Bird of the Month

Meet Kramer, the Moluccan Cockatoo

This week, Kramer can be seen practicing his ‘scary face’ for Halloween, but it’s all for show. He is one of the most intelligent birds at the Bloedel Conservatory and he loves to entertain visitors!

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Kramer, the Moluccan Cockatoo, practicing his ‘scary-face’ for Halloween at the Bloedel Conservatory. Photo © V. Earle

Kramer has a large vocabulary and is not shy about letting you know it! He says things like “Hello, Good Morning”, “Kramer is a good bird” (often followed by “Kramer is a bad bird”), “What is that?”, “Peek-a-boo”, “I’m a bird”, “Let’s party”, “Surprise!”,  and “Good night”.  In total, Kramer knows approximately 40 phrases. He will ask “Up, up, up?” when he wants to go for a walk, and as you leave at closing time, you will usually be serenaded with a heartfelt “Bye-Bye”! Sometimes his language can even get as colourful as the plants at the Conservatory! Watch the spotlight video at CTV Vancouver: ‘The Last Word: Dirty Bird Talking’ – that showcases the language he likely learned while living at a University frat house.

Kramer, at only 14 years of age, had a number of different homes before he was adopted at the Bloedel Conservatory. This is an unfortunate reality for many parrots due to their long life spans. Cockatoos and mid-size parrots like African Greys can live approximately 60 years, while larger macaws can live over 80 years of age. This makes living in numerous homes a reality for many parrots as they often out live their care-givers. When Kramer first arrived at the Conservatory, he was a very scared and untrusting bird – ready to bite anybody at any time. But the staff at Bloedel knew he was special and extremely intelligent. They patiently worked with him everyday until he knew he was in a safe and loving environment. Now Kramer is a well-adjusted, friendly bird and one of the best known ‘celebrities’ under the dome.

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Kramer greeting visitors at the Bloedel Conservatory

Moluccan Cockatoos (Cacatua moluccensis), also known as Salmon-crested Cockatoos, are the largest of the white cockatoos measuring 20 inches (50 cm) in height. Females are larger than males and have light brown or burgundy eyes. Male eye colour is dark brown or black. These cockatoos weigh approximately 2 lbs (.9 kg) and have pale salmon-pink feathers with light yellow on the undersides of the wings. They use their large crest to express emotions such as excitement, fear or curiosity. Like many cockatoos, they have a white powder coating from powder down feathers that help them with preening.

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Kramer sees something interesting at the Bloedel Conservatory

Moluccans are native to Seram, Indonesia (South Moluccas aka Spice Islands). They were also once common on the Sapara, Naruku and Ambon Islands, but development has destroyed these breeding populations. They are an endangered species in the wild, listed on Appendix I of CITES since 1989. The Bloedel Conservatory works with a local non-profit organization called GreyHaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary that specializes in parrot rescue, rehabilitation and adoption. All the birds at Bloedel have either been directly donated to the Conservatory from homes that can no longer keep them or have been adopted from the GreyHaven Sanctuary.

Stop in to meet Kramer, and all of the beautiful birds, at the Bloedel Conservatory. They can’t wait to see you!

Winter hours: 10am – 5pm everyday

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the care and feeding of the birds at the Bloedel Conservatory, please visit CanadaHelps.org and select #6: ‘Bloedel’s Flock’

Bird of the Month

Nelson, the Hahn’s Dwarf Macaw (Ara nobilis nobilis)

Measuring in at a just 12 inches in length, the Hahn’s Dwarf Macaw is the tiniest macaw in the World! Hahn’s Macaws are also the smallest of the 3 sub-species of Red Shouldered Macaws, but they have all the attitude of their large macaw relatives. Hahn’s macaws are native to Venezuela and are primarily green with a blue crown and a dash of red on the shoulder. They live to be 30+ years of age. All macaws can be distinguished from other parrots by their relatively bare, light coloured face patch. This facial patch pattern is as unique as a fingerprint for telling individual macaws apart!

Nelson has a big personality despite his small size. If you’re patient, he may play “Peek a Boo” and ask “Can I help you?” or “What’s your problem?”  Listen carefully because he has a soft voice – you just might be lucky and catch his rendition of Madonna’s “Material Girl“! Nelson loves his toy bell and can sometimes be seen cuddling up to it for a nap. See an early morning video of Nelson waking up here.

Exercise and play are essential activities for the physical and emotional health of all parrots. All macaws, big or small, love to chew and many will chew on anything within reach. Hahn’s Dwarf Macaws are intelligent and social and are generally considered to have easy going temperaments. They can, however, become destructive if not allowed to play and exercise. This is one reason why any parrot requires a great deal more commitment than owning a dog or a cat!

Anatomy of a Feather

All birds have different types of feathers that have different purposes:

Contour feathers. These feathers are the outermost feathers that give birds their shape.

Flight feathers: These feathers are often the largest contour feathers and are located on the wings. They are divided into primary and secondary feathers, which together are called ‘remiges’. Primary feathers are the strongest flight feathers while secondary feathers provide lift when the bird soars or flaps. Shorter feathers called ‘coverts’ cover the bases of flight feathers. Tail feathers, called ‘retrices’, provide stability and control.

Down feathers. This type of feather is soft and fluffy and grows close to the skin to keep the bird warm and dry. They provide essential insulation and are located under contour feathers.

Many bird species also select their mates by the brightness and colour patterns of feathers. The health of a bird is often reflected in its feathers and some studies have indicated that birds in good health are able to produce feathers with more vivid colouration. Nelson is small, but very green. So green in fact that he is often overlooked amidst the foliage! Why not stop in at Bloedel, find Nelson and pay him a visit? See if you can notice his different types of feathers. He would love to chat and play a game of ‘Peek a Boo’!

Watch more macaw videos here:

Carmen and Maria, Green winged Macaws

Art, Gold and Blue Macaw

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References:

1. Physical Characteristics – General Avian Information (2011). The Furry Critter Network. http://www.furrycritter.com/resources/birds/Macaw_Hahn.htm

2. Cornell Lab of Ornithology (2011). All About Birds: Feathers and Plumages. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/studying/feathers/feathers

3. Cornell Lab of Ornithology (2011). All About Birds: Feather Structure http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/studying/feathers/

Bird of the Month

Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata)

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It’s Spring at the Bloedel Conservatory and the birds are in the process of building their nests! See our Youtube video showing a Zebra Finch busy putting on the final touches to her new abode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYx7AqeT5ns

These adorable little finches love to eat often throughout the day and can usually be spotted at the feeding station in the Arid area of the Conservatory. Typically, they have ‘fawn’ spots on their wings, zebra stripes across their chests and the males have unmistakable orange cheeks. There are many colour mutations including ‘Chestnut’, ‘Black faced’, ‘Penguin’ and ‘Isabel’. Click here to see the markings and colourations of different varieties on this interactive chart: http://zebrafinch.info/colours/

Zebra finches eat seeds and are just over 3.5 inches (8.8 cm) in length and weigh only half an ounce (15 gms). They are native to Australia and are very good singers. In fact, an interesting study at McGill University studied the complexity of the song of male Zebra finches. This research found that the birds with the most intricate songs were also better foragers for food – making them a better ‘catch’ for the ladies because it ensures there will be food for the young! This research found that all birds have a special area of their brains that is responsible for creating songs.

Why not stop by Bloedel for a family outing, listen for the bird songs and see how many nests you can find? We guarantee you will be charmed by all of the birds and their antics!