We Have Pinfeathers! Hummingbird babies growing up fast

mother sittin on nest

mother sitting on nest

It’s been fun to see how quickly these chicks are growing – every day they are noticeably bigger.  We are on day 12 for the 1st chick, day 11 for the 2nd. They fill the nest almost to the brim, and their little heads are often propped up on the edge.  When they squirm around, the nest expands and bulges. Their little beaks are starting to gain a little length, and I’m nearly certain their head feathers are green.  I can definitely see pinfeathers on their wings (which will be growing into real flight feathers soon – they fledge sometime between 18 and 23 days. Hard to believe!)

One very interesting thing I’ve noticed was the dramatic change in the mother’s behavior at about day 7. For the 1st 7 days, she sat on them all the time, leaving briefly to get food, feed them, and continue to sit on them. At about day 7 she seemed to be gone. A whole day went by without me seeing her.  She still wasn’t there the next morning (it seemed) and I was so worried that something had happened to her.  But when I went up and checked on the babies, they certainly were looking fat and healthy. So, I waited downstairs for a few minutes, and of course she flew right up and fed them (I could actually see their little heads poking up over the edge of the nest!) and immediately flew away again. Either they take so much work to feed, or she just doesn’t fit in there anymore.  Probably a little of both, combined with the fact that they’re so “big” and fat that they can keep each other pretty warm by now.

I continue to be frustrated by my inability to photograph or even see them that well. My camera doesn’t want to zoom in close enough (even though they are so close – less than 6 feet away), and it’s so dark where they are. I’ve brought 3 pairs of binoculars to work, but none of them have been able to focus on something so close. Grrr.  Here are a few photos that will hopefully give you an idea of what’s going on, but I promise to try and find another way to get good photos. Thanks to Gerry upstairs for the first 3 photos – he has a better camera than mine.

you can see her pink throat

you can see her pink throat

The first hatchling at 2 days old

The first hatchling at 2 days old - 2nd hatchling is closer to us, up against the wall of the nest

day 11 - you can kind of see how the beak is getting longer and the head feathers are green

day 11 - you can kind of see how the beak is getting longer and the head feathers are green

A Little Springtime Happiness – Anna’s Hummingbird nest at Green Dog (note – updates added below)

hummer

We’ve had a terribly hard spring – a new software system being not the least of our troubles – working 7 days a week for multiple weeks, 10 and 12 hour days every day and not much end in sight. Then a sweet little gift – a hummingbird has decided to build her nest in the bamboo right outside of our door. From our position behind the cash register, Mike and I had both noticed a hummer zipping up into the bamboo quite frequently. So I stood out in the courtyard for a few minutes to try and see what a hummingbird could possibly want in a stand of bamboo. In she flew with a wad of moss in her beak and landed right on a little walnut sized nest.  It’s been nice to watch her building and then lining the nest,  but even more fun to share the experience with our customers. What a special treat to be able to see a hummingbird and her nest so very close – she’s only about 10 or 11 feet above us, in a nice spot – we can see her and point her out so easily. When she leaves to go eat, we can dash upstairs and peek into the nest to see the two little eggs she laid two weeks ago on a Sunday and Monday, smaller than  Jelly Bellies. We should be seeing babies anytime in the next few days.

A few facts about Anna’s Hummingbirds (and a few photos of her eggs): They seem to be fairly common in the Portland area and are easily attracted to feeders. I often hear them before I see them – their call is easy to identify once you’ve heard it – kind of a a squeaking, grating, rapid little noise, given from a perch. They’re green on top and greyish below – the males are distinct from other hummers as they are the only ones with red foreheads as well as throats (the books call it red, but I see it as a metallic deep pink color, compared to the true red of a ruby throat). The females have more of a pink spot on their throat than other species. Their nests are a little cup made with plant down, moss, and lichen, bound together with spider webs, and lined with feather down.

The first egg

The first egg

2 eggs in nest

2 eggs in nest

The female does all of the work of nestbuilding, incubation, and raising of the babies. She sits on eggs from 14-19 days, and babies fledge about 18-23 days after hatching. It was really interesting to notice that the nest was fairly shallow when she laid the eggs, and the whole time she’s been sitting on them, she’s been also adding moss and lichen to the edges of the nest, making it deeper and deeper. Now the walls are much higher, giving it a lot more room for babies to fit in there as they grow. We are eagerly anticipating the hatching – it’s been 17 days since she laid the first egg, so we know it should be any time between now and Friday.  Stop by soon and we’ll point her out to you. If this brood goes well, she will probably lay another clutch in this same nest.  Joy!

Update – later that afternoon, we had our first hatchling! Here’s a terrible photo – coulnd’t even zoom in before mom was back and feeling very uncomfortable about us watching her – we backed way off, but could still see her feed it briefly before we ducked out completely:

First photo of first nestling

First photo of first nestling

The next day we had nestling #2 hatch, right on schedule! Both seem to be doing well.

Day 3 photo – Here’s a better (but not great) photo of nestling#1 on day 3 (you can see its mostly naked body, its big eyes (closed for now) and yellow beak (short for now but will grow longer). It’s at least twice the weight it was when it hatched:

can see first nestling - #2 is up against the nearest nest wall so can't see it here

can see first nestling - #2 is up against the nearest nest wall so can't see it here

Check out this slow motion video of a ruby throated hummingbird in flight (most N. American hummers flap at about 53 wingbeats per second.) hummingbird in flight

This is a good link to Hummer info and some neat photos of Anna’s chicks in a nest in their  photo gallery http://www.hummingbirds.net/index.html

Some people have asked why we don’t put a feeder in the courtyard for her. The answer is because we don’t want to attract other hummers to the courtyard to bother her, and there is already a feeder across the street that she can visit. Also, at this age the nestlings are being fed mainly insects, not nectar.

2 Funny Videos

Check out this great dog trick!
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Some of you might remember this funny cat from a previous post Here’s a new one that made me laugh hard

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Beautiful Canine Freestyle

Check out this beautiful Canine Freestyle video. For you horse people, you’ll recognize a lot of dressage moves – amazing that she could convey those to the dog – some fabulous training in action and really nice to watch
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Dominance-based Training Leads to Aggression

do-not-want-dog.jpgAs a trainer and a retail pet supply store owner, I’m often in a situation where I can help someone through a problem. There are other times, however, where I see someone doing something so terribly wrong, so injurious to a dog’s behavior, and the person can’t seem to hear me when I try and guide them towards a new way. This is ultimately stressful to me, as I can see how much potential there is to fix a problem, and yet I can also see that this dog is doomed to have the problem worsen quickly. The culprit is always punishment of behaviors that are fear based. Take for example a man who came in the other day with his new dog. This little black fluffy dog had been kept in someone’s house for about 3 years, only venturing out to the back yard for potty, and now was hitting the streets for the first time. He was understandably a bit nervous, but was doing remarkably well, in my opinion. Mike and Julie had both offered him a little treat now and then while they were shopping and he was warming up quickly to both of them. I felt happy thinking that with a little encouragement he’d do pretty well after all. While the new owner was ringing up his purchases and not watching the dog, the customer behind them reached out to pet the dog, and the dog snarled and snapped at her. The owner swung around, grabbed the dog by the face, shaking him and berating him for his behavior. I swooped in and quickly suggested that we try a little something – I got down low and offered a treat to him, and his body relaxed a bit, he took it, and within moments he was approaching me and even had put his front feet up on my leg. “see that?” I said, “he’s just really inexperienced at meeting strangers – a little treat goes a long way when he’s frightened, and tells him that it’s OK to approach”. I gave the woman who had been snapped at a few treats, and had her throw one in front of him, then when he ate it, hold another out to him. Within moments the person that had been scary to him a minute ago now seemed pretty OK in his eyes. Then the owner says to her, “if I hold him still and turn him around, will you pet him?” and proceeds to restrain the dog and force him to be handled by the woman that was trying to befriend him, and he was becoming super agitated at the dog for not complying. I cut that right off, and tried so hard to point out (in the friendliest possible way) that if the dog is forced to be in a situation that he feels frightened by, then punished on top if it, that he’s going to think it’s a terrible thing to meet new people. He wasn’t asking my advice, but I sure was trying to offer it to him, as there was still time for this dog to come around. This was one of the very first places he’d ever been. I didn’t have time to explain the power of classical conditioning to help dogs, but I tried hard to tell him that he wasn’t being bad, he was just frightened. He managed to leave with treats in his hand, but we saw him right outside the store, jerking then grabbing, shaking, and chastising the dog as he barked at a group of people walking by. This to me is tragic. Will I see them again? If I do, will the defensive aggression he displayed have spiraled out of control, making the owner give up the dog, or just keep him at home like the last owner (that he saved him from)? Positive trainers everywhere are trying so hard to undo the damage of myths such as all bad behavior is linked to dogs needing to dominate those around them (based on a few small studies of unrelated groups of wolves in captive situations, who behave very differently in their natural social system), that you can just make a dog behave by insisting on it (whether the dog understands what is expected of him or not), and simply punishing out behaviors you don’t like, regardless of the reasons for those behaviors. This is very detrimental to dogs like the one above who just feel fear of the unknown and are trying to keep things that frighten him at a reasonable distance. If that dog felt more comfortable meeting new people, he would soon have no reason at all to bark at them and that “bad” behavior would go away. Punishing the barking/growling is like cutting the rattle off a snake – if he’s punished into suppressing those behaviors, he may be quiet but still feel incredibly uncomfortable with strangers approaching him. When someone comes along that does something he feels is terrifying, like reaching quickly for him, or grabbing his face from both sides and putting their face right up to his (“what a cute puppy! I just want to kiss you!) he may very well bite. How many times have you heard someone say “he bit with no warning at all!!” hmm – I’ll just bet it was a dog just like this one.  Oh yeah – the reason for my post:

Here’s an interesting article highlighting a survey that illustrates the correlation between using aversive, punishment based “training” is more likely to illicit additional aggressive behaviors:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090217141540.htm

Here’s another good site I just stumbled upon:

http://www.4pawsu.com/dogpsychology.htm

If you’re looking for a trainer, try looking for one who has an affiliation with APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) or the certification “CPDT” after their names (certified pet dog trainer), whose program is based on humane training techniques.

If you’re in Portland, I’ve got a nice long list of good trainers for you. Check out this one:

http://www.doggybusiness.net/ His first blog posting is on this very subject.

Opt out of Unsolicited Yellow Pages

I’ve often been frustrated when yet another phone directory is plonked onto my front porch. I don’t really use them any more – this computer here does a good job of finding things. Not only that, but there are multiple companies putting out yellow page type books, so volume after volume gets delivered, making me feel such sadness at the waste. This nonprofit org is working on changing all of this – even though there is no current mandatory opt out list available (like the National Do not Call list), they are advocating for making Yellow Page delivery optional: ‘I’ll order one if I want it’. This would be a huge step towards cutting the enormous waste in resources from making, shipping, and delivering these huge books that people might just be throwing away.
Here’s a link that helps you to opt out of Yellow page delivery if you so desire:

http://www.yellowpagesgoesgreen.org/ 

Pit Bulls in the News

dogs-july-08-024.jpg

Lately we’ve had a surge in sensational stories about pit bulls on the news. It’s a terrible shame, as * any * poorly socialized dog has the potential to be dangerous. Many bites from many breeds of dogs go unreported, and very few make the news. Pit Bulls almost always make the news, giving the mistaken impression that they bite more frequently that other dogs. This is false.
Here are some snippets I’ve found in the past few days:
Along time trainer and expert in Canadian dog bite statistics, Marjorie Darby, points out that “In Ontario, a ‘pit bull’ killed another dog, and it was front-page news, that reappeared in the media for weeks. The owner was swiftly taken to jail. Around the same time, two Labs killed another dog, and attacked a ‘pit bull’ without any real media interest. The owner of the Labs was not charged with any serious offense. There are other blatant incidents, as well. One weekend, two off-leash dogs (one of them being a ‘pit bull’) got into a squabble, and every major media agency reported the incident. That same weekend, a child was mauled by the family’s Golden Retriever, and not one media outlet covered the story.”

The truth is that Breed Specific Legislation is simply not a practical solution to curbing dog aggression. To quote Ms Darby again: “No matter what dog ‘breed’ tops the dog bite statistics, the vast majority of bites are still attributed to other breeds.” Clearly, banning a single type of dog (instead of creating policies that enforce responsible ownership of any dog) would be ineffective at curbing the majority of dog aggression.
Breed Specific Legislation is also very unfair to the thousands of well socialized dogs belonging to responsible owners. “In the U.S., even extremely conservative estimates suggest that only 0.00002% of the ‘pit bull’ population has killed. This is much lower than the human population (men, in particular). Whatever someone’s views about ‘pit bulls’ might be, it can’t change the fact that at least 99.99998% have never, and will never, kill anyone.”

Time and time again studies have shown that there is not a correlation between breed type and aggression. Take for example an excellent five year study which was published in the Cincinnati Law Review in 1982, vol. 53, which specifically considered both Rottweilers and “Pit Bulls” and concluded in part that: “The statistics did not support the assertion that any one breed was dangerous.
When legislation is focused on the type of dog it fails because it is unenforceable, confusing, and costly.
Focusing legislation on dogs that are “vicious” distracts attention from the real problem, which is irresponsible dog ownership.” Legal Review (a very large PDF format file)

I could go on and on, but our wonderful employee, Julie says it best. Please read her beautiful letter in response to a call for Breed Specific Legislation in today’s Oregonian Opinions section:

Did you know that in the month of October, 2008 alone:

-A 2 year old girl suffered a bite to the face by a golden retriever/lab mix?
-A policeman was taken to the hospital after being bitten on the hand and arm by a police canine?
-A dachshund was viciously attacked and killed by a police canine?

These are only a few of the dog-related incidents that you probably heard nothing about. One major reason?

The dogs weren’t pit bulls.

Unfortunately for the dogs that were once America’s favorite breed, the media is playing a major role in fueling the public’s fear of pit bulls. Stories of pit bull attacks are sensational, and sensational stories sell. Often a dog attack that involves a dog that simply looks like a pit bull, or a dog that is a mix of a pit bull, is reported as a “pit bull attack”. This not only skews statistics on dog bites, but creates an obscenely biased view of the breed in the public’s eye. What the media fails to consider is that explicitly covering pit bull related incidents only makes it harder for responsible, caring people to own this loyal breed, while simultaneously making it even more attractive for irresponsible people to use and abuse this notably powerful dog.

That said, pit bulls are certainly a powerful breed. They are known for their excellence in weight pulling and their sleek muscular bodies. Yet pit bulls are obviously not the only powerful breed of dog, nor are they anywhere near as big or strong as some. While German Shepard Dogs, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers, for example, are all quite similar in size and strength to the “pit bull type dog”, dogs such as Great Danes, Mastiffs, St. Bernards, and Bernese Mountain dogs dwarf pit bulls. Thanks to the media, you typically won’t hear about it if these dogs attack, but the damage is no less. And, for the record, there is nothing about a pit bull’s jaws that differs from the jaws of other dogs. Period.

One of the major factors influencing the number of dog bites per breed is the popularity of that breed at that time. Clearly, pit bull terriers are a popular breed, and, sadly, they are often popular with people who want dogs for the wrong reasons. In the seventies, the breed of choice for irresponsible dog owners was the Doberman Pinscher. In the eighties, it was the German Shepard Dog. Now, sadly, the breed of dog that was America’s first dog to be decorated a war hero has taken the hit as the target for the most horrifying dog abuse and neglect in our country.

What good will it do to ban pit bulls? People who want guard dogs will not simply give up the idea of having dogs as protection. Another breed will become the choice for abuse, and the aggression will continue. Breed bans worldwide are being overturned because they have proven to be ineffective. The best way to control canine aggression is by assessing dogs as individuals, and by forcing owners’ of aggressive dogs to safely control their dogs. Stricter laws for aggressive dogs of any breed and their owners make sense. Banning a dog based solely on its breed does not.

If dogs are supposed to be our best friends, then we must be theirs. Proper, positive training and thorough socialization are necessary for all dogs, regardless of their breed. It is past time for people to educate themselves about responsibly sharing our lives with dogs and demanding that all dogs are treated with kindness and respect. Blaming a breed of dog is doing neither of us any favors.