Archive for the ‘Behavior & Care of’ 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!





Naughty Crows

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

As the weather gets colder here in Albuquerque, I’ve had to curtail walks with Sam in his carrier.  But a couple of weeks ago, I took advantage of a sunny noon lunch break and the two of us went on a mile walk.

We entered the park near home. During the Fall when the pecan trees start divesting themselves of their nuts, the crows gather by the hundreds in this park to forage for food, and crows are noisy and very, very raucous!  As we passed under a wheeling bunch of them, Sam got quite agitated and began screeching at them.  Finally, he couldn’t hold it in any longer.  He yelled at them, “YOU BE!”  – which is shorthand, learned by his old flockmate Pippin the lovebird, for “YOU BE GOOD!”  Pippin was always correcting her “boys” when they got too fractious and loud.  And although she’s been gone for a couple of years now, Sam obviously did take that in and used it  appropriately when he felt the crows had gone way too far in their behavior.  Naughty, bad crows…




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….

We Do Walk…

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Sam in the carrier and Maizy forging ahead on a beautiful warm Albuquerque morning…







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!

…and still hot!

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

We’ve had some great spring/early summer weather with mild temperatures and lots of rain.  But summer finally caught up with us in the last two weeks with triple digit temperatures and some humidity (usually it’s pretty dry here).

Bun Rab copes pretty well, armed with frozen water bottles and a fan blowing directly on her.  Here she is cooling her heels against the bottle:

The avian flock seems to be fine with it, so long as I give some misty showers each day.

Steve still won’t come out of his cage except briefly to his ledge outside of the food hatch door.  But he does come out each night there for head rubs.  Lately, he’s even been venturing out to play with a toy I got for him last year.  Up till now, he’s been too afraid of it, but I’ve been using it myself to show him that it’s not going to  hurt him and it’s not scary after all.  It’s a fun toy that has 4 buttons.  Each one, when pressed, has a different sound:  “hello!”  “hello, bird!” “I love you” and a short recording of laughter as a bird might interpret it.

Steve has finally found out how to apply the right pressure to get it to say something.  Now, he presses the “hello!” to get my attention.  He’s perfectly capable of saying “Hello,” as I heard him answer my cell phone ring with a loud “HELLO!”  But he usually chooses not to talk.

Steve is finally also developing a playful side.  After I cover him up for the night, he clanks up and down his cage and waits for me to lift the cover to say a final good night by hanging upside down and soliciting touch and head rubs through his cage bars.  It’s hard to believe he never knew how to play before – such a basic part of any normal African Grey’s nature!  It’s taken him nearly two years to get to this point.  I can’t imagine how sterile and empty his life was before.

He’s just as phobic about coming out of his cage as he was when I adopted him, but he’s made some great progress in the past two years.  I couldn’t be more pleased.  And I think he is too.