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Macaw, Spouting Foul Language, Banned from School

Green Winged MacawEducators at an animal rescue center in the UK got a rude surprise when they recruited “Mr. T” to visit local schools as part of a conservation-themed program.  The 7 year-old Green-Winged Macaw was friendly and eager to show off his speaking abilities, but most of what he said was not fit for classroom use.  Before coming to the rescue center, Mr. T had lived in a private home, and had picked up a huge vocabulary…unfortunately, almost all of it consisted of curses and insults!

Un-learning Bad Habits?

One rescue center employee is working with Mr. T to see if he might be taught to stop cursing.  In my experience, however, teaching a macaw to speak is easier than teaching it to forget what has been learned (much like 3 year-old children who pick up the “wrong” words!).

A related and very interesting phenomenon is unfolding right now in several Australian cities.  Cockatoos that have escaped from captivity are teaching entire flocks of wild individuals to speak!  Please see this article for the very amusing details.

Fortunately, the rescue center where Mr. T resides is home to “well-behaved” wallabies, kangaroos, scorpions and other animals, so his services as an educator are not needed immediately.  It will be interesting to see who prevails, the macaw or his new teacher…I’m betting on Mr. T!

Parrots Behaving Badly

Mr. T is not the only Psittacine to be ejected from various UK forums in recent times.  Awhile back, an Amazon persisted in cursing like a trooper each time he was called upon to perform in a play…despite the fact that he knew his lines perfectly (seems like he planned the “mistakes” very carefully!).   Another was banned from a bar for stealing drinks, heckling pool players and starting fights by whistling at female patrons (this bird now living in more appropriate surroundings).  Please see this article for details.

But one cursing parrot, an African Gray named Mishka, has done quite well for herself – winning an international speaking contest and a movie role.  Please see the video and article below… her repetition of  “I want to go to the Kruger Park with Sterretjie” (Sterretjie is her favorite companion, a Ring-Necked Parakeet) is priceless!

Odd Birds I have Known

Hartlaub’s TuracoMischievous birds of all kinds enlivened my zoo career.  Margie, a Cassowary, liked to sneak up and kick her fence whenever anyone leaned against it.  A fellow zookeeper allowed himself to be ambushed regularly, and the huge bird really seemed to look forward to “surprising” him.  An Indian Hill Myna that called “Help, let me out” in a huge aviary was quite a hit with visitors…but not with the zoo director, when he came to record bird calls for an upcoming presentation!  From overly-amorous Great Horned Owls to overly-aggressive Turacos, there have been many odd characters in my life… please see the articles below for details.

Most bird owners and bird watchers have their share of amusing or embarrassing stories…please write in with yours, so that I can share them with other readers.




Further Reading

African Gray Parrot Wins Talking Contest 

An Unusual Turaco

Is a Macaw the Right Bird for You?

Cockatoos, Koels, Ibis and Honeyeaters Causing Havoc in Australia

Green Winged Macaw by Dcoetzee (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Hartlaub’s Turaco by derekkeats (Flickr: IMG_2170.resized) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Excitement of Training a Freeflight Parrot

The following blog entry was done by a guest blogger and does not necessarily reflect the views of That Fish Place/That Pet Place. Please welcome Dave Womach, Professional Parrot Trainer at Birdtricks.comTABblogger

When you first hear the term, “freeflight parrot” you might expect to see a parrot flying through hoops in bird show at a theme park, or perhaps doing some stunt in a washed up Vegas showroom in a dingy hotel located in the wrong part of town, just north of the famous strip. Very few people are fully aware of the “no-limits” potential of what I refer to as, Freestyle Flying™.

dave-in-moabImagine for a moment what it would be like, if you took your clipped parrot outside, let go of his feet and a 25 mph wind gust took him out of your hands never to see him again. For many, that is unfortunately a very common story.

Now imagine going to some exotic location after 90 days of formal training and intentionally letting go of your parrot. Nothing beats the rush of a gust of wind taking your parrot 50 feet up into the air, as you watch that bird maneuver on an invisible wave of wind, as if he were a surfer riding on the great waves of Hawaii. He skillfully hovers in one spot until he gets enough confidence to surf the air and coast back and forth, only to land on your hand a couple of minutes later.

flying-in-moabFreestyle Flying™ isn’t for everyone, but it is for every bird. And if you’re the kind of person who is willing to put in a lot of time, energy, and research, this can be the best quality of life that you can offer your parrot.

Over the past year I have been fortunate enough to fly my flock at locations all across the U.S., and watch as they go from freshly weaned baby parrots, to fully skilled pro’s.

My favorite thing to watch them do, is a term called Jinking. (v. jinked, jink•ing, jinks

camflyingTo make a quick, evasive turn) As your parrots become more and more confident and skilled, they’ll start to experiment with evasive maneuvers that they use in the wild to evade predators such as hawks and eagles. They’ll actually flip upside down, flap, turn right side up, upside down, etc until they have successfully evaded the predator. Although I have seen this used twice to actually evade a hawk (or flock of seagulls), they also love just practicing it on their own.

If you ever have the opportunity to experience the freedom of flight, through Freestyle Flying™, make sure that you don’t miss out on the opportunity.

To see a brief video that will wet your appetite, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7CZsTiPiXw

Parrot Tricks and Training – Understanding Your Pet’s Nature and Needs

Cuban Amazon ParrotIn the coming weeks, I’d like to devote some time to parrot tricks.  My work with intelligent, social creatures such as parrots, elephants and marine mammals, has convinced me that the true value of training does not lie in the amusement value of the tricks (undeniable as that is!).  Rather, it is that a properly trained captive is much more likely to fit easily into the unnatural world it inhabits.

I’ll start here with some thoughts on the essential nature of our feathered pets, and how we might approach parrot training in a way that is both effective and enjoyable (for parrot and owner!).

The Parrot Dilemma

Thrusting complex, social animals into an unfamiliar world is a recipe for disaster.  Such creatures are interesting to be around, yet they have learning abilities, instincts and social needs that are largely impossible to fill in captivity.

It is no coincidence that sea lions, parrots, primates and elephants have long been at once both the most sought after and highly frustrating of captives.  Observe great apes in the wild and you will quickly realize that today’s multi-million dollar exhibits cannot begin to meet their needs.  With parrots, however, we can do better – if we take the time to observe and learn.

Understanding Parrots

The essential key to a stress-free relationship between yourself and your parrot is a clear understanding of exactly what a parrot is, and how evolution has shaped it to survive.  However well-intentioned, viewing any animal as a “fur or feather clad person” will ultimately confuse and frustrate both pet and pet owner.

A bird which is not trained in a way that respects its unique characteristics, which have evolved over millions of years, will in almost all cases lead a stressful existence – unaware of where its limits lie and, bright as it may be, completely in the dark as to why we act as we do.

Predator-Prey Considerations

Wild parrots are preyed upon by a wide variety of animals, from ocelots in Panama to amethystine pythons in Australia.  Their instincts and impressive learning abilities are directed towards escaping capture, not making friends with huge, strange beings.  Add to this the fact that confinement cuts down the instinctive flight distance (the point to which the parrot will allow a threat to approach before fleeing) dramatically, and you can begin to see the problem.

Of course, with care, we can modify instinct, but the bird’s essential nature will remain…please keep this point in mind.  We cannot approach a parrot as we would a dog.  Dogs are predators, and their way of “viewing the world” differs radically from that of a prey species.

Pet or Domesticated Species?

Dogs have been living in association with people for over 15,000 years, and are fully domesticated (despite this, most mammalogists consider them to be subspecies of the gray wolf, not a distinct species).  Although parrots have been kept sporadically since the times of ancient Rome, serious interest is a new development…even those bred for hundreds of generations (i.e. budgies, cockatiels) are not domesticated in the true sense of the word.

Further Reading

Understanding of your parrot’s needs is the first step in creating a good relationship.  Please check out our comprehensive line of Parrot Care Books http://www.thatpetplace.com/pet/cat/info/22314/category.web.

You can learn how instinctual parrot behaviors often lead to misunderstandings between bird and owner at http://www.silvio-co.com/cps/articles/1997/1997blanchard1.htm.


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