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Handle With Care: Parrots Aren’t Just for Pirates

Published on June 14, 2013 by Karen Newmeyer

How many different sounds can a parrot make? They can speak words, mimic other animals, and even sound like household appliances. No matter what their language sounds like, parrots are super smart birds that need dedicated owners who are willing to teach and work with them.

Veterinary technician program instructor Heather Bird has the perfect last name because she is, in fact, a lover of birds. She began her Lab Animals, Exotics, and Pocket Pets class at Broadview University-Orem with an announcement that a special guest would be arriving later that evening. Shirley Bybee, avian specialist and founder of Squawks and Company (also a former veterinarian technician), arrived just a half hour later along with seven of her feathered friends. She brought a variety of psittacines (parrots), including an amazing green wing macaw and a petite Rose-breasted cockatoo. Shirley loves to teach people how to properly handle and care for parrots, and she does this through her bird shows.

veterinary technician program

Shirley Bybee exhibits some of her birds.

Parrots come in a variety of sizes and colors; some talk, some sing, but each has a unique personality and a way of expressing themselves. They live for a long time—a fact that is often overlooked when a new owner is purchasing a parrot. Knowing how to properly care for and handle this beautiful species is essential to ensuring that they will live a happy and healthy life.

Shirley’s goal is to teach children and their parents how to be responsible pet owners. Because of their long lives and curious nature, owners need to understand that they are long-term investments and require a lot of training and care.

“Parrots are like 3-year-old children who stay that way for 60 or more years,” Shirley said.

veterinary technician programAfter some discussion on parrot husbandry, Shirley went straight into the meat of the discussion: avian restraint. She pulled out a friendly little sulfur-crested cockatoo and demonstrated the towel method of restraint. First she talked the cockatoo into the towel by using it as a way to caress and protect her. Then she quickly wrapped the towel over the cockatoo and placed her hand over the bird’s head. By holding the head in a modified baseball hold, thumb and middle finger under the jaw and the pointer finger over the top of the head, she had complete control of the head. With her other hand she cradled the body and held onto the feet with the towel. After the demonstration, she turned all of her birds loose, handed out some towels, and encouraged all the students to practice the towel restraint method. The remainder of the evening was open for practice and questions.

Albeit through “squawks” and other protests from the birds, the students each had the opportunity to practice the towel restraint method. After the practice was over, the birds received some extra love and attention from the students.

“It was awesome to be able to expose my students to so many different species of birds in one class period,” Heather Bird said of the experience. “I think many of the students gained a new perspective of parrot intellect and emotion from this visit. It was really neat to watch the techs interact with the birds on more than just a medical level.”

At the end of class, the students helped to carry the birds back to the car, with calls of, “Goodbye!” from a blue and gold macaw and the sound of a fire alarm from a double yellow head Amazon parrot.

To learn more about Shirley Bybee and her feathered friends visit: http://www.squawksandcompany.com/index.html

By Amanda Black

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