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rick | African Grey Parrot Centre ™ Blog

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rick | African Grey Parrot Centre ™ Blog

2011 Christmas Greetings From AGPC ™

December 18th, 2011

Christmas Greetings 2011Well … What a roller coaster ride 2011 has been, there’s definitely been ups and downs.

Soon it will be 2012 and we’ll start a fresh year with a whole fresh outlook, but before we get there we have Christmas to contend with.

The Christmas fund raising efforts have been stellar, especially with the Christmas raffle that we have to say Pat organised from start to finish almost perfectly even finishing it off with a completely videoed draw with out takes at the end, if you haven’t already seen it and have an hour to spare I’d highly recommend viewing it, it’s WELL worth it.

We’ve had the cook book, the recipe book and the AGPC ™ 2012 calendar on sale amongst other things that people have been buying, all of the profit from these has and continues to go into the rescue fund.

We totally appreciate those that have donated to the rescue find in 2012 enabling us to help more rescues than ever but the sad truth is we need more donations if we are to have a chance at helping EVEN more rescues, so if you can find it in your hearts and you haven’t donated then please do so then we can continue to grow the rescue in 2012 and maybe even becoming a registered charity for which we need to have at least £5,000 incoming donations to achieve.

We’re still about £130 short of being able to help poor Angel the rescue we took on earlier in the year that sadly needs an operation to help her have some sort of a normal life, again if you haven’t donated to Angel’s appeal and you have a few pounds spare this Christmas please think about helping make her Christmas this year the best of her life!!

One last thing, one of the members of our forum John H has asked us to pass an eCard to everyone to say Merry Christmas to you all, you can check it out by clicking on the following link.

Merry Christmas 2011

Royal Wedding Vows – For Richer For Poorer

April 29th, 2011

Royal Wedding FlagWhat has the Royal Wedding Vows got to do with parrots I hear you ask, just bear with me and you will see. I thought given all the buzz around the Royal Wedding it was a topical thing to write about whilst trying to get a point across.

So as the title suggests in my opinion one of the most important part of a wedding is the vows, whether it be done in front of a few witnesses at a registration office or a large scale audience at Westminster Abbey the fact is we all have to say our vows in one form or the other, to make our bond a permanent one, and to show those that are witnesses that you are willing to sacrifice everything and anything to be there for the special person in your life, I won’t bore you with the whole vows as they vary so much according to religion, preference and whatever else, but the bit of the vows that sticks in most people’s minds is:

To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ’till death do us part. And hereto I pledge you my faithfulness.

So if you haven’t guessed where I’m heading with this already then it’s more obvious than you think, like my parrot tattoos post a few weeks back this is all about parrot ownership and just like in marriage where impulse weddings tend not to work and usually (but not in all cases) ends in divorce, parrot ownership is pretty much the same, if you don’t do your homework and prepare yourself for a lifetime commitment, remember, “Till Death Do Us Part” then you may find you have taken on more than you can handle, or certainly than you are prepared for.

This is why we setup the parrot rescue service to help those that may not be able to deal with the lifetime marriage after all, I’m not saying 100% of the rescues we take on-board are due to people being unprepared but there’s definitely a flavour of this we see quite regularly.

Our mission is actually not to have to rescue any parrots at all, after all this costs us money personally, what with travelling costs, vet bills, ongoing food bills, cages/toys and whatever else, for which we rely totally on donation to fund, this is a big part of the reason we put this site together, we wanted to create a resource to help people understand all the things that they need to know in order to be a parrot owner, I truely believe we have helped many people and hope to keep growing to the point where we are a household name for anyone that is thinking of parrot ownership and help many more, ultimately more happy parrot owners = more happy parrots that can’t be a bad thing, we thank all those who have and continue to contribute to helping us realise that dream.

So in summary, before taking on a parrot, like our dear Royals Kate and Wills think of those vows and make sure you really are prepared for a lifetime commitment no matter what happens, and overall you will be glad to be a parrot owner, just as we hope our two most recent Royals will be forever unlike some of those that preceded them.

Parrot Tattoos A Shade Of Grey

April 3rd, 2011

While I was raking through the keywords in our analytics this morning looking for inspirational ideas to write about I came across a phrase that was a bit of a “lightbulb” moment and the phrase was “parrot tattoos“.

So you may be thinking at this point am I completely bonkers and apart from parrots what the hell does this site really have to do with tattoos, and in a way you may be right but indirectly I wanted to make a point about tattoos that is actually closely related to African grey parrots, whilst also giving me the chance to show you some amazing works of art that some people have put on their bodies.

Both myself and Paula have tattoos, I have three (and want more at some point) and Paula has three as well, and for me I know the decision to have a tattoo didn’t come lightly, I pondered for years before I went ahead and got my first one, and why I hear you ask, was I worried that it would hurt? NO … did I think it would cost too much? NO … did I think it would look stupid? NO … did I realise it was a lifetime commitment? YES!! and there be the link with African Greys!

If you are thinking about taking on an African Grey the questions you need to ask yourself are:

  1. Are you worried it may hurt when it bites you or one of your family, just like humans, Greys have off days and don’t want your fingers waved in their face, that’s the reality of it?
  2. Are you worried about the cost of providing cages, food, toys, vet bills and all the other associated costs of keeping a parrot?
  3. Are you worried about going on holiday and having to sort out care, after all African Greys require special care and can’t just go anywhere or just be left on their own?

If you answered NO to all of these questions, great you’re almost there, but did you realise that given the right conditions and diet, your African Grey could quite easily outlive you, therefore the old adage a dog, or parrot in this case, is not just for Christmas it’s a LIFETIME COMMITMENT!!

And whilst I leave you with that thought lets end on a lighter note with those amazing African Grey Parrot tattoos I found when I trawled the t’internet, these really are lifetime commitments … enjoy!!!

Oh and anyone thinking of getting the AGPC logo tattooed onto them do let us know 🙂

Parrot Repossessed Wrongly Along With The House

March 11th, 2010

A US bank has apologised after one of its contractors allegedly trashed a women’s house and took her parrot while wrongly repossessing her home.

Angela Iannelli, 46, of Pittsburgh, sued Bank of America on Monday claiming her mortgage was up to date when one of the banking giant’s contractors damaged furniture, took her pet parrot Luke and padlocked her door.

In a statement, the bank said it “sincerely apologises” and has tried for months to resolve the issue.

We say shame on them!!

Rhythm In Animals Reveals Evolution Of Human Music

February 8th, 2010

Alex was small, but precocious. He could count to six, do simple math, name shapes and colors, even help other students learn to speak. But the real surprise came when he heard music. Even though he’d never learned how, Alex began to dance.

Here’s the thing: Alex was a bird.

Although the African Grey parrot was already famous for his intelligence and linguistic abilities, there had been no signs of any musical talent. That changed in 2007, when Adena Schachner, a Harvard University PhD student who researches the origins of musical behavior, played Alex a song she’d composed.

“We were completely shocked to see that spontaneously, of his own accord, the parrot started to, it looked like, move to the beat,” Schachner said. Other researchers had told her that auditory entrainment — that is, listening to an external rhythm and moving the body in time with it — was a uniquely human skill. But mathematical analysis of Alex’s head bobs revealed that he was legitimately in sync with the music. So much for unique.

For humans, musical rhythm is universal and ingrained. Dance is found in every culture on Earth. Until recently, however, the evolutionary origins of our rhythmic ability had largely gone unprobed. Now, scientists like Schachner are looking to examples of rhythm in animals for insight into how we got the beat.

The first logical place to look for musical behavior like our own is in other primates. Chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary cousins, drum on logs and tree roots with their hands to display social dominance. Gorillas famously beat on their chests. And macaque monkeys, whose last common ancestor with humans lived 30 million years ago, shake branches in the wild — or cage bars when they’re captive — to tell other monkeys who’s boss.

Recent research demonstrates that for primates, like for us, rhythm and social communication are closely linked. Macaques process drum sounds in the same brain regions as vocal calls, according to a study published last October in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Co-author Cristoph Kayser, who studies how the brain processes auditory information at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, explained that the corresponding brain regions in humans are specialized to analyze a speaker’s emotional state. In other words, just as we may hear sadness or anger in a piece of music, a macaque can sense excitement or agitation in a fellow macaques’ drum beats.

But primates’ musical abilities end there. Although apes and monkeys can hammer out a rhythm, they can’t entrain to an external one. Attempts to teach them how have failed, according to Anniruddh Patel, who studies music and the brain at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, Calif. That’s why it was such a surprise that an animal less closely related to humans, like Alex the parrot, could move on beat.

Alex died unexpectedly before Schachner’s research on him could continue, but he wasn’t the only dancing bird. Patel also works with Snowball, a sulfur-crested cockatoo whose proclivity for bopping to the Backstreet Boys made him a YouTube sensation. When he saw a video of Snowball swinging his head and stomping his legs to music, Patel remembers thinking: “Holy cow, this looks like it might be real.”

To determine if Snowball was truly entraining or merely hitting the beat by coincidence, Patel played the bird sped-up versions of the Backstreet Boys song. Sure enough, the faster the song played, the faster Snowball rocked out. That meant he could both recognize the rhythm and finely adjust his muscle movements to match it, which is the same thing we do when we dance.

“It suggests that you don’t need a human nervous system to have this behavior,” said Patel. He co-authored a paper on Snowball that appeared alongside Schachner’s study on Alex in Current Biology last May.

Schachner’s team also cast a wider net across the animal kingdom by searching YouTube for dancing pet videos. If something looked like entrainment, they analyzed it frame-by-frame to determine if the animal was truly on tempo. They found evidence of genuine entrainment in 14 bird species — including parrots, macaws and cockatoos — and in African elephants.

Our last common ancestor with elephants lived tens of millions of years ago, and birds’ evolutionary line split off long before that. So why do birds and elephants share something with us that our closer primate relatives don’t?

The link, Patel and Schachner believe, is vocal mimicry. Each of the species that can entrain to music has also evolved the ability to imitate external sound. Birds like parrots can imitate other bird calls and human speech. Elephants can reproduce the sounds of other elephants — and even, in one recently recorded case, the sound of trucks passing on a highway.

“The theory is that part of the machinery that’s necessary for keeping a beat originally evolved for vocal imitation,” Schachner said. That means that dancing may not be a beneficial adaptation itself, but rather a lucky side effect of one.

Or, as Patel put it, “It may be something that comes along for the ride when you have a certain kind of brain.”

The kind of brain you need seems be a social one. As he continues his research with Snowball, Patel is finding that the bird’s motivation to dance increases when there’s a person around. That neatly mirrors a recent study with human infants, which demonstrated that they can drum on a beat more accurately when they’re drumming with a human partner, rather than with a drumming robot or a sound alone. The work was published this past November in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

The study’s lead author, Sebastian Kirschner of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, says the research suggests an innate social motivation to synchronize, which may turn out to be “typically human, but not uniquely human.”

Harvard’s Schachner is now focusing her research on beat-keeping in humans — she wants to see if moving in synchrony helps people cooperate better. Ultimately, she hopes the work will clarify the origins of our ability to socialize, and perhaps of music itself.

“It’s a phenomenon that’s so important to so many people,” Schachner said, “and we have no idea how it got there.”

By Mara Grunbaum

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