Monday, September 8, 2014

University of Florida Student Creates 'Bird Buggy'

Andrew Gray, a computer engineering grad student at the University of Florida, recently invented a device that would allow his pet parrot to roam the house by his side. Gray rightfully named the device the “Bird Buggy” and was surprised at just how much of a positive response it generated from his parrot. Not only did his parrot use it for getting around the house, but it actually seemed to enjoy the process of driving and maneuvering around furniture and objects.

Gray decided to build the device as a means to stop his parrot Pepper from being loud and obnoxious. Before he constructed the Bird Buggy, Gray built an automatic water gun that would shoot pepper anytime he screamed. Unfortunately, however, the water gun only encouraged Pepper to scream whenever he wanted a bath, which seemed more frequently than before. Gray also built a device that made a load rattling noise whenever Pepper started screaming, but this was also ignored by the cunning parrot.

Instead of trying to fight his parrot’s screaming, gray decided to focus on what was already working. He noticed that Pepper screamed less whenever he was in the same room as Gray, so he set out to create a robotic device that would allow Pepper to travel throughout the house with him. After investing dozens of hours of hard work, Gray eventually came up with the Bird Buggy. It allows Pepper to sit on a small podium where he can control the movement by pressing his beak on a joystick. There are even sensors located on the sides that automatically back up when the Bird Buggy comes into contact with a piece of furniture or object.

Another neat little addition Gray made was an IR feature that prevents Pepper from ramming objects too hard. When Pepper starts to approach a wall too fast, the IR sensors automatically trigger the Bird Buggy to slow down; therefore, limiting the power of the impact. Even though it has this addition, Gray has found Pepper to be quite cunning and intelligent when it comes to the Bird Buggy.

Video: Bird Buggy



Check out the video above for a first-hand look at Pepper using the Bird Buggy. As you can see, Pepper is fully aware of how the Buggy operates and what he needs to do to control it. Now that’s pretty impressive! Kudos to both Gray and Pepper for building such as neat little device.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Companion Parrots: Which Species Is Right For My Family?

Which companion species is best suited for my family?

According to some estimates, there are around 350 species of parrots currently in existence. These species vary from the incredibly small Pygmy parrot, which is just 3.5 inches long, to the Hyacinth macaw, which exceeds 3 feet when fully grown. If you're thinking about adopting a companion parrot, you should consider the species and whether or not it's the right choice for your family.

Companion Parrot Size

Size is obviously a factor to consider when choosing a companion parrot. Larger species, such as the African Grey and Macaw, are popular choices, but they come with their own their own unique set of challenges. The larger the parrot, the more space it needs to move around; thus, forcing owners to invest in larger cages. Smaller parrot species, on the other hand, require less space, less food, and generally produce less waste.

Companion Parrot Noise Level

Do you live in an apartment complex, town home, or any other residence in which your neighbors live in close proximity? If so, you should choose a companion parrot that does not produce a lot of noise.

It's important to note that ALL parrots will produce at least some noise. This is their way of communicating to one another in the wild, so it only makes sense for them to make noise when in captivity as well. But there are certain species which produce more noise than others.

Species that are considered the loudest typically include the following:
  • Prrotlets

  • Budgies

  • Cockatiels

  • Pyrrhura conures

  • Pionus

  • Caiques

  • African Greys

  • Poicephalus

Companion Parrot Talking/Vocal Abilities

One of the joys of owning a companion parrot is the ability to teach it words, phrases, or even entire sentences. Dogs might be viewed as man's best friend, but parrots are the only pets that will greet you with a verbal "hello." Of course, some species of parrots are better talkers than others.

Species that are considered good talkers include the following:
  • African Greys

  • Eclectus

  • Quaker

  • Budgies

  • Macaws

  • Psittacula

These are just a few things to consider when choosing a companion parrot to adopt. Above all else, though, make sure you are fully committed to providing your new companion parrot a happy, healthy and loving home. Far too many people adopt these magnificent creatures, only to decide later down the road that they are too much of a hassle.

Which parrot species is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Parrots and Children: How To Introduce a Pet Bird To The Family

Thinking about adopting a pet parrot into your family? Parrots are fun-loving, affectionate, and highly intelligent creatures that make wonderful pets. Due to their small size, though, families with young children should use caution when adopting pet parrots. A young child may unknowingly pull or tug on a pet, resulting in injury and/or provoking a retaliatory bite.

The good news is that you can still adopt a pet parrot if you have young children. By following some basic precautions, you can create a safe and enjoyable environment for everyone -- including your new feathered friend.

Start by showing your child the new parrot through its cage. Don't take them out of the cage just yet, but instead keep your parrot confined so they are safe from the clutches of your child. Let your child see the parrot and how it acts. Some children may be frightened at first, but this usually goes away in time. After several weeks have passed, your child should grow accustomed to the new addition to your family.

Once your child is comfortable and no longer afraid of the parrot, take the parrot out of its cage and hold it in your hand. Now let your child pet the parrot, gently. Teach your child the appropriate way for petting a parrot -- starting at the top of its head and running downwards across its back in a slow, gentle manner. Make sure your child's hand is kept above the parrot's head so there's no risk of him or her being bitten.

Even if your parrot appears to be calm and docile around your child, you shouldn't allow your child to pet or play with them alone. It only takes a single instance of instinctual aggression to create serious injury, which is why parents should always supervise their children when taking the parrot out of its cage. This is done to protect both the child and the parrot from injury. As your child grows older and your parrot becomes more domesticated, you'll find the bird's behavior is more predictable.

The bottom line is that families with small children can still enjoy the countless benefits of owning a pet parrot. Regardless of the species, though, parents should err on the side of caution to ensure their child and bird are safe and protected against injury.

Have any other tips you'd live to share with out readers? Leave them in the comments section below!

Monday, August 18, 2014

All About The Senegal Parrot

Although its often viewed as a pest by farmers in African, the Senegal parrot (Poicephalus senegalus) is has become one of the most popular species of pet parrots. This predominantly yellow-green colored bird possesses a playful and affectionate disposition, making it an attractive choice for families with small children. Before you adopt a Senegal, though, there are a few things you should know about the species.

There are Three Subspecies


There are three subspecies of the Senegal. While plumage colors vary depending on the different subspecies, their behavior traits remain the same. See below for a list of the three recognized Senegal subspecies.
  1. P. s. senegalus -- native to the southern Mauritania, Guinea and Lobos Island, this subspecies possesses a distinct yellow-colored vest.

  2. P. s. mesotypus -- native to Nigeria and Cameroon , this subspecies possesses an orange-colored vest.

  3. P. s. versteri: -- this last Senegal subspecies is native to Nigeria and possesses a darker orange-colored vest.

Noise Level

Individuals and families living in close proximity to neighbors may be concerned about the noise level of a pet parrot. Thankfully, the Senegal (all three subspecies) is viewed as a relatively quiet parrot. This doesn't necessarily mean they are silent, but they produce less noise than other popular species of pet parrots.

Nutrition

The Senegal feeds mostly on maize and millet in the wild, which is why they are viewed as a pest by farmers in Africa. Pet Senegals, however, should be fed a diet that consists mostly of pellet and seed mix. Feeding your bird strictly maize (AKA corn) will restrict key nutrients from their diet, which may lead to malnutrition or other health problems.

Stick with a premium pellet blend that contains minimal "filler" ingredients. Pellets are formulated to meet the nutritional needs of pet parrots, so you can rest assured knowing your Senegal is getting the nutrition it needs to maintain proper health and development. You can check out some of our previous blog posts for more information on choosing the right food for your parrot.

Training

If you are looking for a pet parrot that's easy to train, you are in luck. The Senegal is viewed as a highly intelligent parrot that can be taught a variety of tricks. Whether it's shake, talk, etc., these parrots can be trained to perform a number of different tasks and tricks. All it takes is persistence, dedication, and consistency.

What are your thoughts on the Senegal parrot? Let us know in the comments section below!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Efforts Being Made To Save The Endangered Western Ground Parrots

The Western Ground Parrot is one of the rarest and most endangered parrot species in the world. Experts believe there are only 140 of these colorful birds remaining, making it a top priority among conservationists.

Due to their critically low population numbers, the species is on the verge of extinction. A natural disaster like a wildfire could wipe out their habitat, and subsequently the remaining Western Ground Parrots. But a last-ditch effort is underway to save these beautiful birds and encourage their population numbers to thrive once again.

Australia's Perth Zoo is currently housing seven Western Ground Parrots in four cages. Experts plan to breed them in three different pairs -- along with an extra male. Perth Zoo is known throughout the world for its remarkable conservation expertise and ability to breed endangered animals, which is why it was chosen to house the half-a-dozen-plus-one specimens.

But this a monumental and equally difficult task for Perth Zoo experts, as the bird breeding program is a first of its kind. One of the many hurdles experts face is trying to achieve a healthy, balanced nutrition of the Western Ground Parrots, essentially mimicking its natural diet in the wild. If the parrots' diet is off, it could hinder their ability to reproduce while leaving them susceptible to disease and illness. And being that there are so few Western Ground Parrots left in existence, data regarding its diet, feeding behavior, and other characteristics is minimal at best.

Arthur Ferguson of the Perth Zoo noted, however, that they will be providing the Western Ground Parrots with "multiple nesting opportunities" in an effort to encourage breeding. This includes the use of both artificial and natural nesting sites, which they believe will create a greater sense of security among the critically endangered birds.
"Apart from that we'll be providing the birds with multiple nesting opportunities, we'll be providing artificial nest sites, as well as what we believe will be more naturalistic nest sites, for the birds to try and promote a sense of security and really hopefully encourage them to breed," said Perth Zoo's supervisor of Australian Fauna, Arthur Ferguson.

Without Perth Zoo's program, the Western Grounding Parrot could face extinction. Parrots are often on the forefront of extinction due to their ever-dwindling habitats. Conservation groups have saved numerous species in the past, however, so let's hope they can do it again.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Help! My Parrot Will Only Eat Seeds

Can't get your parrot to eat fresh vegetables, fruit, premium pellets, or other food? There's nothing wrong with feeding a parrot some occasional seeds. In fact, sunflower and flax seeds are loaded in beneficial nutrients that can bolster a parrot's immune system while promoting healthy growth and development. However, feeding your parrot a strict 100% diet can lead to a variety of health ailments, including malnutrition. So, how can you encourage your parrot to try new foods?

Parrots that eat pure seed diets are more likely to experience malnutrition. Vitamin A deficiency is an all-too-common condition in which the respiratory, reproductive and digestive cells undergo adverse changes. Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency can range from the presence of small white spots inside the mouth to abscesses, difficulty breathing, infection, and even death in severe cases. Thankfully, deficiencies such as this are easily avoided by feeding your parrot a well-balanced, nutritious diet that includes a mixture of pellets, seeds, vegetables and fruit.

Much like children, some parrots are finicky regarding their food and will only eat things they are used to. So if you've fed your parrot the same seed mix for the past 2-3 years, abruptly switching to a pellet mix may not work. Your parrot may check it out by pecking at it, but it's unlikely they will change their diet on the fly. The trick to encouraging your parrot to switch from an all-seed diet to a more nutritious and balanced diet is to make the transition more gradual.

Don't just empty your parrot's seed dish and replace it with pellets. Instead, start by creating a mixture of 80% seeds and 20% pellets. This introduces your parrot to the pellets in a slower, less intrusive method. Assuming your parrot eats this mixture (which they should), you can gradually adjust the ratio to focus more pellets. After a week or two, for instance, try using a ratio of 70% seeds and 30% pellets. After another week, drop it down to 60/40, and soon after, 50/50.

What's the ideal ratio of seeds to pellets for a parrot's diet? It really depends on the species of parrot and their condition. Talk with your avian veterinarian for recommendations tailored for your bird. With that said, many parrot experts recommend a diet that's "mostly" parrots with the occasional fruit, vegetables and seeds tossed into the mix.

Have some tips you'd like to share with our readers? Drop us a comment below!

Monday, July 21, 2014

One of Two Rare Blue Parrots That Inspired 'Rio' Dies

Presley, a 40-year old blue Spix's macaw, passed away last month, leaving just one "wild-borne" left in existence.

While there's been no official confirmation from the film's producer s Blue Sky Studios, Presley is believed to have inspired the 2011 computer-animated musical-adventure comedy "Rio."

In the movie Rio, the macaw travels back to his hometown of Brazil to search for the other remaining blue Spix's macaw, which happens to be a female of course! The film's director Carlos Saldanha stated he hoped Rio would draw attention to the importance of parrot conservation efforts. Rio received generally favorable reviews, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 72% rating based on 142 reviews.

Presley was discovered in the early 1970s after being smuggled from Brazil to Colorado. The parrot refuge and breeding facility Lymington Foundation purchased Presley, taking him under their wing (pun intended).

Current estimates suggest that there are around 100 of blue Spix's macaws in various refuges and bird shelters throughout the world. Presley, however, was one of two wild-borne blue Spix's macaws. The species' dwindling numbers is a warning sign that extinction may come if conservation efforts are not taken. Reports suggest the last sighting of a blue Spix's macaw occurred back in 2000 -- nearly a decade and a half ago.

According to Doha News, artificial insemination could help the threatened species propagate and their population numbers improve. With such a low number of blue Spix's macaws left in existence, however, conservationist must use caution to ensure they aren't promoting breeding within family lines.

So, what's to blame for the ever-dwindling population numbers of the blue Spix's macaw? Several factors are to blame, the most damaging being deforestation. Brazil is constantly eating away at its rich tropical landscape. Unfortunately, this landscape is the home of a number of rare animals, including dozens of threatened parrot species such as the blue Spix's macaw.

Another element that's contributed to the species' decline is the presence of honeybees taking over its habitat. As the honeybees continue to disperse and percolate into new areas, parrots and other birds are forced out of their homes.
"To us, Presley is a symbol of the best and worst in mankind," read a statement announcing the blue Spix's macaw’s death from the foundation. "The love, care, concern and effort to help and preserve [on one side], with the greed, selfishness, and lack of concern for the animal world on the other side."