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Surprise! Surprise!

Mike Bowles & Loretta Erickson | Aug 27, 2007


Babies, babies, everywhere babies!!  We are now in full swing of fledgling season and the little ones are doing their very best to learn how to be a full-fledged parrot from learning to land on the wires (most have a tough time at first) to their ever so interesting attempts at the proper vocalizations.  I always get the biggest kick out of some of the strange and unusual noises that come from those sweet little dark-eyed bundles of pure life.

Rain has been extremely scarce in Southern California this year and usual food sources have come and gone earlier than usual.  As a result, the flocks break up quickly and head off in small groups to forage.  This isn't the ideal situation for keeping tabs on members of the flock—it makes it much more challenging. 

With 2007 on the downhill slide, this year is sure to go down in our record books as a year of strange events!

Seth and Syra, our most documented pair of Red-crowns (see previous post) did themselves proud with a record clutch.  In previous years, these wonderful parronts had always fledged two chicks…this year, much to our surprise, we discovered there was three!  And shortly thereafter, the strange events began.

Syra is, by far, the most amazing little thing - her exotic, expressive eyes are hypnotizing, her patience is that of an angel, and her dedicated devotion is purely incredible. Yes, if I were a mama parrot, I'd want to be just like Syra.  Imagine sitting on bumpy little things for hours - days - weeks on end waiting for your Prince to arrive with your next meal.  Even when the boredom is written all over her face, she still has a sense of supreme purpose about her.  Ah yes, and her Prince-charming, Seth, what a guy he is!  Like clockwork he arrives with all the male pride of tending to his mate and new family.  Though Seth outwardly appears a Red-crown, his mostly hidden subtle markings tell us differently.  Believed to be a Red-crowned/Blue-fronted hybrid, Seth and his family are visited each year by the only known Blue-fronted male in our flock who is mated with a female Red-crown. Shasta, as we call him, comes religiously to check on Seth and his family and assists Seth in guarding his territory - so much so that Shasta will take it upon himself to run off every parrot who so much as approaches the vicinity.  Once Shasta is satisfied with the outcome, he will leave Seth to continue his duties and return to his own Red-crowned mate and tiny developing young.  For Shasta and Seth, their families are their most important task, but it won't be long until these two proud Papas come together again once Parrot Pre-school begins (an event where adult parrots with young all come together).  And Seth and Syra will be bringing a crowd.

In the pre-launch days leading up to Seth and Syra's first chick's take-off, we saw Syra do something rather odd - after feeding her three young one by one, she went all the way inside the nest and stayed there for an extended period of time.  That was something we had never seen her do before!  Sure, we had seen her go in, turn around and come right back out when she was trying to explain to the little ones what they are supposed to be doing, but this had a whole new feel to it.  What on earth was she doing?  We had no clue - we just watched.

Over the next week and a half, the babies took their first flight, each a few days apart.  Again, we witnessed something strange - Seth, Syra and their newly flying young didn't leave the area as they had always done before...they stayed.  They were hidden away—but still there.

We were completely baffled by this behavior.  Little did we know, they had a MAJOR surprise in store for us.  We were now approaching 2 1/2 weeks after the third little guy took his maiden flight and their presence in the area became more puzzling by the day.  And what do we discover?  ONE MORE!!!  Yes, a fourth chick!!  I can honestly say that not once did it occur to us there may be another one.  Had we even suspected, we would have noticed the signs.  Now the answers to our questions suddenly became clear, their prolonged stay had been justified.  Never again will I ever doubt what I see a parrot do.  Why?  Because they know what they are doing!

The last little one has since fledged and Seth, Syra and family have all left the area.  Yes, it was a record year for them with four little ones.  Unfortunately, as this years young grow and mature, they will take off on their own and disappear into the flock, but we will see Seth and Syra again on many occasions.

Syra with two of her four chicks


Pure Gold

From the time we first spotted her, Tav was a single bird.  An older Double Yellow-head we frequently found her hanging around with mated pairs.  When nesting season rolled around, she would always try to help her friends but when they chased her off, you could see the disappointment in her eyes.  Eventually she would go off by herself in search of a place of her own...all alone.  This happened two years in a row, until one spring morning, she just disappeared - we could find her nowhere.

Bandini, a certain escapee (* see important note below) by the quarantine band on his leg, entered the flock in the summer of 2006 (see previous posts).  It wasn't long after he found our missing Tav that these two senior birds established a solid relationship becoming our first known mated pair of Yellow-heads in the flock.

Tav and Bandini began their search for a suitable place to raise a family long before any of the other parrots - months before.  Both being older birds, I can't help but feel it was because they had waited all their lives for this moment and time was running out.  By November of 2006, they staked their claim on the perfect territory and made sure every Amazon in ear shot knew they were entering Yellow-headed turf.  They chased Red-loreds down the street, warned the White-fronts to keep their distance and filled the air with multi-octave vocalizations any opera star would be proud of.  For more than 8 months we waited in anticipation wondering if their union would produce young - they sure were giving it a heck of a try.  Every indication looked positive until one morning they took off for parts unknown shortly after Mike thought he heard the begging sounds of a chick coming from their nest in late June.  With no warning, they had left their heavily guarded fortress which was home to them for more than a half a year. Even with questions unanswered, their disappearance wasn't too surprising. If they had a chick, it was probably about time for the little fella to fledge—but where had they gone?  Our search continued for seven weeks with not even a clue as to what we were looking for.  Did they have chicks?  If so, had something happened to them?  Are they out there somewhere?  It was their first time nesting and it was anyone's guess to the outcome.  Only twice were we lucky enough to catch a quick glimpse of them, but sadly both times were without little ones.  Hope began to fade and all the questions in our minds remained.  Mike and I continued our search.  We split up in order to cover every possible location we could think of over and over again - then one morning, Mike saw them approaching from the west with two beautiful little youngin's flying right along-side.  Yep, TWO!  THEY DID IT!!

It was obvious the little ones weren't just out of the nest, their eyes had begun to change colors, which coincided with the amount of time we believed they would have fledged.  The only possible assumption now is for all that time, Tav and Bandini kept their little bundles of joy hidden until they felt they were ready. These two first-time parents (at least that we know of) have proven to be extraordinary and we have the good fortune to be able to watch it all.  What could be more exciting?


Bandini and one of his two little ones.  This little fellow follows his dad
everywhere and does everything his dad does.  Not to worry—right
now most of the parents look much like Bandini with dried food on their
beaks and soiled feathers. They spend all their time caring for their
young with little concern for themselves.  Soon they will be all cleaned
up again and not a feather out of place.


Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

This year will go down in our record books as the big Blue-fronted Amazon shake up of 2007.  Two of our well-known pairs, Notol and Ripley & Chaco and Collie, were constant companions since we first discovered them in 2004. We had always suspected each pair to either be the same years young or possibly siblings. Neither pair had ever exhibited 'mate' behavior until last year when each pair went through what I could only describe as 'practice nesting.'  This year, these two pairs have parted ways with their long-time companions and one from each pair, Ripley and Chaco, have become mates.  Notol and Collie are missing.

This will continue to be a puzzle until we can account for Notol and Collie.  In their absence, I'm hoping they have established a companionship of their own or maybe possibly together.  I won't feel comfortable until we've seen them...just to make sure nothing has happened to them.

*Please note—very few escaped companion parrots make it out there.