What’s the secret ingredient of the continued success of this event now in its 6th year? Not the amount of Parrot products sold and for non-commercial exhibitors showing exquisite Cockatiels or magnificent Macaws there must be something else.
I believe that what binds these disparate elements together is a shared affection and fascination for Parrots in every shape and size.
This is the best day out imaginable for people who love Parrots, who admire them in the wild but especially like to keep them in their homes and aviaries. There cannot be many venues where you can see a pair of Sun Conures walking around a lecture hall floor, watch 3 free flying Patagonian Conures return to Mike Simmons or chat with a young man with a Military Macaw on his shoulder.
This was my 5th attendance out of six Think Parrot Shows and I was particularly interested in finding out what brings other Parrot owners here annually.
Talking to participants - praise was universal among everyone with whom I spoke. No one had any complaints. (Maybe dissatisfied folk left early so I never got a chance to meet them.) Since plenty of people bring birds (numbers are increasing each year) on harnesses or in backpacks, they provide opportunity for socialising. Buy your harness or travel cage here.
When asked what they liked best, the general consensus was the opportunity for them to learn, either from lectures or speaking to the experts who were available, vets, trainers, breeders, bird charities, bird organisations and so on. They bought plenty of Parrot products because the array is so tempting and everyone likes a special offer.
I met one lady with a pretty Conure. “Is it a Pineapple Conure?’ I asked. She said she didn’t know but she’d soon find out because Rosemary Low was in the hall. I didn’t meet her again but I am sure Rosemary would have told her. As one of the UK’s leading Parrot experts on breeding husbandry and conservation, she’s always willing to share her knowledge when you meet her.
Her next book will be about conservation. I cannot wait to read it. Rosemary remarked in sombre voice that she regrets that most Parrot owners don’t support conservation as much as she would like them to.
She also thinks that young people are less keen to become involved with Parrots. She says that gardens are small., living expenses are high and young people take 2 or 3 holidays so keeping birds becomes a problem. I hope this pessimistic view won’t prevail.
When I spoke to participants I met plenty of young families. Typical was the Binder family - Mum and Dad with son and daughter. This was their first visit and they were eager to repeat it next year certainly come again. Tinkerbelle, the 2-year-old Grey, was left at home. Might she come next year? Who knows?
Zoe Gates’s Cookie, is a 24 year- old Umbrella Cockatoo. She showed me a picture of a large and lovely bird. But he is too shy to come out she said. David Woolcock’s classes in Cornwall have helped her
‘I used to share meals with him until he started not only eating from the plate but carrying it away with him. I have to adapt to him,’ she smiled. She showed me snaps of her large atteactive Cockatoo.
The Macaws and their owners that I came across in the halls and walking around the spacious lawns, harnessed on their owners’ shoulders were invariably alert and interested (the Macaws I mean.)
I could not help being drawn to speak to participants with birds on their shoulders.
One impressive young man was Lockherz Knight, actor and director. His 5-year-old Umbrella Teddy, normally appears in shows and on film shows unclipped and unharnessed. You can find him on YouTube here, it's worth watching for a giggle as Teddy unlocks his cage and lets himself out.
Another handsome bird was a Military Macaw. Five years- old Teddy has a companion Millie,. Both perched together at on Ardy, his owner’s shoulders. Terry and Millie are valued family members. They’re not the family’s first Parrots. At home in Iran, Ardy’s father bred Parrots. Ardy told me how valuable meetings like Think Parrots were, so that he could discuss problems and meet like-minded people. Ardy would like to free fly eventually but considers his environment not suitable.
The Brider family enjoying their first visit have a Grey Tinkerbelle at home. She is their first Parrot too. So, they found Dr Matthew Fiddes masterclass extremely valuable for their understanding. They’ll certainly attend next year.
I had a chat with Matt Gross attending with his Mum and Archie, a magnificent Green-wing. We both agreed that Parrots should not be taken from the wild but once they are captive bred we have to remember that they are at heart still wild creatures and respect and treat them accordingly.
The commercial stands
Matt and Kayley are a young couple who have the franchise of selling hoodies for Parrots. They both had their own Parrots on their shoulders. Hayley’s young Grey was quiet and clearly a little tired but Matt’s Amazon wearing a smart hoody with the Think Parrots logo emblazoned on his chest was fully socialised to people.
He stepped up for me and listened to my sweet talk, although he must have heard it all before. The young couple started buying the hoodies for their own birds because the wind was too strong on the beach where they live. Now they have a franchise from Maggie who has the HQ of the firm in Scotland
In a future blog, I hope to write about seeds and pellets and the various arguments in favour of the one or the other. At this year’s show, the choice was overwhelming. Play safe and get some of each.
Versele - Laga had introduced a new product and major supplier of pellets Hagen Tropican and Harrison's were there. Two newcomers were Johnston and Jeff and Marriages. Both these family firms boast several generations of the family.
Sam Marriage of Marriages proudly informed me that he is the 6th generation to work in the family firm. He kindly pressed samples of his new products on me to try with my birds. I have to say they were so delicious that it was tempting to try them myself.
The distance between pellets and seed mixtures appears to me to be narrowing with suppliers offering both foodstuffs and some mixtures containing both.
All this is available from Northern Parrots who sponsor the event. They presented the largest stand – a cornucopia of delights. I was tempted by a table laden with coiled sisal ropes since I advocate ropes as one of the best enrichments for Parrots.
John Catchpole Founder/ Editor of Parrot’s Magazine is the principal organiser of Think Parrots. He was elated at the success of the 6th event. For him the mix of commercial stands veterinary, associated activities like eco - tourism or genetic testing and the presence of several avian charities comprise a winning formula.
In profit terms, the show yields the magazine some new subscriptions or renewals of existing ones and a sale of past issues and DVDS. He feels strongly that owners are becoming aware of the benefits of enrichment. He remarked with evident pleasure that more a more attendees were bringing their birds along.
He told me, ‘Over the 30- odd years I have been involved with Parrots, I have witnessed the changes – wild-caught to hand-reared and now to parent-reared, but with companion Parrot owners there is definitely much more interest in reaching out to learn more about what makes Parrots tick and how to reinforce our relationships with them.
This, of course, is very encouraging and in conjunction with the many conservation efforts now around the world, I am hoping we are looking down a much brighter path.
Other interesting things to discover
Charites and societies are represented at Think Parrots. On the Parrot Society stand, Secretary Les Rance and David Dickinson, a council member, sold a good selection of new and second-hand Parrot books, (including my own pamphlets for beginners on Amazons and Greys.)
I asked David what was the benefit for the society of this yearly presence. ‘It makes for good public relations,’ David said. ‘Telling people about us.’ Les joined in and told me that a woman had just joined who wished that she’d known of the society years ago because the free advice given between 10 am and 3 pm on weekdays would have helped her enormously.
The Mason-Browns drive up from Suffolk to represent the Indonesian Parrot Project. They also run a rescue sanctuary for Cockatoos and brought two of their birds to the show. They will advise anyone NOT to get a Cockatoo until they are aware of all the responsibilities entailed in trying to keep a bird of that intelligence happy in a caged environment. Find lots of Cockatoo products here.
Masterclasses and Mini Classes
Mini classes, popular last year, were increased in number this year. A smaller audience about 20-40 participants could ask the trainer questions and hear his or her views on training.
The masterclasses maintained the high standard of previous events being given by speakers who are acknowledged experts in their field.
The first speaker was Dr Matthew Fiddes - head vet at C J Hall Clinic in South East London. Matthew covered extensive ground in 60 minutes with great clarity and good photographs. If we were experienced carers our knowledge was refreshed and renewed, if newcomers to the hobby we were given valuable information.
Tony Pittman's knowledge about Blue Macaws in the wild and in captivity is unrivalled. His website at www.bluemacaws.org is fascinating for explaining the history and present status of the three Anodorhynchus species and Spix’s Macaw. He has been involved with this magnificent but somewhat tragic species for many decades.
He kept a large audience enthralled. With the historical backgrounds of the three Anodorhynchus Macaws – Hyacinthine, Lear’s and Glaucous – their life and status in the wild and conservation measures taken and being taken. He described in depth his research and expeditions to search for the Glaucous Macaw in the 1990s. He believes it to be extinct but keeps a tiny hope that some may be alive in captivity in great secrecy somewhere. The species has been designated “Possibly extinct” by Birdlife International and the IUCN.
He told us of the dedicated work of Neiva Guedes in the Pantanal in central Brazil. She and her team set up nest boxes for the Macaws and continue to monitor the results. She also spent considerable effort in educating the local people and enlisting their support for her work in protecting the Hyacinthine Macaws in the wild. Other Parrots and bird species such as raptors, ducks, vultures and toucans also benefit from this. She has received international awards for this important work.
Although the Glaucous is probably extinct and the Spix no longer in the wild, Pittman had somewhat encouraging news of the Lears. Down to 200 in the wild 20 years ago, there are now estimates of 1200. For captive bred Lears the studbook in 2016 listed 152.
They normally feed off the nuts of the licuri palm, but because local farmers had depleted the trees and allowed their goats to feed on saplings, the Macaws had taken to foraging in the maize plantations of the farmers causing considerable crop damage. The farmers shot them; numbers plummeted. However, a project was set up in 2005 to compensate the farmers with vouchers to replace the corn crop damaged by the Macaws.
A small team travels around the area and estimates the damage. To the end of 2015 some 325 tons of corn has been issued to the local farmers. This project is supported by a number of organisations including the Parrot Society UK.
Greg Glendell, one of UK’s most noted behaviourists, gave the final well-attended talk. Greg concentrated on the need for a careful objective approach regarding behaviour and training. He, like David Woolcock uses the principles of learning theory. Greg is (and has always been) against any wing-clipping, as safe daily flight is vital exercise for a healthy bird. Greg also emphasised the need to keep your bird’s beak and brain busy to avoid boredom.
He encourages the use of foraging toys, both commercially available ones and ‘home made’ types made from paper, cardboard, wood or pine cones etc. Find lots of foraging toys here. His books are essential reading for the novice trainer.
I met Barrett Watson coming out of Greg’s talk. Barrett has been one of the UK’s most successful breeder of the large species for over 30 years. ‘What were you doing in a lecture on training?’ I asked.
Barret grinned. ‘A Parrot owner has always something new to learn.’
I nodded - that sums up the experience of Think Parrots for me.
For details of other shows and events please click here.
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