My Amazon, Oscar <3

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AdoraBelle Dearheart

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I don't have many photos on this laptop, but was hunting through old photos on OneDrive for something else, and ran across these pics of Oscar, my Orange-Winged Amazon. I don't think I've shown or shared much about on here before, which is a shame because he's a gorgeous baby, and I've had him for 25 years now!!

Oh man, I feel ancient all of a sudden... I'm an old woman now.... gah!

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He was chatting with me prior to this, about to come out for cuddles and playtime, but I wanted to snap some photos first, and he was a bit unsure of the camera! They're smart birds, and of course a camera lens looks like a big eye to some animals.


I hadn't planned to get a parrot. My parents were in the aviaries and aquatics business for decades, so they always used to keep birds, and had kept parrots themselves before I was born. my dad had a stunning Scarlet Macaw that adored and went everywhere with him (there are photos of him digging in their garden, with Skipper the macaw sitting on his shoulder, or perched on the shovel! But he unfortunately, like many parrots, bonded strongly with one person, and hated my mother. He used to chase her around the kitchen table! But was silly tame with my dad.


I didn't know what I wanted to do for a career when I was at school, but I was good with animals, knew I'd want to work with animals in my life, so I chose to skip A-levels after my GCSE's and went to live in halls of residence so I could do a course in animal care, before deciding what I wanted to do next. Mainly I wanted to be independent, so leaving home to live in at college for two years was really appealing, even though I was still 16, but it was only a couple of hrs drive from my parents, so was a good way to stretch my own wings, while still being in a protective environment. I still don't regret that! I met my closest friends there, ended up getting Oscar, partied a lot... ahem, and learned lots too.

As part of the course, we had to do some work experience placements. I did a couple of other placements too, along with the animals we cared for and learned about at the college, but the one concerning the parrots was when I managed to get a placement at Rode Bird Gardens, in Bath.

I wish I could show here, how wonderful that place was. It ran for nearly 40 years, and had one of the most amazing and varied collections of more than 1,000 birds of species ranging from budgies and lorikeets, peacocks, peahens and guineafowl roaming the whole gardens, to ground hornbills (one of which was super friendly, and loved a game of fetch!), toucans, free-flying macaws, birds of prey, and housed Brolly, the Umbrella cockatoo that Johnny Morris featured heavily in his shows, for those older members of the UK who may remember him! I helped care for Brolly, he was a sweetheart, and had a huge aviary and indoor shelter, and plenty of attention and love.

Parrots are very long lived. Sadly, Rode Bird Gardens had to close eventually, and I was gutted, it was a unique place, absolutely beautiful, and I have a lot of cherished memories of the times I'd visited with my parents, and the three weeks I ended up spending working there as work experience for my college course when I was 16/17.

Rode Bird Gardens - just check out the image tab here for an idea of the range and beauty of the species they had there, and believe me, they were wonderfully cared for!

Here's an article about how they ended up having to close down, and sell/rehome/relocate the collection, which can't have been an easy task. But While I was working there a few years before they eventually closed down.

Quote from that article:

"For the family-owned business, it was the end of a dream which began when the late Donald Risdon founded his tropical bird sanctuary 38 years ago.

And for one of its directors, Mike Curzon, it is also the end of an era. He helped Mr Risdon and his wife Betty realise their dream and helped them to make the bird gardens a success."

Mike was still one of the directors when I was there, and since my family has an unusual surname, he asked on first day if I was related to (parents names), and I was surprised but said yes, they were my parents, and he told me then that he remembered them well, asked how they were etc, and it was because they were in the aviaries business, and he'd worked with them for many years, sourcing birds through them etc, and remembered them fondly, and was glad I was following in their footsteps in some ways! He still didn't hesitate to put me to work though, showed no favourtism! He was a good man, had worked at Rode and been a key part of building it to the amazing place it was.

I still had no intention of getting a parrot myself at that time. I loved them, but knowing how long lived they are, how smart they are and how much attention they need of course as a result, it wasn't something I'd even considered yet, given I was only a young student, and living in halls of residence where we couldn't have pets. My folks still had a lot of pets, and were taking care of the trio of pet rats I still had when I went away to college, but I certainly hadn't considered getting another pet yet, even though it felt weird not having one while in halls... I'd always grown up surrounded by animals requiring care and attention, and adding joy to our lives, so not having that responsibility or company was strange for me at first. Still, I knew what a commitment a parrot is, and didn't have it in mind. My dad still had aviaries with finches and some grass parrakeets at the time, but no parrots then. He'd been heartbroken when Skipper passed, and hadn't wanted to get another parrot himself since.

So I worked there for a week or so, and loved it so much I talked the college, my parents and the gardens into giving me another couple of weeks there, so three weeks total, and got stuck in caring for all the birds in the collection. Clearing nettles and working in the gardens, in the worst heat of summer and wasps were a constant battle (many soft-billed birds eat a diet of fruit and/or nectar, so very attractive to wasps). When changing out food bowls in those aviaries, we'd find old bowls literally heaving with wasps, piled on top, and no option but to pick it up, hurl in across the aviary to scatter the wasps and food, and replace with fresh/collect the old containers for washing. I must have done that a thousand times over those weeks, and just accepted that it needed to be done in order to feed the birds, and that I'd get stung sooner or later, but somehow, I never was! I've still never been stung by a bee or wasp. Parents came to visit one weekend while I was working there, and to see Mike, and poor mum was stung within half an hour of arriving.

But the actual staff were constantly having to treat wasp nests - a particular danger when wasps made nests in the Cassowary enclosures! Those enclosures had safety features so the birds could be safely shut away into different areas while staff worked in one part. Those are huge birds with wicked claws, capable of disembowelling a person with the right slash, so only senior staff were allowed inside, and gave us very strict instructions about handling the security for those amazing dinosaur birds.
cassowary.jpg


When you see their feet, and that they use their feet as defensive weapons when agitated enough, you can appreciate the need for safety gates and strict rules about entering their spaces;
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Anyway, back to how I ended up getting my baby bird parrot, accidentally. Sorta.



Oscar was a four month old baby when we first met. He'd been aviary bred, so his parents shared an outdoor aviary, not super hand tame, and they'd hatched and reared Oscar. But at four months old, he needed to be removed from the aviary because he was fully fledged and old enough, so Mike had caught him up and brought him into the staff quarters in a medium sized cage, since he couldn't live with his parents anymore, and he hadn't yet figured out whether he was going to keep him and potentially add him to the collection in some way, or find him a home as a pet. Oscar, having only had limited human contact when staff fed/watered the birds and cleaned the aviary, was understandably not tame at all yet, young and scared, new to being in a cage having only lived in his parents aviary before, and seeing/experiencing all these things that were new to him - he screamed the place down when staff entered the room he was in. A parrots scream is LOUD. Designed to carry across the forest so flocks can communicate with each other, when they want to be loud, it's loud!

He'd been placed in one of the areas we did food prep for the birds, so he could get used to being around people, but he was obviously still worried and nervous, and vocal if approached. He'd scream loudly and continously at first anytime anyone entered the room. He gradually began to calm down if people were in the room, but would anxiously scream if anyone tried to get too close to his cage for his comfort. Obviously, all being bird lovers, we wanted to help him and calm his distress. Main staff were pretty calm about it, they knew he'd settle and get more used to people, but that it takes time, but hearing and seeing how distressed he was when he was scared, and this being new for me, it really bothered me how scared he was, and the scream is distressing, sounds so like a person or other mammal in pain/real terror, so I would always try to comfort him while I was in that room. I'd give him his space while I worked, but constantly talk and chatter to him, sing along to the radio, tell him how beautiful he was and how no one was going to hurt him. Just soft voiced chatting to him, and making cooing, soothing parrot noises to him, and he gradually began to respond to me. Calming down and making curious noises or pinning his eyes and flashing his tail feathers in return when I chattered to him. He'd certainly calm down and stop screaming at least!

It was still slow going, and he'd panic and scream again if I approached the cage at first, but gradually he'd let me get closer and closer, and drop a tasty piece of fruit or nut into his cage for him, then I'd back off but keep reassuring him verbally, so he could begin to associate me with good things happening, not scary things, and that it was okay, I wouldn't push his boundaries too fast, and respect his space.

He was responding better with me than with anyone else, and Mike had noticed this too over the weeks, and commented on how well I was doing with starting to tame him down. As my time there was running out, I was really sad about parting from this bird who was still un-named at that point, especially since he was closer with me than anyone else, and it broke my heart to think of just leaving and not knowing what would happen with him. I trusted Mike, knew he'd find a good home for him, but I was already very attached. I'd been telling my parents about him when I'd had calls with them of course, but at that point I hadn't even considered getting him, especially since Orange-Winged Amazons were selling for around £550 at the time. But dad was wrapped around my little finger really, and he understood how I'd been bonding with this young bird, and how special that connection is. Parrots are smart, and while they can form bonds with a flock/several people, they can also bond very strongly with one person or fellow parrot, who they regard as the other half of their pair - referred to as pair-bonding. Oscar's parents had pair bonded, which is one reason they were a breeding aviary pair, because they were more bonded to each other, and less interested in people, so were kept as a breeding aviary pair rather than pets.

In the end, mum and dad discussed it, and spoke with Mike, who made a deal to sell Oscar to us for £150, as a favour for their old long standing working relationship, and because he'd seen the way I worked hard at the gardens, and was bonding well with the bird! Once the deal was made I was over the moon! I couldn't keep him at the college, but I knew mum and dad would take wonderful care of him, and of course I'd be working hard to keep taming him when I went home for the odd weekend and during college breaks.

He taught me a lot about patience! He soon began to show how much he enjoyed my company, and would take food from my hand after some more time, and didn't scream nearly so often once at my folks house - he's actually not much of a screamer at all, compared to most Amazon parrots, and he was learning more sounds and words. He could call the dogs, imitate the phone ringing, and answering it with a super charming "hello?" and was convincing enough that he got my dad up a couple of times during the night by making the sound of the phone ringing, dad coming to answer it only to find out it was Oscar, and he'd been fooled, lol. The dogs would respond when he called them too, because of course his imitation sounded just like when my dad would call them. He laughs, he'll make a convincing coughing sound if he hears someone else coughing, and he has a slightly out of tune but charming warbling singing voice, from the times I'd play music and sing along while giving him a shower, cleaning his cage, or just hanging out with him - he really enjoys all of those activities, pinning his eyes and singing along, and he'll crouch and shiver his wings in a begging posture when he wants my attention or more tickles!

It still took at least six months before he'd let me touch him though. I used to get so frustrated at times, I knew he was bonding with me, enjoyed me sitting with him, and when out of his cage on his climbing/activity perch/tree, would take things from me and let me get close, but still hadn't let me touch or stroke him. Mum and dad being so experienced helped though, they told me it would come, to just keep doing what I was doing, and he'd eventually let me stroke him, but that I'd have to patient, and go at his pace. Was magical when he finally let me gently one finger stroke the top of his head though! I got a few bites as he got used to being touched, and parrots can bite hard! But he'd only nervously bite me occasionally, or on the times we had to restrain him to clip his claws - something he still hates, but must be done every few months, and he doesn't bite me anymore. He'll gently grasp my finger with his beak, especially when clambering about, parrots use their beaks much like people use their hands.

But while he enjoys interacting with other people, he has still made it very clear that I'm the only one allowed to really handle him. He's now silly tame with me, adores tickles, having his head and neck feathers 'groomed', tummy tickles, kisses, and will even say "tickles" when he wants his head, face and neck tickled, which he almost always wants, and will accept for hours!

He's moved all around the UK with me, but now we're both back where it started, at my parents house. He has a huge cage with a variety of toys, some of which are for him to destroy, some acrylic like the one in the photo - that one is his table toy. I put fresh fruit and veg inside it, and he'll place whatever he's eating on top and use it as a table, so that became a permanent fixture in his cages.

He will threaten to bite others if they try to touch him though, lol. Very occasionally he's let other family members or my friend briefly touch his head and neck, before rapidly backing off. I do encourage them to keep trying though, while respecting his boundaries, because more fuss from more people can only be a good thing!

So that's where we are now. He was four months old when I got him, we've now shared 25 years together, and I hope we'll be able to spend the rest of our lives together. Amazons like Oscar can easily reach 60 years and above, so fingers crossed!

@jaylach thought you might like to see/hear about my own bird, I've loved reading posts about yours and you clearly adore him! Another time I'll add to this about Max, the Hahns Macaw mum and dad ended up getting a couple of years after I got Oscar. He's adorable, was mum's bird in the end, and is louder than Oscar, despite being a quarter of the size, lol. But that's a story for another day.
 
Is the Amazon parrot fat or fluffed up in the picture?

I might have missed it but what happened with your Dad's Macaw, do you still have it?

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I was given a young pink and grey galah years ago. It was hand tame and used to sleep on the top of a door that was open for the room. We had rellies over from the states and one of them was a vegan and had a plate of veges and a glass of juice. The relative went to do something and came back a moment later only to find a bird sitting on his plate eating his veges :).

Another time the relative had put his glass of juice on the ground while sitting on the couch watching television. He put his hand down to grab the drink and the bird was drinking from his glass. The bird's head got dunked in the juice and the relative pulls his hand back, freaks, looks down and says a few choice words about the bird. Meanwhile everyone else is wetting themself laughing.

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We had a couple of male hand tame weeros (cockatiels) that lived inside. When I built my aviary the birds went out into that. We got them a couple of females to keep them company. A few months later the males were sitting in the nest box looking after eggs and the females were strutting around outside the nest box saying "we're meant to be doing that". The males didn't care and raised the young without the female's help. Stay at home dads taken to a whole new level.
 
Is the Amazon parrot fat or fluffed up in the picture?
Haha, yes, he's fluffed up! But not ill, just fluffing his feathers with excitement because he knew I was about to get him out. I can also make him go all fluffy, when he used to start to fluff his feathers, I'd say "Are you gonna go all fluffy? Are you gonna go all fluuuuufffyyyy??" in this singsong tone, and now he'll fluff up and raise his head feathers, then shake it off when I ask him. It's so cute!

He was probably a bit podgy at that point too though. He's always had a good appetite. He's very good about trying new things, even new toys, while mum's Hahns Macaw is very wary about new toys and takes a long time to check them out, Oscar approaches straight away, he's pretty fearless like that, love him.
I might have missed it but what happened with your Dad's Macaw, do you still have it?

No, that macaw passed away before I was born, I just heard the stories and saw the photos. It was one they'd been given, since they owned the business and then later had a pet shop, people would often bring in unwanted pets, and folks ended up with a lot of waifs and strays, rehomed many, kept others, and Skipper the Scarlet Macaw was one of those that was bought in, but bonded strongly with my dad, and Scarlets were his favourites.
I was given a young pink and grey galah years ago.

My mum's favourite parrots :) Although they were called Roseate cockatoos here.

She used to get very upset at the way they're shot as pests there in Aus! They're expensive and valued here, she wished they'd export them instead! But, I can imagine the devastation a flock of galah's could do to crops, and that Aus has strict rules about import and export for a reason.


It was hand tame and used to sleep on the top of a door that was open for the room. We had rellies over from the states and one of them was a vegan and had a plate of veges and a glass of juice. The relative went to do something and came back a moment later only to find a bird sitting on his plate eating his veges :).

Another time the relative had put his glass of juice on the ground while sitting on the couch watching television. He put his hand down to grab the drink and the bird was drinking from his glass. The bird's head got dunked in the juice and the relative pulls his hand back, freaks, looks down and says a few choice words about the bird. Meanwhile everyone else is wetting themself laughing.

lol! Parrots are such clowns, you have to love them! I used to dearly want a cockatoo, but they're so incredibly loud, that I'm glad I have a relatively quiet amazon! Well, he chatters and makes noises plenty, but he doesn't tend to scream loudly or for long. He'll do the morning and evening flock calling, along with the Hahns, and will get loud say when the dogs bark, the birds join in (and Oscar's bark sounds nothing like a bark, more a chap shouting "argh argh argh", but even with the flock calling, he doesn't full out scream, just calls, that develop into "hello"s and "ooooh" "aahhh" and "eeerrrr", or laughing. He has my laugh, which is a bit odd, but cute.

He LOVE to share some fruit juice from my glass. Diluted of course, and I don't have it often, plus I try to only give citrus occasionally, but he loves to share what I'm eating or drinking. He has to have a chip if we're ever having fish and chips!
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We had a couple of male hand tame weeros (cockatiels) that lived inside. When I built my aviary the birds went out into that. We got them a couple of females to keep them company. A few months later the males were sitting in the nest box looking after eggs and the females were strutting around outside the nest box saying "we're meant to be doing that". The males didn't care and raised the young without the female's help. Stay at home dads taken to a whole new level.

Smart girls! I loved the cockatiels mum and dad kept in the back of the shop when I was tiny, real characters! I also remember my brother and I sneaking some of their sunflower seeds too. Mum and dad used to tease us about the time we tried the dried chili peppers that was in the seed mix...! We didn't like that quite as much...
 
Thank you for posting this! I've been eyeing birds lately- not sure why- they've never held interest to me, but I love the talking and all that stuff. I've got 2 cats and the fish to keep me occupied, so no birds for now, but it was fun to read the story of how you came to know him and ultimately take him on. That bird garden looks amazing. I've never been to one- I've seen birds in zoos and stuff like that, but that place is unique.
 
Thank you for posting this! I've been eyeing birds lately- not sure why- they've never held interest to me, but I love the talking and all that stuff. I've got 2 cats and the fish to keep me occupied, so no birds for now,

Thank you! I wanted to waffle on about something more positive, and everyone loves to share about their pets!

Maybe one day you'll find a bird! Would love to see the cats if you're happy to share? I miss having cats around. We've always managed to have dogs, cats and birds, fortunately. It only took one nip on the nose when he was a kitten for my cat to very quickly learn to give the parrot plenty of space and respect! But definitely not easy with smaller birds/younger cats, plus having a bird is like having a toddler (I hear, I can't speak to the latter experience!) just because of how smart and social they are, so they're some of the most demanding pets out there. But worth it. :)

Cockatiels are wonderful birds to consider, if you ever decide to look into it more. Smarter and usually more tamable than budgies, adorable personalities and really 'fun' birds, they can be clowns and very affectionate, but they're not as demanding and long lived as a larger parrot, and can usually learn to say a few words, tricks even! Plus some gorgeous colour mutations. I always liked the pieds.
but it was fun to read the story of how you came to know him and ultimately take him on. That bird garden looks amazing. I've never been to one- I've seen birds in zoos and stuff like that, but that place is unique.

It was definitely special, I guess more of a remainder of an older era, when private collectors allowed the public to view their animal collections, but became something much greater than that.


I see you're in GA though, so you have the Georgia Aquarium to visit! 😍 That aquarium is on my bucket list, it looks absolutely incredible! I sometimes watch a YT channel called "Dive talk", and one of the divers on that channel works at the Georgia Aquarium as a diver. What a dream job!
 
My mum's favourite parrots :) Although they were called Roseate cockatoos here.

She used to get very upset at the way they're shot as pests there in Aus! They're expensive and valued here, she wished they'd export them instead! But, I can imagine the devastation a flock of galah's could do to crops, and that Aus has strict rules about import and export for a reason.
A lot of the farmers here don't like shooting them and would love to sell them overseas, but the government won't allow it. We had this argument with the government years ago and we put forward good points. They didn't care and would rather shoot native species, including endangered black cockatoos and Major Mitchels (lead beaters or pink cockatoo) than sell them legally overseas and make money.

1) The farmers could trap x number of birds on their property instead of shooting them. Only certain species could be trapped (pink & greys, corellas, sulphur crested cockatoos). Endangered or threatened species could not be touched. Most farmers won't shoot them anyway.

2) The birds would be held in aviaries on the property for a few months to get used to captivity, then put into a government facility (which already exists) for quarantine before export.

3) The government or farmers (or both) line up buyers overseas. We even had a number of people in the US and UK that would buy any birds we sent (assuming we got the go ahead).

4) The farmers get a percentage of the profits that would help support them and the government wouldn't have to support farmers as much. The government would also get some money from this.

5) By allowing native parrots to be sold legally overseas, they could reduce the overseas price and help reduce smuggling of native fauna. We added an argument about people should be allowed to keep and breed native animals to stop them going extinct and we could then send those captive bred animals (mainly reptiles and frogs) overseas legally, and that would help reduce smuggling too. That was all turned down.

I wanted to send native fish and eggs to a friend in America. I wasn't allowed to do so unless I could prove I had owned the fish for at least 10 generations. I had them for several generations but not 10 and there was no way to prove how long you had them for. It was a catch 22 situation whereby the government wanted proof of how many generations and without that proof you couldn't send the fish out of the country. But there was no way to prove how long you had them for.

They are too busy trying to stop people caring for, learning about and breeding native animals, and don't understand that everything is going extinct and the only way to save them is through captive breeding. Instead they put a blanket ban on keeping anything and watch them die out in the wild because of introduced species and stupid programs done by the various government departments. Then there's a mad last minute rush to try and save this species but it's too late. If you have 20 individuals of a species left, it's gone through lack of genetics.

A classic example of this is the Tasmanian Devil. They knew there was a facial tumour disease 10 years ago. They could have gone out and trapped a few thousand of them, tested them for the virus and put them in zoos and sanctuaries around the country. They wouldn't let anyone take any. Now virtually all the devils in the world (which is only Tasmania) have the virus and 99% of them are going to die because of it.
 
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That was a good read.
Jonny Morris!! I used to love a book I had with him when I was a kid as I was absolutely obsessed with animals. Was it a white bird he had with head spikes?

Love your bird and the fact you have had it 25 years you must be so attached
 
That was a good read.
Jonny Morris!! I used to love a book I had with him when I was a kid as I was absolutely obsessed with animals. Was it a white bird he had with head spikes?

Love your bird and the fact you have had it 25 years you must be so attached

Yes! Brolly was what's called an Umbrella Cockatoo, white head feathers that they can raise at will, usually denoting excitement/happiness/curiosity!

Here he is with Brolly in 1981, before I was born, but Brolly was still alive, well and healthy when I helped care for and fussed him in 2000!
johnny morris with brolly.jpg


Also found this clip, towards the end he shows a Green-Winged Macaw, and mentions the bird is from Rode Bird Gardens. :)

 
I had to check to make sure this thread was from this year...my oh my, what a pretty bird! Although my grandpa's job as a factory/kiln inspector required them to travel across the U.S. and Canada, my mom and aunt grew up with several birds.
My mom's personal favorite was my great-aunt's Quaker, Sweetie. Apparently he bonded to my mother during the few years my grandparent's took care of him, and would lay on his back in the crook of my mom's arm to watch tv. Nice as could be to my mother, then a child, but bit my grandpa (one of the nicest, gentlest men I've ever met) on the fingers numerous times if he got too close to the two of them. My mom was sad to see him go back, but my aunt, grandma, and grandpa were more than fine with that change!
For a good 23 years my grandparents had Maui, their double yellow-headed Amazon. If I remember right, they got him from a couple when he was about two or three, knowing at that point that they loved having birds. Although a very nice bird, apparently he was quite loud. He would talk in a nice, quiet murmur, but would joyfully shriek up a storm when given the chance to shower. My grandparents loved him a lot (he bonded to my grandpa, making us wonder if he might have been a female), but ended up having to rehome him when I was about four. I vaguely remember him murmuring and screaming, but that's about all.
 

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