Thursday, May 10, 2018


Ostriches (Struthio camelus) on a farm in New ...
Ostriches (Struthio camelus) on a farm in New Zealand's Waikato region.
(Photo credit: 

Have you ever seen an ostrich? Do you know that ostriches are the largest birds in the world? Yes, ostriches are birds but they have lost their ability to fly. Ostriches are long necked, long legged, giant birds. I'll bet you didn't know that ostriches can run up to 40 miles per hour and live for over 50 years.

For many different reasons, ostrich farming is spread all over the world. The first reason and the most prominent is that ostriches have very healthy meat. Ostrich meat is low fat, low cholesterol, and even low calorie. Ostrich meat is a healthier choice than beef or chicken. That is why many people choose ostrich meat for their diets.

The ostrich feathers are very beautiful. That is why they are desired from many of us. The ostrich's leather is even more desirable. Only the ostrich farming produces this leather. Ostrich's leather is soft but strong and it very famous with its distinctive quill patterns. The greater parts of ostrich farming profits come from ostrich's leather sales.

Ostrich farming is very lucrative because ostrich feathers and ostrich oil are much-desired products. In order to produce them, however, many ostriches are needed. That is why often ostrich farming does not focus on production of ostrich feather and oil. Too many livestock is necessary for the ostriches to complete even one order.

Ostrich farming is probably more moneymaking business than farming cattle. Ostriches are very fertile. They can produce more than 40 young animals per year. Bird's gestation period is about 42 days. Ostriches can be bred for over 30 years. You can calculate how many young ostriches ostrich farming can produce per year.

Ostriches are usually bred in pairs, in trios or in colonies. The male ostrich is able to serve to two or three females. The female ostriches lay the eggs but they often take breaks before they continue lying.

Nowadays it is very popular to talk about environmentally friendly ostrich farming. This type of ostrich farming gains more and more speed lately. Environmentally friendly ostrich farming means that farmers use a method of breeding that is environmentally friendly. Ostriches are given no steroids, antibiotics, or hormones. Animals are not forced to eat against their will. They are left to roam freely and to eat natural food.

However, birds in ostrich farming are still slaughtered and sold for profit.

Ostrich farming encounters some problems. The first one is that birds are often fed poorly and improperly. Ostrich farming does not take enough care of the birds. Many farmers experience problems with selling their products, as marketing is a problem for them.

Ostrich farming is a really wonderful alternative to cattle farming. Ostriches are beautiful birds if you enjoy watching them. Ostrich farming is an enchanting and profitable industry.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Sexing PARROTS - How to Tell If Your Parrot is Male Or Female

English: Male and female Golden-shouldered Par...
Male and female Golden-shouldered Parrots in an aviary at the Queensland Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The parrot's lack of sex organs makes it very difficult to distinguish between males and female simply based on the way they look. Some species have different colorings between male and female that enable them to be distinguished, and some have different eye colors. However, for the vast majority of parrots, scientific sexing is required. Some pet owners do not take this step, but it is vital for breeders.

We describe birds where sexes cannot be determined by their markings as monomorphic, and a number of methods have been used to determine the sex of such birds including: vent sexing (the posterior opening known as the cloaca serves as the only such opening for the intestinal and urinary tracts), laparoscopy, steroid sexing (measure the levels of steroids in excrement or blood plasma), and DNA analysis.

With DNA analysis the sex of is determined by looking at the genes located on the sex chromosomes. The difference is that male birds have two Z chromosomes and females have one Z and one W. This is considered the least intrusive of the methods as it simply involves taking a sample of blood to send away to a laboratory. The laparoscopic surgery approach, however, involves a minimally invasive surgery, where an incision is made in the parrot's abdomen and the gonads are inspected.

DNA analysis is not as simple as it may at first sound, and involves chromosome isolation and karyotyping. It can be difficult to get the cells needed for analysis, and there is a time delay in getting the results from the cytogeneticist. The more invasive laparoscopy gives instant results and allows the vet to inspect the general condition of the reproductive organs at the same time, which can provide valuable information for breeding.

People often use feathers for the DNA testing instead of collecting blood, but it should be pointed out that this is highly unreliable. If you keep a male and female together then the female's W chromosome, which is in every cell on the female, could contaminate the feathers of the male.

Once you have determined your parrot's sex does it have any implications beyond making it easy to select breeding partners? Well, it is fair to say the difference between male and female pet parrots is nothing like the difference between a bitch and a dog. There is no difference in their ability to mimic or any notable difference in the way they will interact with their human companions.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018


Left - normal chicken eye. Right - Eye of a ch...
Left - normal chicken eye. Right - Eye of a chicken with Marek's disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Poultry farming is a method that involves breading and rearing of chickens, ducks, turkeys, and other such birds with a purpose of obtaining eggs and meat for food. Poultry is considered an important source of the animal protein throughout the globe and is considered the most intensive species for rearing. There are a number of ways in which there is a big use of poultry products like butter, bread, bakery items, and other recipes.

The poultry industry is known to be a major contributor of food and plays a significant role in the economy of any country. Poultry rising in different parts of the world has proven it a profitable enterprise as it is considered a best and vital source of palatable, nutritious, and cheap food protein. In different parts of the world, there are hen birds that are maintained in the backyard of houses on small-scale in small villages. A very little investment is needed in terms of material and money for this backyard poultry farming.

Some important breeds worldwide involve leghorn, buff rock, Rhodes Island red, light Sussex that is hatched successfully in different parts of the world. An average of almost 250-300 eggs is produced by lying birds per year whereas the average live weight of lying birds is usually recommended at the age of 8 weeks as 1200 grams.

Over the last few decades, the production of poultry eggs and meat has shown a positive growth in the performance of livestock sector. Poultry farming is considered one of the most profitable and promising sources of extra income.

Rearing and breeding poultry is a tough job as there is an increased risk of diseases in poultry, both locally as well as internationally. There are different causes of poultry diseases but there are two main categories of the direct cause that include infectious and the non-infectious. Some non-infectious condition may cause reduced immune responses; secondly, this non-infectious condition may result in increased contact with different infectious organisms that can lead to an increased cause of infectious diseases.

Comparative to the production of modern poultry, the poultry production that is village based is usually characterized by different disease ranges that occur at same time. There is some free-range poultry that has subclinical infections with an increasing number of ectoparasites and endoparasites. Backyard poultry results in low productivity and the major cause of this is high mortality that is due to the diseases, mismanagement, lack of nutritional predators, and feeding. In this backyard system, the rate of mortality has been estimated about 80-90% within one year of hatching.

In many flocks of family poultry, poultry disease is an important and increasing problem. Diagnosing, treating, and preventing poultry disease are considered essential to any of the attempt at raising the productivity.

In the commercial production system, broilers are vaccinated routinely against different diseases like Avian Influenza, Infectious bronchitis, Marek's Disease, Newcastle Disease, and many others that depend on some specific recommendations and situations in each country. There are a number of poultry diseases so they are divided into five major categories that include poultry diseases caused by fungal infections including Aspergilloses, Ochratoxicosis, Fusariotoxicosis, aflatoxicosis; virus such as Fowl Pox, Avian Flu; bacteria like Escherichia coli, Pasteurella multocida, Mycobacterium avium; parasites like Coccidiosis, Haemoparasites; and those are caused by nutritional deficiency like the food that may be deficient in vitamins and minerals. There are also problems that involve poultry diseases caused by the stress, poor management, and housing. To avoid different poultry diseases it is recommended to have a regular examination of your chickens to avoid any type of serious and fatal disease.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Breeding LOVEBIRDS (Part Three)

English: Lovebirds (Agapornis) at Zapari zoo, ...
Lovebirds (Agapornis) at Zapari zoo, Tel Aviv, Israel
(Photo credit: 
The quality of food that you give your breeding pair of lovebirds will have a direct impact on their health, ability to fertilize their eggs, and on the health of their young. This is not a situation where you can rely on parrot mix, and your parrots need plenty of fresh healthy greens and fruits. Of course, seeds will also remain an important part of the diet.

The mating act itself will be conducted by your lovebirds on their perch, and to facilitate the process you will need to provide a steady perch that the birds can comfortably grip whilst they engage in the act of mating.

Once your bird has laid a clutch of eggs you will be eagerly awaiting the hatching process. Do not be surprised if all the eggs do not hatch as this is common. The next most common problem after un-hatched eggs is when young chicks do not have the ability to walk well and suffer splayed legs. To avoid this make sure that the nest box flooring is of a suitable flooring that the parrots can walk on.

An experienced breeder will manage these two issues and keep a watchful eye on the parents as they manage the feeding of their young by regurgitating food and giving it to them. To help this process you need to provide foods that are easy to process and regurgitate and ample supplies of water.

Of course, the areas covered in this three-part series have been quite basic and we encourage you to do a lot more research before starting on the exciting journey of breeding parrots.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Breeding LOVEBIRDS (Part Two)

English: Domesticated lovebirds in an aviary.
Domesticated lovebirds in an aviary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is the second article in a series looking at breeding those loveable small parrots known as lovebirds. In the first article, we looked at the importance of diet and maintaining clean conditions, and noted that scientific sexing is usually required to identify a breeding pair.

Once you have your pair you will need to cage them either in an aviary or breeding cages. Some breeders will have groups of pairs in an aviary and successfully breed, but the easiest way to put a pair in a dedicated breeding cage. It must be a large enough cage to allow your birds freedom to exercise and have a variety of perches and toys. The minimum diameter of any cage is twice the parrot's wingspan and twice its height, with two parrots in a shared cage it must be larger still.

A nesting box must be provided. It is advisable to have a ledge that provides entry to the nestbox so that the lovebirds don't fly directly in and damage the eggs, furthermore, you should make sure that it has easy access for you to inspect the eggs. Suitable nesting materials include dried grass and eucalyptus leaves. 

Some of the materials should be damp as this is important for successful nesting. Another option is just to pop along to your local pet store and purchase special nesting material.

In the next article in this series on breeding lovebirds, we will look at diet in more detail and the process of raising a young parrot.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Breeding LOVEBIRDS (Part One)

English: Masked Lovebird (Agapornis personata)...
Masked Lovebird (Agapornis personata) at Auckland Zoo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lovebirds are especially affectionate parrots. There are nine species of lovebird, eight from Africa and one from Madagascar:

  • Madagascar Lovebird
  • Abyssinian Lovebird
  • Red-headed Lovebird
  • Peach-faced Lovebird
  • Masked Lovebird
  • Fischer's Lovebird
  • Lilian's Lovebird
  • Black-cheeked Lovebird

It is the long monogamous relationships that these birds have that gave rise to the name lovebird.
Their precise scientific classification is:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Psittaciformes
  • Family: Psittacidae
  • Subfamily: Psittacinae
  • Tribe: Psittaculini
  • Genus: Agapornis

It is hard to describe the color of lovebirds because they have been bred in so many different colors, but basically, they are mostly green with different colors on their upper body. They are really small birds which grow up to seventeen centimeters in height and sixty grams in weight - along with budgies they are some of the smallest parrots. On average they live for up to fifteen years.
In this three-part series, we take a look at what is involved in breeding these lovebirds.

Caring for parrots takes on a higher level of involvement when you make the decision to start breeding. You need to have very healthy specimens, kept on a special diet, and kept in very clean conditions. Of all of these factors, the most important is the diet, because not only is this important for fertility, but also for ensuring that the young a very healthy.

The first step to breeding lovebirds is getting a male and female, no easy task since these birds are sexually dimorphic and require scientific sexing to tell the male and female apart.

In the next article, we will discuss what special steps owners need to take for successful breeding

Friday, May 4, 2018


Common Canary
Common Canary - Photo   by      rkramer62
If you're considering sharing your home with a pet canary, it's probably because you've heard so much about their nearly constant, bubbly singing. Join the club! Since the seventeenth century, pet owners the world over have kept canaries for nothing more than the sheer pleasure of birdsong filling their homes. A canary is not merely a feathered music box, though, and pet canary care is so much more than the gilded cage of old. A canary is a living thing, dependent on you for food, shelter, and love, and canary care, while not rocket science, involves a certain level of avian expertise. Ready to become an expert? Study hard!

Thanks to selective breeding, there's quite possibly a canary out there to suit every personality and desire. Some canaries are bred for their coloration, some are bred for their shape, and some, of course, are bred to produce a very specific song pattern. What kind of canary you purchase will depend on what canary resources are available near you. If you can find a reputable canary breeder, that will be your best option. Many pet stores now, however, commit to purchasing healthy birds only from reputable breeders but check first to make sure that your canary was not wild caught or raised in less-than-desirable conditions. If the pet store manager cannot account for where your potential canary came from, don't buy a canary from that store! Oh, and be sure that the canary you purchase is a male if it's a strong singer you're after. The females are incapable of producing the characteristic long trills and melodies that made canaries famous.

The Canaries can be quite delicate, so a primary part of learning to care for a pet canary is to realize that prevention is key. If there's a number one rule of pet canary care, it's that you absolutely must keep your canary away from drafts at all times. A drafty room can kill a canary without any warning whatsoever, and even a slight draft can prevent your canary from warbling. If a lit candle flickers when held outside your canary's cage, then you've picked a spot that's too drafty for your new feathered friend!

As far as cages go, your canary doesn't require anything too spectacular-just enough room to hop about and stretch his wings. Make sure you purchase a cage that is at least two feet wide and three or four feet tall. Get a cage with a tray in the bottom to make for easy cleaning, and make sure that the bars of the cage are not coated with toxic paint or other chemical sealants. You should clean your canary's cage thoroughly at least once a week, washing perches, food and water containers, and toys in a mild bleach solution, and wash down the rest of the cage with dish soap and warm water.

While they can't stand drafts, canaries do love indirect sunlight. A good supply of natural light will keep your canary singing, and will also interest him in breeding should a female be present. If a draft will kill a canary the fastest, a second runner-up is a dehydration. Because of their speedy metabolisms, canaries require a lot of water and may die if they go as little as a day without it. Change your canary's water daily and never leave for more than a day without asking someone to water your canary for you. As for food, the seed is the mainstay of a canary's diet, and there are many good commercially available seed mixes made specifically for canaries. You should supplement your canary's seed with a little fresh fruit and boiled egg every day. An apple slice and a fourth of a hard-boiled egg are enough. You should also provide your canary with a cuttlebone, as he will gnaw on this to attain necessary calcium.

With these basic rules and supplies of pet canary care well in hand, you're ready to seek out the perfect canary for you. Will you choose a rosy red colorbred canary, an exotic Persian Singer, or something in between? Whatever your decision, your canary will thank you exuberantly for the next ten to fifteen years the best way he knows how-by singing his heart out.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The LUTINO COCKATIEL (Nymphicus Hollandicus)

English: Cockatiel Parakeet (Nymphicus holland...
Cockatiel Parakeet (Nymphicus hollandicus). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Lutino Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) is one of the relatively recent color variants of the parrot known as the Cockatiel. 

The original Cockatiel is native to Australia, and the Lutino hails from Florida where it was bred by a lady known as Mrs. Moon. Because of her name the birds, which came onto the scene in the 1950s, were first called Moonbeams. They rapidly became the most popular color of the Cockatiel with their bright yellow color and absence of dark contrast except for the stunning orange cheek. There are other color forms such as the cinnamon, white-faced silver, and pure white albino, but none come close to challenging the popularity of the Lutino.

Another special feature of the Lutino is that they have red eyes rather than the normal dark color. Some breeders decide to mix it up, and they breed Lutinos with the pearl, pied, cinnamon and whiteface mutations. As beautiful as these birds are they are prone to having a bald patch on their heads.

These birds like to eat smaller cereal seeds, with some sunflower mixed in, and green food and fruits. In terms of housing, you can keep multiple specimens in an aviary or a single pet bird. If you decide to breed them you will need to get a nestbox, and funnily enough, they will actually breed better if they are housed separately. Do watch out for chicks being feather plucked though, you should remove them as soon as they can feed themselves.

And lastly, remember that these fine tropical pets live to up to 18 years so buying one is a long-term commitment.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

PARROT Species - An Overview of the Different Types of PARROT (Part II of II)

In the first part of this article, we explained the groupings of parrot that we use, and that this is distinct from the scientific classification. We went on to consider four groupings in detail: Budgies, Cockatiels, Cockatoos, and Conures. In this article we will look at the remaining groupings:

A Red-shouldered Macaw at Parque das Aves, Foz...
A Red-shouldered Macaw at Parque das Aves, Foz do IguaƧu, Brazil.
This subspecies is also known as the Noble Macaw.
(Photo credit: 

  • Macaws
  • Parakeets
  • Parrotlets
  • Parrots
  • Lovebirds
Often when people think of parrots they have a Macaw in mind since these colorful birds are often used in TV and films. There are in fact six genera that make up the grouping we refer to as Macaws: Ara, Anodorhynchus, Cyanopsitta, Diopsittaca, Orthopsittaca, and Primolius. Most scientists and aviculturists consider that there are 18 species of macaw. With its preferred habitat being the rainforest macaws have faced threats of extinction from deforestation in recent years, and in fact, six species are extinct. One interesting thing about macaws is that they like to eat clay, and it is thought that this helps them process other poisonous food that they enjoy.

This term is often used interchangeably with a budgie, but this is incorrect as a parakeet is used to group together a number of small and medium-sized birds. And we must also consider that conures (discussed in part one of this series) are part of the parakeet grouping. Other species that we call parakeets are Brotogeris parakeets, Monk Parakeets, and Lineolated Parakeets.

These tiny, stocky parrots grow to around five inches and are the smallest parrots in the world. A common choice of companion is the Pacific Parrotlet, which is predominantly green with a blue head, other good pets are the Mexican, Spectacled, and Yellow-Faced Parrotlets. These birds pack a lot of personalities, and although they are quite quiet they are reasonable mimics and can pick up a dozen words.

There is a classification known as true parrots which are made up of the Psittacidae family and excludes the Cacatuidae family, which includes cockatoos, thus when we speak of true parrots we refer to 330 species. Some well-known examples are the Meyers Parrot, Amazon Blue Fronted Parrot, and Senegal Parrots.

Lovebird is a term used to group the nine species that make up the Agapornis genus. Native to Africa and Madagascar these stocky parrots grow up to 17 centimeters and live up to 15 years. The Fischer's Lovebird and Black-cheeked Lovebird are amongst two of the best-known lovebirds.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

PARROT Species - An Overview of the Different Types of PARROT (Part I of II)

A male Cockatiel.
A male Cockatiel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In terms of taxonomy (the scientific classification of animals) parrots belong to the Psittaciformes order, within which there are two families: Cacatuidae and Psittacidae. The Cacatuidae family consists only of the Cockatoo, with all other parrots belonging to the Psittacidae family. However, taxonomy aside, we tend to group parrots under the following headings:

  • Budgies
  • Cockatiels
  • Cockatoos
  • Conures
  • Macaws
  • Parakeets
  • Parrotlets
  • Parrots
  • Lovebirds

In looking at these groupings we will explore beyond the more well-known examples of parrot such as the Meyers Parrot and Amazon Blue Fronted Parrot.

The budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) is also referred to as the parakeet, shell parakeet, budgie, and common pet parakeet. However, it is not correct to refer to the budgie using the broader classification of parakeet as the budgie is, in fact, a particular type of small parrot native to Australia. These little birds grow to around 7 inches and a weight of up to 40 grams. They have a green body with black and yellow markings on their back and wings. They have distinctive yellow heads with blue beaks. In captivity, they have been cross-bred to create small parrots with an amazing array of colors.

The Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus), also referred to as the Quarrion and the Weiro is native to the aridest areas in Australia. Many variations of cockatiel plumage have been bred in captivity, but the standard is a grey cockatiel, with some white markings on the edge of each wing, orange markings around the ears, and a yellow head. One interesting thing about cockatiels is that they mimic sounds such as whistling far more easily than voices, and when frightened they hiss like a 

There are 21 species of cockatoo, one of which is the cockatiel described above. The cockatiel, as the smallest and most popular of the cockatoos, is usually described separately. The cockatoo belongs to the Cacatidae family. This bird hails from a diverse geography, which includes Australia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Cockatoos are very popular and loving pets and are revered for their skills in mimicry. Some cockatoos face extinction due to illegal trade, and it is recommended that you only consider buying a captive bred specimen.

Conures is not a scientific classification but are used to group together a number of small and medium sized parrots. Some of the common characteristics of this group are that they are small with long tails and strong beaks. Some conures are Aratinga, Carolina Parakeet, Enicognathus, Gold-Capped Conure, Golden-plumed Conure, Golden Conure. Jenday Conure, Nanday Conure, Patagonian Conure, Pyrrhura, and the Yellow-Eared Conure.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Teaching Your PARROT to Talk

Are you talking to me?
Are you talking to me - Photo   by      jinterwas

Having talking parrots as pets go way back to at least the time of Ancient Greeks. By the time of the Roman Empire, it was even more common and courses were given to teach people how to get their birds to mimic human speech. The material covered in this article is much more effective than those courses of ancient times and the training myths of ancient times have been omitted. One of the craziest myths was that the parrot should be placed in a completely dark room during training.

As the following joke suggests, having a talking bird is one of the reasons that people purchase parrots.

One day a man went to an auction. While there, he bid on an exotic parrot. He really wanted this bird, so he got caught up in the bidding. He kept on bidding but kept getting outbid, so he bid higher and higher and higher. Finally, after he bid way more than he intended, he won the bid - the fine bird was finally his!

As he was paying for the parrot, he said to the Auctioneer, "I sure hope this parrot can talk. I would hate to have paid this much for it, only to find out that he can't talk!" "Don't worry", said the Auctioneer, "He can talk. Who do you think kept bidding against you?"

If you're interested in having a talking bird, this introductory article is for you. This article will cover which birds are good "talkers" and will cover some techniques for encouraging your bird to be a "talker". Whether parrots mimic or communicate using human speech has been fodder for debate for a long time. The Alex Studies by Dr. Pepperberg goes into great detail regarding this subject. Alex is a Congo African Grey Parrot that Dr. Pepperberg studied extensively. Some consider her studies, training techniques, and discoveries the foundation of modern avian cognitive understanding. If you are interested in the cognitive abilities of parrots and their "speech" capabilities, I recommend that you read her book. Though technical at times, I'm sure that you will find it a fascinating book. If you ever find yourself looking at your parrot and wondering what it is thinking or how much it understands then check out the links at the end of this article to her book.

Mimicking, Speaking, or Communicating
Let's start with some ground rules for this article and a quick disclaimer. The terms used in this article may not be universally accepted. The terms that I use in this article are defined just to delineate the different categories of "Talking". The word "Talking" has several meanings and depending on your level of technicality it also has several different implications. In my opinion, there are three basic categories of "talking". The first and lowest level is "Mimicking". This is simply the echoing of a word. In this case, the parrot doesn't associate the word with any object or action. A common example is when a parrot vocalizes "pretty bird". Unless it's a really vain parrot or there's another pretty bird in the area than the parrot, in this case, is just vocalizing something that it has heard. The term "talking" in this article usually refers to mimicking but may also refer to "Speaking" or "Communicating" as defined below.

The second category of "talking" is "Speaking". For the purposes of this article, it means interacting appropriately with human speech. An example would be the parrot responding with its name when it is prompted with the question "What is your name?" At first glance, this appears to be communication and it may be but it doesn't prove communication. The parrot may have simply been conditioned to respond with its name when it hears this question. The parrot's responsive behavior suggests a higher level of "speech" beyond simply mimicking. Since it is responding appropriately and not just mimicking, it is referred to as "speaking" in this article. This is much harder to teach than mimicking. One technique to teach "speaking" is to form the question using a boring tone and then provide the response in a more interesting tone. For example, you may say "How are you doing today?" in a quiet calm tone than say "SUPER DUPER HOW ARE YOU?" in a louder more interesting tone. The parrot is more likely to begin saying "SUPER DUPER HOW ARE YOU?" in response to your question "How are you doing today"" just because it is more appealing. This is at least "mimicking" and maybe "speaking" depending on who you ask.

The third category is "Communicating". In this case, the parrot actually has an understanding of its vocalizations. This is sometimes referred to as cognitive speech. An example of this would be to show the parrot a red key that it has never seen before and ask the parrot "What color is this?" If the parrot responds with "red" then it is communicating. There is a subtle difference between "Speaking" and "Communicating". For example, if the parrot is conditioned to say "red" when you show it a particular red key then it doesn't necessarily have an understanding of red. It may just be conditioned to respond with "red" when it sees that particular object. Whereas, "communication" uses an unknown object so the parrots could not have been conditioned to respond with a particular word when presented with the object. As mentioned before, The Alex Studies by Dr. Pepperberg is an excellent source of information on this topic. You can find a link at the end of this article to her book.

What Birds Talk?
So what birds talk? As the buyer in the above joke correctly suggests, not all parrots talk. This is true of different species and different birds within a species. For example, African Grey Parrots are known to be excellent talkers but that doesn't mean that all African Grey Parrots will talk. Hopefully, your only reason for purchasing a parrot is not because it can talk. Parrots have so much more to offer than talking and you would be cheating yourself and your parrot if that is your only reason for getting a parrot. Talking should be considered a bonus and not a requirement. However, if "talking" is important, the only way to make sure that you are getting a parrot that will talk is to purchase a parrot that already talks. Having said that, there are certain species that are known to be more inclined to be good talkers. Here is a list of some parrot most likely to "talk" with the better-known groups in parenthesis.

  • African Grey
  • Mynah (Greater hill)
  • Amazons (Yellow-naped, Yellow-fronted, Double Yellow-headed, Blue-headed)
  • Budgerigars
  • Macaws (Blue and Gold)
  • Cockatoos (Bare-eyed)
  • Cockatiels

As mentioned previously, not all birds in the list will talk and not all birds that talk are on this list. The order of the list is a good approximation from best talkers (African Grey) down to not-the-best talkers. This list isn't perfect and is just a basic guide with no guarantees. For example, there are some Cockatiels that talk better than some African Greys.

Three General Training Techniques
So you have a parrot that is capable of talking and you want to teach it to talk. This section will cover three basic techniques. These three techniques are Audio Recordings, Parent-Parrot teaching, and Modeling. The first two methods use useful for teaching your parrot to mimic. The second and third methods can be useful for teaching your parrot to "speak". And finally, the third method is most useful for teaching your parrot to communicate.

Technique #1 - Audio Recordings
The first technique is Audio Recordings. This may be an Audio CD or tape that you purchase or create that is capable of looping over and over. You can purchase these on the Internet or create them yourself with your home computer. Most people use this method for long periods of time when the parrot is alone. But does this technique work? The jury is still out on this one. Some people with some parrots have had some success with this method while others have not had success with this method. It is certainly not the best method to use but in some cases, it can be effective. This is probably the most common technique used to teach the classic Andy Griffin Theme Song. However, the same thing played over and over will quickly become very boring. Parrots just like people will eventually tune out the boring stuff in their environment. For this reason, it is recommended that you keep the sessions short. Sessions should be about fifteen-minute sessions 2 or 3 times a day. This technique is used to teach "mimicking" as defined earlier. This is a cheap and easy way to teach your parrot to mimic. As with most things in life that are cheap and easy don't be surprised if it doesn't work.

Technique #2 - Parent-Parrot Teaching
The second technique is Parent-Parrot teaching. This is where you talk to your parrot. This method is effective because it provides your parrot with a very important need. That need is to bond with its "flock" and to communicate with it's "flock". In most cases, you'll find that the more you talk and communicate with your parrot, the more it will respond and talk back. Most parrots are very social and thrive on this kind of attention. This method will never get boring to your parrot and can be fun for you and your parrot. If properly rewarded for talking, your bird will happily talk and talk and talk. You should talk to your parrot while feeding, cleaning, doing dishes, preparing meals, watching TV, walking through the house, etc, etc, etc. You can maximize this method by using your speech in context. If you're putting food in the bowl then tell your parrot that you're giving it food. If you're cleaning the cage then tell your parrot that you are cleaning the cage. This method is useful for teaching "mimicking" and "speaking" as defined earlier.

Phrases that indicate mimicking are phrases such as "want to peanut?" or "Watcha doing?" In these cases, it is just mimicking things that it has heard you vocalize. This method can also be used to teach communication as defined earlier. In this case, you should use the same word in several different contexts. Examples would be "Do you want this peanut?", "Here's a peanut", "This is a good peanut", "is that peanut good?" Initially, your parrot will mimic you and use the word out of context much like a child learning to speak. You can take the mimicking to the speaking level by simply correcting the parrot-like you would a child. By doing this, you will eventually teach the parrot to use the word in context. For example, it may begin to vocalize "this is a good peanut" when you give it a peanut. This technique can be used for teaching your parrot "mimicking" and "speaking" as defined earlier. This technique can also be used to a lesser degree to teach "speaking". The third and final technique (Modeling) is more effective for teaching "speaking" and "communication".

Technique #3 - Modeling
The third technique is "Modeling". This is the method that Dr. Pepperberg discusses in her book The Alex Studies. This method involves two trainers (usually two humans) and the parrot. Though not practical for most of us, it can be very effective if you have the means to use this technique. The parrot takes turns being the "trainee" with the other human. An example would be to have the Trainer human and the trainee human demonstrate what is required while the parrot watches. For example, the Trainer may ask the trainee "what color is this" while holding up an object. The trainee will respond with "blue" and the trainer will respond with "no, the color is red". The trainer will repeat the question and the trainee will respond with "red" and the trainer will reward the trainee for the correct answer. The reward may be verbal ("good girl") or the reward may be a treat. Then the parrot will assume the role of the trainee while the human trainee watches and the process repeated. This method has been shown to be very effective in teaching birds, other animals, and humans with learning disabilities. This modeling technique was used to teach Alex the Congo African Grey for Dr. Pepperberg's studies. This method is effective at teaching "mimicking", "speaking", and "communication" as defined earlier.

As you may guess, the second technique is the most common technique used to teach pet parrots how to talk. This technique is more effective than using Audio Recordings and it only requires one "trainer" compared to the third technique. More importantly, the second technique provides the perfect opportunity for the Parent to bond with the Parrot. This is a win-win technique because bonding is essential to the parrot's well being and it provides a means to teach the parrot to talk. The next section covers some miscellaneous Tips, Do's and Don'ts. Most directly apply to the second technique of Parent-Parrot teaching but also apply to the other techniques.
Tips, Do's and Don'ts

  • Be patient.
  • Make your vocalizations interesting.
  • Have fun during talking training sessions.
  • Keep training sessions short (10-15 minutes)
  • Talk, Talk, Talk to your parrot.
  • Talk in context to your parrot.
  • Use diction, drama, and inflection to make your speech more interesting.
  • Phrase your talk from the parrot's perspective. "Give me a peanut" instead of "Do you want a peanut?"
  • Reward your parrot when it talks with treats, praise, and/or attention.
  • Start when your parrot is young (though not necessary).
  • Communicate while out of site to simulate contact calls.
  • Sing songs to your parrot.
  • Tell stories to your parrot.
  • Read stories to your parrot.
  • Repeat phrases at appropriate times. For example "I want water" when giving fresh water.
  • Start with words and work up to phrases.
  • Pronounce words clearly.
  • Don't say words that you don't want to be repeated.
  • Create verbal cues such as saying "Good Morning" in the morning.
  • Place the cage where your parrot hears family communication.
  • Don't teach whistling before teaching talk.
  • Use interesting-sounding words.
  • For some reason, words with "tt" seem to be favorites such as "pretty" or "kitty".
  • Use the word in different phrases "This is a peanut", "Do you want a peanut", "I like peanuts"
  • Don't put the parrot in a covered cage during training. This myth goes back to ancient Greek times.
  • Do speech training early in the morning and at dusk if possible when most parrots are very talkative.

If you've ever heard a parrot joke, most likely it involves a talking parrot. The parrot's ability to "talk" has captured our imagination for thousands of years. I'm sure that you will agree (if you own a parrot) that its ability to talk is just one of the many characteristics that make parrots fascinating companions. A lot of people purchase a parrot for their ability to talk but eventually learn that with or without its ability to talk, it is an awesome pet and companion.

Hopefully, this introduction to teaching your parrot to talk has been useful. Check out some of the book links below if you're interested in learning more. "The Pleasure of Their Company" by Bonnie Munro Doane and The Alex Studies by Dr. Pepperberg are two good sources to start with. You will be amazed by the Dr. Pepperberg's successes and fascinated with her findings. Though technical at times and not necessarily a required reading for all parrot owners it is a fascinating book.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Bird Watching Tips for Beginners

English: Bird Watching Hide
Bird Watching Hide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bird watching can be a very fun and interesting activity once you are familiar with the thing that you need to know when doing it. The first thing that you need to familiarize yourself with bird watching is identifying the bird that you will watch. 

This very task is quite challenging because it is not easy to identify them especially when they are so many feet away from the ground. Since birds are energetic and active animals, you need a clear and quick eye to be able to see as many details possible in such as a very short period of time. 

Aside from being too far away from you, other problems that you might encounter—especially if you are a first-time bird watcher—is the dim light shaded by trees, the glint of sunlight that can affect your sight, and the hidden places where birds go to play. So, when you are into bird watching, it is always best to have a general knowledge of bird's attitudes and observe them carefully. You might not name them properly the first time but you definitely can the next time if you pay proper attention to observing them.  

The following are just of the helpful tips that can help you in your very first bird watching session: 

- Always keep on eye on one bird. Bird watching is more effective if one uses a binocular. When you are bird watching, try to spot only one bird that catches your attention. Once you have seen one, never take your eyes off it because it might fly to a place where you cannot see it.

In most bird watching centers, beginners are given a field guide in a form of a booklet or brochure so they can identify the bird once they have seen one. Once you know what is it, take time to observe its physical details as well as its behaviors and mannerisms. Make sure that you observe the bird's movements, markings, feeding habits, songs, color, and size so you can easily identify it the next time you see it. 

- Make sure that you listen intently to the bird's calls and song. Although listening for a bird's song is easy, it doesn’t stay long in a person's memory. What you should do is to listen intently when the bird calls or sings and play the bird's song in your mind repetitively. Listening to a bird's call and the song is important because it can help you identify the bird even without seeing it. 

- Take time to estimate the bird's shape and general size. The average shape and size of the bird will give you a huge clue in finding out the family it came from. In bird watching, make sure that you assess its overall appearance and take note of its approximate size and shape. Once you can tell from the size and shape of the bird what kind is it, then you are doing good. 

- Pay attention to the bill characteristics and facial markings of the bird in sight. This is one of the hardest things to do because the average of almost all birds is small. They also keep on moving so it will be hard to take note any unique markings on their faces. It is also equally hard to take note of characteristics of its bills because most birds keep on pecking all the time.

To get these details, spot a bird that doesn’t fly around that much. Once you found one, start observing it head by looking for any distinguishing hue patches or color strips. These can be present in their eye lines, crowns, napes, and arcs or in the rings. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

KOOKABURRA - Australian Bird

English: kookaburra laughing bird
Kookaburra laughing bird (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Native to Australia and New Zealand the Kookaburra bird is a large bird (28-42 cm in length and 11-17 inches in height). The Kookaburra was discovered by the English in the mid 18th century. They have a distinct call which sounds like a loud echoing human laughter, these birds are good-natured if not hysterical. You generally will not find this bird by water but they can be found in a humid forest surrounding where food is easily accessible.

Kookaburra is carnivorous, their diet consists of lizards, snakes, insects, and raw meat, The Kookaburra is a territorial bird and they can often be found living with partially grown chicks from the previous mating season. Wild Kookaburras will eat baby birds, snakes, insects, small reptiles and other birds such as finches.

Even though these birds are found only in a relatively small part of the world their unique sound can be found in the soundtrack "jungle sound", they are also used in movies and television as well as being seen in certain Disney park attractions. Also, you can find these birds in popular video games such as Battle toads and World of Warcraft.

They can also be found on postage stamps, the first postage stamp with a Kookaburra was issued as a 6 penny stamp issued in 1914, and also a 38c Austrian stamp with a pair of Kookaburra on it was issued around 1990. Also back in 1990 Australia dedicated a coin to this bird.