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June 2017 Mayor of the Avenue... Laurie

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expressmailtome

Ripping up the road
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Our "Mayor of the Avenue" award is presented to a member who exhibits the qualities that distinguish them to be an upstanding credit to the Avenue, a loving, informed, conscientious and caring bird parront and an all around good neighbor.

I am happy to announce that Laurie is June's Mayor of the Month.
I enjoyed reading your interview, and am sure that everyone else will as well!


1. What kind of birds do you have (age, species and names)?


I have four White-bellied Caiques and two Black-headed Caiques. They are all between 4 and 4 1/2 years of age.

I keep them as pairs.

Turbo and Peaches, WBCs

Mr Quackers and Ember, WBCs

Bandit and Rainey, BHCs

Ask me in a few days and I will have some hatchlings too :)


2. What got you interested in birds?

My parents. I always wanted a pet, but my Mom is allergic to cats and dogs so all we had at first was an aquarium. It was certainly fun to watch but definitely not very interactive.

I remember a day when I was about 7 years old and my family went to the Natural History Museum and my brother and I were looking around the gift shop begging Mom to buy us some little thing or another, but she said she had a better idea. She and Dad wanted to get us a budgie!!! We were super excited!

Birdkeeping kind of runs on both sides of our family but this was the first one that I remember. We actually got a handfed normal green budgie and named him Charlie. He was the first of three Charlies.


3. What have your birds brought to your life?

They absolutely bring joy and passion to my life. Real, true emotions well up just thinking about them. While I can and have lived without birds in my life, the passion never leaves me and the joy returns when the birds do.

4. What have you learned from sharing your life with your birds?

I think birds have taught me from a young age to be responsible, caring and nurturing. To look out for something other than myself.

Also, I have learned more about birds, natural history, habitat and nutrition (both companion animals and wildlife). Keeping birds as pets and seeing them up close everyday has gotten me interested in wildlife too. Wild birds have led me across all the lower 48 states and into Canada searching for those I haven't seen. I've been on car, boat and plane trips, hiked up mountains, through woods, into swamps and across the prairies just to see more birds.

It's a bit of an obsession.

I have also learned quite a lot about wildlife photography by sharing my life with the birds.


5. What's one birdie memory that will stay with you forever?

There are so many...

I had birds growing up but when I got married I gave them up for a time. First off, I immediately moved out of the country so I had to rehome my birds with a couple of friends. Secondly, my hubby is severely allergic to birds (more on that latter).

Anyways, the first bird I got after we were married was a little blue handfed parrotlet who was super tame. I got him at a flea market and he was the lone baby in a clutch and if ever a bird picked a person, this parrotlet picked me. We had planned on getting a bird but it was still in the works and getting lost in the moment I figured it would be okay to just get him and bring him home without discussing it with hubby.

Well, when I got home I introduced the little guy to hubs and he stepped right up on his hand. Hubs said he was the nicest looking parakeet he ever saw! I had to inform him that this was no "parakeet" and also that he had a price tag that you never saw on a "parakeet" either! And then there was the flight cage, and perches, and toys and food... But wasn't he a sweet little bird???

On that night, I promised never to bring home another living thing without discussing it first.

We decided to name the little blue guy, "Trouble". I always joked that the next one would be named "Divorce".

About six months later, we discussed it and brought home 8 more parrotlets.

Is that ONE memory? Well, it is one story at least...


6. Where is your birds main living area?

They have two of their own rooms which are located in the front of the house. Their space includes about 260 sq ft. The rooms are connected with a door in between, one room has their cages and the other is the playroom/kitchen/baby room.

7. Did you change things in your home to accommodate your birds and if so what kinds of things did you change?

Absolutely. Remember how I said my husband is severely allergic to birds, and remember that tiny blue parrotlet that I brought home?

Well, that one little, tiny, blue parrotlet made my husband allergic to the entire house within 6 weeks time. He couldn't be in the door two minutes without having a persistent, hacking cough. It was awful.

That was over 10 years ago and we have been through several different set-ups. Currently, we have the two rooms that the birds stay in. They really never come to the other parts of the house.

So now for the changes. We remodeled the two rooms. This included adding walls, moving doors, closing off ventilation which was shared with the rest of the house, installing electrical, plumbing, new heating and air, new flooring and everything else you need for birds. But that's not all, some time back we discovered that just keeping the door closed wasn't enough. We had to keep the "bird air" out of the rest of the house.

Ultimately, what worked for us was creating a negative pressure room, similar to what a hospital does for a quarantine room. It is actually quite simple to do. You just need a fairly sealed room with one way to exhaust air out and one way to take fresh air in at the other end. We have an exhaust fan running 24/7 and it sucks air in through the crack under the door that connects to the rest of the house and draws it out through the attic.

The bird air keeps going out and it keep the allergens out of the rest of the house and keeps the bird room fresh.


It's been working already for 4 years. Hubby goes to see the birds everyday but can really only stay about 5 minutes before the allergies start kicking in.

The birds also have hard flooring, a glass door for me to peak in on them, a sink and a fridge.


8. Are you involved in any kind of bird related group or activities?

Over the years, I have been involved in several bird groups and forums. Also, bird societies and clubs. I have written articles for club newletters and taught a toy making workshop at a bird club. I don't have time for regular commitments so right now most of my activity is online. I am on a few facebook groups for caiques and some others for companion birds and some for wildlife and bird photography.

If you include the wild birds, several times a year I attend bird walks or events where other birders gather. I always seem to meet up with other bird people and chat with them. Last year I was able to spend a few hours participating in a "Big Sit", it is competitive event where you observe, count and report bird activity from within a 17 foot circle. Which ever team counts the most species wins and money gets donated to Texas State Parks.

Another interesting adjunct to birding is that I try to report some of my bird sitings to ebird, which is a citizen science project run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (part of Cornell University). It is a reviewed by experts to check for any out of the ordinary sitings. A couple of times, the reviewer contacted me to ask for verification because my sitings were uncommon. I was told that at the time of reporting, I reported the latest fall siting of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at a particular location. Another time, I reported a large number of a particular species and the reviewer thought my ID was wrong until I sent a picture to confirm.


It is cool to be able to do a little something for science just while I was am out having fun. The info can later be used collectively to study bird ranges and distribution, migration timing, trends and numbers of birds. All of which ultimately leads to a better understanding and better treatment of wild birds.

9. What is the one luxury item you would love to have for your bird(s)?

Stainless steel cages are on the docket but that is in large part for my personal convenience.

What I really want for my birds is an outdoor aviary.


10. Is there any bird that you dream of owning and if so why?

I've had a lot of birds and for me I really believe caiques are just about a dream come true, but there is one other.

I would love a pair of Hawk-headed Parrots, with chocolate colored foreheads. Since, I am dreaming I may as well be specific.

It is hard to deny that looks play a part but from what I hear the personality is right up my alley. I like to keep them in pairs and if they were to breed I would be okay with that. What is interesting to me about this scenario is that Hawk-headeds are relatively rare in aviculture and I would love to be a part of promoting the species.

I firmly believe that seeing birds up close and interacting with them builds appreciation for birds in the wild and ultimately this can lead people to do great things for animals. If you don't know them it's harder to care and caring is what leads to action.


11. Describe a typical day with you at home with your birds.

I made the decision to keep my birds in pairs, partly because I have very active days and I wanted a flock. Ideally I wanted cagemates for each of them so that they would have playmates all day. So far it has worked out that they can be caged as pairs. I would say that I have more of an aviary situation than a typical pet set-up but that does not stop me from having a pet type relationship with my birds.

The bird room lights are on a timer and they come on at 7:30 am. About this time, I start to hear soft contact calls and beeping from the birds, they are still in their roosting boxes and I always imagine they are saying to one another. "Who's there?", "It's me", "Are you there?", "Yes, I'm here. Are you?" They are my alarm clock. each morning.

By the time I get up and make it down to the birdroom. The birds are out of their boxes and making a ruckus. They may be continuing with the beeping or be in a full on caique scream depending on their mood.

Either way, I say hello to everyone and look them all over to make sure everyone is accounted for and well. Depending on the day and the disposition of the birds, I will let one pair out of their cage to fly a little. Then I offer each of the others an almond if they will be kind enough to move to the left side of the cage. They oblige and get their almonds. I slide in a divider so that I can open the door and take care of feeding and watering without them getting out to harass the couple who is out flying in the other room.


They get clean bowls of fresh pellets and clean water. They also get a bowl of veggies and/or chop. I usually make ahead and freeze it so I have it ready in the morning. I wash dishes and clean up a little then it time to get the flyers back to their cages. With the fresh food in the cages and a bribe (they get their almond now), it is usually not too much trouble to get them back in.

If I am working from home, I will often let the flyers stay out in the big room for a couple hours then I will put them back in their cages and let another couple out and then a few hours later do the same for the third pair, so that they each get a turn. The room is safe and I put out food and water. I can listen from the other room and look in on them through the glass door. Since I have two rooms they can't disturb the others while they are out.

I check in on everyone throughout the day.

I like to change water dishes in the afternoon and top off food if needed and offer a few sunflower seeds. Maybe do a little more cleaning.


It's hormonal time right now so it limits the amount of handling I can do.

Three of the birds stay super sweet. One of them is always a loner regardless of the time of year. She likes to come out but not be on people, just around them. The other two boys are on a murderous mission to get me or the other birds. They still get out of cage time but it is when I have extra time to proceed with due caution.

It's a challenge but everyone gets the attention they want and the cleaning and feeding gets done.

About 9:30 the lights go out, until it is time to start over again.


12. What have you learned about owning birds that you would like to share?

I have always had a thirst for learning and information and researching things, trying to do it just right. In the 30+ years since I got my first budgie Charlie, ideas about bird care have changed dramatically.

My most favorite topic these days is behavior. I would say learn as much about behavior and how to influence it through positive reinforcement, as you can. It's a game changer. Your life and your bird's will be immeasurably better and easier. The better you are at reading and influencing behavior the better relationship you will have and that's what it's all about. Relationships.

Some people like to say it is all about what is best for the birds. I say it about what is best for the relationship. If it doesn't work for the person then it won't work for the bird in the long run. Be proactive. Get educated. Work on it, have fun with it. Develop understanding and educate others. Don't repeat things "they" say on the internet because "they" are often wrong. Seek out up to date info from experts and put is to work.

Finally, don't sell yourself or your bird short. Don't give up on your bird and don't think that you aren't doing enough. Sometimes YOU are just what your bird needs and a little bit of you is so much better than a whole lot of someone else.


13. If you knew then what you know now about birds, what would you do differently?

I wouldn't keep a single bird by itself and I wouldn't clip wings. I'd focus on training and behavior from the start.

14. What other hobbies do you have?

Birding (birdwatching and listing), photography, writing (on occasion), making bird toys and travel.

15. Anything else you would like to share?

I want to say that I am so happy to be here at AA. It is a rare thing to find the perfect mix of knowledgeable, caring people who are willing to share and educate. It is a real community and I am happy to be a part. I have found people hear to be generous with their knowledge, time, money and hearts. It's a pleasure to be included here and a privilege to be asked to share and participate.
 

Lady Jane

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Way to go Laurie! You are a real sweetheart for us.
 

WendyN

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:congratualtions:
 

cassiesdad

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Congrats...a well-deserved honor!
 

Just-passn-thru

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Great interview, I'm 100 percent on board your concept of keeping birds in pairs.

:Congratwav:
 

Clueless

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Wow!

Bless you for the info on the separate air space. From time to time I have read posts concerning lung difficulties of an owner or family member. Nice to know there is an option out there.
 

fluffypoptarts

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:congratualtions::swoon:
 

EllaMay

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:Congratwav: I love reading all of the interview, made me smile. :)
 

rocky'smom

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Congrats
 

Hankmacaw

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Congrats - you are a real asset to AA.
 
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