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Eclectus went quiet with puberty

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Eclectus went quiet with puberty

Postby AmandaW » Fri Sep 21, 2018 3:47 pm

Hey all-
our female Ekkie, Zazu, was a BIG vocalizer as a juvenile- talking, singing, screaming, laughing, etc. When she hit puberty at about 5, she went nearly entirely silent. Now she's 9 and remains mostly silent except for about 3 noises which she rarely makes (a whistle to call me, a contented coo, and nesty clucking). She's in excellent health with a varied diet, lots of exercise, and at least 8 hours a day spent with us out of her cage- she's very velcro with us. We've asked the bird vet, and she says silence is usually due to illness, and our girl is not ill.
Right around the time she went quiet, we trained her out of a nasty screaming habit by leaving her alone when she screamed- that technique worked. But I worry that we inadvertently trained her out of making most noises. Now she vocalizes so rarely that positive reinforcement training is tough, even though we do praise and reward her every time she does vocalize.
She's clearly a happy bird who rules the whole house; she's affectionate and playful, she eats like a champ, sleeps like a stone, and has a disturbing lack of fear response to things that would probably scare other birds- she's VERY confident.
Many people probably think this is the ideal bird, but I miss her vocalizations. Any ideas on how to get it going again? I don't even care about talking- just the regular chuckling, singing, and general bird chatter would be nice.
AmandaW
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 2
Number of Birds Owned: 3
Types of Birds Owned: Female eclectus, 2 budgies
Flight: Yes

Re: Eclectus went quiet with puberty

Postby Pajarita » Sat Sep 22, 2018 10:44 am

Welcome to the forum! Yes, I can see why silence would bother you... it would bother me too and, as a matter of fact, it's one of those things that immediately raises a red flag with me because what your vet said is true: lack of vocalizations do usually mean a bird that has either a physical or an emotional problem.

Now, please do not take this the wrong way because I am not criticizing you. I am well aware that what you did was based on, most likely, the wrong advice somebody gave to you. But leaving a screaming parrot alone is exactly the opposite of what you should have done when she was screaming. Also, female ekkies are sexually mature by the time they are two and half or three so, if she stopped at five, it was not because she became sexually mature at that time.

First I would rule out any physical problem. Does she pluck, toe tap, wing flick or shake her head often? Has she had complete blood work [and that means a bile acid test, too] done and a full body XRay? Because, although avian medicine is, unfortunately for them and us, still at its infancy and, in truth, even when you do every single diagnostic tool in the arsenal on them, you might still not be able to figure out what is wrong, these tests are still the one thing we have to go on. Ekkies are VERY prone to liver issues from a very young age [I've known of ekkies with fatty liver by the time they were four years old!] and, at 9 years of age, she is actually pretty 'up there' for an ekkie because they simply do not last in captivity [the oldest ekkie in captivity only lived to be 30 and that was a wild caught -MUCH MUCH healthier than any captive-bred pet- kept in a zoo in Australia where they fed it the same thing that wild ekkies eat]. I don't take in ekkies precisely because of their dietary needs - and I don't even feed pellets [I am sure you know that pellets are an absolute no-no for ekkies] to my birds! So I would start with making sure there is nothing there that is making her uncomfortable including overgrown gonads - which brings me to another subject/possibility: that of her being over-hormonal and in pain [you mention 'nesty noises']. Ekkies having the longest breeding season of all parrots and being so difficult to feed right, are EXTREMELY difficult to keep from producing sexual hormones all the time so I would revise her light schedule, making sure she is exposed to twilight for a whole two solid hours and that no light whatsoever reaches her once night falls. Because chronic pain will make a bird shut up real quick.

As to her emotional state... well, going by what you write: her being playful and affectionate, lots of out-of cage time, etc. it looks as if she is OK. But, [and please, if you already know, disregard the following comment, it's that I don't know what you know and what you don't] I wonder if you are confusing her lack of response to a fear situation with their 'freeze' stance? You do know that ekkies are the only parrots that freeze when scared or upset, right?

As to how to correct this... well, I would start with re-evaluating her health, light schedule and diet [do some research on their intolerance of salycilate rich veggies - I would eliminate them without doing a whole lot of research, to tell you the truth because, what the heck! It's not as if there aren't plenty of choices when it comes to raw produce!] thoroughly to see if any improvement can be made to them because, 99.99% of the time, it's husbandry that creates the problems. And, if EVERYTHING is EXACTLY as it should be [the problem with ekkies is that you don't really have any wiggle room when it comes to husbandry]: perfect diet, perfect solar schedule, perfect environmental conditions [humidity, temperature, air purity], I would just let her be. She might have been traumatized by the lack of response to her requests for attention when hormonal in the past and decided that nobody was going to listen to her, anyway, so why bother... In which case, the only thing you can do is wait her out and continue to celebrate her vocalizations when she does them as you are doing now.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 13340
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes

Re: Eclectus went quiet with puberty

Postby AmandaW » Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:00 pm

Thanks so much for the thorough reply- much to chew on and no offense taken at any suggestion. I just want to solve the problem, so any thoughts are appreciated.
Our vet (who is a certified avian vet) has exhaustively searched for a physical problem- many blood tests and exams, and she just doesn't think there's anything wrong with her. No toe tapping, no wing flipping, no poop issues, no lethargy- she's doing great physically and she's super active (as an example, she climbs up and down the people stairs about 5 times a day). And everyone is impressed with what a good eater she is- her diet is primarily fruit, veg, and sprouts as recommended.
Age 5 was when she started getting sexy and when she laid her first egg, so I assumed that was when sexual maturity hit, as she'd showed no signs of sexual behavior before then. She goes through pretty regular nesty periods (once every three or four months) where she'll lay an egg (and she has never shown the slightest interest in them once they're out), but when it's over she goes back to her normal routine. Vet says it's all normal and she's not overproducing eggs or anything like that, and she never seems distressed, just nesty for a few days.
And her lack of fear response isn't freezing. If she hears a loud banging noise or if a stranger does weird things, she'll register it for a second and just go back to whatever she was doing (usually destroying something- she's a very motivated destroyer). If she feels seriously provoked by anything she never freezes or runs- she'll attack. Just confident as hell.
I do think you might be right about our ill-advised anti-screaming campaign- she may have simply decided that we don't listen, so why bother. I wonder if there's anything anyone has found that seems to stimulate vocalization, like we discovered that turning on the blender stimulates her to bathe for some reason. I'm just hoping some weird thing like that will crop up that prompts her to make some new noises so we can get the positive reinforcement going.
AmandaW
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 2
Number of Birds Owned: 3
Types of Birds Owned: Female eclectus, 2 budgies
Flight: Yes

Re: Eclectus went quiet with puberty

Postby Pajarita » Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:31 pm

Well, going broody every three months or so and laying an egg is NOT normal, no matter what your avian vet says. They do have a very long breeding season in the wild but it's not all year round and it's not laying every few months -that is universally regarded as chronic laying and I don't know why your vet is saying it's OK - because it most definitely is not. Reading this new information, it appears to me that she is overly hormonal and that causes pain - chronic pain - all the time pain. I know it sounds a bit extreme but if you research avian endocrine system and avian reproduction you will see that birds are completely different from mammals. Their seasons [courtship, nesting, laying, raising young, molting, resting, etc all the way to migration] are determined by light. Once they reach the number of hours that evolution determined was the ideal one, they start producing sexual hormones, their sexual organs [gonads] start to grow and become active, preparing for egg production. Once the season is over, they stop producing sexual hormones completely, their organs become inactive, they start to shrink and become dormant until the next breeding season. In nature, for breeding, birds have three triggers: daylight length, diet and weather. Nature made it so each species evolves to breed at the time when all conditions are best and so we have long day breeders and short day breeders but ekkies are different from other parrot species because each female has several males that impregnate her, feed her in the nest and help her take care of the babies, so, although they do have an extremely long breeding season [wild females have been observed staying in the nest for up to nine months!], we do have, in our favor, that people don't usually keep several males to each female and, most importantly, photoperiodism, the one and only recourse we, parrot keepers, have to keep their endocrine system in tune with the seasons because, in captivity, their diet is always way too good and rich and the weather is always perfect inside a human home. So, it seems to me that if she is going nesty every few months, she is not really stopping her sexual hormone production and that means that her gonads have not shrunk and become dormant for months and months as they should. The lack of 'resting season' [we call it winter] would make her physically uncomfortable and, if this has been going on all along, she must be in chronic pain [did the vet check the size of her gonads through an ultrasound? because, if he does, I bet they are waaaaayyy too big, poor thing!].

Please revise her light schedule and make sure it's super strict with two full hours of dawn and dusk and absolutely no artificial lights during twilight [lights need to be turned off when sun is halfway down to the horizon and stay off until the sun is already up in the sky and shining into the room]. With ekkies, being that they are 'hormonal birds' and that they require such very low protein in their diet [high protein makes them go into breeding condition] which few people actually do well enough [I am not criticizing you, it's a fact that it's super duper hard to feed them low protein because we all tend to feed them more than they need, myself included], a super strict solar schedule with a drastic change in diet [less protein and less 'summer fruits' during the cold months - for example, I never feed sprouts during the resting season, only during the spring and summer], is absolutely essential to give them a resting season.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 13340
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes


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