Archive for the ‘African Grey’ Category

2014 Update

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Well, I cannot believe it’s been nearly a year since I last posted a blog entry.  My life has changed a lot in many ways and not at all.  But happily so.

My flock is doing very, very well.  They do love living here in Albuquerque with me in my little cottage.  The cockatiels Chipper and Charlie are about 14 years old, Sam is about 12, and Steve around 12 also (3 of which have been with me).

Steve is doing very well too, despite his chronic underwing wound.  Having been a rescued African Grey with serious emotional and physical problems, he has really turned around and become a happy, well-adjusted (for him) Grey.  He is still phobic about being removed from his cage, and he doesn’t take any chances if he thinks someone wants to pull him out and take him to the vet.  So he sticks close by his cage.  But he’s a happy guy and we have a wonderful connection.   He is the most gentle and sweet bird with a bit of  Grey playfulness shining forth now and then.  Here are some photos of him from last week.  He is actually not perching on my knee (though he has done that from time to time), but is sitting on a perch on his cage door asking for head rubs.

photo 2


photo 1

Steve’s underwing wound originated with his first owner who neglected him and didn’t provide any kind of stimulation.  At first, we thought he was mutilating himself; but I’ve since learned from my vet here that Steve has a chronic problem with ingrown feathers under one wing.  This may be the original cause of the wound – Steve’s attempts to remove the discomfort.

The bad thing is that he always has a bit of a bloody wound or scab under that one wing, but if I take him to the dreaded (but wonderful!) vet every 2-4 months to have it debrided and swabbed and checked for ingrown feathers, he does very well.  He may eventually die of an infection, but so far he has lived with it without complications.  It must present him with pain every day, but you would not know it except that he is slower moving than most Greys and he doesn’t stretch or lift his wings in greeting, as most parrots do.

My excellent avian vet and I have gone over possible surgical solutions, but he has so little skin left in that area, and the stress would be extreme for Steve.  We both feel Steve needs to be allowed to live happily with some minimal help along the way.  Here he is, after a thorough drenching shower, happily chewing up foraging materials with his humidifier spewing its helpful wetness into a very dry New Mexico fall season.

photo 5

Sam is a wonderful companion and loves going for walks on my shoulder out into our garden.  For longer walks, I put him into a small soft-side parrot carrier, which he loves.  He is easy-going and a very simple guy – though he doesn’t take well to strangers.  He considers my mother and sisters strangers…still!  After 2 years.

photo 4

And my most recent avian accomplishment was to get my two cockatiels to room in the same cage.  I had begun them together when I got Charlie, but they proved to be too competitive then.  But they’ve mellowed also and spend so much time in each other’s cage that I thought it was time.  And it’s working out great and saving me some much-needed space (this is Chipper below – Charlie was roosting somewhere on top of my cupboard when the photo was taken).

photo 3


Although I haven’t been painting for some time, I still explore ways to create.  Recently, I had a real desire to embroider again and I combined that desire with creating a liturgical item for my local priest, called a pall (it covers the chalice used during Mass), and this was the result.  I love embroidery, which I used to do a lot when I was in my 30s.  Eventually I will get back to painting.  However, it may have to wait till I have more time when I’m not working regularly.


The fall here is always beautiful – spectacularly so:  cold nights, warm golden days with soft, very dry, breezes.  The annual balloon festival is in full swing, and I am very grateful for everything.  May your fall be lovely and may you keep warm and toasty this winter!


PS  BunRab, my house rabbit, is fine too.  She is currently shedding her spring/summer coat and looks rather tatty so did not want to be photographed!





Hurricanes and Torn Ligaments, Among Other Things

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Believe it or not, we had a Category 1 hurricane here in Albuquerque a couple of weeks ago.  It didn’t last long and it didn’t affect everyone.  Fortunately, we sustained no damage, but lots of beautiful old cottonwoods and pines were felled and there was flooding all over the place.  And there were power outages.  We were one of the lucky remaining 6000+ citizens without power for about 3 days.  Still, we did have fun shopping for batteries, LED lamps, and ice for our coolers while others were buying non-essential things.  Were were among the few still in survival mode!  Oh, and of course, we spent time in the evenings playing Scrabble with headlamps.


When the hurricane began, I ran from one house to another to close the windows in my place.  I flashed back to “The Wizard of Oz” when Judy Garland was running with Toto during the storm, wondering if I’d make it to my house.  Fortunately, while the floor was somewhat drenched with the rain coming in all directions, a general mop-up did the trick, and the birds and BunRab were fine.

Then, a few days ago, our 11 month-old Maltese puppy, Poppy, tore the ligament of her ACL.  Basically, one of her hind knees is busted and we have to wait for another week+ for the swelling and bleeding to go down before she goes into surgery to repair the damage.  She is consequently crate-bound except for short forays into the yard to do her business.  Here she is peeking at Sam, our Curious George, on my bed.  If she weren’t behind her screen, Sam would not be there!

Poppy and Sam

Otherwise, things are doing well!  Steve loves to shred his newspapers each night.  During the day, I also hang up a brown paper lunch sack filled with a treat and chewable toys, and he spends considerable time ripping that up and finding his treasures.

Let’s hope your summer has been free of hurricanes and torn ligaments!

Enjoying Summer

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

The summer here in Albuquerque is going along well.  After the intial very hot, dry days of June, we have been supremely blessed with at least a couple or more rains per week, now that we are heading into the monsoon season.  I say “supremely blessed” because New Mexico in general has been in a drought situation for a long time.  A side benefit to having the rains is that I don’t have to run the humidifier for Steve.

The flock is doing fine and all is going along well.

Here is Sam posing for me in the early  morning.



And here is Maizy, waiting for the Harrison’s pellet crumbs to drop!  (All animals here love Harrison’s, including Bun Rab, and it’s a race between Bun Rab and Maizy to see who gets the crumbs first.)



Steve is doing very well after his ingrown feather saga.  I thought he had another bothersome feather to have removed, when he began fussing under his wing again.  But it turned out that the scab that had formed under his wing was the problem.  It fell out last night and I wasn’t surprised it bothered him – it was big!


Steve loves to forage for treats wrapped in paper on his play station.  At night, when I put him to bed, I change his newspapers at the bottom of his cage.  He has begun, for the first time, to play with the papers – hanging upside down and being a real, bonafide African Grey clown!  This is wonderful and I hope that it is behavior that will continue.


Steve’s main difficulties are twofold:  1.  he is still phobic about being outside his cage, and 2.  Quickly loses confidence in himself if he falls.  It can take weeks for him to regain ground that he covered.  This may be owing to the fact that falls always meant extreme pain, so he’s slower and more careful than most Greys.  But, maybe in time….

Steve and Sam

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Steve finished with a shorter second round of antibiotics and is doing well after an initial low-energy period after his ingrown feather’s now back to be his version of “active,” which is a very, very slow form of active for most African Greys.  He’s just a quiet and slow-moving guy.  However, once in awhile, he really gets mischievous as happened today:  he really, really, wanted a soaking bath. I usually spray him, but he continued in his water dish.  So I provided a low tub of water for him, which he splashed his head into, and then upended most of it onto his play station.  It was good to see, even if a bit messy!

Sam is being adventurous by accompanying me on my daily walks (that is, when it’s not too cold or too hot).  I recently bought a nifty (though expensive) small walking carrier made by Celltei that can be worn like a back pack or worn in front (which I prefer, so that Sam feels I am close and he can see me).  Sam LOVES the carrier!  Here he is, waiting for “walkies.”


The carrier sits on top of his cage, where he plays during the day.  I will often find him quietly sitting inside, just hanging out serenely. I love being able to include Sam in more of my activities, and this is a great boredom-buster.  It tires him out too – an added benefit.  This is the small size, though it borders on being almost too small.  But it works for a Jardine’s Parrot.  It would be too small for an African Grey.



Feeling Pretty Good

Monday, April 29th, 2013

photo-2I’m happy to say that Steve is doing much better now.  After a course of antibiotics and some pain relievers on days when he’s been to the vet, he’s doing great.

Dr Linda Contos saw Steve on his follow-up to his first appointment, where it was discovered that his bloody underwing was the result of ingrown feathers.  The wing is still pretty raw but healthy – he’s not worrying or chewing there any more, so the removal of those ingrown feathers did the trick.  The doctor felt, after reviewing all his vet records from Wisconsin (during which time he was in the rescue facility and was being seen by the vet who handled birds from the rescue) that his original bloody underwings probably began with ingrown feathers that no one discovered.  All along, it was thought to be a behavioral issue.  At one point, the sores were so bad that the vet recommended euthanasia if there were no improvements.  That’s when Mary decided to foster him and give him a new chance.  And that’s how I found Steve, through Mary’s blog Parrot Musings.

I’m very happy to find that Steve is much more resilient about vet trips, now that he knows he’s mine and I’m his.  He must have come to that conclusion a little while ago, and things are starting to open up for him.  Even last year around this time, he wasn’t sure he was going to be hauled away yet again.  Steve continues to have a very sweet, gentle nature.  I’m so glad he’s part of my family.  And he can be darn cute and winsome as he shows in this picture:


A terrible, no-good, horrible day…

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Steve is feeling mellow and quiet after his dose of antibiotic and Metacam, following a very bad day  on April 16 when I took him to the vet for the first time in 2.5 years!  He has been problem-free for that long – and he needed that long a stretch without vet interference to heal from his bad experiences from previous vet visits in Wisconsin.  But this time I had to bring him in.  I noticed that some of his feathers were growing weirdly on his left wing and he was beginning to fuss with them, pull feathers, etc.  Then I  noticed a spot of blood on his beak, so I got him into see our new New Mexico vet, Dr Linda Contos, at Ventana Animal Clnic in Albuquerque.  She’s an avian vet and very good with birds.

He did indeed have two ingrown feathers under that wing and a bad infection, so she removed the offending feathers and began him on a course of antibiotics.  I was very impressed by Steve – after his initial protest about being hauled out of his travel cage, he was very calm.  The doc said that owing to his previous history of mutilation under his wings, it didn’t surprise her that some feathers are ingrown.  They form little abscesses and cause discomfort.  She did not advise putting a collar on him to prevent him from chewing further, since he is a calm bird and that previous chewing was for a specific reason – to relieve his discomfort and pain – rather than from an emotional or behavioral issue.  Collaring is extremely stressful.  I agreed – Steve is a happy bird and no longer has a reason to feel abandoned and neglected and he rarely pulls his feathers unless the humidity is extremely try (I keep a humidifier on next to him here in the desert to avoid the feather picking and try to keep the humidity between 38-50% RH).  The doc also said that Steve almost seemed even grateful that the offending problem was removed.

The doc also showed me how limited his wing muscles are – which I already knew – and that he will never be able to fly.  The good news is that we examined the other under wing and it was totally healed and pristine.  It’s just that the skin is thin and the muscles atrophied.  And because he is so hand shy and phobic about being forced out of his cage, it’s unlikely that muscle rehab is in the near future, if at all.

It took Steve about 24 hours before he began looking and acting like his normal self, but we’re back to his normal routine of foraging on his play station in the morning, and all looks to be very good for his future.  And he doesn’t appear to have held it against me that I had to towel him to get him out of his cage!

All in a Day’s Work

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Steve is doing really great these days.  After a settling period from his move from the Pacific Northwest to the high desert Southwest in New Mexico, he’s starting to blossom!  For readers who are not familiar with his story, Steve is a rescued African Grey who was emotionally neglected for his first 6 years and had self-mutilating issues.  He’s also extremely hand phobic and has had fear issues about coming outside of his cage.

But, I’m happy to report that he’s now easily and willingly moving outside his cage on a daily basis to forage for treats and to chew on toys – this is more than I ever thought might happen!  I had been pretty concerned about his apathy and lack of interest in fun, so he’s now learning, thanks to the help of small pecan tidbits from our two old pecan trees in our New Mexico backyard.  I set up a tray on top of a rolling cart and load it up with toys and interesting bird-safe objects.  Steve then comes out of his cage via a food hatch.  The tray is essentially his “back porch.”

Here is Steve foraging for small nut treats that I’ve wrapped inside mini muffin baking cups.  I poke them inside toys he has to chew open to get to the treats.  Or I hide them inside other toys.  I’m making it increasingly hard for him to get to, so this is stimulating him to be more creative and brave.

Searching for nut treats

The result of this serious foraging business?  Well, a brain that is stimulated and less bored, a bird that learns to play with toys (or at least be curious enough to chew them).  A normal African Grey would be all over this tray and into everything else, but Steve has been severely stunted as a youngster, so he’s very slowly  making up for lost time.  Steve is still phobic of hands inside his cage, but maybe that will come in time.

For now, I’m overjoyed with the more tangible result:  A huge and glorious mess!

Foraging is very hard work!

We’re Going to Fly South This Fall…

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

Yes, my flock and Bun Rab will be “flying” south this fall to a  new home in New Mexico!  I will be very happy to be living next door to my mother and sister, who are waiting for my arrival with great anticipation.

It’s a big move – I’ve been at my present location in Oregon for the last 10 years – but I eagerly look forward to a new beginning.  They are always challenging but usually rich with many benefits and blessings.

Chipper is a veteran traveler, having made the trip to New Mexico once before (but ended up only visiting).  Sam has made a trip to California.  Steve is also a veteran traveler when he flew with me two years ago by Southwest Airlines from his foster home to Oregon.  Charlie is Oregon-born and never gone further than 10 miles anywhere.  But as long as he’s next to Chipper, he won’t mind the trip.  The two cockatiels will have a lot of fun.

My greatest worry has been how to shoehorn Steve from his cage to which he is inextricably bound by his phobia of being outside his cage.  But I think I came up with a solution:  getting him used to his travel cage gradually by making it a “sun porch” off his main cage via his food hatch.  With the lure of a pecan in the shell, he easily comes and goes now between his cage and his travel cage, as you can see from this shot:

Steve sampling goodies in his travel cage

It is a morning ritual now that Steve comes to visit his travel cage for his breakfast goodies:  apple, a bit of home made mash, etc.

So Steve and Sam will accompany me in the front passenger seat, and the cockatiels and Bun Rab in the back seat.  It should prove to be quite an adventure!

We Have a New Bookworm (or: Chipper Strikes Again)

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

I know, the titles are pretty cryptic!  But this concerns Chipper’s love of books (see a previous post here) and his influence on our newest flock member, Steve, our rescued African Grey.

Chipper the cockatiel, at age 11, is our oldest and first flock member.  From the time he was a baby, books have been his #1 source of fun. He gets super excited about them and surrounds all his play and being busy with books.  He croons to them, he chews them, he flies on them.  How?  With the help of his human slave (me), of course.

I ask Chipper if he “wants to go for a ride,” and he usually does.  This is Chipper, ready to “fly” with his magic book (this one entitled The Shape of Mercy!!), with the aid of my hand.  I run through the house with book and bird in hand.  He grasps my finger tightly, bends down as if streamlining his body for the wind, and cries loudly “Weeeeee….!!!”

Steve, who has been watching these antics for a few weeks, has been getting increasingly excited about them.  Every time Chipper “flies” past his cage, Steve puffs up his feathers with happiness, his eyes pin, and he moves closer to the cage bars to watch.  Believe it or not, this is the first time in one year and 3 months that Steve has ever shown excitement and a playful side.  He has never, apparently, know how to play.  All these months since he came to our flock, I’ve supplied toys of all kinds.  He often chews on some of them but never explores or plays with them or shows excitement about them.  I seriously doubt he ever played in his life.  It is very sad to think that even when he was a baby, he was deprived of the joy of play and not given encouragement to just be.

I gave Steve his own book (Comanche Moon – I buy these thrift store books based on their size, not contents!) and he is quite tickled with it, providing another way that he and I can interact.  Here he is showing some feather puffing.  He’s going after Chipper’s book!

Note how flared Steve’s tail feather are – he puts everything into playfully chomping on the book!

I’ve always known the value of play for my birds, but none of them have problems being playful.  Having never had such a repressed bird as Steve has been, the concept of how healing and freeing play is has been underscored.  In the last couple of weeks, Steve has been much more relaxed and easy with me.  His resilience to change and sudden things that happen in life are that much easier for him to take in his stride.  I even saw him peering intently at the bottom of his cage (he never goes down there) and environs, as if he was seeing it for the first time.  I think being playful has opened new pathways in his brain, making him more exploratory and less fearful.

He Speaks!

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

For the first time ever (at least in my hearing – what he does when I’m not home, I haven’t a clue), Steve SPOKE.

His first words, as I was leaving the house, wishing everyone to be good and telling them that I love them, he said:  “I’ll be right back!!!”

I repeated the words back to him, and he said again very clearly, “I’LL BE RIGHT BACK!”

How fun is that?  He’s such a dear guy.  It made me smile so broadly all day today that he finally has relaxed enough to say something.

I believe Steve learned this phrase from his first owner.  Mary of Parrot Musings told me over a year ago that she thought she heard him muttering something like this when she was out of his sight.  I wonder what else he might come out with in the future?  Stay tuned….