Monday, May 31, 2010

Cookies and Manzi

I realized that making cookies and African Grey Parrots do not mix. Today, I spent a good deal of the morning rolling balls of cookie dough. Due to Manzi's inability to control himself, he spent a good deal of the morning locked up in his cage. This time he didn't get a greasy hand print like last time, but he did make off with an uncooked ball of cookie dough. Luckily, I got it back before it could completely ruin his appetite. (For those who are concerned, I did not bake that cookie and it ended up in the trash)

I found a nice park in Woodland to fly Manzi and since today is a holiday it would have been the perfect time. Unfortunately, it has been cloudy all day with a chance of sporadic showers. If Manzi does get stuck outside, I don't want there to be a chance of rain. Hopefully we can have better luck tomorrow.

His indoor flight training has been going great. I am still recalling Manzi with both arms down (using a vocal command) and when he gets close, I raise an arm for him to land. He is very confident in this and with his T-stand so hopefully that will work to his benefit when we go outside.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Red tail or Swainson

Yesterday morning there were two different types of hawks in my living room. Both a Red Tail hawk and a Swainson's hawk. There wasn't actually the real thing, just an excellent imitation of their calls. Manzi picked up both of their calls just recently. The Red Tail's have been around lately calling out a lot this past week. Then, two days ago a pair of Swainson's were flying high above our apartments for 10 minutes or so calling out the entire time. Instead of just learning one call, Manzi decided to learn both at roughly the same time. I don't know if imitating the hawk call will be challenging for other hawks keeping them away, or if it is more akin to him learning, "Here kitty, kitty, kitty."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Juggled African Grey

I have been working with Manzi for the past week to get him to let me toss him while on his back. We are getting pretty good at this. I am not the most coordinated tosser in the world so I need some practice and Manzi sometimes moves and wiggles a bit making it more difficult, but it is really fun.

As requested, here is the training process to get to this point:
1. Get him to lie on his back on my hand (this was done a long time ago)
a) Have him perch on one hand while you cover his back with the other hand.
b) Slightly tip him backwards and immediately reward him
c) Tip him more and more each time and over a few days he was fine being tipped all the way backwards.
d) Un-do his feet from you finger after tipping him back so he is no longer holding on and just laying in your hand on his back.
2. Put him on his back in your hand and slightly move your hand up and down, then flip him back over and reward him.
3. Increase the speed of the up down movement (wait until the second training session) until he is actually gaining air. Manzi kinda flipped out the first time he gained air, but after a couple of times he realized he wasn't getting hurt and he was getting a treat.
4. Move him from one hand to the other, without tossing him. This is so he is comfortable with you changing hands while he is lying on his back.
5. Begin to toss him from one hand to the other, increasing the height of the tosses over 4-5 training sessions.

Since I am using both hands, I couldn't really use a clicker. I think a clicker would be really helpful in this, so if you have someone around who is willing to help, have them handle the clicker for you. In this scenario, you want to begin clicking very early (right after putting him on his back or right after moving him up and down once) at the beginning of this process. That way, since it is so new, you're not going to be asking for much and they get rewarded and are excited to do the training. After a couple of sessions, begin taking longer and longer to click, that way they will let you toss them a few times back and forth before trying to flip back over and look for the reward.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I have been hearing Manzi wheezing a few times over the past two days. A parrot will act normal until they are very sick, at which time it is often too late to treat them with much success. My experience in working with animal health gives me a small amount of confidence that I have a slight advantage in detecting subtle differences, but I am still vigilant.
Anyway, after hearing Manzi wheeze, I would hold him close to my ear and every once in a while he would still make the wheezing noise. I wasn't sure whether he was imitating a wheezing noise, or his breathing was actually causing the wheezing noise. Not wanting to take any chances, I brought him to a neighbor with a stethoscope.

Luckily, living in the student housing at the largest agricultural university in the U.S. means there's an awful lot of veterinarians, many of them fellow graduate students who are more than happy to answer my questions and take a look at Manzi.

At first I was holding Manzi's head while the neighbor was listening with his stethoscope, but Manzi got fed up with that. So the neighbor suggested that I put the stethoscope on Manzi's back while he listened. That worked quite well and Manzi was just fine with that. Although afterward, the stethoscope was in the neighbor's hand nearby Manzi. Manzi looked at it for a couple minutes while we were talking and then he launched himself at it in an attempt to beat it up for it being forced on his chest and back against his will.

Conclusion: Manzi has a healthy heart beat and no unusual lung sound. If I continue to hear it or it gets worse, then I can bring him back anytime, but it is probably Manzi just imitating a noise.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I hear someone home!

My neighbor told me a funny event. She came over to talk to me while I was away. She heard someone talking inside so she thought it was great to have caught me while I am at home. Anyway, she said after she knocked, the talking immediately stopped. After a minute or so, she began to hear whistling and then talking again. It was about this time that she realized it was Manzi. I didn't realize that he makes me look like I have bad manners in that he makes it seem as if someone is home, just not wanting to answer the door.

Today I went for a walk with Manzi. I have been having a nail trimming war with him. He sharpens his nails just as fast as I can trim them down. He figured out that if he wedges them between the bars of his cage and his beak, he can get them razor sharp. He started doing that about a month ago and since I have had a constant layer of scabs covering my wrists. Before I trimmed his nails every two months or so, but now after trimming them, they are sharp within a week. Today he even gave me an inch long scratch that broke the skin. I have two nail trimming perches, but those seem to do nothing. I'm not sure how to handle this. Hopefully he gets tired of spending so much time sharpening his nails.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ear Canal

Last time I showered Manzi, I took some pictures so people can see what an African Grey's ear canal looks like.


Also, it was "Whole Earth Festival" here in Davis. That is where hippies from all over the Western US get together and celebrate on Campus. They all just sleep out on the grass, sing, dance, sell creative stuff that they've come up with and talk. Many of them have animals. I brought Manzi around this year. At first he was afraid of everything, but within 20 minutes he was making noises and occasionally saying a word or two. I also let other people hold Manzi. He was really good about stepping up to the first 10 strangers, but then he had enough and no longer wanted me to put him of their arms. At that point, it had been over an hour and was sprinkling. Manzi was also not too happy about the sprinkles. He felt the sky was attacking him and each time a drop of water fell on him he would shake his head and look up to see where it came from. That was the first time I can recall bringing him out in the rain.

Anyway, I am working on a new trick with Manzi. I did two 3 minute training sessions and will do two more today and hopefully get it recorded and posted sometime this week, if not tonight.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Long denied, but not forgotten

I have been neglecting Manzi's journey on the road to fame by not posting in far too long. Currently, we are doing frequent flight indoors, but have still not flown outdoors. My nightmares of Manzi getting taken away by a hawk or eagle has me continue to make excuses of why I haven't brought him outside. Manzi is getting more and more agitated as we go on walks with beautiful weather and him being stuck on my hand by a leg leash.

Here is a funny story: Manzi always wants to be on my shoulder when I am in the kitchen. I allow him to be there for a while, but he never fails to get overly curious and began reaching to items that I have in my hand. This is especially prevalent while washing dishes. I finally got tired of him hanging from the front of my shirt trying to reach dishes, so I put a lot of soap on a dish and let him bite it. He right away grabbed it in his beak, but half a second later dropped it and shock his head as he tasted the soap. He did not learn his lesson. Within a minute he was grabbing for dishes again. I repeated the soap trick. After several times, he stopped grabbing for dishes; But, the next time I was washing dishes he did the same thing. I soaped up the dishes and gave them to him several times per day over the next week. This morning when I was washing dishes, he flew to my shoulder, but he did not try to grab the dishes. I even held up a tempting wooden spoon and he just shook his head (something he does when he doesn't want whatever it is that I am offering him). I was amazed that he finally learned that he is going to get a mouth of soap if he grabs at the dishes I am washing. Now I can happily wash dishes with him on my shoulder and not hanging down the front of my shirt grabbing at everything.

Does anyone sabotage their children's efforts in a similar way?

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