Archive for March, 2009

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Updating the Parrot Blogroll

March 25, 2009

When I started this blog, I added a bunch of links to my sidebar in order to share other great parrot resources. Since then I’ve added a few links here and there, but quite a few more parrot blogs have either sprung up in the mean time or come to my attention; and quite a few others seem to have fallen inactive or been pulled down.

So it’s time to update the Best in Flock blogroll – I’ll be going through my links and evaluating the bird blogs I already know about, but would love some input from the community on other parrot sites I should consider. I’ll also be dropping a bunch of links – so if you think I should keep something, make sure to let me know.

What I’m looking for in blogroll suggestions:

  • The blog is primarily/exclusively about (or “by”) parrots.
  • Blog should be at least several months old. This will help weed out that huge percentage of blogs that gets started and abandoned almost immediately.
  • Blog should be currently active and updated at least once or twice a month.

Here’s what I probably won’t link to:

  • Blogs that offer what I consider to be bad advice or poor examples of how to care for a companion animal.
  • Blogs that may mention parrots every once in a while but aren’t primarily about birds.
  • Thin affiliate blogs whose sole purpose is peddling crappy parrot training DVDs. These are a dime a dozen, offering nothing original, and very often written by the owners of said DVD program and/or people who don’t even appear to have parrots, but create blogs with recycled content and fake testimonials in hopes of making a quick buck off of affiliate commissions.

I do consider the blogroll to be my recommendations (aka, a de facto quasi-endorsement to a small degree), so I think it’s important to have these criteria — I’m not trying to be snobby or judgmental, just making sure I only link to the best stuff. (The blog doesn’t need to be “professional looking” or self-hosted – it’s the content I care about.)

So, what’s your favorite parrot blog? Who do you read?

Here are some of my (new and old) favorites to inspire your creative juices:

Ok, your turn… what parrot blogs do you recommend?

p.s. If you like Best in Flock, please feel free to link to it from your site as well.

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Parrot Hormones – Is Brat Bird Season Over Yet?!

March 17, 2009

Spring is hormonal season for parrots. It’s a time for molting, crankiness and just general acting out. And Stewie the sun conure had a horrid case of the brats for the last month or more.

In the past few weeks I’ve barely been able to hear myself think thanks to all the incessant screaming. Stewie screamed non-stop and Mika always chimed in with her loudest “me too” squeak. (The “me too” squeak might actually mean “ow! my ears, it hurts! make it stop!” so you can hardly blame her.)

SQUAWK SQUAWK SQUEEEEAK! SQUAWK SQUAWK SQUEEEEAK! … repeat ad nauseam all day long. Didn’t matter if I was in the room, out of the room, if we were doing clicker training, if I was paying attention to him, if I was ignoring him, if was paying attention to Mika… or not, if it was silent or there was background noise… not even having food in his mouth would distract him from screaming.

Angry Dill in Shadow by Windelbo (Creative Commons license via Flickr)

Angry Dill in Shadow by Windelbo (Creative Commons license via Flickr)

Stewie also started trying to pick on Mika again (even if he had no reason to be jealous) and was getting nippy again with me. Stewie was being one pissy parrot.

Finally, two nights ago, Stewie did something he hadn’t done in ages… he started paying attention to his foraging toys. Then yesterday he destroyed a wooden toy and made happy noises. He started going inside his cage and hanging out and entertaining himself quietly.

Today, he’s sitting on his cage preening, and letting me mind my business for many minutes at a time.

I think our long household nightmare might finally be coming to an end.

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Frivolous Photo Friday

March 6, 2009

This is Stewie. Inside my shirt. It’s his new favorite hangout.

Stewie in My Shirt

That is all.

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Wet Birdie Wednesday

March 4, 2009

Nothing sillier than a wet parrot 🙂

Here’s Mika looking like a wet chicken after a shower:

Wet Mika Bird

Here’s Stewie sporting a faux-hawk.

Wet Stewie

Mika loves her showers, always getting good and soaked, while Stewie prefers a more gentle misting (or a bath in his water bowl).

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Stewie’s Guide To Stepping Up

March 2, 2009

Some birds (like Mika) step up pretty much whenever you present your finger in the step-up position. Stewie thinks that’s for suckers.

Here are his rules for getting him to step up (from his perspective):

1) Bribes – A bribe is when I show him the treat (and let him watch me get the treat) before asking for a step up, rather than presenting the reward only after he has performed the queued behavior. Not preferred by me, but sometimes it needs to be done. Although he gets a treat for performing most tricks on cue, stepping up is such a basic command that it doesn’t usually get a food reward – so knowing that one will be coming is much more motivating for him. What I try not to do, however, is use the treat to “lure” him onto my hand (i.e., luring would be making him step up in order to reach the treat).

2) Playing on his fear of being left behind – This technique is most often used in the bathroom, where he enjoys hanging out on his perch attached to the mirror. I often take him in to the bathroom with me if both birds are out because I don’t trust him alone with Mika. Usually when I’m ready to leave again, he won’t step up. If I keep insisting he’ll nip at me. So I simply turn around and pretend I’m walking out the door. If I do that and then ask him to step up, he usually does.

3) Present a forearm instead of fingers – When I got Stewie he didn’t trust fingers, and presenting a finger often got you bitten. So we trained stepping up onto an arm. Even though he is much better about (my) fingers now, he still doesn’t care much for stepping up onto a finger. Often he just beaks or nibbles on my fingers as if to say, “yes, this thing you’re showing me is interesting, but what about it?” Arms and shoulders are much better prompts to get him to step up. If a bird is being cantankerous and bite-y, however, then presenting a finger will surely get you bitten; in that case I recommend using an arm (harder to get a beak around) or even just a hand-held perch (like a dowel or a ladder).

4) Approach from the south side of the cage – This is just a weird Stewie quirk. For some reason, if I approach him from the right side of the cage, he’s much more likely to step up than if I ask for a step up from the other side. It’s possible that he hasn’t generalized the “trick”, or it could be that he thinks we’re more likely to go to a fun place if I’m standing on one side versus the other. Obviously something that needs more positive reinforcement training to get him to step up from anywhere, but the point is that if you’re having trouble getting your bird to perform a trick, watch carefully for patterns and preferences – it might not be entirely random.

5) Be standing; don’t reach up – This point is similar to the one above. If I want Stewie to step up, then my whole arm needs to be at least at his level. If I’m sitting in my computer chair and reach for Stewie, he’s likely just to look at me, beak my hand or play with my sleeve; if I’m in the exact same position, but standing, he’ll step up on my outreached arm. I think it just feels more secure for him because parrots equate height with safety. Like most parrots, getting my birds to step up when they are on the floor is pretty much guaranteed because they do not want to be down there (the ground is where they are most vulnerable to predators in the wild). If you have a flighted bird who likes to land on curtain rods, you want to make sure that you train “step up” even if you’re reaching up from below. Also important in case you ever need to retrieve an escaped bird from a tree.

These examples are just some ways that Stewie is an odd duck (conure) about how he prefers to be asked to step up. Your bird probably has different quirks. It’s important to know your bird’s quirks before you can devise a strategy for overcoming or working around them.

If your bird hasn’t learned the step-up trick yet, or tends to bite when asked to step up, check out my earlier post on training other things first. Above all, make stepping up rewarding for the bird.