Forums & Experts

About E.B. Cravens
"If we TRULY believe our captive-raised hookbills are important to world parrot conservation, we must work ceaselessly to ensure that…

Read more »

Ask An Expert: E.B. Cravens

Browse by category: Parrot Care, Behaviour and Training, Conservation, Ethics and Welfare, Housing and Environmental Enrichment, General, Health and Nutrition


Hi EB, I have been a WPT member for well over 20 years and have an urgent question: My Panama Amazon was recently ill and very nearly died. She had stopped eating and had to be fed with a tube. She was in the care of our Avian Vet who, like myself, did not realize that she is obese. The Avian specialist who read her blood results and her xRay said it was probably her liver due to obesity. (She weighed 520 grams). I was told to feed her ANYTHING she would eat and eventually, she did begin eating again. She has been raised on a diet of Harrison's pellets plus fruits and vegetables. She is 17 years old. I found that the weight for a Panama Amazon is normally 480 grams. I ordered an avian scale and began feeding her a diet of phytonutrients as recommended by David McCluggage, DVM (on the web) who maintains that amazons should NOT be fed mostly pellets. I was shocked when the scale arrived and she weighed 615 grams! She has been on this super healthy diet for a month now, with only one or two pellets a day and one "NutraBerry" seed treat.

But, AND HERE IS MY DILEMMA/QUESTION: She has NOT lost weight. She weighs around 630 grams. She does get some exercise as she is outdoors in a large macaw cage during the day. I don't know how I can get her to exercise more. I try with interactive toys, etc. She chews a lot and sings opera!! I am terrified she will become ill again if she doesn't lose weight.

PLEASE ADVISE: I can't find any answers online after endless searching. Thank you so very much for taking the time to ready this lengthy question/explanation. I am so very, very grateful!

Linda

Answered by E.B. Cravens:

Dear Linda, I hope that your Panama (You did not mention a name) is stable and eating properly. In cases such as these I would prescribe a full sprouts diet plus added items.

Now this need not be fully sprouted seeds, but can be germinated seeds--that is, twenty-four to forty-eight hours of soaking with many rinses during the day, and then feed the following. Take her off the pellets and foods she has been eating but add a certain amount of dried seed to the sprouts mix, such as canary seed, red proso millet, hemp. Our favorite sprouting seeds are mung beans, safflower, organic buckwheat from the health food store, and organic sunflower from the health food store. Also good quality spray millet will sprout overnight...Do not worry about the sunflower being too fattening as when sprouted and fed in mixed amounts with other grains, it has many more benifts for the parrot.

In addition, birds that overeat are often seeking micro ingredients in their diet that they are not receiving through processed foods and veggies and fruits. I would recommend a supplement from China Prairie Co. (online in Northern California) called Micracine Enhance which is both an avian probiotic and a montmorillonite clay base. It will provide trace minerals and digestive aids. There are of course other vitamin mineral supplements that are good and you could use if you prefer.

Now if you are dealing with fatty liver, you should begin to mix up herbal milk thistle into a tea and substitute it for the water in your parrot's bowl at leat four times a week if not regularly. It does not taste bad to parrots and it will slowly begin to heal damaged liver tissue. We also like to give sprinklings of spirulina on food to birds with immune problems fighting any health problem. Especially if they are not big vegetable eaters.

Vegetable stems are the best, chard, carrot, beet, watercress, celery, etc. You can grate them to release juices on the foodstuffs if your bird throws the pieces out of the bowl.

Fruit pips are a wonderful way to get natural and not fattening items into an amazon diet. papaya, pomegranate, melon, kiwi, guava, fig, passion fruit, anything that has ripe seeds in it that are raw. Snap peas and beans are great. If you make feeding an adventure and supplement it with an almond, walnut or two, your amazon will not go hungry and will soon transform her dietary choices into a greener, less habitual fattening diet. It may take up to three months. Drop the nutriberries as they are sweetened. If your bird likes smoothies or protein shakes, that is a good way to supplement feed as liquid foods absorb quickly and free up the liver to begin to cleanse itself. I have had amazons that like to think they were lories!!!

Please feel free to contact me at my email if you wish further consultation. These cases are complex and not all that easy to solve from afar.

Be well and good luck,
EB Cravens

filed under: Health and Nutrition

I live in Northern Virginia with 2 macaws, I'd like to know what type of wood from trees in my yard etc I can give to my birds. Can I just bring them in from outside or do I have to do something to make them safe? I have multiple trees (pines, oak, poplar) in my yard and 2 parrots that would LOVE to snack on the wood. Thanks, BJ

Answered by E.B. Cravens:

Dear BJ...

I remember a time when I was travelling through Virgina and stopped to visit a friend who had several pet caiques. One morning I went outside for a stroll around his neighborhood, and came back with an armload of chewable boughs and greenery for his parrots.

There were many trees and other plants available: maples, beech, oak with tiny acorns, fruit trees of many sorts in early spring bud, elm, poplar, even some flowering bushes like quince, lilac, forsythia, roses, and the like. Psittacines can also chew on conifers--pine, spruce, fir, juniper, tamarack, etc. though we only utilize these for birds in the winter months when deciduous leaves have wilted and fallen. If you go online and google safe plants for parrots you will find a host of other things to offer your macaws. The most nutritious portions of greenery are the new growth buds--sepioles and petioles and often hookbills will spend hours removing each leaf or flower, eating the succulent attachment node and moving on to the next. We also like to give our birds flowers such as snapdragons, geraniums, pansies, asters, chrysanthemum, orchids, marigolds and other safe blooms. If you have berry bushes psittacines often like the berries at the tart stage. Small crabapples and thronapples are the same. Tannins appeal to most parrots and offer gastro and other health benefits, as does the often mineral rich bark form limbs. I personally keep a woodpile of older dry branches that my parrots love to tear into. It can make a mess in the house, but I feel it is much more interesting and healthy than finished lumber and wood.

Safety wise, avoid plants with milky sap, Hawaiian type tropical plants such as oleander and dieffenbachia, magnolia. There are lots of toxic plant lists online also though some are designed for people and are not up to date about parrots. If you wish to have an indoor plant for your birds, though of course macaws can destroy things rather quickly, I would recommend a bamboo or a Ficus benjamina. We also like to cut a large branch and fasten it into a Christmas tree stand for our birds to climb and chew on throughout the year.

You can rinse off outdoor greenery in the shower or with an outdoor hose, but by and large clean branches and plants away from roadside or neighboring spray areas are chemical free and perfectly fine for our birds.

Cheers, EB

filed under: Parrot Care

I adopted a 16 year old Cameroon African Grey and I would like to learn how to encourage him to eat something other than seeds. He won't eat pellets, cooked grains or vegetables, all fruit except grapes & he even refuses to eat AviCakes or Healthy Bits - a picky eater?
Donna

Answered by E.B. Cravens:

Dear Donna,

Thank you for your question. Red-tailed grey parrots can be some of the pickiest eaters one can keep, especially if the bird was formerly living wild and free.

That said, it is best to begin modifying a parrot's diet by making changes within the realm of foods that the bird does like to eat eat. As African greys are rather high on the list of medium sized psittacines that need an extra amount of fat and oil in the diet, usually nutmeats fit into this process rather well.

Almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamias and such are all fine foods to expand a picky grey's daily nutritional regime. As most Africans species are not noted for overeating habits (unless they are fully deficient in some nutrients and try very hard on a mono-diet to acquire those things...)one does not usually have to worry about ending up with a fat parrot. Still within reason, try to keep the bird from consuming too much of one item; excess fat can affect liver, heart, kidneys, etc.

Other items we have fed to picky Africans include boiled peanuts, boiled pine nuts, boiled edamame soybeans which are green and often loved by the birds. Germinating mung beans, buckwheat, safflower, and sunflower for 24 to 48 hours makes a great way to reduce the fat content once the seed has "popped," and increase the micro-ingredients not found in the dry seed. Millet sprays may also be germinated and are accepted by some picky eaters.

Getting your grey to eat veggies (fruits, too, though they are less important as nourishment) can be problematic. Start by emphasizing texture. That means crunchy stems only, no wilted leaves, of watercress, carrot tops, beet greens, parsley, and a variety of herbs or flower tops from safe garden plants--just google safe flowers for parrots and you will get a whole list. We also cut green shoots and buds off of our outdoor vegetables and fruit trees for the birds to nibble.

As parrots go through "phases" of eating greenstuffs depending upon season, weather, hormones, and bodily needs, one has to keep up the crunchy green offerings steadily, watching what the pet prefers or will sample.

Large chunks can be easily thrown out onto the floor, keep things smaller at first so it is more work to rid the bowl of the green. Some picky pets are not real fond of items in the cabbage and broccoli and collards families.In many cases we have just grated beetroot or carrot or turnip or sweet potato or greens onto the bird's dish and allowed the released juices to get into the items that the bird is consuming. There are also some wonderful whole food powders such as alfalfa, barley grass, wheatgrass, spirulina and the like which can be sparingly sprinkled on food items and ingested that way. If your parrot will not touch a mineral block or cuttlebone, just scrape the powder onto his food.

One of our favorite ways of getting fresh fare into our hookbill's tummies is to choose fruits with pips. Pomegranate, passionfruit, papaya, guava, fig, even melon, pear, apple, pumpkin, etc. We will scoop out the seeds--sometimes washing them well to get rid of sticky pulp-- and feed them to our flock.

One last point. In the choice of oil seeds, sunflower seeds are much preferable to safflower seeds for an addicted parrot to consume. Also, persons with warm temperatures in the local climate can find palm fruits in red (like a grey's tail!) or orange which many parrots adore...

Good luck, Donna. Don't give up, get imaginative and remember, VARIETY is your friend in psittacine feeding.

Cheers, EB

filed under: Health and Nutrition

Dear EB, I'm the owner of two Quaker Parrots. I usually give them a prepared mix for parrots, with different kinds of seeds. However, I noticed they like marrow seeds best.

So, I give them these seeds as a reward when they speak or they generically do as I say, but I still haven't found out in any book if they are harmful to their health. Can I go on giving them these seeds?

They are very fond of pizza, bread and breadsticks , too. Is that good? Thanks for your attention!

Diego

Answered by E.B. Cravens:

Diego, Marrow (pumpkin/squash family) seeds are very nutritious for parrots. They have a wide range of health benefits including containing manganese, zinc and other trace mineral, helping curb certain forms of cancerous cells, and naturally acting as anthelmintic (de-worming).

We feed them boiled, baked (after we eat the pumpkin flesh ourselves) or raw to our birds. they can also be sprouted which makes them even more nutritious.

Unfortunately the lowest quality marrow seeds are the ones included in bagged bird food mixes--often they are flat, unripe at harvest, old, or will not sprout (hence are no longer alive). If your psittacines like them so much I would go and purchase some human grade edible seeds at a health food store or grocery that sells trail mix snacks, etc. Furthermore, if your quaker parrot prefers them, he might be telling you he needs the mineral/diet ingredients in pumpkin seed because he is not getting them in the rest of his food. Therefore, I would not merely offer them as treat rewards, but would feed a more significant amount (say eight to ten) daily for two weeks or so to improve his health. If after that point, you find he chooses to not eat them all, he likely no longer has the nutritional craving his body has satisfied. There are lots of other seeds you can offer as rewards in the meantime--sunflower, bits of walnut or almond, pine nut, etc.

As to the pizza, bread thing, you must understand that white flour is basically a void food for parrots and over the long run will leave them deficient in certain dietary needs. Keep those treats to a bare minimum and substitue better items like popcorn, whole wheat crackers, unsugared breakfast flakes, and the like. If your are feeding 75% or more dry seed mix to your birds, no matter the ingredients, you must work to get vegetables and green and raw foods (grated on top maybe?) fruit pips, cooked buckwheat, lentils, etc. into the diet along with a powdered vitamin mineral supplement. Too many seeds will likely shorten your bird's life and make them overweight at a young age.

Cheers, EB Cravens

filed under: Health and Nutrition

Hi EB, I was just wondering, are millet sprays good for parrots? I have been told by some they are high in fat and bad for my pet, but I recently read a book that said they were low fat and good as a treat. Would you recommend millet? Thanks.

Answered by E.B. Cravens:

Dear Friend, Millet sprays (white proso is the most common) are fine foods for parrots, parakeets, lovebirds, finches, canaries, etc.

They contain roughly four percent fat depending on which analysis one refers to--much less than the 40% fat content of safflowers and sunflowers which are seeds for large oil-ingesting hookbills like macaws, greys, capes, etc. Millet is not a complete food, of course, and needs to be fed with a variety of other foods including grated vegetables, fruit with pips, extruded pellets, sprouted grains, and the like.

Inexperienced budgerigar owners in the past used to hang millet sprays in their bird's cage every day because the parakeet "loved them." In fact, the budgie was eating and eating and eating to try and satisfy nutrient cravings not available in 100% millet, so would end up overweight and usually die early.

It is important to seek out a fresh supplier of millet.....the best seeds are golden in color and very shiny on the stalk. They make a fine foraging food for all psittacines as they take a long time to crunch all the seeds and are easy to hold clumps in the claws for the parrots that can do so. We typically cut an eight-inch spray into four to six pieces for feeding our birds. One can also take a spring clothespin and attach the spray stem to the side of a cage for the birds to nibble at. Once or twice a week is sufficient in a good mixed diet. If you are in doubt about dry looking millet sprays in a store, an attempt to sprout a few small clusters will tell you if they are still viable and "alive."

Millet sprays are one of the first items we offer young starting-to-eat baby parrots when they become interested in chewing. It teaches them about textures and seed food extraction and is fun to crunch, even though they actually ingest little at first.

Another excellent way of giving millet spray is to germinate it for 24 hours weighted down in a pan of clean water, rinsing four or five times to keep the water fresh. The seeds will "pop" a white nub which will grow into a sprout if the spray is kept damp but not soaking for another day or so, even in the refrigerator. This changes the fat-sugar-carbohydrate content of the stored dry seed and makes it even more nutritious once the birds get used to eating it soft.

Happy Feeding, EB

filed under: Health and Nutrition

Hi, I'm planning to build an aviary in the garden of my townhouse in New York City for my rose breasted cockatoo Chirp, so he can spend more time outdoors during the warmer months. The designers have proposed using some type of metal mesh to form the enclosure, and using wrought iron to form some more decorative detail on the outside. What type of material would you recommend for the enclosure (his indoor cage is made of stainless steel), what thickness should the wire be, and how much gap between the wires would be ideal? I imagine that Chirp would get his beak to the decorative metal work made with wrought iron, is that safe? Also, what plants are safe to place inside the aviary? The ground is currently paved with bricks, do you recommend something else? Is there anything else, like pests or other problems, I should be aware of? Thank you so much for your help.

Answered by E.B. Cravens:

Dear Jade, My compliments on giving your Rose Breasted Cockatoo a new phase in life with an outdoor play cage. Wire choices are many and difficult in the U.S. these days. Stainless steel wire is available but expensive. we used to use high quality galvanized wire from England....Twilweld it was called, but is is rare in the states these days. Some of the local hardware and building wires are Chinese or imported and of poor quality---one of our main cages rusted all over in four years and had lots of poor galvanizing. You could check with Riverdale Mills on the east coast. http://www.riverdale.com/

For a Rosie I would use half inch by half inch openings in 14 gauge thickness. They are not tremendously strong chewers, preferring to fray things normally. Make sure you bathe the wire down with a vinegar/water solution to remove the zinc that is found on galvanized wire, before finally putting the parrot in the flight. A brick floor may work out, but it is necessary for Rosies to have some sort of applied ground foraging. That either means a section in grasses, wildflowers, seed weeds, and sod where they can scrabble and dig and forage or a large tray from a building center or greenhouse where you can put safe clean sandy soil and plant it or add daily green stuffs (not potting mixes or bagged things, but plain old dirt unsprayed and unfertilized!!) That will give him an area to venture to the ground. The small wire openings will deter most pests, but if you live where there are racoons it can be dangerous. We like to bury a twelve inch section of wire straight out along the ground outside the cage walls and clipped to the walls. That way any rat or cat or such would come up to the wire and try to dig down but only find a wire barrier it cannot dig through.

There are plenty of plants that can be used inside. Google 'safe plants parrots' and you will find a list. Our favorites are mulberry, elm, fruit trees including apple, pear, apricot, crabapple, quince. Also all the cluster palms, any bamboos, and hanging plants like spider plants, geraniums, nasturtiums, marigolds, pansies, etc. A sprouting bin will allow you to sprout uneaten bird seeds and place them in hanging orchid baskets for browse. Also cut branches from neighborhood trees allowing pruning will work for weeks fastened by wires high up on the sides of the cage for privacy and perches--maple, oak, beech, evergreens, etc. Anything that would die in the winter needs to be in a large moveable pot to be taken in when frosts begin.You could even get some fresh timothy or alfalfa hay and spread it on the bricks to make cleanup easier every fortnight or so.

A covered roof on part of the aviary is necessary for wind protection and sun screen, and to hide from hawks.. Also a corner or two with plywood on the sides to give privacy so he has a place to hang out and nap.Wrought iron is basically safe, just buy quality paints that are child safe and keep lots of organic chewables and toys he likes in the cage--that will prevent most birds from ever resorting to chewing on wire or paints. A fake playbox (not a total enclosed nestbox) made out of pine shelving would be fun and even some knotted old jeans legs or tee shirts for the cloth fraying rosebreasteds often enjoy.

Good luck and I hope this information is not too late. Your e mail just reached me a short time ago and I know the summer is getting on.
Cheers, EB

filed under: Housing and Environmental Enrichment

I address this this query to E.B. Cravens, a person whose expertise I greatly respect from reading his articles in the Redwood Empire Cage Bird Club newsletter.

My goffins cockatoo (20 yrs old) has been having an on/off 'infection' in his wing pit the last couple of years. Originally I was told it was a fungal infection, then a staph infection. He was given antibiotics (3 times in 1.5 yrs) mixed in his water. Each time it cleared up. Last AB treatment ceased 2 mos. ago, then I noticed yesterday that it has started up again in his left wing pit. It occurs mostly in his right wing pit, but his left side is occasionally affected - to a lesser degree. It looks a bit oozy, and crusts up. We were told it is because he picks at it; however, my thought is that he picks BECAUSE he has and infection/fungus - which then worsens the issue. I fear he will become AB resistant; also, I do not want his immunity compromised.

I live in Sonoma County, CA. He is outdoors much of the time, playing in the various fruit trees and local natives. Fred also has an ongoing zinc issue (last 18 years) and wears a collar most of the time; I only take it off for a few min-hrs to let him preen.

I thought Staph was bacterial, not fungal. Would greatly appreciate your input.

Kindly, Roxanne

Answered by E.B. Cravens:

Dear Roxanne, Thank you for the kind words. I do not know if I am the right person to fully answer your question, since it is basically a medical issue; and I hope the WPT representatives will also ask Dr. Speer or his staff to add their comments...

That said, here is my two cents worth, given from a rural resident who does not have available bird medical service on hand:

Are you working with a certified avian veterinarian? Has he or she identified the microorganism through cultures? Being told it is a different thing once or twice can certainly be frustrating and it needs to be tied down more specifically. Sometimes a bacteria like staphylococcus can also weaken a parrot so that fungus can invade. There are many species of staph, some which are known to reside on bird hosts, some which are very difficult to eradicate when established. Once your culprit is identified, sensitivity tests will determine a medicine that can attack it.

Personally, with an exterior infection, I would also like to treat the sores topically. As such, we prefer to use holistic applications that can work concurrently with your antibiotics. If your cockatoo has healed and been without lesions on a prior treatment, that would indicate that the bird has certain capabilities to beat the infection with medical help. But should he be in an environment where the staph is heavily prevalent (ie...some soils, weathered woodstuffs, mildewed ropes, etc) it might be that he is continually exposed to more of the same.

This is what I would recommend:

1) Don't put her back on general antibiotics until you have a microbe identified and a medicine isolated that will kill it. Giver her multi-level avian probiotic powder now.....one of the good ones.

2) Begin to assess any items or cage furniture or the like that could harbor an infection and totally clean and sterilize them--it is not necessary to use strong disinfectants or bleach, just a good soap and water cleaning and sunlight drying will probably help. Throw away anything suspect. Think of it as spring cleaning down to the core.

3) Consider getting some citrus bioflavinoid--that is grapefruit seed extract, GSE, and using it in her water for three weeks and topically as a wash. Hospitals have reported some success with GSE in fighting staph infections. Bathe her regularly and I would use GSE in the water if a spray bottle works. We mix all ours at 9cc per gallon.

4) Get a soothing aloe vera gel or even better the raw plant sliced up and use that as a nighttime salve. Not only is it anti-bacterial and bitter to the taste of feather pickers, but is seals sore wounds under a mild film that speeds wound healing manyfold.

5) Put the parrot on a supplement with spirulina, trace minerals, and clay sprinkled on any wet food that she will eat.

6) If she is not getting any health food grit---start to sprinkle it on her food.....cuttlebone hard shell bits scraped off, oyster shell, clean bird grit, whatever....many of our parrots develop nutritional problems with secondary weaknesses if they do not have grit, especially during the breeding season...for a Goffin's in your region that would be October to February by rough estimate. Grit is used in salt and pepper
amounts only once a week or once every two weeks. Cockatoos not getting access to the ground are notorious for finding zinc particles on their cage wire (or epoxy paint) and ingesting it as a substitute.

7) You did not specify a diet, but if he is on mostly extruded pellets, you need to get him to eat live food--ie fruit pips, sprouts, veggies, green stems, etc. Perhaps the outdoor trees provide some of this.

Good luck. Keep in touch please.

Eb Cravens

filed under:

Hi Eb, you helped us about 11 years ago (when we were living in Flagstaff AZ) to teach our macaw, Cyrano (then 2-3 yrs old, now 14 years old) to land by dropping her onto the bed. This was so she wouldn't crash since as a clipped fledgling she never learned to fly or land and also to encourage her to flap her wings for exercise.

Fast-forward to now. We have a 4 year old Red-fronted macaw (Sorata) who fledged as a baby, is an adept flyer & loves to fly! And does throughout the house. Cyrano has continued to dislike it and never initiates flight. Seeing Sorata's joy and fitness, we've been working with Cyrano the last 5 mo to fly short distances to us, and while she gets excited and has gotten better & lands on us, it still seems to scare her. She used to flap her wings while gripping onto us after baths but now doesn't do that. She also used to flap to exhaust herself before Tom has to towel her for wing/beak clippings, but the other day she flew off him & crashed & hid under the chair, very scared. She seems nervous in our large bedroom where we fly her. We're realizing it's not worth it, that the whole flying thing stresses her, and that we'll just quit & try to get her back to flapping while holding on to us. Do you agree - if so how do we get her back to just flapping? Or have any thoughts on if and how we can gently help her learn to like flying. We're in a bit of a conundrum & just want her to be happy & healthy. As the alpha female, we're also wondering if it's stressful watching her kid sister fly all around so easily - but maybe that's just fine for all. Thank you!

Answered by E.B. Cravens:

Linda, The one thing about flight training for fearful and never-fledged parrots is that it never really ends. At least not until they are totally skilled and strong and confident. For Cyrano to develop this type of flying, it will take lots of further progress from just the initial drop-and-flap training two or three feet off the bed with which you begin.

Every time he takes off in flight and/or crashes is essentially a step backward in his development. Hence these situations are to be avoided at all costs.

Yes, flapping exercise on the hand is good and will strengthen his torso, but much of landing has to do with technique and that just takes practice.

It would be best to analyze the WAY Cyrano flies. Does he always go straight ahead and end up going too fast to actually land well, hence falling forward on his face? Does he always fly down? Upwards? Parrots, especially large macaws, who over flap once taking off may gain too much speed and do not always have the skill to feather their wings, brake in the air, look downwards, put out their feet, and land on an object. In a household these things are even harder since macaws are evolved to fly hundred of yards at a time if they flap strongly. That's why three and four and six-foot flap and lands are great indoor training.

If Cyrano is over-speeding, I would advise trimming the first two (sometimes later a third) strongest thick-ribbed flight feathers on each wing to slow his power down about 15%. This will not affect the landing progress.

You need to make this process as easy as possible for Cyrano, so that he does it time and again until it becomes second nature. One goes about this by establishing a comfortable and stable "landing site." April and I use large handle baskets with our fledglings. They have the advantage of being able to be moved around the room to change flight patterns and visuals--but never change the recognizable landing site so that the bird begins to grow in confidence. Other such sites would be the back of a recliner draped with a large stable bath towel, or the wood on a portable perch (which does not shake 1) and can also be covered with the strong towel. Top of the cage with the towel, humans arm wrapped in the towel, etc, etc.

Get the point? Some 75% of correct landing for inexperienced birds is the mental aspect. That means that before taking off, the parrot that already KNOWS where he is going to try and land will have a singularly better chance of doing it smoothly. After fifty or a hundred such proper landings, you will notice that Cyrano begins to make an instantaneous decision WHILE AIRBORNE on where to land--say, by taking off, deciding to turn around in mid air, spotting his towel takeoff spot (obviously the more large towels of the same color around the room the better!) and returning to land on the same place.

This, by the way, illustrates the number on failure in most hand-feeding nursery fledging methods: the keepers do not control the mental side of the initial flights by establishing clear recognizable landing spots; instead they just let baby birds take off and go wherever they will and they end up with panicked chaotic crashes, impacts on windows, grabbing on door frames or picture frames or curtains, etc., instead of precise hop and flap landings on easily recognizable objects.

Regarding Sorata's flying. I would venture that its always a bit stressful for a macaw that has been living alone to all-of-the-sudden be confronted with another large parrot flying around the room---certainly if the Red Front flits by Cyrano or lands nearby or such. A parrot taking wing is a grand inducement for the nearby parrot to take off immediately also. Your Blue Throat (I believe it was...) would surely be drawn to fly in tandem on impulse, but being unable or fearful, would experience some fretfulness. Incidentally, an "alpha" bird as you termed it, is often the one that is the best flyer in the home. This might explain Cyrano's increased nervousness or wish to avoid things by hiding under a chair.

It might be possible to devise some "games with treats" that prompt Sorata to fly from point A basket or soft spot to point B and back and forth, giving Cyrano a turn each time and a treat reward for joining in the game of practice flying.

Whatever you do, don't give up! You have a golden opportunity here to improve the life of both your macaws. Just a little imagination and a lot of perseverance, and you will be quite pleased with the outcome.

With aloha, EB

filed under: Behaviour and Training

Page 1 of 5 pages  1 2 3 >  Last »