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Parrots/help with a yellow headed amazon


QUESTION: Hello, There is a yellow headed amazon a family friend of mine kept in terrible condition for many years. The parrot is 20+ years old (I remember playing with him as a small child I remember as a kid he would walk free with his then owner. Back then there was no cage there was a perch that was his place but he just roamed free he would follow me around he'd play and when I slept over he would sleep on my bed frame and even splash along the edges of the kiddie pool# For as long as I can remember whenever I saw him I would always offer him fruit and snacks As time went on his conditions worsened I asked if they would consider allowing me to take him. It has taken me five years #I bought proper cage a year ago and took pictures of it everyday and either emailed or text messaged a picture of it every day until they caved in#  He had been kept in a small cage for years he had no perches so he sat in his excrement he was being feed dog food occasionally mixed with bird food and was kept in a dark corner where he didn't even get sunlight. His talons had grown so long walking was difficult and they were about to start turning into his feet. Their reasoning for keeping him like this was that he was too aggressive and they had young children around often.This was the cause of many arguments between myself and them.I have now had him for two months. He now seems alot happier I have changed his diet filed his talons and put him by the window he has toys a play set and five perches I also sing and talk to him everyday. However, he is aggressive I understand why he does not trust people and assumed that he would just always have to say in his cage. The other day however he bent his head and fluffed  his feathers #something he used to do when I was a kid# I recognized it as his invitation to scratch him so I stuck my finger in and was surprised, he actually let me pet him for a while. This got me wondering if I could actually "tame" him. I am not sure how to go about it. He also likes to yell a lot im not sure what to do about it I wanted to throw a blanket over the cage for a few seconds in attempts at conditioning but he goes crazy #from my understanding he used to be left like this for days :/.) If rumors are correct He was also physically punished anytime he bit or lashed out. I cant wear perfume because it bothers him; when he smelled instead of allowing him a shower they apparently thought it was a smart idea to spray him with human body spray. I know that right now his habitat is far better and suits his needs physically but im wondering about what more I should do now. Is there a possibility of me ever handling him? Or letting him out onto the perch I have mounted to the top of his cage without him flying at me to bite?

ANSWER: --  You've broken my heart.  My very first experience as a toddler with a bird was a wild caught Amazon at my neighbor's house.  Today, more than 50 years later my heart sinks when I think of that bird and how he sat forever in a round, wrought iron cage with one dowel perch and never a toy in his life.  

I'll spend the rest of my life trying to change the life for one bird at a time

 Let's start with some things you don't want to do with your new rescue:

First and most, most importantly - get him seen by a vet who knows and treats only birds.  Or at least 1/3 of their patients are birds.

 Those feet need professional attention; chances are his wings need a trim (not a clip; there's a difference)

 The vet exam for a 'well bird visit' shouldn't be expensive.  Those 'expensive' visits are when someone suddenly seeks out a vet during a period of emergency.  A vet never seen before and now needing to be seen for urgent care IS going to be costly.   

A well bird vet visit here that includes nails and wings is around $40.   You MUST establish a vet if you're going to continue to own a bird.  And once or twice a year visits MUST be maintained.   We're talking less than .25cents a day on average.  So get this first visit done as soon as possible.  Monday sounds good right?
 No perches allowed that elevate the bird above your eye level.  It's just a bad idea ALL the time with EVERY bird.  I don't know why those cages have top play gyms.  It's just stupid.
When it comes to covering, NEVER do that unless it's night time.  There is no punishing a bird.  What you want to do is 'shun' them if necessary, but mostly you want to give them positive reinforcement.  Praise, love, encouragement.  They crave it.   They deserve it, don't you think?
Perfume?  It's best that you never wear it anyway.  Bird owners usually know that scents of ALL kinds, whether fragrance or scented candles; carpet fresheners, air sprays, HAIR sprays, plug ins, etc. -  no, no, no, no.   Even though it seems birds are tolerating it well for years, eventually it will likely become a major health problem.  Like smoking cigarettes doesn't give you lung cancer right away .

 Also NO non stick cookware.  It's a myth that it needs to be overheated to cause birdy deaths.  Again, like smoking cigarettes, it's a gradual build up of very bad, toxins in a bird body 'til it kills them.

And of course NO cigarettes.  Smokers don't have to smoke in the presence of the bird to harm them.  Nicotine and toxins transfer from the skin of a smoker into the feet of a bird when the bird is held.   

 You need to get your rescue on a sleep schedule.  This makes a HUGE difference.  It requires a dead silent, very dark place for the bird to get at least 12 hours of quiet and silence.  I arrange for smaller cages in a separate room and I use headphones to listen to the t.v. in the house during their sleep time.   Within a week you'll see a very nice change in a well rested bird who is on a schedule.   They LOVE schedules.   

Go here to get help in figuring out HOW to do all these things and see pics.  Plus review your feeding regimen and pick up recipes that you can make for your bird AND yourself.

Let me know what I can help with;  I'll do it

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I just wanted to thank you for getting back to me I just set up and appointment with the vet for his wings to be trimmed. Over the past few weeks he has let me file his nails in few minute intervals so while they are still long they arent causing him any pain. I also took advantage of all the downed trees during sandy and cut a nice sturdy branch with smaller branches I took this and plugged it into a base I made from a hollowed trunk. I made sure there are no bugs mold I cleaned and disinfected it now I am just waiting for it to dry out I made sure its not above eye level too. His cage has plenty of perches but the only one I had outside of his cage is of course connected to the top of it. Its also made in such a way that I could hang toys from it. Right now because of sandy we had to leave my house because of no heat so he is in a pet carrier but I thought that was a lesser evil then letting him go cold he seems entertained though the people I have been staying with have been feeding him fruit singing and whistling to him and we even discovered that he still laughs when other people laugh. He has also started ringing like a telephone when not getting enough attention. When the dogs get too curious he says "no, noooooooo" but it sounds like hes punishing them so its not uncommon to walk up and fine three or four dogs just sitting in front of the cage cocking their heads whenever he speaks. However because keeping the temperature steady has been an issue and may still be for the next week are there any warning signs I should be watching for? I don't want him to get sick...

--  Birds are very adaptable to temps.  The whole 'myth' about getting a chill is really about the sudden change in temp causing the bird stress.  When they're stressed by anything at all, their immune response dips and they are more prone to illness.   THIS is what makes them sick - and it usually requires an ongoing stressor, not a single day of it

--- If you can put together a rice sock it would be fantastic!  Fill a thick, preferably cotton sock with raw rice; knot the end and microwave it 1 1/2 mins to 2 mins.   Shake it up a bit afterward to distribute the heat evenly and tuck it UNDER the cloths or layers in the carrier with him.  Ideally toward the back so he can move away from it if he wants to.   

Drap a cloth over the door, but leave the holes unblocked.   Change every 2 hours or so.  That provides a wonderful heat source, but if he's got enough material and 'stuff' in there with him he'll generate his own.

 Give him ALL the attention he wants.  It's a great way to start your life together - and establish trust.

 Signs to watch for that you don't want to see are not eating, changes in his poops (too little, too hard, too watery, different color, etc) or any bad smells from his mouth that can't be attributed to food.   

Trust your instincts and I'm here for you!  


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Rev. Dr. S.August Abbott


Certified Avian Specialist; Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council member; Own animal rescue org; National Wildlife habitat #66378; bird care, nutrition & behavior consultant; International Assoc. of Animal Behavior Consultants Associate; National Wildlife Federation Leaders Club member; published bird care, info and behavior articles and guides. Ongoing education in exotic bird behavior and nutrition I can answer behavioral, nutritional, environmental, characteristic/personality questions as well as general health and health care. No animal emergency can ever be addressed on the internet. We cannot see your animal, perform an examination, provide necessary care or medication. Please value your companion for the priceless, living creature they are; not for what you might have paid for them.


Certified Avian Specialist. For more than 30 years I've worked with veterinarians, protective facilities, nature centers, preserves and on my own in providing care and education with regard to multiple animal species, including raptors (hawks, kestrals, owls, etc) and marsupials. In recent years I've focused on parrots, usually rescued from abusive or less than ideal situations and helping educate owners as to proper care. Expert in behavior studies and modification of problem behavior.

4AnimalCare is the organization I run as an animal ministry; World Wildlife Association, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, National Wildlife Federation Leaders Club and more

Bird Talk Magazine articles about rescued and problem macaws.

Doctorate, Ordained Minister

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