Jamieleigh's Parrot Help

This may come as new news to most of you, and recently learned news to some based on how closely you follow me around social media. I am super excited to announce the move of my blog (yes, this one!)

I’ve been working non-stop on the creation of a brand new “BirdTricks” – everything from redesigning our logo, to redesigning our entire website (but mostly creating a new one). My goal is to have everything up and running just the way I want it to by the first of the new year.

It has been a long, tedious process; especially doing most of the work out here at sea on sketchy internet connections, or through Bermuda internet a couple days a week. But I am very hopeful and excited.

So if you all have any suggestions, comments, or concerns, please reach out to me. 

In the meantime, if you want to continue seeing my blog posts in the future, please head over to Parrot Care Advice | by Jamieleigh.

It is literally this entire blog moved over there – but I’ve gone through each and every post and updated URL’s, info and tags/descriptions so that no post went over there that wasn’t helpful to the average parrot owner seeking insight/advice.

Honestly, this move has been a major blessing as I’ve been able to go through every piece of information out there and make sure it’s the absolute best and nothing has gotten too dated or obsolete.

I had been receiving comments about people hoping I’d update product links and such, as many parrot related websites have gone under in the past few years that I had been recommending products for. And so I have. 

Can’t wait to see you over there! And please keep in touch with your thoughts and opinions via Facebook.

  • In: Training
  • Comments Off on How Old Does a Parrot Need to be to Begin Training?


A parrot’s age varies depending on what you are specifically wanting to train it. However, I view training as something that is unavoidable. To me, every interaction with your bird is a training session whether you like it or not, or are even aware of it being so, or not.

Because training does not require a food reward in every case for every action, I believe training can start when parrots are simply babies. Simply having positive interactions with your bird (rewarding your bird’s gentle baby behavior and wantness to be around you with things it likes ie; petting on the head, sweet words/tones and quality time and games is positive training to me.

When my birds were about 4 months old and were at the age to fledge, yet still hand fed a bit, I’d allow them to fly short distances (1-6 feet) to me to get their formula. This eventually graduated to a completely weaned, adult bird doing the same behavior at greater distances for treat rewards like sunflower seeds, almonds or pine nuts (or whatever your bird’s preference is).

As birds get older they will likely expect a food reward along with a secondary non-food reward. For instance, some birds bond closer with some members of the household and simply flying to that person to BE with them is reward enough for the bird. We use that a lot. You could use a perch or toy your bird loves being with as its reward, and that can happen at any age.

On the same token that a baby bird can train very basic interactions, older birds are never too old to train. Parrots are so very capable and clever. The only times I would refrain from training is when it’s an older bird whose circumstances have had its muscles severely atrophied to the point of pain when trying to build the proper muscles for flight training. In those circumstances, which I have sadly seen before from a bird being kept in too small a cage most its life, it’s better to train that parrot behaviors that will not cause pain in the muscles. Behaviors like talking on cue, waving, and retrieving. Running, hopping and climbing can usually be incorporated for birds who for whatever circumstances cannot fly.

In conclusion, you can train a bird of any age but how you do it will vary.

  • In: Parrot Bathing
  • Comments Off on Endangered Species Act Changes Things For Us


Last year when we disembarked the Norwegian Dawn just before Thanksgiving, our blue throated macaw Jinx was entered into the endangered species act, and therefore the USFWS seized our traveling permit for him. We were devastated and knew there would be not enough time on our brief two months off, to research, apply and receive a new permit for him under the act. So not bothering, we changed our course of action for our current tour and limited the birds we brought in preparation of training one of our camelot macaws to replace Jinx in Dave’s bird act.

We brought both camelot macaws, Comet and Tusa, in case one preferred it over the other but assumed we would try Tusa first since he is more of Dave’s bird than mine, and Dave would be the one producing him in the act.

We also brought Bondi, our female rose breasted cockatoo and Cressi, our Congo African Grey parrot. That was it! 4 parrots to our previous 9!

Also last year as we had our inspection at home during our in home quarantine, the USFWS just brought us up to date on their rules, expectations, desires, etc. we always ask questions from being “out of the loop” for the duration of our contract at sea, and they’re always able to provide us with answers to point us in the right direction for our feature endeavors.


One of the pieces of information they offered us was that they prefer our birds are not in contact with all the passengers of the ship because those people are entering and exiting the ports and could possibly pass diseases. The risk is higher, anyway. So between new laws, not being able to bring certain birds, having to train new ones in their place and not being able to offer the interactions with our parrots any longer, we decided to scale down to the four birds instead of nine, and no longer offer our behind the scenes bird show on board.

We also took on an 11 month contract, which is our longest ever, and thought it best to scale back so we meet burn out much slower.


We successfully trained Tusa, our younger camelot macaw in Jinx’s place and found that his colors and size show up much better to the eye of the audience. We’re so much happier with him in Jinx’s position in the show! And we never would have tried it without the road blocks we ran into. So it’s one of those blessings in disguise.

Another thing we worked in our first week back on board (and we expected these greater changes to take much longer!) was Cressi in a release box for a routine called Grandpa’s Airplane where I was previously running up the dark aisle with her and releasing her from my hand. On our time off we had a release box made for her and were able to mount it and have her fly from it right away in our rehearsals. We were so pleased, here is a video of her doing it in our tech run the morning of our show:

Check out our video of Cressi coming out of our release box!

When we return home this spring for 30 days, we plan to leave Comet at home as well and replace our finale with a new illusion and no longer a bird flight of Tusa and Comet. With Tusa’s new role in the show, he has not been too enticed to fly in at the end with his brother. And sticking to our own personal rule of each bird having ONE task in the show, we have strayed away from that with having to replace Jinx with Tusa.

Our current plan (in the entertainment world it’s always changing and yet somehow always booked far in advance at the same time…) is to join the Norwegian Spirit in January 2017 without any birds, or at the very most one parrot and our doves depending on how difficult it proves to be of a task. The risk of not doing it properly can lead to our birds being seized and killed so it’s not a risk we are willing to take if we aren’t 100% confident in being able to do it. Because we’ve currently always imported and exported through the US, and the birds have always technically been in “transit” the officials know us and have been very accommodating with us in this process – but not knowing the process in the other countries has us on the edge of our toes.

For now, if you come to see us on the NCL Dawn, you will see Bondi, Cressi, Tusa and Comet through mid May 2016. After June 2016, you will see Cressi, Bondi and Tusa. If you write to us at info@birdtricks.com to let us know you’re coming, we can arrange a personal meet and greet with you and the flock!

For more on our tour schedule check www.davewomach.com.

Me and my blue throated macaw Jinx in my stateroom cabin on board the NCL Dawn.

Me and my blue throated macaw Jinx in my stateroom cabin on board the NCL Dawn.

We have an abundance of new followers every week and so many people feel in the dark when I begin posting and there’s lots of questions – especially when we go on cruise ship tours for 6-7 months at a time and that’s all people see.

So here are the most common questions. Feel free to ask others if they aren’t here, and I will add them if they become popular as well.

You’re allowed to bring parrots on a cruise ship?!

Yes, we are allowed. Passengers are not. We aren’t passengers, we are paid guest entertainers with parrots as part of our shows. So through LOTS of paperwork, permits and hassles and hoops… yes.

Do you bring your daughter with you?

I would never leave her behind.

… Unless it was for 21 days to train in the Mediterranean and I’d never been.

How do you take care of the birds properly on a cruise ship?

It’s really freaking hard. Mainly because we can’t bring their aviaries they normally live in with us because they’re too large for the amount of space we have on board – and our birds can’t be kept outdoors (weather changes constantly as does the direction of the ship) and they can’t be kept in passenger areas (no way to supervise them 24/7) which means they’re in a crew area.

While touring cruise ships, the situation is different ship to ship but recently we’ve come to spend a majority of our time on the Norwegian Dawn so I’ll speak specifically about their situation there.

Housing They’re housed beyond the theater, so that no one could accidentally come upon them and so that they are not part of any sort of paid back stage tours. We have to make sure we are in complete control of their lighting (aka hours of sleep they get) and are safe.

Bathing We bring them to our stateroom cabin, which is literally in the hallway of the theater so one room away from the birds. They use a shower perch and our shower, or some prefer the sink. We also keep a spray bottle handy in case they’re just not feeling the other methods or they need a quick clean up because they rubbed against something… like food stuck on the cage, or poop. Not that that has ever happened right before a show before…

Food We find trusted folks to make our fresh BirdTricks diet and bring it to us weekly or biweekly as needed to the ship for the birds. We keep it frozen in freezer tight bags (insulated) and take one gallon bag out as a time so it slowly defrosts every day as we use it for the week. They also get their organic pellets for their night time meal, and treats for shows.

At home we give the fresh food as the AM meal and the pellets as the PM meal. On ships, it’s a bit different. I will give them the fresh food surrounding the show days and on show days. Then I go back to fresh and pellet shared days. I do this because of the treats they’re getting for the show and the time frame in which every thing is which changes for them. We have to get them onto a much later schedule since shows are primarily at 7pm and 9pm.

Exercising We fly the birds in the theater mostly on our show day. This is to get most of their energy out so that when it comes to the show, they’re less likely to lengthen their flights. They will just want to do the bare minimum by then (hopefully). It’s also “our day” to have the stage so we can and bird poop is expected.

We also fly them in the theater when it isn’t already booked on port days because passengers are enjoying the port and we aren’t likely to be interrupted. This means we don’t have to worry about doors opening and closing and people coming and going. We can just PLAY.

Sunlight To get the birds real sunlight, we take them in travel carriers to deck 13 and fly them in the basketball and golf netted areas. As long as they don’t have a lot of holes. Which usually they do… We also do this on port days when less people are around to witness so the birds aren’t distracted and neither are we.

But how do the birds do with all the travel?

Our birds were literally raised on the road. They’re so accustomed to this lifestyle that this is normal for them. They’re very very very used to it!

Why do we hear from you less when you are on tour?

We have limited internet access at sea with our changing itineraries and schedules. Plus, internet at sea is very unreliable and expensive and that’s time     we would rather spend with our birds and daughter, and each other. The internet just won’t load usually and we get frustrated waiting on it. So although we tend to be able to post updates (especially once a week when in the USA) we can’t usually view comments which makes it impossible to respond. You can always email in your questions to us and we will get back to you ASAP via email – info@birdtricks.com.

Are the birds ever taken off the ship?

No. Our permits and paperwork are such that we cannot take the birds off the ship until we are going home. This is for the safety and health of our birds as well as the native birds in each country we visit.

Does the motion of being on a ship bother the birds?

Maybe it’s similar to being on a branch outside with wind, but the birds don’t seem at all bothered by the motion of the ship UNLESS it makes the things inside the ship move and make noise which startles them. The actual motion however, no. And we only usually have 2-4 rough sea days within a contract. It bothers people much more than our birds!

What sort of paperwork does it take to travel with your birds? I want to travel with mine.

It takes obtaining import/export permits from the countries you’re leaving and entering (contact USDA and USFWS if in the USA), quarantine periods (one month long for all our birds every time we disembark), $5,000+ for all of our flock to get to and from the ship (they charge more for vet visits leaving the ship because they have to come to us as we cannot disembark without a vet making sure they all look healthy – they’ve also added anal swabs before allowing exit and it’s even more expensive if on a weekend), 100’s upon 100’s of pages of paperwork applications (all hand-written), health certificates within 10 days of travel, CITES permits for those species of parrots listed on CITES (believe it or not, even hybrid parrots are listed on CITES if one part of them is endangered in the wild… such as our camelot macaws. Seems unlikely since they don’t actually exist in the wild so always make sure!). We also go through shipping crates each time (one was destroyed this trip alone because the birds can EAT their way through them). So we are looking at having custom ones made from aluminum (safe, light weight and sturdy). We have gotten all of our birds we travel with pet passports which are stamped like a human’s passport to make the process more simplified on our end. It’s a lot of work that most people aren’t willing to go through. The consequence of doing it wrong is that your birds can legally be seized and often times killed. We had a friend who had this happen to his doves when unexpectedly flying through Mexico.

  • In: Socializing
  • Comments Off on Bird Training Updates From the Past 7 Months

My world got quite crazy in the preparation of our 6 month contract on board the Norwegian Dawn starting July 25, 2014. We had a 20 day rehearsal period in the Mediterranean followed by the preparations of passports (not just human ones, but our pet passports too! Hello, 4 months of paperwork and 220+ pages of applications…), the shipping of props, the moving of all of our stuff. I know, who plans to move right before leaving for six months? This family. We moved all our stuff into a storage unit and a new house and left the very next day. Yeah, we haven’t even had a chance to live in our new house! But our birds have, well, at least Rocko, Comet and Tusa (toco toucan, camelot macaws).


FaceTiming with my birds back home. Here, specifically Comet my camelot macaw. They were all moved indoors into their 5×8 aviaries when the cold weather hit in late September/early October.

Because sadly, we left those 3 feathered boys behind this contract. We were quite anxious about accepting our first performing contract back since having our daughter and didn’t really know what to expect – and we were told there was little space so we left the biggest guys behind. Now that we’ve got the hang of it all again, the brothers (Comet and Tusa) and definitely joining us next contract and we’re already in the works of new backstage cages for everyone.

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I realize I haven’t updated about my daughter since she was practically still bald – it’s amazing how much hair you can grow in 4 months. She practically started the contract the same way.


Sydney insists on petting every bird. Even if that bird is plastered on the side of a trash can in Puerto Rico.

But, 4 months later in our contract and a few more bites and she still loves birds. All birds. While in Cozumel, Mexico she spotted a couple blue and gold macaws on a branch and two guys were charging people for taking pictures of or with them, and Sydney stuck out her arm (then 19 months old) and pointed to it and the bird. A way of saying “put that bird right here on my arm”. The guy, to my surprise, was willing and did so for free as long as I didn’t take a picture. It was so in the moment, and we had just gotten out of the torrential downpour that I hadn’t thought to anyhow. She did this all the time.

We forgot her favorite hat when we left, and hat looked everywhere for one she would accept. Besides her dad’s baseball cap, she refused any other kid’s hat we found until she spotted this fantastic toucan visor. Of course, I was totally approving of this decision.


Her stylish toucan hat, hand picked in Cozumel, Mexico.

As our flock grows more and more used to our daughter, I’ve noticed they also become a little less tolerant and more so as though they expect her to be learning their lingo faster since she’s around them so much. She has received a bite from Cressi for wanting to hold her one too many times (Sydney would literally hold a bird all day on her arm if she could. She just wants to do it over again and again and again.) they are not super hard bites, but warning enough that Sydney continues to respect what the bird wants and is capable of. She loves to hug and kiss them and is becoming more understanding that they don’t always want her love just like she may not always want ours.

She can hold all of the birds, and has been holding Jinx for a while now which always surprises people since with his long tail, they’re about the same size. (The main face is because she ate the pine nuts she was going to give Jinx, and didn’t like the taste so much. However, now she eats them ALL the time!)


Sydney Capri and her shared moments with Jinx. Also, what happens when she tried pine nuts for the first time.

If you follow me on other social networks then none of this is really all that surprising to you as I try to keep in contact as much as I can. But out here at sea, internet is expensive and wifi is hard to come by. And I really don’t want to be one of those parents that’s hooked to their phones instead of interacting with my child so we use the phone a lot to FaceTime with loved ones back home (our german shepherd Diesel, oh yeah, and grandma and grandpa too…) and takes photos and videos of our fun moments.


Sydney FaceTiming with our dog back home, Diesel.

Which has pretty much put blogging on the backest of burners. While out at sea we did put together a behind the scenes bird show, if you will, of how we trained the behaviors our birds know and we take some Q&A, as well as show tricks that aren’t featured in our main show Thrillusionist. Its a lot of fun and has been a great way for people to get to know the birds, and us, and really appreciate what goes into creating routines around animals in general. We plan on putting together a full length production show of ParrotFX again, but this time it will be 45 minutes long and all parrots and magic. That’s something that we’re in the works of doing now as we have two versions of the show written. The first version is what we can put in next year when we come back on the Norwegian Dawn from May-November 2015, and the second is the version we are striving to perform (which requires saving up for more props!)

But we are really excited about it and our goal is to offer it as a matinee production. It relies a lot on Comet and Tusa being involved for how we wrote it out, so that’s why we aren’t able to start even a shorter version now but next year we will definitely be working on it. And I’m hoping to start training with the conures immediately as long as Sydney allows that to happen! Hopefully I’m able to capture some of the training and perhaps enough of the behind the scenes training that the whole thing will take that we can make another DVD about it – more in depth on the training you get to be a part of and the full length show on there once it’s installed. All just thoughts for now but it’s fun to be thinking ahead about it all.


A little girl holding our three sun conures while they eat some millet from her hands.

So if you haven’t gotten to see us yet this year, we are still performing on the Norwegian Dawn through February 1, 2015 and will be back out here May 1, 2015 through the end of November next year. So book your cruise and come see us! Let us know you’re coming or just say hello once you’re on the ship and we will arrange a private meet and greet with you and the flock! We cruise from Boston to Bermuda, have an awesome run through Canada, a two week relocation cruise to places like Aruba, Jamaica, Curacao, Puerto Rico and more and then sail from New Orleans through the Western Caribbean (Honduras, Mexico, Belize and more) so definitely come on out!

Galah bite.

Galah bite (notice two beak marks on my thumb, not bleeding yet!)

My most recent parrot bite was received on May 30. Parrot bites from my flock are a big deal to me as I’m always trying to do right by them which to me, means avoid ever making them feel the need to communicate their point to me with a sharp point at the end of their beak! But, it happened. I can recall pretty much every parrot bite I’ve ever received (that’s how hard I work to communicate properly and not screw up in training) but, it still happens because I’ll forever be learning and they’ll forever be teaching me.

Dave and I were performing at a school in Spokane, WA. There are a few schools that mean a lot to Dave as some of his teachers practically home schooled him during high school as he already had his career and was constantly performing and missing a lot of school. So any time we are here during the school year and can do it, he goes back to those schools and performs for the kids. We had already had one show, and were on the second. Bandit appeared and there was a lot more smoke than normal from the pyro that went off that blocked his path enough to me, that he tried twice and then decided to land on the prop he appeared from instead. I rolled it to the side of the stage and we went on with the show with Bandit perched comfortably and contently on his prop.

Since he appeared fairly early on in the show, I worried about him deciding to fly down to one of us during another routine. So during a routine where I wasn’t needed, I pulled the prop even further back stage, but hit a cord that was taped down just enough that Bandit decided it was best to fly down and land on the ground instead of trust this rickety prop! He started walking towards the kids.

I immediately regretted moving the prop – since Bandit was so content I probably should have left him there BUT, if he became not content anymore, that would have been an even bigger issue since I wouldn’t have had another point in the show that I’d been able to get him. So, doing what I thought was best in the moment, prevailed.

Galah bite.

Galah bite, only the bottom beak bite bled a little.

I didn’t want the kids to get hurt – I didn’t worry about Bandit walking up and biting them, but I did worry about the kids possibly being too aggressive with him (petting wise, like a dog which does not go over well with a bird!) and getting bit that way. Bandit didn’t show any interest in doing what I thought was best for him at the time, so I knew the bite was coming but it was the choice I made to avoid what I thought could be much worse consequences.

But it still hurt my friggin’ feelings and I pouted about it anyway, against all logic. I often talk to my birds as if they understand English instead of body language and told him I was sorry I made him step up when he didn’t want to, and that I upset him the way I did. Luckily for me, he forgives rather quickly. Faster than my hand will.

I guess I just wanted to share that I get bit too. I sometimes have to ignore obvious parrot body language in order to do something that I feel has to be done at the expense of not being what my parrot wants.

If you’re getting bit often without knowing that it’s coming, you’re missing clear signs that your bird is giving you. Always think of the bite as the last resort, or a learned response (maybe you accidentally taught it that every time it bites = something it wants, like getting put back in its cage, or going to its favorite person, etc. without meaning to start that pattern in the first place.)

  • In: Socializing
  • Comments Off on Environment Matters When Socializing Kids and Pet Birds

This blog post may just be an excuse to share my favorite photos from our trip. If you walk away with more than that, I’ve done my duty. If not, enjoy the photos anyway!

We took a three week long trip over my daughter Sydney’s first birthday to Boise, ID, Moab, UT and White Sands, NM (Alamogordo) for our annual freeflight trip with our birds. Originally I had planned a cake smash for her in the red rock and white sands, but with all the red rock and white sand she consumed on the trip ANYWAY, I didn’t think those were necessary. Plus, like her mother, she isn’t really gun-ho about cake anyhow. 

Sydney and Rocko jumping on the bed... (thankfully no one fell off and bumped their heads!)

Sydney and Rocko jumping on the bed… (thankfully no one fell off and bumped their heads!)

One of my favorite moments from the trip was actually when I brought my toco toucan, Rocko, into the hotel one day. Sydney noticed me giving him blue berries, which she also loves to eat too, and showed interest in handing him one herself. I showed her closely how I did it, and made sure he could see the blueberry in her hand for him. As she reached out towards Rocko, he reached back and she got nervous and pulled away. She tossed the blueberry towards him on the ground instead. She did this twice before I stopped the interaction realizing she wasn’t going to conjure up the courage to really hand it to him, and I didn’t want him to feel teased and become frustrated. (I made sure to give him the blueberries she dropped or tossed near him).

I’m hoping someday soon she will find that courage – hopefully I have my video camera! 

With toco toucan Rocko

Cuddling both my babies

On another day, Rocko and Sydney were both cuddly at the same time. He has gotten really great about cuddling in public, with cameras in his face – he has finally found a way to ignore the chaos around him and enjoy the snuggling instead. What people? What camera? Only toucan-cuddles here.

Sydney sharing her gram cracker with Jinx. We’re gonna have to talk about the treat size…

One of Sydney’s favorite things to do while we were flying the birds was to follow (usually Bandit) around on the ground. They went on walks together. Sometimes with Jinx, too.

Just a girl on a walk with her blue throat macaw.

Just a girl on a walk with her blue throat macaw.

Dave and I loved flying the birds over her head as close as possible. I lost track of how many times she got hit with tail feathers!

Camelot macaw flying over Sydney Capri

A lot of the time she did her own thing and the birds would join her.

Giant sandbox with camelot macaw Comet (White Sands, NM)

Giant sandbox with camelot macaw Comet (White Sands, NM)

But her favorite thing about free flying the birds outside with us was when me or Dave would hold her while the birds would land on us. She would giggle and squeal with excitement! While the birds were in the air, she would usually laugh at them. I just couldn’t get enough of that sound.

Galahs Bondi and Bandit, blue throat macaw Jinx, african grey Cressi

In this environment, it seemed easier to have them together. Inside feels so confined compared to this experience – Sydney and the birds were free to do what they wanted, and interact when and where they wanted. Nothing was “controlled” and neither daughter nor birds felt pressured to be around one another, or interact if they didn’t want to. Neither even showed a problem with the other.

It was refreshing, to say the least, because I went into the trip thinking how held back I would be by having to entertain Sydney and make sure she wasn’t annoying the birds, etc. but everything was so smooth it was actually a bit surreal. Both birds and baby were happy which meant… I was happy too! 

I wonder if she wants do this every year for her birthday… ;) 

P.S. I do want to say a huge thank you to the grandmas (grandmas Sandy and Julie!) who made it out on this trip and helped watch Sydney – when it came to more focused training sessions, they made it possible to not have to be in tune with both baby and birdy body language at the same time! And they may have kept her away from the cliff’s edge a time or two… (what? It’s hard to remember only ONE of your fids, I mean kids, don’t have wings…) 

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