Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year From The Zen Parrot!

Happy New Year from
The Zen Parrot!

We can only hope that 2012 is an improvement over 2011!

And certainly no New Year's Eve would be complete without Jimmy Stewart!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

World's Only Rock Band Fronted by a Parrot


As someone with two African grey parrots, we were thrilled to find a rock band fronted by a nineteen year old Congo African grey parrot named WaldoFounded in 2003, Hatebeak is a Baltimore Death Metal band comprising vocals by Waldo, Blake Harrison on drums, and Mark Sloan on guitar.

Hatebeak is strictly a studio project. No live music. No tours. We can just imagine the complications of trying to tour with an African grey parrot. Blake and Mark are accomplished studio engineers. Thanks to the power of modern digital recording technology, Waldo’s spontaneously-timed squawks and poetic lyrics could be captured and fine-tuned. Breaking out of the traditional confines of melody, Waldo creates a new vocal language. 

The band is signed to the Baltimore hardcore label Reptilian Records. So it's Death Metal. We went through a Heavy Metal phase years ago. You're probably wondering what a Death Metal band sounds like? We were too. Their sound is described as "a jackhammer being ground in a compactor." Ready for this? Here goes:

Beak of Putrefaction, Released 2004

Bird Seeds of Vengeance, Released 2005

According to the notes posted with the video: There are no intelligible lyrics, the vocals are that of an African Grey parrot doing senseless death-squawking. Can't get enough? Here's more:

Feral Parrot, Released 2007

We find the music strangely mesmerizing. Not sure if that's the sign of a deranged mind. Or what? But if you still can't get enough, Hatebeak has a new album in the works, The Number of the Beak. No word yet on the release date.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Carol of the Bells

Merry Christmas and Season's Greetings
from The Zen Parrot!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ye Who Now Will Bless the Poor Shall Yourselves Find Blessing

Good King Wenceslas has always been one of our favorite Christmas carols. The story of a Tenth Century Saint, Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, bravely battling the winter cold to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen, the Second Day of Christmas.

Does a Nineteenth Century Christmas carol based on a Thirteenth century melody about a Tenth Century Saint have relevance to Twenty-first Century America? Besides being a catchy tune? We think so. The last line of the song sums up the meaning and spirit of Christmas to us in a nutshell:

Ye who now will bless the poor Shall yourselves find blessing

Christmas in America today has come to focus on accumulation, materialism, and greed. Pepper spray at Walmart. Riots at Nike. What we buy has displaced what we give as the contemporary meaning of Christmas. We say the spirit of Christmas is found not in all the junk and trinkets we buy and accumulate. The spirit of Christmas comes from helping those who need help. And not just once or twice a year, but all the year around. Tax cuts for billionaires, and blaming the poor for being lazy, are not exactly what John Mason Neale had in mind when he penned this carol:

Good King Wenceslas
(lyrics by John Mason Neale)

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

By the Way: We love the R.E.M. 1989 Fanclub single version of Good King Wenceslas:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December 21, 2012

The one year countdown begins now. The one year countdown to what? You ask. Apparently you haven't been paying attention to John Cusak.

Some New Age types regard December 21, 2012 as the end date of a 5,125 year long cycle documented by the Mayan (or Mesoamerican) Long Count Calendar. The end of this cycle will bring at best physical and spiritual transformation of the planet and its people, or at worst total calamity, such as the Earth colliding with a passing asteroid or black hole.

Mayan Calendar Fragment from Second Century CE

Scientists generally consider these New Age concepts to be junk pseudoscience. We'll know for sure one year from today. You might want to hold off buying Christmas presents next year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Look Sharp! Feel Sharp! Be Sharp! When Rock N' Roll and Parrots Collide: Gillette's Singing Parrot Sharpie

We vaguely remember growing up with television during the 1950s and 1960s. We have very fuzzy memories of commercials on the television of that era. Doctors hawking cigarettes. Brylcreem. Maxwell House Coffee. The one brand we distinctly remember is Burma Shave, probably because of the Burma Shave signs along the long lonely Nevada highways of our youth. What we do not remember is Gillette's singing parrot Sharpie, featured on television from 1952 to 1960: Sharpie debuted in 1952 during the very first ever World Series broadcast!

Being the 1950s, Sharpie was a Rock N' Roll pioneer:

Gillette's singing parrot Sharpie was a fixture of boxing and sporting broadcasts until 1960.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Buddy's New Beak: The Technology Revolution: Prosthetic Beaks for Parrots

Buddy's New Beak
Photos Courtesy Betsy Lott, Mollywood Avian Sanctuary

We have been fortunate that none of our parrots have ever lost a beak in an accident or animal attack. Unfortunately we know people with parrots that have lost beaks. It's not a pretty situation. In the past, options for rehabilitation have been limited. But now, with new materials and new reconstructive techniques, we are starting to see prosthetic beaks as a viable alternative.

Twenty-nine year old Umbrella Cockatoo Buddy, Before

Buddy is a twenty-nine year old Umbrella Cockatoo parrot, currently residing at Mollywood Avian Sanctuary in Bellingham, Washington. Buddy lost part of his beak in an attack by another Umbrella Cockatoo. He was bitten in the beak and the growth plate between the nares was forever damaged. At first, Mollywood's Betsy Lott thought it would grow out normally. After some time however, the fissure decayed and a huge chunk fell out. Betsy Lott began to worry what that would mean for Buddy.

After initial reconstruction

Buddy needed a new beak. Since he couldn't grow one, a new beak needed to be constructed for him! The architect of Buddy's new acrylic beak is avian veterinarian Dr. Bridget Ferguson with Animal Health Care Center of Renton, Washington.

Dr. Ferguson used a mold to create Buddy's new beak, described by Betsy Lott as a:

"Kind of a hoaky homemade thing that didn’t exactly go as planned. It was some wax lined drinking cups (overgown Dixie) that we cut and spiraled. The thing sticking up with the blue tip was something we used to keep Buddy's nare open so the compound didn’t fill in. When the mold came off, we were like, 'Uh oh.' Not exactly what we were hoping for but thank god for dremels. We dremeled the holy heck out of it."

The acrylic compound is brand new to the market, produced by
Imex Veterinary Products.
 The acrylic compound was originally used as a fixing agent for setting pins in bones for broken limbs. Most importantly for parrots, the compound is practically odorless, unlike most acrylic compounds on the market. Imagine how the birds must feel waking up to the odor following their procedures!
Dr. Ferguson
reported that in all the years she’s been doing beak repairs, this was the first time she had a bird wake up without sinus issues or irritation. 
Betsy Lott
Mollywood Avian Sanctuary
pleaded with the president of
to let them experiment with the compound on
agreed to put
in their Beta program. The white acrylic compound used on
is opaque and not conducive to x-rays, so
is developing a clear formula for future release.
couldn't wait for the clear acrylic compound to be developed. He needed a functional beak!

According to Betsy Lott, Buddy needed his new beak filled after two and one-half months. Dr. John Berry with Lynden Veterinary Hospital let Betsy use his office in Lynden, Washington. Aided by notes and copious photographs taken from the surgery with Dr. FergusonBetsy Lott was assisted by Dr. Berry's licensed veterinary technician Keri Griffith, currently studying dentistry in mammals. Buddy's new acrylic beak required delicate work, sweat, patience, dremels, and hammers. And one gutsy parrot!

Buddy's New Beak

In a future blog post we will investigate the evolving science and engineering behind prosthetic parrot beaks. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Work in Progress: Prosthetic Beaks in Parrots

This is a fascinating story that we are working on, and we wanted to put this teaser out to our audience:

Prosthetic beaks in parrots! What to do if your parrot looses all or part of a beak? This is the story about Buddy, a twenty-nine year old Umbrella Cockatoo parrot residing at Mollywood Avian Sanctuary in Bellingham, Washington. Buddy lost part of his beak when he was attacked by another Cockatoo parrot.

Buddy before Reconstruction:

Buddy during Reconstruction:

Buddy, with Avian Veterinarian Dr. Bridget Ferguson, of the Animal Health Care Center of Renton, Washington, who led the reconstruction effort:

Buddy's new beak, after a whole lot of dremeling by Mollywood's
Betsy Lott:

As they say: Stay tuned for the rest of the story!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

That is One Big Parrot!

Okay, admit it: Size does matter! So we're having a contest. We're looking for the world's largest companion parrot. We're not talking breeders or one of those nine pound Kakapo parrots that shag inquisitive reporter's heads. We're talking pet parrots. Companion parrots. And we're talking size as measured by verified weight.

Here's our submission: Princess Tara is our Hyacinth macaw parrot, and our third parrot, weighing in at 3.5 pounds (1,588 grams). As far as we can tell, she's the largest parrot in Seattle. And she's a real princess: Her parents are a Duke and a Duchess! But even at 3.5 pounds she's not the largest parrot in Washington state.

We know of two parrots reported to weigh 3.8 pounds: A Scarlet macaw in Shoreline, just north of Seattle; and a Greenwing macaw named Chevy in Graham, south of Seattle.

Greenwing macaw named Chevy belonging to Sonya Brewer of Graham, Washington, weighing in at 3.8 pounds!

Surely someone somewhere must have a four pound parrot. Five pound parrot? Let's see what other people have in the way of large parrots. Send us digital photos of your parrot, along with a verified weight (usually provided during a vet check). Let's set Christmas Day as the deadline. Submissions will be posted and the winner announced on Boxing Day.

Just FYI: One pound equals 453.6 grams. Gram weight will determine the winner. In the event of a tie, multiple prizes will be awarded.

Here's what the winner will win: We will make up a custom tee-shirt for you (any size) with your parrot's photo featured on the sweatshirt, just like Princess Tara below.

Good Luck!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Willawong Station: Parrots of Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo

One of the largest and least known public collections of free flying parrots on the West Coast is to be found at Willawong Station at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo. The interactive exhibit includes Budgerigar parrots, Cockatiels, and Rosellas in a setting that is designed to mimic the environment of the parrots' native Australia.

Additionally, Willawong Station hosts a colony of a New Zealand oddity, the Kea parrot, considered one of the most intelligent parrots on the planet! This surprisingly large (over two pounds) parrot has an interesting vocalization:

Let us state clearly that we adamantly oppose keeping parrots or any other wild animals in zoos. Parrots are not museum pieces, which is the way most zoos tend to treat parrots, and other wild animals. We support captive breeding for conservation purposes such as underway at the Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation Center in Qatar for the Spix's macaw. The only zoo anywhere in the world currently engaged in a parrot captive breeding program for conservation purposes, as far as we know, is Loro Parque, on Tenerife. Any other parrot exhibit at any other zoo, as far as we are concerned, has zero conservation value!

Friday, November 25, 2011

There is No Such Thing as a Quiet Parrot!

Think you want a parrot? Think you want to buy someone a parrot as a gift? Think again! How would you like to have a rock concert in your house? Might be fun for a special occasion like a birthday. Maybe again for a special holiday. How about today? How about tomorrow? How about the day after that? How about every day? Day after day? A macaw parrot can produce as many decibels as a rock concert!

Still think you want a parrot? Our macaws are louder than your kids! You will have to deal with the noise. Your neighbors will have to deal with the noise as well! Macaws evolved to communicate with each other through miles of rain forest. The walls of your house will not contain the decibel output parrots can produce.

A customary way to compare the intensity of sounds is with a Decibel Comparison Chart. The intensity of sounds is measured in decibels. As a baseline, normal conversational speech typically produces about 60 decibels. A motorcycle produces around 100 decibels. A power saw produces 110 decibels. A rock concert produces up to 115 decibels

 A macaw parrot can produce over 110 decibels!

A pneumatic riveter produces 125 decibels, the level at which ear pain occurs. A jet engine produces 140 decibels. Permanent hearing loss occurs at 180 decibels.

A Moluccan cockatoo can vocalize at 135 decibels! Almost as loud as a jet engine!
Think You Want a Parrot? print
Think You Want a Parrot? by TheParrotCafe

There is No Such Thing as a Quiet Parrot!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Is This a Great Country? Or What?

Is this a great country? Or what?

If this scene was in Libya, we'd be dropping bombs by now. No wait. We did that! When do the bombs start falling on Davis, California?

What the Fuck?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Winter and Birds: Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder

Those of us with backyard bird feeders face the challenge of dealing with hungry squirrels, as well as wild birds. We've worked out a solution that appears to be squirrel proof. This backyard bird feeder has successfully survived ten years of assault by our local squirrels! How did we do it? Well, let us show you:

The pieces are readily available at most superstores such as Fred Meyer. We use a six foot tall Shepherd's Hook, It can have a single hook, or multiple hooks. With more hooks, the more feeders you can hang.

The critical piece of this assembly is an Aluminum Pizza Pan. The pizza pan needs to be a minimum diameter of eighteen (18) inches, although we recommend twenty (20) inches. You may need to go to a restaurant supply store to find a twenty inch pan. The aluminum finish makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for squirrels to grip the surface. A hole needs to be punched in the center large enough to slide onto the shepherd's hook. We simply punched a hole in ours with a large standard screwdriver and hammer.

To hold the pizza pan in place on the shepherd's hook, we use a large three inch Bull Dog Clip. The pizza pan needs to be high enough off the ground to be above squirrel jumping distance. We've found that to be about four and one-half feet.

To ensure that the feeder is in fact squirrel proof, it must be located beyond the horizontal jumping ability of any living squirrel. We have found that placing the shepherd's hook at least six feet from any tree, power line, or roof seems to do the trick.

Once assembled, you will enjoy hours of entertainment watching squirrels attempt to scale the shepherd's hook. Eventually, however, they will give up.

If you want to feed the squirrels, well that's your choice. We prefer to focus on the birds. The squirrels sit under the feeder and feast on the debris.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Words Escape Us! How Can Anyone Do This to a Parrot?

Francine is a presumed female, Very Special Needs Blue and Gold macaw parrot, in need of a home in the Seattle area with a very special parrot person, someone with prior macaw experience.

Francine was surrendered to Zazu's House Parrot Sanctuary outside of Seattle, with no history. She arrived at the sanctuary with broken wings, broken feet, and seriously underweight. She has severe plucking issues. She needs a home with an experienced macaw person, who can provide the special environment and extra care that Francine needs to thrive and flourish. Francine comes with no history and no records. Nothing is known about her background or her age.

Because of her broken wings and broken feet, Francine can not fly or climb.

This is as much as Francine is able to extend her wings.

If you are interested in adopting Francine,
please contact Northwest Parrots Fund.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Winter and Birds: Anna's Hummingbird

Here in Seattle we usually see hummingbirds around our Ballard home year around. Two species of hummingbirds are common to Seattle: the Rufous (or Rufus) hummingbird, which migrates to Mexico for the winter; and the Anna's hummingbird, which overwinters here in Seattle. Typically weighing over 4 grams, the Anna's hummingbird is the largest hummingbird on the West Coast.

This female Anna's hummingbird kept returning to our feeder throughout this morning.

Every year we are amazed that such a small bird can survive the winter, even here in Seattle, but they certainly do, especially with a little help from their friends. Hummingbirds must eat more than their weight in food each and every day! Watching this little female Anna's hummingbird keep returning to our feeder got us thinking it was time to start preparing to help our outdoor bird friends get through the coming winter. By all accounts, this winter is shaping up to be a tough one!

Rufous Hummingbird

Female Anna's Hummingbird

Male Anna's Hummingbird

Found only in the Western Hemisphere, hummingbirds are fascinating creatures. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Anna's Hummingbirds normally have a body temperature of around 107 degrees Fahrenheit—that's a scorching temperature for a human. When outside temperatures fall, Anna's and many other species of hummingbirds enter torpor. Their breathing and heart rate slow, and their body temperature can fall as low as 48 degrees Fahrenheit When the temperature warms, the hummingbirds can become active again in a few minutes.

The best way to help resident hummingbirds survive through the winter is to hang a hummingbird feeder. We put ours right outside our kitchen window to give us a good view of the hummingbirds feeding. Ours hangs under the eaves to give the feeder some protection, but it's not in a particularly secluded spot. The hummingbirds don't seem to mind. Our hummingbird feeder attracts both the Rufous and Anna's hummingbirds.

Hanging a hummingbird feeder for the first time? Don't worry if you don't see hummingbirds right away. The hummingbirds will need some time to discover the feeder. But not to worry. They will come!

There is absolutely no need to purchase the typically overpriced commercial hummingbird mix. All you need to make your own mix is sugar and water. Nothing more. Use the ratio of four (4) parts water to one (1) part sugar. It really doesn't matter if you use hot water or cold to stir the mix. And don't bother adding food coloring. No need. The hummingbirds will find it just fine. Keep a second feeder handy during freezing weather, and switch them when the outside feeder freezes. During freezing weather bring the feeder in at night.

Here's what the Seattle Audubon Society recommends to help these little guys out:

1. Do NOT adjust the mix! Keep the mix at 1:4 ratio sugar to water. Nectar concentrations vary greatly among a variety of plants hummingbirds visit, but they are typically low in sugar. Recipes with a higher concentration of sugar do not necessarily benefit hummingbirds because it cannot travel up the grooves of their tongue easily and may also damage kidneys and liver. Though increasing the sugar may help to prevent freezing, our experts recommend staying consistent with a 1:4 mix. White sugar and water only! No honey, brown sugar, maple syrup etc. Pure sucrose is what they need to survive. We do NOT recommend Red dye. A simple recipe of 1 part sugar and 4 parts water, mixed in a pan, bring to a boil, and then remove from heat and cool. You may store extra in the fridge up to two weeks. Clean feeder once a week during cold weather more often during warmer weather.

2. Have two feeders and rotate them. The mix will begin to freeze around 29 degrees. Rotating the feeders throughout the day will keep the fluid moving and available to the birds. Hummingbirds do not feed at night so you can bring the feeders indoor however they start at dawn so get a feeder back out as early as possible. Anna's can be very territorial, and may not share a feeder (especially multiple males), so having multiple feeders can help break up the fighting and competition for a single feeder.

3. Don’t enjoy setting your alarm for 5am? String Christmas lights around the feeder, the ambient heat can be just enough to keep things thawed (depending on how cold it gets). Or hang a trouble light nearby the feeding station, or from the bottom of the feeder. This is the light commonly used by car mechanics, or garage enthusiasts. It has a little cage around it and a hook at the top. Depending on the watts, it can put out enough heat on those especially cold nights.

4. Duct tape a hand warmer to the feeder. These hand warmers (or feet warmers) are pouches with chemicals in them that get activated once out of their packaging. They emit heat for approximately 7 hours. They are commonly available around town, Fred Meyers, sporting goods, probably Ace even has them. We have them at the Nature Shop as well.

5. Finally, another method to try is plumber’s heat tape. These flexible electric tapes are similar to a flat extension cord and can easily be wrapped around and taped to many types of feeders. Most heat tapes are equipped with a built-in thermostat in the cord. The wattage of these tapes is very low and does not draw a lot of energy. Try home supply stores and hardware stores for this product.

6. Don't stress too much about the welfare of the Hummingbirds. Generally, our winters are mild and the cold snaps are usually not that long. Hummingbirds are capable of reducing their body temperature at night and conserving their energy. They roost in trees and shrubs and do not use nest boxes or bird houses. They need a lot of sucrose (nectar) during the day to keep them going especially in the cold. In addition to nectar for fuel, hummingbirds will consume any insects they encounter which help them meet their protein, vitamin and mineral requirements. Insects can be found under bark and plants even during winter cold periods. Extended periods of cold such as the one we are experiencing right now, is especially hard on these small birds designed to spend winters in warmer climates. Some birds will not make it, however the strong ones will find a way to survive. Continuing to offer nectar is a way in which we can assist them.

And just in case you were wondering. Yes: Anna's hummingbirds do in fact sing: