What is it about Think Parrots, the annual Parrot show sponsored by Northern Parrots and organised by Parrot Magazine? How do the organisers organise a sunny day in UK several years in a row?
The setting is idyllic, green lawns, a spacious convention hall with plenty of space and above all an atmosphere of enjoyment. The show runs from 10am to after 4pm.
What is unusual about this show is the visitor gets a chance to meet experts in the various fields of husbandry, veterinary, bird training nutrition, cages, genetic testing and can ask questions and be answered with smiling good humour. Interspersed with e commercial stands selling food, toys, equipment (to buy on the day, others to put on the wish list) are scattered various sanctuaries, charities as well as avian organisations.
There was an amazing difference from last year – that was the presence of so many pet Parrots. You could not browse at a stall without almost bumping into a Macaw’s tail feathers. I have not got space to mention every Parrot whose carer I met but here is a representative sample.
Alan Jones, a retired vet still active in bird circles, was offering microchipping at the friendly price of £15. Accompanying Alan was his wife Maria and on her shoulder sat Lucien, the most magnificent Moluccan Cockatoo who is 57 years old.
His cheek feathers framing his beak attested to his relaxed enjoyment. I guess the admiration he caused pleased him
Last year I only spotted a couple of Macaws. This year there must have been well over 20 Scarlets, Green-wings and Blue and Golds. It was a novel and stunning experience for everyone. One of the Blue and Golds left his owners shoulder and did a tour. She recalled him and all went on as before
What was interesting to observe was that when these well-socialised Macaws were closer to another Macaw they appeared to greet it. I also saw several smaller birds, such as an exquisite delicate white cock Cockatiel who was 14 years old.
A Conure went unharnessed (you can buy harnesses here) on the owner’s shoulder. Barrett Watson exhibited some of his Macaws. They were socialised enough so that visitors could meet and greet them. I imagine many visitors will have gone home of Sunday evening night thinking of the friendly Hyacinth Macaw that they met through Barrett. I know that I did.
A visual delight were Tony and his partner Tina. Their hobby is dressing as realistic pirate and mate with a Scarlet Macaw on each shoulder. They take their Macaws round the country to exhibitions and shows. Their Macaws are called Ince (4) and Zeus (3) and have the run of the house. They don't free fly but they fly outside on the washing line.
Visitors that I spoke with told me that seeing such an array of Parrot paraphernalia under one roof like a giant emporium was a prime reason for attending. One visitor laughed, ‘I enjoy collecting so many free samples.’ But we agreed there was a useful spin off to that.
Last year the World Parrot Trust gave me a sample sachet of wheat grass. It turned out so easy to grow and popular with all my birds, that MIT’s snow become a staple of their diet.
The pellet versus seed controversy is still ongoing; pellets maybe slightly in the lead because they provide nutrients difficult to obtain in a predominantly seed diet.
One of the newcomers to the show was K&S Natural Company who were promoting healthy alternative Parrot nutrition which was amply explained in their new book just out Parrots’ Fine Cuisine Cookbook and Nutritional Guide. I’m looking forward to exploring this.
Three Masterclasses are a feature of Think Parrots and pretty good value if you consider the three presentations always given by experts in their particular fields are all included in the entrance fee.
Malcolm Green kicked off at 11am. He talked the audience through the tragedy of early illness and death in many Parrots caused by the same obesity related illnesses that we humans suffer.
He explained the pros and cons of a number of nutritional ways to prevent obesity in our birds; his preference is for using limiting amino acids incorporated into more comprehensive supplements to achieve this.
Recent research of The Birdcare Company and its sister business EquiFeast in the UK and Australia has been improving our understanding of how chelated calcium supplements like Calcivet actually worked. Buy thr Birdcare Company products, including Calcivet, here.
The good news is that, despite a substantial change in understanding HOW products WORK, The WAY we use them hasn’t changed. What has changed - we now know there are far more benefits to be gained from “chelated calcium” than we had realised.
I’m eager to try Calcivet in powdered form to be spread on food rather than in liquid form for adding to water.
I asked Malcolm for some tips in reducing my Casper Grey's occasional plucking and he said ‘ensure he is getting enough chelated calcium. Simply increase the frequency you use it, if symptoms return. If you have a major problem Potent Brew will probably also help but beware – it can make pet birds a little randy.’
At lunch time Steve Brookes filled the masterclass hall. He’s been organizing trips for bird loving eco tourists to visit Parrots in the wild for many years. I’ve never spoken to anyone who hasn’t been thrilled with seeing Parrots in the wild.
He presented slides, videos and information on how these adventures are planned and are carried out. If you cannot go on one (they aren’t budget holidays) you can at least enjoy the photographs in his recently published book of photographs.
Rosemary Low gave the day’s final Masterclass about how wild Parrots’ behaviour is reflected in that of captive birds, only a generation or so removed from their wild cousins. She explained how understanding the former makes care for the latter easier.
She pointed out a lamentable situation of misunderstanding when visitors were laughing at a Cockatoo weaving and bobbing in a zoo flight. The poor bird wasn’t dancing but exhibiting stereotypical behaviour (repetitive actions) through boredom and frustration. Rosemary gave sterling advice on how a prospective Parrot owner should research individual differences between species before choosing which Parrot will be most content in your environment
By stressing the importance of flight, she encourages those of us with restricted space to consider smaller species (Cockatiels, Budgerigars or Parrotlets) who give such delight when flying in our homes.
If like me you are a regular attendee at Think Parrots, one of the advantages is catching up with old friends and acquaintances as well as making new contacts.
Mike Simmons from World of Wings is now in his 30s; we’ve known each other since he was a teenager. I wanted news of Georgie his bald eagle. Although she has no mate, 8-year-old Georgie has, with Mike’s help, constructed a nest and laid an egg.
Mike’s plan is for her to brood and hatch an egg from threatened species of eagle, the Steller’s eagle which he will procure from a specialist centre. He believes if she hatches and parent rears a chick, this will make captive breeding of threatened species easier, since an adult bird hand reared by humans doesn’t always breed easily.
Mike’s free fly display wasn’t ruined for me by the microphone malfunctioning. I could watch his three Patagonian Conures describe sweeping circles over the lawns.
Greg Glendell, the respected behaviour consultant, was on hand to answer questions and sell his books on Parrot training. He has a profound understanding of Grey Parrot behaviour.
This year he was joined by the APBC (Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors). I spoke with Elaine Henley from Glasgow. She has a PHD in Companion Animal Behaviour from Southampton and has been helping pet owners and pet Parrots for the last 20 years.
She says rather sadly that often Parrots come to her when it is too late to help. Carers should seek help for problems earlier rather than later. Elaine had a tempting offer. In May next year she is facilitating a trip to see Grey Parrots in the wild.
The information is on the website www.shadesofgreyparrots.com . Elaine says that encouraging people to see Parrots in the wild helps convince them to support conservation projects.
Kris Bailey, a long-term volunteer with Birdline UK, suggests a prospective Parrot owner should consider a rehomed or rescue bird. Her husband, the well-known actor Bill Bailey, seconds her opinion. The Baileys are proud of their Cockatoo who spent the show day on Bill’s shoulder.
Birdline has been established over 30 years and provides expert help if acquiring a rescue Parrot is your aim. Read more about Birdline here.
Ann-Delphine Mason-Brown, who with her husband Michael, helped by their ecologist daughter Imogen, cares for 16 Cockatoos and some other birds. Some of the birds that come to the Mason-Browns have had terrible experiences. But there they heal.
The Mason-Browns have started their own charity, the Parrot Welfare Foundation (PWF) to care for abandoned, rescue and rehomed birds but they also support the estimable Indonesian Parrot project. As well as giving friendly advice and information at their stand as do all the other charities, they sell various Parrot accoutrements.
In their case, excellent homemade wooden perches. See more perches here.
Another newcomer to the show was the RSPCA whose officers looked immensely smart in their white shirt with epaulettes on the shoulder. Last year, they answered over seven thousand calls regarding pet birds. One thousand birds were removed because of neglect or ill treatment.
A sobering note was struck by Chris Smith, President of the National Council for Aviculture (NCA) an umbrella organisation for the Budgerigar, Canary and Foreign Birds Association. He says that the hobby is shrinking because people no longer have the time to spend caring for birds.
It’s true that many bird clubs have folded because of lack of sufficient interest from members. That’s why supporting shows like Think Parrots is so important.
Les Rance, Secretary of the Parrot Society claims that the society is doing well with subscriptions rising. He says proudly that price of subs has not risen for 8 years. Yes, it is good value.
Photo credit: SunSun the Conure
He advocates enthusiasts attending the Parrot Society shows in Stafford. It’s a long journey for those of us living in the south but if you do attend, you won’t regret it.
So, I hope to see you next year at Kempton Park in the sunshine.
Thank you to Mr Tickles on Instagram for letting us these videos of the stand at the show.
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