In 2006, Stephen and I moved to Australia.
Because we were not allowed to bring our parrots with us, we had to re-home Aussie,
Jesse, and Pakshi.
We arrived in Melbourne in
mid-November. Between then and early February, we were terrifically
busy just getting settled, buying a house, and doing all the things that
we had to do to begin our new life. We adopted Ned and Kelly just
before Christmas, but even as sweet as they are, we both still longed to
once again have a large macaw.
During our "new bird checkup"
with Ned and Kelly, we asked our new avian vet about macaw breeders.
He gave us the phone number of a breeder who turned out to be living not
far from where we'd settled. In early February we
finally decided we were ready, and we phoned John, the breeder.
|Over the phone, John told me that he had one
and Gold Macaw ("B&G") left, a bird about 7 months old. Someone else had expressed
an interest in the bird the week before, but because that other person
hadn't contacted John since, and hadn't put down a deposit, he agreed to
allow us to come and see her.
We drove the 30 minutes to John's
home. He and his wife Miriam made us feel welcome and at home right
away, and John was even kind enough to take us on a brief tour of his
aviary. I was impressed with his spacious and well-built cages and
how clean the entire aviary was. This was clearly a breeder who
cares about his birds and was giving them the best possible environment,
food, and care.
Laka with 2 of her clutchmates
Laka with John as he loads a syringe with
baby forumula. (2006) John was, and continues to be, Laka's
all-time favorite human.
(Update: Not long after we
adopted Laka, John decided to stop breeding parrots. Although we
certainly understand his reasons - bird breeding is an amazingly demanding
business - we were sorry he stopped because he truly is a caring person and
an excellent, responsible breeder.)
Laka on her first day with us (Feb. 8, 2007). You can tell by her perching stance that she was one very tired
At the end, he introduced us to his
remaining baby macaw.
The bird was clearly tame, but was very
bonded to John and didn't much care for me and Stephen at first. I
knew the bird was young (7 months) and could see for myself how she
allowed John to handle her freely. Clearly it was simply a matter of
establishing trust - and a little bit of dominance.
(Feb 8, 2007) After a long, tough day,
our new "girl" wanted a cuddle, even if it was only from me.
I know it's hard to believe after looking at
this picture, but the bird really didn't like me much at first ("like
me much"? well.. .she wanted me GONE!!!).
She tolerated Stephen, but just didn't want anything to do with
me. John kept a close eye as I handled her and commented several times
that he could tell I'd handled birds before. Stephen and I stayed at
John and Miriam's for quite a long time (several hours).
The bird growled, snapped, and lunged at
me. She refused to "step" for me and made quite a show with
A good friend (someone very experienced with
handling macaws) in Ohio had taught me about feints and that when a bird
acts like that, sometimes you have to push a little and not back down.
I'd also had the opportunity to observe Jesse's new parents' handling of her
when they adopted her (similar situation, similar behavior). So I
didn't back down, but kept gently pushing her. I kept talking to her
in a calm but firm voice, kept insisting that she step on my hand (or arm),
and so on.
|Now - as I'm saying this, I also have to say
that if you're not experienced with handling large macaws and reading the
body language, you should NOT push yourself on a bird who is
clearly objecting to you.
What I'm describing is not something
for a novice to do. It's important that you know what you are doing,
you know what the risks are, and you know how to read macaw body language. I
was taking quite a risk with this bird; she could have hurt me if she'd
really wanted to. But I could tell she was just angry, not frightened,
and I had the assurances of the breeder that she's a fairly calm and loving
bird. At one point, she did bite me to bleed (just broke the
skin at the base of my index finger) but I knew that she was just testing me
(she bit me after I'd been handling her successfully for about 40
minutes). So I didn't react to the bite
(other than asking for a bandaid)
and didn't back down.
(Feb 8, 2007) Could this be the same bird
that bit me to bleeding just a few hours before?
The breeder observed all this and said that he
was convinced that she'd settle down once we had her in our home and once he
was "out of the picture". I was hoping he was right, but I
know the level of tameness I want in a bird this size and was a little
concerned that I might not get that with her. Finally he asked us if
we'd take her "on trial" for a few days. He said he just
knew we'd be good parronts and he wanted this bird (who he'd clearly fallen
in love with himself) to go to someone who would bring out her naturally
loving nature. With a "no risk" guarantee from John, there
was no reason to hesitate.
(Feb 9, 2007) "How could you believe
that I'd bite you? Really?!?!"
taken a carrier with us, and John put her into it. As he did, there
was something in his manner that told me he was truly sad she was leaving;
my heart went out to him.
We drove home and I held the carrier on my
lap. The bird was clearly enjoying the car ride, but about 20 minutes
into the trip she became mildly car sick. Poor little thing!
She'd had an awful day and it was taking it's toll on her.
When we got home, we opened the
carrier. I reached in and took her out, being careful to keep her away
from the spot on the towel where she'd been sick. She growled at my
hands, but let me lift her up. I set her on a T-stand and we left her
there for a while as we hurried around to get fresh water and food set up in
her new "day cage".
Within an hour of coming home with us, she
was letting me pick her up (still growling a little, but not striking at me) and finally
ended the evening clinging close to my chest and letting me "love on
her" (scritches, petting, and I sang to her a little).
|Our first night with her was rocky. I've learned that macaws must have plenty of sleep every
(10-12 hours of quiet and dark). Without
adequate sleep, you get a large
cranky bird. We had a "sleep cage" for her, and although
she let me put her in it without a fuss, I could hear her thumping and
clanging around. She'd never been in a cage before, and it just
wasn't going over well with her. I finally got up and took her
out. I put a small table-sized T-stand on top of the sleep cage (one
with a macaw sized perch on it so her feet would be comfortable) and
put her up there.
(Feb. 9, 2007) Laka figured out pretty
fast that things here wouldn't be so bad.
After about an hour of shuffling around, she
finally quieted down; I'm pretty sure she went to sleep. She did
better than I, however, as I was so worried about her that I was up pretty
much all night listening.
On her first morning with us she seemed quite
calm. John rang us mid-morning and asked after her. "Do you
want to bring her back?" he asked in a tone that sounded almost
hopeful. "No," Stephen answered, "She seems to be
(Feb 10, 2007) Laka doing Tai Chi.
On her second morning she was even more
relaxed. Although she still growled when we'd reach for her, she was
quicker to step on our hands and loved to sit with us and be scritched and
I talked to John that morning and although he
said he was pleased that things were going well, he also had a slight pang
of regret; he was clearly in love with Laka, saying she's one of the most
loving birds he'd ever raised. But he also said he was happy that she
was with us, and that he was confident we'd give her lots of love and
attention. We talked about John and Miriam coming for a visit to see
her, and he agreed to do that in a month or so (waiting a while to let Laka
adjust to the change).
She had us by the heart strings. It was
time to name her.
I like to involve my birds in the name
selection process. Stephen and I searched the web and our own memories
to come up with a names that we liked, names that we thought might be
appropriate. We narrowed the list down to 5 options:
We then consulted
our new baby girl. We said the names to her to see which she'd react
to. She listened to the list of names twice without any
reaction. Then she looked up and said "Laka" quite
clearly. This is the first time I've had a bird select it's name by
repeating it (they usually respond with body language). We said the
other names one more time and then asked her if she liked "Laka".
"Laka" she repeated.
She chose well. "Laka" is a
Hawaiian word that means "gentle/tame". Laka certainly is
that. Laka is also the name of the Hawaiian goddess of forests, rain,
and the hula.
(Feb 9, 2007) Laka listening to her favorite vocal group "Celtic Woman".
Like every other bird I've ever had, Laka
loves music. She's a very quiet, almost "sedate" bird (well,
for a B&G Macaw, that is...) - and
she likes her music that way. She shows a strong preference for
vocals, and likes love songs that have a soft, harmonious sound.
loves the vocal group "Celtic
Woman" and just about melts whenever
I play their version of "Danny Boy". She also likes male
singers, especially Josh Groban. Anything that has a slow,
gentle beat makes her very happy.
she was first learning to accept her harness I would play my " Notting Hillbillies"
(Mark Knopfler's collection of gentle old-time cowboy songs) to get
her all mellowed out (it made getting the harness on her very, very easy).
She likes the gentle rocking feel to the "..Hillbillies" album.