Saturday, March 31, 2012

Parrots Are Loud

People get parrots for all the wrong reasons. People dump parrots on rescues and sanctuaries for a couple of simple reasons: Lack of Time. Noise. People don't appreciate that parrots evolved to be able to communicate through miles of rain forest. The walls of a house are hardly able to contain the decibel levels that parrots can produce.

Macaw parrots can typically vocalize above 100 decibels, as demonstrated by our Blue and Gold macaws, Miss Bubba Boy and Big Boy Aboo. Moluccan Cockatoo parrots can produce noise up to 135 decibels. For perspective, keep in mind that the typical jet engine operates at roughly 140 decibels! If you want a parrot you will have to deal with noise. Your neighbors will have to deal with the noise as well. Today. Tomorrow. The day after. Day after day after day. Still want a parrot? Don't say you weren't warned.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Our Flock: Our Goffin's Cockatoo Kid Kadra

Our male Goffin's Cockatoo Kid Kadra craves attention. If he can't get it from the humans, he solicits attention from the other parrots, usually with unsatisfactory results:

Kid Kadra could easily be mistaken for one of the Three Stooges, we're guessing Larry. Here's an earlier video of Kid Kadra trying to turn a very small water dish into a tub:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tour of Prince William Sound Twenty-three Years Ago

This newspaper column in the now defunct Anchorage Times, written by the great Alaska nature writer Bill Sherwonitdescribes a tour of Prince William Sound, Alaska, following the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster March 24, 1989. Bill Sherwonit accompanied the Sierra Club's Alaska field representative Jack Hession, Anchorage wildlife photographer Myron Rosenberg, and myself, on Anchorage fisherman Rusty Hood's fishing boat, as we tried to make sense of the unfolding environmental disaster to figure out a way for conservationists in Alaska and elsewhere to respond. This column is as fresh, interesting, and relevant today as it was twenty-three years ago. I went along for the ride, because at the time I was the volunteer chairman of the Alaska Chapter of the Sierra Club. Within hours of the oil spill, the phones in the Sierra Club's offices in Anchorage literally melted down from the volume of calls, with people from around the world calling to volunteer to help with the oil spill response.

Click on images to enlarge

March 24, 1989

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Blue Tara Morning Dew Blend Coffee

We are thrilled to introduce our new line of 100% Parrot Friendly triple certified Organic Shade Grown Fair Trade whole bean coffee, available exclusively from

Triple Certified Organic Shade Grown Fair Trade

In our humble opinion Blue Tara Morning Dew Blend may be the finest Organic, Shade Grown, Fair Trade breakfast blend on the market! Comprised of Sumatran and Central American coffees, this blend is complex and robust, roasted to different roast levels prior to blending resulting in a medium/dark roasted coffee that is so full of flavor it will knock your socks off! This coffee is extremely full-bodied. On the palate it has floral notes with hints of nuts and chocolate.

Did we mention this coffee is available exclusively from The proceeds from the sale of this and our other fine coffees benefit Northwest Parrots Fund, a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity registered in the State of Washington.

Click on shirt for all our great tees

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Birds Do It. And the Bees Do It. The Sex Lives of Hummingbirds

The birds do it. And the bees do it. Parrots do it. Apparently even hummingbirds do it! Masturbate that is. We caught this male Anna's Hummingbird masturbating on our hummingbird feeder rail. He puffed himself up like a blowfish to nearly twice his normal size. And he kept doing it. For something like ten minutes. It finally dawned on us we should get the video camera out. And we still managed to record the last minute of it.

Wikipedia notes that many animal species masturbate. According to Wikipedia:

Many birds masturbate by mounting and copulating with tufts of grass, leaves or mounds of earth. . .

We can add hummingbird feeder rails to that list!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tapirage: Plucking of Macaw Parrot Feathers by Amazon Natives

First observed by European explorers in the Seventeenth Century, Tapirage is a traditional method used throughout the Amazon to alter feather color on Macaws by repeatedly plucking green or blue feathers, and applying various substances to the parrot skin. New feathers reportedly will grow back yellow-orange, sometimes with red or pinkish areas near the vein. Identification of these feathers is done visually, but it is not always easy to tell, especially in cases where the color has faded.   

In some of the feathers believed to be the result of tapirage, the reddish coloration occurs in a stripe-like pattern. In other cases, the tapirage feathers also show irregular areas where the feather is blue or green (on one side of the vein, or in some cases the yellow feather has a green rachis with surrounding green areas.

The leading publication on tapirage is in French, published in 1928: Une découverte biologique des Indiens de l'Amérique du Sud: la décoloration artificielle des plumes sur les oiseaux vivants, written by Alfred Métraux.

There are many early European accounts of tapirage written over the past three hundred years. This one is from A. R. Wallace, A Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, published in London in 1853:

"They were all completely furnished with their feather ornaments, and I now saw for the first time the head-dress, or acangatara, which they value highly.This consists of a coronet of red and yellow feathers disposed in regular rows, and firmly attached to a strong woven or plaited band. The feathers are entirely from the shoulders of the great red macaw, but they are not those that the bird naturally possesses, for these Indians have a curious art by which they change the coIours of the feathers of many birds.They pluck out those they wish to paint, and in the freshwound inoculate with the milky secretion from the skin of a small frog or toad. When the feathers grow again they are of a brilliant yellow or orange colour, without any mixture of blue or green, as in the natural state of the bird ; and on the new plumage being again plucked out, it is said always to come of the same colour without any fresh operation. The feathers are renewed but slowly, and it requires a great number of them to make a coronet, so we see the reason why the owner esteems it so highly, and only in the greatest necessity will part with it."

It appears that Wallace is describing a Greenwing (Red and Green) macaw, or a Scarlet macaw. There are many other descriptions of tapirage, similar to this, throughout the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Most are not very descriptive about the type of macaw, although all of them reference plucking blue or green  feathers and rubbing the exposed skin with various substances (sometimes a frog poison - there are also references to certain fats, tree resins, and dyes being used on the bird's skin). It also seems likely they were plucking large areas of feathers at once, and used parrots that were kept in small aviaries at each village.

After reading these historical accounts of the practice of tapirage, all we can think is the natives of the Amazon had some very angry parrots on their hands!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Art Deco Parrots

Beginning in 1929, the Negbaur Manufacturing Company of New York started manufacturing this spectacular chrome Art Deco parrot combination bottle opener, corkscrew, and ice cracker. Called Polly Parrot, the parrot's beak functioned as a bottle opener, the tail functioned as a retractable corkscrew, and the base served as an ice cracker.

Polly Parrot stands about 5 - 1/4 inches tall. Originally chrome, Negbaur soon released bronze versions of this parrot, and eventually rhinestone studded versions as well.

Although rare, it is still possible to find Polly Parrot with her original box.

It is not know how long Negbaur continued to manufacture this Polly Parrot bottle opener. By the 1940s Negbaur turned to manufacturing novelty cigarette lighters, in the form of cannons and various animals. Knockoffs by other manufacturers can be found that do not carry the Negbaur trademark.  Apparently even the Chinese started manufacturing knockoff parrot bottle openers, and continue to do so to this day.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Saving the Elusive Seattle Republican

Today was a significant day in the field of political conservation here in Seattle. The Republican Caucuses were held today in Washington State, just as they are every four years. Political scientists and urban conservationists always get excited about this event because this is the best opportunity, happening as it does only once every four years, to get a glimpse of the critically endangered Seattle Republican. According to the Seattle Audubon Christmas Bird Count, only three (3) Seattle Republicans were counted this past season.

Seattle Republicans (Modica Republicanas) are members of the flock of Moderate Republicans once ubiquitous in Seattle and across Washington State. Democratic accounts of early Seattle paint the city teeming with suspender-clad Moderate Republicans. Seattle even elected a Republican mayor back in the 1960s, although his name escapes us just now. The last notable Moderate Republican was Governor Daniel J. Evans, who served as governor of Washington State back in the 1970s.

The numbers of Moderate Republicans plummeted precipitously beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, for several reasons. Climate change was one. But the primary reason was the ill-conceived introduction for sport hunting of the ferocious California Republican (Parasitica Republicanas). The introduced California Republicans overwhelmed the native Moderate Republicans in their native habitat. Moderate Republicans were driven into isolation in ever smaller urban enclaves. Eventually the groups of Moderate Republicans became so isolated they stopped interacting and breeding with calamitous results for the general population.

Political scientists, especially at the University of Washington, and urban conservationists first took notice of this problem in the 1980s, when the California Republicans turned on the dominant species in Washington State, the Progressive Democrats (Progressivum Popularus). Democrats, especially in Seattle and Western Washington, proved impervious to assault by California Republicans, and readily established a stranglehold on the political environment of Seattle and Western Washington. No Republican, native or introduced, has been able to win elective citywide office in Seattle for example since the 1970s. Eastern Washington proved to be another problem, however. The drought and heat-stricken scrub lands of Eastern Washington proved somewhat conducive to supporting populations of the nonnative California Republicans, probably because the environment more closely resembles that of their native California. But the flocks of California Republicans have never been able to establish themselves in Eastern Washington in numbers any where near great enough to challenge the hegemony of Seattle Democrats.

Anyway, by the turn of the century it was clear that the population of native Moderate Republicans could no longer be sustained without intervention. By the 1980s Seattle Republicans were recognized as a Critically Endangered Species. A permit system was introduced by the City of Seattle and a Catch and Release Policy enforced (SMC 12-34-1984). Even these drastic measures proved ineffective.

Political scientists and urban conservationists at the University of Washington sounded the alarm, and started pressing the City of Seattle to institute a captive breeding program, before Seattle Republicans went the way of the Spix's Macaw. The UDub professors enlisted the assistance of Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo. The zoo agreed to hold and maintain any Seattle Republicans that could be captured. Seeing how Seattle Republicans were fearful and nocturnal in the best of times, political scientists determined that the date of the Washington Republican Caucus was probably the last best chance to capture any surviving Seattle Republicans.

Woodland Park Zoo enclosure erected specifically to house Seattle Republicans

Political science students and concerned amateur urban conservationists spread out across Seattle today staking out known locations of Republican caucuses. Scientists and conservationists became excited early in the afternoon when a report was received of a female Seattle Republican searching for a caucus. There has been no confirmed sighting of a female Seattle Republican since 2004. Upon further examination, however, the image provided proved to be that of an introduced California Republican.

BREAKING: We have just received word from the Political Science Department at the University of Washington and Woodland Park Zoo officials that a specimen of Seattle Republican has been captured, and is awaiting transport to Woodland Park Zoo. We have received a copy of a photo of this specimen, and once officials confirm this is an actual Seattle Republican we will post more information in a blog post update. Stay Tuned!