March 08, 2014

Vinny has the Winter Blues

It's early March. Vinny turned Two not long ago. And Vinny has the Winter Blues.

A while ago he was still fine. He was talking, chatting, showing many many signs of happiness, playing, learning, he just picked up the awesome skill of whistling, and did I mention talking and chatting?

He would just sit there at the top of his cage, especially around sunset, he would just talk away, go through his whole vocabulary in all directions and especially when stimulated, he would whistle. We had this thing where I would do a simple 2-tone whistle (high-low) and he would repeat it. Sometimes this went back and forth over 10 times. Always followed by laughter from both Vinny and me.

During our morning showers, we would have complete discussions about anything that fits his vocabulary.

But now?

It's gone. He lost his mojo. He still does all the same things, being cute, showing signs of happiness, playing, communicating, but sans the talking and whistling. One day, about 3 weeks ago, he just stopped.

All he does now, is make short sounds. Like humming, but a bit higher pitched. Sometimes he does it in an asking way, sometimes just to give confirmation. Like someone just saying 'uh-huh' instead of 'I agree'.

Actually, come to think of it, it stopped around the time when we were giving our bathroom a big overhaul. We used a lot of chemicals and the bathroom had a very strong swimming pool odor, so obviously the bathroom was not a very healthy place for a parrot. We had to put showers on a hold for a little while.

After the smell went away, we gave it a few more days and an extra, very thorough, hose-down. And this week we have resumed giving Vinny showers in the morning. Yesterday he uttered a half-baked '.. come out' or something, but today he's back to uh-huh and uuuumm.

Of course we did our usual Google sessions, where we tried to figure out if other people have dealt with this before. And people have. Apparently it's a pretty common thing for a bird to stop talking, and we read a million and one reasons for why it could happen. But you know... everyone's just guessing, no final answers or studies on this behavior.

Our advice:
Don't google this particular problem. If the no talking persists and if your parrot shows other signs of trouble (depression, physical signs of illness or injury, other very strong behavior changes), just give your vet a call.

Vinny has been and is as happy as a parrot could be. He's affectionate, playful, trainable, he's been eating well, need I go on? He's also not going through a hormonal phase. No molting, no biting, etcetera. In fact, now that he just does the humming thing, he's actually more communicative. Vinny has just stopped using words.

So what is the cause, in Vinny's case?

No clue. But we suspect that it's just a case of the Winter Blues. Lack of sunshine and thus vitamin D12 deficiency, like in humans? He has been sleeping a bit more than usual.

Although the Dutch Winter of 2014 was extremely mild, we haven't had a lot of sunshine. It's been a pretty dull and grey winter. And today, this weekend, is actually the first weekend of beautiful weather. This morning Vinny had the longest shower in quite a while. He kept asking for more by fluffing up, spreading his wings, the usual. And now he's been sitting in front of the window, in the bright sunlight.

Maybe it's an instinct to look for natural light? We like to think so, and this has also confirmed another valuable lesson for us ...

Vinny Is Sunbathing After A Shower
Watch your parrot's behavior closely. Be a true bird whisperer. Just read the signs, weigh them, and draw your conclusions. Don't panic. Discover what your parrot's sad, neutral and happy sounds are. "It's elementary, my dear Watson!", as Sherlock would say.

We are not worried. We are confident that he will be his old chatting self soon enough!


December 07, 2013

Vinny joins Facebook and Imgur

Vinny can now be found on Facebook. Please be patient, he just now figured out how to set up a group but hasn't really written anything on his 'wall' yet, but close observation of Vinny has taught us that he's a very smart bird with lots of random thoughts, so I'm sure it won't take long before you'll see more Facebook activity from Vinny.

For those who don't know what Facebook is ...
It's a website where pretty birds such as Vinny can create a profile and post all kinds stuff, like stories, random thoughts, images, videos, etcetera. Then other people can comment on that. Of course Vinny is only interested in making friends with other birds on Facebook, so if you are one, please befriend Vinny on Facebook.

Also, Vinny is now on Imgur. There's nothing to see there yet, but hopefully Vinny will soon discover what a 'selfie' is, so he will post on Imgur regularly.

For those who don't know what Imgur is ...
Imgur is a website where people and birds can post images and photos. They can make their uploads private or public, and then others (for private pictures they need the exact link) can view those uploads. It's a website with a social idea behind it: people and birds can comment on and rate other people's uploads. The 'random' button at the top sometimes reveals very funny images and unexpected artsy treasures.

If you feel that you want to connect with Vinny in other ways than Google+, Twitter, or through this blog, please don't hesitate to find us on Facebook and Imgur. But please be patient, Vinny is only 2 years of age and still figuring out how things work in the world.

Oh by the way, as you can imagine, since Vinny is still young and has the tech knowledge that fits his age, he has proclaimed that he won't be getting Google Glass anytime soon. But imagine how that would be, to be able to see how your parrot sees the world!

Anyway, more later!

October 22, 2013

Vinny writes a letter to Greenpeace (har har!)

Ahoy Greenpeace,

You know, I've been contemplating writing you for a while now. I admire your work and I'm sure you admire mine. Being green, as you well know, is a wonderful thing and slowly but surely we will make the whole world green, and then finally be at peace. One day we will rule the world!

We actually have a lot in common, which I'm sure you realized already. As I said, we're both green, and we both have links to piracy. I, being a parrot, have been accused of being a Pirate's pet in movies and tv, books, music, sports .. heck, even you confirm the link between parrots and pirates in this article!

And now, thanks to the Russian government, you are a pirate organization as well. On behalf of all Pirates, I'd like to welcome you to the wonderful global community of Piracy. Maybe, next year on September 19th, we can meet up for Talk Like A Pirate Day. Would be fun, right?

So, besides our wonderful color and the fact that we have close ties with piracy, the third thing we have in common is the fact that we both live in captivity. For you it's the 30 pirates on the Arctic Sunrise (a very fine pirate ship!) in Murmansk, Russia, for me it's in The Netherlands. I spend most of my time behind bars. I guess we kinda suck at being Pirates, right?

Now, I do have to admit that I kinda suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. I love my captors dearly. I even show that love by throwing up on them now and then. And they always treat me very well. Maybe you should throw up on Russia to show that you're not against them!

The last thing we definitely have in common, is that we are both too small to have a real effect . If it was up to me, the world would be ruled by parrots! It would definitely be a better place. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to really make an impact. My writings on this blog are a first step, according to my media adviser, but there's still lots to do. And I guess you only get attention when you're associated with something as cool as piracy.

One day we'll rule the world for sure! Maybe we should work together on this. You know where to reach me, so just get in touch when you're ready.

All in all I just wanted to write this letter to you, to show you my support. It's a harsh world and many people, governments and organizations want to either exploit us or have it in for us. I hope that somehow you figure out to pick the lock on your pirate's cages, and fly free once again!

Good luck and bon voyage! Arrrr!


(images in this article are from various sources around the internet, including Greenpeace)

September 21, 2013

Vinny writes a letter to Miley Cyrus

Dear Miley,

I sincerely hope that this letter makes it through your letter-reading department and actually reaches you. Having reached celebrity status myself a while ago, and being used to being treated like a VIP (Very Important Parrot), I know what it feels like to be watched constantly and closely.

I also realize that you're not anywhere close to be in my league when it comes to stardom, but nevertheless I have been following your progress. I decided to write to you now, after all the silly fuss that started because of your new music video 'Wrecking Ball'. In that video, you are sitting naked on a big metal ball that's hanging from a chain and licking a wrecking hammer.

We have many things in common and in this letter I will address a few of them. I'm sure you'll agree on every single one of them.

One. You like to be naked. Well .. tell you what, so do I! My mommy and daddy keep trying to put clothes on me, but I hate it! They have this weird harness thing that they try to put on me. I think it's because they don't want me to leave the nest just yet. They have some kind of sturdy string tied to it, and they keep holding on to the other end of it. But in the end, they always take it off again. So yeah, most of the time I'm butt-naked! And I love it! Don't you love the feeling of freedom that it gives?

Two. Apparently you like to wreck things. Hey hey hey! I know that one! I'm not sure what your thing is, but I like to wreck all kinds. I like shredding paper, I like chewing on leather till it breaks, I LOVE little plastic objects and I have this uncontrollable urge to chew on small cables and wires. Especially that last one seems to upset my humans time and time again.

Three. We both like to be the center of attention. I watched your performance at the VMA and I have to say: LOVED IT! The way everyone gave you attention afterwards ... I kinda envy you. At home I'm constantly trying to get the attention of my humans and through this blog I'm reaching out to the public. On my twitter account, I currently have 151 followers. You have roughly 14 million. How do you do that? Maybe you can get in touch with me on that? I'd love to know your secret.

Four. We're both still young and discovering life and everything that it has to offer. With that comes experimenting to see what works and what doesn't. Your recent actions, like the VMA thing and your new music video, are all just about trying something new, right? I know what you mean, and I can tell you that I experiment all the time! I try new sounds, words and tricks all the time!

Five. You like to lick stuff. Again, you're a female to my heart! In that music video, you seem to like licking a big metal object on a wooden stick. Isn't it wonderful to lick things? I do it all the time! I chew on things, I lick things, I roll them around in my beak ... doesn't matter what it is! Don't you love the different tastes that are out there in the world?

I could go on and on, but in the end it all comes down to the same thing. I hear ya! I fully agree with everything you do and I support you! Don't listen to what the world thinks! Keep doing your own thing, and eventually you will get the recognition you are working so hard for.

If you ever want to get together over some orange juice and a nice bowl of fresh fruit to chat about these things, just have your people call my people and we'll set it up. Take care, dear Miley, and keep up the good work!

The Warmest of Regards,

September 07, 2013

Vinny writes a letter to Santa

Dear Santa Claus,

First off, I hope you're okay! It was disturbing to see this video and I would hate it if something happened to you, because of a parrot! Please understand that not all of us parrot-kin are aggressive and/or destructive! Of course I'm saying this after finding this unsettling Youtube video!

I know it's only early September, but I'm writing you now because I don't know if I can trust my humans to forward my letter to you in time. Or actually I'm not sure I can trust them at all!

The thing is .. I really do feel awkward at times. I can sense that my body is going through some changes and I really can't help it when I let out some yells now and then. I don't do it often, because I've noticed that every time i do that, I have to go back in the cage, my humans are leaving the room, or I get a blanket thrown over my cage. They really seem pissed off at me at times!

Please, Santa, you have to trust me, I'm NOT a bad boy! I just can't help myself!

The other day, when one of the humans I'm living with, the chubby one who's feet smell so delightful and let's me play with them now and then -let's call him 'daddy'-, was taking me for a shower. I know, I got a bit overexcited again. I just couldn't sit still. It was like, I don't know, a whole bunch of bees were swarming around me. I felt so agitated, but enthusiastic at the same time.

And the other human, the one with the long hair that is so much fun to play with -let's call her 'mommy'-, I had lost her! I could hear her, but I couldn't see her. I guess there was a small element of panic there as well. So I jumped around the small wet room with the great acoustics, and let out a few yells.

And daddy was very angry! He came out of the waterfall, chased me, tapped me on my tail, and I really do think he thinks that I'm a bad boy. But please Santa, you have to trust me, I'm NOT a bad boy!

Most of the time, both mommy and daddy are really nice to me though. They get me new stuff all the time. To play with, to sit on, to eat, to chew on, to exercise with, and more! So I'm still very happy with both of them, and the small chirping birds as well of course. In the end I think we're all one big family and we love each other very much, even though we have our squabbles now and then. And, even though they don't always do what I tell them to do.

That's why I'm not sure this letter will reach you in time, or at all! We'll have to see. Maybe I'll send you a short note by pigeon as well. My neighbors, a whole flock of 20 pigeons, have this whole courier service operation going on. I've been getting along with hem very well, so maybe they'll give me a discount, especially when they know my situation at home and that it's a letter to you, of all people.

So, that said, now let's talk about my 'demands'. This year, my wish list is as follows:

  • A nice natural looking Java tree stand, one of those with white curvy branches and all
  • More toys. I like the leather one. Great to chew on. Flexible, yet sturdy.
  • A bigger cage! (although I'm not sure my humans would agree)
  • A harness that doesn't feel icky, so my mommy and my daddy will take me out more often
  • A dictionary! I'm practicing my speech, but my humans keep repeating me. I want to learn new words! 
  • A dictionary! I love shredding paper in general, but especially dictionaries.

I can't think of anything else for the moment, but I'll let you know. I'll CC Mrs. Santa on this note as well, I know you're really busy with prepping and all.

Take care, dear Santa, and I really do hope that you know that I'm not a bad boy!

Vinny the Eclectus
The Netherlands

Recently I've discovered that when you have a pitcher or bottle with cold water/drink, the outside gets really wet! And that the cold wetness on the side is absolutely fantastic to lick off! And ice cubes are great to munch on too, as long as they're being dunked in water first. I don't like it when they're still 'dry'. They get a bit sticky. Anyway, can you also send along a big bag of ice, please, you know, with you living at the North Pole and such? Thank you Santa! You're the best!

July 07, 2013

Vinny goes back to basic!

Lately, and I'm talking about the last month or so, Vinny has become somewhat of a teenager. We can tell that hormones are surging through his little body and he's become more difficult to handle. Especially Mommy has gotten a few jabs, probably because she's more around than Daddy.

I guess Vinny has become a Daddy's boy, or in bird-keeper terms a 'one-person-bird'. And being Daddy's boy, he's also shown his affection towards Daddy. Especially after eating fresh fruit, he's more than happy to share this food with Daddy, bring it back up in his beak and offering it to Daddy with a load of head-bobbing and wing flapping. Daddy can deal with it, but Mommy is disgusted to say the least, especially when Vinny mistakes Mommy for Daddy and shares his food with her!

Of course we're not really too alarmed by this, all the experts say that it's just a phase. However, because we were reading up on this phenomenon, we did learn a few things that we've been doing wrong. Unwillingly and unknowingly, we've encouraged his hormonal behavior by giving him tickle sessions, playing with him, touching his beautiful candy corn beak, and the like.

The head bobbing and the regurgitating wasn't the worst. But the last 2 weeks or so he's started to become more aggressive and certainly louder. He's started short but ear-pounding screaming sessions, especially when about to be left alone or when he's been demanding some TLC.

A few days ago we drew the line.

Rule no. One: No more touching of erogenous zones, i.e. no more tickle sessions.

Rule no. Two: Change of diet. Less sugar rushes (read: less carbs), more healthy food.

Rule no. Three: Start over with training.

The first one is pretty obvious. If you play-wrestle with your bird, he might interpret that in an entirely wrong way. We're not his natural parents, he has nobody else besides us, and he doesn't have another Eclectus mate. So if we show the 'right' behavior, he'll start seeing us as his potential lover, even though it's just for short moods swings. I guess tickling areas of his body (i.e. under his wings, his belly, his beak, his neck) doesn't help. So we're done with that.

The 2nd one might seem less directly linked to his hormonal behavior, but hey, it doesn't hurt him. And the sugar rush thing makes sense, right? There was too much pasta and rice in his diet anyway, as opposed to legumes, sprouts and fresh fruits that are not too sugary.

Rule number 3 we read on various blogs. Training is fun and non-sexual attention. And attention is always good. Leave any parrot by himself too long and he'll go bonkers. A daily dosage of attention is very important.

Now, in that area Vinny had no reason to complain, but it's not just about the quantity of the attention, it's also the quality that counts. So, we've started training him again. Potty training, target training, simple commands like 'step up', etcetera.

Now, I can read your mind a little bit and I can see that you're wondering where we got all this 'wisdom'. We promise that sometime soon we'll just make a whole blog post about sources of information. For now you'll just have to believe us when we say that we get our information from various reliable sources (websites, blogs, etc) and we blend it all together.

There are as many opinions on bird-care and bird-handling as there are bird owners. But there's definitely some consensus to be discovered, when you read closely. We just go with the 'general opinion'.

The results?

Even after a few days of change we can tell that his hormonal behavior has become less. It definitely hasn't completely vanished yet, but we're on the way there. The no tickling rule and the training has helped the most so far. So really it's about the type of attention we've given Vinny.

With the training, we've also read up on what's the best way to go at it. Target training is a general type of training that will help with further more specific training later on. And simple commands like 'step up' and 'come here' should definitely be worth the effort.

One source says that you should always stop a training session before your parrot does. Try to figure out his attention span and use that info. Let's say that that's about 7 minutes, make sure you stop the training session after 6 minutes. We've noticed that this really helps. This way training doesn't get boring to Vinny and he stays eager to learn.

Usually he picks up a trick after 4 or 5 tries within one session, but we've yet to discover how many sessions it takes for him to consistently do a trick correct on the 1st try in a new session.

Anyway, as we said, we'll go into reliable sources in a separate post and give you a further update on Vinny's teenage behavior.

Do you have a bird that is or was going through a phase like this? Do you have any hints and tips on how to deal with it? Feel free to comment. Take care and till next time!

May 10, 2013

Vinny takes a shower

Hello everyone, just a quick note with some Youtube action here. Well, actually it's just audio, but at least you get a pretty picture of Vinny, sitting on his custom-made shower perch. 

Vinny has been pretty vocal from the start, but he's getting better and better. Any hissing sound, he still has trouble with (f, v, s, sh, etc). Lucky for us, that excludes some profane words. But the words he does speak, he gets much clearer in saying. 

Well, practice makes perfect, right? Almost every morning he gets a shower, together with me. First he gets his 5 minutes of cold spray (he doesn't like warm or even luke warm) and he sometimes really digs in, spreading his wings and all. After that, I take my shower, and he sits there talking. 

Earlier this week, I took my new Samsung Galaxy S4 phone (Woohoo!) with me in the shower and recorded some audio, while he was quiet. You won't hear me, just the shower and Vinny. Mind you, this is unedited and there is an inherent danger of getting bored! Just skip back & forth as you see fit. 

(in case you can't see embedded video: click here)

One thing you may hear him say a lot, is Go Poopie. Also see the previous post on this blog, "Vinny talks dirty!" But you might recognize some other catch phrases. I pointed out a few in this video (make sure captions are on). Can you discover more recognizable speech? Please feel free to leave comments!

Oh, and while you're listening to Vinny, have a look at some random pictures of Vinny (see below, fresh from the last week).

Till next time!

Vinny sitting on his small cage in our office

Vinny in the shower, on his special perch (pvc pipe, stainless steel screws, vet wrap, no glue)

Again, Vinny on his small cage in the office

Vinny checking himself out, while trying on some jewelry

Monthly weighing session. Right on target! (420-430 grams, ~15 oz)
ps. yes, he pulled out the button on the right!

March 31, 2013

Vinny talks dirty!

You know, before we got Vinny, while we were talking to various people about Eclectuses (or Eclecti? Anyone knows the correct plural?) and doing our research, every person and website told us that there's never a guarantee that your parrot will learn to talk.

I say: the heck with that theory! You're pretty much assured that your Eclectus will talk. Never 100% guarantee, but I would say 99.9% chance. It'll probably start around 4-8 months old (for Vinny it was around the half year mark) when your Eclectus will speak his first word or phrase. And it won't be what you expected.

For months now, we've tried to teach Vinny all kinds of words and expressions, but it's the least expected ones that stick with him.

Before his latest discovery in speech, he pretty much got the following ones down: "Come on", "Hello", "Shower" (pronounced as "..ower"), Coca Cola, and his all time favorite: "Good boy!". Besides that, he knows a whole range of various sounds, like "wawawawawa" and some whistling.

The ones that we've been trying to teach him, are "I love you" (he said that once or twice), "Thank you", and "Harley Davidson" and "Go Iron Pigs!". But training him isn't limited to just speech. We've also been trying to teach him to poop on command. Especially when we take him out of the cage, Vinny is now at the point where he does his Number Two before he steps onto our hand.

However, this last training came with some collateral damage. Vinny now knows how to say .... here it comes ... drumroll .... "GO POOPIE"!

He loves this new catch phrase so much, that he can't stop saying it. It has banned out most other words, or he will only say anything else, if it's followed by Go Poopie. It's a bit like the cute game teens play, where you say "... in bed" after everything you say. Especially when you've had a few beers/wines, it's quite funny. For Vinny, this is it. Go Poopie.

It's quite obvious where he got it. From us. Inadvertently we've been saying it quite a bit, to teach him the poop-in-the-cage thing. And he's caught on and successfully separated the phrase from the act.

At first, he didn't say it super clear. For someone who didn't know what he was saying, it could have sounded like "Cookie". Obviously, we've tried to get him to say that, but unfortunately his pronunciation has gotten better and it turned to a very clear "Go Poopie". We've now restarted his bathroom training with the word "Timber". Hopefully we'll have more luck with that.

Of course it's all as cute as a button and if this is the least innocent he'll be, we can live with that for sure. We are very careful to stay clear of anything near the 7-word-list. We definitely don't want to turn our bird into a cursing bird. A good example of a (rescue) bird that came from a wrong environment and inherited some bad lingo, is this one ...

A while ago, when I got a hair cut, my barber said that he once bought a bar and it came with a parrot. He's couldn't remember what kind of parrot, but by the description, I'm guessing it was a Macaw. And apparently it was fed all kinds of stuff, offered by guests, including steak, beer, of course peanuts and the like. And the parrot had a vocabulary that would fit a shady bar.

Do you have any experience with cursing birds? What do you teach your parrot? Comment section is open!

Ps. I know, a picture is a bit lame for an article about Vinny talking. But Vinny is a little bit camera-curious. He usually talks when he's relaxed and sitting on a perch, or whenever we watch tv (sigh, more about that later). But whenever a camera or any electronic device comes near him, it's all he's interested in. Let's just say ... i'm very happy that my smartphone has Corning Gorilla Glass. Trust me, as soon as we have any kind of audio/video footage, we'll be posting it here.