Willow’s World: Playscapes & Jungle Gym

I placed one end of the tabletop playscape into Willow’s cage in hopes that she would actually try to come out to the table.

I’d tried to get her to step up and let me take her to the Jungle Gym but she wouldn’t have any of it. Willow did give me, and the perch, a few looks before going ahead to chew away at the perch end. She did somehow manage to fall off and had to find her way back up. Did I mention agility is not her strength? The good news was that she did go back to chipping away at that perch end.

Her landing is rather comfy as there is memory foam padding under the newspapers. She still does not climb up to the top perches, I have to convince her to step up on a perch and carry her up. She will come down when she is ready though. Her feet look really good so I double that arthritis has much to do with her lack of agility.

Anyway. I still have hopes of building her an aviary outside that window for the spring. Maybe a scaled-down version of the last image? The cats may be seriously jealous!

Willow’s World: Foraging as it should be

Plant it and they will come! A variety of parrots once escaped from captivity or the pet traders, have enjoyed some of our habitats. But what about the habitat they came from? We cannot save them if we do not know what they eat or where they nest. Not all seeds, flowers, and fruits are the same for them as they are not for us. As you must know by now, I am a vegan and love anything fruit or vegetable. Except for mushrooms, especially when they are cooked, and olives with few that I can tolerate beyond olive oil. If we have the knowledge and use it, we can coexist with some good management practices. In one study it was found that White-fronted Parrots, like my Willow, foraged on 36 plant species in 21 families with 24.1% being non-native or cultivated. Their diet consisted of 37% seeds, 31% fruit, 26% flowers, 5% leaves, and 2% bark. Willow came into Miami in 1992, age unknown. Does she know or remember what is edible in her native world? Well, I happened to buy her some tamarind in the Indian market yesterday. Who knew she just may have found it a pleasant forage treat. Yes, that is Willow with her tamarind. For the curious, here is the list of the species in the study. Just maybe I can introduce some of these species once I get that greenhouse going and Willow’s aviary in the spring. Of course, I will make sure they are not invasive to our area. Sorry for the bad image of Willow but she hates my cell phone so I have to click quick!

Wild Cashew – Anacardium excelsum

Yellow Mombins or Hog Plum – Spondias mombin

Mango – Mangifera indica

Glassywood, ronron, or aroeira – Astronium graveolens

Pawpaw/sugar apple family – Annona sp.

Rosy trumpet tree – Tabebuia rosea

Kapoktree – Ceiba pentandra

Pochote – Bombacopsis quinata

Balsa tree – Ochroma pyramidale

Spanish elm or Ecuador laurel – Cordia alliadora

Turpentine tree or copperwood – Bursera simaruba

Brazilian firetree – Schizolobium parahybum

Maria mole – Senna reticulate

Tamarind – Tamarindus indica

Sansapote – Licania platypus

Indian-almond – Terminalia catappa* (non-native)

Peruvian almond – Terminalia oblonga

Bushwillows – Combretum sp.

Strawberry tree or Jamaican Cherry – Muntingia calabura

Gumtree – Sapium glandulosum

Coral tree or mountain immortelle – Erythrina poeppigiana

Machete, Poro, or Palo Santo – Erythrina costaricensis

Parrot flower – Psittacamthus sp.

Spanish or Cuban cedar – Cedrela odorataLysiloma divaricatum

Guanacaste, caro caro, monkey-ear tree or elephant-ear tree – Enterolobium cyclocarpum

Ice cream-bean, joaquiniquil, cuaniquil, guama or guaba – Inga sp.

Monkey-pod or raintree – Pithecellobium saman

River tamarind – Leucaena leucocephala

Willow’s World: Cinnamon Hummingbirds, White-fronted Amazon Parrots, and Coffee

The shade coffee plantations of Guatemala provide more than just our coffee, they are also good foraging habitat for a number of birds. The Cinnamon Hummingbird and parrots like my Willow, the White-fronted Amazon. While modern shade plantations plant evenly spaced rows of trees, such as Inga, a traditional polyculture plantation will plant Inga along with a variety of fruit trees such as avocado, guava, Jocote, bitter orange, banana, and citrus and will also rely less on fertilizers and herbicides.

The Cinnamon Hummingbird did make an appearance in Arizona and New Mexico in 1992-93, but it is best to wander down to the deciduous, thorn, and second-growth forests of western Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, and south to Belize and Costa Rica to see them. Or visit a coffee plantation! Males and females are similar so I’m not sure the sex of the ones that I was able to snap an image of while in the resort in Mexico. The background colors are from the buildings behind the shrubs and trees where the hummingbirds were flittering about.

As for Willow, well she now has a brightly lit Christmas tree to admire during the evenings this season. I decided against the flashing lights I usually love as I wasn’t sure what that may do to her sanity. A trip to Logee’s may be in order for a tropical plant or two for the windows Willow finds herself in front of. Something that can be relocated to her summer aviary outside her ‘bedroom’ window.

Do consider where your coffee comes from as your dollars would do better to support traditional shade plantations that support a wider diversity and higher abundance of bird species.

Happy birding! I hope you are enjoying my travels into Willow’s World. Stay well and enjoy the holiday season.

Willow’s World: Yucatan Jay

Seeing a 12” Yucatan Jay in the wild is amazing. Maybe because it is sporting my favorite color, blue, and it is such a contrast with the black body. These gorgeous birds were spotted in the forested area of the Yucatan Peninsula in Riviera Maya, Mexico. While males and females are similar, juveniles can be distinguished by the white on their heads and underparts and first-year birds have a yellow eye-ring and varying shades of yellow and dark on the bill. The eye-ring and bill are black by the third year. Yucatan Jay is found in deciduous forests, coastal scrub, or rainforest habitat. These jays are omnivores and eat a variety of seeds, plant materials, and insects. Predators include snakes and tree squirrels. To see them in the wild you will need to visit the Yucatan Peninsula, northern Guatemala, or northern Belize where it is a resident. There are no reported sightings anywhere else. I continue to be surprised by how little is really known about birds and how valuable research can be in so many areas. While there are no banding records for the Yucatan Jay, a Mexican Jay was banded in Arizona in 1969 and recaptured and released back into in 1987 making it almost 18 years old at the time. There are no banding records for any of the parrot species but captive White-fronted Amazons range from 30-40 years. With Willow being at least 28 she actually does well for a little old Amazon Queen!

The world in which Willow lives is very different from the one she would have inhabited. Her bedroom is the dining room with early morning sun, a jungle gym, and a tabletop playscape – none of which interest her much. She does spend some time looking things over as she has her breakfast and seems to notice changes, even in the replacing of feather images with bird images. After her leisurely breakfast and, if she is willing, time spent in her playground, Willow heads to the sunny window in the living room that she shares with some orchids and the cats lounging or playing in the cat tower. Willow’s world would have been much warmer, lows of 68 to highs of 90, than what our winters are here in the northeast.

There is a space heater with a bowl of water and Star Anise to keep the air from being too dry and making her stuffy. Star Anise is a treat, not that Willow cares to nibble on one, and also benefits the respiratory system and arthritis. Willow also gets a morning spritz while in her sunny window with a stem of aloe in her water to also help with arthritis. During the day she often has some music playing. In the evening she gets moved over to the area of the TV where everyone, cats, dog, and people, seem to congregate on the sofa and chairs. Today we will introduce a Christmas Tree with a whole lot of lights. Should be interesting, or simply overwhelming? We shall see!

This continues to be a bit messy as I’ve not had a chance to really focus on an exact format or plan for where I want to take this series. Thank you for following along and meeting some of what may have been Willow’s ‘friends’ had she remained in the wilds of Mexico.

Willow’s World: Black-headed Saltator

Willow’s World: Today I placed Willow on the top branch of her Jungle Gym. It was a first for her. So high up above me and all that is normally more eye level for her. As usual, she spent some time preening while taking time out to look around and examine her new point of view. The branch had a dip and a rise. What to do? Best to stay in a short section is what she finally decided. There were moments where Willow fluttered her wings or bent forward a bit as if she thought that flight might be possible. But she seems to know that at best a flutter-fly merely takes her down and not always where she had intended to go. Thoughts of food got her to step up onto my finger, flutter to my shirt, and climb up to my shoulder from which she went into her cage. This parrot should be so nimble maneuvering around the branches of vegetation to forage is simply still unsure of what to do about getting around her new world. I often wonder what her 28 years of life were really like.

The Black-headed Saltator is a 9” tanager of central Mexico down to Panama that may have foraged for fruits or insects of the plantations or vegetated open habitats that Willow visited. The Saltator can be found in gardens, brushy pastures, near waterways, or cacao and coffee plantations. A lot of the natural history of this species is still not well-known. A predator is the beautiful Aplomado Falcon, a species I’ve had distant glimpses of in the wild but a good close-up of an ambassador.

Black-headed Saltators have not been recorded on e-bird beyond its typical range so seeing it is likely if you visit Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and south to Panama for some birding.

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