Foraging with Alex the Bird

A down-to-earth video.

So many of my videos are about flying or show off scenes from the air. I thought I’d work on one that was a little closer to earth. This one features my parrot, Alex the Bird, foraging for treats in his cage. I blogged about this particular toy way back in 2006.

The text that follows is the narration you’ll find on the video. The video is at the bottom of this post. This was mostly an experiment to see how I could use the voiceover feature of iMovie ’09. I couldn’t. I wound up recording the narration in Audio Hijack Pro and editing it in Fission, then dragging clips into iMovie. iMovie apparently no longer includes audio editing features. This is unfortunate. I’m trying to figure out why Apple keeps removing features from iMovie as it updates it. (Of course, I can’t complain, given the image stabilization feature is so incredible.)

Anyway, here’s the narration and video. Enjoy.

I’ve put together this little video of Alex foraging for treats. I thought it might be interesting for folks who like birds or are considering buying one. It’s also a video exercise for me, but that’s another story.

In the wild, parrots forage for food. That means they use their claws and beaks to tear apart nuts and berries and pull bark off of trees looking for food. They don’t have their food in ceramic cups like caged parrots do. Foraging is an instinct. It also keeps the birds pretty busy all day so they don’t have time to be bored.

Alex has never lived in the wild, but he still has foraging instincts. And I like to keep him busy so he doesn’t get bored and engage in self-destructive behavior, like feather plucking.

What you see here is a cage-like structure that I bought years ago when I first got Alex. It came with shreddable toys and blocks in it. Alex was only mildly interested in it. But when I replaced those toys with plain old shredded paper surrounding Alex’s favorite treats — edamame or soy bean pods and unsalted cashews — he got very interested. So every few days, I set him up with this hanging toy so he can forage for his favorite foods.

As you watch this video, you might notice a few things.

First, Alex knows the treats are in there and he knows what he needs to do to get at them — pull all the paper out. This looses up the tightly packed cage so he can pull the beans and nuts out and eat them. You’ll see him successfully remove a few beans and nuts in this video. I cut out a lot of the shredding activity. It took Alex about 40 minutes to work through the toy today, and no one is interested in watching him that long.

Also, you’ll see Alex use his feet to steady the swinging toy. Letting the toy swing from the top of the cage makes it tougher for him. Tougher is better. I’ve learned that the goal is to make the foraging task difficult enough that it takes him a long time but not so tough that he gives up.

You may also notice Alex glancing back at the camera. The camera was sitting on a tripod near his cage and he didn’t quite trust it. He keeps looking at it to make sure it’s not sneaking up on him to attack him. Fortunately, he’s more interested in the treats than the camera.

Alex is almost eight years old. He’s expected to live 40 or 50 years. Right now, he’s just finishing up his winter molt, so his feathers don’t look as good as they would in a month or two. He molts every winter and looks pretty ratty for about two to three months.

I hope you enjoyed this visit with Alex. You can stop by my Web site,, to see more videos from my life.

What do you think?