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Esther the Extraordinary

Meet the Store Pets: Esther, Eclectus Parrot

Meet Esther, a 7 year old female Eclectus Parrot and original SBF sugar baby! Esther was hatched right here in 2017, the “year of the female Eclectus” as I like to call it. We had a little baby boom of Eclectus, almost all females that year. Whether you know the personality differences between male and female Eclectus or not, you definitely can tell them apart visually! Eclectus are one of the very few species of parrots that are sexually dimorphic—meaning you can tell male from female based on looks. Females are bright red and purple with a dark black beak and males are a stunning green with red sides and a candy corn colored beak. As you read in Madison’s highlight earlier this week, females are well known for being ruled by their hormones and determination to breed and nest, whereas males tend to be shy, easy going, and kind of goofy. We decided to keep one of the female babies back as a store pet that year since we were struggling to find homes for all of them. It’s tough to find them good, understanding homes when they can become difficult to handle with age. We spent an enormous amount of time handling Esther and getting her used to a variety of people in hopes that she would not fall victim to the reputation of her brethren. Sigh, it did not last . As soon as she was weaned from formula, Esther said no way to being pet or handled other than being stepped up and taken from place to place like a princess. I’m sure that is just how she sees it, too! Esther has been a bit more hands-off for being a store pet, but that doesn’t mean we can overlook her other stellar personality traits. She is the BEST forager in the store. That girl is motivated to find food of all kinds and will tear into any toy she is given. Balsa slats beware! She becomes a wood chuckin’ beaver whenever balsa is near, and pinecones don’t stand a chance either! Basically, she is the model bird for how to play with toys in case anyone’s bird needs a lesson.

Esther often gets what we call “the sad eyes” from customers who do not know her or understand feather plucking behavior. We hear it from all ends of the spectrum of the innocent “is she a baby?” to “oh you poor thing, what have they done to you”. Don’t get me started on how plucked birds can still be beautiful, fulfilled, spoiled, and healthy birds. It’s the hill I will die on to protect them. It’s easy to feel sorry for something that doesn’t fit the typical bill, but it’s important to understand why they look that way and what is being done about it. This is another, very long post I can make at a later time! Esther mostly plucks because of her hormones. She first started on the front of her chest/abdomen when she experienced her first year of sexual maturity. Female birds often pluck this area, called a brood patch, so that when they lay on their eggs to incubate them, the eggs get direct skin contact, heating them better. This behavior should be seasonal when they would be sitting on eggs, but for Eclectus, they don’t have a distinct season, and the plucking can become year round. Habitual feather plucking becomes a bad habit like how we bite our finger nails or pull on hair with anxiety. It’s extremely hard to break, and even more so for an animal that can’t communicate with us what they truly need.

Esther gets a wide range of enrichment, an excellent diet, and regular vet visits with Dr. Dahlhausen. She has also found “her person” in Madison. It’s a strange sight to see her being baby-like, sweet, and docile as she lets Madison pet her head and even get cuddles in. I’ve only caught her doing this once before to an unsuspecting customer. Typical Eclectus princess! Madison and Esther have been training together for over a year now and have been working on target training, syringe training, and force-free dremeling of her nails. She’s very food motivated, so training is a breeze when she gets treats from her favorite person. It’s awesome to see their bond!

Esther is often found hanging out on our front play stand area or on nice days, she loves the outdoor aviary. She craves the sunshine! While she may not let you handle her, she does love attention, treats, and wood blocks as presents, so we hope you can stop and say hi to Esther next time you are in the store!

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Ah...Hello Ester! You are a cutie. Can't wait to meet you in person.

Bernie, an article about feathers plucking would be awesome as a lot don't understand all of it.

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