7 Bird Scene - August & September 2012

Page 1






By Tony Pittman

By Les Rance

10 ISS TH UE 8 20 OCT O 12 O UT BE R







Donate to our CONSERVATION FUND… CLICK THE LINK BELOW: www.theparrotsocietyuk.org/donations.php


06 14 14


An up-date on the Bonaire rescue operation By Tony Pittman. Bengalese Part 1 An excellent article on this superb and very versatile cage bird written and illustrated by Tony Edwards Training at NEI with Palmer – Palm Cockatoo and Betsey – Green-winged Macaw by Dot Schwarz.




ThE knowlEdgE CEnTrE For all PET Birds

26 Training aT nEi wiTh PalmEr – Palm CoCkaToo and BETsEy – grEEn-wingEd maCaw by dot schwarz


BEngalEsE FinChEs ThE naTional ExhiBiTion 14Th oCToBEr 2012

By Tony Pittman

By les rance


an uP-daTE on ThE BonairE rEsCuE oPEraTion


By Tony Edwards


10 issu Th E 8 20 oCT o 12 o uT BE r

26 38

The National Exhibition 14th October 2012 By Les Rance.


BIRD SCENE: Issue Seven: AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2012 BIRD SCENE is run by The Parrot Society UK, 92A High Street, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, HP4 2BL, England. FOR SALES AND EDITORIAL ENQUIRES Telephone or Fax: 01442 872245 Website: www.theparrotsocietyuk.org E-Mail: les.rance@theparrotsocietyuk.org


Introduct T

welve months ago Bird Scene was our new challenge for 2011. As we enter our second year The Parrot Society and our professional Designers and I.T. Consultants have used their skills and expertise gained from the past 44 years of publishing to ensure the success of this on-line venture. A FREE electronic magazine for all bird keepers to publicise their specialist areas of bird keeping has become a valuable resource in these difficult economic times. For over 45 years we have produced a monthly magazine for our members who have paid a subscription for the publication and this will continue as the magazine is the ‘Life Blood’ of our Society. However, we feel that as in 2007 when we commenced The National Exhibition at Stafford ‘now is the time’ to use an e-magazine. Many large magazine publishing companies have tried to develop ‘pay for’ electronic e-magazines but there is an understandable reluctance in these financially strained times from many to pay for these offerings. We are very fortunate as we do not have



shareholders to pay and therefore our costs are modest and we feel that we can continue to succeed to produce this e- magazine FREE of charge for all bird keepers. During the past 12 months we have received assistance to obtain articles from the very many sources that are active in the bird keeping world and we are still confident that in the same way that the Specialist Exhibiting Societies rallied around in 2007 to restart ‘The National Exhibition’ we will receive the material that is needed to make for a very interesting, colourful and informative publication. On a personal note I have kept and bred many foreign birds and Budgerigars over the years and am greatly looking forward to continuing to edit this e-magazine. Our aim is to ensure that everyone with an interest in birds and a personal computer are aware of this publication. We will continue to use this e-magazine to publicise and raise donations for our Conservation activities around the world and to promote The National Exhibition which


by the Editor

will be held at Stafford County Showground on Sunday 14th October 2012 as an additional feature at this event. The Exhibiting Societies have found this event to be very beneficial in increasing their memberships. The Parrot Society supplies the Exhibition Centres and all the staging at no cost to the Societies and also pays a bounty for each show cage benched. Also, with thousands of bird enthusiasts attending the Show there are great opportunities for the Societies to display their birds and recruit new members. As the Exhibition has now been running for five years it is relatively easy for the Parrot Society to organise and we feel that now is

Les Rance

the time to turn our expertise to another area of bird keeping, hence the continued development of this e-magazine.

Our aim is to ensure that everyone with an interest in birds and a personal computer are aware of this publication. We will continue to use this e-magazine to publicise and raise donations for our Conservation activities around the world and to promote The National Exhibition

Les Rance, Editor, The Parrot Society UK www.theparrotsocietyuk.org | les.rance@theparrotsocietyuk.org


ARTICLE BY: Tony Pittman

Bonaire Parrot Rescue Report JULY 2012



Feature Introduction This report will detail the successful rescue and rehabilitation of 16 Yellowshouldered Amazon Parrots and 94 Brown-throated Parakeets by Echo. This would not have been possible without the rapid and generous funding from the World Wild Fund for Nature, World Parrot Trust, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, and many other donors. These wild birds were intended to be shipped illegally from the Caribbean island of Bonaire to neighboring Curaçao where they would have been sold into the international pet trade. Thanks to the joint efforts of the National Park organization STINAPA and the police, these birds were confiscated and delivered into the care of Echo. After several months of care, all 16 parrots and 87 parakeets have been released back into the wild. The Problem The Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot is still being illegally collected in Bonaire. Chicks are being poached from their nests before they have reached fledgling age and even fledged chicks have been caught. The parrots are then sold as pets on Bonaire, or shipped to the neighboring island of Curaçao where they enter into the global pet trade. To prevent this illegal trade, in 2002, the government of Bonaire had metal identification rings put on the legs of all existing pet birds. Since that time, any pet bird found without a ring is considered illegal. The policy is enforced and illegally held birds are being confiscated.


Many illegally poached parrots die. The birds brought to Echo were kept in terrible conditions, and this poor parakeet likely died from starvation before being confiscated. The Rescue On July 1, 2011, Bonairean authorities confiscated a total of 16 Yellowshouldered Parrots, 94 Brown-throated Parakeets, and two exotic parakeets from a local poacher. Most of the 112 birds were young chicks, including



one who was less than a week old. Echo mobilized tireless volunteers to help clean and feed the birds. Initially, the rescuers gathered at the kunuku (farm) of Echo Director Sam Williams, but as there was no running water or electricity at the site, the situation was extremely difficult. Fortunately, the after school program Jong Bonaire provided a classroom to give the birds a home. The volunteers of Jong Bonaire built aviaries inside a donated classroom where the chicks stayed until they


rescue. They were released once their condition improved. This release was filmed and became part of a 15-minute parrot conservation documentary that now shows on Bonaire’s Tourist Channel. After fledging, the younger birds were moved to large outdoor aviaries the team built on Sam’s kunuku. Over time, they were weaned and began eating an adult diet. This also marked the start of acclimatizing them to the wild environment.

At just one week old, Sid was the smallest of the parrots. He was named to ensure he received special treatment, and he became a popular character for Echo’s online audience. fledged. The children became a vital part of the rescue team, feeding, cleaning, and providing overall care for the birds. Companion parrot hand-rearing expert Phoebe Greene Linden joined the efforts from California. The Rehabilitation Echo had successfully released several confiscated illegal adult pet parrots on the kunuku at the beginning of 2011. Their aviary was immediately used to house 35 older parakeets from the BIRD SCENE 09

In the aviaries, fresh branches of many different species were provided to help the birds learn the Later, Echo had the opportunity to move its operation to an incredible site called Dos Pos, a parrot hotspot recognized as a Birdlife Important Bird Area. This new kunuku provided a perfect location to release

inexperienced young birds. New facilities were built for the birds at Dos Pos, including a large release aviary. A separate rehabilitation aviary and a hospital shelter for injured birds were also built.

With the help of Echo’s dedicated volunteers, a 15-meter-long and 4-meter-high aviary was built with chicanes to challenge the birds’ flying skills and ready them for release. 10



own to forage in areas beyond Echo’s feeding stations – a monumental success. The Echo team was equally amazed to discover that Isla, a confiscated adult parrot from the very first release in 2011, had paired with Johan from the second release. Together they claimed a nest box at the release site as their own and laid an egg. Although the clumsy firsttimers later cracked the egg, it was an incredible sign of the rescue’s potential.

e proper foods to eat in the wild after release. The Release After making certain the birds passed thorough health checks, they were released in several separate groups using soft release techniques. This calm approach encourages the birds to recognise immediately the supplemental food provided for them and does not push them to fly off unprepared into the wild. By releasing some but not all the birds at the same time, the first released birds were inclined to stay around the release site while learning to forage and adjusting to a diet of wild foods. As more birds were released, the flock became progressively more adventurous, venturing out on their


16 Yellow-shouldered Amazons survived, all of whom were released at our new site at Dos Pos.




87 Brown-throated Conures also survived and were released.

Echo’s Continuing Work The rescue effort helped Echo establish its position on Bonaire and since July 1, 2011, a further 14 confiscated and injured parrots have been brought to us. Seven of these birds, including two who arrived with broken wings and another who had been shot, have been rehabilitated and released back into the wild. The degraded habitat on Bonaire drives wild parrots to explore all foraging opportunities, even those that are dangerous. We suspect the parrot with the gunshot injury, whom we named “Billy the Kid,” was as a result of conflict with a fruit grower or farmer. Only one parrot, who had sustained serious injuries, has died in our care. Now that the July 2011 rescue is complete, we can begin preparing a further nine confiscated birds for release. These parrots are currently in the holding aviary at the Ministry for Agriculture (LVV). By moving these birds, we will free up space, making further confiscations and the enforcement of the parrots’ protected status possible.

Four parrots with badly clipped wings currently remain in our care

Donate to our CONSERVATION FUND… CLICK THE LINK BELOW: http://www.theparrotsocietyuk.org/donations.php



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ARTICLE BY: Tony Edwards



BENGALESE FINCHES INTRODUCTION There are many good reasons for keeping this delightful little finch from the Lonchura family. I hope as you read this article it will become evident to you. The name ‘Bengalese Finch’ is widely known throughout the world of aviculture, in particular the English

Self Black Grey – a combination of Self Chocolate and Grey mutations

speaking countries. Other names used in the UK for many years were the Bengalee, Pied Mannikin, and Bengali or Bengal Finch. At the inaugural meeting held in 1954 to discuss forming a UK society to promote the species, Bengalese was chosen, and the name National Bengalese Fanciers


Chestnut & White – should be the colour of a horse chestnut – neither too dark or too light

Association (NBFA) was adopted. Unfortunately most of these names give the wrong impression for its origin, as the bird is not linked to Bengal. The diminutive name Bengie(s) is often used today. The Bengalese is clearly a member of the Lonchura species, to which the common names Mannikins or Munias are applied, the latter being mainly used for the Asiatic species. The Bengalese is well known for its easy going temperament, and hence in the United States of America it enjoys



the name of Society Finch. It can be kept in relatively large numbers and is suited to both life in cages or aviaries. If not breeding or being prepared for showing, I like mine to have access to an outside aviary. When kept in the company of other foreign finch species Bengalese usually ignore them, and hence Bengalese are excellent candidates for a mixed collection. They make only a soft chirping noise most of the time when active, and hence they are unlikely to upset nearby neighbours. The cock bird when trying

Feature to impress a hen will burst into a quiet song, and he will also perform an amusing little dance. This is usually the best way to sex Bengalese, cocks sing and hens don’t apart from rare exceptions. Many of the Bengalese offered for a sale in pet shops are often aviary bred, and are typically little birds of various shades of dull brown with a few white patches. However Bengalese are available in colours ranging from nearly black to pure white with various shades of browns and grey. Bengalese are categorised into two basic forms Selfs and Variegated. The Variegated (pied) birds can be just a few white feathers to an almost white bird with a few coloured feathers, while most of the Self birds have distinct patterns of dark and light feathers. With such a wide range of colours it is possible to have a large varied collection. To get full appreciation of Bengalese varieties, I would recommend visiting a show, such as the Parrot Society UK organised National Bird Show, held in October at the Stafford Show ground. The exhibition side of the show includes large numbers of quality Bengalese, in most of the established colours. It is easy to fit anodised closed rings to Bengalese chicks. If issued by the NBFA, each ring will be coloured and carry the breeder’s exclusive

membership code number, a sequence number and the year. The NBFA have recently adopted the Confederation Ornithologique Mondiale (COM) colour sequence. With closed ringing, it is therefore easy to identify the age of the birds. For a newcomer I would recommend only buying year current birds or birds from the previous year. A converted room, shed, garage or outbuilding is a good basis for housing Bengalese. An aviary with access to a weatherproof shelter is also suitable. Bengalese are easy to feed, in fact only a basic foreign finch seed mixture with fresh water will maintain healthy Bengalese. However, a more varied diet is advisable, including green food, and egg food while they are breeding. Bengalese are one of the easiest birds to breed, if proper care is taken. Light is very important for breeding and even on the coldest winter days Bengalese will breed freely if good lighting is provided. Not only are Bengalese good at raising their own species they are renown as excellent foster parents for other waxbill species. It is unlikely that the beautiful Gouldian Finch would have been established in aviculture without the use of Bengalese. It should be noted that having been domesticated for a long time, Bengalese have a relatively high tolerance to diseases compared to other species.


ORIGINS/HISTORY In many European countries ‘Japanese’ appears in the name, as it describes the origin of the first birds imported into Europe. London Zoo is identified as having received the first imports, when in 1860 they purchased two white Bengalese. In addition to white Bengalese, chocolate & white, and fawn & white soon became available. As none of these varieties resemble wild Lonchura species, it is understandable that the origin was not clear. In 1922, an article on Japanese Aviculture written by N. Taka-Tsukasa

Pink-Eyed White – an albino mutation



in the Aviculture Society Magazine included information on the Bengalese finch where he identified that imports occurred from China to Japan some 200 years earlier. I am not alone in speculating that the first examples actually had white markings, and this set the birds apart from other species. Japanese are reported as being very keen on white birds; they established the White Java Finch. It is common for white or pied mutations to occur in many species naturally; the British Natural History museum has many examples.

Feature The origin of the Bengalese is often given described as a hybrid of various Lonchura species including the Silverbill. There is no evidence to support this view which has been presented by various prominent bird-keepers and even occurs in recent publications. A significant incorrect reporting of the origin of the Bengalese, occurred in Arthur G. Butler’s book ‘Foreign Finches in Captivity’, published in 1884, when he stated that the Bengalese was a Silverbill x Striated finch hybrid. He had been persuaded that this was the case rather than his own view of it being a domesticated Striated Finch by the respected aviculturist Mr Joseph Abrahams. In 1907, the origins of the Bengalese were discussed in Avicultural Society Magazines. Butler and others believed that the origin was either the Striated Finch (Lonchura striata) and/or the Sharp-tailed Finch (Lonchura Auticauda). Butler’s book Foreign Finch Keeping (Part 1) confirmed his retraction of the use of the Silverbill in the Bengalese origin. Bengalese and Silverbill hybrids have been produced, but I am unaware if they have been proven to be fertile. Today both the Sharp-tailed Finch and Striated Finch are classified as subspecies of the White–Rumped Munia (L.Striata). There are also other subspecies including the Chinese White

Japanese are reported as being very keen on white birds; they established the White Java Finch. It is common for white or pied mutations to occur in many species naturally; the British Natural History museum has many examples. Rumped Munia (L.S. Swinhoei) which is almost certainly the ancestor of the Bengalese. In the 1950s Erica Eisner who studied for Bengalese for many years Bengalese at Oxford University concluded that there was very strong case that the Bengalese was probably the Sharp-tailed Munia from China. Robin Restall in his classic book Munias & Mannikins, based on his detailed study of all Lonchura species, was of a similar opinion. More recently a Japanese study that focused on Bengalese song analysis, undertook DNA analysis of Bengalese and other species, and concluded that Bengalese, both European and Japanese, were closely related to the White-rumped Munia, specifically a sub-population from South-East Asia. In more recent times, crossing with other Lonchura species has widely occurred in order to develop the colours of the self varieties. It is ironic that in the past the Bengalese was often incorrectly identified as being a hybrid but now many Bengalese are definitely hybrids.


ACCOMMODATION Many forms of accommodation are suitable for Bengalese finches. I started with a double breeder cage that was kept in my garage. A block of cages was then added and as my numbers increased rapidly this soon became two blocks. My first bird room was a converted 3.6m by 1.8m 6 garden shed that lasted me for 12 years, which was replaced by a slightly larger shed at 3.6m by 2.4m. This extra width has proven to be very useful, but I also had the shed made a 30cm higher which meant that I could have my bottom cages well off the floor (40cm). A wire

Aviary with patio where the birds can be enjoyed in good weather



safety door is also a useful addition to any birdroom, my losses would be high without one, and it enables the main door to be left open on hot summer days. An easy cleaned flooring, such as linoleum, is advisable. With heating costs and more importantly keeping birds comfortable any accommodation should be well insulated, both walls and ceiling. Bengalese are very hardy and provided that the environment is dry, not damp, low temperatures are tolerated. However I like to keep my bird room at a minimum of 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). It is also more

Bird room set between trees and shrubs

Feature comfortable to have heating when working in the bird room. Electric oilfilled tubular heaters or radiators are suitable. As mentioned before, plenty of light is also needed, natural light provided via windows is good, but artificial light via fluorescent tubes, or an equivalent, is important if breeding in short daylight hours. Specialised bird or daylight tubes are used my many fanciers. I use bird tubes and tropical fish tubes. Fifteen hours of light is advisable if chicks are to be well fed. Other electrical devices to be considered are a radio; mine plays 24 hours a day and reduces the effect of noises from a nearby road. A night light is also advisable, I use a small bedside lamp fitted with a low wattage bulb. All my lights are on timers. For cage breeding, a good sized cage would be 60cm wide, these are standardly 30cm deep but I would advise an extra 7.5cm. If you are not an expert at DIY, wooden or plastic cages can be purchased, with most suppliers being able to provide nonstandard sizes at little extra cost. For wooden cages I would recommend that they are painted with white paint or a light colour on the inside surfaces at least. When in double breeder format the dividers can be removed outside the breeding season to provide a good sized stock cage. Exercise is important

in keeping Bengalese healthy so the larger the cage the better for the birds. I have successfully used wire dividers as an alternative to wooden dividers as they can help to improve the light level. Built-in cages offer even greater scope to have larger stock cages. Nest boxes can be mounted either externally or internally. I have used both and found little difference in my breeding results. For ease of checking for eggs and chicks I find external nest boxes are better. The nest boxes should be half-fronted and about a 5 inch cube. My outside aviary is approximately a 2m cube and is a key feature of my set-up, as it enables me to keep a relatively large number of birds during the breeding season .It is constructed from panels constructed from 50mm square pressure treated timber fence posts and 16 gauge 25mm x 12.5mm wire mesh. The roof is also wired and covered with corrugated plastic sheeting to reduce the risk of infection from wild birds. After experiencing losses due to sparrow hawks, I double wired most of the panels. The floor is paving slabs with large gaps between them to allow good drainage. I have a bird bath which is topped-up regularly. A 60cm long passage, set at a high level, provides easy movement for the birds between the aviary and an internal birdroom flight. The passage can be blocked but I normally allow


access to the aviary all day at all times even during the coldest days. When I want to catch a lot of birds quickly I place a wire catching cage in the internal flight and encourage the birds in the aviary to go into the flight. DIET Although they need only a foreign seed mixture and freshwater, I recommend that all Bengalese whether kept as pets or for exhibition purposes both are given the opportunity to reach their potential. Bengalese have a strong preference for white millet and this should be added to other seed mixtures, such as mixed millets or foreign finch. There are many different foreign mixtures, each supplier appears to have its own blend, and mixes specifically for Bengalese and Zebras are now available. Bengalese enjoy Chinese millet sprays or the more expensive red millet sprays. Unlike some other finches Bengalese have no difficulty stripping the seed from all parts as they able to cling to the sprays. Bengalese, if given a choice, will usually take soaked seed ahead of dry seed. It is important that it is fresh, if it has any unpleasant smell it should not be given to the birds, My preparation method is to take my normal seed mix, to which I occasionally add other seeds and soak



it for 24 hours and then wash it well under a tap through a sieve; it is fed to the birds after another 24 hours after a further thorough wash. Egg food is an important addition to any feeding regime, especially during the breeding season to maximise the development of the chicks. The majority of brands are a dry mix, to which is conventional to add water. Egg food is a good way to provide additives to your birds, such as calcium powder or vitamins. De-frosted frozen garden peas, crated carrot, or dry vegetables pre-moistened are also taken readily when added to the egg food. Bengalese like lettuce and adults will start feeding chicks with it soon after they hatch. Other green foods taken are spinach, water cress, mustard cress, dandelion roots and leaves, chickweed and seeding grasses. Bengalese also like to eat grit on a regular basis. The different grits readily available are mineralised tonic, limestone and oyster shell, sometime the grits may include small amount of charcoal or coral. Often cuttle fish bone is recommended as a source of calcium but I prefer to add calcium supplement powder to my egg food. If it is not possible to change the drinking water daily, a water sanitizer must be used to reduce the risk of infection.


Half fronted nest box usually used for Bengalese

BREEDING Given a nest box with hay or coconut fibre Bengalese will breed readily at any time of the year, provided that they are given adequate light and are in good condition. Bengalese have been known to breed at four months old, but it is better to wait until they are at least 10-12 months old. Both sexes can be breed successfully at 4-5 years old. As can be seen later there are many established colours which may be in self or variegated forms. Mixing of selfs and variegated birds is best avoided as the result will usually be self birds with a few white feathers. It is difficult to remove the white

feather from subsequent generations or increase the white to the level that makes the variegated birds attractive. It is also best to keep the darker coloured birds separate from the lighter birds. My parings are divided into three main groups with the occasional mixing between groups (I no longer breed significant numbers of selfs other than Self Whites): • Chocolate & Whites • Fawn & Whites ,Chestnut & Whites • Dilute Fawn & Whites, Silver & Whites, Pink-Eyed Whites, Dark-Eyed Whites (UK dilute strain), Grey & Whites (various grey colours), Dilute Chocolate & Whites.


Feature I currently place most of my breeding pairs in cages in mid to late November, with the cock birds usually allowed to settle in the cage for about an hour before adding the hens. The early chicks can be rung with NBFA closed rings which an official ring issue date of January 1st. Hay is placed in the nest boxes and some hay is also placed on the cage floor, it encourages them to enter the nest box. As my main focus for breeding is the show bench, I like to start with to start with my oldest birds, trying to get one more season out of them before they are retired. Proven birds are often better at raising chicks than first time birds, so I find it better to pair use older birds with young birds. I like to check the nests daily if possible; this is no issue with Bengalese. I tap on the nest box to warn the birds before I open the top for inspection. I like the first egg to be laid ten days from pairing, before this there is an increased probability that eggs will be infertile. The hen is usually given three weeks to lay before being replaced. I allow eighteen days from the laying of the first egg to calculate the likely hatching date but allow a few extra days for fertile eggs to hatch. It is best not to handle eggs, but sometimes I move fertile eggs to another pair. I will also leave one or two un-hatched eggs until the chicks



are about 5 days old, as it reduces the risk of chicks being squashed. I like pairs to raise 4 to 5 chicks. Bengalese are noted for being fantastic foster parents, so I often foster chicks between Bengalese pairs. I find that even the largest birds will feed chicks as well as their smaller relatives. Nest material is usually changed before a hen is about to lay again, unless it is a wet nest, in which case it is changed regularly. I usually leave the chicks with their parents until the first egg of the next clutch is laid, but I never remove them before they are 35 days old. When I do not want any more chicks, I usually remove the cock as soon as the chicks are clearly feeding themselves. When Bengalese chicks stop calling for food if a parent is nearby, it is a good indicator they are nearly independent. If a pair has raised two good clutches they should be allowed to rest for several months before they are used again. If a pair produces outstanding chicks, a third round is allowed but these will be fostered if the pair has already raised more than ten chicks. Some Bengalese can get too fat which effects their ability to breed, so I often use them as fosters as raising a full clutch will often bring them into condition and they are successful themselves in the next round of breeding. Part Two in the next issue

s awarded at the show There will be prize money and trophie

National Bengalese Fanciers Association NAL EXHIBITION We are proud to announce we are taking part in THE NATIO d. Sunday, October 14th 2012 at the Stafford County Show groun

To encourage support for this major event, there will be no charge for entries, both NBFA members to enter their birds. Birds for sale through the NBFA will incur a 10% charge based on their sales value. For a show schedule and entry form please contact: Our Show Secretary:- Mr. R Crook. 15 Agard Avenue, Scunthorpe. North Lincs. DN15 7DY. Section Manager:- Tony Edwards WHY NOT JOIN OUR SOCIETY For details please contact: Mr. Paul Paintain 24 Priscott Way, Kingsteignton, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ12 3UD Tel: 01626 333093 E-mail: p.a.paintin@btinternet.com

ARTICLE BY: Dorothy Schwarz, Photographs by: Steve Martin

Training at NEI with Pa and Betsey – Green-win Why go to NEI? Having a Palm cockatoo fly to my hand across a 100 foot aviary was the high spot of a recent workshop I 26


attended at Natural Encounters Ranch (NEI) Steve Martin’s facility in Winter Haven, Florida. Palmer responded to my cue: left hand palm flat, fingers


almer - Palm cockatoo winged macaw facing outward, right hand curved beside it, fingers beckoning. He launched himself, landing so lightly that I was able to keep my hand

completely steady. My third workshop experience at NEI! Why would an elderly companion parrot owner, save up for a year to spend one week BIRD SCENE 27

attending lectures on bird behaviour and spending 4/5 hours daily training birds ? A simple answer – to work with Steve Martin - an outstanding animal and bird trainer. He is on hand personally during the whole week and demonstrates training techniques in the morning and afternoon sessions. Only ten participants with one trainer for every two students, attend these more advanced courses. Trainers at the ranch - like Steve Martin - are consummately skilled in human/bird interactions.



Feature The workshop I attended was the third in a progressive series for companion parrot owners, so everyone had done at least two workshops previously. Each participant was allocated two birds, a task bird which you had to train with given tasks and a challenge bird with which you could choose which behaviours to train. Tasks and challenges Palmer the Palm cockatoo was my challenge bird and Betsey a Greenwinged macaw was my task bird. Twice a day we were given tasks to work on with the task bird. Sometimes behaviours the bird already knew sometimes not. For their challenge birds some participants chose elaborate behaviours and mostly succeeded. Wendy taught Ike, a kea, a chain of behaviours; station on a perch, run through a tunnel, climb a rope and fly to another perch. Margo taught Julio, the Galah to weave through for bending poles, open a trap door, pick up a washer, fly with it to a perch and drop it in a bowl. These behaviours were all taught using the principles of positive reinforcement. With my challenge bird I was less ambitious. I simply wanted to handle the palm cockatoo with ease and get him to fly to me and from me in a large space. (I have problems of handling

Perdy, my lesser sulphur crested cockatoo at home and my 2 Greys have an extremely flaky recall.) Palmer the Palm cockatoo has lived at NEI for 9 years since he was bought in from a private facility where he was bred. He’s taken part in free flying bird shows and also been used in more than 20 workshops. Palmer was lodged in one of a row of small flights in one of the aviary buildings. The large aviary in which I wished to work him was some yards away on the opposite side of the corridor. I would have to walk with him willingly on my hand to get there. One of the cardinal points of working at NEI is that there a bird must never be coerced in training. The restraint of a thumb over the bird’s claws is not allowed. Early mistakes The first session was not too satisfactory. When I entered Palmer’s flight, my movements were too jerky. Approaching him too fast and too close, he lunged. This happened twice. His wide open beak scared me. Does he bite? I asked Rob. Rob laughed, ‘He has never broken skin as far as I know of. He has swiped at a few people because he is intolerant of people being insensitive.’ I asked to hold a stick for stepping up. However, once I followed trainer Rob


Bules’ advice and waited for Palmer to accept my presence, by the end of the 30-minute session he was flying to the perch and back onto the stick. During the afternoon training session, I managed to walk Palmer down the corridor with him perched on a stick and me feeding him sunflower seeds every few paces. We walked as far as the entrance to the aviary where I hoped to fly him and came back. But by the end of that first walk of only a few yards, from the way he moved towards my hand, it was clear that Palmer felt more comfortable on my open palm



than a stick. After that session, I used my palm. Palmer had accepted me. His elegant black and red colours reminded me of the elegance of my beloved Greys. Betsey the Green-winged, the first macaw I’ve ever handled for training sessions, taught me a lot. She was an experienced bird and provided I could get the cues clear and did not make clumsy errors she would cooperate until she had taken enough seeds or nuts when she’d respond slower and slower or wander off to the other side of the flight. For the level of training

Feature we were using, the birds were fed pellets and fruit in weighed amounts but they had to earn their treats which could be sunflowers seeds or peanuts. One of the tricks was to make the nut pieces tiny so you could ask the bird for several repetitions before it became satiated. Betsey Positive reinforcement principles are used on every occasion. Macaws don’t enjoy having their long tails knocked against any surface. When two macaws share a flight and we are going to work


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Society DEC2011.indd 1 32 Parrot BIRD SCENE

14/12/2011 14:42

Feature with one of them the other has to be taken out and put in a holding cage. This procedure is always carried out as a choice for the bird. The trainer offers the treat concealed in the right hand and offers the left hand as a steady perch, palm flat. If the bird is reluctant to step up, he is put back onto the perch. The trainer offers the treat again and almost invariably, the bird accepts and steps into the holding cage. On this occasion the door flight door was opened to remove Betsey’s macaw companion. Before he stepped up, Betsey pushed her way past through the open flight door and landed on the flight roof. She spent her morning visiting up and down the line of flight cages along the corridor. This was considered acceptable. Betsey was not bothered or chased to come down until she was ready. I tried standing on a step ladder and offering a treat. Betsey showed with her body language of ruffled feathers and flashing eyes that she would be more likely to lunge

Going back to an earlier behaviour if the bird did not respond, working closely with the bird’s body language and using very little verbal encouragement. But I was talking non-stop to Palmer. Said my trainer Rob, ‘It’s only white noise.’ I realised that the constant stream of ‘good boy’s’ ‘come on now’s’ were far more to reassure me than the bird.

and nip than step onto my palm than take a peanut. But an hour later, she stepped onto Steve Martin’s hand and returned to her flight. Because of her walkabout, I missed my morning session of training with her but the afternoon one was the better for it. Free shaping In some of his demonstrations Steve used free shaping, that is capturing a behaviour the bird offers and putting it on cue. Prancer the Amazon offered several behaviours. The one Steve captured was a right claw wave. We students with our task birds had to capture behaviour. Betsey offered a lowering of her head and that turned into a bow. The cue was to waggle my right index finger. Avoiding white noise By the end of the six day workshop, students had mostly accomplished their tasks using very small increments in asking for the behaviour. Going back to an earlier behaviour if the bird did not respond, working closely with the bird’s body language and using very little verbal encouragement. But I was talking non-stop to Palmer. Said my trainer Rob, ‘It’s only white noise.’ I realised that the constant stream of ‘good boy’s’ ‘come on now’s’ were far more to reassure me than the bird.



Food Management Palmer’s diet during the workshop week was Harrison’s pellets and fruit twice a day. Sunflower seeds and peanuts were the rewards given in the training sessions. As these birds are not at liberty and free flying, it is no great worry if they refuse or fly off. The regime of pellets and fruit and work for treats appears to be suitable for training the majority of behaviours we want from companion parrots. Developing a relationship While walking the 20 yards or so down the corridor and back and I had to give him a seed every few paces to keep his interest and keep him from flying off. On our third occasion I hesitated for a fraction of a second while we were



bang in front of the pair of vultures’ aviary. Palmer flew off my hand and onto an adjacent flight roof. Another highpoint of my week was that Palmer then stepped back onto my hand for a nut instead of like Betsey taking a morning off. The lofty aviary in which I worked Palmer was about 100 foot long with two high fixed perches and a grassed floor. On our first entrance Palmer took off before I had even reached the spot where I was going to ask him to fly off. He reached the far perch and needed some persuasion to return. However with Rob’s help each morning and another trainer in the afternoon, I managed to get Palmer to fly from my hand to the perch and return to me. And toward the end of the week we cued Palmer to


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Feature fly between me and Susan Friedman. Susan was attending the workshop in the dual capacity of student, training birds and some of the other creatures on the ranch and also giving us her superb lectures on behaviour science. On the last afternoon, Rob and Susan and I were with Palmer in the aviary. Palmer had been flying about 30 foot between Susan and me. Rob and Susan turned aside for a moment’s chat; I was left holding Palmer. I walked him over to a perch and stepped him up; we waited quietly together. How simple it sounds but this was the first occasion that I felt myself handling the bird with the requisite tact and smoothness. I have no proven theory as to why the NEI birds learn faster than most of our pet birds. They normally live in flights with bird buddies. They are not petted by their carers, preening and social relationships are with their own species. Janet Jeanpierre, a student another workshop



remarked: ‘The show birds I saw at NEI had very little opportunity to learn from trainers except when they were actually working. Other than working, they were caged and not being fussed with. That means there is very little opportunity to learn confusing or contradictory messages simply because their interaction with people is very limited. It is a completely different relationship.’ Information on NEI and workshops can be found on the website Steve Martin’s Natural Encounters, Inc. Dr. Susan Friedman’s articles can be found at www.thegabrielfoundation. org/html/friedman.htm -


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SUNDAY 14th OCTOBER 2012 / SUNDAY 14th OCTOBER 2012 / SUNDAY 14th OCTOBER 2012






To provide added interest for pet bird owners there are now two large aviaries where families can ‘get up close’ to these endearing parrots, a facility that is very much appreciated by our visitors.




he Parrot Society has held a show at Stafford County Showground, ST18 0BD in October since 1987 For the first show we only hired the Bingley Hall and initially we wondered if we could actually fill this massive hall. However over the past 24 years the show has developed in both size and comprehensiveness. The Showground has many advantages; geographically it is well located for the majority of UK bird lovers and also attracts visitors from Ireland and Europe. There are excellent extensive car parking facilities and the M6 motorway provides excellent access. Originally there were sales

tables for members to sell their surplus stock which was predominantly parrot species supported by trade stands selling both birds and others supplying all the dry goods such as seed, cages, boxes and supplements needed by bird keepers and also some selling china, clothes and sweets. In 2006 new legislation meant that it was no longer possible for traders to sell birds at shows, this coincided with the ban on the importation of wild caught birds into the EEC. This ban has meant that there are far fewer parrots available at reasonable prices for pet bird owners. To provide added interest for pet bird owners there are now two large aviaries where families can ‘get up BIRD SCENE 41

The National Exhibition 16 Clubs are Exhibiting at this show. Exhibition stock includes Gloster Canaries, Old Variety Canaries, New Colour Canaries, Lizard Canaries, Budgerigars, Zebra Finches, Waxbill Finches, Australian Finches, British Birds and Hybrids, and Java Sparrows. MEMBERS & NON MEMBERS TABLES TRADE STANDS. Non members who require tables should contact the address below Bar and Restaurant facilities, Everything for the hobbyist & breeder. Free Car Parking. Entrance tickets are £7.00 each in advance available from our office, or our online shop via our website www.theparrotsocietyuk.org these are available until 8th October. On the door £8.00 each. Accompanied children under 16 free.

Staffordshire County Showground Sunday 14th October 2012 from 9.30a.m. to 4.00p.m.

01442 872245

Full details are available from our office tel: The Parrot Society, 92A High Street, Berkhamsted, Herts HP4 2BL


close’ to these endearing parrots, a facility that is very much appreciated by our visitors. In 2007 with the assistance of seven clubs who have an interest in exhibiting birds in standard show cages an exhibition was started which gave clubs the opportunity to bring their avian gems to the attention of the thousands of bird lovers who attend the show. This attraction has proved a great success and now 17 clubs will be exhibiting on the 14th October 2012. This exhibition is sponsored by two leading suppliers to the bird world Johnston & Jeff and The Birdcare Company advertisements from both of these companies are to be found in

this E-magazine. They are sponsoring the wristbands, rosettes and supplying ½ tonne of seed and a range of avian supplements to be awarded as prizes for the exhibitors, they have also paid for the staging that the birds are exhibited on. Without their help it would have been difficult for The Parrot Society to have developed this exhibition so successfully and quickly it really has been a very satisfactory experience for all involved. In 2010 Cage and Aviary Birds weekly magazine kindly allowed us to use the title ‘The National Exhibition’ that had previously been used up until 2003 for The National Exhibition that was held at The NEC Birmingham, again we are BIRD SCENE 43


very grateful for this. With canaries, budgerigars, finches, British and softbills being staged this is the largest gathering of exhibition birds in the UK a result that the entire Council of The Parrot Society are very pleased with. When you visit the show this year which opens at 9.30 a.m. please remember that the exhibition opens at 12.30 p.m. and make your way to the Argyle Centre and the Sandylands Centre which house the exhibition it is a real ‘eye opener’ especially for those who have not seen an exhibition of birds previously, all the exhibiting clubs have stands in the halls and their officials are very pleased to give you 44 BIRD SCENE

additional information on their areas of expertise. Advanced tickets for the show at £7 each are available from the PSUK Shop on our website www. theparrotsocietyuk.org alternatively our office is open each weekday from 9.00 a.m. to 3 p.m. to answer any queries you have relating to the show and parrot species please telephone 01442 872245. Besides tables for members to sell their surplus breeders stock we have tables from non members who wish to sell finches, canaries, budgerigars and softbills these are located on the balcony of Bingley Hall. Our own members have tables in Bingley Hall,


The sellers are always pleased to give advice on a range of bird related questions and therefore a tremendous amount of information can be obtained in one visit to the show.



the large annex to the right of Bingley Hall as you enter the hall from the main entrance and there are also tables in the Prestwood Centre. All the tables are numbered and have the name of the seller clearly shown on the front of each table. The sales tables are a very popular feature of the show because they allow buyers to view a number of birds before they make their purchase. The sellers are always pleased to give advice on a range of bird related questions and therefore a tremendous amount of information can be obtained in one visit to the show. This event is definitely the one to go to each year and this is confirmed by the vast

numbers who attend many of them year after year. The pictures enclosed with this article give an insight into what occurs but only a visit can give you the real experience!