Meet Archibald Felix Strong…

…Otherwise known as Archie.  Archie is a 22 year old Hawkheaded Parrot.  I’ve always wanted a Hawkhead, but since I regularly get birds from people, it doesn’t really make sense to go out and buy one.  So last week when someone contacted APS about rehoming his Hawkhead, I immediately wrote back saying that I would LOVE to adopt him.  After some discussion and a preliminary visit, we arranged for me to bring him home last night.

What I have learned about Archie in the, oh, 19 hours that he’s been home with me includes:

* He’s cagebound, and has a panic attack when I even open the cage door.  Apparently, he hadn’t been out of his cage in almost nine years.  I had to take a picture of him through the cage bars because opening the door to get an unobstructed view was out of the question.

* His poop is super stinky because he’s been on a crappy dyed, sugar-filled pellet his whole life. A healthier diet will make the poop smell better.

* He doesn’t know how to forage or play with toys.

* He’s missing his tail because (I’ve been told) over a decade ago a cat attacked him and he sustained permanent follicular damage to all but one tail feather.  Consequentially, he has terrible balance and falls often.

* He also hypervocalizes.  It’s near-constant.  He was only quiet for about a 6 hour period in the middle of the night, but didn’t stop chatting, even after all the living room birds got covered and the lights were turned off, until after midnight, and started up again as soon as the sky started getting light–maybe around 6:30 am or so.  Some of his noises are pretty cute – kisses, vibrato whistles, UFO noises, meowing kitten, etc. – but others are downright shrill.

Needless to say, we’ve got our work cut out for us.  So I was thinking, since I’m going to be working on his progress anyway, it might be a good idea to blog about the process, not only to share his progress with anyone who might be interested, but also to learn more by documenting and reviewing my work.

So!  We need a plan!  Here’s what I’m thinking:

Diet conversion / teaching to forage:

1) Offering him a wide variety of foods that are easily accessible throughout the cage, with a few of his old dyed pellets sprinkled on top. Sprinkling his old dyed pellets on and in foraging toys that are easy to use and require little to no previous skill.  Since birds are observational learners, moving Ernie’s food bowl to the holder nearest Archie’s cage so that Archie can see Ernie eating the chop’n’freeze.  ***UPDATE: It’s already working! I just observed him trying out some of the chop’n’freeze while Ernie was eating some of his, and a few minutes later eating some pellets that were sitting on top of one of his foraging toys.  That’s excellent progress for the first day!***

2) Gradually reducing the number of old dyed pellets so that less and less of his diet is the old stuff and more of it is the healthy stuff, until I am sure that he is eating enough of the healthy stuff that he no longer needs the old pellets.

3) Gradually making the foraging toys more challenging for him, as discussed in my previous blog entry about teaching birds how to forage.

Excessive/inappropriate vocalization:

1) His vocalizations will naturally decrease somewhat by simply learning how to forage and play, so he has something else to do with his time other than make noise.  But also:

2) Ignore the unpleasant noises and reinforce the desirable noises. Also reinforce silence. ***UPDATE: This is already starting to work a little bit.  Whenever he makes a quiet noise and I reinforce it, he will continue making only quiet noises for a few minutes. He still gets loud a few minutes later, but at least he’s already figured out that making quiet noises means that he gets to play call-and-response games with me!***

3) Teach him to make cute noises on cue.  Maybe teach him to whistle some songs, since he clearly has an ear for music.

Being cagebound:

1) Find a reinforcer.  This might take a while, since he’s just now learning to eat new foods, seems nervous around new objects, and isn’t stoked on human touch yet.

2) Teach him to target with said reinforcer.

3) Target him near the door of the cage, then systematically desensitize him to the door being opened by using tiny approximations towards having the door opened all the way.

4) Target him onto the perch on the door, then systematically desensitize him to being on the door perch as the door is being opened by using tiny approximations towards having the door opened all the way.

5) Gradually increase the length of time that he is sitting on the door perch with the door open.

6) Target him onto my hand or, depending on his comfort level with hands, a portable perch–either way, again using tiny approximations towards the end goal of both of his feet being on my hand or the perch.

7) Gradually move farther and farther away from the cage for longer and longer periods of time, until he is completely comfortable being out of his cage and exploring other areas of the house.

8) Eventually get him used to playing on the playgyms and taking showers on the shower perch.

Balance issues:

As for balance issues, we’ll see.  I packed his cage with plenty of swings, perches, tents, etc., to help break his fall, and so far he seems to be coping pretty well.  But if he’s still falling a lot I might try removing the round perches and just using a lot of flat, ledge-type perches, like flagstone and 2x4s.

That’s pretty much the plan for now.  It might need modification as we progress, but I’m hopeful that we will be successful.  I named him Archibald Felix because I was looking for a name that meant either “brave” or “joyful”, since I believe he can let go of his fears and become a brave, joyful bird.  Archibald means brave, Felix means joyful, and Archie is pretty cute, especially for a bird with an arched crest.  So there you have it. My newest flock member, a beautiful little guy whom those of you who read this will get to follow on his journey towards becoming brave and joyful.

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About Emily Strong

behavior consultant. veterinary technician. crazy parrot lady. lifelong animal lover. cellist. yogi. hula hooper. horse rider. swimmer. singer. reader. writer. dreamer. music lover. amateur gardener. nutrition enthusiast. eternal student. language lover. aspiring polyglot. tattoo canvas. water drinker. overthinker. bountiful laugher. overenthusiast. attention deficit meditator.
This entry was posted in Austin Parrot Society, Behavior, Birds, Education, Enrichment, My crew, Nutrition and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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