Ken Globus

The Bird Whisperer




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Daily Breeze


Kim Calvert, avid bird lover and feature columnist for The Daily Breeze, Los Angeles's South Bay Newspaper, interviewed Ken, several of his supporters and detractors.  She even participated in a four hour bird taming workshop before writing her article.  Here's a scan of the article followed by a transcript. 














































































































Transcript of The Daily Breeze article

July 22, 2005

Bird Whisperer's methods draw criticism from bird experts, praise from owners.

By Kim Calvert
Daily Breeze

Sherbert, a tiny lime-green parrot, has a nickname: The Three-Inch Tornado. It's a tag his owner, Betty Pattee of Torrance, would just as soon he stop living up to.  Pattee brought Sherbert to the South Bay Bird Society's fifth annual Birdtique Animal Fair in Redondo Beach on Sunday hoping Ken Globus, the Bird Whisperer, could help her.

"Sherbert bites me," Pattee said, "bad enough to draw blood and cause bruising. He has a life span of 30 years. I don't want to spend the next three decades living with a pet I can't handle."

Another parrot, Timmy, an African gray, has a nickname too: Satan in Disguise. His owner, Francie Bradasich of Northridge, also sought out the Bird Whisperer at the Knob Hill Community Center in hopes of stopping Timmy from leaping off his cage to attack people.  "I just hope the Bird Whisperer can work his magic on Timmy," said Bradasich, whose thumb once was numb for three months after Timmy bit her. "I'm tired of being afraid of my own bird."

On Sunday, Globus brought each parrot, one at a time, to the front of the room, placing each on a stand. The parrots watched him suspiciously as he moved his hands closer and closer, past what Globus calls the "bubble of fear" -- the zone where a bird starts to panic.

"It's a process of progressive desensitization," Globus explained. "My critics say I stress the birds. Well, is it better to stress the bird for a short period of time in order to break through the wall of fear that's kept it in isolation for years?"

When a parrot fluttered off the stand or sank its beak into his finger, Globus started again and repeated the process until the parrot realized his hands were harmless and it was safe to allow Globus to cup its body and even stroke its back.

The Bird Whisperer then passed the birds to members of the audience, who were amazed at the calm, quiet parrots perching on their hands.

At the end of the six-hour workshop, which included training five parrots, their owners and 20 observers, all agreed the Bird Whisperer had made a difference.

"It was worth the money," said Pattee, who paid $100 to have her parrot in Globus' workshop. "Sherbert's calm now. I can pet him. I can pick him up, turn him over on his back -- I haven't been able to do that in ages."

Deanna Anderson of El Segundo brought Buddy, her 28-year-old Amazon parrot, to the workshop because he bites her boyfriend.

"I have something to work with now," Anderson said afterward. "The techniques I learned will help Buddy a lot.

"Did you see Buddy bite him?" Anderson added, referring to Globus. "Buddy sliced his finger open."

The 59-year-old Globus said he doesn't mind getting bitten. "Part of what I do is being able to take a bite and stay calm," he said. "A bird loses interest in biting once he can't get a reaction out of you."

Globus said a lot of aggression in pet birds is fear-based, which in turn creates fear in their owners.

"Many times it's the people, not the birds, that cause the problem," he said. "They end up walking on eggshells around their bird, afraid to upset them, which in turn makes a bird even more anxious."

Globus began interacting with birds in 1979 while working at Jobil Exotic Fish & Birds, his parents' pet shop in Inglewood. Back then, wild-caught parrots were imported into the United States and sold as pets.

Globus said his bird-taming philosophy was sparked when he tried to handle three wild umbrella cockatoos newly arrived at the store. He took one of the thrashing cockatoos out of the cage, Globus recalled, wrapped it in a towel, trimmed the wing feathers and toenails, and then put him back in the cage.

Later that day, he noticed the groomed cockatoo was sitting quietly on the perch while the other two still were terrified.

"Those cockatoos taught me that exposure to fear and then learning the fear isn't life threatening can remove the fear," Globus said.

When his parents retired in the early 1990s, Globus decided to concentrate on his screenwriting career -- but he stayed in contact with his bird customers.

In 2001, he received a phone call from Stephanie Reitzenstein, desperate for help with Ruby, her newly adopted Eclectus parrot. Reitzenstein said Ruby was the most vicious parrot she'd ever seen.

"My hands were shredded to bits," she said. "I was desperate. I'd heard Ken did incredible things with birds so I was hoping he could help me."

Reitzenstein said Globus worked with Ruby for an hour and changed her parrot's aggressive behavior completely.

"I was amazed," she said. "He's a magic man with birds. I told him he needed to use his gift to help other birds too -- that he was the Bird Whisperer."

The name stuck.

Reitzenstein introduced Globus to her veterinarian who asked Globus to help other problem birds.

That led to even more referrals, which led to demonstrations at bird clubs and the launch of his career as a bird tamer.

"When I did demonstrations I could tell people were shocked and amazed," Globus said. "Their jaws just dropped. I started to think this thing really was of value and I started to focus on it."

Tammy Carriero, co-director of programs for the South Bay Bird Society, said when she first heard about the Bird Whisperer she was skeptical.

"I had to see for myself," she said. "I watched him work with some difficult birds and what I saw was amazing."

Carriero compared the situation to the television show "Nanny 911," where the kids are out of control and the parents are at their wits' end.

"Ken is like the neutral third party who comes in to teach both parties some behavior guidelines," Carriero said. "But like the TV show, the parents have to follow up or everything will go back to how it was."

Carriero, who shares her Lawndale home with seven parrots, said Globus is a controversial figure in the pet bird world.

"He ticks off the experts," she said, referring to a growing number of professional parrot behavior consultants, many with advanced college degrees. "They say he overwhelms birds and breaks their spirits -- rather than motivating a bird to want to behave correctly on its own.

"But a lot of people don't have years to resolve their pet's behavior problem," said Carriero. "Most people don't have that kind of patience. They'll just get rid of the bird."

Susan Friedman is one of the Bird Whisperer's critics. Friedman has a doctorate in special education, specializing in children with behavior disorders. She is on the faculty in the Department of Psychology at Utah State University and teaches an online parrot behavior class.

"Any technique in which an animal is restrained against its will to get it to accept handling is a throwback to less-informed, less-humane times," Friedman said in an e-mail.

"There is no parrot behavior problem that I have encountered that can't be resolved with more positive, less-intrusive techniques than forced handling," she said.

Friedman said she once tried to watch Globus work with birds but found it too difficult.

"I trust that if Ken knew more about the science of behavior and its associated training technology, he would change his mode of operating and get better, more lasting outcomes for parrots and their caregivers," Friedman said.

Globus said he was aware of Friedman's techniques and what other parrot behavior experts thought of his methods.

"Their approach can draw out a problem for weeks," Globus said. "I go in and I make a dramatic change immediately. Every workshop I do, people talk about the breakthroughs they've seen in their birds.

"I think they're threatened by that," Globus said. "They just want to hang on to what they think is right and won't accept any evidence to the contrary."

Deborah Stambul of Culver City has three pet parrots. She came to watch the Redondo Beach seminar to see if the rumors about Globus were true.

"I think he genuinely likes birds and has a lot of hands-on experience with them," she said. "I'd heard stories about how he hurts birds and I saw nothing like that."

Globus sees his troubled feathered clients for private consultations and conducts workshops, such as the one at the Birdtique Fair, all over the country. A private session with a bird costs $250, a phone consultation $150. Attending a group workshop with a bird costs $100 and to watch a workshop is $50.

Globus said his clients, after paying for the initial session with their parrot, receive free follow-up phone support. He said his success rate is 99.9 percent, but people need to practice what they learn.

"I empower people," he said. "That's the part I enjoy the most -- making people feel relieved they no longer have to be bullied by their pet."


















































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