Finding Reliable Parrot Information on the Web

Is locating accurate and relevant information about behavior, nutrition, health and enrichment as difficult for parrot caretakers as finding a Quick Link in a pile of shredded newspapers? It doesn’t have to be.

First, when reviewing content, consider these questions:

Who is the author? Whether vet, behaviorist, parrot owner, volunteer at a non-profit or breeder, consider what certifications the person has, how many years they have worked with birds and under what circumstance, and why they might be sharing the information. If the underlying motivation is to get a reader to pay for a service or buy a product, beware.

What sources do the author cite? Are the sources well-trusted? Does the author provide references in the form of links or book/article titles? How current is the information?

Does the information apply to your bird’s species, age, or disposition?

Does the information make sense to you? Is it a claim that goes against everything you have read? Does it claim to be an instant and easy fix? Does it speak negatively about other reliable sources (“Most vets don’t know what they are talking about.”)?

Most importantly: Will following the advice on the site build or destroy trust with your bird?

I recently asked Phoenix Landing volunteers which web sites they recommend, and phoenixlanding.org is on the top of the list. Below, they share more trusted sites and the methods they use to determine the quality of the content.

Michelle Czaikowski-Underhill, Education Coordinator for Raleigh NC, said, “whether I want to use a certain site or not often depends on what I am researching. Even good sites might include some information that isn’t the greatest. I like to look for currency of the page/article and authority of the author or organization.

“When doing a general Google search, I look for information on web sites from veterinary clinics, veterinary schools, AZA-accredited zoos, animal trainers, etc. depending on what the topic is.”

Some of Michelle’s go to sites include:

Nina Roshon, Adoption Coordinator from Wilmington, NC, recommends the Harrison’s Bird Food site: http://www.harrisonsbirdfoods.com.

This site also allows you to watch the Captive Foraging video by Dr. Scott Echols, which teaches parrot caretakers how to train their birds to forage, a vital, natural behavior. Watch it for free at http://www.harrisonsbirdfoods.com/captive-foraging-video/.

Nina also uses information from the Association of Avian Veterinarians: aav.org. For a detailed analysis of bird cages:  http://theparrotforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=4647/. Finally, a great source for hearing natural bird sounds:  https://www.macaulaylibrary.org.

Sheila Carpenter, Cage Coordinator, said: “I have used birdchannel.com (now called petcha.com)  most often to learn about species with which I am not familiar when an applicant for whom I am doing a home visit is interested in that species.  Most of my info comes from PL’s meetings and biannual national retreat held in May.”

(The next retreat is scheduled for May 2018. Keep an eye on our web site (phoenixlanding.org) for details about this incredible event!)

Melissa Kowalski, Home Visit Coordinator for WV and owner of Critters and Conservation, has adopted multiple birds from Phoenix Landing, some of whom star in her animal shows teaching kids about creatures from reptiles and insects to parrots and tenrecs.

She suggests:

  • Jason Crean’s Facebook page called Avian Raw Whole Food Nutrition at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AVIANRAW/
    Jason Crean is a wealth of information, is very active and responds to most posts.
  • Patricia Sund’s website and blog called Parrot Nation at: https://parrotnation.com/
    Patricia has been a huge proponent of “chop” – a variety of many, many fresh ingredients chopped up for birds. I use this method for my parrots, toucan/lorikeets, and sometimes my lizards and tortoise.
  • The Cornell Lab or Ornithology (http://www.birds.cornell.edu/) has lots of information about native North American birds,

In general, Melissa says, “When doing research online about a particular subject or species, I always use multiple sources. I start with Wikipedia, try forums, and other websites.”

Mary Ault, our Resource Coordinator, recommends understandingparrots.com, while Debbie Russell our MD Adoption Coordinator, endorses the site of the World Parrot Trust: parrots.org.

Finally, Michelle Czaikowski-Underhill uses Google Alerts (https://www.google.com/alerts) set up for different topics, and often finds articles of interest using this method. She says the alerts “give me a stream of articles that are current, but sometimes they are not the most authoritative. A small-town newspaper had an article about birds as pets and recommended seed diets, for instance. That was in the last few months. So, just because something has been published somewhere, doesn’t mean it is credible.”

Share your favorite sites in the comments!

Birdie Walk, A Ceiling Playground

By Suzanne Cromwell

Background: My husband, Larry, and I adopted two Timneh African greys from Phoenix Landing, Napoleon and Josephine. These birds are former breeders, now 48 years old. Over the years, we have tried to give them plenty of personal space so they feel safe and comfortable, and to facilitate their ability to fly so they are empowered to make choices about their activities. While living in Virginia, the birds liked to fly to a wooden beam running between the bird room and the breakfast area. When we decided to move to Florida, it was a good time to design a room for the birds that supported their ability to fly, and to have a high space to land.

What did I want to create in our bird room?  Our new room for the birds has an 11′ ceiling and no existing beams. I wanted to make sure the greys could still get exercise and the benefits from flight, as well as incorporate full spectrum lighting, a structure for the birds to fly to and play on, and something from which to hang toys. I also did not want to have any electrical wiring exposed and the light bulbs protected.  The following is a description of what we created and call the “birdie walk.”

The birdie walk is a 21 foot rectangular structure made out of bird-safe untreated wood. It is 8 inches wide and hung from the ceiling.  We made sure the structure hung low enough so that the birds could not eat the ceiling.

The side pieces of bird-safe wood are 6 inches on both sides, with ½ round trim.  The trim molding is screwed in with stainless steel screws so once it is destroyed it can easily be replaced without destroying the structure.  If the birds chew the ½ round trim, this can easily be replaced!

Birdie Walk

The birdie walk is secured to the ceiling rafters by metal rods and HVAC straps. Electrical wiring for the lights are attached to ceiling junction boxes located above the ceiling. The metal rod supports, HVAC straps and electrical wiring are enclosed in PVC tubing to keep the birds from chewing through these important structural elements. Full spectrum lighting is installed in the unit, and the lights are included in boxes with a removable plastic grate.

We use hemp rope around the supports to hang natural wood perches or baskets full of toys and chew pieces. You could screw into the bottom of the structure to hang more toys or activities depending on the capabilities of your birds. The birdie walk provides many creative opportunities for hanging bird play and foraging activities!

Birdie Walk2

The birdie walk is visually attractive and our greys spend many hours playing on it or with the toys, flying up and down, or just overseeing all the activity in the room.

Our birdie walk is 21 foot square but the same idea can be made in any configuration to work in your bird room. Our birds like to go around the whole surface of the birdie walk or fly from one side to the other. Our Timnehs love the bird walk and use it daily. Good luck with yours!

Learning from life with a foster parrot

By Carrie J. Sidener, Foster for Phoenix Landing

It’s been a month since Simon moved in.

This is roughly the halfway point in our foster relationship to determine if this particular little green quaker parrot is a good fit in my home and if my home is a good fit for him. If everything works out, this relationship between us will become a permanent one.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about Simon in this short period of time, in no particular order:

1. I’ve given him the nickname “The Flying Alarm Clock.” He yells as he flies, in the same pattern and roughly the same tone as an alarm clock. Why? I have no idea, but he certainly can’t sneak up on you.

2. Put corn, carrots, peas and scrambled eggs in front of this boy, and he will tear it up. What he won’t touch are some of my personal favorites — just about any berries. He likes apples, but I don’t really care for them.

And he likes cold things. He’ll shake his head when the cold touches his tongue, but will reach for more.

3. Simon is a bird that hasn’t learned how to relax. When he is awake and away from his cage, he is perpetually trying to groom me as though he wants to make sure all my feathers are straight and looking good.

I hate to tell him my feathers — or rather my hair — is always out of place and no semblance of grooming will fix it.

Also, he has some weird obsession with my ears.

4. This little guy is very social, which has endeared him into the hearts of the friends and family who have met him thus far. He loves to have his head scratched and will head butt you if your focus lapses on those wonderful head scratches.

Simon Quaker 20175. Simon has gained a particular attachment and affection for me. When his cage door is open, Simon becomes my little shadow. One morning last week, he ended up clutching my dress at the hip as I prepared his food and packed my lunch.

I managed to snag a photograph of him looking very much like a child clutched to my leg, begging me not to go to work.

6. Simon came to me with a fear of water and while there are a number of suggestions to combat this, I chose what I’m now calling the “Dance Party Method.”

In this method, I bring Simon into the bathroom and let him perch on the top of the shower door so he can watch as I take a shower. But here’s the thing — we have a dance party, and slowly Simon has allowed me to bring him into the shower with the water running. We still have to dance and sing and play, but as long as the energy remains high, he’s OK with it.

I’m a little concerned that I may bust a move a little too vigorously and end up falling in the shower, but so far so good.

7. Simon is a bobber. He will vigorously nod his head up and down to express his happiness or to ask me for something. It’s really adorable, and I’m considering teaching him to do this on command to somehow make it into a trick. Any suggestions?Simon Quaker2 2017

Also, I’m pretty sure I can teach him to dance.

8. He loves to whistle. And he will use his skills to challenge people to a game of Simon Says. Most of the time he wins, but he’s never beaten me.

That’s because I can’t play. I never learned how to whistle.

9. So far, Simon has been a man of few words. The only thing I’ve managed to decipher from him is “Step Up.”

Maybe he’ll say more or maybe he won’t. I don’t really care. He’s a pretty great companion, just as he is.

First published on May 9, 2017 in Lynchburg, VA by The News & Advance

Easy sweet potato biscuits for parrots

A local avian veterinarian recommended that I get one of my parrots to eat sweet potato and brown rice, as they would be good for his digestive system. This simple sweet potato biscuit recipe is a result of my quest to find an easy way to get him to do just that. So far, it has been a hit with my flock!

Ingredients:

1 15 ounce can of organic sweet potato puree
2 c. brown rice flour
1 egg
Tumeric, ginger, and cinnamon to taste
Sesame, chia, and flax seeds

Optional ingredients:

Chopped cranberries (I used freeze fried, but fresh or frozen may also work)
Walnuts
Other herbs and spices (I added a little crushed dehydrated dandelion)

Directions:

Mix tumeric, ginger, cinnamon and additional, optional dried herbs together with the brown rice flour. Add egg. Mix in sweet potato puree. Add any additional optional ingredients (chopped cranberries and/or walnuts).

Place sesame, chia, and flax seeds on a plate. Form dough into small balls, flatten, and dip both sides of the flat biscuit dough piece in seed mixture.

Bake at 350 F on lightly greased baking sheet for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.

Let them cool completely before serving. Divide into batches that will last several days and freeze those you won’t use within a few days. After you finish a batch, just pull the next from the freezer, thaw, and serve!

Meet our adoption coordinators: Debbie, Maryland

Celebrating National Volunteer Week, we are sharing interviews with the Phoenix Landing adoption coordinators for different areas. Debbie has been an adoption coordinator for Phoenix Landing for a long time, and has helped Phoenix Landing help many birds over the years.

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Debbie and Joey

1. For what area are you the adoption coordinator for Phoenix Landing?
The state of Maryland.

2. How long have you served in this volunteer role?
Since February 2007, so a little over 10 years!!

3. How did you first learn about or get involved with Phoenix Landing?
In 2003, I was looking to purchase a bird or find a rescue because my son wanted his own bird. I found Phoenix Landing (PL) on-line and submitted my application to foster. After having a home visit and attending a few classes, I started fostering and never looked back. I have fostered many parrots over the years.

4. There are many causes and non-profits out there to get involved with, why did you choose this one?
I chose PL because of my love for parrots, the people I met and the education they offered. I have been involved with other pet rescues and the amount of education PL offers is amazing. I’m always learning something new!

5. What do you like most about volunteering with Phoenix Landing?
I like the fact that Phoenix Landing makes all new applicants fill out a detailed application, attend a required event and have a home visit before they will even consider placing a bird with them. Lots of people go out on a whim and get a pet and then have no idea how to care for it. I like the fact that PL takes ownership of the parrot they bring in for life and that they have a plan in place in case something ever happened to our founder, but most of all I enjoying helping parrots in need as well as helping new parrot owners acquire a pet.

6. What else would you like to share about yourself, about volunteering, or about Phoenix Landing?
I have owned my own parrots for over 30 years, but my family always had parakeets and lovebirds when I was growing up.

I currently have 9 parrots and 1 soft bill. Most were adopted from Phoenix Landing, two were adopted from Best Friends in Kanab, Utah and a couple were given to me! I have 4 macaws, a grey, a cockatoo, 2 conures, a meyers and a green aracari. Three live with my son at our beach house. Plus I have 2 rescued Italian greyhounds and a boxer.

I have found volunteering for Phoenix Landing has been very rewarding, so if you want to get involved, please contact us. We are always looking for volunteers.

Meet our adoption coordinators: Ron, Raleigh/Durham, NC

Learn more about Ron, our adoption coordinator for the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina in his interview below. He is one of the many volunteers who helps Phoenix Landing help parrots!

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Ron

1. For what area are you the adoption coordinator for Phoenix Landing?
Raleigh/Durham, NC

2. How long have you served in this volunteer role?
Since April 2014 (three years)

3. How did you first learn about or get involved with Phoenix Landing?
My avian veterinarian often spoke of Phoenix Landing; however, I learned the most by attending a Phoenix Landing Step-Up class. The class taught me much needed skills and increased my confidence so that I could shift my way of thinking in order to solve a behavioral issue within my own flock. Those skills kept me from having to re-home one of my parrots.

4. There are many causes and non-profits out there to get involved with, why did you choose this one?
As a parrot lover, I have always tried to learn as much as possible about how to provide my flock the best possible care. In doing so, my eyes were really opened to the many issues parrots and owners face. It was much worse than I ever imagined. As someone that has always enjoyed volunteer work, it simply made sense that I would volunteer with Phoenix Landing.

5. What do you like most about volunteering with Phoenix Landing?
I like when a neglected parrot goes to a new home where it is loved, fed a proper diet and given daily socialization and enrichment. Watching a once neglected parrot flourish is amazing as well as rewarding and exciting. It is as if they have been given a brand new life.

6. What else would you like to share about yourself, about volunteering, or about Phoenix Landing?
My involvement with Phoenix Landing has been life changing. Attending step-up may have been my introduction to Phoenix Landing; however, it was simply the catalyst to years of learning and meeting some of the most amazing friends.

Meet our adoption coordinators: Jackie, Greenville/Spartanburg, SC

The Phoenix Landing adoption coordinator for the Greenville area of South Carolina is Jackie! If you are in the Greenville area of South Carolina and are interested in either adopting a bird or becoming more involved with Phoenix Landing in order to help more birds, let us know by contacting us! Jackie shares information about volunteer opportunities with Phoenix Landing in her interview below.

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Jackie and LucyLui

1. For what area are you the adoption coordinator for Phoenix Landing? Greenville/Spartanburg, SC

2. How long have you served in this volunteer role?
5 years (I’m guessing!)

3. How did you first learn about or get involved with Phoenix Landing?
I was researching parrot agencies where I could volunteer. I came across Phoenix Landing and signed up for a STEP UP! Class and the rest is history! I adopted a parrot I worked with during STEP UP! And became more involved with transport and helping with area bird adoptions.

4. There are many causes and non-profits out there to get involved with, why did you choose this one?
Because Phoenix Landing is more about the right placement for each parrot than they are about pushing parrots out the door into any old home. The requirement for each potential adopter to take one higher-level adoption class is key and that requirement sold me on Phoenix Landing. There are people who “think” they want a parrot and after taking a class that goes into the required care, caging, enrichment, nutrition, possible noise, etc., people know what they are getting into and go into the adoption process with their eyes wide open! Also, Phoenix Landing makes sure that a particular parrot is right for the adopting person/family and that the parrot will be “happy” with the lifestyle in the new home. A loud, active home may not be a good fit for every parrot, so it is good to know that someone is not just looking to place a bird, but to place a parrot in a mutually beneficial environment with a person/family.

5. What do you like most about volunteering with Phoenix Landing?
I enjoy the variety of parrots, but most important to me is working with older parrot owners. Many older people have to make tough decisions about placing their parrots because the person is getting older, may have health issues, whatever the case may be, but they know they need to place their beloved pet in the best situation going forward. Most are so glad to know that their parrot will have a home for life within the Phoenix Landing system and that should their pet need to come back to Phoenix Landing for any reason whatsoever, it will happen. And it happens quickly so that the parrot is back in a cared for, healthy environment while we look for its next home.

6. What else would you like to share about yourself, about volunteering, or about Phoenix Landing?
I wish I were more outgoing so that I could grow the Greenville/Spartanburg parrot group! If there is anyone out there who wants to help get the word out in the Greenville/Spartanburg area, please don’t hesitate to STEP UP! There are parrot owners in this area and I want to reach them, get them involved in classes, get to talk about their parrots, and see everyone updated on parrot ownership in today’s world where nutrition, housing requirements, and enrichment of these wonderful pets is key to their health, happiness, and longevity.