The ups, downs, random thoughts, and pleas for advice on adjusting to life with Ruby

Bekki

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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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wrench13

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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.
 

Scott

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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? http://www.parrotforums.com/macaws/56384-big-beak-o-phobes-guide-understanding-macaw-beaks.html

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: http://www.parrotforums.com/general-parrot-information/49144-tips-bonding-building-trust.html

Good luck, please keep us updated and share your adventure!!
 

Laurasea

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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...
 

SailBoat

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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! :D
 
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Bekki

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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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Scott

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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

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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Bekki

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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.
 

Inger

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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

You’re not tedious and boring at all. We’re 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, I’m 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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Scott

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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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Bekki

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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

That makes me feel so much better about posting - thank you!! I would love to share more photos. Is it best for me to upload the same way I did in a previous post? I saw it had to be resized, but if someone can direct me to the instructions on posting pics that are viewable/correct size, I will be happy to do it correctly in the future. In the meantime I've shared another pic in the only way I can figure out how!!

Update as of 4/6:

(This is a longish post full of conversations and my emotions - TL;DR - No real updates on Ruby, but now I know why my aunt wouldn't commit to Blu getting a new home.)

I went to visit Ruby (and Blu) yesterday. I messaged my aunt to make sure she was cool with the visit (she has never told me no, but I know that I wouldn't necessarily want someone showing up at my house without touching base first). I'm going to share our text interactions:

Me: Okay for me to visit Ruby today around 4:30?

Aunt: That would be great. Cousin was there with her all night last night and this morning. We left her out, so if you can just put her away when you leave that would be great.


(My thought - who would put her away if I hadn't been able to come over? You are just going to leave her free reign of the house for hours and hours? Not safe for her, and guaranteed destruction to something in the house).

So I go for me visit, and I can tell that her normal routine has been disrupted. She wasn't cranky or anything, but she was a different in her reactions to things and had clearly been given LOTS of treats as she wasn't interested in working very hard for them. (I've been using the treats I bring (raw parrot safe veggies and fruit and unsalted nuts). I use them to encourage her allowing me to touch her cage, and toys, and to access her food and water etc. Building trust mostly, and then I try at least once to use them to get her to let my hand get closer to her so that we can eventually get to the point that she will step up for me).

Anyhow, it was a sweet visit, and she did some ornery things, such as break and steal a toy from Blu's cage and carry it to hers, and then she proceeded to help herself to the shelled peanuts someone (cough cough - Cousin) left open next to her cage. That was an adventure getting her to give up that open bag!!

She only did one test lunge at me, which is progress as she usually test lunges at me several times a visit. Today it was only once, she must be getting tired of my non reaction with a calm "No, no lunging" admonishment.

So, I get her (and Blu) fresh food and water and put them away. Even though Cousin had visited overnight, she didn't find the need to provide fresh water, and the levels were so low they probably hadn't been changed since I was there on Saturday - :mad:.

So I get home and here is the text we shared:

Aunt: How did it go?

Me: Good, I could tell her normal routine was disrupted, but that's all part of life. Also, someone left the bag of peanuts opened and she helped herself a bit. Also she got to try raw green beans and liked them, so did Blu. I also brought her a nana. I gave them fresh food and water. Did Cousin happen to find my conure's paperwork?

Aunt: Awesome. I forgot to ask her. She has been out of her cage a long time :) and I'll be home in the morning to let her back out.

Me: Perfect. Did you and Cousin talk about her options for Ruby?

Aunt: A little, yes. Cousin was shocked that you would foster Ruby. She tried to trim Blu today. She thinks he hates her now haha.

Me: She was shocked? Does she think she will contact the breeder to get her rehomed/resold? I am on a parrot forum, and one of the members felt that Camelot Macaws are in high demand, so her breeder can probably get her a new forever home to help cousin recoup some of her investment.

Aunt: I didn't mention that option yet.

Me: Fair enough. I just want what's best for Ruby. I love working with Ruby, she is smart and her cool factor is 1000% and while I don't have a desire for another pet, especially one that is high maintenance, I would take her for you to give her a home and a more fulfilling life. Another thing, if Blu stays with you, whatever you decide for Ruby, he will need EVEN MORE attention and interaction as he and Ruby are pals and he will be lonely when she is gone.

Aunt: Yes, we did talk about that and I will have to talk to Husband about it. IIf I could keep him I would spoil him, but if he needs to stay with Ruby I would let him, whatever is best for him.

Me: Well, not necessarily HAVE to stay with Ruby, but he would have to go with you to the Lake house, otherwise he will become lonely and depressed and possibly start self harming.

Aunt: Yes, he would have a house at the cabin.


That was the end of our conversation. Sigh. Still no progress. If I'm going to be asked to take Ruby, then I want to just take her!! Selfishly I don't want to drive 45 mins almost every day to see her, and I want to know if it's worth me investing in a perch which I feel would be extremely helpful in her training. (The ones I have for my conures won't hold Ruby).

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Scott

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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

No worries about image size! Technique I use is click on thumbnail as posted to open in new tab. Right click enlarged image (in new tab) and click "copy image address." Return to edit the post, select "go advanced," click on yellow square with mountain silhouette. This is found in grey control panel above dialog box, below and to right of smiley drop-down menu. New box opens to paste image data, click "OK," and save changes. Exact technique will vary by browser, mostly in the area of how you copy image information.

Seems your aunt is master of treadmill discussions, going nowhere at varied speeds! You've identified some benevolent neglect issues and received bland assurances of correction. Now that she knows camelot macaws are in demand, might alter her perception of end game. Not sure if she'll simply "give" you Ruby when other potentially attractive alternatives exist. Or perhaps money really isn't the issue, more about control?
 

Laurasea

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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

makes me sick to my stomach, their attitude and lack of care for these birds
 

Inger

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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

Thank you for the pics! She is so beautiful it’s ridiculous. The colors on some species of parrots really leave me awestruck. Like how are they even real??

Now I’m sure you said you also have birds or your own.....how about some pictures of them too???


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Littleredbeak

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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

Blu and Ruby are both gorgeous! I hope the best possible solution for these birds is/are found!
 
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Bekki

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Mango - Sun Conure
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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

Thank you all for responding. I, too, am sick and heartbroken over their behavior. My son and I went over for a visit yesterday. Blu was acting very weird, normally he flies right to me. My aunt said that he hadn't flown to her all day and usually he does. I don't know if he's hormonal, or if he's still upset from the "trimming" session my cousin did on him. He did eventually fly to me and my son, so that made me feel better.

My aunt began telling me some things she did with Ruby to provide more interaction, and how Ruby "beaked" her - again gently, but it was a warning. Which, IMO, is a good thing as my aunt's fear of the unknown made her greatly "fear the beak". The contact help calm some of my aunt's fear.

Based on her comments I asked her if she had now reconsidered rehoming Ruby, that maybe my cousin had committed to coming and spending more time with Ruby, and my aunt was making more effort to get Ruby to trust her.

She said - no, my cousin reaffirmed she wouldn't be spending time at my aunt's as her bedroom is "too hot" in the summer. (WTH???) They have central air and live in a VERY nice, fairly new construction, home.

I said, okay - well, it seems my cousin isn't interested in making any actual decisions regarding Ruby (maybe I'm being too pushy - I tend to be about action when I'm asked to get involved in things). My aunt agreed, and I said - well of course she isn't interested in making a decision - she is in zero pain over this.

My aunt: Zero pain, what do you mean?

Me: She has no responsibilities tied to Ruby. It's like a foster home situation where the parent has visitation rights. She doesn't follow a visitation schedule, meanwhile you are doing the feedings, and cage cleanings, and making arrangements for someone else to feed her when you are at the Cabin. She just gets to pop in whenever she feels, get Ruby all emotional, get the cuddles and affection from her, then swoop right back out for an unknown amount of time. It would be different if she was stopping in here at least daily for a visit and do some cage maintenance, but she's not, you are.

My aunt: Well, I think she feels some guilt.

Me: No, she doesn't. Based on the comments she made to me in front of you on my first visit, she has justified her absence to herself. The only thing she's upset about is the money she has invested that she would like to get back. Which is fine, have her work with her breeder to resell/rehome Ruby and get some of that back while finding Ruby a good forever home. As long as you are doing the work, she doesn't feel any pain and gets only the good things. That's not fair to you, and that's not fair to Ruby.

She was silent but nodded her head. Then she needed to leave to attend her stepdaughter's birthday party. (Did I mention the stepdaughter and her boyfriend live with her, but both hate Ruby and consider her a nuisance?)

So then my son and I spent a little more time with both birds and then put them away. When I put Ruby away she threw a tantrum, lunging at my fingers and acting like she wanted to bite me. It was the worst I've seen from her thus far. I'm sure I'm probably putting human emotions on a bird that aren't accurate, but I imagine she is frustrated that "mommy" hadn't been to visit, and when I put her away she realized that meant "mommy" wasn't going to visit, thus the tantrum. Or, she was just having a bad day - one of the two.

On my drive home my aunt texted me:

Aunt: So I called cousin and had a good chat. I have the answers you are looking for. Now I will just have to have a chat with husband and we will have all of our answers.

Me: Okay, I know you are at the birthday party, so just let me know!

Aunt: Yep!!


So now I wait. I'm going to blame my Taurus nature, but I want her to be the one to initiate the communication. She knows I am unable to go for a visit tonight, but that I was thinking about visiting Thursday. While I hate the idea of not giving Ruby some interaction, I think I'm going to refrain from visiting until she reaches out again.

On a more positive note, I'd love to share pics of my conures!! I wasn't sure it was in bad form to share their pics since we are on a Macaw board, but since I was asked....I'll share away!! Most of my photos of them include me or my kids - I wasn't sure on forum rules on having humans in photos. Several of my photo's were too large to send from my phone, I really have to find a photo hosting site!!

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Inger

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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

Well done! And yes, make your aunt initiate contact.

Your sunnies are gorgeous. And this place is pretty relaxed and friendly. Pictures of humans are allowed, birds in the “wrong” forum....just be nice and keep politics and religion out of your posts and you’ll be fine. Even if your interactions with Ruby come to an end, you and your suns should stick around with us!


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Inger

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Bumble - Pacific (or Celestial) Parrotlet hatched 02/19/17
Re: Birdsitting to ownership

Oh and get the tapatalk app for your phone. Makes picture posting dead simple.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Scott

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Aug 21, 2010
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San Diego, California USA, Earth, Milky Way Galaxy
Parrots
Goffins: Gabby, Abby, Squeaky, Peanut, Popcorn / Citron: Alice / Eclectus: Angel /Timneh Grey: ET / Blue Fronted Amazon: Gonzo /

RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
Re: Birdsitting to ownership

I'm loving your insight and ability to hone in on operative issues, or to be blunt, cut through the crap with aunt and cousin! But as all know the unwitting pawns of Ruby and Blu deserve clarity and decisive actions.

Did Ruby observe your interactions with Aunt? Parrots pick up body language, heated dialog of strife, and often return the favor with aggression.

Are you lining up for the big reveal with "I have the answers you are looking for. Now I will just have to have a chat with husband and we will have all of our answers."

Beautiful suns, they are quite welcome! No problems with birds + people, only compromising situations with endangerment/abuse/graphic content.
 
OP
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Bekki

Supporting Member
Mar 31, 2021
32
14
Parrots
Loki - Sun Conure
Mango - Sun Conure
Ruby - Camelot Macaw
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  • #20
Re: Birdsitting to ownership

Well, I didn't visit yesterday, and didn't text. Didn't hear anything from my aunt. This morning I awoke to a text that was a photo of my aunt with my Conures, back when they lived with her.

Me: Awww, that's a good pic.

Aunt: Thanks, I love it. I miss them but I know they have a great home and lots of love. So cousin is home now.

Me: Home to live or home for a visit? Ask her to find the conure's paperwork.

Then I sent a cute video of some macaws dancing with the label #goalsforRuby.

I have received no response. To be fair, she is probably working. I'm not planning to visit again unless invited/asked. I would think she would want to lay out what path they have determined to go down, but she isn't voluntarily sharing anything yet.

On a more positive note, I downloaded the app that I was suggested - it's having network issues right now, but hopefully I can start using it.

In the mean time, here are more of my babies (including my oldest baby, my daughter)....

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