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Wings 'n Things on PetLifeRadio.comSusan Chamberlain, host of Wings 'n Things

Susan Chamberlain
Bird Expert, Author & Columnist

Crazy 'Bout Conures?

Roberta Fabiano

Roberta Fabiano

Meet Roberta Fabiano and mitred conure, 'Ratchet'! An overview of conure habitats, behavior and preferences. Yes, birds certainly do have strong preferences, and conures are no exception! These lively little clowns can be noisy, busy and very lovable. Roberta shares her experiences with the 'Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill' along with a very special song she wrote about three of the birds in Mark Bittner's book of the same title.

Announcer 1: You’re listening to Pet Life

Announcer 2: So, why do seagulls live near the sea? Because if they lived near the bay, they’d be bagels. [laughter] Welcome to Wings N’ Things where you’ll find real answers to real questions about everything you want to know about pet birds: Care, feeding, bird products, travel and more! Everything to make your frequent flier a happy camper. From parrots to parakeets, cockatiels to cockatoos, you’ll have a birds eye view of everything there is to know about your fun, feathered friends. So, spread your wings and get ready to fly with your Wings N’ Things host bird expert and author Susan Chamberlain.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Hi, welcome to Wings N’ Things on Pet Life Radio. I’m your host Susan Chamberlain and we’ve got a special species spotlight today where we’re going to be discussing conures. They’re colorful vibrant birds from South America and a special guest, Roberta Fabiano, and her mitered conure Ratchet. Roberta welcome to Wings N’ Things on Pet Life Radio.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Well, thank you Susan. It’s such a pleasure to be here.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Well, what is your conure’s name? I see your little mitered conure Ratchet is right here on your arm.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And she’s a green bird with red around her face.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And she’s about eleven inches long over all. While we’re talking about conures we should tell you conures are indigenous to South America. And there are two genus of conures. There’s the pyura [sp.] conure which includes dusky conures. They’re kind of quieter, smaller and have more jewel tones, you know the darker tones. And Ratchet is a member of the genus Aratinga[sp].


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Which if you put the two words together, ‘ara’ means macaw and ‘tinga’ means smaller. It’s like little macaw.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Oh. We didn’t know that wow.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And they actually look like little macaws.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Hey, they do.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: They have a big beak in relation to their face, they have that long tail, they’re larger and noisier than the pyura conures. And some of the aratinga species are the gold-capped conure, the sun conure, blue crown, cherry headed and mitered conures, the genday conure and the nanday conure.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Oh, I had a nanday conure.


ROBERTA FABIANO: Yes I did. And I must say, well the nanday has the black head.


ROBERTA FABIANO: He’s a little smaller than the mitered. But, he’s very loud, he’s very boisterous. My nanday didn’t speak, although I do understand that some of them can speak.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: But he chattered away enough, and those nandays, you know they have that little black head and the green body but they look like they have little red leggings on.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: They have red feathers on their legs.

ROBERTA FABIANO: They do, yes. My friends used to call him the gangster bird.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: The gangster bird? Why?

ROBERTA FABIANO: He was just very demanding, head strong.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, ok. Well, they kind of are. You know, I call my amazons the gang of four.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Sometimes I call them the sandanistas.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Oh my goodness.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: They get what they want and they work in concert, but One thing about conures, we’ll spell it for everybody who may not know its C-O-N-U-R-E. You know I get mail from people calling them condors.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah, sometimes you look in the newspaper and you see someone selling a gold capped condor. [laughter]

ROBERTA FABIANO: I used to think that way before I knew anything about parrots. So, I understand.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: I know. And You want to call what kind of species that is. But, it’s a conure C-O-N-U-R-E and there are many different varieties of them. When you go to Costa Rica you may see them flying around jabbering away, you can’t mistake that sound.

ROBERTA FABIANO: I’d love to go there.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Mm-hmm. I saw some in Bonaire. You know the island of Bonaire has its own species.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Where is that?

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: It’s off the coast of Venezuela. Its part of the ABC islands, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. They have an indigenous conure called the Bonaire conure.

ROBERTA FABIANO: What does that look like?

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: It kind of looks like the genday conure. It’s yellow with green wings.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: and its probably about the same size maybe about nine or ten inches long from tail to head.

Ratchet: [Squaks]

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: See that little voice you here in the background here, that’s Ratchet. She has to put her two cents in every so often.

ROBERTA FABIANO: And she does speak and she sings to.



SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Well, conures weren’t always known for their great talking ability, but now that more of them are domestically bred and hand raised we’re finding out that they do have a much better talking ability than anybody thought. Ratchet, would you like to say a few words?

Ratchet: [Chirps]

ROBERTA FABIANO: Ratchet why don’t you tell the audience, why don’t you ask them a question. What’s up? Go ahead ask them what’s up? What’s up? What’s up? Come on, that’s me saying it. We’ve been trying to get her. What’s up? What’s up?

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: You know Ratchet’s very used to the microphone because her pet human Roberta Fabiano is a professional musician. She’s the lead vocalist and lead guitarist with the legendary Peter Duchin Orchestra. Roberta often brings Ratchet with her into her recording studio and sometimes on special gigs.

ROBERTA FABIANO: I brought her, actually, on a Peter Duchin job once. When we played for the fundraiser for the Long Island Parrot Society. Do you remember that?

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: That’s right, you did.

ROBERTA FABIANO: And I put her by the microphone.


ROBERTA FABIANO: She looked good.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: She did, she’s great. Roberta has a specially outfitted guitar for Ratchet, too. Why don’t you tell us what it is, Roberta.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Well, a friend of mine actually gave me this little Barbie guitar. It’s actually quite cute. It’s got little nylon strings, built to scale and it’s the perfect size for my bird. And I give the bird, well I would never give her the guitar and leave the room, I have to watch. Because it has lots of little pieces on it, you don’t want her swallowing it or chewing it.


ROBERTA FABIANO: But I give her the little guitar and she bashes it around like a little Pete Townsend.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, that’s so funny.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Yeah, I even put her on YouTube. I got a little YouTube thing.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, that’s hysterical. One thing we have to be careful of, though, now, you know you’re hearing so much about the toys for children made in China.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Right, oh yes.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: That have lead paint on them.

ROBERTA FABIANO: What is that all about.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: I know, so we have to be especially careful when we’re giving our birds human toys.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And take a look, see if they’re made in China or even in an undeveloped country because they may not have the same requirements as we do here in the United States.

ROBERTA FABIANO: I know that I’ve learned from the Parrot Society, definitely if you’re going to give them a cloth toy, it better be all cloth.


ROBERTA FABIANO: Nothing with the plastic eyes or anything like that.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah, no you don’t want anything that they can pull off and swallow. Roberta, how about your own guitar that you have outfitted for Rachet?

ROBERTA FABIANO: Oh yes. Oh that one. Yes, I put a little, a broken drumstick on the end of my acoustic guitar. I just taped, its a throw away guitar, it didn’t matter that I put tape on it. And, I put the parrot on the drumstick, so it’s a little perch.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: A parrot perch right on the guitar.

ROBERTA FABIANO:  A parrot perch right on the guitar.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And when people see it they think its like some cool musician thing that they didn’t know about.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Right, then you see the bird appear.


ROBERTA FABIANO: They say what’s that? That’s my parrot perch.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: I know, yeah. You know one thing conures have in common, being rainforest birds, they just love water.  And when I had a couple of conures years ago, you know the minute I would fill their water dishes, they would be in those water dishes taking baths.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: It didn’t matter how cold it was in the apartment. They were there taking baths, splashing water all over my cat.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN:  All over everything.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Really, and you had a cat when you had your parrots?

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: My cat was terrified of the birds.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah, well all they’d have to do is sound of and throw water on her and her ears were flattened out and


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And she was off and running.

ROBERTA FABIANO: So she never tried to attack ?

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: No, she didn’t. So Ratchet loves water, too.

ROBERTA FABIANO: She does she takes a shower with me every day.


ROBERTA FABIANO: She does. I’ve got one of those little perches that attaches to the wall with the little suction cups and she loves it. She closes her eyes in bliss.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah, she has her own little shower perch.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Yes she does. And she demands that I put her in.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, I bet she does.

ROBERTA FABIANO: She goes crazy. She knows when I take a shower she just screams until I put her in there.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: That’s great. Daily showers are so good for these birds. It’s so good for their feather condition. Its great for their sinuses. Its good for their skin.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Yes, yes. And you spray yours?

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah, I spray mine with a spray bottle. Sometimes they’ll take a shower, they’ll take a bath in their water dishes. My African Grey parrot Bert, he’ll get right into the water dish with his feet, like a duck. It’s so funny.

ROBERTA FABIANO: That’s so cute.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: He’s got those big wet feet.

ROBERTA FABIANO: So when you spray them its just straight water, you don’t put anything else in?

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: No, it really isn’t necessary to put anything else in it.

ROBERTA FABIANO: You can’t put soap on your bird.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: No, No, you don’t want to strip the essential oils off the bird’s feathers.
ROBERTA FABIANO: Right, right.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: You don’t want to add any perfumes or anything like that. So, just plain water, that’s what they’re used to in nature, and that’s what they should have in your home. Plain water, and they love it. You know if your birds afraid of, and your going to be giving your bird a shower, and its afraid of the spray bottle, try just spraying it up toward the ceiling and let the droplets gently fall on your bird. That often has a totally different effect than if you just, like, shoot it at the bird gun style.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And never use water to punish your bird, you know if your bird is yelling and screaming of course you can encourage it to take a bath spray it gently to distract it. I’m all for distracting, but of course you don’t want to put it on a stream and you know shoot it at the bird as a punishment. Not a good thing.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: I mean, when a bird’s yelling and screamin, its not being bad its just being a bird.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Yeah. Its trying to communicate with you.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah. Maybe there’s something amiss in the environment.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: One time my birds were screaming and carrying on and there was no rhyme or reason for it.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: So I looked at their perches and it’s a little below my eye level, so I said let me get down to their eye level. So I got down to their eye level.

ROBERTA FABIANO: That’s a good idea, yeah.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah and as soon as I did, I could see there was a big black kite caught up in the telephone wires on the next block.

ROBERTA FABIANO: That’s why. They probably thought it was an eagle or something.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And they could see that. And it scared them.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: I know, a big bird of prey.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: So you know try to think like a bird if your bird’s doing something that you don’t want it to do or that seems frightening. [Chirpping] We hear Ratchet there.

ROBERTA FABIANO: We do, I wish you would speak.


ROBERTA FABIANO: Come on Ratchet, say something, Ratch.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Well we can hear plenty, come on Ratch.

ROBERTA FABIANO: What’s up? What’s up? What’s up? What’s up? Why don’t you try to sing? You want to try to sing a little bit? Sing merry Christmas. Come on, come on.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: She’s saying come on.

ROBERTA FABIANO:[singing] Sing merry Christmas. Sing merry Christmas. Ahhhh. Come on. Sing. You sing. Come on you sing. Sing merry Christmas. And then the other song, well she does sing merry Christmas, she was taught by her former owner. And she also does Shake our booty, unfortunately, but she does sing. Come on, shake shake shake, shake shake shake. Shake your booty. Shake your booty.  Shake shake shake.

Ratchet: Come on. Sing! [Squak]

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: I guess Ratchet does not want to cooperate. I have to say Roberta, she has you very well trained.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Yes, doesn’t she. She’s using me as a preening stand right now, so that people will know.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yes she certainly does. But she does have very good talking ability. She says shake your booty, and merry Christmas, and come on sing.

ROBERTA FABIANO: She says, “Come on, sing.” And at night she’ll tell me when she wants to go to sleep. She says “Good night” she gets like and austrailian-


ROBERTA FABIANO: Yes, Good night. I love you. I love you. Good night.   

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: I love you, good night give me a kiss.

ROBERTA FABIANO: I taught her to say ‘I love you’.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And she also does pretty girl, pretty girl.

ROBERTA FABIANO: I’m a pretty girl, I’m a pretty birdy,  I’m a good birdy.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, I thought she was calling me a pretty girl.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Oh, I think she was. Yes she was. And then when you leave today she’s going to say “Bu-Bye, see you laer.”


ROBERTA FABIANO: She’ll stand by the door and watch the guests leave and start saying that, its just playful. And when you come here she’ll say “Come on in.” Like that. She’s mimicking me.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: I know. She’s really something.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And she has her big beautiful new cage with all her toys.

ROBERTA FABIANO: That’s right. Yes, that you gave her.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: So, she has plenty to do.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Thank you very much.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Well, she needed a brand new birdy condo.

ROBERTA FABIANO: It is a condo.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, its her safe place. Its her new estate she kind of loves to show it off.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Yeah, she does.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And the birdies do love to show off.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Now there was a really interesting phenomenon out in San Francisco. Many of you may have heard of the book or the movie the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. The birds in that movie, some of them looked very much like Ratchet. Most of them were Cherry-headed conures, but they are very, very close second to the mitered conure. They both have red heads and brilliant green bodies. There were also some blue crowned conures in the flock. And a man named Mark Bittner kind of observed these birds. And began feeding them, began studying them, began caring for them.  And then the movie the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill came about. And shortly after, not too long after the book was published and it was an incredible story about these wild flocks and in parts of the country you do see wild flocks of parrots.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: In New Jersey you see the Quaker parakeets, over in Edgewater.

ROBERTA FABIANO: That’s right. Yes we saw that. And they also have the Quakers in Brooklyn, I believe.


ROBERTA FABIANO: Over on Ocean Avenue, near Coney Island.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yes and up near Coop city.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Co-op City, City Island.


ROBERTA FABIANO: I’ve seen nests there that had to be taken down by the electric company.


ROBERTA FABIANO: But I believe they did it humanely, they made sure there were no deaths.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, well those Quakers they build humongous community nests. And they live in these big nests by the hundreds. So, it’s just incredible to see them out there living an thriving in the wild in an urban environment. Oh Roberta, we saw conures and quakers in Florida, also.

ROBERTA FABIANO: That’s right, we did. In Carl Gables I saw a whole tree of mitereds.


ROBERTA FABIANO: Yes. Oh yeah I was out of my mind.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And we saw the conures and the Quakers in Lantana.

ROBERTA FABIANO: That’s right. We saw nandays to, remember on top of the palm trees.


ROBERTA FABIANO: They were going crazy.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: I know it was so cool. And you know they live, they thrive and they haven’t become pests, as far as we know. The department of agriculture or fish and wild life gets a little concerned about it every once and a while, but so far the only ones they seem to impact are the utility companies.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Because of the Quakers building their nests on utility poles.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Right. And the weight of the nests are what they’re concerned about.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Oh yes. They can weigh hundreds of pounds.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: But you know ospreys have built their nests on utility poles for years, too, and they still do.

ROBERTA FABIANO: They still do.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: That’s why people erect osprey platforms.

ROBERTA FABIANO: I believe people are erecting platforms for the Quakers as well.


ROBERTA FABIANO: Because that was a real atrocity in Connecticut when they were being taken down by the companies, the electric companies and they weren’t doing it in a very humane way.


Announcer 2: Sitting on a branch over looking the parking lot, the pigeons watched as a Mercedes pulled in below them. “What do you think?” one bird said to the other, “Should we put a deposit on that car?” Stay perched. Wings N’ Things will be right back after these messages.


Announcer 2: A Frenchman walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder. The bartender asks, “Where did you get that thing?” The parrot replies, “In France, there are millions of them.” Don’t have a canary. Wings N’ Things is back with more great words on birds with your host Susan Chamberlain.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Well, people really fall in love with wild parrots.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: As Mark Bittner did in San Francisco and after Roberta read the book she wrote a song about the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill, about three of the birds in the book. Roberta, why don’t you tell us something about these birds and what inspired you to write the song.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Well, its just a tear jerker, the whole story. I didn’t even know a movie was coming out, I just read the book, and that was- Actually, if anyone has read the book it is good to see the movie and vice versa. They both compliment each other. But in the book, Mark, the birds actually change Marks life. He was living homeless and just making it by the skin of his teeth, and, you gotta read the book to see how he connected with the birds, but they changed his life around, gave him tremendous meaning to his life that he never had and there were three parrots, in the book. One of the parrots you won’t see in the movie. Her name was Dogen. So I chose, I read the book, I wrote an email to Mark just said “hey I love your book, I want to write a song about three of your favorite birds.” And I figured one was Dogen, the other one was Connor whose the blue-crowned and the Tupelo was another cherry-head. Those are his three most beloved parrots who are no longer with us. And I wanted to fashion the song with the same kind of sentiment that Abraham, Martin and John, you remember the old song by Dion, it was a great song. So I called it Dogen Connor and Tupelo. I sent it off to him and he said he loved it and they ended up including it in their DVD when they made the DVD of the movie.


ROBERTA FABIANO: So that was really cool. Remember that?

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: So there’s a music video of Dogen, Connor and Tupelo on the DVD of the movie.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And so also people can down load it on itunes.

ROBERTA FABIANO: That’s right, they can. Yes, they can. And they can download it off of, we can send them copies through the Long Island Parrot Society website. What’s their website, now?


ROBERTA FABIANO: You can order it through that and then your money will go towards the building of the  Long Island Parrot Museum shelter and adoption center.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, that’s something that’s very sorely needed, as we do have so many displaced parrots, homeless for one reason or another. And we’ll go over that in an upcoming show. But right now, Roberta, I would love to hear the song Dogan, Connor, and Tupelo.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Would you like to hear it? Ok.


ROBERTA FABIANO: [singing] People ask, where I found why I stay in this town, I answer them with out a sound. Look up to the trees. They call to me. They call to me. I answer them I answer them, Good bye forever, feathered friends. It was an honor to experience their haunting melodies. There were three that were special and sometimes I can see Dogan, Connor, and Tupelo flying back to me. Dogan had the strength of ten. I named her after Master Zen and Connor was the regal one. He wore a crown of blue. Tupelo was my baby and I swore I read her mind. Dogan, Connor, and Tupelo, they were friends of mine. People ask, where I found, why I love this mountain town. I tell them all of the friends I found. They’re just memories. And their memories still live on, but sometimes I still see, I see Dogan, Connor, and Tupelo flying wild and free. Dogan, Connor, and Tupelo flying home to me.

Announcer 2: Sitting on a branch over looking the parking lot, the pigeons watched as a Mercedes pulled in below them. “What do you think?” one bird said to the other, “Should we put a deposit on that car?” Stay perched. Wings N’ Things will be soaring back right after these messages.


Announcer 2: A Frenchman walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder. The bartender asks, “Where did you get that thing?” The parrot replies, “In France, there are millions of them.” Don’t have a canary. Wings N’ Things is back with more great words on birds with your host Susan Chamberlain.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Roberta, that was just breath taking.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Thank you so much.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: What a song. I remember when you and Mark Bittner performed it together. At the meeting, right.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Yeah, at the Long Island Parrot Society’s meeting shortly after the movie came out. And there  was not a dry eye in the audience. People weren’t just like tearing up, some of them were actually sobbing they had seen the movie and they could relate it to the song.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Right, right. And we had Pete Antell on bass, remember?

ROBERTA FABIANO: Oh right, right. Mm-hmm.
SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: We’ll have to thank him very much for playing with us. Donating his services another great song writer.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Yeah, Pete Antell. And what was his famous song?

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: He had a song called Nighttime. And he was also the first person to record the Dylan Times they are a-Changing.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Unbelievably. Yeah.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah, we want to let the world know.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Yes, we’ve got some special song birds here as well.


ROBERTA FABIANO: That’s for sure.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: But, Roberta, one thing I notices, at the end of the song was the sound of parrots all, sounded like a whole flock of parrots.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Well that was just, I have a keyboard here I call it a work station. It’s a Triton. People who are in the music business will probably know its sort of standard keyboard that you use. And it has samples. I have samples of the parrots and as a matter of fact I samped your parrots on here to create the theme that we’re using on the show. And we’ll use it on the television show. Did you ever tell people about the television show that you do?

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Well, the Long Island Parrot Society does a television show.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Well, right. And you host it.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Its regional here on Long Island and up in Rockland county on CableVision’s public access channel. Its called the bird club and it’s a weekly half hour show. And because it is public access of course it, the time and even the day may change every six months, so you kind of have to look for it or go to the Long Island Parrot Society’s website and look for it and again that’s But Roberta, were those the actual wild parrots at the end of the song?

ROBERTA FABIANO: I did implant some of them in there and I did go to San Francisco a couple of times. And I met Mark and Judy. You know they’re married now. They got married.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, Judy is the filmmaker.

ROBERTA FABIANO: That’s right. She directed and produced-


ROBERTA FABIANO: Yeah! Yeah, and she does a lot of other animal related movies. It was just amazing. You walk up towards telegraph hill and you hear them flying over head.


ROBERTA FABIANO: And then you start running, Oh my gosh.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Do you hear them even before you see them?


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Like we did when we went and saw the Quaker parrots in New Jersey?


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Remember we were walking down and we were hoping we’d get in the right place and then we heard them.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Then you heard them and then you start running.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: O.k., So you heard them, but it must have been amazing to see birds that looked just like your own bird flying around.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Oh, I know. And there is a mitered conure in the flock. And I think she might still be around. Olive, and she mated with one of he cherry-heads so they have hybrids now. Hybrid babies.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Hybrid babies. And there was a little parakeet flying around with the flock too. In the movie.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Oh that’s right. He sort of led the pack. He led the pack.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: He didn’t know he was tiny and Austrailian.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: With all those South Americans.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: So what how was it emotionally just seeing these birds just flying?

ROBERTA FABIANO: Well the greatest part of that visit was when the birds came and visited Mark. They actually came and visited Mark in the tree where we’d see him in the movie. I mean, I was right there.


ROBERTA FABIANO: But I took a ton of pictures of course. It was just, for me, just breathtaking to see that and be a part of it. I think the people of San Francisco that became aware of what was going on, they started to feed the birds themselves. And we realized that its not a good thing because then the birds depend on the humans so Mark and Judy, we worked on passing a aw that’s illegal now to feed birds. And let them live in the wild.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: But they were also able to preserve the trees that the birds were living in.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Yes. That was major.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: I know there was a situation where some of the trees were going to be cut down.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: But they were able to stop that.

ROBERTA FABIANO: They stopped it. I think one was cut down, but they saved a few of them.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Well, you know in San Francisco you don’t, when you have a pet you don’t, its no longer referred to as owning a pet.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Is that true?

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: You are the pet’s guardian. Yeah, yeah. Owner is not politically correct.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Really. Well, it is true isn’t it?


ROBERTA FABIANO: We always say that our parrots own us.


ROBERTA FABIANO: Especially their personalities, but in reality it is-

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: I know, Well in New York where we live, its, the legal standard for animals is that they are property. But I think when you have a bird the question of who owns who is really up for grabs.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Yeah. Absolutely. Who was that other guest you had at the Parrot Society meeting. Joanna Burger was that her name?


ROBERTA FABIANO: Who wrote that book.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: The Parrot who Owns Me.

ROBERTA FABIANO: The Parrot who Owns Me.


ROBERTA FABIANO: Another great book.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And they kind of do. You know.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: They’re the boss. You know when I get up in the morning and its time to take care of the birds you know you feed the birds you socialize with the birds.

ROBERTA FABIANO: You are an amazing bird owner.


ROBERTA FABIANO: I’ve stayed over Susan’s house and I’ve seen what Susan does. You make them muffins in the morning.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Well it’s not really a muffin. I mean this is kind of a neat recipe if you’d like to try it. U use egg beaters you know constant eggs for your bird aren’t really good because it’s got too much cholesterol in it, so use an egg substitute like egg beaters. The equivalent of well for my birds I use the equivalent of two eggs and it lasts about three days because I just give them each a little piece. But I put the egg mixture in the blender. I add some sliced raw carrots a couple of broccoli florets and I take the pellets that the birds eat and separately I ground it up in the food processor so it’s like flour. I keep that in a jar. I add a heaping tablespoon of that pellet powder to this mixture. I whip it around in the blender until its all pulverized and then I cook it just like an omelet.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Look at that. Look at the work that you do, its just amazing. Yeah, they’re very healthy birds and they’re happy birds, too.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Well it’s really easy and it’s a really good way to sneak good nutrition into birds that may be kind of picky and cantankerous. You know my Amazon parrots are all over- except for Kelly, Kelly is the baby, she’s only 27. But the other Amazons, my two double yellow heads and my red lord Amazon are all probably 33-35 years old.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Wow. That’s amazing.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN:  And all four of them were wild caught imports. And although they’re all tame and sociable, Cracker’s my best bud I’ve had her 27 years, she’s always at my shoulder.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Attached to the shoulder.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yep, attached to the shoulder. But you know in their first homes, they were probably just fed sunflower seeds and junk food. Cracker lived with a bachelor in Brooklyn during her formative years and let me tell you even after all this time, and I hardly ever get take out food at my house, but she still knows what a pizza box is. The one or two times a pizza box comes into my house Cracker’s ready to dive into it.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: So this omelet egg mixture is a really good way to sneak some nutrition into these resistant birds.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Excellent, excellent.  

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And you know you just cook it till, well you know you don’t want to give them a runny egg mixture. You cook it till its almost kind of ready of omlety and it’s very good for them. And they’re thriving. You know Cracker wouldn’t touch a pellet otherwise. So I sneak it into the egg mix.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Yes, that’s excellent. And Ratchet stays at your house every now and then when I travel which is a wonderful thing, she eats up a storm.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Ratchet gets that too.

ROBERTA FABIANO: She does, she does.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Well, Ratchet she likes her carrots. And getting a bird to eat carrots, may be, only bird people understand this, do they like their carrots in sticks, do they like their carrots in chunks? Do they like their carrots raw, or do they like their carrots cooked? Their like, you just have to discover a way to get them to eat them. And carrots and sweet potatoes, a little bit of mango, all these bright yellow, vitamin A rich fruits and vegetables are very, very good for birds. Cause vitamin A deficiency, particularly in cockatiels can be a big problem, and this is a good way to get it into them.

ROBERTA FABIANO: I know that Ratchet will not eat a grape unless you cut it in half.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Oh, well, of course, I cut all of my bird’s grapes I half.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Well, I didn’t know I had to learn.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yes and you must de-seed them as well.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: No necessarily. Well, I have a friend or two who will not eat a grape unless its peeled.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Really? That’s nuts.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. But, You know we take really good care o the birds and to non bird people, like my mother, she’ll say “Oh for goodness sake, you know what is all this all about?

ROBERTA FABIANO: They’re our children.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. And blueberries are very good for them. You know the mild acidity is good for their crops also.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Oh, and what about that crop, the gravel. When I first got my first parrot they sold me a box of that at the store.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: You don’t need it, you don’t need it.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Its not necessary right?



SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Well, my birds, well, I’ve had most of my birds for more than twenty years.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: They’ve never had gravel. They’re just thriving.

ROBERTA FABIANO: I wondered about that.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Most veterinarians advise against it because the risk of impaction is too great. It can get impacted in their crops, it can irritate their digestive system. And the fallacy of providing a bird with a cup of gravel is just silly. If they need any grit its at the most a couple of grains of grit a year. And they really don’t need it. They have everything that they need. Uh-oh I hear Ratchet. Ratchet are you tuning up?

ROBERTA FABIANO: Ratchet do you want to say something? You want to sing? Sing. Come on sing. Sing merry Christmas. Sing merry Christmas.

Ratchet: [Chirps]

ROBERTA FABIANO: Sing merry Christmas. Come on. Sing merry Christmas.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: She’s very distracted with something today.

ROBERTA FABIANO: I don’t know why she’s- ask what’s up? What’s up? Come on.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: What’s up? What’s up Ratch?

ROBERTA FABIANO: Whats up? What’s up Ratchet?

Ratchet: [Chirps]

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: She also says Hiya Ratch.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Hiya Ratch. You taught her that.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yes. She got that from me. Maybe if we, you know Ratchet is no stranger to microphones, so she’s not intimidated.

ROBERTA FABIANO: No, I don’t know why it is she’s not speaking today.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: I know she’s just interested in all sort of other things.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Sorry. Yes, like biting my hand.


ROBERTA FABIANO: But its an affectionate bite. It doesn’t hurt.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: No. You know when birds bite, that’s one thing that can really ruin a relationship.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Between a person and a bird.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And the biting can be caused by several different things. You know there’s displacement biting where in the wild the bird ill try and warn its mate away from danger by nipping at it.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: So if someone else approaches you, like especially say you’ve got your bird on your arm, and someone else comes up to you quickly and your bird nips you that’s displacement biting.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Wow. Interesting because, yeah, she’ll always do that. She’’ll bite me instead. I mean, what are you doing?

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah, Yeah, that’s displacement biting. And you know if you socialize your bird a little more, that may help with that, or just being aware of it.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: And there’s also fear biting if a bird is afraid. You know if you’re sticking your hands in its cage, your bird may bite. That’s territorial biting.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: If your bird is prone to territorial biting, just wait until the bird comes out of the cage before you attempt to pick it up.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Oh that’s a good point.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Mm-hmm. And stick train the bird. Teach the bird to get onto a stick.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Luckily the two birds I’ve ever had were trained already with the stick.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah, yeah. Well, and that’s a great thing for a bird to do. You know if you bird sit or a bird comes to your house, you may be nervous about handling your bird. If the bird is stick trained you can pick the bird up, put the bird on the stand. If your bird ever, heaven forbid, gets out and it is up a tree, and you extend a stick its not going to be afraid of the stick because its used to the stick.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Right, Right. And you have a bird sitter come to your house because you have ten birds, right?

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: I do. Yes, she comes and stays whenever I go on vacation.

ROBERTA FABIANO: it’s the only way to do it.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: I know when you’re out of town on Gigs, Ratchet comes to my house.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Yes she does.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: So it helps to have a birdy friend.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Thank you. Yes it’s always nice.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, we have to have our birdy godmothers.

ROBERTA FABIANO: Yes we do. And then we buy them things on the road when we go shopping. Nice trinkets.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, you have to buy the bird a present.

ROBERTA FABIANO: The bird a present.

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: So, Ratchet are you going to get a present this weekend? When you’re mother goes out of town, you don’t know Ratch.


SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: Well, we’re ready to sign off Wings N’ Things, lets see if we can get Ratchet to say ‘bu-bye!’

ROBERTA FABIANO: Come on sing.

Ratchet: [Chirps]

SUSAN CHAMBERLAIN: All we’re getting out of this is a little chirp.

Announcer 2: Join us every week on Wings N’ Things with your host Susan Chamberlain and get a bird’s eye view of everything there is to know about pet birds and how to make your frequent flyer a happy camper. Wings N’ Things, only on

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