Birdy Genius: The African Grey Parrot

Remember when people said that parrots just mimic sounds, and have no actual comprehension? Once I’d had a parrot of my own, I KNEW this was SO untrue! And I knew that “bird-brain” was actually a compliment!

Then I saw the results that Dr. Irene Pepperberg was getting from her lab at the University of Arizona. She acquired her most famous Grey, “Alex” from a pet shop when she was finishing her doctorate at Harvard.

Alex was capable of identifying objects by their type, their texture and their color, and learned how to label objects that were new to him. And that put him in the same class as primates, who had previously been the “gold standard” of animal intelligence.

Birds have brains that are structured differently than mammals, and so scientists for a very long time believed that they were not smart, and that they acted from instinct alone. But Dr. Pepperberg’s work with Alex disproved all that!

Baby Greys are just as homely as any newly hatched parrot, but they grow SO fast, and learn SO much! Greys can live for 80 years or more, and need daily interaction and exercise time. That means that they’re a MAJOR commitment in terms of your time, so don’t forget to plan for them to live well after you’re gone.

Way too many parrots end up in rescues, or, worse, handed off from one home to the next. Neither of these works well for a bird who is at least as emotionally developed as a 5-year-old child!

That being said, an African Grey is a smart and responsive addition to your family, who’ll entertain you in ways that are impossible to describe to anyone who hasn’t had a bird before!

In addition to being so intelligent, they’re also as playful as a 5-year-old, and they don’t seem to grow out of that bouncy, fun-loving, exuberant sense of life the way we humans do!


If you’re thinking of getting an African Grey for a companion, remember that they’re smart, frisky and a little needy, too! If that’s just what you’re looking for, make sure that you find a reputable breeder with good references from happy customers, and get your routine veterinarian check-ups just like you would for a cat or a dog.

A Grey will change your life forever, if you let them, and if you’re ready, they’ll grab you up into the whirlwind of bird ownership and never let you go!!!

Please check out “My African Grey Journal” at https://amzn.to/2SzWZLa to keep a record of the unbelievable things your Grey does!

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Downy woodpeckers


Photo by Rachel Moore on Unsplash

It’s so cool to see our Downy Woodpeckers! They’re not very big birds, smaller than a Robin for instance, but that dapper black and white plumage with the males’ red cap is SO striking.

I really enjoy seeing them come to our feeder through the winter, and recently our male resident has been joined by a lady Downy. I’m hoping to see babies later this year, and possibly get my own photos of these beauties.


Photo by Luke Schobert on Unsplash

So, on to facts and trivia…

Downies are the smallest woodpeckers in North America, and also the most likely to be seen at our feeders! In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Downy woodpeckers ate a LOT of elm bark beetles, possibly slowing the spread of Dutch elm disease that the insects were carrying.

Downies have the typical woodpecker style of tongue: Long, sticky, and barbed, which helps them pull up insects from deep in the bark and the wood of trees.

Woodpeckers don’t really have ‘songs’, although they do call to one another. The Downy woodpecker has a call described as a sharp, whiny “pik”. They do ‘drum’ on logs and trees to mark their territory and to attract a female.

They actually have stiif feathers covering their nostrils to keep out the dust while they’re drumming!

Most of their diet is insects, but I see them coming in and working on both the suet feeder and the seed feeder. They appear to toss out the smaller safflower and thistle seeds, concentrating instead on the black oil sunflower and drilling industriously away at those.

Downies drill their own nest holes in dead or dying trees, usually at least eight feet above ground level. They use a very small nest entrance to discourage predators, and it takes them both about two weeks to finish drilling. The female will find and drop into the nest hole some soft wood chips, before laying four or five plain white eggs. Both parents incubate, but the male spends more time at this job!

Incubation time is around twelve days, and both parents feed them for around three weeks until they fly from the nest. Juvenile DOwnies will be mature enough to start their own families in about a year, and the cycle begins again.

Something I thought was really interesting is that Downy Woodpeckers only live an average of one or two years! The oldest recorded Downy made it to 11 years and 11 months old!

Downy woodpecker hen

Downies are found throughout North America although they’re not common in the southwest. They’ll eat lots of different insects, such as beetles, ants, caterpillars and wasps! If you’ve got a garden, these little birds are definitely a friend, as they’ll spot bugs you don’t by virtue of their sharp eyes and ears.

So, put out a feeder today, and see what sorts of birds you attract? Maybe you’ll get to watch these charming little birds on your porch or balcony!

As always, comments, questions and criticisms are welcome. Please drop me a line at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com and let me know about YOUR woodpecker experiences. I LOVE your stories!!

Sources: BirdEden.com and National Audubon Society (www.audubon.org).

Betta Fish are smarter than you think!

Last Summer, my son, Tyler convinced me that he HAD to get a Betta fish. What brought it on was seeing some poor, tiny Bettas at the local Wally world. I told him about my Aunt Lorraine’s fish (Mr. Fish) who had learned in a week that I was now the one feeding him and started to do what I considered “tricks”, at least for a fish!

You see, Aunty was feeling poorly, and I stayed with her for abit while we were in the middle of selling one property and buying another, and feeding the fish was something I could do for her. I fed Mr. Fish at the same time every day, and withing a week he would come up to my hand as I put the food down on the top of the water.

I had had a Betta once before, and it had lived happily in a planted vase on top of the fridge for several years before going on to fishy heaven.

But Mr. Fish lived in a big tank right at eye level, and he could see me coming with the food. So, as time went on, he’d see me coming over to sit down beside him, and he’d mosey over to see if it was actually feeding time.

Then, as he figured out what time the food came, he’d actually put his head up out of the water to wait.

Now, I’ve got to say that I’ve had all kinds of pets in my life, and I just didn’t expect Mr. Fish to be all that smart. I don’t think I actually expected him to do much of anything except swim around and look beautiful (which he did really well).

So, the first time he actually jumped out of the water and bumped my fingers as I was feeding him, I was REALLY startled! And when he started doing this EVERY TIME I fed him, that was a shocker!

After all, he’s got a brain the size of a grain of rice?

So, when I told my hubby on the phone that Mr. Fish was doing tricks, he told me I was full of sh**! I said “Wait till you come home this weekend!”

Mr. Fish did not disappoint, and my husband, who’s also had many pets, was suitably impressed.

Anyway, all that to lead into our Betta, “Rico”, rescued from a tiny cup of water and now living comfortably in a ten gallon tank. He was red, white and blue when we got him, but now he’s about three times as big and all blue.

We have a plan to possibly acquire a female to keep him company, but we’re waiting until the weather warms up to get that going. I know that we’ll have to keep her separated for a while, so he doesn’t beat her up trying to get her to lay eggs and mate before she’s ready.

But for now, he’s pretty content to do his ‘piranha’ act whenever I feed him!

If you’re interested in Betta fish, purchase “My Betta Journal” at    https://amzn.to/2QZy7H4

It’s full of Betta facts, trivia and even a few fishy quotes to get you thinking and being grateful for our pets and mindful of how much joy they bring into our lives!

As always, comments, questions, and criticisms are welcome! Feel free to email me at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com anytime!!

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Goldfinches year-round…

I’ve been watching Goldfinches for at least 20 years now, and they still entertain me with their persistence and antics, especially at the bird feeder at this time of the year.

When I moved “up-country” to Shumway, Arizona (in the White Mountains) was the first time I really noticed them. The year before, I’d put out a bird feeder and filled it with sunflower seed for the wild birds. Many of the local Scrub Jays took advantage, and being Jays, they planted an entire acre of sunflowers for me before I realized it.

The next spring and summer, I watched in amazement as my semi-weedy acre slowly transformed into a solid, head-high, forest of green plants and golden flowers. But that was just the beginning!

As the Sunflowers began to bloom, there were suddenly a flock of tiny, darting, chipping birds working their way through the flowers. I saw them as they’d land on a flowerhead and carefully comb through the pollen and petals, apparently eating any insects that thought they could hide.

By the time all the sunflowers were blooming, I had a daily flock visit of at least a couple of hundred birds, busily darting through the air, chirping madly, discussing whatever it is birds talk about. It astonished me how many little birds could fit on an acre, and how they got along.

When courting, the male sings while showing off his flight skills in an acrobatic way. They are very distinctive in flight, appearing to bounce up and down above the fields.

These little birds don’t start nesting until mid-summer, which is later than most of our songbirds. Nests are built by the female, and she constructs a compact and solid cup from spiderwebs, plant down like dandelion and thistle fluff, and plant fibers. Some nests are so tightly built they’ll actually hold water!

Nests are usually hidden in a tree fork located in deciduous shrubs or trees less than 30 feet above ground. The hen then lays anywhere from two to seven blue eggs, and she incubates them alone for 12 to 14 days.

The male feeds her while she sets on the eggs, then both parents will feed the babies for another 11 to 17 days until they fledge. Then the young birds start learning what to eat on their own, while the parents continue to feed them less each day.

Some people refer to them as the “Wild Canary”, and they do have a sweet (but soft) song. As the weather warms up here, I get to watch them change color from their winter drab to that eye-catching bright gold. The color is dependent on their diet! Just like a tame canary, if they don’t get the right pigments from what they eat, they won’t be as bright a color.

Watch your goldfinches as they plunder your bird feeder, then fly off to hit up the thistles and other “weeds” that have small seeds. They’re bright enough to put a sparkle into your morning, and will continue to return to your flowers, yard, and feeder for years to come.

As always, please email me at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com with questions, comments or corrections! I LOVE to hear from my readers!!

Sources: http://www.audubon.org, forum.americanexpedition.us/american-goldfinch-information

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Forsythia is Blooming Everywhere!

You know Forsythia, although you may not realize it! It’s that skinny, scraggly, bushy stuff that starts to glow with sunny yellow blooms at about this time of the year. Here in Kentucky, it started blooming about a week ago, and is found in some odd places.

My favorites are the bushes that suddenly pop into view from a woodland edge, or in the middle of a field (usually with Daffodils around). The incongruity of a beautiful gold-laden shrub against the somber backdrop of trees that aren’t even in leaf yet can be stunning, and it certainly raises my spirits just to see it.

When it’s put into a landscape as a hedge, it’s absolutely breathtaking in bloom! Even a single small shrub in a surrounding lawn makes a cheerful statement at this time of year. As Winter seems to drag on into Spring, any bit of brightness is welcome.

Forsythia is actually a member of the olive family (Oleaceae), and none of the species are native to the US. If you want to plant some in your yard or as a hedge, now is a great time! Install your hedge in full sun and well-drained soil, with each plant about four to six feet away from the next, and sit back and wait for next Spring.

Another reason to plant Forsythia is that bees love these flowers on early Spring days when few other options for pollen are available. Lots of other pollinators depend on the fast-blooming Forsythia for a much-needed pick-me-up as well, such as bumblebees, wasps flies and butterflies.

When you’re choosing your plants, make sure that you read the descriptions! Some Forsythia varieties can reach ten feet tall and twelve feet wide, and can easily begin a dramatic takeover of your yard in just a couple of years. There are cultivars that are compact, but you have to look.

Prune your Forsythia shrubs right after flowering finishes, and try to remove the older branches right at the base, thinning out rather than going for a sheared look. Next year, you can “force” blooms in your kitchen by cutting branches in early January all the way to late February. Bring them in and place in water, wait around ten days, and you’ll be rewarded with an extra early sunny blast!

Forsythia can be cut and rooted, too, so if you want to build up a hedge you can always do it this way. It’ll take a few years, but will reward you with a wall of golden beauty for many years after your hard work!

If you’re wanting to grow Forsythia from cuttings, the best time to take them is in Spring, as soon as the leaves burst from their buds. Clean your clippers with alcohol first, and then trim several four to six inch new growth stems from your shrub. Wrap them in damp newspaper and keep in a dark cool area if you can’t put them in your rooting medium right away.

Use a half and half mix of perlite and peat moss that’s nice and moist. Then, trim off the bottom leaf buds for about three inches and insert the stem into your pot or container. Cover the whole thing with a plastic bag, a clear plastic soda bottle with the bottom removed, or plastic warp. Keep them in indirect light so they don’t cook! Your cuttings should root and be ready to pot up in four to six weeks.

Forsythia only flowers for a couple of weeks, three at most, so its sunny, golden beauty is quick to pass. But because it is one of the earliest plants to flower, it will remain a favorite in gardens and landscapes all across North America!

As always, please email me at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com with questions, comments or corrections. I LOVE to hear from you! God Bless and have a FABULOUS day!

Sources: http://www.Gardeningknowhow.com, homeguides.sfgate.com

Mockingbirds

Last year we noticed that we had our “own” mockingbird, and he would perch in the treetop across from our front porch and sing his heart out. One of the sounds he would imitate is the call of Bobwhite quail (which we have seen here, but not recently) and I would get all excited and rush out to the treeline looking for quail. Well, no quail this time, but the MOckingbird is pretty special , too.

We feed our wild birds year-round, and our Mockingbird will take some seeds but I see him a lot more on the suet feeder through the winter. I imagine the fat helps him keep warm!

Mockingbirds like to have what’s called “edge” habitat, which basically means they like to have trees to perch in, shrubs for protection, and open areas to forage for insects and invertebrates. They do like fruit, and will drink tree sap if they find it.

Male Mockingbirds are a little bigger than the hen, and his vocal ability seems to be quite important in a females’ decision about whether to choose him to mate with and raise babies. Once the female decides, she’ll stick with him for the whole breeding season.

They’ll raise two or even three clutches of babies in a season, with two to four eggs in each clutch. The hen incubates her eggs for twelve to thirteen days, and once they’ve hatched both parents feed the nestlings for another twelve to thirteen days until they fledge. If the hen does lay another clutch, she starts as soon as the first clutch of babies is hatched! The male bird gets to take care of the first clutch while she incubates the next.

Northern Mockingbirds make their nests high up (ten to sixty feet off the ground) to protect from raccoons, squirrels, snakes and blue jays and crows.

Adult birds have to look out for hawks, and for Brown-headed Cowbirds that will parasitize the nests of Mockingbirds. Cowbird chicks will push the Mockingbird fledglings out of the nest.

Male Mockingbirds flash those white wing patches as a territorial display, warning other males off. They sing to show where their territory boundaries are located, to attract hens, and just because they can!

Here’s an interesting fact: female Mockingbirds sing, too! Another odd thing is that some birds will sing into the night. Scientists think that the night-time singers are unpaired male birds.

Mockingbirds can sing up to 200 different song patterns, and they’ve been known to imitate other birds, animals, car alarms and chainsaws. They’ll imitate each other and apparently any sound that catches their attention.

So celebrate the Northern Mockingbird today, in all his glory. They’ll entertain you with their song and their antics, and they’ll brighten your day every time you let them!

As always, please feel free to email me at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com with questions, comments or criticism. I love to hear from you!

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Daffodils are blooming here!

Here in Kentucky, the Daffodils have started to bloom! As you’re driving to work you’ll pass open fields and pastures that frequently have a clump of Daffies right in the middle. I asked my husband about this when we first moved here, and he told me that nearly anyplace that a house stood in the last hundred years or so, you’ll find “spring flowers”, even though there’s no sign of a house.

It’s so cool to see that chunk of sunshine in a pasture that’s still mostly brown from winter. According to Teleflora, Daffodils symbolize rebirth and new beginnings, and it’s easy to see why.

Chinese people associate Daffies with good fortune, and the Japanese give it the meaning of “joy and mirth”. At the end of winter, it’s a real “bright spot”, whatever meaning you want to give it!

The Daffodils that we most commonly think of are the pure yellow trumpets with a yellow corolla, but they come in an increasing variety of colors and shapes now, including pink, orange, pure white, and any combination of those that you can imagine.

Some Daffies have a fragrance, especially the small ones, but a lot of the more modern varieties don’t. If you’re looking through those beautiful catalogs for types to plant in your garden, check to see if they smell good, too!

Daffodils are classed as a narcissus, are frequently called jonquils, and in England are often called the “Lent Lily” ! But by any name, they’re a bright spot in the landscape or in a pot on your kitchen table or desk.

If you want to put Daffies in your yard for next spring, mark your calendar to plant them in October or November, so that they’ll surprise you next Spring. They seem to start coming up just when it feels like winter will never go away, and will put some sparkle in your day!

If you’ve got a pot of cheery Daffie blooms on your desk, wait until the danger of frost has passed before planting them in your flowerbed. The leaves will die back in the heat of summer, but don’t worry! They’ll surely come bursting out right on time next spring, to brighten your garden and landscape.

One of the nicest things about these flowers is their ability to naturalize, like the “wild” clumps I see here in Kentucky. If you’ve got more space than a flowerbed, you can plant your daffodils in a sunny spot pretty much anywhere. They don’t need a lot of care or feeding, just a bit of room and a little compost. They’ll reward you next year, as the dreary part of winter drags on…


Photo by Simon Bowles on Unsplash

As always, please feel free to email me with comments, quotes, or stories at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com. I LOVE answering your emails!

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First House Finches of the Year today!

Today I got to see our first pair of House Finches at the feeder. I always celebrate each new birds’ arrival with a few extra sunflower seeds, a couple of raisins, and a mealworm or two, just in case the new birds don’t get their favorite from the tall feeder right away. According to AllAboutBirds.com (from Cornell Labs) the House Finch is a relatively new bird here in the East. I had gotten used to seeing them back home in Arizona, and so was surprised to read that!

As you can see from these photos, the male has a pretty reddish or purplish head and breast. Both birds sing, and it’s a long, “twittering” song, but mostly what I notice is the noise from the groups that will perch in our trees and “bomb” the feeder in bursts, sometimes scaring off the smaller Chickadees, Nuthatches and Titmice.

Purple Finches appear to prefer the black oil sunflower seed the best, and I can see them tossing out the safflower and smaller millet seeds as they work their way through the offerings I have out for them.

Apparently, some enterprising business person tried to sell House Finches as a cage bird (“Hollywood finches”), but when that experiment failed, they were turned loose on Long Island to fend for themselves. They successfully made the transition from a Western bird to the East, and have colonized across the eastern US and Canada since that release in the 1940’s.

The male House Finches’ color is dependent on its diet! Whatever he eats while he’s molting has a direct effect on how red he is, and females prefer to mate with the brightest red males they can find. This makes sense in that the better fed the male, the better chance he’ll be healthy and able to help feed babies.

Another way that House Finches are different is that instead of defending a territory, the male bird defends his mate. Like many birds, he helps by bringing nesting material to the female, but she’s the one who does the actual building. House Finches have been seen nesting in hanging plants and old woodpecker holes, and when she’s got it just right, she’ll lay two to six eggs that are bluish with a bit of small speckling. She’ll incubate the eggs for 12 to 14 days, and baby birds fledge anywhere between 11 and 19 days later.

Baby House Finches are exclusive vegetarians! Parents don’t feed their young any insects at all, which is pretty rare. The parents must have to work extra hard to find enough protein to keep those babies growing. The male bird will continue to feed the young for a while after they’ve left the nest, but the hen will often find a new mate and start another family while the rooster takes care of the first clutch.

Purple Finches

Purple Finches have a lot more red on the males, and the females’ belly stripes are more clearly defined. They’re a common winter bird here in Kentucky, but are often confused with the House Finch.. I know I’ve seen a few that I wasn’t sure which species it was!

Purple finches are the losers in the colonization game. They appear to be losing territory to the introduced House Finch here in the East, and seem to be less assertive at the feeder and in other “birdy” interactions.

An interesting fact about Purple Finches is that they add sounds of other birds to their warblings. Some of the birds they’ve been recorded as imitating are American Goldfinches, Barn Swallows, and Eastern Towhees.

Purple Finches like to forage in open forests or scrubby cover, sometimes on the ground. Their favorites are sunflower seed, millet and thistle seeds. They’ll nest in a tree fork or on a horizontal branch, or possibly on a small ledge under your porch roof!

Male Purple Finches have a lovely little courtship “dance”, where he raises his tail, puffs out his chest, and droops his wings. Then he will vibrate his wings so that he lifts into the air just a bit! He may sing a song to the hen as he dances, and he may also hold nest material in his bill during his performance.

Purple Finches migrate during the day, unlike many songbirds. They will travel in a flock, and they tend to move sporadically during spring and fall.

These finches like to eat tree buds, berries and small fruits in the spring and fall, and in the summer they’ll take beetles and caterpillars. Seeds are the mainstay of their diets through the winter months, and if you want to attract them, plant a few Ash or Elm trees, along with a big block of Sunflower and Safflower. You’ll be rewarded with crowds of these and other small birds through the summer, fall and winter!

Happy Birding, and as always, feel free to drop me a line at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com if you have questions, corrections, or comments! I LOVE to hear from you 😉

God Bless

LeslieAnne Hasty

Are Sloths Your Spirit Animal?

You’ve seen that crazy video of the tiny infant with a baby Sloth and you just HAVE to get one? Well, dear reader, perhaps you want more info first…!

SO, there’s a BUNCH of stuff about Sloths that you’d need to know BEFORE you brought one into your home. For instance, did you know that Sloths only poo once a week, and that when they do, it’s a pile that amounts to about a third of their body weight? (Ewwww!!!)

And, despite that lovely video, you might want to know that Sloths don’t really like being held and cuddled after they’re about a year old. So don’t expect that cute “huggy” stage to last very long!

Most of the Sloth species are at least classed as “endangered”, which means that there are already not enough of them in the wild. Even more distressing is the fact that most of the baby Sloths that are made into pets have seen their moms shot and killed, so that baby is about the right age to be “cuddly” for some amount of time.

And, even worse is the fact that people who are unknowing or unthinking enough to buy a wild animal for a “pet” have no idea what to feed them, how to take care of them, or how long they live.

These facts add up to Sloths in rescue centers, very likely never able to survive in the wild and never being able to reproduce and have their own babies.

The Tropical rain forests where Sloths live are slowly being cut down to make room for cocoa plantations, cattle grazing operations, and cultivation. Sloths can’t live in those areas anymore, and most species are slowly dropping in numbers.

Sloths sleep for ten to twenty hours every day. They have a really difficult time regulating their body temperature, so have to move into and out of the shade to stay comfortable.

A Sloth will generally only leave its protective canopy spot once a week to go poo in its particular potty spot. It’s very vulnerable then, to jaguars and other predators, and the only other reasons it will come down and go walkabout is to find a mate or because it has run out of food in that area.

Orphaned baby Sloths take a lot of care and holding to grow up properly! Moms hold their babies for around six months, and the babies usually stay close to their Mom’s range, continuing to communicate with her for a year or more.

Oh, and that cute smile? It’s actually just the way their mouth is shaped! They look like that even when they’re upset or uncomfortable.

Want to learn more about the six different species of Sloths? Still fascinated? Purchase “My Sloth Journal” at https://amzn.to/2TxaHOA, and spend the next couple of months with facts, trivia, and a few quotes to help you be more mindful of the countless ways that Nature has found to increase life on this, our amazing planet!

As always, feel free to shoot me an email at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com with questions, corrections, or just to chat!

God Bless!

LeslieAnne Hasty

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