Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Beginning the New Year

January 21, 2013 8 comments

Rico and Rocky in their new aviary. Rico is on his favored perch, as usual.

Rico and Rocky in their new aviary. Rico is on his favored perch, as usual.

I love to write in my blog. I enjoy writing about my experiences and observations with the birds I have. Our recent move has kept me from doing this but it has also given me many things I could write about.

We are moved in, finally. It took quite a while. This move and the new center was quite a project for my husband and myself and it has probably aged the both of us. We are finally getting back to full nights of rest and we are loving our new home. I am up, ready and out in the center by the wee hours of the morning every morning. I love being out there and it is like home for me. The birds are settling in nicely for the most part. Rocky is showing signs of anxiety and stress that he hasn’t exhibited in quite a while. It isn’t in great amounts but the amounts they are in lets me know I need to be working on them and I have been. This issue I will save for a blog post on its own so I can write in detail on my training strategy and outcome.

The flock has grown by two. They were driven here by an animal trainer from Massachusetts. This is also another topic I will be writing about next on

Austin (volunteer) reinforcing desired behavior while cleaning cages.

Austin (volunteer) reinforcing desired behavior while cleaning cages.

my blog. I have a ton of photos, a story, and plenty of training videos to show.

There are a few people who have continuously dedicated their time, efforts, and thoughts in volunteering at the center. I have been so thankful to them for all of their help. This place isn’t just for me and my birds. It is a place I want to share with animals and animal lovers. I have many, many plans for the future.

I have less than a couple of months before I hit the road again. California, Massachusetts, and Chicago are all coming up this spring. I’m focusing on getting the birds ready and the caretakers of the birds ready. So far, I’m very pleased with what I am seeing and I will be writing about this also.

I am happy to say that Rocky is flourishing with all of the people coming through the center for visits, volunteering, and tours. It is so exciting to see all of the interaction he is getting. I love telling people “Sure, go ahead and walk in to Rocky’s cage and bring him out.” He’s come a long way, baby.

So if you have the opportunity to walk through the Birdroom door, make sure you look down at the message etched into the concrete. I hope that message and this center are here for years to come, even after I am gone. This is why we jumped in this project after all. Happy New Year to all.



A Little Piece of Heaven

August 14, 2012 8 comments

For several years I’ve been wanting, looking, and working on figuring out a way to get more space for my birds. Suki, the blue-fronted

Training Suki, the blue-fronted amazon to remain calm while I hold her and my greenwing, Murray at the same time.

amazon that I took in for training last winter has a great and enriching relationship with my greenwing macaw, Murray. The intention was to bring Suki in temporarily for training to work on some behavior issues and then find her a new home. It hasn’t been a smooth ride because there were a bunch of bumps along the way including her not letting me near Murray and flying after Rico, my umbrella cockatoo. Those are just a few issues and we’ve been working on all of them. Murray and Suki interact on a daily basis and have even begun calling for each other when they can’t see each other. They aren’t screaming. They just call to check to make sure the other one is still there. It is pretty cool to see and hear and I like this for Murray. Well I like it for both of them. It brings out a healthy balance of independence. With that said, my intention was to keep Suki if and only if I could get a larger house or space for the birds. My house is too small for five parrots not mentioning the crow

Training Suki and Rico to accept being perched on the same platform and being recalled individually. This has helped in reducing signs of aggression toward each other.

and the owl that I train on a daily basis also. The more time I spend training additional birds, the more space I need to adequately enrich the others. I love seeing my birds interacting and playing independent of me. I love them being on and around me also and I type this with my umbrella perched on my head.

After five years of searching, pounding the pavement, and saving…I am happy to announce that my husband and I have purchased a ten thousand square foot building for the birds to be able to fly, run, and enjoy. It allows opportunity for a lot of light and fresh air. It just happens to have a house on the property that we bought and plan on downsizing the size of our cage and moving into.

The move will happen in a few weeks so I am already preparing the birds for it. I will begin taking one or two birds over at a time with me each day while I work on the house and the building. Each night they will come back home with me and rest in their existing cages. I will continue this on a daily basis while I slowly begin introducing them to their new cages when they are delivered. As time continues I will have them stay a night or two in their new cages while we get used to the new and slowly step away from the house, aviary, and cages they once knew. A bit sad, a bit scary, and a big bit exciting.

Maggie, the education crow.

Moon, Nature’s Nursery’s education barred owl will be returned once the move takes place. Her training is in full gear right now after taking the summer off of training. She has a big event coming up in October which will be her introduction to the public. I am so excited for her after being with me for ten months. I thank Nature’s Nursery for this opportunity.

Three weeks ago I took in a new education crow of Nature’s Nursery’s for training. Her name is Maggie and in the past three weeks we have worked on her stepping onto my hand on cue, targeting to two different perches and a stick with a red ball at the end, crating, stepping onto a scale, and working on staying calm in front of large groups of people. She has been on two programs in the past two days and I am thrilled to say she is going to be a great ambassador.

This fall and winter will bring new adventures and new birds for training. I will be happy to post photos and videos as we continue on our new venture. Thank you for all of those that have helped me along this way and continue to do so.

Ahh, very soon.

November 7, 2011 5 comments

Oh dearest blog. How I miss thee. Let me count the ways.

I’ve been swamped. That’s a good thing. Being swamped with traveling pulls me from my blog. I love to write on my blog. It’s a place for me pour my heart and soul into the awesome experiences I have interacting with and enriching animals, with birds as my focus.

I’ll be heading out in a couple of days on my last speaking engagement for the year. Well, not really. I have one three days after that.

I’m working on several large projects, all of which I want to share here with those who would like to read. I can’t wait.

So until next week, I shall sign out. Tonight? Bird toys to make, a presentation to work on, papers to print, and a training cage to set up (inside and out). ūüėČ

Oh, and in addition, I have two new birds coming in for training. They aren’t new, but they have behaviors that need modified and new behaviors to train. Ok, now I have to sign out.

Categories: General

Eyes to the Skies

November 15, 2010 5 comments


Black Vulture landing on telephone pole - photo courtesy of Dena Drenner

I think of this saying so often because my eyes are so easily guided there. Just this morning leaving the house my eyes were drawn upward watching a flock of starlings dance and swim in the sky. Two flocks of them interacting and weaving in and out from one another. A few words that came to mind were “flowing”, “awesome”, and “artistic”.


Further down the road I caught the familiar flight pattern of a crow. I really enjoy watching crows. I wish I could pull my Jeep over and just sit and watch. Driving down the busy road today, this was not an option so I slowed down and watched the laborious wing flaps of a solo crow this morning. He was flying upward and there he perched atop a telephone pole. There he perched and looked around. I could have just stopped there in the middle of the street and watched and wondered what was going through his creative mind. Traffic was patiently putting up with my decrease in speed. I quickly sped up to the speed limit and headed to my destination.

I have the fortune of being able to come in close encounters with two species of corvids, a crow and a blue jay. I see much similarity in how they move their heads and eyes in observing their environment. I see the similarity in how they observe me. They both look at me in a unique way than which other birds do that I’ve come in contact with. They look at me with a message in their eyes. There is communication happening, but can I understand it? As much as I’d like to think at how well I may be able to communicate with them on any one interaction, there is I’m sure, so much more communication being attempted than I could ever read. Ah, the fascination of mine grows with these birds. I will forever be in awe of them. Forever.

In the mornings before the sun rises, I often hear a call of a distant crow. Each time I hear this I always say softly to myself “Hello crow”. Soon after as the sun begins to rise, I’ll hear the numerous sounds of the energetic and ever investigating blue jays. “Hello blue jay”. For whatever reason I don’t know and didn’t realize until now, these are the only two species of birds I say hello to when I hear them or see them. Others make my jaw drop in amazement of their beauty in flight and interaction with the sky.

Have you ever sat in your back yard and leaned your head back and taken the time to observe for just 5 minutes, to what happens above you on a daily basis? Take 10 minutes. I did this once and I remember the day I did it. I was sitting in the aviary working on a project. I needed to take a break and leaned back in my chair, took a deep breath to clear my head and sat there staring at the empty sky while I cleared my thoughts. Soon a bird passed that caught my attention. I watched him fly out of sight. Soon I saw a smaller bird fluttering around a larger bird which looked like the same species. “I wonder if that is a parent teaching a fledgling.” Soon I started observing the same call from two different trees. Soon I saw this same fledgling flying to the call from one tree, and then soon flying to the call from the other. “Am I really seeing and observing two parents aiding in teaching their chick to fly?” I sat up in amazement but quickly learned my view was better leaning back in my chair. “How awesome is this?” I thought.

Here came a few crows. I heard their ‘caws’ moving in from a distance’. Here they came, all three of them. I watched the smaller birds head back to their trees.

Einstein, program Screech Owl, overlooking the house sparrows foraging in the aviary.

The laborious but beautiful flight of the crows. They perched high in the neighbors tree. I saw a blue jay fluttering about that tree. I heard the call of the blue jay. I could assume he was not happy, not sure but he sure was rustled from his tree and didn’t settle down until the crow took flight again. Off they went to another tree. I swiveled my chair around to follow them. I saw them up there in the tree swaying up and down on their small branches. They soon took off in flight giving out their ‘caws’. “What are they communicating to each other and those in their environment?” I wondered. I also caught myself almost holding my breath hoping they wouldn’t leave my sight and just fly from tree to tree so I had more time to observe them. Their caw grew distant and eventually faded. “Thanks for coming by” I thought. What an amazing bird.


Soon the sky filled with passing birds. A quick sight of a flock of doves. I love watching flocks of doves. They remind me of cockatiels. I often wonder what a flock of flying cockatiels looks like and hang on the lingering sight of the doves quickly disappearing behind the large maple tree.

The chirps of the house sparrows that gather daily in the bush next to my patio table caught my attention. I could sit and watch them forever as I often do. They hang out in that bush and chirp away. I try to¬†observe who’s chirping and who reacts to that chirp. There is obvious communication in those chirps. I watch them gather in their favored areas of the neighbors back yard and in the gutters of my house and garage. It was funny, one day I was sitting in the aviary working on my computer. I thought I felt something wet hit my hand. Then I swore I felt something wet on my face. I beginning to think I was imagining things when I saw drops of water on my computer screen. I turned behind me and noticed this rain shower being produced in the corner of my second story patio. I quietly stood up and backed up. There were three house sparrows there having a hay day taking a bath in a puddle of water that gathered in the corner of the patio. They caught sight of me observing them and immediately took flight.

It’s amazing what I’ve learned this summer watching those house sparrows. I’ve watched the adults take off for long periods of the day while the young ones stayed behind in that bush. I watched the young ones bounce around and fly from branch to branch. I watched them fly around the neighbors back yard and I even began throwing bird food onto the ground inside my aviary near my patio to bring them closer so I could observe them better. They came. They learned to squeeze through the netting. I eventually lifted the netting in a few areas near the patio table to give them easier access. I watched them from my chair, and they observed me very cautiously. I smiled. I smiled a lot. Soon a thrush of small brown birds came back to the bush and the bush was alive again with movement and sound. “Mom and dad are home guys” I thought.

Over the summer I learned to turn and observe the environment when I heard the house sparrows take off in flight. If you watch close enough you’ll begin to know the difference in flight and if there is immediacy behind it. When you hear the immediacy, look around. Often I saw the neighborhood Red-Tailed Hawk soaring above. “Ah there you are you amazing creature, you!” I’ve tipped my head back enough and watched this rugged looking Red-Tail in the spring molt in new feathers. What amazing and majestic hunters they are. I love the Red-Tail Hawks. She’d cruise around the sky and all birds were out of sight. She’d do a few observational circles and move on. “We all have to eat, but please don’t eat the house sparrows from my neighboring bush” I caught myself thinking numerous times. One time mid summer I heard one of these sparrows being carried off by a flying predator. “Oh no” I thought as I spun my patio chair around that evening at dinner. I looked toward the direction of the fatal cry. That hawk must eat also, I understand as I sat staring in the direction.

Tip your head back as the sun begins to settle in for the evening. You’ll see the species taking flight change. It’s neat to watch the night-hawk come out and flutter in what looks like senseless flight to those that may be unaware. Insects abound and all around forming those ‘not-senseless’ flight patterns. Just amazing. A little later you’ll see that wing shape change. Enter the bat. Soon it is so dark I can’t see anymore and I’m still sitting in that chair. I stand up and walk inside for the evening leaving the skies to the nocturnal, flighted, hunters.

It is amazing the avian highway that exists above us if we just take that 10 minutes to tip our head back and point our eyes to the skies. Try it, you’ll be amazed. It really is cool and educational observing all this life and that avian expressway that happens just a few feet to several hundred feet above our heads. It is a whole new world up there and its fascinating to be able to observe it. I know what I want to be if I come back in another life. The tough thing is deciding which species. Enjoy.

A Splendor Like No Other….That Is the Bird.

March 20, 2010 2 comments

Be it parrot, sparrow, eagle, or kingfisher there is nothing else in my life that I’ve come in contact with that fascinates me and grasps my attention more so that the avian species. I’ll admit, before I brought home my first parrot I was oblivious to birds, their uniqueness, their evolution, their intelligence, and their most extraordinary mode of transportation…..flight. I know, not all birds fly and not all flighted are birds but when you watch a bird fly, especially one¬†that you know well, there is nothing I find more captivating and awe inspiring. I am forever snapping photos of my birds or the ones I work with in flight. I take small video clips and watch them frame by frame and never get tired of it. It is the most awesome thing I believe I’ve ever seen and I watch it daily.

There is something obviously fascinating about birds among the human population because birdwatching is a common activity across the globe. Since I’ve been involved with birds over the past seven years, I’ve seen so many people who were not interested in birds become fascinated in them. If someone wants to talk about birds, I hold nothing back on sharing the joy in what I’ve learned from these unique animals. I’ve been told listening to me talk about birds is infectious. Maybe it is. When I share a conversation with another who is interested, I want to convey how absolutely fascinating the birds are as well as hearing other views, interactions, and observations. Maybe they see my passion and it turns their eyes to the skies. I love to share the details of them that ¬†amazes me. I’ve been told

Willoughby the Turkey Vulture - Avian ambassador at Nature's Nursery

numerous times from people that they’ve never thought a Turkey Vulture to be beautiful until they’ve heard my stories of Willoughby an avian ambassador at Nature’s Nursery.¬†I have been nothing short of pleased when I hear people tell me they now pull over to the side of the road to watch a Red-tailed Hawk in pursuit of its next meal. My fascination in watching my own parrots fly, move, think, react, interact, etc. has opened my eyes to the species of birds outside of my aviary. I’ve found myself guessing what species of bird just flew overhead based on the shadow it casts on the ground in front of me. Yea, when you find your passion it is so obvious. I have nothing better to compare it to than being sucked into a vortex of information, images, knowledge, history, and dreams that you know will last you a lifetime.

The fascination in birds, their evolution, and symbolism can take us far back in history. Birds, their intelligence or lack of understanding it in great depth, their forms of locomotion, and their role in the evolution of the world is obviously an impressive one. Crows and ravens are commonly used as a symbol of death from their use in movies and in the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Do you know what a flock of crows is called? A flock of crows is known as a “murder”. Now isn’t that fascinating and one I would love to look into how it came to be. Talk about intelligent, start reading about the intelligence levels and studies on crows and Corvids. Corvids and parrots have been said to be the smartest of the avian species. A study on three crows is often how I begin my lectures on avian intelligence an how not to underestimate it. If so, you will often find yourself quickly outwitted.

For the Japanese, the pigeon is the symbol of war. In ancient history and biblical pages birds are used as the deliverer of messages. Mercury was the messenger of the Greek Gods, thought to have been the inventor of the alphabet by watching the shapes of the wings of cranes in flight. Birds represent freedom and are often symbols of the soul in how after one passes their souls set free to fly. Owls are often seen as a symbol for wisdom. Have you ever trained

Sidney - Great Horned Owl

an owl? I thought I’d throw that in there to get a chuckle out of a few of you. Birds are seen as a sign of spring probably due to migration and it being the time of year to see chicks hatching and learning to fly. Tip your head back in early summer and watch the skies. You’ll be amazed at what you see. It’s a whole new avenue, a whole new world up there. It is a freeway of flight and communication in another language. In the early summer you’ll be amazed at the amount of adult birds you’ll see teaching their new fledglings to fly. You can almost hear the happiness and it is almost impossible to have it not bring a smile to your face. Tip your head back just before dusk and watch how the species of birds flying begins to change from the birds we find as common because we see them during the day to the species more unfamiliar such as the nightjars and owls.

War was predicted by the color of duck bones. If the bones were dark it was determined that the winter would be severe and decisions on the timing of war were then planned. Bones and anatomy of birds are vast such as the annual tradition of the breaking of the wishbone.

The natural acts of migration of avian species I find particularly fascinating. Have you ever watched Winged Migration? Wow, what an eye opening film and a peak into the details of so much of the unknown in the abundance of life that happens above us. What senses do they really have that predicts it is time to head south? What are they thinking, how do they plan, communicate, and forecast ventures?

Caching, or storing food is another area of avian intelligence in which I find fascinating. I once sat in the aviary, also my whole backyard, working on a project on my computer. My attention was turned towards a scuffle coming from the neighbor’s bush. There I sat in awe watching a Blue Jay caching its food. It was bring food up from its crop and obviously storing it at different hiding places near the base of the bush, and under the eavestrough. It would then go back and get one piece of food and search and store it in a different location. I sat and watched him do this for several minutes before flying off. I was amazed and even tempted to go over and move his treats. Just kidding. I did think that though.

The intelligence levels of birds, determined by manipulation of the environment, has lead to many studies. This is another area in which I find

Koko turning wheel to select preferred food items - Photo courtesy of Lissa Buja

fascinating but¬†I’m not sure there is an area of birds that I don’t find fascinating. Certain species of birds have been observed intentionally manipulating their environment to out wit and trick onlooking scavenging species of birds. I read this study a few years ago and it escapes me but if you request it, I will go in search of it through my piles of papers I keep close at hand at all times. Species of birds were observed caching or storing their food in particular areas knowing the scavenging onlooking avian species were watching. This same species of birds were later observed taking the previously hidden food and moving it to other locations when the scavengers were not looking. Certain species of birds were also observed caching or storing different perishable food items in different locations and then later observed coming back and searching for and eating the more easily perishable items first and in order of freshness. Ha, and we have to rely on expiration dates to remember.

A leather rope woven in and out of cage bars by an Umbrella Cockatoo - Courtesy of Kelly Reed

Everyone has heard the term “bird brain” and its connotation in relation to being simple minded. Hmmm, I wonder how this came about and often find¬†myself wondering if it was based on behaviors observed of birds being held in captivity. If that is the case and seeing how I am fascinated with providing enriched environments for captive animals to prevent abnormal repetitive behaviors, then I’m thinking this could easily be behavior resulting from poorly arranged environments created by “human brains”.

There are many videos on YouTube showing the intelligence of birds. Do a search and you’ll be amazed at what you find. Below are just a few of my own.¬†Enjoy and remember, keep your eyes to the skies. You’ll be flabbergasted at the fascinating behaviors you will see but be careful. It can become addicting. Peterson’s Field Guide is 1 of the 10 best selling books of all time.

Observational Learning

Tool Use?

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