sid and Marvin lived enchanted lives. Each morning and afternoon they were served freshly chopped fruits and vegetables. As young parrots they were still being fed by hand with a delicious gloop of nutritious baby parrot food. Their home was cleaned daily and fresh branches were provided three or more times each week. They were kings.

The afternoon of November 14th was typically sunny. Sid and Marvin had been growing agitated because the humans had been reducing the amount of delicious baby food forcing them face the indecency of foraging for themselves. This afternoon, they reassured each other, things would be back to normal. So it came as quite a shock when the human brought the afternoons 16 dishes to be distributed among the parrots and parakeets but then turned and left without serving the young kings their baby food.

“An oversight for sure” Sid told Marvin, but he was wrong. The next afternoon the very same thing happened. This continued and it became clear to the young kings the good times were through. No sooner has this dawned on them then construction work began. Great sheets of plywood were fastened to the aviary preventing the parrots from seeing the nice humans as they arrived to serve the endless dishes of food. Dear Reader do not be concerned it not as though young Sid and Marvin are now in a box. The entire other side their large aviary is open to views of the surrounding habitat.

They waited to see how the humans would deliver their food dishes now. It was funny because they knew the food wood arrive in a bowl as it always had done. Just as one supermarket is pretty similar to any other supermarket, but still when the food arrived through the new little slot for feeding dish they just had to check it out for themselves.

Sid and Marvin thought it was a terrible shame that they couldn’t use their relatively large eyes to watch the human approach their palace. Dear Reader you will no doubt know that parrots, like most birds, have incredible vision. Not only can they see full colour but they can see the ultraviolet light too. The shimmering feathers of a boy parrot may look the same as those of a girl parrot to our human eyes but to them, the difference is couldn’t be clearer.
Parrots like pigeons have their eyes on the sides of their head allowing them to spot predators from afar. I’m sure you’ll agree Dear Reader that while pigeons of course deserve to be eaten parrots like Sid and Marvin should remain sacred and never be preyed upon.

Unlike parrots the Merlin and Peregrine falcons that find their way to Bonaire each winter without the need for a jet plane, have heads that are quite wide. This enables bifocal vision and brings great accuracy to their hunting. If in doubt about the value of bifocal vision we suggest you close one eye and try and touch a specific point some way in front of you (but obviously within reach!). Merlin’s and Peregrines are of course the birds that eat pigeons. What’s more they are now flying above and around Bonaire in great abundance and if you are on the island and you’d care to use your myopic human eyes you’ll easily be able to spot one.

Dear Reader we must get back on track. The reason Sid and Marvin found themselves closed off and excluded is because they are in a cage and the Echo team would like for them, or anybody else to be free. Sid and Marvin of course were not aware of the Echo team’s intentions and so when the human entered the aviary to clean the aviary they flew down to say hello. In that same moment a tremendous noise could be heard. Sid and Marvin looked at each other in bewilderment and fear. For a passing moment Sid thought that it might just be yet another Icelandic volcano erupting, only this time on Bonaire. Similarly Marvin wondered whether the Mayan calendar, and indeed the crazy Hollywood movie they’d watched the other week were true. Was the world coming to an end?

The terrible noise continued for some moments. The human continued with his cleaning task. Sid and Marvin were terribly afraid and they realised the human must not be aware the world was ending. Very quickly the human left the aviary and as the door closed the noise ended. The young kings were puzzled and they thought about the world ending long into the night.

The next morning the food dishes were served as normal. The parrots ate, they played a little, they digested and all too soon it was afternoon again. Sid and Marvin were expecting the afternoon dishes to be served with the dedicated tedium the parrot team know all to well but instead a human entered the aviary and suddenly the world started to end once more.

Sid and Marvin quickly decided they didn’t like humans anymore. The humans didn’t bring them their food dishes anymore they just arrived through the slots and whenever the humans were there the world nearly ended. It was as thought the humans were a bad thing. Sid and Marvin decided they would stay well away from humans from now on.

Hopefully Dear Reader this will indeed be the case. Once we are absolutely adamant that Sid, Marvin and the other parrots have a healthy dislike of humans it will be possible to release them back into the wild on Bonaire. It has been a long journey to reach this point and only possible thanks to incredible donations and funding Echo has received. Huge thanks go out to our supporters.

Posted by Sam Williams on 12/06 at 10:36 AM
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November 22 2011

Another broken parrot

by Sam Williams

Above the circle are two white lines running down to the left. These are either side of the bone, like railway tracks. Inside the circle it is possible to see where the bone is broken.

No sooner had the last parrot news been sent to the press then it was out of date, old news and incomplete. Inconceivably yet another broken bird has joined the Echo flock. So rather than get back to news of Sid’s development or Marvin’s mischief we must share the Nigel’s tale.

It was sunny early morning on the island on Bonaire. Parrots flew from one degraded area of their habitat to another. Some even ventured into urban areas to find delicious fruits to fill their bellies with.
Nigel was one of these parrots and he was flying with Maggie a wonderful parrot whom he adored. Nigel was just an average parrot, a little bit grumpy at times but really just normal. There was nothing that made him stand out from other birds in the flock. By contrast Maggie was intelligent and at times rambunctious.

Nigel often wished he had something special about him so he could seduce this lovely girl parrot. He wished he had Spanish flair or that he knew more about being a real man parrot so he could win her over. He was flying along thinking exactly this and then suddenly but slowly he woke up in pain, dazed and confused. His left wing hung limply and he was on the ground. He had no idea what had happened. It was very odd and he tried to make sense of it. The last thing he could remember was flying with Maggie. “Oh no, where’s Maggie” he thought. The girl he adored was nowhere. Had he flown into a telegraph wire? Had he hit the side of a house? He just didn’t know.

The rest of the day passed in a blur. He was collected by one of the Echo team and taken to Parrot HQ. Nigel was a wild parrot so he didn’t exactly see it this way but he was very lucky to meet Jon the charming vet, from Spain. It was early on a Saturday morning so Jon felt great empathy for Nigel because he too was in pain, dazed and confused.

Nigel’s grumpiness came out in full flair as he was being carefully checked over, and even more so after he received painkillers. Nonetheless Nigel was given first class treatment. His health was generally good but there was a risk of deterioration so his poo was collected. Later it was checked studiously under the microscope generously made available at CIEE. It was determined that Nigel had too many yeast and so that too was treated. Of course the parrot team did not know Nigel’s name was, uhm, Nigel and so as result of his cantankerous nature he was given the best of the many bad names that were suggested and called Thatcher.

An X-ray was made and it was confirmed that Thatcher’s (That’s Nigel in case you are skim reading) humerous was broken. This of course is not very funny. The humerous (in the upper arm) of a human is a relatively long bone. Birds, however, fly and so their humerous has to be short and strong to handle the immense forces required to move their wings. If a man was to have the same relative amount of muscle that a bird has for flight, his pec’s (or breast muscle) would protrude a meter out in front of him. Just to be clear Dear Reader, a male human was used in the above example not because they are the only sex that can be muscley. Goodness no, we don’t see it that way but it has occasionally been brought to our attention that female humans have mammary glands which are the very essence of being a mammal and therefore not a bird and so a female human seemed a little less suitable for this example.

Anyway Dear Reader let’s refocus and consider another of the other incredible adaptations birds evolved in order to fly. Possibly most obvious of these is the keel on a bird’s breastbone. This can be seen after the consumption of any (preferably free-ranging, grown on organic land, able to lead a happy life) chicken. The keel simply provides a location for the many breast muscle fibres to attach themselves. Carnivores such as lions have a similar keel, the sagittal crest, on the top of their head to attach their powerful jaw closing muscles.

Days passed and Thatcher found himself immensely frustrated. He was stuck in a cage, his life and any possibly of seducing Maggie were over. Jon was equally frustrated because if there had been the right veterinary equipment on the island he could have operated on Thatcher and given him a much greater chance of being able to fly again. Jon of course had been similarly frustrated with Bruce’s situation. There undoubtedly would be other broken birds arriving and naturally there would be many other uses for the finely tuned and very accurate gas machine needed to anesthetise parrots. And so Dear Reader we will have to think of a way to make this possible for it is a shame and a frustration that the parrots of Bonaire should get anything other than the very best in terms of care and attention.

Please take a look and find out more about the various wild, rescued and broken birds the Echo team are caring for on our regularly updated facebook page

Posted by Sam Williams on 11/22 at 04:55 PM
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November 08 2011

Parrot news resumes

by Sam Williams


There has been an immense interruption in the stream of news from Parrot HQ and we wish to immediately apologise and now address that matter. So long has this interruption been that we fear rumours may have begun to spread!

Do not worry Dear Reader if you had heard concerns that the parrot rescue had become altogether too much for the team. You would be pardoned if you thought the endless and tiring tedium of providing outstanding care was too much. But goodness no dishing up twice daily servings of fresh fruit, seed and water; a daily serving of baby food by hand for the youngsters; daily sweepings of the aviary; fresh branches entertain and educate; opportunistic aviary extensions and more is a pleasure for us. In truth those who continue to care for the loras and prikichis actually have no concept of fatigue. So relentless are the efforts of Jon, Tineke, Marian, Andrea, Catherine and Jenny in preparing the parrots for release it has been considered inhumane, but only for they themselves.

Alternatively you may have feared we had ditched the parrots and eloped to a warm tropical island to live out our dreams with the funding we worked so hard to secure for these birds. This too is a thought that must be banished. The team don’t have to elope because we’re here on Bonaire and doing the conserving of parrots that is our dream!

And so with tales of desertion dispelled we can rapidly recover from this relapse with an update on all those concerned. If you get confused with the many names you may wish to look back at earlier updates for background on who’s who and who’s not.

Release birds Isla and Johan continue to visit the release site from time to time, as do a few truly wild parrots. They are clearly flourishing now they are no longer in tiny cages and they are a testament to the success of the earlier releases. The absence of Monty we take to be an even greater indication of success, as we believe he has integrated into the wild population. Only time will tell and we hope that one day we’ll spot him while out doing our monitoring work.

Al and Sue continue to visit the nest box home from which they fledged four deliciously plump babies. All four chicks are doing well and much like a distressed dieter they can be heard issuing demands for food on a regular basis. The 2011 breeding season for Bonaire’s endangered parrot was so good, thanks to the preceding and persistent rains that this wonderful “ger ger ger” noise can be heard all over the island.

Of the rescue parrots the oldest, Bo Peep, was plucked from the aviary when she started to bully the younger parrots. This upset released parrot Harry who’d been hanging around outside the aviary passing amorous glances in her general direction. Harry’s disappointment was so great when Bo Peep was temporarily moved to the Echo team’s veranda that he flew over and climbed straight into the cage the moment the door was opened. They will soon be re-homed in their own aviary while out of shape Bo Peep is readied for release. There is much work to do with the parrot aviaries and the wait for theirs has been at least as long a wait as when one goes to pay at the supermarket here on Bonaire but not quite as long as when paying your water bill.

All but the youngest rescued parrot chicks have been enjoying life in the parrot aviary. The team have been out foraging on behalf of these birds, bringing them branches of wild plants bearing fruit. Many including Twiggy are now weaned but some, Ruby in particular, continue to request as much hand feeding mixture as they can get.

Sid, Marvin and the insatiable Miss Piggy are the youngest three parrots and until recently they were in a separate aviary, “The East Wing”, getting two feeds a day. Such privileges have now ceased and worse still they’ve now been forcibly moved from the luxurious East Wing to the main parrot aviary.

The three Amigos who arrived in bits and pieces following the July 1st rescue have had mixed fortunes. Biscuit’s broken leg has healed well and he will walk with only a slight limp. It turned out that the German shepherd that cuddled Perry (with his toothy mouth) had done no damage and he too, Biscuit that is, is in good shape. Both these birds arrived as mature but un-weaned wild chicks. Feeding them was a real test of nerves, as they clearly dislike humans. Now they are weaned we cannot wait to get them back into the wild.

Mick arrived in a terrible state having been stoned out of a fruit tree. His head injury and shattered wing were sadly too much for him to recover from. Dark coloured droppings revealed that he probably had internal bleeding. He has been the only Lora that has died in our care and we were deeply saddened to lose him.

As if to be given a second chance another parrot was found with a broken wing. Luckily the Echo team now includes Jon, a vet whose dedication is so exceptional he may never be allowed to leave. Prior to coming to Bonaire Jon was working with the critically endangered (and also flightless) Kakapo, an anomaly among parrots from New Zealand. Others on the team find it consequently confusing that he should give this broken parrot a classic Australian name, Bruce. This is of course, no matter for us because Jon cares for Bruce better than he cares for himself.

Arriving with a savagely clipped wing was another, temporarily, flightless young bird. Having only “half a” set of flight feathers he became known as “Arthur”. This has taken some explaining because those not blessed with a Yorkshire accent seem to miss the similarity between the two. He was initially housed in grand The East Wing, which combined with his bold features and gold ring lead us to see his stature and rename this young fellow King Arthur. His flight feathers will be replaced in time and like all the other parrots confiscated or rescued parrots he too will be wild once again.

Dear Reader we must not forget the prikichis many of which already have a new suit of feathers and look stunning. Chi Chi the most adorable has given up her desperate attempts to solicit food and is now unrecognisable from the 50 or so other birds in their large aviary. The eviction of Sid, Marvin and Miss Piggy resulted in the East Wing being opened up to the adjacent prikichi aviary. This has not only increased the space available but also added a second corner for them to navigate in flight. The little devils remain a little too comfortable around people but we are working on that and will tell you all about it in the next update.

Who would have thought there was so much news to tell? It’s non-stop in the land of parrots but thankfully you are now up-to-date, phew! If you’d like to get the very latest news please take a look at Echo’s facebook page:

Posted by Sam Williams on 11/08 at 06:26 PM
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