Archive for January, 2014

Seven Reasons Why Parrots Are Not Good Pets.

Great post on parrot ownership!

Three Birds and a Cloud

Are parrots good pets? What is owning one like? In my opinion, no, they are not good pets at all – caring for them properly will consume your life, not that this is necessarily a bad thing. This article was inspired by my previous post, where I realised that I never defined why I feel parrots aren’t meant as captive animals. There are several major reasons why I feel parrots aren’t meant as pets**:

1. They are only one or two generations removed from the wild:

Being tamed, not domesticated, birds are very much creatures of their instincts. Think your hand-reared parrot is perfectly adapted to your human home? Think again. Every behaviour has its roots in how they would react in the wild.

As an example, adult parrots seek to reproduce. It isn’t about pining for ‘love’ – they quite frankly just want to mate and make babies…

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Shorkie Puppy Talks To Baby

Too cute!

Shorkie Puppy Talks To Baby

For and Against the Breeding of Pet Parrots.

I would love to adopt a bird! Recently tried but it turned out to be a scam! So even adopting poses a challenge.

Three Birds and a Cloud


recently read a post on the Feathered Angels Blog that sums up perfectly what I feel about the responsible breeding of parrots. It spurs us to ask ourselves if can there really be such a thing as ‘responsible’ breeding, when few birds remain in their forever homes – even those specially selected by breeders?

The author writes,

“As I look around at the thousands and thousands of homeless birds in rescues and sanctuaries, I have to wonder how anyone can ever argue that there is such a thing as responsible breeding?”

The article goes on to explore some sad truths: Our lives change. Circumstances change. The term ‘forever home’ is an illusion, as, for these long-lived creatures, being passed from home to home is a reality. Very few people can actually commit to twenty to eighty-odd years as a virtual slave. Many of the birds in…

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Bird Loves Ray Charles

Just have to love birds!

Do’s and Dont’s For African Grey Parrots

Do’s and Dont’s For African Grey Parrots

Follow these pet bird tips for a happy, healthy African grey.

Vanessa Rolfe, DVM

During our 20 years together, my African grey has taught me many things about life and living, and she has brought immense joy to my life. In turn, I have learned a lot, not only as an owner but as an avian veterinarian, on the care and housing these great parrots need.

African grey parrot
Read your African grey’s body language to know how it is feeling.

African greys have environmental and developmental needs that are often misunderstood by their owners. If left unaddressed, behavioral and physical problems can arise either early on or much later in life. These problems include aggression, excessive and unexpected fear, and feather chewing. Here are some tips to instill confidence and trust in your African grey.

Don’t Let African Greys Fall
A hard fall, in my opinion, is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle contributing why greys develop so many problems. African greys are heavy-bodied birds and, when they fall, they often hit the edge of the breastbone and come down hard on their legs. This compresses their chest, which pushes air out of their lungs. The force drives up into the shoulders and into the hips, generating pain.

Sometimes they flail their (often over-trimmed) wing feathers and hit their wings against things as they go down. Injuries, such as splitting open the skin over the breastbone or rupturing the skin under the tail, can be common effects of falling. Young greys often start to destroy their feathers in these same areas, which suggests it might be associated with damage from impact.

When your African grey is hurt and scared, it might associate these negative aspects with its owner. A fearful African grey can start to bite or be aggressive. It can also cause further damage to itself by trying to fly away from what frightens it, likely falling again. This is a self-propagating cycle, which, if left unaddressed, can severely affect your relationship with your grey.

Let African Grey Parrots Fledge
One important step toward a well-adjusted African grey is allowing it to “break in its wings,” so to speak. If you have a young grey, do not have its wing feather trimmed just yet. Wait until it has started to learn to fly (i.e. when it can take off and land smoothly and do basic maneuvers, such as turning and landing at its destination).

Once your African grey is proficient at basic flight, consider a light wing-feather trim. A light trim generally refers to trimming the outer five flight feathers to about a half their length. With this type of trim, your grey should be able to lift off but not gain altitude. As the bird grows and gains strength, further trimming might be needed even if there is no further feather growth.

Sometimes, a African grey’s feathers are trimmed all at once by the groomer or veterinarian, so don’t hesitate to ask for a very mild trim and return more frequently for “maintenance” trims. The goal of the eventual wing-feather trim is to allow the bird to gently go to the ground in a controlled downward glide over a 7- to 10-foot distance.

Sometimes, a trim is done in such a way that it leaves sharp ends on the quill that rub against and irritate the bird’s side. The bird often responds to this irritation by either chewing on the feathers of the wings or under the wing, and this can lead to further feather chewing. Ask the person trimming your bird’s feathers to leave the outer edges of the feathers slightly longer so they lie smoothly against the bird’s flank.

If your African grey has had a recent wing-feather trim, periodically check the wingtips for evidence of chewing. The tips will appear as shredded and tattered, much like broomstick fiber. These ragged edges can cause further problems as the bird attempts to “soften” or eliminate the rough edges again, thus causing more rough edges.

If your grey starts chewing its feathers in this manner, bring it to the attention of your avian veterinarian as soon as possible so that these tattered feathers can be trimmed before they worsen. If the feathers are shredded, the bird will be attracted to the site and shred more; this can develop to the base of the feather, which allows the feather to break open under the skin, causing infection and pain. This can also lead to further feather destruction and feather picking.

Nails & Perches For African Greys
Nature has given greys (like many African parrots) very sharp, needle-like nails. Greys do a lot of climbing in the wild, and they use these nails to dig into wood to keep them secure while they forage and spend time with the flock.

For an owner, it hurts when these needle-like nails dig into the skin, leaving scratches or painful wounds. Many people have their grey’s nails clipped and, as it often happens, the nails are dulled to the point of the bird not being able to grip a perch firmly. The bird might become more clumsy and nervous because it cannot move without slipping. As a result, the bird might be unsteady and reach out to bite something (a finger, arm, etc) in order to stable itself. This nervousness can develop into fear biting and panic attacks.

Have a grey’s nails clipped to a point that the bird can perch securely and they do not bother you when the bird is perched on your hand. Also, look for perches that allow your grey’s foot to go almost all the way around it (but not quite all the way), and vary the type and texture of the perches you give your grey. Natural branches are especially good, as are textured perches, such as concrete or sandy perches (watch for foot irritation). Keep in mind that smooth-barked perches, such as manzanita, add to the slipperiness of the perch and the grey could fall.

Place the perches slightly lower in the cage in case the bird falls off, at least while the grey is very young. As the bird perfects its climbing skills, you can then elevate the perches.

A no-no for almost any parrot, especially a young African grey, is being on a person’s shoulder. Think of your shoulder as a wide and slippery perch, which can make a grey feel unsteady and cause the bird to fall. Have your grey sit on your hand with the elbow lower than the hand to prevent the bird from climbing to your shoulder. Or, sit your grey on your lap or your upper leg while you are seated.

African Greys Might Feel Vulnerable
Many African greys seem to experience anxiety; they chew their nails frequently, flip their wings, move their heads back and forth like they are looking for a place to go, seeming to be unable to sit still. Videos of wild African greys show wary birds with a very strong escape instincts. African greys in the wild are usually foraging in the tree branches, hidden in dense leaves. They are rarely out in a clearing and are on high alert when they are.

In the household, an owner might put their African grey’s cage next to a window, thinking that the bird wants to look out and see everything. Although some greys seem at home with this, other greys appear to feel particularly vulnerable and exposed in this type of housing location (like how a person might feel living in a department-store window).

Move the cage so that the grey can either choose to look out or hide away from what it thinks might be out there. Some birds respond well to having a visual barrier over part of the cage (like a blanket or towel), so they can hide there when they want to. You can also arrange a line of hanging toys in front of a perch at the back of the cage to make a little hiding place for your grey. This is one way to provide a sense of visual security, as the hanging toys form a veil the bird can perch behind.

There are a few things you can do to help your grey relax. First, be calm. If you are anxious about anything (including being anxious about your grey being anxious!), this anxiety can be perceived as a signal to your bird that something is wrong in the flock, thus allowing the anxiety to continue. Second, decrease activity around the cage. Place the cage where the grey isn’t constantly exposed to loud noises or children and other pets running by. Provide a hiding place for your grey and ask that guests move slowly around the bird. Third, and most important, whisper in soft tones. I find that whispering softly, and clicking and murmuring, seems to bring the anxiety energy level down in all (including juvenile) greys.

Width over Height For African Greys
Many of the African greys with behavioral and feather destruction issues that I have seen in my practice are housed in cages that are very tall. It’s a long way down if the bird falls inside the cage, and this can lead to some of the issues discussed. Some birds are frequently allowed on top of the cage and, when either scared, curious or wanting to search for their owner, they leap off in an effort to fly. If they have overly-trimmed wing feathers, they fall, sometimes hitting the corner of furniture on their way to the hard floor.

A cage that is shorter, yet very wide and deep, is the best type of cage for an African grey. That way if the bird falls, it decreasing the chances for serious injury.

Keep your bird off the top of the cage to prevent it from falling. Instead, place it on a playstand that’s closer to the ground. Interact with your bird while sitting on the floor, too.

Nail Biting & African Greys
I believe that displaced toenail biting behavior (instead of nails, the bird bites its feathers) is one possible cause for greys that feather-pick. It is unknown why African greys seem to be more prone to this set of behaviors, but, as we learn more about the habits of wild African grey fledglings, there is probably some element of socialization we do not provide for them in our homes and aviaries.

Feather Cleanliness For African Greys
African greys use their powder down and preen glands to keep their feathers well-arranged and soft. Due to frequent exposure to water in their natural habitat, a grey’s feathers are often wet. But, in our homes, excess dirt and oils can build up on the feathers, due to either insufficient bathing with pure water, exposure to excessive oils from our hands, as well as a diet high in fat.

Bathe your grey often with clean water. Distilled water is sometimes required, depending on how much dissolved material and chlorine is in your tap water. Speak to your veterinarian on the best choice of water for your bird.

Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly before handling your grey, or any other bird. This ensures that the oils from our skin glands, disease organisms or items such as lotions or hand creams do not transfer to our bird’s feathers.

African Grey Speak
African greys are known for their ability to vocalize in our language and especially in context. However, I find that many greys have an inherent language, since several sounds are used by many greys that I have met.

I have seen greys, on their own, make clicks and a “clunk” when they see a food they like. They respond, especially when anxious, to very soft whispers, especially when there are a lot of “Sss” and soft, hissing noises. These are sounds that bonded pairs use during quiet, private times together.

I use these soft whispering clicking and “shooshing” noises when I first meet African greys in the exam room to introduce myself. I find that most of them relax with these sounds, and are easier to handle for my medical care since they seem less frightened and stressed.

Twelve Foods that Can Be Foraging Toys All By Themselves.

Twelve Foods that Can Be Foraging Toys All By Themselves..

Australian, American, and English Budgies! Whats the Difference

I love birds!

Australian, American, and English Budgies! Whats the Difference?

 January 24th, 2014

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Left to right: English Budgie, American Budgie & Australian Budgie. Budgies, Parakeets, Budgerigar, or as they are most often referred to in my house Beanies or Beanie Bits, are one of my all-time favorite species of parrot. And, if you read my “Meet My Fiddos” blog, you will know were responsible for instigating my absolute obsession with all things feathered. They are not only cute, pocket sized parrots, but a very tiny package bursting with personality and talent. Most parrots are well known and sought after for specific traits that they naturally seem to exhibit. For example Cockatoos are known as the best snugglers, African Greys the best talkers, and Conures the jokers and most playful, etc…. What most don’t know is that Budgies have the personality and skill set to rival even the best of these species. It’s true! I experience it  daily with my own little flock of seven. And with the technology age booming countless examples of my claims can be seen on sites like Youtube and Facebook. Example… Disco the Parakeet, and Puck, a male budgie who holds the world record for largest vocabulary of any bird at 1,728 words. (Definitely worth a Google if you don’t already know of these two!) Sadly they are very often overlooked as companions or considered “Starter Birds” rather than idolized for what could be one of the best companion parrots you will ever own. But my intention with this blog was not to convince you all of what I have already come to know as a Beanie mum. But rather to answer a question that was recently posed to the folks at Birdtricks. Which was “What is the difference between a traditional Budgie and an English Budgie?” (Meet Beautiful! Per his mum Jennifer Sofjan, this is how he calls the dog over. :) ) Desmond & Tika, 2 & 1, Christie Sonner Left to Right: Desmond (EB) and Tika (AB). Desmon is 2 and Tika is 1. Photo by owner Christie Sonner. Well there are actually three types of budgies in the world. There’s the original model, the Australian Budgie, and two “subspecies” or “variations”, the American Budgie and the English Budgie. I quote “variations” and “subspecies” as there are some who will argue that there is really only one type of budgie, scientifically speaking, in the world. And scientifically speaking they would be right. All Budgies belong to the species Melopsittacus Undulatus and they are solely different concerning the color of their plumage, length of their plumage, and their body size. But for the sake of this blog and in an attempt to explain the physical differences I am going to use common naming classifications that most of the general population recognize. So all you scientist and purists please forgive me! Wild Australian Budgie Wild Australian Budgie The originals, as you may have guessed are native to Australia. They can be found in huge flocks throughout Australia dodging in and out of scrublands, woodlands, and grasslands. However if you were to see them in their natural environment you may notice something a bit different about these Aussie natives. In fact a couple of things. One being their size and the other being their color. Australian Budgies are noticeably smaller than American and English budgies and only come in one color mutation. Used as a natural camouflage to disguise them from predators, their abdomen and rumps are light green in color, their head and faces yellow, and their neck wings and backs display dark black scalloped markings edged in yellow as well. IMG_7379 One of my American Budgies name Digit Then there are American Budgies. More commonly known as a parakeet in the US. (Which can again be argued as an incorrect naming variation as the name Parakeet refers to a species of parrot which not only includes budgies but also parrots such as Ringnecks and Rosellas… but just go with me here!)  American Budgies are not only found in America, but probably the most well-known type of budgie and most often the ones that you will encounter in pet stores, people’s homes, and being sold by breeders. This domestic version is larger than their Australian relatives, although not grossly, bred only in captivity, and come in more color variations than could be counted. Including the original lemon lime coloration of the Australian Budgie. Now this does not mean that if you have a green and yellow budgie that you have an Australian Budgie. In fact it’s highly unlikely unless you live in Australia. Due the life expectancy of budgies and the ban on the exportation of Budgies from Australia in 1894 (imposed to help conserve the species and discourage over trapping and exportation) this means that there are likely no Australian Budgies left outside of their native country today. Super Grey, 3, Barrie Shutt This is Super Grey, a 3 year old English Budgie. Photo by owner Barrie Shutt And last but certainly not least we have the English Budgie. Also commonly referred to as a “show budgie”. After naturalist John Gould brought two Australian Budgies back home with him to England in 1838 and realized how social and easy to breed they were, the budgie craze in Europe began to boom. In a few short years there were thousands of budgies all over Europe and breeders were able to not only breed varied colors but also a larger size of budgie that became affectionate known as an English Budgie. Quite easy to differentiate from their relatives, English Budgies are two to three time larger than their counterparts and display a more pronounced brow which they are prized for. (I don’t know about everyone else but I always tell folks they look like a bird straight out of the movie “The Godfather” to me) They also are bred only in captivity, just like their smaller American Budgie counterparts, but are considered to have a more docile demeanor then their smaller, more hyper active relatives, which along with their regal look makes them ideal show birds. Ares, Unknown, Kat Waterhouse Ares was a prize winning English Budgie who was adopted by Kat Waterhouse when he retired. Photo credit to Feline Ferocity Images and owner Kat Waterhouse I hope this has answered everyone’s questions and perhaps provided a little bit of information that you may not have known previously. And I want to thanks everyone who submitted photos to assist me with finding photos of English Budgies. The response was wonderful and overwhelming (in a good way) at the same time! (To be honest I just couldn’t chose so i made a friend do it!)  May just have to do an all about English Budgies post in the future to use the ones i didnt this time! All of your fids are absolutely adorable and I did my best to include as many of them as I could. Please post more pics of them more often to the Birdtricks page as I think the little guys sometimes have far too little visibility and so, as I don’t have any of my own, I can live vicariously through you. ;)