I suppose this is a (long
) introduction to Mer, my second parrot who unfortunately only got to spend ~four months with Suki. He is a cinnamon green cheeked conure who came from a neglectful first home where he was injured by larger birds (toe broken, beak punctured, but mostly grown out now.) His worst injury was to his right wing a year before I got him, which had a double break with bone exposed in two places and which went undiscovered (?!!) for one to two days, leading to bone loss and months of fighting infections with vet care. My vet, the same one who treated him for his injury, told me that he has healed remarkably well from an injury which could have killed him multiple times.
The situation now is that his elbow is completely frozen and his shoulder is a bit arthritic, and he is undergoing treatment for an enlarged heart which was discovered at his new bird testing. Seven months into treatment and four/five months with me, he has gained four grams of muscle (says the vet and the changing shape of his chest) and is a fighting fit 65 g of madly flapping bird who is absolutely determined to fly. He can flutter down to a safe (barely) but not well-controlled landing from many heights and has no qualms about throwing himself off his tree at me, or at his tree from me, or from branch to spindly, bouncy branch, etc., when he feels the need, even though he does not always make it to where he is aiming if he is startled in any way. He needs to be able to land better and flutter slower for me to be at peace with this behaviour, as the lack of control is not ok - one time he hit is bad wing on landing and that definitely hurt (hurt sound, still for ~5 sec), though it thankfully did no damage (checked and monitored). He seems to be trying different things when he flutters, with varying success, and he is actively working on his fitness and strength and gets some lift when he does flapping practice on my finger, holding on tight. The vet said he could potentially fly again if he can figure out how to equalise his wing span. He has recently made a jump in his wing power and inclination towards jumping farther distances, so it is really time to ask this: do you have any ideas to help me help him figure it out and get the skills he needs?
A note: While he is making enormous progress getting over his fear of hands (he was chased and towelled for years, and his wing break was apparently during towelling), approaching hands freely from a place of safety (tree, perch, spaces he perceives as his) is something that he only started doing recently, and only from certain places or times. He is nervous about hands until he or my hand comes close enough to apparently be within his bubble of trust, at which point he throws himself at them bodily, lately with both feet. He is making even more progress with hands for cuddling up to and preening, and has no problems with faces or shoulders, but is still learning that I listen to gentle beaks (very well!) and is not trustworthy when he is nervous.
He currently lives cage free in an ~ 5'x7'x7' Tree of Many Species (of wood) and while I could cage him to completely prevent him from jumping, my biggest flight cage is much smaller than that and he is completely and utterly in love with the tree. More than me, more than Suki-bird, he adores climbing and jumping and bouncing on the little branches and chewing on most of it. Unless remaining in the tree becomes dangerous for him, I think it would be a cruelty to move him. His former home had him in a cage I would not keep a budgie in, from his first day there to his last. He is also astoundingly skilled at spreading food on every single cage bar, so the tree makes for much easier cleaning with a powerful hose than the toothbrush work which would otherwise be required.
Things I have been doing to make him safe:
- cloth around his tree for softer landings, rugs in the house.. but we have all wooden floors generally.
- holding a hand in front of him when we do flapping practice for the times when he gets ahead of himself and lets go. He is easy to catch, thankfully, and sometimes just lies down in that hand to flap, which is completely adorable.
Ideas for helping him:
- encouraging him to fly short distances from my hand to my bed/soft, wide surfaces.
- branches on the bed for precision training?
Do you have any ideas for easy, daily practice? Converting my bed into a training station seems like a session type of thing, not something simple. I'm also concerned that the couch isn't wide enough and he would just flutter over the edge. I suppose a pallet of towels on the floor would be good, but would possibly be less inspiring for flight. ??