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Old 03-31-2021, 11:02 AM
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Birdsitting to ownership

Hello! I'm a long time lurker, but this is my first time posting. I'm hoping for some advice. Bear with me, I want to provide as much information as I can to help you all formulate your advice.

Recently I was asked if I would bird-sit my aunt/cousin's Macaw and Ringneck when they go on vacation in October of this year. I agreed and set up a schedule for regular visits so the birds could become familiar with me and I could assess their general energy and quirks.

The Macaw, Ruby, will be 1 in May. My aunt is in her 50's and is a PA who works both from home and in the office. The birds were purchased by her for her daughter, who is 20, a college student who also works and at the time of purchase lived with my aunt.

As a side note, I know, as a responsible bird owner myself, that they should have NEVER purchased these birds. The birds I have now were their birds, and around age 1 they decided they were "too loud" (ummm, hello - Sun Conures are KNOWN for their noise). When I agreed to take the Conures they promised me that they would not get birds again, yadda yadda. Well - low and behold - they clearly changed their minds.

At first my cousin spent a lot of time with Ruby, syringe feeding her and ultimately creating a bond. Based on what I learned yesterday, my aunt interacted with the birds, lets them out of their cages, feeds and waters them, etc - but she only handles the Ringneck. She openly admitted she is afraid of Ruby.

They both assured me that Ruby has never bitten anyone, but will not step up for anyone other than my cousin and is only affectionate with my cousin.

Also, during this conversation I noticed certain hints they were dropping, like my cousin has moved out of my aunt's and is living with her boyfriend, but cannot take the birds, that my aunt and her husband plan to spend the majority of their time at their lake house and do not want to take the birds, that they want the birds to be with someone that can give them the time they deserve etc.

I strongly suspect they will be asking me to take Ruby and Blu (the Macaw and Ringneck) and add them to my family. Please know that I am heartbroken for Ruby and Blu as they are essentially being given away by their family/parent.

In light of what I sense is upcoming I've been doing research on being a responsible owner for these birds and have had discussions with my own family regarding how they feel, what this new responsibility will mean, agreement regarding helping the new birds acclimate etc.

With that in mind, whether I end up just birdsitting or if I end up adopting them, I am trying to find the best way to keep them as stress free as possible.

I did try to see if I could get Ruby to step up on my arm (with the promise of a treat). She started to do so, then changed her mind and "beaked" me, which was just a pinch on my wrist and then turned her back. I calmly told her I understood and when she turned back around provided her with the promised treat which she took very gently and I just talked her for a few moments.

My current plan is to visit Ruby/Blu several times a week for at least 20 minutes each time and provide her with food/treats, continue to talk to her etc so that when she comes to my home, either as a "vacation" or forever, that she knows I'm an ally and will come to trust me and allow me to handle and interact with her in the same manner I do with my conures.

I am continuing to do research, watch videos, properly prepare my home and family etc.

Please know I do not go into this lightly. I know that Macaws are not for "novice" bird owners. I'm not sure at what point one is no longer a "novice". I have had my conures for 2 years now and I have now been a bird owner that is committed to my pets, both in time spent and ensuring proper care, vet visits and food.

As seasoned Macaw owners - how do you feel I should proceed in earning Ruby's trust.

Should I allow her out of her cage when visiting (knowing that my aunt/cousin will put her away) and continue to invite her to step up with positive reinforcement?

Should I not even make an effort right now and wait until I get her to my home and begin the trust building then?

Any other suggestions?
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Old 03-31-2021, 12:03 PM
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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

Macaw owners will eventually respond, but your plan of doing visits seems OK to me.
Bear in mind that this 1yr old Macaw is pretty much a baby yet, and when puberty hits later on, its gonna be a change; all parrots go thru this, some with mild symptoms and others go all keykl/hyde for a period. My little zon was fine for his first round of it, and his second and third mating seasons have been like WHOA! IS THIS STILL THE SAME BIRD??
I admire you for considering taking these 2! Your aunt and cousin are really annoying, treating parrots like a friggin handbag, to be discarded when they grow tired of them.
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Old 03-31-2021, 12:08 PM
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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

Welcome, thank you for a comprehensive and thoughtful narrative!

I suspect your instincts and precedent are correct, you are being "groomed" to take possession of Ruby and Blu. Macaws are among the more challenging of species, but you are more than ready assuming you "click" with Ruby and can spend the requisite time and resources to adopt a large, loud parrot.

Highly recommend you read linked thread as precursor to diving into a relationship with Ruby. My experience with macaws is they are inclined to use beak as bluff and far less likely to injure. Respect the beak but know it is integral to the macaw persona. Do you know the specific sub species? Big Beak O Phobes Guide to Understanding Macaw Beaks...

Evolution from "novice" to experienced as much mind set and education as chronological time. Trust me, there are many novices who have had birds for decades. I would begin earning Ruby's trust as early evaluation whether you are actually a good match. You may find initial indifference or she may "choose" you. At some point you may wish to integrate your family with visits ensuring there are no uncomfortable surprises. Another helpful thread for bonding/earning trust: Tips for Bonding and Building Trust

Good luck, please keep us updated and share your adventure!!
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Old 03-31-2021, 03:26 PM
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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

I think you can. But macaws are expensive to maintain, expensive food, expensive stuff to destroy. So make sure you can and want to spend money Ike that...
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Old 03-31-2021, 06:25 PM
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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

I will admit upfront, I'm an Amazon Snob! But all my Macaw friends love to cover me with their Macs. Love Mac's but, Amazons' own my heart.

You have great advice above and every bit of it will help you. You approach is sound and well considered. When you visit, try to resist running up to the Mac. Watch from a distance. Mac's love to play pick-a-boo. No sound, just looks from afar. Work your way closer and watch for the Mac to develop an interest in you.

I believe that you are well along in become an experienced parrot person!

My biggest concern is that 'those two' will repeat this game of falling in love with birds and dumping them on you! IF, you elect to bring these two home! Once you do and they are at your home. You need to make it clear that in no uncertain terms, that this is the very last time you will clean-up their mess.

It is almost too easy to read: The girl will break-up with the boyfriend, move back in with auntie and this circle will start all over again.

You sound like you are already in love with Ruby!
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Last edited by SailBoat; 04-01-2021 at 05:38 AM.
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Old 04-02-2021, 09:41 AM
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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

I am new to posting in a forum, so I hope I've responded to everyone in the correct place!

I was hoping to share a photo, but I need a link to provide that, and I don't have a photo sharing location online. I did attach a photo to this post, I hope it's accessible to those that would like to see it. I did start a youtube channel, really for my own reference and if any of my friends want to see parts of my journey. If anyone would like to see the videos, they are public, and I can share the link. I'm new to recording myself, and have done zero editing, so some of the videos have a moment or so of staring at the wall while I'm doing various things, which may deter some from wanting to watch them.

Ruby is a Camelot Macaw. Also, Blu is in the photo, but Blu has his own cage, just likes to hang out on Ruby's.

I've been to see Ruby and Blu 3 times now (it's a bit tricky as my aunt lives 45ish minutes from me, and I work remotely 2 days a week, so if I'm not in the office it's a bit of a drive).

I feel like I've already made some progress with both. The changes I have seen in her body language towards me in just three visits warms my heart, and makes me hope that I have been a bright spot in her day.

I'm hoping my seasoned bird owners will weigh in on a thought I had last night.

I'm thinking about suggesting to my cousin/aunt that they contact the breeder (who lives in Texas, I think - that's where they got Ruby shipped in from) to see if she has anyone that would like to adopt Ruby.

The reason I had that thought is that Ruby is less than a year old and would be an easy(ish) transition to a different home for someone looking for a macaw. My aunt was telling me about the investment, moneywise, she has into acquiring Ruby, and I knew it was high, but I hadn't realized the additional costs of having her shipped from Texas to Ohio. I'm sure she would like to recoup some of those costs if she can. She hasn't said that she is looking to, and she still hasn't outright said she wants me to take them. Would my suggestion is even possible, does anyone have an insight into that?

I don't have a personal passion for acquiring a macaw, or any additional birds. I DO have a passion for making an animals life the best it can be. If the above suggestion is a possibility, I was going to suggest that I foster Ruby until her forever home can found.

If the above suggestion is not feasible, I'm also okay with being Ruby's forever home. I feel like it's more responsible to provide an opportunity for someone that is seeking to own a Macaw be able to have her vs. me, who is just looking to provide an unwanted pet the best life it can have. Rescuing pets isn't new to me as I have been fostering and rescuing dogs for over 20 years in partnership with the local county dog warden. God seems to have blessed me with with an abundance of empathy and the ability to work with difficult animals and help them transition into amazing, socialized pets. My Sun Conures were my first non dog "rescue".

When I agreed to adopt my Sun Conures from my aunt 2 years ago, the male did not allow ANYONE to touch him, even my cousin, who fed him from a baby, was afraid of him and didn't do any maintenance on him (nail trimming etc). I'm proud of how far he has come now, he steps up, does tricks, flies to my hand, and in the last two months has let me give him scritches on his head for longer and longer periods of time. Both conures allow my children and husband to handle and care for them, and they are both healthy and happy and our family loves them.


That being said - if there isn't a group that could help someone that wants a macaw to find Ruby, and I can give Ruby a better life at my home than my aunt/cousin, or whatever their plan is if I were to refuse, then I, with the support of my family, will be accept her care and work to enrich her life.

I appreciate all the insight and guidance everyone has provided thus far. It is such a relief to me to have a place to go to get feedback.

Thank you.

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Last edited by Scott; 04-02-2021 at 11:20 PM. Reason: enlarged for viewing pleasure
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Old 04-03-2021, 12:12 AM
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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

Quote: Originally Posted by Bekki View Post
I don't have a personal passion for acquiring a macaw, or any additional birds. I DO have a passion for making an animals life the best it can be. If the above suggestion is a possibility, I was going to suggest that I foster Ruby until her forever home can found.
I must compliment you on forum demeanor - truly excellent and respectful!!

Your quote above is most salient and illustrative of:
A- Why you should explore options with aunt and cousin.
B- You are ideal candidate for Ruby's forever home!

Macaws are a ton of commitment, passion is helpful. That you are above all else an advocate for Ruby's best interest bodes well for creative solutions. Researched Camelot Macaw,* learned they are quite rare, likely in high demand. A frank discussion with your family ought clarify their desires and realistic options. Reputable breeders have interest in ensuring a good home and offer to facilitate transfer as needed.

*Camelot is second generation hybrid: Scarlet X Catalina. Catalina = Scarlet X Blue & Gold.
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Old 04-05-2021, 10:14 AM
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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

@Scott - thank you for your kind words and your thoughts on the subject.

I did have a candid discussion with my aunt and went over the items I listed in my post above. She said that she will speak to my cousin, as it is ultimately her bird and therefore her decision (I disagree, as my aunt is doing all of the work and spending the most time with Ruby right now, but she was speaking monetarily). I offered to speak with my cousin about it myself, and my aunt said I could, but she asked that she speak with her first and review her options.

Part of me wants to help and offer to contact the breeder to see what options will be best for Ruby.

The other part of me wants my cousin to feel some "pain" of working through situation, in hopes that it will make her think twice before adopting another pet/bird.

Since the bird was shipped from Texas to Ohio (where we reside), I'm hoping it is a reputable breeder. But for some reason they are reluctant to share details with me. I have been asking for the paperwork on my Sun Conures for two years now, and I'm always met with - Oh yeah, I'll look for that this week. I may have to start sending a reminder text on an every other day basis until she either blocks my number (not in her best interest right now) or she gets me what I want!!

I'm going to my aunts again today to spend some time with Ruby. I would love to share updates, but also realize this situation may be tedious and boring, and posting updates might just give me a place to word vomit and get feedback on my path forward with Ruby.

I do appreciate hearing from everyone, and regardless of how this turns out I feel very blessed to have found this forum to get feedback from other bird owners.
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Old 04-05-2021, 12:23 PM
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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

Youre not tedious and boring at all. Were all here because we love parrots and want to talk about then incessantly. Also more pictures please! Ruby is stunning.

You are fantastic and I agree with Wrench that that your aunt and cousin are annoying (forum safe word, Im sure Wrench and I are both thinking much stronger language).

And I would DEFINITELY make your cousin do the uncomfortable work. People need to face consequences or their actions never change.


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Old 04-05-2021, 01:15 PM
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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

Kudos for taking a direct approach with your aunt and cousin - they seem everything but forthcoming on important issues!

I would also work to establish your desires, either as proactive facilitator of return to breeder or self acquisition. That of course is partially the reason for your visits and interactions.

Completely agree with a bit of "pain" to break the cycle of causal rehoming. Please feel free to post progress reports! One of the functions of this forum is education - a lot of readers are lurkers drawn via internet search. Your experiences may prove invaluable at later date.
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