BIRD BOY—HOW THE PASSION TOOK FLIGHT

At an early age I fell in love with birds. When I was eight, I asked my father ‘what’s your favourite animal?’ He simply answered ‘birds’. I was introduced to a cupboard full of ABK magazines and bird books. Reading eagerly, I picked up useful information that would be very valuable to me in the future.

I was fixated on reading about Australian King Parrots as I had seen them around my area. I liked the colouration of these magnificent birds. I continued reading and learning about the King Parrot and then I asked if I could have one as a pet. We set out trying to find a handreared male King Parrot. During this search I stumbled across many other interesting parrots including Scarlet-chested Parrots, Cockatiels and of course the Eclectus Parrot. We couldn’t find a King Parrot so my Dad rang a mate who happened to have a baby Eclectus female. That is how I came across Roxy, my first bird.

Introducing Roxy

Dad organised for his mate to bring the month-old Eclectus Parrot from Penrith to a quiet little town on the mid north coast called Laurieton, where they were holidaying close to my home. Before first sight, my Dad’s mate told me ‘don’t pull away from the bite’. I looked in the large bucket and what I saw was a crimson red head striking right at my nose! She was the cutest bird I had ever seen. She had spread feet and a deformed beak, but I didn’t mind as it gave her character, and I can tell you $400 was worth it.

I always thought Dad seemed to know a lot about birds. That was until he put his hand in the bucket! Dad lifted the towel to find the baby Eclectus. He stuck his hand in the bucket to stroke the bird—then BANG! The bird struck his fingers and Dad jerked away screaming!

I decided that the name ‘Roxy’ best suited her character. After a good look at Roxy we took her to a mate’s place in Port Macquarie, who had offered to handrear her for us. At three months of age we finally brought her home. Roxy is now two years old and speaks well. She likes my little brother best, although she likes most people. If she doesn’t like an individual, she fluffs up like a balloon and growls—literally growls!

Roxy’s favourite food is apple, which I have personally taught her to ask for. When she is hungry she will clearly say ‘apple’.

Roxy sits on the chair while I do my homework and when I am eating dinner. She will watch TV with us and she loves her bath.

All parrots have a dominant spot and in Roxy’s case it is a cupboard with cane basket drawers. Recently I have removed the bottom basket as Roxy was chewing the cane, and now she’s chewing at the frame. When she is under the cupboard we have to tempt her with food to get her out.

Roxy is my favourite bird of my collection. Mum has taken some time to get used to our birds as she’s not too keen, but Mum and Roxy are learning to live together.

The Collection Grows

When Dad was 30 he asked my mother if he could have birds. My mother joked ‘when you’re 40!’ Ten years on and Dad has a bird-crazy son to back him up. I nagged and nagged and finally Mum gave in. We now have six aviaries that are each approximately 4m x 2m.

My collection started with three Cockatiels whose numbers have grown through more purchases and breeding. We have sold more than 30 Cockatiels and used the profits to purchase more birds.

In 2011 we went to the Kempsey Bird Show—I could not believe the variety of birds all in one place! I found a pair of King Parrots and a pair of Seagreen Scarlet-chested Parrots and I could not wait for the next bird show to come around.

We later purchased a pair of Musk Lorikeets and an Elegant Parrot. Along the way there were more Elegant Parrots, King Quail and a Scaly-breasted Lorikeet added to the collection. At the 2012 Kempsey Bird Show I bought pairs of Little and Purple-crowned Lorikeets, Bengalese Finches and an Olive Scaly-breasted Lorikeet female for my lone male. One of the breeders I bought my birds from told my mother ‘It’s like a disease—he won’t look back twice’.

Fruitloop—the Musk Lorikeet

The Story of Fruit Loop 

At the time I discovered this competition I thought ‘I don’t have a story to tell’. Then I thought of all the great stories I’ve read in ABK books and magazines. Everyone that keeps birds will have at least one amazing story to tell. This one happens to be about the Musk Lorikeet I bred in 2011—Fruit Loop.

I successfully bred a Musk Lorikeet that had pied patterning. I named him Fruit Loop after his colour and personality. We rang some bird experts who said that in six months the colour could moult out and if not, the bird would sell for $2000! Sadly, the colour did moult out, although he still has a yellow bar on a wing.

One day I was showing some friends my birds when I couldn’t find Fruit Loop. I was devastated—balling my eyes out. I had lost one of my favourite birds, with no sign of death. Suddenly the door opened—my dad had seen Fruit Loop. I jumped up and grabbed the net and binoculars. There he was sitting in a tree chewing at the branches. Luckily (or so we thought) the branch was low enough so Dad attempted to catch him with the net, but missed. Fruit Loop flew off and landed in the top of a 10m tall tree. So there my family and I sat for about three hours. We managed to lure him down halfway with his favourite food—multi-grain bread. Dad caught his parents and sat them under the tree in a cage hoping that would coax him down, but no such luck.

I decided to risk it and climbed up with some bread and started feeding him. I fed him for a little while, gently patting him to gain his trust. With one hand I was able to grasp him and with a whole lot of luck he was back! How excited we all were that we had safely rescued Fruit Loop—we will always share a special bond.

King Parrot male

Holiday Adventures

Recently I’ve been to zoos and walk-in bird aviaries. When I was one year old in my last visit to Canberra’s Walk-in Aviary I met a handreared Little Lorikeet that I fell in love with and had to have, so I now have my own pair.

Australia Zoo, Taronga Zoo and Currumbin Bird Sanctuary have some of the most amazing free-flight bird shows and photo experiences I’ve ever seen. My favourite bird holiday was to Cairns. On a two-hour sightseeing train trip up Kuranda Mountain, we visited one of Australia’s biggest free-flight bird aviaries—Kuranda Birdworld. There were all the big guns including Gold and Scarlet Macaws, black cockatoos, conures, Eclectus and King Parrots. Saving some tourists from being chewed by the macaws and meeting a Fig Parrot made it the best holiday.

Compatible Cockatiels

Conclusion

I would recommend aviculture to anyone. In the right conditions, birds will thrive and bring many happy years of aviculture to you, your family and friends. ABK magazines and books always have precise information on all species, exotic and native, including solutions to common and devastating sicknesses. I enjoy learning about birds and reading the magazine for all the updates and enthusiasts’ experiences. I look forward to many more bird adventures of my own and between the pages of Australian BirdKeeper.

My passion is my growing bird collection. I started keeping birds as an interest, not for the money. I would like to save enough to purchase birds like Quakers and Green-cheeked Conures in the near future, however the ultimate bird I am keeping my eyes on is the Goldie’s Lorikeet and Caiques which are totally out of my financial reach at the moment but I’m saving up!

ABOUT HARRISON GROVE

Harrison is 12 years old and lives at Wauchope on the Mid-north Coast of New South Wales. He lives on a small property enjoying his horse, dogs, chooks, fish and cattle and especially his bird collection which is growing. Harrison is also a keen sportsman enjoying both cricket and rugby league.

 

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