If Aladdin had been a Parrot keeper, his cave could have been at Kempton Park on June 21 at the Think Parrots Show. Now in its fourth year, it is becoming an institution. Was it the June sunshine or the presence of pet birds on their owners’ shoulders, or in spacious flights and cages that brought smiles to the visitors’ faces?
Think Parrots performs several functions and does them all well. There were 35 stands this year.
Fifteen of these were selling food, cages and accessories, in fact everything you need for your bird and many you maybe do not need but would like to have. (For the last four years, I have coveted Rosemead aviaries to replace my ramshackle homemade structures – one day perhaps…)
When I went to say Hi to Mike Taylor from Northern Parrots who sponsors the show, I could not resist some of the bargains on the sale table and a tub of NutriBerries (more of them later). I resisted the mixed toy bag, which was rather good value for £30 though I noticed other Parrot carers were succumbing.
Now that so many of us for convenience buy on the internet, there is something pleasantly old-fashioned about being able to discuss choice with friendly merchants face to face.
There were a few innovations this year such as a couple of auctions of Parrot paraphernalia with the proceeds going to charity.
Several bird rescues and sanctuaries had stands and I hope they garnered support and interest.
The Cockatoo Sanctuary does not offer to rehome the birds entrusted to them but have a scheme for adopting one of their charges. Alison Hales from Paradise Park, where the World Parrot Trust began, told me with real delight that the captive breeding of the endangered chough has produced 11 chicks this year.
One of the most compelling questions each bird owner asks herself is what we feed our bird on. At Think Parrots both seed-based diets and pellet diets were on offer.
The first master class was given by Neil Forbes on nutrition: Are you feeding your Parrots’ correct diets? Forbes, a principal of Great Western Exotic Vets in Swindon, advocates the pellet diet.
He explained this in a fascinating, one hour long presentation in which he showed x-rays of the damage to Parrots’ organs by incorrect diet. Neil Forbes states that this is ‘best avoided in psittacines by feeding quality pelleted diet or increased natural foods.’
This insistence on the pelleted diet was corroborated by the next speaker of the day, the jovial Mark Hagen.
His family firm in Canada has been breeding pet Parrots and selling their own formulated diets since the 1950s. Mark Hagen takes it for granted that the pelleted diet is superior and the rest of his presentation was showing the audience how in his facility, young Parrots are prepared for a companion pet life.
I saw how the young Parrots were raised with enlightened enrichment. If only all breeders followed these sensible precepts.
Should we all switch to a pelleted diet? Chatting to with Rob Harvey who sells all the seed makers’ brands, he’s not convinced. ‘Would you like to eat nothing but pellets?’ he asked me.
If you are bewildered with the choice and the variety of pelleted diets, there is a compromise.
Lafaber NutriBerries contain all the nutrition of pellets with the benefit of foraging because the seeds are not ground up but stuck to the pellet. They combine seeds coated with the necessary vitamins.
My birds adore them. They have one major drawback; they are among the costliest foodstuffs available. So we use them as treats and not the main component of the diet.
The third master class speaker was Mike Simmons from a World of Wings. Mike is rapidly becoming one of the most popular trainers in UK with his shows. Last year he won a prestigious IAATE (International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators) award for best training ideas.
He showed us the video of how he taught his eagle Georgie to fly behind a small pickup truck with a treat mounted on the roof. This method of training an eagle to follow without resorting to heavy weight loss management is a splendid idea and Mike certainly deserved the award.
He apologised for not bringing the eagle to the show as a precaution, because although she is not a hunting eagle she might have considered the Parrots on visitors shoulders a welcoming snack.
Mike trains entirely using positive reinforcement methods. And he gives a hands-on demonstration of how it works. ‘Who likes chocolate?’ he asked. From the sea of hands, he picked a small boy.
The behaviour he wanted was for the child to walk to a chair and sit there. He put the chocolates on a table next to the chair and asked the boy to sit on the chair and help himself.
Happily, the small boy did as he was asked. ‘Isn’t that the way to get your bird back into its cage?’ Mike reminded us. ‘Find the reward the bird wants and put it there.’
Michael Simmons’ own birds are a perfect advertisement for that. He only had time to show us two of them. His Amazon perched and waved and said hello, then offered a few extra turn around and waves and said Hello to us for the treats in Mike’s bag.
Then Mike brought out a Patagonian Conure. Mike hid amongst the audience. The Conure flew unerringly to find him. Mike recommended Conures as pets due to their smaller size and extreme affection for their carers.
I asked one of Chris Hall’s vets if they’d seen any new developments in Parrot owning. He said that there was a trend to buy the smaller Parrots who are easier to keep in apartments.
Oliver Fry had brought his well socialised Greys along and they were on display in a fine indoor flight. Oliver was happy to field questions on Greys’ behaviour.
Jennifer Jones brought a splendid display of Cockatiels, both normals and mutations.
Erich Schroter showed visitors his two young Hyacinth Macaws. The pair appeared at ease in a large indoor flight. He will use them to visit schools and educate children about conservation.
Chatting to experts and knowledgeable people is one of the greatest benefits that visitors receive at Think Parrots. The experts in different fields are ready to discuss feeding, behaviour or housing.
A world authority like Rosemary Low comes half way across the country to share her knowledge with Parrot owners. She has revised and updated one of her most useful books Why Does My Parrot….?which gives sensible answers to actual questions from Parrot owners. I was lucky and bought the last but one copy on sale.
Think Parrots runs from 10am to 5pm. So I thought that I‘d have ample time to chat to old friends and possibly make new ones. In fact the time flew so fast that I didn’t say hello to people I knew across the hall.
The show was well attended. But I hope that next time more of the Parrot clubs could hire a coach and attend. Think Parrots has a unique atmosphere among UK bird shows. The scope and number of participants are much larger than a club evening.
Although selling and buying form a major part of the occasion, there is also an element of like-minded people meeting, transmitting and receiving information about how to keep a captive Parrot healthy and happy.
No one had brought Macaws to display so I was delighted to meet Ms Page. She had Mr. Mango, an eleven month old Blue and Gold Macaw on her shoulder and what a credit to her he was.
The show is attracting visitors from far away. I met someone from Germany and someone from South Wales. The master classes were held in a suite on the first floor. The whole venue is elegant. I wonder if, next time, the organisers might run a Parrots Question Time on the lines of Gardeners Question Time?