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Articles Continued

"Queen Tavia" continued.....


In July of 2006, we received an e-mail through our website telling of a Yellow-headed Parrot who was loose in a not-too-distant neighborhood. The gentleman reporting the bird gave an excellent description of how this bird would arrive every morning about 5:30 AM and sit high in the eucalyptus trees. The bird would chatter, preen and play with the small limbs on the trees. He also described him as being totally unaffected by humans, traffic and other birds around him. When I questioned the man as to whether he had seen any of the wild parrots in this neighborhood, he said he had never seen any parrots in the area at all, but this parrot had been around for a couple weeks. Our hopes it was Tav soared, but quickly took a dive when the photographs arrived.

  Bandini Arrives
New to the flock, Bandini tries to balance on the wires

New Arrival

There wasn't much doubt this bird was a recent escapee and we knew instantly his only chance of making it, however small, was to catch sight of some of the wild flock and hopefully follow them. But that would be a treacherous route. From his location, he would have to make it through some heavily raptor-patrolled territory with no protection if he were pursued. Was he a strong enough flyer to make it across those large open fields to parrot-friendly territory? Would he be able to make a nine mile flight? He was an older bird with a full yellow head and not a trimmed down wild-type. That bright yellow head was just like a neon sign.

One August morning, I received a phone call from Mike. He was excited to tell me he'd discovered a new Yellow-head among the flock hanging out with 5 or 6 adult Red-crowned Parrots. It was obvious to him this bird didn't quite know what he was doing and struggled with keeping his balance on the wires. A pretty hefty bird to begin with, this new Yellow-head was not a quick flyer -- when he took off following his new-found friends, he was always a distance behind.



Mike was able to get some good photos of him and when matched to the photos we had received from the man reporting the loose parrot, we found we had the same bird -- there was no doubt. He made it! Mike's photos also revealed something else, a leg band on his right leg -- a quarantine band. Our new Yellow-head had his name, "Bandini." We could now safely assume he was most likely a wild-caught imported parrot and was at least 13-plus years of age (my guess would be closer to 20 or above).

With a name like Bandini, you would expect him to be able to work a little bit of magic, wouldn't you? After all, he's lived a charmed life so far. Well, that's just what he did! Not only did he brave the odds against him and make it all the way to the flock, but he also found our long-lost Tav.

Tav and Bandini hit it off fabulously and from the moment they met, they were inseparable. They began their search for a suitable place to raise a family long before any of the other parrots -- months before.


Tav and Bandini
Tav (left) and Bandini (right) in the Fall of 2006


Bandini and Tav
Bandini (left) and Tav (right) guarding their chosen nest site


By November of 2006, they had staked their claim on the perfect territory and made sure every parrot in ear shot knew they were entering Yellow-head turf. They chased Red-loreds down the street, warned the White-fronts to keep their distance and filled the air with multi-octave vocalizations any opera star would be proud of. For more than 8 months we waited in anticipation wondering if their union would produce young -- they sure were giving it a heck of a try. Every indication looked positive until one morning they took off for parts unknown. With no warning, they had left their heavily guarded fortress which was home to them for more than half a year. Even with all our questions, their disappearance was not surprising. If they had a chick, it was probably about time for the little fella to fledge -- but where had they gone? Our search continued for seven weeks with not even a clue as to what we were looking for. Did they have chicks? If so, had something happened to them? Are they out there somewhere? It was their first time nesting and it was anyone's guess to the outcome. Only twice were we lucky enough to catch a quick glimpse of Tav and Bandini, but sadly both times were without little ones. Hope began to fade


and all the questions in our minds remained. Mike and I continued our search. We split up in order to cover every possible location, over and over again -- then one morning, Mike saw them approaching from the west with two beautiful little young ones flying right along side. Yep TWO! They did it!!!

Not only did they have their first chance at parenting that we knew of, but we had our first little Yellow-heads to keep track of.  Without a doubt, these two little cuties needed names.  Such different personalities they were.  The oldest independent and adventurous, the youngest mirrored every single move Bandini made.  The first needed a name oozing confidence and vigor -- the second a name totally reflective of Bandini.  We had it --  Suzu and Santini!  Perfect names! 

Tav and Bandini both proved to be magnificent parents...they started out like they knew exactly what they were doing (and maybe they did, though we would never know) keeping those babies hidden for so long. They weren't about to bring them into the open until they were confident in their youngsters' abilities.



Yellow-head Family
The family -- Suzu (left) and Santini (right) on the above wires. Tav (left) and Bandini (right) on the bottom wire looking dreadful after months of
nesting and caring for young with no baths.



Yellow-head Family
Left to right - Bandini, Tav, Suzu and Santini on a palm near where the
youngsters were hatched


Every little outing turned into a family event and we were fortunate enough to watch it all.  Even when the babies began venturing off on their own, they were never gone for very long.  Suzu was the first to venture off with other parrots, while Santini seemed to prefer keeping company with Tav and Bandini.

The little ones were edging on 9 months old and the close of 2007 was rapidly approaching.  We knew it wouldn't be long before the kids would be sent off on their own.  The signs this was coming had already started when Tav and Bandini would no longer allow the kids to follow them up to the nest site and chased them off.  Suzu and Santini were startled by this, but eventually got the idea they weren't allowed up there anymore.

We were literally filled with excitement and anticipation of more Yellow-head babies this coming season, but early February brought a tragedy we never expected.


Mike was photographing the family when Tav and her youngsters took flight....but something was dreadfully wrong -- Bandini didn't follow.    We knew that for him not to go along with his family, it had to be serious and suddenly he was just gone.  We never saw him again.  We waited and watched and searched and hoped for the "best," but the "best" never came.  All we could hope for was that Tav knew what happened to him.  We felt very fortunate to have had him for those 18 months no matter how short, he left a tremendous mark with his two little offspring.

Tav was now a single parent and left to make all the decisions herself.  It was time for the kids to become part of the flock and make friends.  There was no warning when she felt it was time, she just showed up with her young ones among our small Yellow-head / Blue-front flock.  This was largely surprising because we had never, not even once seen her among these birds.  She didn't hang out with them, didn't forage with them -- we didn't even know she knew of them, but she did.  It was obvious she brought both her treasured young to be among those where they would fit in the best.  She and the kids made themselves at home among their new flock, but still each day, Tav would travel to the area she and Bandini claimed, escorted by her adorable youngsters. They would stay with her for a while and then head off on their own. After their departure, the battle would begin!! Crows had built a nest in the very top of Tav's palm tree and they didn't want her anywhere in the vicinity.


Tav would land in the top of a tree across the street from her palm and watch the crows patrol the area -- they had their eyes on her too.  Time after time she would attempt to enter her cavernous nest site in the palm as the crows chased, harassed and dived on her.  It would take her hours and dozens of tries before she would actually make it up into the nest and as soon as she disappeared into the dead leaves, the crows were right on her tail jabbing and stabbing into the leaves with their dangerous beaks.  Over and over again -- it was a battle of skill, endurance and sheer bravery. What on earth possessed Tav to endanger her own life day after day, week after week? Why was her determination so strong? Was Bandini in there sick or injured? Was she looking for him inside hoping he would be there? Was she looking to lay eggs even without him around? Tons of scenarios ran through our heads - none of which made sense. And after day she returned -- for weeks. Then suddenly she just stopped.

  Tav being attacked by Crow
Tav flips upside down on a limb to avoid the attack of the crow.


TrixTrix in the top of a tree showing his age with his bright yellow
head feathers fading.


Trix or Treat!

Trix was a rather dominate old gent, always controlling, full of fight -- sometimes mellow, but most times not. He too had been a single bird for many years. He was well traveled, knew the ropes and could or would show up anywhere. We never did understand why he and Tav weren't together and then one day, in 2009, it happened.

While accompanying a friend into Yellow-headed territory to film the wild parrots, I saw two parrots fly in front of us, their Yellow-headed chatter unmistakable.  Ah yes - there is Tav and one of the kids!  What a surprise to find I was wrong!  Of course it was Tav, but it certainly wasn't either of the kids with her...IT WAS TRIX!  I was dumbfounded -- after all these years!  Tav and Trix together?  What a development this was!


Tav and Trix established themselves in the same area as Tav and Bandini. This wasn't too surprising since Tav was a frequent visitor to this particular neighborhood from way back, even before Bandini came along. However, Tav and Bandini's nest site was no longer an option for nesting. Tav would go up there occasionally and look around, but it was never thought to be a nest site. The heavy Santa Ana winds had altered the outside and changed the inside dramatically. Instead, right across the street on a busy neighborhood corner stood a hollow tree with lots of fun holes in it. Other parrots had investigated this tree, but none had ever claimed it. Well, now it belonged to Tav and Trix!

  Trix and Tav on nest tree Trix (left) and Tav (right) above a small hole to their chosen nest tree 

Trix and Tav at Nest Tree
Trix (inside hole) explores their chosen nest site while Tav (above) looks on


Just as Tav and Trix became comfortable with their new possible nest site, a swarm of bees moved in and attempted to push them out. Tav and Trix weren't about to give up that easily and still tried to enter the hole even with the bees buzzing in and out. The bees made it clear they would not be in competition with a couple of parrots and after Tav sustained a sting or two, she and Trix gave up the farm.

The bees didn't like the parrots and the city didn't like the bees -- chain reaction! How does the city get rid of unwanted bees in a hollow tree that they can now label a hazard? They simply remove the entire tree -- and that's just what they did. This nesting season hit rock bottom very quickly without a place to call their own, but Tav's desire to be a momma again was incredibly strong. If she couldn't have her own, she was sure determined to help and what better place to do that than with her nesting Red-crowned neighbors down the street. As soon as the nesting Red-crowned pair would leave the area, Tav would fly over, make her way to the opening of the nest, stick her head inside and coo softly to the little ones below. She seemed to feel the need to check on them or maybe she just enjoyed knowing there were babies close by. All the while, Trix would wait in a nearby tree until she was finished, then she and Trix would fly off together. This was a regular occurence.

Fledging time rolled around and each little Red-crowned chick made his way to flight.  First the oldest, then the middle one, but the last little chick out of the nest didn't quite understand it all and landed directly at the bottom of the 20' drop.  Luckily, for this little fellow, he had unbelievably patient parents, human surrogates watching his every move and of course, he had Tav to watch over him. She was not about to let his progress and development pass her by. For nine days the little Red-crowned fledgling moved around in the backyard. He walked across the grass, climbed trees, hid in bushes -- he did everything but FLY. Finally, on the last day and with his parents watching every move and Tav watching from a distance, he took a short flight from the backyard to the very top of a small tree in the front yard of a neighbor. One of his parents flew immediately to join him and Tav flew in too, landing on the wires above. She was not happy and voiced her dismay -- when they paid no attention, she flew down at them knocking both birds off their feet and into a 'not so obvious' location. This is just what she wanted to do -- she was furious the little baby Red-crowned was allowed to sit in the top of the tree fully exposed. Shortly after, the little baby made his first distance flight into the safety of a tree with his parent right behind him. Tav's job was done, the little fledgling was hidden away.





Nearing the End

Nesting season had come to a close and bird-life returned to normal. Tav was still her beautiful, energetic self but Trix was slowly losing his vigor.  The bright yellow on his head continued to fade and now he was losing feathers as well.

He always stayed as close to Tav as he could, but when she would fly, he would sit back until she decided where she wanted to be and then fly over to join her.  It was clear he just didn't have the energy anymore, even though he still tried.

When they stopped flying back to the roost at night, we knew Trix's time was near -- he just couldn't make that trip any longer. It was strange not being with the flock at night, but they managed appropriately and found a nice spot in a jacaranda to spend their nights. Tav never left his side.

On January 1, 2011, Trix was gone. Tav didn't adjust well to his disappearance and for 4 days, returned to the spot she last saw Trix and called for him -- he never replied. Left alone again, it was time to return to her Yellow-head / Blue-front flock.

  Santini and Tav
Santini (left) and Tav (right) hang out together


Tav's return to the flock was bittersweet. The flock dynamics had changed with the addition of this year's young, but there were familiar faces too, and especially that of her now 4-year-old youngest, Santini. She was cautious for a few days staying on the outskirts of the flock, but with Santini around, her caution dissipated quickly. For Santini, it was fun to have another Yellow-head around and for Tav, it was fun to kick up her heels and play again. She and Santini had a great time flying together, playing together, hanging upside down and just being vibrant, fun-loving parrots.

All the older birds among the Yellow-head / Blue-front flock were taken and already in mated pairs, so Tav was compelled to hang out with Santini and the younger birds. Young at heart, she didn't mind and they didn't mind either -- all fit together well. She almost seemed delighted with the youth of the birds around her and she never appeared to feel out of place.

The year became fun and exciting with new experiences, lots of travel and pure-hearted fun, but her age would soon remind her, there is something she is missing.


Spring 2012

This year, Spring is in full swing without her and yet, she hasn't given up hope. Each day she returns to the location where she and Bandini raised their two beautiful babies and where she and Trix tried.  Is there another out there for her? Will another come along? Every day she calls in hopes another will find her...but each evening she returns to her flock...alone.

In just four years, she has lost two mates and one of her beautiful babies took off for parts unknown -- only her stunning look-a-like, Santini, remains.

She has endured it all and still she stays a bright and shining star.  She is a bird of beauty and charm, style and grace -- a bird of courage and fortitude and so very deserving of her title -- Tavia, Queen of the Amazons. (To be continued....)


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Queen TaviaQueen Tavia calls for a mate





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