24 March 2010

Coconut: Adventurer at Large, and Sprite's Bath

Over the weekend the flock advisors attended the almost-monthly Parrots in the Park, a gathering of parrot owners who bring their birds out to socialize at a city park. Normally, we take Cher and Lennon to these meets. They are both comfortable enough with us that being surrounded by mostly larger birds (Cockatoos, Macaws, Amazons, etc.) is not a big deal. This week, however, we felt it was time to take Coconut along for the ride. He was the smallest bird there, and at one point had a Cockatoo at least ten times his size standing on top of his little travel cage.

The travel cage we have for Coconut, like the ones for Cher and Lennon, is a carrier just large enough for him to turn around in, but small enough that he would be fairly safe in the event of a minor car accident or sudden drop (not much space to get thrown around inside). The routine is usually to transport Cher and Lennon in their travel cages, and then let them out once we get to the park where they can hang out with us the same as they do at home.

This week we did not have Cher and Lennon's wings clipped, so to avoid any sort of [insert species name here] Hawk carnage the plan was to leave them in their carriers for the duration of the event. Because they would be in their carriers, we though it would be a good opportunity for Coconut to go with us as well because he would feel comfortable inside of his carrier alongside Cher and Lennon inside theirs.

When we showed up and set our caged birds on a picnic table under the pavilion, it looked as if we had brought little snack packs for the large parrots already there. The purpose of these meets is to let the birds socialize with people they don't normally see, and birds they don't see on a day-to-day basis. There are usually at least half a dozen Moluccan Cockatoos, a few Goffin's Cockatoos, some Macaws, and a couple of Eclectus parrots that hop and climb from shoulder to shoulder and across the picnic tables at their own wills. It is a great chance for the birds to really do what they want, but when you are a parakeet the size of a Macaw's foot you'd probably prefer some order to all the shenanigans.

While the flock advisors were, quite literally, being walked on by a Hahn's Macaw and a Moluccan Cockatoo, another Moluccan decided to investigate the caged little Coconut. The bird stepped on top of C-nut's carrier and tried to work the door latch with his foot. Coconut let out his harsh alarm cry, but did not manage to bite the bird's feet like does to Cher when she pesters him at home. Being close at hand, we managed to avert disaster by shifting the wandering Cockatoo to another human. Coconut got his adventure though, and I think he now believes that when we leave the house each day, we are going into a world full of marauding Cockatoos.

Later that same day, Sprite got a bath in our living room. Our friend Meghan got some great video and was kind enough to edit it into an entertaining little piece. Press play, and enjoy!

19 March 2010

Springtime for Sprite... and the rest of 'em

The days are getting longer, and that means that spring has all but sprung around the Feather Dorm. Into the unknown we now go with Sprite.

Sprite has been a very calm bird since we have known him. He was by far the most mellow of the bunch at the pet store and is generally the quietest around the Feather Dorm. The warnings have poured in, however, about the change we can expect come spring time: a time of hormonal rush, particular in the males of the species.

We've heard to expect everything from screaming, to biting, to exaggerated displays of dominance. Basically, all of the undesirables of parrot ownership. An excessively loud amazon could easily draw complaints from neighbors, and a bite from a bird Sprite's size would ruin one's day (to put it lightly).

We are definitely hearing our newest addition become more vocal, and it is hard to determine if it's just his comfort level or the beginnings of a long spring season. The majority of his vocals are still made up of "hello," hi," and "Sprite," along with some human mumbles. Every afternoon, though, I notice that he lets loose a series of squawks at about the time Ms. Flock Advisor normally makes her entrance. My suspicion is that there is more than coincidence at play, as Ms. Flock Advisor's is the voice most often parroted by Sprite. I encourage his speaking in the feminine voice by imitating it myself (the neighbors must think I'm nuts). I hope he stays attached to her voice, and dread the thought of him developing a crush on Cher (screams coming from both ends of the place would drive me nuts!)

As for the other little tweeters, they are entering their springtime season as well. Cher is on edge and sounds the alarm whenever she sees anything out the window. Lennon is a bit moody and whines quite a bit. He is pretty set on getting his way ("Scratch me. No! not there. On my head, No! not like that! Whhaaaaa!") <----yes, that is exactly what it's like.

Kenobi is twitterpated by anyone who walks through the front door. We had friends over for St. Patrick's Day and the little bunny was hopping through legs, and leading off chases all night. He is eating a lot of our hair, which we think is an act of endearment. One must be careful not to fall asleep on the couch while the bunny is out unsupervised. The Flock Advisors have been looking out for each other in this regard with success, so far.

08 March 2010

Jalapeños for Breakfast

"Can the birds eat this?" is screamed from the kitchen to the computer room on an almost daily basis around the feather dorm. Parrots in the wild will feed on all sorts of fruits, seeds, nuts, and vegetables. They are incredibly inventive when it comes to cracking through to the good part and we are forever entertained by giving them a new treasure from the farmer's market to see what they do with it. A quick internet search is usually required to be sure that there is not a toxicity issue, but sometimes the novel food item can pose more of a threat to the Flock Advisors than to the fragile featherbrains.

This winter, the hot item at the farmer's market has been peppers. Poblano, Cayenne, Jalapeño, and every other variety imaginable has been set out in a firecracker display to tempt shoppers who brave the biting cold mornings. Unable to pass them up completely, I brought home some glossy green Jalapeños to cram in the fridge with the rest of the weekly stock-up. I was imagining them warming up a chicken dish or some salsa, but when I got home I thought I'd give the birds a shot at them.

The parrot food we buy at the store usually has some dried peppers in it, and we have a bag of dried Thai peppers for treats. We have never fed the birds fresh peppers, though, so an internet search was in order just to make sure. With the safety check complete, it was time to offer the spicy treats to the birds. Sprite and Cher dug right into the seeds, but Lennon was a little shy. Coconut fed off of Lennon's timidness, but eventually figure it out. I put a pepper slice in his food dish, and once he figured out there were seeds in it, I thought he was going to topple over into his food dish as he picked wildly at them.

I've done some research since, and it seems that parrots do not have saliva glands and are therefore not bothered by the capsaicin, which is the chemical that makes peppers "hot". In fact, the peppers are loaded with essential vitamins for them and also act as a digestive aid.

The morning after their first taste of Jalapeño, I decided to mix some of the fresh peppers in with their breakfast. As I poured their dishes full of parrot pellets, a few slices of fresh Jalapeño went on top. It was a great treat for them, and I have since picked up some fresh Cayenne peppers to add to their daily diets.

The hot peppers pose no threat to the birds, but as mentioned, they're not as benign toward the Flock Advisors. That first morning as I was preparing their diets, I at some point wiped my freshly shaved face with a hand that had been divvying peppers all morning. The capsaicin is perfectly capable of burning sensitive skin, as it is capable of reddening our eyes. So if you do decide to chop up some fresh hot peppers for breakfast, wash your hands thoroughly lest you be brought to stinging tears.