Category Archives: Birds

A Blind Man, A Parakeet, A Rabbit, A Dog…

I met this blind man who got a dog (a guide dog for the blind) from my colleague.

Coming along with her as she introduced the two and trained them to work as a team was so interesting for me to observe. Mostly because the man claimed himself an animal communicator. He had a rabbit and a parakeet. The parakeet spent most of his time hanging from the key hole or a door handle and occasionally flew over to land on her man’s head. Anyone could plainly see the strong connection these two had. The way the man spoke about his parakeet was more emotional than I’ve ever seen anyone ever speak about a parakeet.

I was never particularly excited or impressed when someone said they were an animal communicator. Animals, just like humans, can express their thoughts through body language and even more so than we can. In the last month or two I have heard a few stories that have slightly altered how I look at that, but it’s still not something I applaud. For me it really comes down to the person – I feel that a lot of people just say they can understand the animal and, instead, say what they think the animal is feeling or thinking. Or exaggerating it.

So this man lives great with his animals – the parakeet flies freely through the apartment (only going in her cage “when she feels like it”), the rabbit hops around his feet, and the dog snoozes on the floor when she’s not on the job. Everyone gets along just fine. A few days ago I got an update on this little family: the parakeet had died! She died right in the man’s hands. He said that she had passed on because she knew that he was now in good hands (because of his new dog) and that she could finally leave, knowing he’d be safe. (Believe it or not, it’s sweet none the less.) The man said he kept getting the parakeet’s name and the dog’s name mixed up the days before the parakeet died. Which makes the whole story just that much spookier. A dog replacing a parakeet to become a man’s “guardian”?

It’s a crazy story (and thought), but I found it so touching. Why not view our animals as our guardians and us as theirs? In any case, his animals surely feel the loving, comforting energy coming from him, and that is what I love about this – it’s what counts! (Below is a picture of his parakeet on her favorite perch.)

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Filed under Animals, Behavioral musings, Birds, Dogs, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans

Tire Toy

The wall of the indoor arena where I ride is lined with toys.

On Saturday, I wasn’t looking for anything fancy, nor to fill up the entire arena with random things. Just one simple object that I could get creative with! As I reached for a hula hoop, my hands landed on a… bike tire! Not the tire itself, but the outside rubber rim.

Genius.With that bike tire, I could ask the horse to move around, pass over the tire and stop with only her front right hoof in the tire ring. She’s a bit of a “make my day” mare and this really got her attention! She hung on my every move: what should I do? Which hoof do you want in that ring? Back or front? Here or there? Where??? I’ll do it as soon as possible!

What a great feeling. So, the great thing is that it doesn’t stop with horses.

No, no, no.

You could use this as a hoop for your dog to jump through! Or a hanging toy for your birds! The list goes on. Point is: we can find any object (it may even be seen as trash by others) and use it in as many ways as possible.

Heck, the next time your bike gets a flat, you’ll be jumping for joy! You’ll have a full day of fun ahead of you with your animals and that punctured tire ring. Yippee!

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Filed under Birds, Dogs, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Teaching Tricks

The Center of Everything

“‘(…) Yes, I do believe humankind holds a special place in the world. It’s the same place held by a mockingbird, in his opinion, and a salamander in whatever he has that resembles a mind of his own.

Every creature alive believes this: The center of everything is me.

Every life has its own kind of worship, I think, but do you think a salamander is worshiping some God that looks like a big two-legged man? Go on! To him, a man’s a shadowy nuisance (if anything) compared to the sacred business of finding food and a mate and making progeny to rule the mud for all times. To themselves and one another, those muddy little salamander lives mean everything’”(217).

- Prodigal Summer

This quote from Prodigal Summer (a book I recommend! Interesting…) reminded me of a book I read in high school. My teacher, a friend of mine and I discussed this subject. Our topic was more along the lines of: Our creation myth or story ends with the appearance of man. But a rabbit’s creation myth ends with the creation of the rabbit.

Point being – we’re all self-absorbed! Ta da! No… While true, that wasn’t the entire point. Simply that every animal only really knows itself and who it is. We’ll never truly understand another species, even if we sit around watching them our entire lives. We can only talk for ourselves. We have no right to say: birds think this and cats feel this. I’m so much better than them. In your mind, you’re the best. In their mind, they are.

It’s in our blood to believe that our species is everything. But I love pondering this, and how each animal feels about themselves (as an individual) and their species (as a group).

Ponder, ponder, ponder…

Think, think, think…

 

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Filed under Animals, Behavioral musings, Birds, Booklist, Dogs, dolphins, elephants, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Quotes

Smarty-Pants Birds

It’s strange to think how many crows we see, without understanding how intelligent they are! Something about how fast they’ve been able to adapt to the mass population of humans – life in the city – is impressive. There’s no doubt they’re extremely intelligent, but I found this article interesting and educational, because it gives some more specific examples.

A great read – take a look by clicking here!

 

 

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The Sound of Music

The hill’s are alive with the sound of… music-al animals!

I’d imagine most people wonder how animals interpret music. Do they enjoy the beats you blare out of your speakers? Has an animal ever made music? What’s the deal?

There have been a few observations of animals dancing to music (for starters, take a look at the posts in the archive on the dancing parrot and the groovin’ golden). In my experience, it seems that if you’re enjoying the music and sending out good energy because of it, the animal picks up on it. If you’re riding a horse for example, you’ll feel the rhythm of the music in your body, the horse will feel that, and the two of you will end up moving in smoother unison.

An animal’s musical life begins with language and the way in which they communicate. This much we know.

Tone of voice (or growl and neigh), pitch, and intonation of a series of nonverbal sounds, plays a huge role in how animals communicate. The same growl a dog uses when he plays can suddenly become terrifying when he uses it with a slightly different and more aggressive tone in a fight that same day. It’s very noticeable (as well as studied more frequently) with birds, primates and marine mammals. These animals have very complex musical language systems, and so do humans.

Your dog, or horse, can read the tone in your voice just like your child or any other human is able to. You can say “Hi!!” or “…Hi…”. It’s the same word but the tone of your voice reveals to others that you’re not doing so well. In music, one note can be played in a happy way, or in a sad way.

Babies relate to lullabies, and understand tone before they can comprehend language. Music can be very powerful – if someone’s depressed, sick, or having a bad day. So it seems easy to assume that animals relate to our music too… or do they? Observe how your pet reacts to tunes you put on. How do they act when you start dancing around with a huge grin on your face?

 

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Filed under Birds, Human & Animal Interactions

Bribe Vs. Incentive

I tend to shy away from using treats with animals.

There are situations where they can be very useful, especially if I have an animal who is very food-focused.

Using treats in your training does not replace your relationship. An animal will not take food if they are having extreme excitement or fear, in which case communication not based on cookies is the the only thing that could work. Treats also can’t be used to get the animal calm, increase their trust, reduce their exuberance or any other major behavior or emotion. They should simply be used as incentive. I prefer to view a treat as a bonus to what they would normally do. Not a bribe.

A reward can come as play, a toy, or a favorite food.

When people use food or toys to bribe their animal, they are luring them to do something against their will. Instead, give them a bonus after they do something. You don’t want them to get bored with how easy it is to get treats from you. (Take a look at my article What We Expect & How We Reward It in this blog’s archive!)

If you’re teaching tricks with treats, their brain switches paths and interrupts the line of thought they had about the trick. When you get back to teaching the trick, they have to remember what it was all about and what they had to do.

That is when play is a great reward. In this scenario, your animal is focused on you the entire time. You are the source of play, and their mind is engaged throughout the session.

So my recommendation for you, is to eventually find yourself not using food bonuses. They can truly be wonderful in the beginning or when working with an unmotivated, food-focused animal as I said before but, your true relationship doesn’t rely on food rewards.

Have fun!

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Filed under Animals, Birds, Dogs, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Teaching Tricks

Konrad Lorenz: Mama Goose!

Konrad Lorenz was an Austrian zoologist, ethologist, and ornithologist: at times referred to as the a founder of modern ethology.

I just started reading one his books, King Solomon’s Ring. King Solomon was believed to have a ring that allowed him to speak to the animals and, many people believe, Lorenz had a similar ability. I haven’t had the time to read too much of this award-winning book yet, but so far it’s just perfect. If it continues on like this I’m sure I’ll write another “Humanima Book List” post about it!

Lorenz is best known for his experiments and time spent imprinting geese and ducks. That is what’s being talked about in the book right now. King Solomon’s Ring covers the behaviors of many different animals, not just our feathered friends, but at the spot I’m at it’s exploring how exactly Lorenz lived and observed these birds.

What he’s best known for and led him to become internationally recognized, was his classic experiment with newly hatched goslings (baby geese).

For this experiment, Lorenz split the eggs from the same goose into two, randomly-picked groups. Group A hatched in a natural environment and immediately began to follow mother goose around. Group B hatched in an incubator and the first living being they saw was Konrad Lorenz. So they immediately began to follow Mama Lorenz around… All the time.

It didn’t matter if Konrad ran into the woods or jumped into a lake: The goslings followed him everywhere. Even when he put Group A and Group B, from the same experiment, in one big group, the goslings would still split away and follow their “mother”.

After running many similar experiments on other bird species, Lorenz came to the conclusion that the imprinting in these birds occurs 12-17 hours after hatching. Actually, Lorenz coined the term “imprinting” although a few had experimented with this idea before him.

I was lucky enough to find this old, silent short film of Konrad and his birds. The way in which it was filmed and the lack of noise that we get so used to in this day in age is really refreshing. Made me smile!

 

 

Did you ever watch the movie Fly Away Home? If you haven’t, you should… I think you’d love it! Although it is definitely a tear-jerker. I bring it up because the movie’s plot is heavily inspired and brought about due to Lorenz’s experiments. In the movie, they imprinted goslings that followed them in an ultralight, like you can see below (I’m not certain this is a screenshot from the movie, though).

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Filed under Behavioral musings, Birds, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Video Discussion

Can Only Talking Animals Dance?

In the video below, Snowball, the parrot, takes the spotlight – dancing and rocking out to various rhythms while keeping a great tempo!

Researcher Aniruddh Patel at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, along with coworkers, have been observing the relationship between the ability to vocalize, aka talk, and keep rhythm/dance. They noticed that all of the dogs, cats, monkeys and other animals hanging around the labs listened to music all of the time, but never really showed a noticeable sign of moving in time with the beat.

In order to test that Snowball was dancing to the rhythm and beat to the song, and not simply trained to move when the song is heard, BPM (beats per minute) was changed. Adena Schachner at Harvard University is more interested than ever about the subject, because so far it looks like only grey parrots and cockatoos can move this well to music and other beats.

“Across the hundreds of species in the database, we only found evidence of keeping a beat in species that could imitate sound,” Schachner said.

Check it out in this video! You can also read the full article here…

Have you observed you pet, or another animal, enjoying music in one way or another?

On more of a funny note: This Golden Retriever seems to groove pretty well to this guitar playing! Is he in a way trained to move like that? Is he really enjoying the beat and moving to it? Interesting! Enjoy this adorable dog’s dancing…

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Filed under Article Discussion, Behavioral musings, Birds, Video Discussion

Can Crows Clean Up Our Mess?

I’ve always been aware of the uniqueness of a crow. I spot them almost daily all over town, but isn’t it unnatural to see a wild bird become so well integrated into human society? Crows don’t appear to be particularly special: bearing no where near the intriguing colors a parrot could flaunt. No unique mating dance. No feathers that leave us standing in awe. They seem fairly plain: hopping and cawing. However, after a surprisingly short time observing a crow, we can see how unbelievably clever they truly are. How will we make use of this new partnership between crows and humans? They have accustomed their way of life around us and where we live. You’ll never find them too far off from a town or city, and their crow population is growing exponentially. Can we benefit from their presence? Joshua Klein, in the video below, gives a wonderful, very well-researched presentation on exactly that. Enjoy!

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Filed under Animals, Behavioral musings, Birds, Human & Animal Interactions, Teaching Tricks, Video Discussion