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By Rita Groszmann and Mark Saunders
Avian Adventures Aviary

A couple can have a very different relationship with the same bird - this only goes to show how varied and multifaceted human/bird connections can be.

His and Her Relationships >>Back to Index

HER Relationship with Santos

Santos is a 4-year-old male severe macaw. We have catered to him since he was a baby. Although he is definitely my husband's bird, he likes me too, as evidenced by his occasional regurgitating attempts toward me when he is in a particularly loving mood. My husband can make him mind with almost no attitude. With me, he has to show attitude and then he minds. For instance, every morning I remove Santos from his sleeping cage to carry him into the kitchen where his feeding station and manzanita tree are. Here a wonderful breakfast awaits him. He gets fed warm Crazy Corn with fresh fruits and veggies in the morning and warm Crazy Corn, warm softened Scenic jungle pellets and Lafeber's Avicakes all mixed together in the evening. He also gets two or three almonds every day in the morning.

Instead of immediately stepping up to be transported, he will methodically and systematically beat up every toy in his cage including slamming his Perma-Play foot toy across the cage bottom. This is accompanied by him screaming "Hi Baby, Hi Baby" at his toys as he continues to pound them into the ground. This can go on for several minutes. I patiently wait, every so often offering my hand for him to step up on. I know that he has finished when he puts his foot out and says "Up Up" to me, and then he steps up calm as can be. I also know when he is not finished and has serious aggressive impulses still pent-up. Then he will lunge at my hand saying "Ouch" as he lunges. If he connects with my hand because I wasn't fast enough he will bite hard and then pull away laughing like a maniac. I always know that he is in a biting mood because he forewarns me with his "Ouch." He does not do this with my husband. In fact, if he is giving me a hard time coming out of the cage and stepping up, my husband can just enter the room and Santos steps up on my hand instantly as though butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. Attitude...

He did not learn to say anything until he was almost 2 years old. His first words were addressed to our two cocker spaniels. They used to be very obedient, friendly, affectionate dogs. They have now become bottom feeders that have selective hearing and live to eat whatever has fallen down from the play stands in the form of bird food. They sit before the tree stand and worship as at an altar, then staring at the floor underneath as though by staring hard and long enough food would magically appear on the floor for them to scarf down. When they come in from the backyard and make their inevitable beeline for the tree stands Santos screams, "Get out! Get out!" at them in a little old lady voice with a British accent. Beats me where he learned to say it that way. Neither one of us has a British accent.

Santos is probably the noisiest bird we have and we breed macaws and cockatoos that are known for noise. I have on occasion had to put him in another room for 10 minutes so I could talk to my husband in the kitchen. Since time outs don't really work for him anyway, I taught him another way to get the attention he wants without being rewarded for screaming to get it. He likes the expression "Yaba-daba-doo" and learned it very quickly. Now, instead of screaming for attention, he will say "Yaba-daba-doo" like Fred Flintstone and will always get our attention whenever he uses it for that purpose. When he forgets and relapses into screaming we ignore it and soon out comes "yaba-daba-doo" instead. Lately he has been working on different versions of "Yaba-daba-doo", adding extra "dabadabas" or "doo, doo's" on the end.

When he is in an affectionate loving mood, he is like a little puppy. He will be on his back in my hand and let me tickle his tummy and under his wings. Play wrestling with my finger makes him chuckle with delight. He is extremely gentle in these moments and I can completely trust him. We start playtime with a game of Yahoo! Where I hold his feet gently but firmly and swing him upside down though the air in an arc, bringing him upright at the top of the arc. As I swing him though the air, I say "Yahoo!" and he lets out a squeal of delight. After several rounds of Yahoo!, he ends up on his back in my hand, against my chest and we play a game of "tickle, tickle" He chuckles and is in absolute birdy heaven, playing these two games. Then it is cuddle time and he goes into an altered state having his neck and face skritched and gently rubbed. By the time I return him to his tree stand, he is a little puddle of green feathers and a more contented bird could not be found.

Santos is a challenging bird to keep as a companion, but his personality and sense of humor outweigh the challenges. His antics and clown-like activities have made me laugh at least once every day. As long as his beak is kept busy and his alert, intelligent little mind is stimulated, he is a joy and a constant source of entertainment.

HIS Relationship with Santos

When I -met Santos 1 saw a cute little bundle of green who could play tricks like "Dead Bird." He feigned being dead on command by lying limp, then springing up to play another game. I wondered - what was so "severe" about this macaw- When he was ready to come home, he was very cuddly and wanted to hang out on my shoulder (nice idea but in hindsight, of course, a mistake). Or he would keep very busy on my arm, preening carefully and obsessively, looking for anything uneven or raised on the surface of my skin (like a mole) that he could cheerfully remove for me. I used to run around the house with him doing chores, running down stairs to do laundry and sweeping up. Santos learned to hang on tight and not fall off my shoulder as I bobbed and weaved my way around. It got to be a game for him that at the same time built trust and developed coordination and deepened the playful part of our relationship. He got to be very good at keeping his balance and 'helping' me open packages or direct the broom properly. As neat as this was in the early stages of our relationship, I learned that Santos could be taken by moods and impulses that could put my ears at risk if he took it into his head to 'munch and crunch'. I soon became careful to keep him away from my shoulders and head as a general principle of safety.

But there lies the odyssey of discovery with Santos. He is a complicated and intelligent fellow, with mercurial mood changes, a vaudeville-type slapstick sense of humor and timing and a variety of

communication styles that are as mysterious as they are entertaining. For example, when he was four months old, I was teaching him to play on the kitchen counter by getting him to go after little wooden or plastic balls or wadded-up paper that I would toss. Suddenly, as he got more excited, he froze, extended his head and neck straight up, moved his head so he was peering at me side-long, froze again, let out a delighted (I thought) shriek, whipped his head around, and stared at me. Then he shrieked again and grabbed a piece of paper in his beak and gave it a monster toss. I didn't understand if this was Basic Severe Macaw language or something just Santos knew. Eventually this became a game of toss with much shifting of rules and strategy. As the years have passed, my wife and I have tried all types of vocalizations with him in a kind of call-and-response rhythm. Some of them are tongue clucking or little 'thrip s', recognition calls or words he particularly likes. One he really likes is a musical trilling where our breath lightly ruffles the little feathers on his throat. He will do his neck extending, head-cocking routine, with me right behind him, trying to imitate his movements closely, matching his whoops or frog-like "bawks" (may look strange, but we're having fun). This ends with him cuddling under my chin for a quiet little skritching session, his head and neck feathers all puffed out, his eyes either fixed in a dreamy unfocused gaze, or softly closed, obviously blissed out.

Now while he can bliss out much the same way with my wife, how we get to that point with him is often very different. Santos must body-slam some toys before he decides to be nice to her. It's like a WWF 'smack-down' with lots of noise and drama. With me, he must act very much the gentleman. This makes it tricky for him when we are both in the room while he's in a smash-mood.

He can extend himself off a perch inches more than you think he can (be careful how close the skirt on your T-stand is to counters or chairs!) or hang quite comfortably by one nail, swinging back and forth on a swing or fluffy toy in a way I'm sure he can't maintain, but always does, His humor and showmanship has a darker side - he has bitten me on the wrist on the way to his sleeping cage without warning, then yelled "Ouch!" before I could, followed by a sniggering laughter trailing off into maniacal chuckling. Then he goes quietly into the cage. With my wife, Santos trades off being cute, or playful and being sneakily aggressive. Maybe it's hormones, the fact he is four, or has pinfeathers during a moult. Perhaps he just draws straws to decide which personality he'll be today. Santos does more physical games, like mock-flying, with my wife. He and I will sometimes do more talking to one another or share toys. Time of day or who's doing the feeding or what our personal mood is are other factors.

'Santos McCaw' I call him, simply because he reminds me of a folk character, a little larger than life. Shy around company, he thinks he's about five times bigger than he actually is around other birds, fearlessly taking possession of food, playgyms, or toys, beaking as an equal with our Blue and Gold companion parrot. He loves baths, but most especially when he can do it in a water cup I am holding for him so he can ecstatically flip and flap water all over himself - and all over me. When he hears my car or my wife's he will start a yell until we come in the door.

When frustrated or just entertaining himself, Santos can be loud. It is very tricky to honor his natural tendency to whoop it up but also provide caring guidance. Occasionally time outs work (not for long), other times the melodramatic 'evil eye' or 'I-mean-it-this-time!' face works, other times diverting his attention works. But there are days he must thrash his toys, give my wife 'attitude', shred paper, and thrusting his head deep into his food cup, 'hold forth'. At these times I must recall with great patience those sweet cuddly moments, memories of making up silly games (then madly taking turns changing the rules) or trying out new sounds to entertain one another.

I realize that Santos is just four and that I am just barely beginning to understand him. That while we have been through a lot together (including some zinc poisoning he barely recovered from - that's another story) we will have many more years of discovery and play, learning and stretching beyond ourselves. I have come to appreciate that living and loving with a severe macaw is all that and more.



When Paco Came Into My Life

By Rita Groszman
Avian Adventures Aviary

When Paco came into my life, everything about my life changed. Although, I knew adjustments would need to be made, little did I know about the depth and profound experiences my journey with Paco would bring to me. Let me start at the beginning. I have wanted a macaw as a companion for over twenty years of my adult life but my circumstances had not been right for the kind of commitment required to properly keep such a bird till recently.

I found Paco at a pet store that specialized in exotics. He was just a bundle of pinfeathers starting to unfurl but you could already see the makings of a striking blue and gold macaw emerging. When he was plopped into my arms by the salesperson, I found myself unable to put him back. He gazed into my eyes with such intense innocence and presence that I was transfixed and drawn in. We bonded in that moment and I knew he would be with me for the rest of my life. I came to visit him regularly and watched him grow. He would stay until he had been fully weaned and knew how to eat on his own. At least that's how it should have been.

A Beak Problem

When he was ten weeks old, I noticed that his upper and lower beaks were not growing properly. His upper mandible was growing towards the right of his lower mandible and they were becoming misaligned. I learned that this was a condition known as scissor beak. It can happen from a bruise to one side of the beak from accidental injury in the nest box or improper handfeeding technique. The beak grows at such a fast rate with a bird Paco's age, that the non-bruised side ends up growing faster than the bruised side and can result in a scissor beak condition ... and so began my journey with Paco. Fortunately, scissor beak can be corrected if attended to while the beak is still growing.

Paco had his first experience with the vet. He was fitted with a prosthetic device that incorporated the use of a rubber band to pull the beak back in the correct direction. The rubber band was attached to a wire that ran through a bony area between his eyes and nose; it was not painful to him particularly, just to me and anyone else who looked at him with this device in place. The idea was that the beak would be pulled back into its proper alignment since it was still growing and he would be fine in 2 or 3 weeks. Paco had other ideas. Perhaps this is when he first began to develop his current, awesome, mechanical abilities. He figured out how to get the rubber band off in 3 days and then it became impossible to keep it on him in subsequent attempts. He had his technique down pat and after the third attempt in which he removed the rubber band in 5 minutes; it was back to the drawing board.

The vet created a prosthetic device made of dental acrylic that would force the upper mandible into place. It was attached to one side of his lower mandible with the same glue used by dentists when crowns are fitted on a person. It came up the side of his beak and was just long enough that he could not bite it off. Finally, the device was working. He would have to wear it for the next month or so. He was also fast approaching being fully weaned and ready to come home.

Welcomed with Open Arms

At five months of age, he came home and he was welcomed with open arms. Paco spent a good deal of time during his day trying to rid himself of his prosthetic device. He would rub it up and down or whack it against the cage bars and generally worry at it like a dog on a bone. The day before he was to have it removed, he finally tore it off. The glue was so powerful it took numerous layers of his lower beak with it and a significant crack began to develop in the middle of his lower mandible. His lower beak was definitely compromised in terms of strength.

The scissor beak had been almost completely corrected; however now Paco's lower mandible was in danger of cracking all the way down to bone. The vet built Paco a new lower mandible using dental acrylic to hold his beak together until the crack could grow out more.

Negative Effects

All of this tampering with Paco's beak finally began to have its negative effects. He had been such a trooper though this whole ordeal. He never tried to bite anyone and continued to trust people, even the vet. This last intervention, however, was more than he could handle in his young life and he forgot how to eat adult food. He could actually shell seeds and crush pellets with his new beak but he would let his food fall to the floor and not swallow. He lost 200 grams and was getting seriously underweight. The vet did not know what to tell me. He thought Paco was manipulating me and I shouldn't give into handfeeding him again. No one could explain to me why a baby macaw that had been eating fine on his own was now not seemingly able to swallow his food. No one gave me any usable advice about what to do for him. I began to handfeed him again so he could keep up his strength. He did, indeed, like being syringe fed and gobbled up his formula with no problem.

I was referred to an avian board certified vet for further intervention. She decided that Paco could be suffering from Beak and Feather disease and that his brain could have been affected. The only real way to find out was to do a crop biopsy in addition to a myriad of other tests to rule out other things. Many hundreds of dollars later, Paco came up with a clean bill of health and I was on my own again trying to figure out how to help him learn to eat again.

Teaching Paco to Eat Again

I continued to syringe feed him twice a day and determined to help him regain his lost swallowing and tongue coordination abilities. Paco was now seven and a half months old. I changed the formula from a baby bird formula to a Zupreem pellet formula. I put the pellets in the blender and reduced them to powder. Then I mixed the powder with water and added peanut butter for flavor. This way I could make sure he was getting proper nutrition. Paco developed an intense love for peanut butter. His weight began to come back up a bit. I decided to put peanut butter on a spoon to teach him better tongue dexterity. He learned how to lick peanut butter off the spoon like a dog over several weeks' time. This meant he was learning how to use his tongue to swallow. Slowly I began to wean him off the syringe and began offering him his pellet/peanut butter formula from a spoon. Twice a day Paco would take his breakfast and dinner from a spoon. He relearned how to eat and use his tongue over several months. He was about one year old the day he picked up an almond and ate it on his own. I knew then that he had overcome his regression. Paco picked up rapidly from that day on and began to eat more and more on his own. I eliminated the morning feeding over a week or so and he maintained and even gained some weight. I then eliminated his evening feeding as well and he continued to thrive.

More Beak Work

He required 2 more beak build-ups with dental acrylic but he never again required handfeeding. The misalignment is now barely noticeable and the crack, although still growing out, is no longer a danger to his beak. What I know now, in retrospect, is that Paco experienced weaning trauma and regressed to a baby state. He required being re-weaned and needed to be handfed so he could developmentally catch up. The interventions to keep his beak developing normally and to prevent further damage occurred at a developmental period when baby macaws are learning to eat and become very adept at manipulating the tiniest morsels of food with their tongues and beaks. He had to be regressed and brought back through this whole cycle in order to progress normally. As a result of learning to lick peanut butter off a spoon, he has developed prehensile-like abilities with his tongue that are truly amazing.

An Affectionate Companion

As a companion he has evolved into a calm, gentle, affectionate bird with a very steady, trusting disposition. He talks up a storm but seems particularly inclined to learn words that are related to food and food choices. He has learned to ask for grapes and nuts ("Paco wants a grape/nut ') which are his most favorite foods. He will also ask me if I want a grape or a nut. When I am eating something he thinks might be good for him too he will rock back and forth, side-to-side saying "want some, want some!" Upon getting the desired food he will let me know he is pleased with: "Mmmmmm, Yum, Quite Good" as he eats with obvious relish.

He has learned to use his beak and tongue with such skill that no toy can be tied with leather to his play gym. He can untie any knot within 5 minutes and the toys fall to the ground. The 'toy' for him has become the challenge of untying the knot. Quick links don't work much better. He can undo a quick link in seconds unless it is tightened down hard with a wrench. Eyehooks on his play gym are also fun to untwist from the wood and have had to be either removed or glued in (carefully, to keep him from getting to the glue).

A Soothing Song

I made up a song for him to help him relax in his kennel carrier on the many car trips to the vet. It has his name in it a lot and he loved to listen to me sing it to him. Now I sing it to him like a lullaby before I put him to bed for the night. His eyes glaze over with contentment and he lays his head gently on my shoulder as he listens to me sing to him. Early in the morning, he can be heard singing his name softly to himself as he starts waking up to a new day. He doesn't scream unless Santos (our severe macaw) starts first. Mostly he tells Santos to "stop it" or says "quiet." My husband and I can no longer have heated discussions in the kitchen anymore. When we do, he always says "Quiet!" to us or, "Stop it!" and flashes his eyes for emphasis. It is quite an experience to be told to be quiet by your own bird!

Security Guard Parrot

I often wonder what goes on in that beautiful head of his. One day, I was outside in the backyard brushing our dog. Paco wanted to join me and began to pull the sliding glass door open to come outside. Our sliding glass door has a broken handle and can only be secured by a board in the runner. I held the door closed and Paco got more and more frustrated. Finally he stepped back, surveyed the situation and with great deliberation took the board and pushed it into the runner. He then turned his back on me and climbed back up to his play gym. I was now quite effectively locked out of my house.

After cursing under my breath for a few minutes wondering how I was going to get to work later that day, I found the kitchen window open. I removed the screen, climbed over both the outside sink and indoor kitchen sink and almost killed myself in the process. As I was climbing back in through the window, I heard Paco start to chuckle from the top of his play gym. Then he started laughing like a person quite obviously delighted at the scene he was now observing and clearly pleased with himself. I wanted to say strongly worded things to him but instead found myself joining in with his laughter and marveling at his abilities to communicate.

Paco is three years old now and continues to bring me constant joy on a daily basis. I never knew I could love another creature so deeply and experience such a profound bond. I could not imagine my life without him in it.



Breeding and Parenting Behavior in A Pair of
Greenwinged Macaws  —or—  Observations of a
Truly Functional Relationship
By Rita Groszmann, Avian Adventures Aviary


A Very Strong Bond

We acquired a breeding pair of domestically raised Green-wing Macaws several years ago, and immediately could see the strong bond that existed between them. In fact, the previous owners told me a story about what happened while trying to transfer them into travel crates that were truly amazing. Both birds are flighted and the male escaped in the transfer and flew off. He did not fly away however. Instead he circled in the air around his still -.captive mate who was in the kennel carrier. They called to each other several times and the male made a decision to stay with her and landed the ground next to her carrier. He then allowed himself to be re-captured and was placed in the carrier with his mate.

When they arrived here at Avian Adventures Aviary, it was clear that they had very different temperaments. The female was easily stressed and screamed when she was anxious. She also chewed on her toenails at these moments. During feeding time, she would lunge from up high making it clear she would take your hand off or at least a finger if you got anywhere near her. We named her "Kali" after the goddess in the Hindu pantheon that personifies tremendous feminine power and force - a divine mother and source of creation who can have a terrifying and demonic aspect

The male was her counterpart. He was easygoing, calm, steady and sweet natured. He also had a sense of humor and seemed to like people. During feeding times he was often heard making big smacking, kissing sounds and then saying "Hello" to Kali and then to whoever was feeding that day in a very polite voice. Eventually, Kali also began to say "Hello" and they would bow to each other, say "Hello," and then turn to me and say "Hello" very cheerfully and politely as though we had just met over coffee somewhere. We named him "Bacchus" after the Greek god of wine and fertility. He was so much a good-time guy. Over the years they have been with us, his steady calmness has been a good influence on Kali. She is much less anxious and her screaming has subsided considerably.

She mostly just brings her foot to her beak and bites her toenails now when she is feeling particularly tense about something The two of them have formed a pair-bond that is truly remarkable.

Male Involvement

All the literature I have read states that during breeding season the male typically feeds the female Macaw and the female feeds the babies. What makes this Greenwinged pair so unusual is the complete involvement of the male with the baby and the subsequent co-parenting that I have been privileged t serve with the use of infrared cameras in the nestbox
This pair goes to nest two to three times a year successfully raises 2 to 3 babies each time until the babies are 4 weeks of age. The babies are removed at 4 weeks of age and hand-fed from that point on. We believe it is important for baby Macaws to experience their first month of life with their own parents. They seem to be better adjusted, calmer and more secure babies. In addition, they are bigger in size and have better immune systems than babies that are incubator raised and hand-fed from day one. When combined with the intensive early socialization the babies receive with us after they leave the nestbox until they are fully weaned, the babies raised this way seem to make an almost seam less, fearless adjustment transitioning into their permanent homes.

We have had a camera system installed in our aviary recently during the non-breeding season, which has brought to light just how exemplary Bacchus and Kali's relationship actually is and how well they function together both practically and psychologically. There are two types of cameras in the aviary. One is a color, wide-angle type that is set up over each flight. The other is a very small infrared camera mounted onto the nestbox. The intra-red camera can convey images in extremely dim light and in the dark so the activities inside the nest box became readily accessible to us for viewing day and night. The cameras were connected up to our TV in our living room. If we wanted to record interesting behavior, we had a VCR set up to do so. The cameras stay on day and night so we are able to view our breeder pairs from our living room without disturbing them, with the push of a button. This has proven to be invaluable during breeding season and when there are babies in the nestbox. What follows are observations of interesting behaviors we have witnessed with this pair using the cameras during the spring breeding season of 2002. In fact, we are currently gathering video footage of this pair for production of a video on the breeding and raising of Green-wing Macaws.

Courtship Behaviors

Kali and Bacchus have extensive courtship behaviors. They typically sit side by side, often head to tail, grooming and preening each other for half an hour at a time. Their preening is very sensual and deliberate.

Bacchus will nibble on Kali's head and down her neck. She will return the favor. Then she will lean her body into his and lift a wing. He will caress her body under her wing and then move down her back to the base of her tail. Her eyes close with bliss. She will nibble under his wing and then up the back of his neck. Then he will gently grab hold of each side of her upper mandible with his beak. She will crouch down, tail up and he will feed her while she flips her wings like a baby chick. After more body caresses, they will mate side by side and their guttural groans, which grow louder and louder building to a crescendo, can be heard quite a distance away. It is so intimate, loving and sexy an exchange that I feel like a complete voyeur watching them on TV.

After mating, they retire to the nest box where they get busy digging and chewing up aspen shavings side by side in preparation for egg laying. This courtship can go on for a couple of weeks before Kali begins to stay in the nestbox for longer periods of time.

Typically, Kali and Bacchus do not sleep in the nestbox at night. One night I saw that both of them were in the nestbox for the night. The next day Kali had laid an egg. Bacchus slept in the nestbox with her at night for the entire time that Kali was laying her 3 eggs, clearly keeping her company. They slept side by side with their heads
touching each other. Once the eggs were laid, Bacchus began sleeping outside the nest box entrance on the perch at night. For the duration of the 28-day incubation time, he remained outside at night while Kali sat her eggs. He was very attentive to her and took his job of feeding her while she was incubating quite seriously.

Seriously Responsible

In the morning, Bacchus would pace anxiously back and forth on his perch until his food had been served. He is fed fresh fruits and vegetables daily, along with unshelled mixed nuts, a high quality, special, Macaw mix, Zupreem pellets and homemade "birdy bread." Birdy bread is his favorite and is loaded up with many nutritious human grade ingredients. Soft vegetables like cooked, peeled sweet potatoes are next on his list and fresh greens like dandelion greens or bok choy follow. Then come mixed nuts or maybe grapes. The Brazil nuts must always be dunked and soaked in water first! When he is feeding Kali or a chick he will also soak his pellets in water to soften them up. When his crop looks like it will burst, he enters the nestbox and feeds Kali who accepts his attention and food eagerly. When he is done feeding her, he will gently nibble the top of her head or neck and they will nuzzle each other. She takes care of her eggs like precious jewels, moving ever so carefully so as not to harm them

Bacchus takes his role of protector quite seriously although only when he must. When Kali is sitting on eggs inside the nest box, Bacchus is very friendly to me, not at all aggressive. The instant Kali sticks her head out the nestbox to see what's going on, Bacchus is transformed into a fierce, red, fire-breathing dragon. With wings spread and eyes pinning, he lunges forward to let me know to stay away. Kali, who is observing this, apparently approves and retreats back to her eggs, feeling safe and adequately protected. What she doesn't see is that the instant she is out of sight and goes back to sitting on her eggs, Bacchus becomes a sweet, friendly, happy-go-lucky kind of guy again. He very clearly puts on a show for her because this happens consistently again and again with them.

When the first egg began to pip, Kali was very restless throughout the night. She just couldn't settle down and shifted her weight constantly, standing up at times to look at her 3 eggs. It was that night that Bacchus began to sleep in the nestbox again for the night. He continued to sleep in the box from that time on until the chick was pulled. He was intensely curious about the hatching egg and would peer intently at the spot where the egg was safely kept warm under Kali's breast feathers. Occasionally he would reassure her by gently grabbing her beak and feeding her.

By mid-morning the next day, the baby Green-wing was hatched. For this particular clutch, the baby was an only child as the other 2 eggs were not fertile. They were removed the day after the one chick hatched. Bacchus was observed eating the hatched eggshell, presumably for calcium content, which he would feed back to Kali. The chick was strong and healthy and began to cheep loudly soon after hatching.

Excellent Parents

Bacchus and Kali are excellent, skilled parents. It wasn't long before Kali fed the baby its first meal some 6 hours after hatching. Carefully and tenderly, she reached for the tiny, soft, little beak and gently using her lower mandible like a bowl, scooped regurgitated food out with her tongue into the baby's mouth. The baby had a strong feeding response and pumped like crazy, until its tiny little crop was the size of a pea. It would also prop itself up with its naked little wings while feeding, using them like hands and arms to keep its balance.

These feedings occurred about every two hours and took place throughout the night as well. Kali was very careful to keep the chick warm at all times and would stuff him underneath her when she was done feeding. The baby went to sleep instantly. What was totally surprising was the intense level of involvement Bacchus had with the baby from day one. He was clearly a doting father and couldn't seem to get enough of touching, licking and feeding his new baby. He was so eager that, at times, Kali would step in by giving him a stern look or a vocal protest so that the baby could sleep and not be disturbed.

After several days, Kali would leave him with the baby to baby-sit while she went to stretch her legs or get a drink of water. It was obvious that he was a bit more clumsy in his feeding style and in how he handled
putting the baby underneath himself. He would waddle himself over the baby and then carefully lower himself onto the chick, taking great care to make sure the baby was OK by checking underneath his breast feathers and nuzzling the baby's body. His feeding style was also less smooth and confident than Kali's but he positively beamed while feeding his baby. When he was finished, he would tenderly nuzzle, lick and gently cuddle the baby against his breast feathers looking so much like a proud, nervous, new father trying so hard to do everything right.

When Kali came back, often with a snack like an almond or a piece of apple, she would immediately check to see where the baby was. Bacchus would get up and she would slide in and take over keeping the baby warm. She would then proceed to eat her snack. As the chick grew older, and could no longer be stuffed underneath, Kali would put him against her side with her wing over him, covering him to keep him warm. Bacchus often could not contain his affection, and would shove his head underneath Kali's wing to visit with the baby. Then he would try to feed it or lick it while Kali obligingly held her wing up for him.

When she thought the baby had been fondled enough and needed to sleep, she would lower her wing over the baby and give Bacchus a stem look. He would immediately back away looking somewhat crushed and disappointed. She would then lower her head and go to sleep. Sometimes Bacchus was unable to leave well enough alone and would try to get back to the baby by nibbling on Kali's neck and down her front until she was very relaxed. Then he would try to get under her wing to nuzzle the baby some more. Usually Kali was very good natured about it all. She would not, however, raise her wing up. If Bacchus continued, she would change the baby's position so that her body was between Bacchus and the baby. This would always drive the point home and he then would either settle down next to her for a family nap or leave the nestbox.

A Shared Experience

Feeding the baby was a shared experience. Both Kali and Bacchus would take turns, alternating feeding the baby. Kali would feed, and then Bacchus would feed until the baby's crop was huge. Once the baby's eyes opened and he could see would reach for both his parents, begging for food. They showed the ut most care in making sure the little chick was not harmed by this back and forth sharing of caretaking. When they were done feeding the baby together, Bacchus would often feed Kali and they would settle down for a family nap. What was particularly sweet to watch was when the baby was tucked under Kali's wing with his head peeking out while Kali and Bacchus took turns feeding him. The tenderness was palpable.

As the young chick grew from a few days old to two and three weeks of age, the way in which his parents fed him changed. As a one-week or younger baby, there was a great deal of tongue action controlling the flow of food into the young chick's mouth. At two and one half weeks of age or so, the baby's eyes opened and the feeding response

became very strong, almost violent, accompanied by wild flapping of naked wings. Both Bacchus and Kali held on to heir baby's upper mandible like they were riding a bucking bronco. The baby would also squawk loudly as he was being fed. Sometimes the feeding response was so intense that it would take Kali and Bacchus a step back or two. Always after feeding was completed, Kali and Bacchus would spend time nuzzling and licking the baby's head, beak and body, sometimes pulling his naked little wings out to lick them as well. Then Kali would cover him with her wing, bring him close to her side and he would sleep. I never saw this baby with an empty crop. It was always either somewhat full to bursting.

The chick began growing pinfeathers between three and four weeks of age. Bacchus and Kali would spend all afternoon nuzzling and nibbling on the new little pinfeather sheaths to help them unfurl. Kali took one side of the baby and Bacchus took the other and they worked on their baby ever so gently until the baby would doze off and crumble into a little heap. Kali would then keep him warm next to her while he slept.

Ready for Human Socialization

At four weeks of age, the chick was removed for handfeeding and human socializing. To create the smoothest transition, the baby was removed in the evening with a full crop. Kali and Bacchus spent that night sleeping together and nuzzling one another in the nestbox. They both slept together side by side on the perch outside the nestbox thereafter. The next day Kali took a bath and spent a good amount of time sunning herself. She and Bacchus spent about two hours playing with a block of wood on the cage floor in the afternoon. They seemed to take the baby's removal in stride without a great deal of anxiety.

An Important Link

The baby was very calm and almost immediately took the syringe and leaned into us to go to sleep. It was clear that he was a very trusting, serene little baby already. My detailed observations of the relationship between Kali and Bacchus leads me to believe there is a link between the quality of parenting provided by this bonded pair, the ease and functionality of their relationship with each other and the check's adaptability and smooth adjustment to handfeeding and removal from the nestbox. The chick did not startle or growl even once. He enjoyed and responded positively and immediately to being touched. In addition, the baby engaged with people quickly via eye contact, touch and voice tone even though he had not been handled at all during the four weeks his parents raised him in the nestbox. Clearly, the quality of stimulation this baby received from his parents in his first four weeks of life could never be duplicated in a brooder. It is also possible that this kind of parenting could have a profound impact on the chick's temperament and security later in life as a companion bird. What is certain is that the tremendous amount of loving care given to him by his parents in the first four weeks of life laid a solid foundation for an incredible start in his young life.

 
 
 
 
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