We lost Liz Wilson, my cherished friend, on April 13th. I should have written this days ago, but I alternate between tears and yelling at Liz for being so quiet. She and I had some kind of dialog, almost every day. Even if it was via email, I could hear her voice. Those of you that have heard Liz speak know what I mean. Her voice was unique, strong, honest, and she had a gift for satire which could disarm you if you didn’t know her well.
Over the years I’ve met many people who had their views shaped by a simple truth spoken in raw honesty by Liz. Since she was dedicated to the life of the parrot, she was not patient with those who thought a situation was all about them, or that they did something right and the parrot did it wrong. That’s a good thing, parrots need this kind of advocate, someone who doesn’t dance around the edges of the hard issues. Parrots often pay the price for our stupidities, and Liz was bound and determined to help people get ahead of those. For the parrot’s sake.
Liz was ahead of her time, she was a pioneer. As the market for parrots as pets was really taking off, she along with a few others tried to make a difference for the many birds now in homes. Liz dedicated her life to understanding what it means to be a parrot in captivity. Caring well for parrots was no easy task then, it’s no easy task now. Did she always get it right? Of course not, do you? We are all learners. We are all teachers. However, Liz put her whole heart and soul into it, always seeking to learn something new and to do a better job. She tried damn hard to make sure the rest of us made an effort too. To those of you who left Liz’s side when something newer came along, yours is the greater loss.
I never stopped learning from Liz and her breadth of hands-on experience. How many of us can say we lived with the same parrot for over 40 years? Most people give up after a few short years, sometimes after only weeks or months. At Phoenix Landing, we rehome adopted parrots again and again; mostly because people – good people – can’t find the time, money or interest to stick it out longer. Sam, Liz’s blue and gold macaw, is over 60 now. There’s no doubt they had some ups and downs in their relationship, and faced the usual challenges of compatibility between two species, human and parrot. I hope some of us will be lucky enough to live up to this legacy with our parrots, what a remarkable accomplishment by Liz. I cannot imagine how Sam is feeling now, she probably has the same empty hole in her heart that I do.
Lastly, up until her final days, Liz was a treasure to Phoenix Landing. Joining our Board of Directors in 2004 as our Education Vice President, she was a steady and invaluable advisor. She knew how to cut to the heart of difficult issues or decisions, she was my constant sounding board for ideas or problems, and most of all she was an unwavering friend. No matter how contentious a discussion or challenging a situation, I KNEW we were the best of friends and that our relationship was never at stake. Everyone should be so lucky to have such a genuine friend.
Liz, I really don’t know yet what we are going to do without you, you will be forever missed. But I promise you, we will always put the birds first, and we will do our best to promote education in your honor and good name. Love always to you and all the parrots now by your side.
April 20, 2013 15 Comments
More and more parrot owners are hearing that their parrots should be foraging for their food.
Even many vets are recommending foraging as part of a treatment plan for such issues as obesity, screaming, feather destruction and other undesirable issues. Unfortunately, more often than not, little if any information is given on exactly how to provide foraging opportunities, how to teach a parrot to forage, or what kind of foods can be used in foraging.
On February 9, 2013, in Towson Maryland, Phoenix Landing presented a class called Fun With Foraging, where these issues were discussed. Simple steps were shown teaching parrot owners how to introduce their birds to foraging and how to slowly build complexity and challenge into foraging opportunities without frustrating the parrot or the owner. Ideas were given on how owner could make many foraging items themselves, and adapt toys they may already have for their parrots into foraging toys. Various options were explored as to how to provide foraging not only for pellets and nuts, but fresh, cooked and dehydrated foods.
For those who were not able to attend the class, I have made the slide show presentation available here. And though it’s never as good as attending a class in person, I hope you get some good ideas for adding foraging into your parrot’s life.
Please share some of your foraging experiences!
Author’s Note: Special thanks to Kris Porter, David Hull, Nyla Copp, Carina Law, Cheryl Celso, Karin Olausson, Kathy James, Sheron White Hagelston, Angela Harrison, Anna McGregor, Jennifer Slaughter, Lisa Bakalars, Leanne Burton and Debbie Russell for use of the great photos.
There are a couple photos in the presentation that I could not tract down who the photographer was but they were too awesome not to use. If you see a photo that is yours, please accept my apologies and let me know which one it is so that I can give you the credit due.
February 13, 2013 1 Comment
Hearing Dr. Orosz lecture is like eating a huge, delicious meal. It takes a while to digest. She served up another mental feast at the Wellness Retreat, held in Ashevile NC, October 21-22. Here is one tasty nugget I learned from her.
A filoplume is a type of feather that grows in clumps at the base of flight feathers. It’s small and has a long shaft. Here’s an excellent description. This feather, unlike other feather types, has no associated muscles, so a bird cannot move a filoplume independently. Instead, a filoplume is a sensory receptor attached to a nerve bundle, which provides information to the bird about the position of the feathers surrounding it, and by extension, the bird’s own position in space.
Think of a filoplume like a cat’s whisker. Around each flight feather are many of these whiskers, which give their owner a lot of information about where she is, how to navigate, and what to do next to continue flying or to land. When a bird flaps, those filoplumes go to work, sending her brain tons of information that she must process, and making her think and react in ways that challenge her.
Why is this important? Because a bird denied flight in our homes does not receive much of the filoplume’s message: She does not get to think about and figure out how to fly, perhaps the most essential part of what a bird is. She was meant to be challenged by the constant decisions that flight requires and without them she may be bored or crazy or both. Of course we can never know what our birds are thinking, but we can imagine how we might feel about the world if our legs were tied together from the time we were born. What would it feel like to crawl everywhere? What if you could only get somewhere when someone else took you there? And what if you could only interact with what someone else decided you might like?
How do we address this problem in our homes? Give your bird many opportunities to exercise. If she is not allowed to fly, give her a hanging gym or a boing to encourage swinging and play. Provide her with a cage that is wide enough for her to move around in – and give her plenty of out of cage time. Most importantly, remember how essential sensory stimulation and the opportunities for choice are for your bird’s mental health.
October 26, 2012 6 Comments
We lost two Phoenix Landing parrots in June, both related to causes that can often be prevented. Their stories deserve our attention, in the hope that other parrots may be spared the same demise.
LUKE, a gorgeous umbrella cockatoo, was well loved in his early days. Unfortunately, this also included extensive over-handling and snuggling. When Luke reached sexual maturity (about 4-6 for umbrellas), he soon began to prolapse – his sex organs fell from his body. Eventually he lost control of his muscles around his vent. Thanks to Dr. Vickie Kondik at Linden Heights, he had several successful surgeries. Unfortunately, these surgeries rarely hold, so Luke continued to prolapse. At some point in this cycle, a bird can no longer stay healthy and starts to suffer. We rarely euthanize Phoenix Landing parrots, but Luke’s future was otherwise going to be painful and short, and we just couldn’t ask more of him. One of the most important things we can teach our companion parrots, especially cockatoos, is to play independently – both in their cages and when they are spending time with us.
JACOB, a young blue and gold macaw, came to us with respiratory challenges. He was finally diagnosed with pulmonary hypersensitivity syndrome. This is a painful condition which makes it terribly hard for a bird to breathe. For macaws, it is often caused by cockatoo dander, but it can also result from smoking, fragrances, toxic fumes or cleaners, construction dust, etc. We have to remember that birds were built to fly which is based on a highly efficient respiratory system. When we subject birds to poor air quality conditions, we potentially compromise their health. Jacob paid the ultimate price with his life, but we can learn from this tragedy and try to improve care for all the other parrots in our lives! To hear more about Jacob’s joys and struggles, click here to read a beautiful eulogy written by George Goulding. Thanks to George and Nancy, Jacob had the most perfect landing for his final time with us.
July 1, 2012 2 Comments
Earlier this spring I had the great pleasure to attend a Phoenix Landing lecture, with guest speaker Nyla Copp, “Get The Flock Out!” in which she discussed the importance for the health of our parrots to provide them with time outdoors in the sunshine & fresh air. Exposure to UV light is vital to parrots in order for them to produce vitamin D, which is essential for the utilization of calcium, a necessity for parrot health. There is no better source for UV light than pure, unfiltered sunshine. Parrots have a highly refined respiratory system which makes them more susceptible to chemicals and contaminants in the air. With indoor air quality decreasing over the years, avian vets have been seeing an increase in the number of companion parrots with respiratory illnesses. This was true of the little lovebird, Orlando, who came to live with Nyla several years ago. Nyla combined her construction skills, creativity, and passion for providing the best care possible for her new companion and built Orlando an outdoor aviary. Through her business, My Birdie Buddy, Nyla now designs and builds custom aviaries, as well as unique perches and playstands. In her presentation she shared invaluable tips and advice on design, materials and construction techniques for building aviaries, from simple to elaborate, from enclosing a porch or deck to building large free-standing structures or small portable ones, and left the entire audience longing for their own aviaries for their birds.
I have yet to build an aviary, for my requirements for one are high, as it must be able to contain my very powerful GreenWing Macaw, Annie, and be big enough to allow each bird to have enough personal space to prevent fighting and allow flight. In truth, I think I will need at least two separate enclosures; but this does not mean that my birds are sitting indoors waiting for me while I plan and dream and research aviaries? NO! We go outside as often as we can, nearly every day.
From my very first days with parrots, I have always taken them outside. At first, my little parrotlets were in a cage that I could pick up and carry so I would bring them out and set them on a table or bench or chair whenever I was out working in the yard. Then when Ariel joined the family, her cage was too large for me to carry around, and a friend gave me an older, travel sized cage which we used. But even that was very awkward, as it became more challenging to find places to safely set her outdoor cage.
Then one day I was attending a Phoenix Landing event, and I saw John Kerns, rolling a travel cage mounted to a babystroller frame. Wow, what a great idea! John told me that his wife Bobbie put them together and calls them “cageollers” and most generously offered this one to me! I will be forever grateful! Thank you, thank you John & Bobbie!
Once home I mounted Ariel’s outside cage onto the stroller frame and secured it firmly with zip ties (the cage that John gave me had bar spacing to large for Ariel’s little head). Now she traveled with me all around the yard wherever I went, she could reach through the bars and nibble on parrot safe plants, could easily be moved in or out of the sun or shade, with ease and safety.
From the day I knew that we would be getting Trixie, I began looking for a second stroller base to build a cageoller for her. I had no luck finding another like Ariel’s, and upon meeting Trixie, a BIG Blue & Gold Macaw, realized I needed something bigger anyway. We had a large wire dog crate in our attic that would work as a cage section, and I just needed to find a base. While glancing through one of my husband’s tool catalogs, Harbor Freight Tools, I noticed an ad for a flat (no sides) powder coated steel garden wagon. I checked the measurement of the wire crate, 36” long x 23”wide x 24”high, and realized it would fit nearly perfectly on the 24”x48” wagon, all the better that it was on sale! I removed the bottom plastic tray from the wire crate, and again used zip ties to attach the two together, trimming off the excess of the tie. I initially replaced the plastic tray, but realized that without the tray, poop, and water from misting, and pieces of food could fall straight through into the grass, resulting in less required clean-up.
As I continued to foster various birds for Phoenix Landing, I kept searching for baby carriage bases, still with no luck, so I consulted the cageoller creator, Bobbie, again. She was now buying used Snap-N-Go stroller bases, made by Baby Trend. This is a stroller base designed for a baby car seat to be snapped into place, and comes in a single and double model. Used ones can be found for sale on Craig’s List. Bobbie uses the double stroller frame with a wire dog crate, like that first one that her husband John gave me, for her macaws and larger Amazons. These would be suitable for larger cockatoos as well. For smaller birds, I have used standard “pet store” bird cages, as there are so many around that are really too small for a parrot to live in, but this puts them to good use. (Important side note here, make sure all doors, even food bowl doors are very securely latched when using these cages outdoors, use quicklinks, clamps or zip ties for extra safety.)
One of the major downfalls of using this type of cage for cageollers though, is that since my birds really love being misted (and I mean soaked down to the skin wet!) nearly every time we go outside, the cages were rusting and powder coating peeling off very quickly.
That’s when I came across the King’s aluminum travel carriers (contact Phoenix Landing for purchasing questions). They all have 5/8” bar spacing, this would work for all but the smallest birds. The larger one is 20x29x20, the smaller one is 18 1/2×16 1/2x 18. Aluminum is very light weight, will not chip, flake or rust like powder coating. I will admit they are pricey, but I look at it as a long-term investment.
The Kings are too small for Trixie and Annie macaws who still use the wire dog crates, but they work great for my other birds, so everyone has a cageoller to fit their needs.
Cageollers are great for traveling with your birds too. Once removed from the cage/carrier, the stroller folds flat, and when you reach your destination, reattach the cage to the stroller using several bungee cords, or you could use zipties, just remember to bring scissors to cut them off when you are ready to take the cageoller apart for the trip back home.
So go find a cage or carrier appropriate for your bird, pick up a stroller or wagon, build your own cageoller, and get outside this summer!
June 13, 2012 13 Comments
Spring is here, and the garden is growing! Thanks to a very special donor, Richard Rossi, The Landing has new greenhouse. We will be growing a wide variety of veggies over the next few months. As each comes into harvest, we’ll chop and freeze it for our future batches of mash. Not only does this save us with our fresh food expenses, but the birds that pass through The Landing adoption center will have a great boost in the freshest of nutrition. We’ll post updated photos throughout the year to show how the garden grows and how it brings joy and great value to the adoptable parrots of Phoenix Landing!!
We just had the first major harvest of several varieties of kale, chard and spinach. We chopped them into small pieces and put in the freezer for future use. Greens are one of the best sources of calcium and vitamin A – two essential nutritional needs of our parrots. We are already longing for an industrial food processor, because we are looking forward to an amazing harvest of fruits and veggies this year.
Thanks to Penny Coghe and Kathy Kocsan, we now have an orchard as well! It includes pear, peach, and apple trees, as well several blueberry bushes. Laura Ford topped it off with some gooseberry bushes for fruit and some butterfly bushes for extra parrot fun and foraging.
Stay tuned to learn more about the gardeners that made this wonderful resource possible!
April 30, 2012 4 Comments
You’re invited to The Phoenix Landing Foundation’s…
PARROT WELLNESS RETREAT
OCTOBER 20-21, 2012
A Weekend of Knowledge and Hands-On Training for Parrot Professionals and Owners
An amazing combination of teachers will join us for an exceptional event in one of the most beautiful fall locations in the country.
This retreat is an opportunity to learn about many aspects of avian health, from basic topics like feather health and nutrition, to the more complex issues like sensory perception and how the parrot brain functions.
In addition, there will be side labs where you can acquire some hands-on training for things like how to medicate or towel your bird, how to make nutritious foods, or create some extraordinary enrichment items.
Understanding avian medicine makes it easier to work with our veterinarians to protect the well-being of our birds. This gives our parrots the opportunity to live the long, healthy lives that they deserve.
The Wellness Retreat will focus on assisting companion parrot owners with the tools they need to understand avian medicine and care for their birds.
- Disease Update
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Avian Emergencies
- The Avian Exam and Nutriceuticals
- Spiritual and Emotional Communication
- Husbandry Training
- The Brain and Special Senses
- Social Needs of Parrots
- The Miracle of Flight
- Aging Parrots
- Relationship to the Outdoors
- Wise Arrangement of the Indoors
- How to Medicate and Towel a bird
- Laser Therapy
- Making Mash and Other Good Foods
- Enrichment Ideas
Entire conference earns 14 IAABC Continuing Education Credits (CEUs)
Registration: $75 for 2-full day sessions. $15 for lunch each day.
We recommend making hotel reservations ASAP! Asheville is very busy during the fall leaf season.
April 4, 2012 No Comments
On Saturday, March 3, 2012, Phoenix Landing hosted its 5th Annual Mardi Gras! This event is intended for potential adopters to meet a wide variety of adoptable birds and learn about different species. We had a range of parrots there from parakeets to cockatoos. There were parakeets, cockatiels, a Quaker, a Senegal, Conures, Lories, Meyers, Amazons and Cockatoos.
Meet some of the parrots looking for new adoptive homes:
The event was attended by lots of people and lots of birds went to new approved homes where we are hoping they will be a match and get adopted. In order for birds to move to new homes from this event, you must have already submitted your application, attended a required class and had a home visit done. For more information about this process, please visit our website at:
At each Phoenix Landing event we sell supplies and usually have a raffle to benefit the parrots of Phoenix Landing.
Phoenix Landing puts on 3 events like this one each year in the DC metro area. Upcoming adoption events:
- 9th Annual Luau, Saturday, July 14th in Springfield, VA
- 2nd Annual Fall Festival, Saturday, October 6th in Springfield, VA
Please mark your calendar and join us!
March 11, 2012 No Comments
Pea, my blue headed pionus, has been with me about a year. As soon as she got here, she started bumping and grinding on her cage door.
I have always ignored this behavior, but it has persisted. Initially, it was almost constant, but it has decreased now to short sessions, one or two times a day.
But throughout this past year, I’ve seen changes in her behavior that tell me that she is over bonding to me, such as flying at, and chasing off, my other birds when they come near me, and shredding the newspapers that cover the grate at the bottom of the cage. She would also run under the bed in my office, seeking a cavity to nest in.
I made some changes to her environment as a result of this. I trimmed her wing feathers – which was not an easy choice. I believe that allowing a bird to fly is important for their physical and mental well-being, but in this case the risk of injury to my other birds outweighs the benefits to Pea. I will let her feathers grow out (it’ll probably take 3 months) and allow her to fly again, if we can get this horniness under control.
I also taped cardboard all around the bottom of the bed, so she could no longer get under there.
I always only petted her on the head, and only when she put her head down to ask for it, and I’ve been limiting that a lot lately too (believe me, that’s a tough one!)
These solutions seemed to work for a little while, but then she discovered the space under my computer desk. Even with trimmed wing feathers, Pea can get down to the ground, and she consistently flies down and runs underneath the desk. Pionus can huff and puff when excited which is normal for the species (it sounds a bit like an asthma attack), and this is just what she did when under the desk. I would remove her, put her elsewhere and give her something to do, but the problem continued.
But then it got even worse.
She now runs under the desk and attacks my feet, dangerous for both her and me. Again, I pick her up and put her in her cage the minute she goes under the desk, but sometimes I am not fast enough.
Needing more help to solve this troubling problem, I did research, and emailed Pam
Clark for her thoughts. As always, Pam is a wealth of information, and here is some of what she shared with me:
“It seems from my observations that parrots actually become incrementally more hormonal as they get older, no matter what we do. . . .Once they start this behavior, it is extremely difficult to get them to stop. One answer might be to make sure that her wings are clipped really well and then to hang a boing from the ceiling that she might not be tempted to fly down from.
“I’ve been giving a lot of thought to diet recently, both because of this almost universal problem with hormonal parrots and because of the pulmonary hypertension and athlerosclerosis we’re seeing in older parrots. I’m now changing the way I feed and have become much stricter. It is carbohydrates (especially simple ones) and fats that are the primary culprits in increasing hormone production. You’ll read that increased protein is a problem too, but I don’t believe that. Protein is used for replacing tissues, etc, and is not used much for energy production. Carbs and fats are used for energy production and this triggers an increase in hormone production.
“As to how I’ve changed things: [my parrots] have their Harrison’s available all the time, but I do measure it so that I’m providing an amount consistent with the recommendations on the back of the bag. If they finish that during the day, they don’t get any more. (I do agree with Dr. Fern Van Sant that the overall amount of food can be a problem also.)
“In the morning, they get their salad, but fruit is limited. Every other evening, they get a few Nutriberries and Nutri-An cakes, and on the evenings in between they get Quinoa Pilaf or a combo of cooked whole grains and roasted veggies. I am also, though, limiting amounts more than ever before. I’ve also decreased the size of the nuts and things I put into foraging toys.”
Pam also recommended: “As you know, it’s imperative to keep her out of any ‘small, dark places,’ i.e. under the desk. Access to such places can cause very swift hormone spikes. If I were you, I would quit giving her any physical attention at all.”
I had been recently offering Pea a small chicken bone, a coveted treat of my Moluccan cockatoo and African grey, but this too is a no-no.
“Absolutely stop the chicken bones and evaluate her consumption of pellets. This is the best ‘barometer’ I know for figuring out if a parrot is getting too many carbs and fats in the diet. If she’s not eating many pellets, then it’s time to reduce any other food sources for carbs and fats – the categories of foods that will increase hormone production.
“You might try a very structured training approach. Teach her to station. Work with a perch that is as hard to get down from as possible. Reward her frequently for staying put with a small, but highly valued treat. As soon as she gets down – no conversation. Up she goes back on the perch. 2nd time, same thing. 3rd time, back in the cage she goes.”
I also used cashews as a reward when Pea did something special, like poop on command. Since cashews are among the highest in fat of all nuts, I’ll have to find something else that she will work for.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress, and please share any ideas you may have about this common problem with all of us.
Thanks as always, to Pam. Her excellent advice can be found at http://www.pamelaclarkonline.com
February 10, 2012 4 Comments
Phoenix Landing hosted a very special guest, Ms. Patricia Sund! She presented another seminar in our Nourish to Flourish series, called Chop Chop! Patricia has been creating Chop for many years and taught us how to master it. Chop is a feeding concept. How many parrot owners chop fresh veggies each morning and evening? I know I do and it take so much time each day. However, as a parrot owner I want to provide the best possible diet to my feathered friends as possible. Chop is the way to go! There is no recipe!! You purchase fresh, seasonal, vegetables and greens that are available the time of year you make Chop. Purchase organic when you can and check the dirty dozen list each year and make sure you purchase those items on the list in organic when possible.
Once all your ingredients are washed, dried, cooked, chopped, you mix them well and place in Ziploc baggies and freeze. Make one baggie for each day. Depending on the number and size of your parrots will depend on the size of bag you should use.
Some ingredients that you could use include the following:
Wheat grass powder
Dry oatmeal (old fashion raw cut)
Crush red peppers
Seeds like flax, rape, hemp, celery
Grains like kamut, rye berries, quinoa (cooked)
Wild Rice, brown rice (cooked)
Pastas like whole wheat, quinoa pasta (cooked)
Red, green, yellow, orange peppers
Carrots with tops
Swiss Chard (green or red)
Beet green (do not use the beet in Chop because it will turn it red.)
This list could go on and go!!
For more information about Chop and to see instructional videos, please visit http://www.parrotnation.com.
The Phoenix Landing cookbook has more information about Chop and other recipes for our feathered friends. The cookbook can be purchased at PL events or on our website at http://www.phoenixlanding.org/books.html.
Good luck with your first batch of CHOP!
January 11, 2012 7 Comments