Enjoy article submissions from other parrot lovers.
With love, written by one of the volunteers
"If I were to guess, there will be a zoo waiting in Heaven for you Rich! All the pets will be waiting to welcome you home, just as you've done for them in your earthly home. I'm not really religious, but I do believe in God and Heaven, and I love to believe our pets will be there to greet us. I sincerely do not know how you find the strength and love (not to mention money) to keep doing what you do, but please never give up. You are amazing and I think that's why we all love you and Karen, and we love coming to your home. We get to feel like we're part of tremendously good deeds called your life. We only come and go for short periods of time, but this is really your calling, your life, your sacrifices. Please remember how much GOOD you do for these guys, even if for just a moment of time in their lives."
Lend Me A Bird
"I will lend to you for a while, a bird", God said.
For you to love him while he lives and to mourn for him when he is dead.
Maybe for twelve or fourteen years, or maybe for two or three.
But will you, till I call him back, take care of him for me?
He'll bring his charms to gladden you and should his stay be brief,
You'll always have his memories as solace for your grief.
I cannot promise that he will stay, since all from earth return,
But there are lessons taught below I want this bird to learn.
I've looked the whole world over in search of teachers true.
And from the folks that crowd life's land, I have chosen you.
Now will you give him all your love; nor think the labor vain;
Nor hate me when I come to take my lovely bird again?
I fancied that I heard them say, "Dear Lord, thy will be done,
for all the joys this bird will bring, the risk of grief we'll run."
Will you shelter him with tenderness?
Will you love him while you may?
And for the happiness you'll know forever grateful stay?
But should I call him back much sooner than you've planned;
Please brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand.
If, by your love, you've managed, my wishes to achieve,
In memory of him you've loved; be thankful; do not grieve.
Cherish every moment of your feathered charge.
He filled your home with songs of joy the time he was alive.
Let not his passing take from you those memories to enjoy.
"I will lend to you, a Bird", God said, and teach you all you have to do.
And when I call him back to heaven, you will know he loved you too.
Thank you Nicki!
March 28, 2008
What a good girl she is!!! For those who don’t know her, Babe was a bit “challenging” while at the Rescue. She did not like most women and would not hesitate to bite one if the opportunity presented itself. And, sometimes, she would make her own opportunity. With the exception of a few of the men, Babe really was not the sort of bird that you would go over and pet, much less pick up. And, truthfully, Babe really never liked ME at all. She would go out of her way to show me that, if I came too close, I would be sorry. But – now? Honestly, Babe is the best-behaved bird in our house!
She never gets off her cage, so she is allowed total freedom to be in or on top as she wishes. She never bites and LOVES to cuddle and play. She steps up willingly and enjoys one-on-one time with me. She regularly spends time on my shoulder, a privilege only granted to birds that I completely trust.
How did this happen? Time and patience. When Babe first came to live with us I really could not get near her. I was the one who fed and watered her everyday but never approached her or tried to touch her, etc. Ever day, in the early evening I would go into the room her cage was in and sit down in a chair. I would stay in there for about 20-30 minutes and just talk to her. At first, she just looked at me, but after a couple of weeks, she began to talk back. She would tell me that she was a good girl… and ask me “what’s the matter?”
After a couple of weeks of that, she began to allow me to come closer to her, and occasionally pet her on the foot. We then progressed to the head… woohoo!! I was ecstatic!! Then – the back. But – I was always very tentative with her, because, well, you know how hard Amazons can bite….
If I would give her my arm for a step up (carefully layered in sweatshirts, of course) she would take a swipe at it, never really bite it, but it was certainly enough to scare me off. One day, after we were both comfortable with me petting her, I got a bit closer to allow her to put her head on my shoulder… she climbed on!! I was both very happy and very scared. I was not sure what she was going to do. She sat on my shoulder and looked at me like “ok, where are we going to go?” So – I began (very carefully, LOL) walking around the house with her, talking to her, looking out windows, etc. After our time together, I would bend down by her cage and she would climb back on.
After about a week of this, she began stepping up willingly, pretty much anytime I asked. She enjoyed spending time with me, sitting on my shoulder as I worked or did household stuff. She extended me a bit of trust, I extended her a bit, she extended a bit more, I extended a bit more. Little by little, we began to trust one another.
One Sunday afternoon I was sitting on the couch, reading the newspaper. Babe was on my shoulder and began biting my neck (no pressure whatsoever exerted on her part, but I was still scared… since she had never done this). She kept doing it, than climbed down the back of the couch, so she was between me and the cushions. I turned around to look at her, she was lying on her back. I was like “Oh my gosh, I’ve killed her!!” I gently nudged her onto her feet, she rolled right back over and began to grab at my fingers and laugh. She wanted to PLAY??? I was really not sure how to play with an Amazon, but…. Turns out, the light bites on the neck mean… “I want to play!”
From that day on, Babe has been a complete doll. Never bites, loves to hang out and play or just sit quietly on her perch in my office while I work. She is a joy to foster and incredibly entertaining.
So – what does Babe need in a permanent home? Firstly, a person who is willing to commit the time that it takes to build trust with her. Because once she bonds, she bonds very strongly and becomes an extremely gentle girl. She is perfectly to content to spend the day quietly either in or on top of her cage, with cartoons for company. So, someone who works full-time would be fine for her. During the evening she loves to spend family time, eating dinner, playing and being petted. She does not mind in the least other birds…. EXCEPT for other Amazons. She does not like them and will get aggressive. Otherwise, she does not mind big or small birds and never exhibits any agression towards them, even if one lands on her cage. She is quiet, so would be fine living in an apartment.
Babe is an excellent companion and has a lot of love to give to a special person. She just needs someone who is willing to commit to their relationship. I promise, once committed, Babe is truly an amazing girl.
WOW. That Bird Sure Can Scream!
by Barbara Heidenriech
"Screaming. Somebody reinforced the heck out of that behavior." I said to myself. Misty, a double yellow headed Amazon parrot, lived with me for only a few weeks. She was there so that I could put some of her vocal behaviors on cue. However it quickly became apparent she had a few other behaviors that needed to be addressed first. Before her stay with me she resided with Jill Bell for six years. Prior to that time her history is pretty fuzzy. She is estimated to be 19 years old. This meant screaming could have been reinforced for at least 13 years. It must have been, because it was STRONG. Misty was relentless. I'd leave the room; she'd scream and scream and scream.
She had been a good reminder of what companion parrot owners experience when faced with a very annoying and challenging problem. It can be very frustrating. Oddly enough, when I walk into someone else's home and hear screaming birds I am usually not effected. But when a bird is screaming specifically, in what feels like a demanding way, to get my attention, it strikes a nerve. How does one find the patience to be a good trainer in those situations? It is not easy, but definitely necessary.
My mantra with Misty was "I am solving the problem. Getting angry or letting that knot in my gut sway my strategy will not give me the desired results. I am confident what I am doing will work. It has worked before with other birds I have trained. Hang in there!"
And it is true, my blue fronted Amazon parrot Tarah also learned to scream for attention. Completely through my own ignorance I reinforced screaming. I acquired Tarah, as many people do, when he was offered to me for free. At the time I was working in a veterinary hospital. One of my co-workers also worked part time in a pet store. Someone had walked in off of the street and sold her the bird for $100. Was the bird stolen, smuggled or desperately unwanted? I don't know. My co-worker found she was overwhelmed with too many animals in her home and asked if I would be interested in watching the bird for awhile. (That "while" has turned in 18 years.)
Once in my apartment I was thrilled when Tarah offered a "hello" at the sight of me snacking on a piece of bread. However the enchantment wore off as Tarah began to scream anytime I was out of sight. Unaware of how to stop this undesired behavior, I did as many do, I ran back into the room each time Tarah screamed and told him to "Be quiet." Did it work to stop the screaming? No, and at the same time I found I very much disliked my attempts at punishing reactions to the undesired behavior. I so enjoy having animals respond positively to my presence and did not want to become an unpleasant experience in my bird's life in order to stop the screaming behavior.
While in the middle of dealing with this problem, I was introduced to the book "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor. (Also known as the bible of animal trainers) As I read the book, I latched onto two important principles that could help me address the screaming problem. Extinction and differential reinforcement. Extinction is described as the process of discontinuing reinforcing a behavior that has been previously reinforced. In other words part of my strategy should include discontinuing offering reinforcement for screaming. This meant I should no longer run back into the room, or yell at Tarah. The book did not describe the exact situation I was experiencing with my bird. Rather it described the principles and how to apply them to a variety of examples, human and animal. In reading the words, I made the connection that the concepts could apply to any behavior I no longer wanted to continue. Paired with the principle of extinction was the strategy of differential reinforcement of an alternate behavior. In other words, if screaming would no longer work to get a response from me, what would? For Tarah this turned out to be a whistle. In the middle of a session of screaming and me doing my best to ignore this undesired behavior, Tarah offered a "whistle". I immediately reinforced this by responding with the word "good". Tarah replied with a scream. This was because at this point he only had one repetition of whistling being positively reinforced and entire of year of screaming being reinforced. However I remained consistent with my strategies and within two weeks time Tarah learned to whistle instead of scream when he wanted a response from me. 17 years later Tarah whistles when he wants to know where I am, when he desires a toy or treat, when I come home, and when he simply seems to be "happy". The undesired screaming behavior was extinguished and replaced with a whistling sound.
Misty seemed to throw a kink in our now peaceful, well behaved and relatively quiet household. I "knew" from my past experience that I could repeat the process I had implemented with Tarah. However this time proved to be a bit more challenging. Because I was working out of the home at the time, it meant no breaks from dealing with the behavior problem. Every time I left the room I was challenged with having to be focused on training this bird. I was finding this to be very demanding. In addition there were times in the day when mentally I was just not prepared to train. Rather than feeling inspired to train and ready to resolve the behavior problem, I found myself dreading having to leave a room and work with Misty. I decided I needed to better set myself up for success. In getting to know Misty, who other than the screaming behavior, I found to be a delight, I learned that in the past she was accustomed to being covered at night. I took advantage of this and decided to leave Misty covered during the time in the morning I needed to shower and prepare breakfast and bird diets in the kitchen. This allowed me time to peacefully attend to necessary tasks in the morning. After this, I found I was less stressed and more prepared to begin a training session with Misty.
Throughout the day I would treat each time I left the room for whatever reason as a learning opportunity for Misty. I practiced my strategy of extinguishing screaming by not responding to it, followed by reinforcing a desired behavior. In Misty's case the desired behavior was not a specific sound. Instead I chose to reinforce silence. My plan was to reinforce small increments of time of silence and gradually increase the duration Misty was silent before I would reinforce her with my presence or attention. If I was in the kitchen I would wait just outside of her view while she screamed. At first if she offered a pause in screaming that seemed the slightest second longer than what she had presented in between screams in the past, I would quickly appear and offer generous amounts of attention. I wanted quiet to receive a greater amount of positive reinforcement than screaming if I could. Overtime I gradually increased the amount of time she remained quiet before I would respond. And it worked!
However this was not without challenges. There were times throughout the day when a training session was not convenient for me when I needed to leave the room. Rather than cover Misty I opted for engaging her in other acceptable activity. For example, I often offered Misty a small cardboard box, a rolled up ball of newspaper, a new toy, or a portion of her diet just prior to leaving the room. This gave Misty another activity to focus on instead of screaming. But it also was not an opportunity for Misty to learn that screaming would not gain my attention and quiet would. It was still important to include training sessions throughout the day. The other activity was meant only to offer a break from training for me. This may have also lengthened the amount of time it took overall to teach Misty that screaming no longer would work.
Another challenge in training Misty was that Tarah was in the same room as Misty. Tarah would whistle at times when I left the room. While I wanted to respond to his whistle, I did not want to also then accidentally reinforce Misty's screaming. My strategy had to be to only reinforce Tarah's whistle if Misty was not screaming. If I was focused on the training session, I also found I could position myself so that Tarah could see me, but Misty could not. This allowed me to reinforce Tarah's "good" behavior and wait for Misty to offer silence before responding to her.
Misty's screaming also appeared to stimulate an occasional screaming behavior in Tarah as well. Fortunately because he had a strong reinforcement history for a whistle, I simply waited for him to offer a whistle before I would respond. Tarah quickly returned to offering a whistle and once again extinguished screaming.
Misty also would on occasion scream for my attention while I was in the room. When this occurred, I simply left the room. Again my thought process was to teach her that screaming now created the opposite response. Instead of people coming to her, people go away. It was also important to reinforce her with attention at times for being quiet while I was in the room as well.
Overall training misty to present silence to gain my attention took about 6 weeks to train. Obviously this was longer than it took to change Tarahs behavior. This could have been a result of the strength of the behavior in each bird based on their individual positive reinforcement histories. It could have also been a result of the fewer training sessions applied to Misty during the given amount of time. It could also be a factor of the birds as individual learners. In any case the end result was a bird that successfully learned to present desired behavior for attention as opposed to the undesired behavior of screaming.
I went through the emotional gamut that many companion parrot owners face when addressing screaming problems. However by focusing on good training strategy and allowing myself opportunities to relieve myself of the stress associated with addressing the problem I was able to attain my desired training goal. Screaming for attention is a behavior problem with a solution. Set yourself up for success and invest the time to train the desired behavior. The end result can be a lifetime of good behavior.
Tips to address screaming for attention
© Copyright 2006. First appeared in the Volume 2 Issue 1 Spring 2006 Good Bird® Magazine.
About Barbara Heidenreich
Barbara has been a professional in the field of animal training since 1990.
She owns and operates a company, Good Bird, Inc., that provides behavior and training products to the companion parrot community. These products include Good Bird Magazine, books, videos, and training/behavior workshops. Barbara has provided behavior workshops and/or animal training presentations at the Association of Avian Veterinarians conference, The American Federation of Aviculture conference, The International Parrot Conference at Loro Parque, Parrot Festival, The International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators conference, American Association of Zoo Keepers conference, Association of Zoos and Aquariums conference, The Parrot Society of Australia conference and many more. She is the past president of the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators (www.IAATE.org) and has been on the Board of Directors since 1997. Her expertise has been utilized by the US Dept. of Agriculture, Fish and Wildlife Service and numerous international professional organizations. In the past 4 years she has met and trained over 600 parrots at her workshops.
She is the author of "Good Bird! A Guide to Solving Behavior Problems in Companion Parrots" by Avian Publications and also "The Parrot Problem Solver. Finding Solutions to Aggressive Behavior" by TFH Publications. She is also the producer of the Good Bird Parrot Behavior and Training DVD series.
Barbara's experience also includes consulting on animal training in zoos and other animal related facilities. She has been a part of the development and production of more than 15 different free flight education programs. Barbara continues to provide consulting services to zoos, nature centers and other animal facilities through her other company Animal Training and Consulting Services. In her career she has trained animals, trained staff, and/or presented shows at facilities around the world.
Yahoo group: Birds-in-the-Midwest
Thu Aug 7, 2008 1:56 pm (PDT)
I am going to send some general information regarding birds through the group, feel free to send them on to your friends that have birds; hopefully we can increase knowledge about our pets so that the owners can improve things in their own homes for their feathered children.
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Probably the most common reason for people giving up their parrot is being bitten. Parrots bite, period! If you acquire a parrot of any size, from parakeet to macaw, you are going to be bitten. Not once, not twice, but many, many times over the lifespan of the bird. Birds bite in a couple of different ways and for a whole myriad of reasons.
Just because a bird laid it's beak on you doesn't mean it bit you. Birds employ 4 forms of "biting". The first form of bite is not really a bite at all. Birds in the wild will commonly grab a branch in their beak to test it for strength before stepping on it. They also use their beak to steady themselves as they climb or move from branch to branch. To the uninitiated, this can appear to be an attempt to bite and the instinctive reaction is to pull away. Unfortunately, this is often seen by the bird as a game of chase and can lead to over-excitement and a real bite.
The second form is called beaking in which the bird gently gnaws and tongues you fingers, hands and arms using the side edges of the beak instead of the pointed tips. Remember the section on parrots being natural chewers? Well, they will chew on you as well. This is a form of social interaction on the part of the bird and is often considered acceptable. However, it can easily get out of control.
The third form of bite is really more of a good pinch administered with the tips of the beak. A parrot most often does this to get your attention or to warn you of approaching danger (usually a member of your household). Not serious, but definitely irritating and painful. If there is not a welt, it wasn't a pinch.
The fourth form of bite is a bite, and you'll know it when you get one. As a rule of thumb, if you are not bleeding or missing body parts, it wasn't a bite. Over time I have been bitten on the neck, face, stomach, feet, ankles inside the thigh and many, many times on the arms and hands as shown below.
A real bite can easily mean a trip to the emergency room or even a hospital stay. Bites by medium or large sized parrots have frequently caused lacerations requiring stitches, disfigurement requiring cosmetic surgery (usually lips, ears or cheeks bitten through or off), broken bones in the fingers, hand or wrist, and even amputation of fingers when they are too badly crushed. As you can see, being bitten by a parrot is no laughing matter.
Birds bite for any number of reasons. Fear, anger, hunger, jealousy, having a bad day, defending territory, it doesn't like you, or it just plain feels like it. I hear the phrase "and then he just bit me for no reason at all", all the time. While this would seem to lend credibility to the last reason, nothing could be more distant from the truth. There is always a reason, it's just not always apparent. The instinctive reaction from the unknowing new owner is to distance themselves from the bird or lock it away in isolation. This only compounds the problem and leads to frustration for both the owner and the bird which, in turn just leads to more bites. It's a downward spiral from there. Ultimately, the unhappy parrot owner ends up with what they perceive to be an uncontrollable and dangerous bird which almost always means a one-way ticket to a rescue for the parrot.
To sum it up, if you can not accept the fact that you are going to get bitten from time to time, and that sometimes these bites can leave serious wounds requiring stitches or even surgery, then you should definitely think long and hard before buying a parrot, particularly a medium or large sized one. If you are not willing to do your home work and learn about the body language that would warn you of a bite and how to avoid it, then you are very likely going to be one unhappy parrot owner.