December 28, 2012

Vinny shakes a tail feather

Normally a Vosmaeri Eclectus has 12 tail feathers. Vinny is down to 3. That is three. That's right. Luckily, they'll grow back, and that should happen over the next half year or so, while he's going through his first major molt. He's just about 1 year old now, so if you know your Eclectus, you know what I'm talking about.

Clear view of 2 snapped tail feathers after yet another typical
Vinny-stunt. Vinny is quite wet here, just having had a shower.
Moments later, we freed him of his broken off feathers.
It's actually pitiful (read: funny) to watch, he truly looks like a handicapped bird, but in a funny way, like a pirate with a peg leg. Even though he can still fly quite nicely with just 3 tail feathers, you can tell that his maneuvering is a bit wonky. He sways a bit left and right now, and if there was something like a parrot police, he would be pulled over for drunk flying for sure.

I may have said it before: Vinny is a true stuntman from time to time, mean that he often climbs in and on his cage in ways we never thought was possible, uses his swing like a real trapeze artist, and so forth. He sometimes gets himself in trouble and has to make emergency landings. During the first 8 months or so we've had him, he's lost a few tail feathers doing just that.

left: broken off baby tail feather
middle: shedded stump of broken off tail feather
right: naturally shed flight feather
Recently, we've been on vacation and we put Vinny in a Pet Hotel at a bird-expert vet about half an hour drive away. 17 Days later he came back with yet 2 tail feathers lost. This was probably due to pacing around a very small cage. This is normally his sleeping cage. We have it in the darkest room in the house, to make sure Vinny get's at least 12 hours of rest every day. Of course the cage is still big enough for him to spread his wings at least, but other than that, it's not intended for him to stay in it for a longer period of time.

At the vet, we had no other option, because this is the only cage that will fit in our car. So he lost a few more. No big deal. But after we came back from vacation, Vinny seemed to be more fond of that cage, I guess he saw that as his comfort zone. So we let him stay in there more than normal. He even went in there by himself when we were around. And that caused him to lose 2 more, the day after we came home from vacation.

So three it is. No biggie. Not a problem. They'll grow back. Of course, because of this, we've been looking for signs of his first big molt, and last week our patience was rewarded. Two days in a row, we found two flight feathers (for those who don't know: the big long feathers on his wing) in his cage, perfectly intact as they're supposed to be.

And yesterday we found one of his stumps of a broken off tail feather as well, with a nice and intact base, a clear sign of a naturally shed feather. Perfect, perfect, perfect! He's  right on schedule and within half a year, he should have most or all of his tail feathers back.

The thing with tail feathers, and we've read this on various parrot and Eclectus expert websites, is that the first feathers a bird has, are more flexible, but at that also weaker than his adult feathers. The reason for this is that nature has figured out that baby birds are more reckless and are more prone to feather-breaking than adult birds. Makes sense, right? Imagine chicks ruffling around in a small nest, or kids doing all kinds of stunts that are actually very helpful in getting in touch with their agility and dexterity. If everything we've read is correct, he should grow back stronger feathers.

New pin feather on his left wing
And then this morning, to top it all off, we noticed two very nice pin feathers on his wings, one on each side, in the same spot. Those must be the replacements for the flight feathers he shed last week.

Remember, this is all new to us. If you're a weathered parrot-owner, you must probably be laughing at this! And if you have no interest in parrots whatsoever, you must probably be asking yourself what the big deal is.

Vinny is nowhere close to a human kid of course, but just imagine your own kid missing almost all of his front baby teeth, and then noticing the signs of his adult teeth breaking through. That's why we deem this a Kodak moment and write about it, for your pleasure!

Do you have an Eclectus or any other kind of parrot, and you have funny stories about their first molt? Please do share, that's what comments are for.

More coming up about Vinny's adventures as a young Eclectus finding his way on this great chunk of dirt we call Earth. He's about to see the big Oh-One, so time to sum up a year of new experiences, for both Vinny and his 'parronts'.

Souvenirs for Vinny!

For Turkey Day, my girlfriend and I went to visit her family in the USA. Vinny stayed with the vet for those 17 days. Our bird-expert vet has a boarding arrangement as well. See our separate post about that.

Usually when we visit the States, we do lots of shopping, clothing in particular. Everything is much cheaper there so we save a ton of money. This was our first trip since we have Vinny, so we figured it was time to do some Vinny-shopping as well. Time to get souvenirs.

Now, most souvenirs we had on our shopping list included materials to create toys ourselves. Raw leather (not chemically treated) is hard to find here, including stainless steel clasps, rings and parts, at least at a reasonable price.

Halfway through our vacation, we hadn't gotten anything for Vinny yet, except for 2 colorful cardboard pinatas, from a chain pet store. Much cheaper than here in the Netherlands, but not what we were looking for. So we did some googling and this is how it came to be that we found THE PERFECT STORE !!

Why in capitals, why so sure about that? If you're ever in the States, or if you live there, you should really (and I can't emphasize this enough) check out the store we found.

It was an hour drive for us, from where my girlfriend's mother lives (Allentown, PA) to a town called Burlington, in the wonderful state of New Jersey. This is where we found Bird Paradise, and that was exactly what it looked like to us!

Bird Paradise, front/road view of the store
 They call themselves 'World's Largest Bird Store' and we've visited a few that called themselves that, but this particular one is definitely worthy of that title. One experience we will never forget. Let me describe how we experienced this store.

So, you come to this store, with a parking lot suitable for maybe 60-70 cars, and a reasonably sized building. One floor. And all around the parking lot are 2nd hand cages lined up, with price tags on them. The building obviously screams that they're some kind of parrot store, but once you get inside, the first thing you notice is a corridor with bird toys on either side. This was already more than we saw in any Dutch pet store. Then, about 15 feet in, a sign and spray bottles with hand sanitizer. A good sign! They take hygiene seriously and that's always nice to see.

Then we turned right, and came into a room with stuff for wild birds. We were put off a bit. We figured, so half the store is gonna be like this? Not what we're looking for. But we pushed on, took another turn and came into another room, and another turn and into the the main room, where the front desk and register were. More walls filled with toys. More stands, also filled with toys. More of everything, except for the wild bird crap. Who's interested in that? Not us, so we were happy that that was only in one room apparently.

In the main room, they had a bunch of large stands with tame parrots sitting on them, amongst other birds, at least a couple of very friendly Eclectus and an adult Macaw that truly was the sweetest of all.

Walls and walls full of toys
Then we took another turn, and all of a sudden it dawned on us! We had arrived in Bird Toy Heaven! We looked down this isle, which gradually sloped down into a basement of sorts, and looked down a path crossing at least 4 (four!) more rooms, exactly like the ones we walked through.

Floor to wall, narrow paths in between stands, all filled with nothing but parrot toys, parrot toy parts, parrot stands, parrot EVERYTHING! You name it, we saw it there.

All in all we walked through about 8 rooms, all like that, with no exception. And at the end of it all, we went into the large rooms (plural) with the live parrots! More 'oh-my-goodness' !! Big cages, open sections with hundreds of parrots of all sorts! Even one with about 20 Caiques, all housed together, playful and clown-like as they always are .. while we had trouble finding those here in the Netherlands!

The pictures in this post don't do the right amount of justice to this store. We felt truly humble here. If you live far away, but if you ever get a chance, make sure you visit this place!

Sign in the store, hanging just a bit too low?
A few hours later, after the friendly lady at the desk had tallied up the US$ 212 we spent (and that was after putting back some stuff, because it was too much to take home), we walked back to the car and drove off silently, still impressed. It was 10 minutes later when the first thing we said was: good thing we don't live around here! We'd be broke by now, just because of this store!

Back at home, we still have a big red suitcase sitting in our living room. It is the one with all the toys and Vinny stuff. And whenever Vinny is around and we come near the suitcase, he goes on high alert! He stretches his neck, he looks at the suitcase, he knows that all those colorful things in there are his. We even caught him red-clawed a few times, trying to get into the suitcase, while we were just looking away for a moment. Sneaky bird!

But he can't have it all in one go, This new collection of toys is supposed to last us at least a year, so whenever it's time for a new toy, we let him ruffle through the suitcase and whatever he picks out, he gets, before the suitcase closes again till next time.

Vinny picking a toy from the red suitcase

Information about the store:
Name: Bird Paradise
Webshop: (they ship internationally)
Address: 551 E Rt 130 South, Burlington, NJ, USA

No, we don't own shares of this store, nor are we in any way affiliated, except for the fact that we became instant fans of Bird Paradise during our visit. Next time we're in the States, we definitely clear a day in our schedule (and a sizable chunk out of our budget) to visit this store!

December 27, 2012

Vinny's Vacation at the Vet

Since my girlfriend (Vinny's mommy) is American, we went on vacation to the USA, visiting family for Thanksgiving. I'm a big fan of her family (love ya all!), but another great reason for me was to go for all the foods that we don't really have here in the Netherlands, including the all famous Thanksgiving Turkey. We had Grilled, Baked and Deep-fried and it was GOOD!

Obviously, it seems a bit weird to talk about eating birds, while this blog IS about a (pet) bird. However, I can see Vinny imitate the gobble-gobble of a turkey, but I don't see a turkey greet us and laugh at/with us and say Coca Cola, and sit on my shoulder watching tv with us. That's the difference and that's nature.

Before we got Vinny, we did our research on boarding for Vinny, since obviously you can't take anything with feathers from Europe to the States. And even if it was possible, having to buy a full ticket for a bird that weighs around 420 grams (almost 15 ounces), seems a bit excessive.

So we chose to give Vinny another safe home for the 17 days that we were gone. Surprisingly, the solution was only half an hour drive away, and cost a mere 5 euros per day. Very reasonable price, compared to bird-boarding in the USA, or for cats/dogs anywhere. And it is at the local bird-expert vet.

The Vet: Dierenziekenhuis & hotel Drachten. Photo source:

This was truly a test for us. We've only had him for 8 months, but we've never left him behind for more than half a day, let alone with strangers. We weren't afraid that anything was going to happen to our boy, just that he might scream all day, cause a few bite wounds here and there or be a holy hell terror for the 2 weeks. Obviously, if that would happen, we'd be extra anxious to bring him there next time, or leave him behind anywhere, for that matter.

We prepped everything. We had 17 days of his special bean mix, a baggie of pellets, some fresh fruit, a handful of toys and a short document with some basic instructions. Okay, we may have gone a bit overboard with that last one. It was 2 pages describing his feeding pattern, his general behavior, his vocabulary and emergency contact information. They probably had a few giggles over that, but we didn't care.

Charlie & Darwin
We left him behind. We said our goodbyes. We closed the door. What was done, was done. No turning back now. Next day, we were on a plane across an ocean and left our buddy for life behind with strangers.

During our stay in the States, especially the first few days, we joked about calling in to see how he was doing. I had to put my foot down several times to prevent my girlfriend from calling. Especially with the 2 page manifest on Vinny-care, I didn't want to seem like the typical over-concerned parent.

Just for your information: the budgie-duo Charlie and Darwin were housed at my parents for a total of 3 weeks and of course they were treated like royalty with fresh fruits and veggies every day and lots and lots of attention, including from my niece and nephew who were over almost every day to say hi to them. They even had a room with a view!

Then, it was time. We came back home on a Monday morning, and went to pick up Vinny that same afternoon.

Immediately after checking in at the vet's front desk, we heard that everything went great and it turned out that everyone of the vet's staff loved Vinny. They took him out of the cage to fly around a bit, he had a lot of company, he was the sweetest bird ever, didn't bite, didn't growl, didn't scream ... a true model bird! No signs of his earlier biting stage he went through, no signs of upcoming puberty, no signs of general bad behavior whatsoever.

As you can imagine, we were very relieved! We raised Vinny well, so far. And now we feel confident that whenever we do want or need to go travelling, we can easily leave our pet behind.

Vinny after he took a shower back at home
And of course Vinny was very happy to see us as well. It took mere seconds for him to recognize us, and to welcome us back in his life with the usual chatter and other cute sounds. I swear I recognized a huge smile on his candy-corn beak. Thank you to the whole staff of Dierenziekenhuis Drachten and to my parents for taking such good care of our winged ones!

Passed, with flying colors!

Do you have any experiences with boarding your bird, any stories that stick out? Good or bad? Feel free to let us know by commenting!

The pictures of the birds are ours (also the grilled one). Other picture courtesy of Dierenziekenhuis Drachten (the vet, from their excellent website).