Reprinted with permission from the Eclectus Forum Newsletter - 1st edition
.....Carmelita, my Solomon Island Eclectus baby has turned one year old. Let me tell you about her aggressive stage and tail-feather chewing ways. You're not kidding when you talk about all these precise behaviors these girls roll into...... (ed)
I'm sending you a gift, a ceramic, handmade sign for your bird room. I hope you like it.
First, thank you so very much for the ceramic "BIRD ROOM" sign. It is a beautiful piece of art and one I will always cherish and proudly display.
Yes, Carmelita will be aggressive while she is experiencing "puberty". She is a female and
therefore, the dominant gender in the Eclectus species, so she will treat her "humans" with dominance, just as she would treat a mate with dominance. And aggressiveness is just part of the package. It has been written by many that the males make the better pets, but in my opinion, if you are aware of the obvious
stages through which the female passes, and expect them to be evident as she matures, you can prepare. The best thing to do is try to keep pecking order in check. In other words, you need to make every attempt to remain in the alpha position with Carmelita. Sometimes, with females who become aggressive, even though they lunge at my hands, I just reach in quickly and pick them up. Of course, it is safest to do this when the female is still quite young. Remember to make your hand in a tight fist to help prevent her from grabbing hold of and biting your skin. However, if you hesitate to do this, the next best thing to do is just let the stages pass and wait for her to mellow out. I have a few tame, mature hens who can be very moody, and I also have a few here who still obey my commands, even though they are mature and producing. Since Carmelita was well socialized as an infant, I would be very surprised if this behavior continues after the age of about 2 years, as long as you continue socializing her.
Since Carmelita is obedient outside of her cage, I suggest that she has become quite territorial, a normal trait in maturing female Eclectus.
I am quite surprised that Carmelita is not yet holding food in her foot. Perhaps she has just figured out that it's easier simply to hold her food over the food dish. I have heard a few breeders claim that Eclectus do not hold food in their feet. All of mine do, but some had to be tempted. Perhaps if you practice with her by offering treats, such as half an animal cracker, or half of a lowsalt wheat thin, while she is away from her cage, or on top of her cage, away from the food dishes, she will be forced to practice holding it in her foot. Good luck with this lesson, and please let us know her progress. Any suggestions from readers on this topic would be greatly welcomed.
Regarding Carmelita's feather chewing habit, in my opinion, this seems to be a frequent occurrence in Eclectus these days, and I hear of it happening most often when an Eclectus is fed a high sugar or high fat diet, if the diet is drastically changed over a very short period of time, or if deficient in carbohydrates. I have heard of this and seen it happening too often to dismiss it as coincidence, though I am sure there are some out there who would like to argue this point. I believe young Eclectus, perhaps up to the age of about 1 « years, need about 8 to 12% fat, but those older should be getting only about 5 to 6% fat, a fact I believe is too often forgotten as the baby matures, but the transition from high fat to low fat needs to be gradual. Too much fat will clog up the liver (as well as cause some feather barbering and plucking). Just like with humans and other animals, the calorie and fat intake should be reduced at maturity for optimal health, and while all those added vitamins are most critical for infants, the same amount can cause a toxicity in adult birds. Of course, there are other possibilities, too, such as deficiencies of certain minerals,
such as magnesium, potassium, or calcium. I have observed Eclectus attack their feathers to barber or pluck, in urgency, not in a calm fashion, which leads me to believe they are responding to itching or discomfort of some type. My vet confirms many cases of feather plucking are related to fatty liver disease. Though it is a popular belief, I have never seen one that I truly believed was plucking or barbering due to psychological problems, but I'm certain it can happen. With regard to the feathers you sent, I believe that the black mark on the tip of the first feather is a stress mark, but the second feather, from which all the feathers have been stripped on just one side of the shaft, is diet or hormone related.
Regarding your query concerning vocabulary, you may remember that in your previous letter to me, approximately 2 months earlier than this correspondence, you told me that Carmelita had not spoke one articulate word, so within two months time, she is now clearly saying three different words or phrases, as well as whistling. That first word is always the hardest, and I believe that Carmelita has passed the most difficult juncture in speech. The new words will come more easily for her now, and she may learn to say
hundreds of different words and sounds. Please don't believe all that you read about Eclectus!! Even I can only base my opinions on what I have actually seen with my own eyes, or experienced with my own birds. I truly believe Carmelita will be quite a good talker in the next year or two, especially with her two-month progress. I believe that Eclectus who do not learn to talk, especially if the owners are continually talking to them, are the exception rather than the rule, but I cannot explain why. There are too many circumstances that would need to be taken into consideration to make a fair conclusion, but be sure she will say more than 7 or 8 words in her healthy lifetime!!
Yes, fast, jerky motions, such as small children or animals running past her cage, can cause any bird to
become skittish. It would be best to always act calm around her. We find ourselves moving slower these days, and not just because we are older. Some pairs have been known to destroy eggs if there is too much hubbub and activity around their cages.
The best location for the cage of a pet Eclectus is in the center of attention, be that in a foyer, living room, dining room, or family room, etc. The only exception might be in the kitchen, especially if you use non-stick cookware, or if you are prone to getting sidetracked and leave food on the stove unattended , which may burn and cause smoke. Eclectus, as many other parrot species, are very social and want to be with their companions as much as possible. Nobody wants to be lonely, and we need to respect and respond to this need in our pets.
I'm not too surprised that Carmelita's beak seems to change shapes occasionally, since she is at an age when she wants to do a lot of chewing. The only other possible explanations may be a nutritional deficiency, or dehydration, but I doubt very much that is the case. A healthy Eclectus who has access to a pumice rock, wood perch, cement perch, or rough tree limb perches, and plenty of destructible toys, should never need its beak trimmed, but it happens anyway. Sometimes, even though all these filing
or polishing alternatives are available, they may choose to wipe their beaks on a smooth surface. Also, an overgrown beak can be a sign of liver disease. Nearly every new adult Eclectus I have purchased needed to have its beak trimmed only once. If for some reason she ever would need her beak trimmed, and since there could be some bleeding, the vet would the person to do this. Many breeders and pet owners, including myself, opt to do this themselves with the use of a Dremel tool, but it takes two people; one to
restrain the bird, and one to do the filing.
While it has been often penned that the male of a pair of Eclectus should be older than the female because the female matures first, I believe this is probably true when pairing youngsters. However, I have several young males paired with older, more experienced females, and, in fact, have recently placed a couple of very young pet males with older, wild-caught females in hopes that the hens will help the fellows ease into mating, and try to break their habits of masturbating. Both hens have previously been paired, so to leave them alone in a large flight may cause them to welcome with open wings the arrival of a male, any male.
Though I have had no problems pairing this way, I can't necessarily recommend it in every circumstance. If your ultimate plan is to introduce Carmelita to a male, I would suggest that you place the two birds in separate, small cages next to each other for at least a few months or until you notice them sitting as close to each other as possible in their respective cages. Also, during playtime on top of the cages, you may notice some positive interaction, but this should only be done during supervised play sessions, especially since Carmelita is exhibiting territorialism and possibly hormonal activity. Then, when you feel they have sufficiently bonded, place them together, simultaneously, in a large, neutral enclosure, and observe them for a few hours, just in case there is aggression. I would also suggest that the male be close to the same age as Carmelita, or a bit older if possible, since they are still youngsters.
I hope I have satisfactorily answered your queries and wish you the best of luck with your "Little Carmen". She is a very lucky little hen to have such a caring human as yourself.