Vulnerable Seychelles Black Parrot hatchlings take to the skies

Seychelles Black Parrot

Seychelles Black ParrotSeychelles Black Parrot – Every year in the palm forests of Praslin, the second-largest island on the archipelago of Seychelles, a group of birds is monitored very closely during their breeding and hatching seasons.

This shy greyish-brown parrot – perhaps overenthusiastically named as the Seychelles Black Parrot (Coracopsis barklyi) – cannot be found anywhere else on Earth.

The Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), a public trust which manages the unique endemic palm forest reserve of the Vallée de Mai on Praslin Island, painstakingly searches for black parrot nests and monitors them on a weekly basis throughout the season to count the number of eggs produced and monitor the hatching and fledgling stages.

This year 17 chicks hatched from monitored nests, according to SIF’s communication officer, Lynsey Rimbault.

“In the three seasons between 2012 and 2015, more than 20 chicks from monitored nests hatched per season but the 2015/2016 season only had two chicks hatch from monitored nests,” she told SNA.

Surrounded by predators

Seychelles Black Parrot ChicksWith only a few hundred of these birds left in the wild, the black parrot is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List. Threatened by invasive bird species such as the Indian Mynah and the green ring-necked parakeet, black parrot chicks are in constant danger from other aggressive birds, feral cats, rats and even invasive ants. Even the endemic trees in which they need to nest are under threat – especially the coco de mer palm trees which have often been the victims of poaching for their famous coco de mer nuts.

Rimbault says it is surprisingly difficult to confirm predation attempts at nests because usually very little evidence is found to link potential predators to the disappearance of eggs or chicks.

“We suspect that there have been cases of rat predation this season although there has not been any direct evidence of this,” she said. “In one nest, yellow crazy ants were observed with two healthy chicks, and when the nest was monitored the following week the chicks were dead. We can’t be sure but it’s possible that these invasive ants contributed to the death of the chicks.”

When the monitored chicks reached around 25 days old in January this year, the SIF team fitted coloured rings to their legs to allow identification and monitoring after they leave the nest. Each chick gets its own unique colour combination and number.

Seychelles Black Parrot Monitoring

The tiny fluffy white chicks that survive the perilous hatching phase slowly lose their baby feathers and after around 45 days, once their dark brown plumage has grown in, they take their first precarious flight out of the nest.

Although none of the rings from this year’s fledged chicks have thus far been confirmed from re-sightings, SIF has reported several observations of adult parrots feeding smaller parrots, which are thought to be the fledglings.

Fond Ferdinand – a new hope for the Seychelles Black Parrot

In addition to the successful nests this year in the Vallée de Mai and the neighbouring Praslin National Park, at least one nest is known to have been successful in another private reserve on Praslin Island called Fond Ferdinand, where an un-ringed fledgling was spotted in Fond Ferdinand.

“We only monitor parts of Fond Ferdinand and only a few nests per season so we don’t have data to give a complete answer on [the population size],” said Rimbault. “In general, there seems to be good breeding activity in Fond Ferdinand, but the nests appear to be more spread out than in the denser coco de mer forest of the Vallée de Mai.”

Seychelles Black Parrot PairThe sighting in Fond Ferdinand is encouraging news for the conservationists, as it was thought the success rate of nests in Fond Ferdinand was low this season, with only one chick from the known nests surviving to fledging stage. SIF believes the parrots might have been more successful than initially thought in this reserve and are considering undertaking more extensive searches next season to find undiscovered nesting cavities.

For now though, SIF is satisfied that the Seychelles black parrot has clawed through another hard breeding season.

“Our monitoring suggests that the population is stable at the moment and there is no cause for concern,” Rimbault told SNA. “The most recent population estimate was conducted in 2010-11 and the total population was estimated to be between 550 and 900 birds. This is still thought to be the case.

Source: Seychelles News Agency

Your parrot escapes – Don’t despair

Parrot Flying

Artah escapes on my birthdayYour parrot escapes. What do you do? Dorothy Schwarz talks about her personal experience and knowledge of this situation.
You went to answer the front door bell and forgot that the parrot was on your shoulder. She flew outside and was lost behind the tall hedge that’s separates your suburban house from your neighbour’s. Are you likely to retrieve her? John Hayward of Parrot Theft Register reckons that half the calls he gets for lost birds are reunited. Probably that means substantially more than half of lost birds are found because when many of us find our birds, we don’t inform anyone. Whether I am particularly careless as well as especially lucky is debatable. But over the last 20 years I’ve lost numerous birds but I’ve also retrieved almost all of them and this includes aviary and pet birds.

Case Study One: Max – a holiday boarder

Parrot stepping up on perchMax a pet African Grey stays here twice a year when the family are on holiday. One his first day I was bringing him in from the aviary. The crate was new and I hadn’t closed it correctly. Max leaned against it. The improperly closed lock sprung open and Max darted like an arrow into top of a high poplar in the field.
It was getting dark. Birds do not usually fly down in darkened situations; they roost. No way to spot him or bring him down. Next morning the family had not yet left for Spain, they arrived at 6 am. Max was no longer in the poplars but as I’d guessed, was staying on the property.
He flew into a high Leyllandi (30 metres) and watched us with his head on one side. His body language showing he was relaxed. The owners would not stop whistling. I urged them to stop. Max was enjoying himself too much to fly down. And he was comfortable with his family (his human flock) around him.
I set up a picnic table in front of the tall tree and we pretended to eat chocolate cookies. And yes, as I knew he would, (Birds flying down to enjoy treats has been well documented) a couple of minutes later, Max flew straight down to his Dad’s shoulder. The family caught their ferry in time.

Case Study Two: The Disappearing Pigeons

Parrot FlyingCasper and Artha my beloved pair of African Greys, often hang out in my office on their play stand while I’m writing. How did this accident happen? One day the window was left too far open. Casper flew out. I scooped up Artha, shut her in the sitting room cage and tore outside
In my sight – fast flying out of it – was a large flock of pigeons – maybe thirty. One had a red tail. ‘Casper,’ I yelled, ‘Casper.’
The pigeons flew on. I yelled louder. Just as it was flying out of range, the red tailed pigeon left the flock, flew a semi-circle and landed on the bungalow roof. He knows step up and came easily to my waiting hand
Had he remained with the flock he‘d surely have become very lost.

Case Study Three: Mia’s Adventure

Stefano SallesEvery day, Stefano Salles takes his 8-month old Grey to his Streatham pet shop, Dr Dolittle’s. Last May he was taking her out of the car at home when the crate door burst open. There was heavy rain and Mia spooked out of sight. Stefano did all the right things, informed the relevant people, put up flyers walked the area exhaustively but no Mia. A Grey was spotted in a nearby park but it wasn’t Mia. On the 3rd morning, she landed at a neighbour’s patio, who threw a laundry basket over her and took her to the vet. Her microchip was scanned and Mia was reunited with Stefano that morning. She suffered no ill health from her two-day adventure. The crate now has a padlock.

Case Study Four: Basil, a wild caught Orange Winged Amazon

Amazon ParrotThis pair of semi-tame Amazons lived in the aviary but were brought inside in the ferocious winter a few years ago. On Saturday morning, Basil was enjoying some out of cage time in the sitting room. The dog opened the passage door and Basil went AWOL at 8.20 am. It took 24 hours to catch him.
The outdoor temperature was below freezing. Basil spent 6 hours flying in the tops of the trees. He came down lower after some hours. I stayed out with him all the time, my husband bringing hot drinks every hour. I tried putting Lena, a flightless Amazon on the aviary roof but Basil would not come down and Lena never uttered a squawk. I nearly caught him at 4 pm then he went to roost behind the aviary in thick ivy.
Sunday morning. Dawn after 7 am. I heard him just after. He went back to the tops of the trees and called. Was I imagining things? He sounded like he was calling his flock. Not distress not the happy prrt sound Amazons make – simply a sort of – where are you, where are you – call? The grace and skill with which he flew back and forth along the 400 metres of the oak screen had to be seen to be believed.
At 8 a.m. he came down to the aviary roof but ignored the nut I offered. He flew to the other side of the aviary into a tree. I was feeling optimistic because he must be getting hungry. When I got there, I waited a few seconds before showing him the monkey nut which I placed against a low branch. He seemed to think about it then clambered down the tree to take it. Positive reinforcement be damned – I grabbed his toe. He bit me, not viciously I might add. I held his body against me. I would have liked a gradual retrieval not a grab but the forecast was set below freezing for that night and I was frightened that I might not retrieve him.
He was back indoors eating in the bird room with Cybil his mate after 24 hours in below freezing temperatures which seemed not to have harmed him.
It was food that caught him.

Retrieval Tips
  • A list of telephone numbers, binoculars, template for a lost bird flyer, a positive frame of mind.
  • Facebook and Twitter have lost bird sites and they are instrumental in reuniting many lost birds.
  • But it is worth bearing in mind that the majority of captive birds unless chased or spooked will be nearer rather than further from their home. They do not want to be lost any more than you wish to lose them.
  • Putting the cage outside or if that is too big the play stand often brings the truant home. I have caught kakariki, sun conures, pigeons, Amazons, Alexandrines and others with that method.
  • Your birds’ band number and microchip number
  • Telephone numbers and websites you should always have handy
    LOCAL VETINARY CLINICS for your own area
    Local Police Station
    Lost Parrots Register
    Parrot Alert UK
  • If you have a printer then make up a flyer and put it all round the neighbourhood.
    Oh, and do remember once you have the bird back to take down the flyers.
  • As you saw from the case study of Mia some precautions are worthwhile. Microchipping is not costly and helps reunite many found birds with their owners. Many birds have the closed ring. I’ve put an open ring on my macaw who wasn’t ringed as a baby. It has my telephone number on it.
  • Skills which will help your bird should it get lost
    You and your bird should have a contact call that you use to one another indoors or in the aviary. In the nerve wracking situation that your bird is outside, if she is used to answering your call, she will probably do so even if hidden from sight.
    Every pet bird needs to know the recall. If you do not know how to teach it, Mike Simmons has issued an easy to follow DVD which shows how a novice Amazon is taught the flighted recall indoors.
    If you are able to take your bird to a large enclosed space like a school hall, or a large aviary and let her work out how to fly down, that’s an important skill to have. Captive cage birds often have never flown down from a height and it can be much harder to retrieve them if they are in a tree.
    There are no certainties if a bird is loose but in general, the sooner you find where it is perched or where it has gone, the more likely you are to retrieve it.
    A useful tip from Chris Biro who trains free flighted birds, once you have found the bird, do NOT leave it. Then if it flies off you know in which direction. Although Artha and Casper know the recall they do not always choose to comply. Artha, when an unwary guest left the bird room door open, flew up into to the large oak tree. A really comfy and fun place to perch. I called her down. She watched me. I waited and yes, she flew down but it was three hours later.
    A friend of mine had a Grey fly outside one winter’s night. She was a young African grey hen well trained in flighted indoor recall. In spite of the often stated view that birds no NOT fly in the dark, this hen answered the recall whistle and flew down.

Parrot Health – Diseases and Illnesses To Look Out For

Parrot Health

Parrot Health

Parrot Health by KayteeParrot Health is a topic close to everyone who owns and ever owned a parrot. Whether you’ve owned birds before or have just got your first set of parrot shredding toys, you need to make sure you know all there is to know about avian health so you can protect your new pet and ensure it lives a long and happy life.

Birds are susceptible to various diseases and infections, one of which is Megabacteriosis, which can affect cockatiels, lovebirds, budgerigars, finches and canaries in particular. It can be hard to detect, although some affected birds will show blood in their faeces. Symptoms include lethargy, regurgitation, a ruffled appearance and weight loss.

Food poisoning can also affect parrots so you should always exercise the same caution when preparing your parrot food as you would when feeding your family. For example, don’t cut vegetables up for them using a chopping board or a knife that has already been contaminated with raw meat produce.

Avian gout is also a relatively common complaint among parrots but is typically related to their diet so make sure you feed them properly and you shouldn’t have a problem in this regard.

Infections and diseases are quite rare if you have a single-bird home, but if you show your birds or they mix with others frequently you are putting your pet at risk. If you do have just one parrot at home and it comes down with an infectious disease, it’ll most likely be because there’s something in its home environment that doesn’t agree with it, or it is perhaps malnourished. Find out what Kaytee recommends to feed pet parrots by visiting their Blog.

Introducing me and my birds – Dorothy Schwarz’m Dorothy Schwarz and in the coming months I’ll be sharing with you  some of the joys and heartaches, pleasant surprises and shocks of a parrot person’s life. I’ll tell about the lives of my birds and those of others that I know. I’d like to share some of the theoretical knowledge and insights that I’ve developed from my avian involvement. I trained at workshops and seminars with Steve Martin in Florida, Susan Friedman in France and Ireland and Barbara Heidenreich in USA and UK. These trainers all practice and teach positive reinforcement training and I’ll be talking about that quite a lot.

I am often asked how my parrot life began. Am I an ex zoo curator, like my friend Bill Naylor, am I an ornithologist, a zoologist or a professional trainer? No, I’m none of those. However, for the last fifteen years, parrots, people involved with them, learning about parrots, keeping parrots – even breeding them in a small way – has become my main preoccupation.

It began by chance as  I believe many of our passions do.

Barrett WatsonMost of my adult life has been  involved in some sort of breeding: six kids, horses as a small business, dogs, cats, rabbits and now birds. I had been riding, training and breeding horses in a small way. With middle age and the children leaving the nest, horses began to play a lesser role in our lives. And then one of my horsy friends, Barett Watson, who is one of the foremost UK trainers of show jumpers, opened up a new world for me. I’d known Barrett and his partner Tim Davies for years. Their yard is a visual delight of immaculate horses – and flocks of macaws, cockatoos, and greys in large flights with individual cages for breeding pairs. A pet bird that comes from Barrett is already accustomed to people and socialized.

Keen for a new challenge, I asked Barrett for one of his baby birds. We discussed the situation and decided that African Greys would be the best choice for a somewhat older couple.

Pair of African Greys Parrots BirdsBarrett had a bonded pair.  In early December, he phoned ‘the hen is sitting.’ Two weeks after hatching, the chicks were pulled for hand rearing and Barrett suggested I visit as often as possible to learn how to handle the birds. What a valuable education Barrett gave me! You learn so much more from hands-on practice than from books. The chicks looked unappealing, featherless and squirming, like blackbirds that had fallen out of the nest. ‘Aren’t they adorable?’ said Tim. He proceeded to hand feed them with skill and gentleness. He or Barrett had been doing this at 4- hourly intervals day and night and still found them adorable!

Pirdy - Cockatoo Parrot BirdAfter a few weeks they were nicely feathering up and sharing the incubator and then the weaning cage with a Moluccan cockatoo. One of the chicks seemed bolder than the other. I chose that one.

On my fortnightly visits, I started to hold MY chick and observe what was going on in the nursery. A clutch of military macaws was learning to fly, doing Charlie Chaplin imitations as soon as they landed; some eggs were in incubators. I learnt to handle Barrett’s two enormous Blue and Gold pet macaws. I learnt the difference between birds being reared as pets and ones for breeding. Everything Barrett and Tim did was explained; they were limitlessly patient.

The chicks were also taught to ‘Step up’ before they were even fledged. They were accustomed to household noises like vacuum cleaners and washing machines. On the last visit but one before we bought our bird home,  Tim emerged from the nursery with the 2 Greys and the Moluccan perched on his stretched out arm, all four looking pleased as Punch. Another advantage of buying a bird from a reputable breeder is that Artha was harness trained as she was being weaned. When the chicks pecked, Tim would gently blow the top of their heads and say, ‘Don’t bite.’ This technique worked with our bird once we got it home. Hand on heart I can say that Artha has never bitten a human in 15 years. (To be 100% honest, I have to say she has bitten other birds.)  Her name is Artha because she was at first thought to be a cock bird whom we named Arthur. After a month at home, I decided that Arthur perched like a hen bird. A DNA test proved me right. Being so used to calling Arthur we feminised the name to Artha. That happened fifteen years ago.

Siesta - Birds - AviaryA home-made aviary was constructed to give the birds  fresh air and space to fly.  And the aviary itself – like Topsy ‘it just growed’. We added sections yearly until the whole aviary now measures 40 meters in length. The trees inside have grown and I am terribly proud when I cannot see the inhabitants who are amongst the leaves.

Our family suffered a personal tragedy when our youngest daughter, Zoe, died at 27. Artha’s apparent empathy while I was grieving gave me the urge to devote time and effort to understand birds and providing a home for those in need. Because the aviary is  large, I have been offered birds in need of a home.

A year later Casper came from Barrett to keep Artha company. Sad to say they – although good friends – have never mated and produced the patter of tiny claws for us to marvel at.

With birds I entered a new world; birds are not mammals. A puppy, a kitten and a baby share far more traits in common than we do with our pet birds.  But one of the most fascinating aspects of parrot keeping is that the modern way of training them by positive reinforcement is also the best way to train your puppy, your kitten – or your partner!  I hope to describe positive reinforcement training and give case studies which illustrate how it works out in practice. Theories are great but if they don’t produce the result you want  you are apt to discard them.

Need for training your birds

Training is essential for full-winged birds, especially if any of them share your living space. They must know and accept the recall. I’ve had my birds fly out of the house through a carelessly left open  window or door but once found, they’ve flown down to me because they know the recall. Casper, an escape artist of almost indescribable genius, has scarpered to the village a quarter of a mile away even before his absence has been noticed. Unfortunately, he likes people and has flown into village houses and into open cars. I’ve been lucky; his newly found human friends were all honest folk and he was returned. But I dare not allow him the liberty he so clearly craves.