Northern Parrots sponsored and Parrot Magazine organized the fifth Think Parrots show, held for the third time at Kempton Park on June 19th 2016. What a cracking good day out for Parrot enthusiasts! What a friendly atmosphere!
Some of us come just for the shopping and leave at lunch time with new cages and Parrot paraphernalia. Others interested more in the seminars, three hour- long presentations by experts, remain all day, yet others enjoy the social side, meeting likeminded people and no one minding Parrot poo.
Plenty of Parrots were in attendance. Do Parrots enjoy a day out in harness? Opinions are divided. Obviously, I think they do because I’ve taken Artha and Casper, my African Greys along for several years. This year only Artha came. She was affability itself and happily stepped up for strangers.
Some people had Parrots in carriers so that they can see out but must feel protected; most people had the birds in aviator harnesses. I saw one clipped Macaw on his owner’s shoulders. A young couple living in London brought a pair of harnessed Eclectus of one year old. They don’t want chicks but intend to let the Eclectus have a nest box and lay eggs which they will change for dummy ones, so allowing them to use their natural instincts.
Parrot Magazine organized the event, as they have done for the last five years. John Catchpole, owner and editor, told me that they start at Christmas organizing the next show. He doesn’t do it to enhance circulation, since most of the people who come are already subscribers.
John says that it’s not just the seminars that keep the public’s interest, it’s the trade stands with the UK’s leading suppliers showing current stuff and innovations.
One of the best spin offs from Think Parrots is that various experts are on hand and available to answer questions. For example, two of UK’s leading avian vet clinics were present. Neil Forbes of Great Western Exotic vets in Swindon, and Chris Hall from London, had sent along two young vets to field enquiries.
Neil Forbes, who’s been coming since the first show, loves it because the people who come are such committed Parrot owners, concerned about welfare. Although, he offers a challenge. ‘The people we need to educate are the people who aren’t here. How do we get through to those people?’
Alan Jones, avian writer and retired vet, concurs with this view. How do committed conscientious owners encourage the less committed? However, on a positive note, Alan points out that the Parrot world has got smaller, since the 2007 ban on importing wild caught birds. Also there are far fewer breeders but there is better understanding of what Parrots need.
The bird displays were stunning; Cockatiels, Budgerigars, Amazons, Parrotlets, one lone Hyacinth. Rosemead aviaries provide the flights and their products are certainly on my wish list.
Eric Peake, the avian artist was delighted by the exhibit from the Budgerigar Society - a flight full of the most exquisite birds. He’s kept and bred Budgerigars for 50 years. The display on the stand was of the highest quality imaginable of pet Budgies.
Stefano Salles brought along some pairs of Parrotlets. He breeds around 30 a year. All are eagerly bought by bird lovers who desire a bird with the attributes of a Parrot but small enough size to fit in with our flats and smaller houses.
Stefano’s birds are usually hand tame by the time the new owners acquire them. They are ravishingly beautiful in their couples in the flight embellished with bamboo. Stefano writes: ‘nature has provided the perfect pocket-sized Parrot, a Parrotlet! These miniscule Parrots have all the charm of their larger Amazon cousins and an intellect that will captivate and enthral you…’
As usual with Think Parrots, the three speakers Alan Jones, Rosemary Low and David Woolcock were internationally well known.
Alan Jones gave the first well-attended seminar by describing common ailments and what the careful owner can do to ensure good health. He advised us to choose our bird wisely, to suit lifestyle, environment and budget. He said get to know your Parrot so that you can recognise subtle changes in behaviour that may suggest the bird is unwell. There are very many possible illnesses, with just a few clinical signs.
Register with an experienced avian vet! Only such a person is able properly to identify the problem and specifically treat it, and time is of the essence. It is no good trying out this and that suggested by friends and neighbours, or joining the latest internet forum!
Speaking to members of the audience afterwards they told me how useful it had been for them. One commented sadly that she wished she had gone to an avian vet after her bird died from an incorrectly inserted microchip.
Rosemary Low illustrated her talk on wild and garden foodstuffs with pictures of her own Conures eating produce she had either garnered from verges, hedgerows, fields near her village home or grown herself in tubs and pots. Rosemary showed slides of so many common UK plants that we can gather and feed like sow thistle, dock, dandelion and many others.
She advocated hawthorn and cotoneaster branches when they are available. She did not mention willow, which is one of the most popular items I use for my flock.
On the question of whether wild food can be contaminated by chemicals or wild birds, in the years she has given it she has never had any problems. She showed grapefruit extract of which a drop which will ensure no fungal spores remain.
She emphasised that adding these fresh foods to the captive birds diet, imitates what wild birds forage for themselves. Birds love to eat berries and flowers, dandelions, chickweed and green plants.
Attending Rosemary’s presentation strengthened my resolve once again to grow easily cultivated plants like oats, wheatgrass for the birds. So did the ladies sitting next to me
Eating wild stuff and foraging for it is not only beneficial for the bird’s health but also for their enrichment.
David Woolcock, curator at Paradise Park, aided by Louise from the World Parrot Trust, underlined Rosemary’s message when he spoke of enriching captive bird’s environment. He showed slides how enrichment items can be used for foraging like fir cones stuffed with seeds, cardboard boxes, bunches of twigs and similar items.
David wants to improve the captive environment. There is a two-pronged emphasis; the first is to create an environment that mirrors where possible life in the wild and the second is to enrich with training using positive reinforcement methods. David considers that if we enrich the environment well the bird is better able to cope with challenges in a more normal way.
David advised the provision of as large a space as possible. He pointed out that the cage needs some shelter from light and human presence. He showed us a picture of the forest canopy where most birds live. A simple visual protection for a bird could be as easy as weaving palm fronds through part of the cage bars so that the bird has somewhere to go out of sight when she wishes.
David is also trustee of the World Parrot Trust. As every year, they had a popular, busy stand at Think Parrots. If you had to support one organisation for the welfare of Parrots - choose them. But on the other hand, the Parrot Society UK was there, too, and they do so much for all of us. So maybe join both organisations.
And what about Birdline, the sterling rescue organisation or the Indonesian Parrot Trust. The list is long. One way to support these organisations is to purchase books and articles you need from them at shows like Think Parrots.
John Hayward, who heads the Parrot Theft Register, had some positive news that fewer thefts have been reported in the last 12 months than in the previous 20 years since the register was established.
The reasons are that owners are becoming more aware of the dangers, security systems are becoming readily available. However, he warns against cold callers and any dealings on the Internet.
I am sorry that space precludes the mention of everyone that was there but come yourself next year.
When you drive away from the show, many cars are packed full of exciting, new Parrot items. I was modest and only came away with an Eric Peake painting of a Sun Conure.