For the Birds: ‘Parront’ Diane Pinko

Volumes on domestic birds, dog training, and gardening were stacked neatly by subject, revealing Diane Pinko’s interests as soon as we entered. Diane’s Bay Area home was warm, tidy with a few expected pieces of furniture and ceramic knick-knacks, but not cluttered. Two black Standard Poodles roamed from the living room to the back bedroom, passing by bird cages and standing perches. Like the birds we were there to meet, the dogs were both rescues, adopted by Diane. I unpacked my camera, and Pam, the Development Director of Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue, flipped to a new page in her notebook. Diane peeked over her glasses with a rosy smile, and offered us shortbread cookies and coffee. I happily accepted. This was our fourth shoot for the day, but not the last. A few minutes later, halfway into my coffee, she began to introduce us to her flock. A Species Coordinator at Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue, Diane specializes in finding homes for African Grey parrots and Canaries. If a potential adopter contacts Mickaboo for either of those bird species, they may end up meeting Diane and her birds. For our purposes in this shoot, a Blue Fronted Amazon named ‘Charlie’ made […]

For the Birds: Training to Trust

Rachael Prewitt sits at her kitchen table with a tiny stack of plastic rings. On the other side, her cockatiel, Bumble B., bobs his head in anticipation. Rachael points with a wooden dowel to the only ring left on the table and clicks her tongue. Bumble B. picks up the ring and drops it on the stack. The puzzle is complete. His reward is a bite of millet spray, a dry seed and his favorite snack. This demonstration is a result of “clicker training”, a form of animal training grounded in positive reinforcement. Instead of an animal being punished for unwanted behavior, a desired action is encouraged, and rewarded with treats. If the animal does not follow through with the desired action, there is no reward. With Bumble B., training him to complete the trick was a step-by-step process. It began by leading him to the target, the plastic ring, and rewarding him for that action. Then Rachael raised her expectations. Reaching the target was not enough to get a reward. Bumble B. had to touch the ring. After achieving that, he had to pick it up to be rewarded. Then he had to complete each of these tasks and […]

For the Birds: Almost Home

Today, Patricia Gideon lives in a house with 21 birds. Tomorrow, that number could be more or less, depending on if birds are abandoned by their owners, or adopted by new ones. One of five “Adoption Coordinators” for Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue, Patricia runs a foster home for rescued companion birds, and pairs prospective owners with birds from her flock. Out of the 21 birds living with her, 11 are foster birds. The remaining 10 are permanent residents, adopted by Patricia and her husband, Christopher. Patricia admits that it’s hard not falling in love and adopting every bird. But she says the hardest obstacle isn’t her own attachment, it’s gaining the trust of the birds placed in her care. “So many of these birds have been shuffled from home to home, or have been neglected or abused, that they don’t trust humans,” says Patricia. “With birds like these, there’s a traumatic history, or fear, to overcome.” She tries to find the cause of the trauma, whether it’s physical or emotional, and handle the bird in a way that won’t trigger its anxiety. “It’s about the most difficult thing of all,” she says. “On the flip side, overcoming that fear is about the […]