Kiwani A Very Special Bird


I Introduction (Thompson) have had the privilege of being involved with a very special and unique bird: a handfed Sun Conure. Kiwani is owned by a very close friend, Eb Cravens, and we will each tell our part of this incredible tale. Though I did not know Kiwani during his early years, I was directly involved with him during the fourth and fifth years of his life. The following is an analysis ofKiwani' s early training.

Early Training Of Kiwani (Cravens)

As far as I can remember I had a desire to own a pet Sun Conure. I suppose any parrot lover who is fond of neon-bright yellow and orange would feel the same. What's more, I had heard certain talk about the captivating personality of Suns - when they choose to be playful, they could keep one in stitches of laughter. Handfed Sun Conures are fluffy little balls of fun and devotion.

The day I walked into that tiny pet store in Aspen, Colorado, in late summer 1987, and spotted Kiwani, I sensed the time had arrived to purchase my first handfed domestic psittacine. I felt he was an $800 bargain. Indeed, Kiwani turned out to be a bargain at any price. His dozens of friends and acquaintances all across the USA marvel at his prowess.

For some reason (perhaps a lack of close cuddling in the handfeeding period), I soon found Kiwani a bit insecure. Accordingly, I began to keep him with me as much as possible. He slept wrapped in a bath towel next to my pillow (never once messing his own towel). He was taught to ride inside my sweater or T-shirt with his back against my skin, claws out! To this day Kiwani will come flying to my shoulder and bolt


down the front of my shirt when he wishes security or a nap. Many a friend of mine has had the surprise of a lifetime when my little sun bird, unable to find me and seeing dusk falling, flies to his or her shoulder and zips down the shirtfront to be warm and safe.

All this love and attention began to cure Kiwani's insecurity, but as many adolescent conures do, he would still scream for touch and attention when he chose. At this point, Kiwani' s formal training began.

"Quiet," I would say whenever he screamed, "Shhhhh." Then again, "Be quiet, No screeching," accompanied by a gentle grip on his upper and lower beak and a moment of stillness. If the squeaking continued, he would be wrapped in his sleeping towel for 5 or 10 minutes of quiet. These days Kiwani knows what "quiet" means though he does not always choose to obey. Indeed, sometimes we both scream at the top of our lungs for conure-style fun.

Next, Kiwani began to learn "up," "poop" Che calls it "oh"), "water," "cage," "ouch," "kiss," "cracker" (for all food) and "tree." I never taught him "no," for I find it too complex a word for parrots when used for many different reasons.

On my part, I was taught to mimic his shrill whistle screech which he now answers from wherever he is at the moment. This answering is a prerequisite with all my birds: I learn their call as best I can or teach them a short whistle unique to each bird which they learn to answer. This is invaluable training should one of my parrots end up in a tall tree orin strange territory. Twice in his many years I have located Kiwani in the house of a stranger by calling around the neighborhood and hearing his distant Sun Conure answer.


You see, Kiwani, my beloved sun parrot, is a free-flyer. He likes it better that way.

(I have been involved in training certain parrot species to fly free and return for over 10 years. This is advanced behavioral training and should not be attempted bya novice or with just any parrot species!)

About age nine months, Kiwani's primary flight feathers began to grow in again. As neither the breeder nor the pet store personnel had thought to teach my young Sun to fly--hence to land---before his initial wing clipping, I was forced to perfect his control by means of practice flights. By this age he had had hours of supervised time in the tree outside my kitchen wine.low and when I worked in the garden. But his training hops to my outstretched finger now became increasingly long and meaningful.

"Up, Kiwani, up," I would coax. Four feet. "Up, baby, up." Eight feet. "Up, Kiwani. Cracker." Twenty feet. "Good birdie," I rejoiced. Then a kissanc.I a treat. By 1990, my flashing orange bird was flying free in a dozen neighborhoods all over America and had two acres or so to roam in at his winter farm house. And he still answered when I screeched and came when I called.

It was a marvelous feeling to see the joy Kiwani felt as he peeled and dived and swooped and climbed through all kinds of conditions and life experiences-yet loved me enough to return when I wished him to.