Category — Phoenix Landing News
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
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
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
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
Frank Birdsong, a friend to Phoenix Landing and a yellow-bibbed lory owner, shared a wonderful enrichment idea based on Leigh Ann Hartsfield’s great class on Edible Enrichments held earlier this year.
“I clip dehydrated fruit to the cage for Bingé to work on. He delights in attacking and destroying the fruit and even in eating some of it. Bear in mind that Bingé is a lorry, soft-billed, not a ‘jaws of life’ macaw.
I finally found the perfect clips for this. They are from Bed Bath and Beyond and have the tightest grip I have found in plastic clips. The bar code for the clip reads: “73287 90025.”
I cut apple slices or bananas for dehydrating, but I cut them about 1½ times the recommended thickness for dehydration. I dehydrate them until they are tough like firm rubber, not brittle, so it takes an effort for my lory to tear the fruit apart.
I position the clip around the cage bar so the bar is not pinched; rather, it is loose between the teeth of the clip and the spring and handle assembly. This way the clip of fruit is free to move around as Bingé fiddles with it and tries to pull it apart.
I clip several of the fruit to hang from the top of the cage and along the sides of the cage, separated as much as possible, so he has to work to get at them. I wrap some of them in paper so he has to figure it out and before he gets to the dehydrated fruit. Then he has to pick at the fruit which is tough enough not just to fall apart from his assault.
Initially the fruit is positioned in the clip so that about 1/3 of it is exposed and 2/3 is behind the teeth of the clip where the cage bar is. That allows the clip to hold tight to the fruit. After Bingé succeeds in destroying the exposed fruit, I move half of what’s left so he can get to it. Later I move the rest so he can get at it. These might be a morning position, a position for when I come home from work, and a last position a while before Bingé goes to sleep. As the fruit is dehydrated it does not spoil even though it is out all day.”
Thanks for sharing this great idea, Frank, and for describing it so well. I love learning from all of you, and look forward to our exceptional classes next year.
December 23, 2011 1 Comment
We’ve all heard about how long parrots live and the importance of planning for your bird’s future. After all, it is quite likely that your parrot will outlive you.
However, a new study indicates that parrots may not live as long as we previously thought.
In “Survival on the Ark: Life-history Trends in Captive Parrots,” the researchers analyzed data from the International Species Information System (ISIS) database. Zoos use ISIS to record and track statistics about all of the animals in their care.
After examining over 83,000 records, the study concluded that “Species varied widely in lifespan, with larger species generally living longer than smaller ones. . . but only  species had a maximum lifespan over 50 years.”
The oldest parrot was a Moluccan cockatoo at 92 years, but many other cockatoos, such as Rose-breasted cockatoos and Major Mitchell’s were exceptionally long lived.
Lories and lorikeets had short maximum lifespans – in fact the budgie, at 18 years, outlives many species of lory.
The study also states: “Of all the species held in ISIS institutions, 50% never had an individual live beyond 22 years of age, and only 30% of these species had a median adult lifespan ≥10 years, even after limiting data to individuals who survived juvenile mortality (≥4 years). In contrast, when only living animals were considered, 58% of species had a median age ≥10 years.”
The study contains a table listing longevity data on 260 parrot species.
Looking at these numbers, it’s hard not to feel sad at the thought of losing a beloved companion after what seems like a few short years. Stay focused on quality over quantity: provide the healthiest environment for your bird and she is likely to live a long and happy life.
The full study is available here . Thanks to Steve Milpacher of the World Parrot Trust, our wonderful guest last weekend, for passing it on.
December 7, 2011 5 Comments
As an adoption coordinator for Phoenix Landing, I help people navigate the challenges of living with parrots. I’ve learned a lot from families and birds over the years, and I’m still learning from the many people and parrots that I meet.
One of my goals is to give folks the tools to reduce the number of parrot bites.
People often make statements about their birds that, I must admit, baffle me.
“He’s just pushing the limits to see how much he can get away with.”
“She’s just testing boundaries, but she’ll soon learn who the boss is.”
To this I say, “Huh?”
The statements above are common ones when describing issues in child rearing. It’s natural for us to think of our birds as our children and to use our understanding of how to raise kids when we interact with parrots.
But birds aren’t children.
Birds are prey animals and we are predators.
Can you imagine a chicken testing boundaries with a fox, or a seal pushing the limits with a polar bear? How about seeing how far you can get with a mountain lion?
When a bird reacts by lunging, biting, or exhibiting body language that otherwise expresses discomfort, she is saying one thing, and one thing only: I am uncomfortable with this situation.
Please respect her clear communication, don’t force her to “toe the line,” and make trust building your top priority.
November 7, 2011 6 Comments
AS THE YEARS GO BY, Phoenix Landing assumes protective custody for an increasing number of birds. We strive to maintain responsibility for them for their entire lives. Since birds live a long time, we believe that each home should be a good one.
This is very personal for me because Phoenix , my greenwing macaw, should outlive me by several decades. I am “paying forward” in the great hope that someone will look out for Phoenix when I no longer can. Do you worry about your bird’s future the way I do?
This idea goes to the heart of what Phoenix Landing stands for:
- It’s not often that one person can care for a parrot for their entire life (assuming the bird remains healthy);
- Birds deserve to have a good home each time, not just in the home that first acquired them;
- The term “forever home” is highly discouraged when it comes to parrots. Even the smallest parakeet can live 20 years, and frankly, very few people remain committed or able to provide a long-term home. People’s lives change, through no fault of their own, due to health, marriage, children, money, jobs, housing, family responsibilities, and even death. Caring for parrots can also be hard work.
- Ideally, non-profit parrot organizations will offer a mechanism for ensuring a succession of good homes for any bird that comes through their system. This means the organization needs to be sustainable for a very long time, and not just operated by one person or out of someone’s house; unfortunately, those organizations don’t tend to last as long as a parrot’s healthy lifespan. I am so grateful to everyone that is involved with Phoenix Landing, because our strength and longevity will come from many of us each doing a small part. We are all “paying forward” and I’m guessing you want the same safe future for your birds as I do for mine.
- One way we can help parrots is to encourage adoption. Let’s inform people that all companion birds deserve to have a succession of good homes. Someday your bird will likely need one or more new homes too, and you’ll want those to be good ones. Let’s promote adoption as the norm, not just something for the “rescues.”
- Another way we can help parrots is to teach people that birds are resilient, regardless of their past. Nature has built them to be adaptable in order to survive. Phoenix Landing rarely uses the word rescue because this word conjures up a sense of abuse, neglect, harm, and baggage. Most of the birds that come to us are from loving homes where it is just no longer possible for them to care for a bird; but even true rescue birds are likely to adapt if given an opportunity to thrive. I have yet to meet a parrot that was not adoptable, there is usually an appropriate family for each and every one.
Since 2003, Phoenix Landing has taken responsibility for over 1,940 birds. So far, about 150 of the adopted birds have been re-homed, and foster homes often change too. As the years go by, a growing number of Phoenix Landing birds will need to be adopted again and again. The good news is that we put the same hard work and effort into finding the 2nd, 3rd and 4th homes as we did the 1st one.
In a handful of situations, we have lost track of a bird because someone chooses not to abide by the specific policies outlined in our foster and adoption agreements. I must confess that it deeply disturbs me when someone disrespects the goodwill intentions of Phoenix Landing, and most importantly the long-term interests of the bird. We will never give up trying to keep a watchful eye on every bird that comes thru Phoenix Landing.
One of the ways we try to keep in touch with our adopting families is through our Alumni Program. Several people help with this function since a growing number of birds now fall under the protective umbrella of Phoenix Landing. In fact, we could use some additional help. If you are interested, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’d like to give a special thanks to our extraordinary adoption coordinators (Debbie Russell, MD; Jenny Drummey, VA; Sarah Ptomey, WV; Kevin Blaylock, TN/VA; and Nina Roshon, NC). No matter how many birds they are trying to place, how many need yet another new home, how many challenging people they encounter – they always keep the welfare and future of the birds first and foremost. They are motivated and rewarded by all the good matches they make, parrot-by-parrot. I hope you will join me in giving them a special cheer of gratitude. Someday your parrot may need them too!
September 1, 2011 8 Comments