ZIGGY (the emperor parrot) & GEORGE (his companion human)

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WATCH TWO PARROT HEALTH FOOD WACKOS IN ACTION ON YOUTUBE

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ZIGGY ON HIS ROPE PERCH
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Ziggy's "formal" name is Zigothy T. McParrot, the "T" standing for trouble, of course!

Ziggy is a blue-fronted Amazon.  My mother bought him on September 28, 1985.  He had been advertised as being about 22 to 24 months old at the time, so he was probably born in late 1983, which would make him about 30--a fine young gentleman!  Since I am 67, I might very well predecease him.  If that does occur, I am hoping that this web site will help his new companion human in dealing with him because he does have some "issues," such as attacking and grabbing any white cloth that comes near him.  (More information can be found on this site at the psychology of Ziggy.)
 
Ziggy's long-standing liver issues have begun to manifest themselves more severely recently (late 2009), and, although I will try everything within my power to find some way to help him heal, the sight of two areas of "altered echo texture" in the ultrasound of his liver are not promising, and I have shed more than a few tears.  So it is possible that my original purpose in creating this website--helping his new owner should he outlive me--is not as likely as it once was.
 
After watching an Animal Planet program about "problem" parrots, I was impressed with how well the Gabriel Foundation handles them.  Ziggy WILL pose a behavioral problem, so I hope that someone with an insight into the Amazon mystique, possibly even the Gabriel Foundation itself, will be able to take charge of him after my demise. 

FEBRUARY, 2014: Ziggy passed away on February 7, not of liver issues, but of cardiovascular ones. In fact, his liver blood tests had been improving over the couple of years prior to that. His heart was enlarged, and the conditions of his blood vessels seemed to indicate enough hardening of the arteries to keep him from being able to pump enough blood to his brain, which caused syncope (a physician's term for fainting, or woozy spells), which was the occasion for his last vet visit. I felt blindsided by that diagnosis because I'd been told that his last ultrasound had indicated an improvement in his cardiovascular condition. Had I known it was that bad, there are a couple of things I would have done that might have helped. See this 2003 meta-analysis of one possible medical substance.

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO OF ZIGGY AND BUDDY BREAKING BREAD WITH ME

A GOODY FELL UNDER THE GRATE OF HIS TRAVEL CAGE
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ZIGGY'S BEEN KNOWN TO CURSE WHEN HE CAN'T REACH THE GOODY

YES, PARROTS ARE SENTIENT 

Ziggy is free-flying.  He has not had his feathers clipped since he was in the original pet store in 1985.  My mother was a birder, and could never stand for wing clipping.  Alas, I have had to go against my own beliefs with our newer bird, Buddy, at least for the present. At the vet's suggestion, for Ziggy's protection, I have had Buddy's wings clipped: it was my vet's belief--and I concur--that, for Buddy to be completely free-flying would be a physical danger to Ziggy, because of Buddy's aggressiveness. Ziggy had to visit the vet once to take care of some foot wounds because of Sir. Savage's sharp beak.

To my mother's extremism, I add my own brand of extremism: to me, a birdcage is a prison.

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I had never thought about cages one way or the other until one day, shortly after I got him, I realized just how intelligent he is. He was on my shoulder while I was walking around the kitchen trying to decide what to have for breakfast. I wasn't expecting an actual answer when I asked him, "What are we going to have for breakfast?" I did a double take when he replied, "Yum yum good egg." You cannot tell me that was mimicry: that was a specific answer to a specific question.  I have only heard him use that phrase once since.

It is unthinkable to imprison a sentient being like him. The only time he is caged now is when we are traveling or, sometimes, when there are visitors. (He is jealous, and won't allow anyone to get close to me.) I don't cage him when I'm gone: his room--which doubles as my bedroom--has thick plastic and other barriers to protect electrical outlets, etc.

Actually, my extremism goes further than just viewing cages as prisons:  I believe that all creatures are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and the extent of those rights is a function of how sentient a particular creature is.

I am not using the term sentient in the philosophical sense or in the sense that animal rights advocates use it; I use it in what the Wikipedia article on sentience describes as the science fiction usage--it implies qualities such as "will, desire, consciousness, ethics, personality, intelligence, insight, and so on." Ziggy is not much of an animal rights advocate; he is perfectly willing (and happy) to eat his cousins--chickens--as well as their unborn progeny.  He occasionally gets fed a wing bone or two to chomp; he prefers drumsticks, but I don't like the way drumstick bones splinter. I, too, make no apologies for my biological heritage of being an omnivore, so please, PETA, no emails about the evils of eating meat.

[Note: I try not to expose my birds to human pathogens, which means that they cannot handle anything that has been in my mouth. To give them bones, I manually slice the meat off with a paring knife, and then rinse the bones with warm tap water to remove any remaining salty, greasy meat or skin. I leave cartilaginous fragments on, since those have some nutritional benefit.]

The recognition of animal sentience is built into many laws, including that of the European Union, although the EU uses the term in a more general sense than I do: 

In 1997 the concept of animal sentience was written into the basic law of the European Union. The legally-binding Protocol annexed to the Treaty of Amsterdam recognises that animals are ‘sentient beings’, and requires the EU and its Member States to ‘pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals.’ [This quote appears verbatim in so many places, including Wikipedia, that I do not know to whom to give credit.]

Spain extends legal rights, including protection against being tortured or killed--and even exploitation for profit--to apes, but bullfighting remains legal. Worse, they kill wild parrots in Barcelona. (Electric companies are still killing wild parrots in a number of American cities also.) I cannot fathom how anyone could kill or eat intelligent beings such as whales, gorillas, dolphins, or, most certainly, parrots.

Laws are more extreme in Switzerland.  The Swiss modified their constitution recently to make sure their citizens respect "the dignity of creation when handling animals, plants and other organisms." Their Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology concluded that, "decapitation of wild flowers at the roadside without rational reason" is criminal, and that it is morally impermissible to cause "arbitrary harm" to plants. Maybe there's a little bit of Buddhist in me because I have always been disgusted at people who would kill or destroy any life, including plants, for no reason, but the Swiss law is a little extreme.

Since Sept 1, 2008, even goldfish there have been protected against physical and psychological abuse. Aquariums must allow fish to live in a natural day/night cycles. They've created rigorous standards for how all social animals are treated. According to the Houston Chronicle, "the country's 160-page animal protection law states exactly how much space owners must give Mongolian gerbils (233 square inches) and what water temperature is required for African clawed frogs (18-22 degrees Celsius; 64-72 degrees Fahrenheit)."  If you want to see all the teabaggers having to be sent to emergency rooms due to sudden apoplexy resulting from fits of anger, just try suggesting that here.

Switzerland's canton of Zurich requires that all animals have an attorney, and he is Mr. Antoine F. Goetschel.  But in a March, 2010, election, voters nationwide rejected a move that would have extended that requirement to the entire nation. 

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ZIGGY (ON THE LEFT) WITH HIS NEW COMPANION, BUDDY

WATCHING WEATHERMAN ED BRANDON
WATCHING WEATHERMAN, ED BRANDON
NOTE ZIGGY'S "PIN-UPS" ON THE WALL



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GETTING READY FOR A NIGHT-NIGHT NAP
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We don't use that kind of plastic perch anymore, so don't use them
MORE ABOUT ZIGGY:
 
Ziggy was wild-caught--i.e., birdnapped.  He was torn from his flock and family, transported to a USDA-regulated quarantine station, and then taken to a now-defunct Houston pet store, Tropical Treasures, where he was put on sale.  The letter code on his quarantine band is LGH, denoting a Louisiana station.  The numeric portion of the code is related to his quarantine date, but the USDA has disposed of its old records and is unable to interpret that code for me.
 
These days, we know to oppose the trade in wild-caught birds, not just because of its impact on wild bird populations, but because of the conditions under which that trade operates.  HELP PROTECT WILD PARROTS: visit and support the World Parrot Trust, www.parrots.org:  their name says it all.
 
At the time my mother purchased Ziggy, public awareness of the wild-caught bird trade issue was not widespread. If you wanted a bird, you simply went to a pet store and bought one. The thought never occurred to most people that the process by which these birds were often captured could have been so nightmarish as to be unconscionable to a civilized being.
 
I believe we owe Ziggy and all his wild-caught cousins a debt that can never be paid.  As far as I am concerned, he should be treated as an emperor--an emperor parrot!
 
Even though laws regulating the wild-caught bird trade are stricter these days, the market for such birds still exists, the result being that now they get smuggled instead of being openly transported.  Smuggled birds often die unimaginably horrible deaths because of the conditions under which they are transported--perhaps drugged, or without food and water, or breathing only stale air.  According to information posted on their official website, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents "continue to find birds hidden inside plastic tubes, under car seats, in luggage and stuffed into cans of baby formula....The illegal wildlife trade is a highly lucrative black market that ranks second in profits only to illegal drug traffic.  Not only does smuggling decrease the population of rare birds in the wild, it also increases the chances that a communicable bird disease, such as Exotic Newcastle or Avian Influenza, could enter this country.
 
Obviously, there cannot be exact figures, but best estimates put the number of smuggled birds that die before reaching their intended market at two out of three.  The biosecurity threat to our nation is not just to wild and domestic fowl, but to humans; there is scientific speculation that the presence of the West Nile virus in the Western hemisphere may be due to bird smuggling (see birdfluebook.com.)  Write your congressman to demand harsher penalties for this crime.
 
Watch the youtube video produced by the World Parrot Trust for their Fly Free campaign, intended to help fight the world trade in wild parrots.  Warning, there are graphic scenes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32xAVh3NSYg&feature=player_profilepage
 
The book, "Of Parrots and People," by Mira Tweti, has an excellent discussion of these (and other) injustices that have been--and sometimes continue to be--perpetrated on our feathered parrot friends.  Warning:  the book contains some highly unsettling photos. The cover blurb accurately describes the book as being about "The Sometimes Funny, Always Fascinating and Often Catastrophic Collision of Two Intelligent Species."     
 
For general news about parrots, visit FreeParrots.net.  Mike Schindlinger, Harvard biologist, describes the site as "a meeting ground for rescue shelters, animal welfare societies, and conservationists... and the people who share their concern and love for parrots."  On it are links that allow you to purchase his film, "Stalking the Wild Amazons," which has fantastic shots, including some from inside the nests of wild parrots.
 
As far as Ziggy is concerned, though, what's done is done, and I don't think he would have a good chance of survival in the wild now, even if he were among the "Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill."  Besides, he is pair-bonded to me now, and I do love him.  I would like to get a female for him, but I don't think it's as simple as buying a female parrot and putting them together, since they choose their own mates just as we do.  A "prearranged marriage" is not necessarily going to result in love at first sight.  If you have any suggestions about how to arrange for him to get a mate, please email me.  I have emailed several parrot rescue organizations, but only one has responded (you'd think they'd be eager to place one of their rescues with a parrot lover!)  If I were a millionaire, I'd buy Ziggy an aviary of blue-fronts, and let them pair up naturally.

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ZIGGY ON "HIS" DOLLY

Click here to visit brooklynparrots.com, a web site about the wild parrots of Brooklyn.  Brooklynparrots.com kept us up to date and helped lead the fight over the slaughter of wild parrots by Connecticut's electric company, United Illuminating, and, more recently, about the attempt by the city of Barcelona, Spain, to eradicate its own wild parrots.

UPDATE:  Ziggy now has a companion.  I had run out of his probiotic mix as well as grey-striped sunflower seeds (an occasional treat), and did not have time to order online, so I visited a local aviary.  Who could resist looking at the birds while at an aviary?  Lo and behold, I discovered a blue front there who tugged at my heart strings:  the birds were having to endure Houston's heat advisories (July, 2009) in a non-climate controlled environment, and Buddy was so pathetic.  To me, the place was a hell-hole; if I were a millionaire, I would have bought all of their birds.  The birds looked horribly stressed from the heat.  
 
"Buddy" was sold to me as a female.  Ziggy had lived for almost 20 years playing second fiddle to my mother's first bird, also named Buddy, who had turned out, upon necropsy, to be a female.  The coincidence of the same wrongly-sexed name was too spooky for me:  it seemed as though I were meant to get Buddy.  In August, 2009, my vet informed me that "Buddy" is actually male (by DNA.)
 
I could not get any definitive information from the aviary about the new Buddy, but they did tell me that the original owner had gotten rid of him AFTER HAVING HAD THE BIRD ALMOST 20 YEARS because he could not tolerate a newly-acquired African grey and attacked it. (I could sympathize with Buddy; Greys are obnoxiously intelligent.) The aviary people indicated that there "may" have been other "issues."  I could not even get a medical record, but I felt so sorry for the bird that I had to rescue him.
 
Buddy is a precious little nipper who keeps trying to make baby blue-fronts with me.  The very first time I did the obligatory neck-scratching, he started to shiver and clucked like a chicken (the same way Ziggy does when he tries to engender a species of half perch/half parrot, or half food cup/half parrot.) 
 
Now, two and a half years later, Buddy has gotten much more aggressive. He thinks he is king of the world, and will tolerate no other parrots in his territory. In order to avoid parrot bloodshed, I'm having to cage him if I leave the room for more than a minute or two. The only alternative is to have them out in separate rooms. There is one place where Ziggy is safe when they're both out with me gone, but that's an upper corner in the room near the ceiling, where, before I knew that you weren't "supposed" to do such things, I had installed a home-made nest box. Even Mr. Ruler-of-the-universe-Buddy knows that that is off limits.
 
Buddy is incredibly clever. They can both be out, and I'll be alternately feeding each of them some kind of treat, and Buddy will take the first opportunity to run off Ziggy (who is much larger, but a little more frail) if I let my attention lapse. If my arm or hand gets in the middle, then his deadly beak will let me know I'm not supposed to interfere with his mission. Other than that, he is as sweet as could be (not as amorous as Ziggy, though.)
 
They are both out together most of the time, and I am working on trying to resolve Buddy's "issues" with other birds. I started out trying to get them to share the dinner table; my premise was that the birds wouldn't be able to kill each other if their beaks were full of food, and it's not too difficult for me to come up with healthy food that parrots go crazy for: they both love my cooking. 
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THE VET SAYS YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO FEED PELLETS TO YOUR PARROT, BUT YOUR BIRD WON'T TOUCH THEM.  YOUR BIRD ONLY WANTS "PEOPLE FOOD"--WHAT CAN YOU DO? PARROTS ARE NOT HOMO SAPIENS: ALTHOUGH WE ARE BOTH OMNIVORES, OUR DIETARY REQUIREMENTS ARE NOT THE SAME. ALTHOUGH "PEOPLE FOOD" MAY NOT BE GOOD FOR THEM, ON THE OTHER HAND, PELLETS ARE NOT A PANACEA. THE PELLET ISSUE HAS ALWAYS SPARKED LIVELY DEBATES WITHIN THE BIRD COMMUNITY. I DISCUSS THAT AT DIETARY CONSIDERATIONS.  FOR HEALTHY RECIPES AND IDEAS ON KEEPING BOTH YOU AND YOUR BIRD HEALTHY, VISIT COOKING FOR THE TWO OF US.
 

IF YOU SEE ANY TYPOS OR IF YOU NOTICE ANYTHING THAT YOU THINK IS AMBIGUOUS OR MISLEADING, OR IF IT JUST NEEDS REWORDING, FEEL FREE TO EMAIL ME.  FEEL FREE TO DO THE SAME IF YOU HAVE ANY ISSUES WITH OR SUGGESTIONS REGARDING THE FORMAT OF THIS WEB SITE.  ALL SERIOUS SUGGESTIONS ARE TAKEN UNDER ADVISEMENT.

This is a personal web site, not a business.  If you find any of the information here useful, please consider a donation.  Help keep Ziggy the most spoiled parrot in North America!  Thanks.
 
All content on this site, including pictures, is copyrighted, 2006 through 2014, by George A. Butel.  All rights are reserved; text may be quoted freely with attribution, but critical commentary must give me the opportunity to reply.

Visit our hints for cancer patients Google page, which tells you some of the things I learned during cancer treatment, including a few things that "they" forget to tell you, such as having to be a little bit "anal" about trying to prevent opportunistic infections. I never had any during my treatment, so I think my obsession paid off.


LEGAL STUFF

This site has tips and observations about dealing with parrots, and a few of my own views about human and parrot health concerns. I have a degree in biochemistry, so I am qualified to make some statements about foods, medicines and supplements, but I am neither a veterinarian nor a physician, and I do not practice human or veterinary medicine. You should certainly double-check any ideas you might get from me, or anything that you might construe as advice, by consulting with an appropriate legally licensed professional.  All content on this site 2006 through 2014 by George A. Butel.  If you see any typos or any information that you feel is inaccurate or ambiguous, please contact me by clicking here.
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