23 January 2011

The Breakfast Mess

This afternoon I promised Ms. Flock Advisor that I would vacuum up the bird food crumbs from the couch and coffee table. The mess was a result of today's enrichment idea for Lennon and Cher, Kenobi also barged in.

As I've posted on this blog before, enrichment is something we try to weave into the lives of our flockmates as often as possible. Usually it is in the form of playtime, or a result of "will the birds eat this?" Parrots are natural problem solvers, and so it is vital that they be presented with unexpected scenarios as often as possible to keep their bird brains occupied with something other than chewing on the drywall.

Today my thought was to give Cher her breakfast on the playstand, which has two food cups mounted on it, in the living room where I was reading by the light of a beaming winter sun. As I prepared her feast I could hear that Lennon was very vocal this morning. His little whistles bounded through four or five of his favorite tunes. I decided he should not miss out on the unconventional breakfast, and laid out some pellets for him over a paper towel on the coffee table.

Cher climbed around the branches of her playstand carrying food pellets over to the water dish for a dip before grinding them to bits with her beak for consumption, balancing on one foot while clutching the food pellet in the other. She was eating in the way that conures do: in a tree, climbing with feet and beak while managing to hold onto a morsel at the same time. It is fun to watch her use her beak to climb while also holding a food pellet or two in it. She was of course on the lookout for soaring predators through the window and let out a few shrieks in response to an ominous profile, followed by laps around the room on the wing. Predatory threat is about all that can cause her to drop her food pellets while eating.

Lennon was content to do what cockatiels do: forage for his delicacies on a nice flat surface. With his enormous toes stretched wide he stomped around the table grabbing a pellet at a time and crunching it in his beak. Each crunch showered minuscule bits of food all around him, and is what led to my cleanup promise to Ms. Flock Advisor this afternoon.

After they had finished feasting both took a nap. These two birds don't normally interact with each other directly, but they are still a part of the same flock. It was funny to see them feeding off of each others behavior. Lennon could eat a house, I watch Coconut try to keep up with him in the mornings when they are normally fed side by side. Lennon can go on and on, and I will see Coconut just dipping his head in the dish and flinging pellets around. Cher, however, hardly seems to eat at all. She called it quits after about three pellets this morning and went into some preening before nodding off. Shielded by my book, I quietly observed as Lennon took notice of Cher and followed suit. He backed away from his pile of food, and retracted a foot while drifting off to sleep.

While the place was still quiet, with the feathered buddies taking their after-meal naps, I got up to refill my coffee cup. I came back to find that Cher had been stirred awake and Lennon had decided he had not got enough to eat after all. He was back to crunching his pepper-flavored pellets, and a hungry bunny had joined him on the adjacent couch. Kenobi decided to enrich his own diet with the volume of Vonnegut I had been pushing through all morning. He tried to carry it off when I reached for it, but the paperback proved too awkward for his little mouth and short front legs. If he had a set of thumbs, our library would be much less of a burden in the next move.