Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Does your bird need a little fresh air?

Question: Is it safe for a parakeet to go outdoors in a cage?

Answer: Some birds really enjoy going outdoors for a little fresh air and watching all the exciting activities of the outdoors.  Who doesn't love some fresh air and sunlight every once in a while.  However, some birds may become very frightened if taken outdoors, so please be sure your bird will enjoy the outing.  If your bird is not used to the outdoors, you may want to start with only a few minutes outside, making it a fun time with lots of praise, and increasing the time outdoors as your bird becomes more adjusted to all the sights and sounds.

Often people prefer to take their bird outside in a cage to keep the bird safe, rather than using a harness.  You will need to make sure all openings on the cage such as openings for feed cups, are securely fastened, just as the door should be, making sure your bird does not escape the cage.  We strongly recommend a bird never be left outdoors by itself.  If your yard is not fenced in, you can never be certain a stray dog might spot your bird and even if only curious, could cause an unfortunate accident happening to your bird.  Even a fenced in yard won't guarantee a wandering cat won't see your bird and try to reach it.  There have even been cases of snakes crawling into cages, so a bird can never be too safe if left alone.  

Also consider the daily temperatures and make sure they are comfortable for your bird.  A bird should never be left in the sun to prevent overheating and possible death.  A bird that has become too warm will often hold it's wings out to try and circulate air around it's body to try and bring the temperature down.  Your bird may also breathe with an open mouth and if this occurs, should be taken back indoors to cool down immediately.  There should always be the choice of shade so your bird can move in and out of the sun when it is ready to.  Just remember if you live somewhere where 90 degrees in the shade is miserable for humans, then it's going to be too hot for your bird for more than a few minutes.  

Just like humans, a bird can get used to the cool air conditioning of a home and might be better with only short fresh air trips before or after the hottest parts of the day, and be sure when your bring your bird back inside there are no direct air vents blowing on the bird.   

So by all means, do enjoy some fresh air with your bird!

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's All About the Beak!

A parrot's beak is a very fascinating part of what makes a parrot a parrot.  Parrots use their beaks to help them climb, to open the smallest seeds, or the hardest nuts, to preen their feathers, to clean their toes, to feed their mates, to feed their own baby parrots, to give their humans gentle kisses, and of course to nip or bite at something they fear or something that simply makes them irritated.

Beaks are often used for climbing and can almost seem like a parrot's third foot as they can use their powerful beaks to hoist themselves up their play gyms and cages, or even to just hang by their beak as they swing from their toys.  Have you ever watched a parrot climb a ladder?  The beak makes climbing around so much easier for them.  They often use their beaks to help steady the finger or hand that reaches out to them as the first part of stepping up. 

Those powerful beaks can be used to gently open the smallest seed to get at the wonderful nutrition inside.  Ever watched a parrot close up picking up a seed, moving it around with their foot and their beak to get it situated to just the right spot for opening? Then using the foot, beak, and tongue, in unison they pry open the hull for the goodness inside.  Or, just watch one of the big parrots rotating a big walnut to just the right place before cracking that hard nut as if it were made of the thinnest of shells.  Then picking out the meat of the walnut with the tips of their beaks to make sure every little nugget of nutmeat is devoured.

Watch closely as your bird preens its feathers using the beak as a precision tool made for preening.  Taking each feather with great care and running it through the beak removing all dust and debris for perfect feather condition.  No matter if its the tiny downy feathers that must be gingerly removed, or the longest of the long tail feathers, that beak is the perfect tool for parrot preening and sharing the job with another feathered friend can be great fun too. 

If you have ever been lucky enough to watch parrot parents feeding their young, it is the most touching of all.  Although the parent beaks are huge compared to the tiny little babies, they are able to deliver food to their babies with the greatest of ease with no harm at all to the babies.  The parents also use their beaks to gently nudge the babies into the perfect position under their adult feathers to keep them as warm as needed.  To watch the gentleness of an adult parrot with it's young is wondrous indeed.

But you may ask, what is this remarkable parrot beak made of?  A beak consists of keratin which is the same material your fingernails contain.  However, unlike a fingernail, a bird's beak also contains blood vessels and nerve endings.  Therefore a bird's beak is very sensitive to touch and also to injury.  Some birds love to have their beaks gently rubbed by their favorite person, and some tend to be beak shy because the beak is so sensitive.  A parrot's beak continues to grow all throughout a bird's life and in nature, birds are busy wearing the extra growth down with natural tree branches and foraging for their food.  If you have a pet bird, you need to provide lots of wooden toys of different textures, both soft and hard wood, and possibly other materials, to help prevent over-growth of the beak.  So you see those wooden bird toys your bird buzz saws through are as much a necessity for your parrot as any vitamins you might provide for a healthy bird.  Bird beaks can be gently filed down if needed, but should only be done by someone who knows what they are doing as the beak can be damaged permanently by inexperienced groomers.  Beaks should never be cut by anyone other than a vet or experienced bird groomer. 

If your bird's beak overgrows even with lots of toys and chew items, you may need to have your bird checked thoroughly by your avian vet to be sure there is not a health reason for the overgrowth.



Monday, March 28, 2011

Update on Japan Emergency Assistance

The following is a Press Release we have received concerning the emergency situation in Japan concerning zoos and aquariums that also may include parrots.

World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) Zoos and aquariums affected by earthquake and tsunami in Japan

WAZA organizes the “Donate for Japan” emergency assistance operation Gland, Switzerland (March 15th 2011):After the earthquake and tsunami that has affected the North of Japan on March 11th, WAZA is joining forces with its Japanese regional association (JAZA) and its member institutions to help the zoos and aquariums in the North of Japan.
"After the horrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan, WAZA is trying to provide financial support for emergency assistance. The most   affected zoos and aquariums urgently need help in order to protect staff and save animals", says Gerald Dick, Executive Director of WAZA - the World Association of Zoos and

Huge damages happened in the northern part of Honshu island. Some affected zoos and aquariums are suffering from shortage of gas, fuel for heater, food and drinking water for both humans and animals.

Some aquariums in Tohoku area (north part of Honshu Island) have been heavily affected by the earthquake.

Sendai Marinpia Matsushima aquarium was completely-flooded but there was miraculously no human damage.

Sendai Yagiyama Zoo estimates a shortage of feeding stuff. The power is out in Sendai city. JAZA is considering concrete measures to send feeding stuff to Sendai Yagiyama Zoo.

The power is also out at Akita Omoriyama zoo, Morioka Zoo, Asamushi aquarium and Hitachi Kamine Zoo.

Fukushima aquarium will move their sea mammals and birds to Kamogawa Sea World.
"It is most important for us to secure the adequate means of transport. And we have started a drive to collect donations from the public." says Kazutoshi Takami, Zoo Veterinarian at Osaka Municipal Tennoji Zoological Gardens.

WAZA is now organizing the cooperation and support for the disaster-affected institutions by collecting donations through its website. Click on the "Donate for Japan"

[ http://www.waza.org/en/site/get-involved/donate-for-japan ] button on the WAZA
homepage and help us support JAZA.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Teaching Your Parrot to Talk

Customer Question: How can I train my senegal parrot,to speak?

Answer: Although all parrots have the ability to speak as we do, not all parrots do so. Some species are known to be better talkers than others as well. Lots of patience is necessary, as well as understanding that parrots like to repeat words they hear often, or hear with great emphasis. Such as your bird suddenly repeating the no-no word you yelled out when you dropped that book on your toe the other day. The way you say a word is often more important than what you say. For example saying 'hello' every morning to your bird might be rather uninteresting, but a great big happy "HELLOOOOO" should catch your bird's interest and maybe tempt him to repeat it back to you.

For more information on some of the better known species for talking, as well as additional information check out our full article by clicking "HERE".

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why Does My Bird Scream?

This question is asked by many bird owners.  Since there are many different reasons why a bird may be more vocal than normal, a close look at health, environment, past history, and behavioral problems would be in order.  Also remember what is a loud noisey parrot to one person, may be a very quiet bird to another.  Noise is definitely relevant to each individual.  A macaw yelling out the excitement of the day is loud to me, a budgie not so much.  Yet often I hear owners who bought a parakeet at the local pet store complain about how they had no idea that bird was going to make so much noise.  Hmmm, obviously their personal noise level is much lower than mine.  Some even think a finch is a noisey little critter.

The difference sometimes is not actually the volume level, but the noise repetitiveness.  Budgies and finches chatter and sing pretty much all day if they are happy and well taken care of.  It's sometimes the fact that they are always going vocally that makes them noisey to some people.  It's not that they are actually loud.

If you live with birds there is going to be some noise, loud or constant, for most humans.  You can adjust your noise tolerance, try and adjust the bird's noise level if it's too loud, or just learn to live with it if you love your bird.

For more information check out Why Does My Bird Scream?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Cockatiel with Dry Itchy Skin

CUSTOMER QUESTION: I have a cockatiel about 6 years of age. She has been flaking & pulling feathers out. My question is can you recommend anything for my cockatiel? It is cold & I don't want to spray her with chemicals or with water with the cold temps. Just wondering if you have any ideas.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Many birds are molting during the fall and winter months of the year. Often when the heat is turned on in our homes, it can cause a prolonged molt as well as some dry itchy skin on many birds as the heat dries the air out. Since cockatiels tend to have a lot of feather dust anyway, winter can seem to add even more dust from them as their feathers can become dryer and in turn seem increase the amount of feather dust.

Dry itchy skin is caused more often in the winter months due to inside heat drying the air out. This can in turn sometimes cause birds to over-preen the feathers or even pull some out as they try and relieve the itchiness. If you have ever had a bad case of dry itchy skin in the winter I'm sure you can relate to the uncomfortable feeling.

Adding a cool mist humidifier to your bird's room, or even a small tabletop water fountain can help in adding much needed moisture back into your bird's environment. Even in the winter months you can lightly spray your bird with warm water in a fine spray mister. Just be sure to spray your bird early in the day so there is plenty of time for all the feathers to dry out before bedtime. Make sure your bird is not in any drafts and you may want to only lightly spray your bird if your household inside temperature is below 70 degrees. Even an occasional light misting will help with adding some moisture back to the feathers.

If you would like to add something extra to your bird's diet during this time, you might want to try Missing Link as we find it to be a very good product for birds who are molting, under stress, or have other health issues.

A little extra moisture in your bird's environment can go a long way to help with dry itchy skin and feathers, and the often seen over-preening of feathers in the winter season.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Are You Ready for the Snow?

As we sit here waiting for the impending doom of lots of snow and ice the weather forecasters are predicting for our area, we realize that winter weather emergencies should be prepared for way before necessary, or you will be one of those standing in long lines trying to grab the last of the emergency items needed.

Living in the south, a few inches of snow and the least bit of ice can shut down pretty much everything.  Only the very brave (or very dumb) are usually willing to venture out onto the icy roads with all the crazy drivers slipping, sliding, and spinning around often making a bad situation even worse.

Here is a list of some items you should have on hand just in case you are snowed in for a few days.  Be prepared also in the event you may loose your power from icy power lines or falling tree limbs.

Emergency items to have on hand for your bird:
Extra Seed, pellets, dried fruit/vegie
Emergency Avian First Aid Kit
Warm blanket or quilt to cover the cage
Tear up toys 

Other items good to have on hand:
flashlight & extra batteries
warm blankets or quilts for the humans
bottled water
hot snap hand warmers (optional)

Many people keep extra bird food in their freezer and rotate it out as needed so they always have some extra on hand for emergencies.  A very good idea.

If you loose power you will need that flashlight, but make sure the light from the flashlight does not frighten your bird as it will be an unknown moving object to your bird.  

If you loose your power and have electric heat, placing a blanket or quilt over your bird's cage can help keep your bird's environment warmer.  If you are forced to use a fireplace for heat, you may need to place your bird in a carrier and bring into the room that is heated.  In that case a nice tear up bird toy may help keep your bird occupied and busy while in the carrier.

VERY IMPORTANT! - Never use Kerosene heaters around birds as the fumes may be toxic and can kill your bird.

Our research on the use of propane or butane heaters seems 50/50.  Many experts say do not use either around birds, and some bird owners say they have used them with no ill effects on their birds.  One source stated that butane is not a highly toxic gas and can be stored inside your home.  Whether that means you can also use it safely in your home is unknown.

Propane or butane heaters used without adequate combustion or ventilation, may give off excessive carbon monoxide which is an odorless, poisonous gas, deadly to birds, and even humans. Early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning in humans are similar to flu-like symptoms, including headache, dizziness and nausea. 

We would suggest it is better to be safe than sorry, and to not use either if possible, but if you to have one as your only source of heat in a severe emergency, please ventilate the area well to help protect your bird as well as yourself.  We highly recommend you do your own research into these methods of supplemental heating as well as gas burning fireplaces.

A gas burning fireplace is considered unsafe by many if you own birds.  Here is a link to a very good article on the subject: Birds & Gas Fireplaces 

If you are using a wood burning fireplace for heat, make sure your room is well vented as well and no smoke is coming into the room where your bird is.  Before winter sets in it is best to make sure your fireplace is clean and free of  creosote and any leftover nesting materials by any birds who may have set up housekeeping in the chimney over the summer. 

So most important items include extra dry food, water, blankets, carrier, and flashlight.

Stay warm, stay safe, and stay inside if you can.