My Parrots Get Their Own pPod

I conceived of and then implemented an “iPod” for my parrots, all in under six weeks. I’m calling it a pPod. You can read all about it on my main web site:

9 Responses to “My Parrots Get Their Own pPod”

  1. Beloved Parrot Says:

    Can I copy and post your pPod screen (probably just the text because of size constraints) on my blog?

    Also, how much would you charge for one of these? I’m dreadfully poor, but would be willing to be a guinea pig for one!

    AND, last but not least, please consider submitting some of your parrot photos to, which is a blog featuring parrot pictures — being messy, wet, chewing, or just generally adorable. All free and just for fun.


  2. Beloved Parrot Says:

    PS: You can now get DNA testing done cheaply by sending in a drop or two of blood; no surgery required anymore. I noticed you said this about not knowing Tiger’s gender, but of course I don’t know when you posted that.

  3. Dick Says:


    Entertaining and interesting.

    A couple of observations/questions – from the uninformed. Don’t know parrots and I didn’t follow any of the links on your site.

    1. I might have tried “switch training” first – training that associates “acting on the switch” with some known reward action.

    2. I wasn’t sure I understood your switches. Turning a switch turns on music? Turning the same switch turns off music? Same switch does two different things? More complicated that one result per switch.

    3. Must be a better switch design (says the guy that doesn’t have to do any work), one more suited to a parrot. A pull switch rather than rotate?

    4. Is music rewarding to parrots? Is that music rewarding?

    5. Music is a changing thing. Hard to associate an action with something that changes?

    I felt “fellow-feeling” (cross species feeling?) when you said the initial reaction from your parrots was to run away from the pPod. This new and totally unknown thing appears in a familiar place… Running away sounds right to me…

    Looking forward to seeing and hearing more,

  4. jonbondy Says:

    Not sure what you mean by “your pPod screen”, but feel free to point people to my site.

    I have no idea what it would cost to build a 2nd one. And I have no idea what it would cost to build 100 of them. I’ll worry about that when/if they start using the pPod reliably.

    At the moment, they do trigger it occasionally, but they also ignore it entirely and go chew on stuff (cardboard box, wood, etc) and ignore the pPod. So, it is not as compelling as I had hoped it would be. Time will tell.

    When I had Karma tested about 10 years ago, she had to be anesthetized, which was both expensive and traumatic (for me: she stopped breathing for a little while).

    When I got Tiger, I asked about testing, and now they ask that you come in to get the bird checked out in terms of general health (one trip, one visit) and then return a week later for the anesthetization and blood test (second trip, second visit). The theory is that they get so upset being toweled the first time that anesthetizing them and drawing blood might produce a bad result.

    In the end, I realized that I don’t care about the gender of the bird.

  5. jonbondy Says:


    Switch training is a good idea. I might have been able to try a variety of switch types and then pick the one that worked the best. I was a little worried about confusing them. Show them one switch. They get used to it. Show them another. They get confused. Show them another. They get more confused. I’m not sure how to design that part of the experiment correctly, I suppose. And I might have been lazy, not wanting to spend time on that. Still, others have criticized my switch design.

    My switches are eye hooks that can be pulled away from the front surface of the pPod. The concept was to give the parrots something to grab onto (the eye) and pull on, since that is their natural tendency. These are, in fact, pull switches. In fact, they seem curious about them, but more like tasting and nibbling on them. Tiger has already removed two of the colored paper bagels that I put at the base of each switch.

    Each time they pull on a switch, the corresponding song is played. If they pull on it in the middle of a song, the song starts over again. So, one result per switch.

    There are 5 “song switches” and 3 “mode switches”. The former play songs. The latter switch between three different sets of songs. One set is “rock ‘n’ roll”; another is folk music. The idea was to give them an option about music style. So far, they are a long way from grasping how to trigger the switches let alone how to use a switch to play music let alone the distinction between the switches.

    Is this any clearer?

    My parrots dance around when I play music. It clearly is exciting to them, which is why I headed in this direction. Go on YouTube and look for dancing parrots. You’ll be astounded.

    Music is a changing thing? You pull on one switch; you always get the same song. What is changing?

    They run away from EVERYTHING. EVERY time I create a new toy for them, they run away from it. A month later, they love it. Kids. Sigh.

  6. Beloved Parrot Says:

    Thanks! I meant to copy and paste your article to my site, but I’ll just put a link on my blog.

    You never want to put a bird under if you can help it. Now all you have to do is get a drop of blood (from a cut toenail perhaps) and send it off to Contact them first to get a kit and directions. A whole lot cheaper than vet visit, too, though I’m not implying you shouldn’t take your birds to a vet.

  7. Dick Says:


    Yup – things are clearer.

    >>Music is a changing thing? You pull on one switch; you always get the same song. What is changing?

    Here’s what I had in mind. What is a song? A few minutes of varying sound. What do you hear (in my house) when no song is playing? Varying sound. Not very loud, not rhythmic, not melodic but… rarely silence…

    It’s easy for you and I know when a song starts – we know what to expect. Pull a switch get a grape (for example), seems a much simpler thing to associate than pull a switch and a song starts…

    (A probably not too relevant association that came to my mind… On the old TV Muppets Show, a laugh-getter they did more than once… During a “soap opera” scene, a voice-over might start. The characters in the scene would look around and listen wondering “Who/What is that?”… )


  8. Marguerite Says:

    Did you abandon the pPod????

    • jonbondy Says:

      The parrots have shown little interest in the device. They carefully chewed all of the color coding off of the switches and then only mess with it occasionally. I reached out to Dr Irene Pepperburg to see if she could suggest ways to improve the device, but she was too busy. I had imagined that the parrots’ interest in sound would focus their attention on a sound-making device, but I seem to be missing something. Frustrating.

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