Bird Brain – Research and Resources

Squawk! I mean hello and welcome! 

If you haven’t already, check out my downloadable discussion and activity guide. Great for book clubs and classrooms!

I assume you’re here because you’ve read BIRD BRAIN and want to learn a bit more about my bird, Gabby, or pet birds in general. I’m not an expert on all birds, or even all pet birds, but I am an expert on my bird and know about her care, so I’ll do my best to share what I can. I’m also including resources and links to more information for your further learning. 

First, some fun facts about Gabby, my Timneh African Grey. She was hatched on May 5, 2001. We reserved her from an egg with a reputable breeder, similar to how you can reserve a future puppy or kitten from dog or cat breeders. When she was hatched, Gabby was hand-fed by the breeder so that she would be comfortable with humans and see them as her friends/caregivers.

We know Gabby is a female because we sent away a blood sample for a DNA test.  Here is her certificate:

Gabby weighs about 280 grams which is a little less than the weight of a can of Campbell’s soup. She loves to eat peanuts, apple, carrots, lettuce, almonds, and corn, among lots of other fresh human foods, but she mostly eats pellets – a mixture of Tropican, Harrison’s (High Potency & High Potency Pepper), and Zupreem Fruit Blend (like what’s on the back cover of BIRD BRAIN!).

Gabby loves toys. She loves shredding paper and wood, keeping her beak in tiptop shape. She can undo knots in cotton or leather rope and is a pro at puzzle toys. She has a bell that she loves, but it makes her human companions a bit frazzled to hear it all the time, so she only gets it when she goes to boarding when we’re on vacation.

Gabby is a great talker. The first thing she ever said was “Peek-a-boo!” and since then, she’s developed a good vocabulary of words, phrases and noises. When she decides a word or phrase is something worth repeating, she will practice whatever it is for a couple of weeks before she perfects it.

Her most common words are, not surprisingly, apple and peanut, to correspond with her food demands. But she also says funny things like, “Whatcha doin’?” and “Gimmie a kiss!” She sometimes laughs along with us and the TV, and she often does the microwave beeps when we open the microwave door (from a different room!). She’s been known to call out for the dog or cat, although they never come when she does. She also makes noises she hears in our home: squeaky doors, random beeps, electronic noises, sniffles, burps and yes, sometimes farts. She is a shy talker and often does most of her talking when we’re not in the room. 

Her cage is in our living room so she’s around us most of the time and gets some time outside of her cage every day to play. Her wings are clipped for her safety, so she doesn’t fly, but she did learn to fly when she was a baby to help with her confidence.

Feathers are like hair–it doesn’t hurt to have them cut once they’ve completely grown in. Like all birds, Gabby goes through a molt every year where her feathers gradually fall out and are replaced by new feathers. 

If you’ve read BIRD BRAIN already, you know that it’s dedicated to Dr. Irene Pepperberg and Alex. I hope you’ll check out The Alex Foundation, where you can learn more about Dr. Pepperberg and her work. From the website: 

Irene Pepperberg studies Grey parrots. The main focus of her work is to determine the cognitive and communicative abilities of these birds, and compare their abilities with those of great apes, marine mammals, and young children. She is studying the mechanisms of their learning as well as the outcomes.

Meet Dr. Pepperberg and Griffin:

Dr. Pepperberg with Griffin and Athena:

If you want to learn more about bird care, check out these downloadable pamphlets about from the Association of Avian Veterinarians. 

My store has a list of bird books you can check out. 

If you think you’d like a pet bird, please do your research. Birds can be messy, noisy, and challenging to keep as pets. That said, they can be a lot of fun. I would recommend a budgie/parakeet or cockatiel that are smaller birds that can be very sweet. They can talk and whistle and are a lot less intimidating than larger birds with bigger attitudes and personalities!

If a pet bird is not an option for you, you can love birds from afar. Why not go birdwatching or set up a bird feeder in your yard? Check out these articles at Audubon and Time for Kids for more info. It’s a great way to get outside and learn more about nature in your community.

It should come as no surprise that I’m a backyard birder. I love all birds, though I will admit that I’m hummingbird-obsessed and can’t wait for when they return every spring. 







Books for tweens and immature adults.