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Wow.  I just arrived from seeing the film, "Rio".  I loved it in a lot of respects, but there was one significant problem I had...the parrots had only 3 toes!!!!  WHAT????? Otherwise, it was great!  

Why did I think it was great?  Because it showed the true dedication it takes to own a macaw--the woman had dedicated her entire life to Blu, her rare, Blue Macaw.  She did not have a boyfriend at the dance, it was Blu.  She had her business named for Blu and catered to Blu.  Blu had run of the house--good luck with that in your house, but they had a definite routine with a lot of enrichment and empowerment.  That woman empowered that bird like no tomorrow.  Including not cutting his wings.  Yet, he did not want to fly because of his experience as a youngster.

So, in comes the real story of the Spix Macaw where Blu was the last male left in the wild.  Well, he had to join up with a female in a breeding program.  A female from the wild 100%.  The only thing she knew was freedom.  They only thing he knew was the protection and freedom he had with his owner, Linda. Which is really how I would see them feeling.  What is all this craziness when they ask him what is his craziness and why don't you fly?  

The cool thing is his empowerment--he chose not to fly because he did not want to.  Instead, he developed all of his other skills of manipulation that helped save the wild bird in the end.  The wild bird saved him as well in that she finally showed him the spirit, the true spirit a wild bird feels when they fly free.  So true for a wild bird.  Once he learned it was ok, he felt ok.  The only way the birds survived out there were because the humans lived with them out there.  The sad fact is that without those humans there that love them no matter what watching them and flying with them, the birds don't have a chance as poachers would get them again.  So, it ended very nicely and the overall idea of the world of parrots was conveyed, all aspects--the wild, captivity, poaching, dedication, empowerment.  Thanks for making this movie!!  

Debbie Goodrich, The Parrot Lady of WA.

Looks like it's that time of the year again where there are a lot of escapees out there.  The greatest degree of success in recovery I have seen thus far has wholly been the owner being steadfast and continually calling the bird the moment it escapes and continuing to remain near until that night and then again first thing in the morning the next morning.  I don't know if most people can handle that much time out on a street calling to a bird, but it's those crazy guys that have had the best recovery. 
As far as flying down, for most species, it is simply instinctual to stay up where there are fewer predators.  It takes quite a bit for them to get over this initial instinct, so it really isn't that they don't know how to fly down so much as they don't want to.  Also, instinct kicks in and quiet is the goal so they remain undetected by predators.  That becomes a problem for us.  That is why having the owner out there calling vs. anyone else, or a flockmate, is critical to keep them "talking".  So, if the owner's calls don't work, the next best is a flockmate(or if a flockmate chatters to the bird more than the owner, the flockmate is best choice), the next best is a live bird calling and then sometimes, although I have not seen much success, is recorded same species calling.  Either way, vocalizing is the critical thing so you can spot them.
When it comes to a familiar cage or perch, I have not seen much in the way of a bird being interested to go to it.  I think they want to go to a person who can aid in their protection against predators.  If the person is not out seeking relatively quickly, a bird can be more inclined to seek out other people to intearct with and not stay nearby.  So, keep going out there....calling, calling, calling for as long as you can and for the first three days.  AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, LISTENING!!!  After about the fourth day, weather dependant, the bird will become more desperate in the search for protection and companionship. 
So, you see the bird and you want it down.  Chase it?  Let it come down?  It depends on the bird.  If it is sitting very comfortably and does not look to startle at much, then, perhaps a tree climber will work.  If the bird is not sitting comfortably and is agitated, looking for someone, something, is fanning wings or tail, do not call a climber.  Get the owner to stay nearest and then get some pals to go out a ways to where they can see the bird and potential flight paths the best.  I have often sat on rooftop of houses to watch the bird as it flies and then lands.  The more options of people to watch and listen for the bird as it flies from a distance, the better.  Even better, RADIOS!!  Essentially, setting up a radius with as many eyes on where as possible.
It is always best to try to wait a bird out if it is sighted vs. getting in the troops.  Eventually, they figure out how the whole down thing works.  If the owner or the bird are getting too distressed, I would recommend getting a tree climber vs. chasing the bird out of the tree it is in.  Chasing including: cherry pickers, ladders, balloons, whatever.  You can usually find a climber at any tree trimming service.  Have them climb the tree with as little gear as possible(preferrably none).  Make sure they have the UTMOST CHERISHED OF ALL FOODS, NO MATTER WHAT IT MAY BE OR HOW BAD FOR THEM IT IS with them and be sure the person lets the bird go to them vs. the other way around.  That big treat will be the be all and end all.  Have the climber hold the treat with one hand(target) while the other is the unmoving perch.  Have the bird step onto the perch and not give the treat unless the bird is perched (LURING).  Once perched, have their thumb hold their toes down gently at first and then tightly( which is why I sometimes recommend the climber to wear gloves).  Once a great grip is established, we shove the bird in a pillowcase and send it down a tree.  It's preferrably they just hang out with the climber, but they usually don't as they startle once more.  I then let the "bird out of the bag" once we have established a safe place to do so where the bird cannot escape or hurt itself.
I don't like these forceful methods and prefer to have the bird fly down to the owner, but this is how I've coached tree climbers in a couple of different successful recoveries--one a military macaw and the other my own GW macaw.  So, good luck with the recoveries! 
AGAIN, the three BEST things:
1.  be out there as much as possible LISTENING for first three days
2.  if sighted, have favorite person stay in sight of bird as long as possible.  The longer the better unless instantly recovered.
3.  if sighted, wait the bird out until it figures out how to come down.  DO NOT CHASE DOWN if at all possible. 
OF COURSE, the best, best thing is to train your bird to CONTACT CALL.  If you can, recall training is highly advised too.  Even if you never plan to fly your bird and it remains clipped eternally, these things are highly advised to train.  I usually like to train it by playing, essentially, hide and seek, with the bird.  Where they have to come find me and call to me to find me.  

OUTDOOR FLYER! Yes, OLY is trained for outdoor flight. She is an adult nonfledged bird.

I believe in the parrot's ability to choose. In the wild, parrots make choices every day. It's important that our birds are offered as many choices as possible in their daily lives. You can never remove a choice without replacing it with another or else the eventual end will be a bird who does not thrive in any environment. Ours or that of the rainforest from where their relatives came.

These choices come in a variety of forms: where to acquire food(in a bowl or find it throughout the cage); to go into its cage or back out; to fly from area to area; to interact with flockmates; to be alone. Often, the most missed form of enrichment for our feathered friends is the auditory one.

I have noticed that my birds really thrive in an environment they continually interact with. Especially an environment that has other birds. Initially, they may not get along, but the value of the interaction is beyond value if you set them out for success.

FLOCK DESIGN. Birds are out together and interact as a flock.

ENRICHMENT. Birds get to come outside to enjoy the sun and an outdoor bath.
You CAN empower your clipped bird! Just as much as you can your flighted one!

One of the trends I am seeing today is the use of flight in many homes for people's companions. This has been a fantastic trend as the value of flight to a bird, especially one designed to do so, is tremendous. Not to mention watching those that are good flyers going about what they do best. It's incredibly beautiful.

One of things that saddens me, however, is the reverse effect against those who continue to choose to clip their birds. It's extremely important to understand that I have flighted birds, including one that flew outside. It's equally as important to understand that you must choose the right bird for the job. In my case, my birds travel from show to show , often outside. Therefore, having many flighted birds would not be in my best interest. I have not lost a single bird permanently in all 11 years I have been a professional in the business and I hope to continue with that history. Yet, in order for that success to occur, I feel that clipping is necessary.

Do you understand that I feel I have to defend myself first before stating that I clip? This is where things are a bit awkward. In that clipping should be viewed as something that is not necessarily frowned upon nor should it be the thing that everyone says you must do or else. I have heard of accidents either way. What is so important to understand that I will now restate again is that you can still empower your clipped bird!


Not that long ago, we had a lengthy topic about enrichment for animals. In this specific case, the topic was about fish enrichment. Fish also benefit from a dynamic interaction with either their caretakers or their environment. The addition of various items like differences in rock structure, different methods offered for procuring food, changes in lighting, changes in current or flow are all a part of that dynamic environment. All too often all of those things remain static which can create increased tankmate aggression. Especially when adding new fish to the aquarium, no matter the size.

In the wild, the scene is dynamic. Too much change or too much aggression can be very damaging. Yet no change can be equally damaging due to the aggression I have already mentioned. My goal is to reduce the amount of tankmate-related deaths due to excessive chasing, fin nipping, etc. Sometimes leading to animals jumping from aquaria. The way to battle these behaviors is through intervention such as increased enrichment ideologies.

My friend and behavioral scientist, Dr. Susan Friedman wrote to me the following quote: "This is even true of bacteria that, when near a toxic substance will back away and not return to that side of the dish (see Jennings, 1938, "The Behavior of Bacteria".)" So, the question is not whether or not a fish can alter its behavior so much as being aware of its environment. Thus implying consciousness. Yes, fish have a consciousness enough to retain some very remarkably trained behaviors. Target training in zebra sharks, a goldfish being trained to go through an obstacle course, the chiclid example in the recent issue of National Geographic, "Inside Animal Minds". The examples of direct training methods in fish grow in number. It is obvious that we need to address the fact that all animals need an environment that is dynamic to best fit their behavioral repetoire.

Your birds should be able to adequately share your time with you and each other.

TRAINING for husbandry. OLY demonstrates what I work on with all birds--voluntary wing trims.

JADE enjoys the dirt--a ground forager. He avoided the POINSETTIA--dangerous!

Those that say "not above the eyes"--I don't agree. They should enjoy your requests--even step up

Who said you can't have macaws in an apartment? I had two and a Nanday! NOTE the FLOCK DESIGN.

COHABITATION. OLY and JESSE caged together. They used to be
caged seperately. In addition, OLY used to chase JESSE with frequency until I worked with both of them to teach JESSE she
could defend herself. This was in despite of the fact that OLY was flighted. Just because JESSE is clipped, does not stop her from being able to defend herself, be enriched, or lead a happy life.


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