10 December 2010

Budgie Power! and baby pictures.

This week has been cold, for all of us. I managed to put a few Christmas decorations out and get into the spirit a little while wrapping up the semester by writing about 30 pages of research papers and articles. Cher, Coconut and Kenobi have benefited, as I've basically been holed up here in the Feather Dorm all week and looking to them for comic relief.

On the western side, Lennon and Sprite were treated to a little Christmas story-time by Ms. Flock Advisor. She sent me a message to say that she had just read them How the Grinch Stole Christmas a few days ago. They listened intently. Lennon sat on his porch (his open cage door forms a sort-of porch) and Sprite sat up in the corner of his cage, which is his normal spot when he is interested in what's going on. We will try and get some video of story time with the birds. They might even pick-up a "roast beast" or other fun vocabulary word!

Kenobi has been all about the cold weather. I leave the porch open for him throughout the day, and he goes out to lay down in the cold. He is reminded this time of year why he has all of that fur. The illuminated deer and seal have to go up on the table, and more importantly their cords, when he has access out there. If he gets a hold of one of those cords, the deer and seal probably wouldn't light up anymore, but Bunny-balls would. Temporarily, at least.

This was supposed to be the week that I finally put up a video of Coconut's target training. Alas, he is too camera shy. I tried a few times but he just freezes up when that camera is around. I will have to do some more desense training with the camera before I can get some footage up on the blog. I am very happy with how the little guy has been doing, though. Yesterday, after a session, he came out of his cage and flew around the house a bit as I walked around. He even let me touch his foot while he was on his perch. That is huge for Coconut. In fact, this may be one of the first times he has ever let me touch him voluntarily. He really is a skiddish little bird, but has done really well adjusting with the target training. When I get near his cage he hops right up on his favorite perch, anticipating a session, and fluffs up (generally a sign of comfort for birds) and starts chirping.

Coconut has learned to touch the end of a stick, and that humans bring treats and fun. I have learned, through the training sessions with him, that Coconut has an incredibly complex bird-eality (you know, like "personality"). Birds, all birds, have mental capabilities that are incredible considering the physical size of their brains compared to the brains of mammals. Then, birds are a completely different animal than mammals. Naturalists and scientists have long known that birds also have an incredibly strong skeleton, considering that their bones are hollow, due to a honey-comb structure. Their bones are light so that they can fly. Their bodies as a whole follow this basic plan. Yes, there are flightless birds, but this discussion will not go into the environmental pressures at work there. Considering that flighted birds most certainly benefit from the ability to, um, fly, it is no surprise that the whole of the creature would be built with this ability as a priority. Everything about a bird, then, must be as light as possible. Mammals, for the most part, have not had the necessity for lightness that flighted birds have had in their development. This is why I love birds. They exist on a different plane. Their survival strategy is different than ours, yet they have attained, especially parrots and corvids, an incredible brain. Coconut could not possibly weigh more than an ounce in total, he probably weighs less than that. His ability to show emotional diversity, though: excitement, anger, frustration, fatigue, is absolutely incredible for a mammal such as myself to conceive. Any one of my fingers weighs more than the little guy, yet he can learn, and think, and problem-solve, and be an individual. He shows me this as we have our training sessions together. I notice more and more characteristics of his, and learn how his responses differ to things that I try with him. Today I tried a training session too late in the evening. After a few approximations, he let me know he was ready for bed by tucking one foot up under his feathers after a reward of millet. I covered his cage, and he hasn't made a sound since. He was ready to sleep, he is not a machine, no animal is. Working with this tiny animal has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as an animal trainer. I have been impressed with the abilities of a tiny but efficient little brain, and rewarded with a connection with another being that I would not have had otherwise.

In addition to having fun with Coconut and writing boring research papers, I came across some baby pictures of Kenobi. These were taken with my old phone, so the quality isn't great, but you can see all of his baby hairs. His ears also look very thin and his head is tiny. I can't believe how much he has grown, and that it has been almost two years since we went and got him from the small town of Callahan, FL.

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