Lost Birds, What Do We Do?

By Suzanne Cromwell

IF YOU HAVE LOST YOUR COMPANION PARROT

  • Don’t panic and don’t take time to beat yourself up
  • Realize that your bird most likely got startled and took off
  • Have heart and don’t give-up. Many parrots are found because most parrots will seek out humans, especially when they get hungry.

1. If you can see your bird:

Call to him. It might help him find you. Try to keep your bird in sight.

Watch the direction the bird is flying, the height, how windy it is, available trees in the area and also how tired your bird looks. These are all cues to where he might land, especially if you lose sight of him.

Use your cell phone: If you can see your bird or not call/ text everyone you can to come help you locate your bird, notify everyone on your Facebook or other social medium that you use to spread the word and to get help looking for your bird if possible.   Take photos when you see him.

Ask for local help: Do not hesitate to ask people you see if they have seen a parrot flying around or perched somewhere. Don’t forget to ask kids too; they can be very helpful in the reach. Tell your postal carrier!

Try to communicate: Birds respond to familiar sounds; call out to him as you search and also use words or sounds that are familiar to him and give time to listen in case he responds. This could help you locate him. If you have an established contact call, this is the perfect time to use it.lost bird sign

Create a sign: As quickly as possible, make a sign that can be posted inside and outside. If you have a recent photo, make it the largest part of the sign to catch people’s attention. Add his name and your phone number.   DO NOT DO NOT PUT YOUR BIRD’s BAND NUMBER OR MICROCHIP NUMBER in any publication or signage, this is the only proof that you have that the bird belongs to you.

2. If you cannot see your bird and need to search:

Start from where you last saw him. If you have a group, then spread out and circle the area you last saw him in realizing that you need to cover a 1 mile radius.

Try to communicate: See note above

Search with awareness: You bird may not be sitting on an exposed branch but might be hiding in the branches and although very colorful you might not be able to see him but you can watch for movements within the foliage. Your bird might see you and relax and remain quiet. Remember early mornings and late afternoons/evenings are the most likely time the bird will come to you.   It is especially important for you to look at dawn and dusk during the first 4 days, because this is when your bird is most likely to be vocal and active.


Use your technology:
If you have your bird recorded on your iPad, cell phone or any other device put it on speaker and play it while you search.

Bird buddy: If your parrot has a bird he likes in your flock bring the bird to the area you last saw the missing parrot. Walk away and the second bird might call out and the lost bird may call back, by listening you might be able to locate him.

Put a small cage outside.   Place a cage with food and water inside in a place close to the house.   Your bird will be hungriest by the 3rd day, and that is a very common time for the bird to return to a cage for sustenance.   If you leave the cage outside at night, close the door so predators won’t get inside.Quaker in tree.png

3. If you can see your bird but can’t reach him:

Do not: Freak-out, have a crowd of people around, try to grab him, hose him, or scare him in any way. Avoid ladders and cherry pickers to reach him. Don’t ask him to fly down to you from a high distance or in a steep angle, if he is not in danger let him stay where he is. If he just landed he probably won’t fly again any time soon.

Enticements: Bring bird’s favorite foods (bowl), treats, person and birdie friend (in a cage), if possible to the area your bird is located in.

Fly down steps:
1. Try to position yourself or birdie friend to allow for short flights or short climbs to a lower branch, preferably ones that are similar to the one he is on.
2.  Use your bird training tools to help lure him down.
3. Be patient especially if the bird has to land on different surfaces. He will probably be scared so don’t introduce unfamiliar sticks, etc. If scared he may fly again.
4. You may want to hide from your bird to get his interest in coming to you but be ready to come back into plain site once he is ready to fly.
5. Watch and listen to your bird: birds usually eliminate before flying, start to move around and (in this type of situation) may scream before or as they fly – be ready!
6. Give the bird’s favorite person lots of room – don’t crowd him. Be ready to move if he flies so you can track him.
7. When your bird looks like he is ready to try to fly down call to him, but don’t overdo it. 8. If you have reached him but are afraid he might take off again you can wrap him in a towel or if size permits it put him under your jacket until you get him to his cage.

If your bird doesn’t want to come down, he/she is probably afraid or doesn’t know how to get to you. If you climb up to get him, take a pillowcase with you. If you can reach the bird, put him quickly into the pillowcase for safety and transport.

Watch his body language – if he is preening or playing with leaves and/or branches he is relaxed. You can try calling to him to get him excited enough to come to you.   Have food and water visible and ready!

End of the day, the sun is setting and he still is in the tree if he is fluffing his feathers he is getting ready to roost for the night. Unless something scares him he won’t fly again until morning

Sunrise – make sure someone is there because he may be ready to fly and it may be difficult to locate him again. Try again to get him to come to you.

4. If  you can’t hear or locate your bird – the bird has been lost for 24 hours

Put up poster of your bird with a picture of him. (see example) You want to include the bird’s name, time, date and location the bird was lost. Contact information to include email, pone, etc. If you are offering a reward. Words or phrases your bird might respond too. Make it personal from your companion parrot. Reach out up to 10 mile radius from the location the bird was lost from.

Contact the following:

  1. 911 Parrot Alert: http://911parrotalert.com/index.asp this should be your first posting. Copy and paste the entry for use on other boards.
  2. On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/911ParrotAlertOfficial/
  3. Call local animal control
  4. Call the SPCA/Humane Society
  5. Call any local parrot/bird organizations or clubs
  6. Call local wildlife rescue centers
  7. Call local veterinarians
  8. Call local pet stores
  9. Call local zoos
  10. Call the police
  11. Call local Fish and Wildlife
  12. Put an ad in the local newspaper and also your community newspaper, if applicable. DO NOT PUT YOUR BIRD’s BAND NUMBER OR MICROCHIP NUMBER in any publication or signage
  13. Post it on all the social media you are in
  14. You can also notify local TV and radio stations to put out your message
  15. **Tell your postal carrier, as they are active in your neighborhood and may have seen or heard something.

If your bird has a MICROCHIP, it will not help you find your parrot because it is not a GPS. But it will help an animal shelter or vet find you so that you can get your bird back. Animal shelters will scan a bird before adopting out (or euthanizing it).

DO NOT GIVE UP!!   Many parrots are found within 24 hours – in many cases it is more about finding out who and where it is.  Sometimes it takes 3-5 days for the bird to be hungry enough to come down.

Be prepared just in case you lose your bird in the future  Have a picture of your bird with his info and contact numbers on file and in your phone, so you can expedite a search, if necessary.

The Wild Magical Parrots of Peru

Our 2016 ecotour took us back to the beautiful rainforest of Peru along the Tambopata River, and time with one of our favorite conservation and research scientists, Dr. Donald Brightsmith. Seeing parrots in the wild always leaves me with mixed feelings – to see birds flying, interacting and responding to their native environment is majestic and overwhelmingly beautiful. On the other hand, I feel so frustrated by the limitations placed on the captive parrots in our homes. No matter how much space, enrichment and opportunity we give them, it just doesn’t compare. However, after viewing the antics and busyness of wild parrots, we can’t help but be inspired to do more for the birds in our homes.

Here are some photos and movies from our trip. I hope these give you some new ideas about how to make life better for your parrot.

Thanks to the group that joined us for this trip, we were able to make a donation of $3,750 to Dr. Brightsmith for his work at the Macaw Project at the Tambopata Research Center. It’s important that we help conserve areas where wild parrots can thrive, and also learn as much as possible about their way of life. Please help support conservation and research for wild parrots! We also hope you’ll join us on a future ecotour, we will be planning another one soon.

This video includes mealy Amazons, blue headed pionus and severe macaws at the Chuncho claylick: youtu.be/WOvbU8MlO3E.

Here is a video of a greenwing macaw and a blue and gold macaw having a “discussion.” They hang from the branch and hold each other’s feet.https://youtu.be/996f2oSPaHw. Thanks to Angie Yeung from Celltei.com for this amazing video!

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Blue headed pionus parrots

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Greenwing and scarlet macaws at the Chunco claylick along the Tambopata River

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Greenwing, scarlet and blue and gold macaws at the claylick

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Two blue and gold macaws.  What might they be discussing?

My Life in the Balance, A Medical Mystery

Hi there, my name is Jazzy. You all call me a blue and gold macaw. I’m 24 years old and I’m a girl.  I was adopted through Phoenix Landing in 2005.

jazzyHave I got a story for you. It’s about me being sick and Dr. Costanzo saving my life. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This story probably starts in October of 2015. I had gone to get my annual physical with Dr. Crum at Stahl’s Exotic Animal Veterinary Services (SEAVS). He was my primary care physician, a nice guy and a good doctor but he leaves a girl with no dignity. And after all of that poking and sticking me with needles, he told me everything was okay. Shucks, I could have told him that.

About a week later, though, my poop was shiny and black. The good folks at SEAVS said I had blood in my poop. They gave me some kind of stomach coating and some kind of antibiotic. I didn’t like the taste of it but I was forced to take it. And it seemed to work.

In November of 2015, I went back for a follow up visit. This time they gave me some kind of whoopee stuff that put me to sleep and they X-rayed me. After I woke up, they told me the X-rays were fine. That was good but was I ever glad to get out of there.

In April of 2016, I had some more blood in my poop. They gave me some more medicine for my stomach and an antibiotic which I was again forced to take. At this point my weight was about 1,010 grams. That is a good weight for me and I have a nice, girlish figure at that weight.

But by July of 2016, my weight was down to around 910 grams. My clothes were just hanging off of me and I just wasn’t feeling good. I pretty much stayed in my room and I didn’t even want to talk to or play with my mom.

I went back to SEAVS and met Dr. Gregory Costanzo (my new hero). He did every kind of test imaginable. He drew blood, he checked my poop which still had blood and a bunch of other stuff in it, and he gave me a shot of some sort. I know he was trying to be helpful and make me feel better, but was I ever glad to get out of there and get back home.

About a week later, my weight was down to about 875 grams so I went back to Dr. Costanzo. This time they kept me there all day. They gave me some stuff called Barium and then kept putting me to sleep and taking pictures. They did some more blood tests and even checked for avian Bornavirus. Fortunately I was negative for that, but I still had blood in my poop. And they sent me home with some more medicine. This time I had to get a shot twice a day and take some positively foul tasting stuff for two weeks. Yuck.

In early August, I still had blood in my poop and I had convulsed after getting one of those awful shots. By now my weight was down to about 830 grams. I went back to see Dr. Costanzo. He didn’t make me get those shots anymore but he did give me some new medicines to take. He also showed me the differences in the X-rays from last November and the Barium pictures from the week before. Something was clearly pushing up into my digestive track. He even suggested that maybe it might be the “C” word. They fed me that night before I went back home. I was expecting something a little romantic, you know, candlelight, white table cloth, some exotic fare. But no, they stuck a tube down my throat and force fed me some yucky stuff.

Over the next week or so, I went back for dinner a few more times (really, they should never open a restaurant). My poop still had blood in it and now there was some undigested food in it. Even my new blood tests had issues. They changed some of my meds and gave me some new meds. Dr. Costanzo assured me that I didn’t have PDD, another one of those terrible diseases. My weight was still down, my clothes were just hanging off of me, and I just wasn’t feeling good. I pretty much stayed in my room all day long.

Unbeknownst to me, Dr. Costanzo had been talking with other doctors about me behind my back. He talked to Dr. Crum and Dr. Stahl, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian) who are at SEAVS. I think Dr. Stahl is his boss. He talked about me with a Dr. Susan Orosz, PhD, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian) & Dipl ECZM (Avian). I can’t pronounce her last name much less understand what all of those letters mean after her last name. Then again maybe that name I can’t pronounce is really her middle name and I just can’t read or understand all of those letters that make up her last name. At any rate, she is a really smart doctor and Dr. Costanzo calls her Dr. O. I guess he can’t pronounce all those letters either. He even talked with a Dr. Robert Dahlhausen who owns Veterinary Molecular Diagnostics where some of my blood and stuff got sent for diagnosis.

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Drs. Susan Orosz, Robert Dahlhausen and Gregory Costanzo, August 2016

Even my Auntie Ann got involved. She’s in charge of something called Phoenix Landing. When my mom and dad can’t take care of me anymore, I’ll go live with her. I guess she was also checking around with a bunch of doctors trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I think she loves me, too.

About this time, Dr. Costanzo had to go out of town to a big meeting in Portland, Oregon. Apparently there were a lot of other doctors there that also treat boys and girls like me. He even took my X-rays and showed them to people trying to figure out what was wrong with me. He also had a meeting with Dr. O and Dr. Dahlhausen to talk about me. Out of those meetings, it was suggested that maybe I had heavy metal toxicity. So he called me from Portland and had me go in for another blood test for heavy metal toxicity. That test came back negative.

But before he left, he told me that the next step should probably be an endoscopy exam. I think that means they would cut me open somewhere below my neck and stick something in there and look around to see what they see.  And they would also cut me open in my tummy area and look around. Of course he told me that they would put me to sleep for all of this and I wouldn’t feel any pain. Dr. Costanzo also told me that if they saw something that was not medicinally fixable, they would let me stay asleep and not wake me up. That was a sad day and we cried. But I knew he was doing what was best for me.

In early September, when Dr. Costanzo got back from Portland, he changed the plan from doing an endoscopy to doing an ultrasound. He gave me some more whoopee gas and put me to sleep for that. He saw something wrapped around my intestine. It was definite and the findings were repeatable with the ultrasound and by palpitation. The good news was that he found something. The bad news was that he didn’t know what it was.

He scheduled me for exploratory surgery for two days later. He even arranged for his boss, Dr. Stahl, to be there to assist and advise. That made me feel pretty special. He again cautioned me that if they found something that wasn’t medicinally treatable, they would let me stay asleep and not wake me up. Again, I knew that he was doing what was best for me, but it was still a sad day and we cried again.

On the morning of September 8 I had my hugs and kisses and tears with my mom and dad and then I went to see Dr. Costanzo for my surgery. They gave me the whoopee gas and I went to sleep, not knowing if I was going to wake up again.

My next realization was waking up and through groggy eyes seeing that sweet face of Dr. Costanzo, beard and all. I was awake. You know what that meant? I was awake! They must have been able to fix something. That was the best day of my life.

It turned out that there was some kind of plant material that had perforated my duodenum. It had detached and sealed off from my duodenum and it was in a sac that was closed off on both ends. My duodenum had healed but it had been pinched by this thing all this time. It was pea soup green, kind of in a ragged semi-circle, and was hard enough to knock around inside the bottle that Dr. Costanzo had put it in. That thing accounted for all my symptoms and it was now out of my body. I don’t understand Latin, so you’ll have to ask Dr. Costanzo about the exact details.

jazzy-in-collarDr. Costanzo sewed me up, put a collar around my neck so I wouldn’t mess with the incision site, and put me in the intensive care unit for a few days. They fed me until I was eating on my own. Dr. Costanzo brought in some really good cucumbers. My poops got back to normal, I gained back some weight, and I got ready to go back home. The doctors and nurses at SEAVS took wonderful care of me. Nadia even speaks Macawinese. You know, that Oscar guy is kind of cute. I think he likes me.

After a few days I went home. I think my mom and dad were really glad to have me home. I know I was glad to be home. Dr. Costanzo had arranged for a hospital bed for me so I wouldn’t fall and hurt myself. I got out of bed a lot, walked around with my mom, and took a lot of naps. After a week or so the collar came off, I was weaned from the post-surgery meds, and Dr. Costanzo took out my stitches, I could now move around freely, brush my teeth and comb my hair, take a shower, and eat anything I wanted.

It is now near the end of October, my incision is healed, my weight is now up to a 1,000+ grams, my clothes fit again, and my poops are normal. I’m eating anything I want, I’m climbing around my room and my tree, I’m going over and messing around in my brothers’ and sisters’ rooms, I’m getting out of my room and walking through the house, I’m climbing the stairs looking for my mom, I’m talking back to my brothers and sisters, and life is just plain good.

It is good to be awake. Thank you, Dr. Costanzo.

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Jazzy and Bobbie Kerns

Wisdom from Avian Veterinarians

By Ann Brooks

Attending the annual Association of Avian Veterinarians conference is one of my greatest joys. While much of what is said involves a language beyond my knowledge base, I always learn something new. Here is a summary of my biggest takeaways from this year’s conference.

Thanks to the Grey Parrot Project initiated by Dr. Scott Echols, there is a growing body of evidence that a lack of exercise, sunlight and appropriate diet are highly detrimental to the long-term health of birds in captivity. These may seem like obvious statements, however proving their relationship to disease is easier said than done.

According to Dr. Echols, “a new technique involving radiographs (X-rays) is allowing researchers a means to clearly visualize bone density in birds. Preliminary evidence shows that birds flying outdoors in natural sunlight have better bone density than those housed indoors in small cages. In the attached pictures, cockatiel 1 has better bone density than cockatiel 2. Using the new imaging technique, one can readily see that cockatiel 1 has more red (indicating higher bone density) in the wing and leg bones.”

Since most birds don’t have the opportunity to fly or vigorously move, their bones start to disintegrate. In order to stay strong, bones need to have some stress. It is terrible to think that our birds are suffering in this regard, so we must find a way to get them moving. (For starters, provide more activities outside the cage, increase foraging opportunities, provide a wide variety of perches to encourage movement, and even offer flight when it can be accomplished safely).

The loss of bone structure is especially problematic for female birds in the “lay” mode. Unfortunately, many people touch their birds in sexually stimulating ways, which may encourage these hormonal responses. The healthiest relationship we can have with our companion birds is one that does not involve an excess of “petting” and mate-like behaviors.

Another common problem is nutrition. So many birds live on a diet of packaged seeds. Not only are these high in Omega 6’s (safflower, peanut, sunflower, corn), but most seed brands have very little nutritional value. Our parrots need more Omega 3’s, which can be found in fish oil, flax, pumpkin seeds, hemp, chia and walnuts. If you use flax oil, make sure to buy a very reputable brand, keep it in the refrigerator, and do not shake. And don’t forget to provide a wide variety of dark orange and green fruits and veggies. Here’s an interesting tidbit, if you have chickens, you can dramatically reduce reproductive cancer by including flaxseed as 10% of their diet.

From Drs Dahlhausen and Orosz, we learned that a very large number of birds are Avian Bornavirus positive (ABV), as many as 45% or more in some studies. If your bird is ABV positive, do not panic! Most of these birds remain healthy for their whole lives. Sometimes birds with ABV also develop PDD, but some birds that develop PDD are not positive for ABV.  So as you can see, it is a complicated issue that requires more research.

Possible PDD symptoms might include difficulty in digestion or problems with the nervous system (e.g. seizures). They usually experience some kind of of stressor that suppresses the immune system or alters its normal function as well. Some of these potential stressors include: concurrent infection with Campylobacter, extreme stress, avian gastric yeast, old age and/or reproductivity.  This is yet another reason why we should not sexually stimulate our birds by excessive petting, especially below the neck.  Just remember if your bird does develop PDD, there are ways to help. And if your bird is ABV positive this does not mean it will develop PDD!!

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Drs Susan Orosz, Robert Dahlhausen and Greg Costanzo

Another major health concern for birds in captivity is atherosclerosis. Countless birds die at a young age from this heart problem. Why?  Again — they don’t get enough exercise and they don’t have good diets. If we are going to have birds in our homes, we must learn to do better by them by providing healthy food and lots of mental & physical activities.

Lastly, there was another foraging study from UC Davis. Orange wing Amazons were fed an oversized pellet, similar to the size of the nut they eat in the wild. This pellet was made specifically for the study to see if the larger size caused eating activity time and manipulation to increase. In the wild, most parrots spend up to 60% of their day foraging. This means they have to find the food, pick the food, and then manipulate the food. In captivity, parrots usually spend 4 to 10% of their day eating.  So if we can make eating more complicated and physically challenging this will give birds more to do with their time and increase physical activity. The UC Davis researcher, Dr. Polley DVM, calls this “podomandibulation” because the Amazons use both their feet and beaks. This increase in activity helped to reduce stress and improve the welfare of the Amazons.

So, we know without a doubt that our companion parrots need and deserve better diets, more complex enrichment and absolutely more exercise!  What have you done for your parrot?

Bites Be Gone! Solutions for a Common and Painful Problem

By Jenny Drummey

Bites are complicated. Sometimes it’s hard to say what’s more painful about a bite from your parrot: the physical pain, or the emotional upheaval and the trust it destroys. The scars that bites leave behind are certainly physical, but they’re psychological and emotional too.

Bite-BitsThe bite has power, its force often shocking. If they’re so unpleasant, and they may eventually cause us to stop interacting with a parrot at all, why do they persist? How can we remove this behavior from our bird’s repertoire? It’s vital that you solve this problem, as it is impossible to build a trusting relationship with your bird if you fear he will bite you.

Start by realizing that bites matter, they have meaning, and they are communication. The question is: Are we listening?

If biting is common in your home, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Biting is a behavior, and like all behavior, it has a function, a reason for happening. The biting behavior persists because it allows the bird access to something he wants or allows him to avoid something he doesn’t want. Bites serve Biting Edinburghnews 2013a purpose to the parrot. Examine what that purpose is, and make changes based on that.

Don’t take bites personally. It’s easier to say than do. But when a bird bites you, think of it as communication only. A bite is like the exclamation mark at the end of the parrot’s sentence “I am uncomfortable with this situation!” Employ methods that remove the possibility of the bite happening in the first place.

Change the way you think about why the bite happens. Have you ever heard that a bird bites because he is “jealous” or “grumpy” or “hormonal”? Have you ever attributed a bite to something that happened last week, or longer (“He bit me because we went on vacation last month”)?

This kind of thinking doesn’t solve the problem, but instead attributes the bite to an unverifiable source, because we can never know what an animal is thinking. To change behavior, don’t focus on what the parrot is feeling, but on what the parrot is doing.

Biting LovebirdsRespect your parrot’s personal space. Let your bird choose to come to you. Present food or a toy at least 6 inches away and let your parrot come to it. If stepping up, allow the bird space to come to you, instead of forcing the behavior by, for example, pressing your hand into the bird’s stomach.

Be flexible. The simplest all-purpose solution when a bird’s body language indicates a chomp is imminent: Walk away and come back again in five minutes.

Learn to recognize common bite triggers:
• An object, person, or situation that causes the bird to exhibit body language that we associate with fear or aggression
• Territoriality around the cage or another location such as a play gym
• Caregiver distraction, which can result in inattention to a bird’s body language
• Unwanted attention (or too much attention)
• Caregiver’s body language

Biting Senegal

Use the Trust Test. A simple and effective tool to evaluate any answer to the problem is to see if it passes the Trust Test. Will the proposed biting solution build or destroy trust?

If it will build trust, the solution is worth a try. If it will destroy trust, forget about it. You know if a solution builds trust if the bird can choose to participate (and is allowed to make that choice!). If the bird is forced to comply with the solution or if you ignore the bird’s reaction, it will likely destroy trust between you.

Offer objects, food or situations that motivate your bird. A bird’s ability to choose the behavior you want her to perform is directly related to your ability to motivate her. The key is knowing what your bird really wants to work for. Offer the bird something of value to her at that moment, and she will choose to perform what you want to get that reward.

In most cases, when you want to change a behavior, you ignore the problem behavior, and reinforce an alternative behavior (using the motivator) instead. You teach the parrot what to do in place of the problem behavior.

Bite-Bits2Keep a biting notebook. Collect the data and evidence you’ll need to understand the problem and to change it. Each time you are bitten, record the details. What can you do differently? The most important thing to do when you get bitten is something other than what you were doing when you got the bite.

Parrots do not crave the same kinds of interactions that dogs and cats do. Petting generally isn’t something parrots desire – or if they do, it’s usually because it is sexually stimulating. We are so hard wired to the pleasures of touch that we have a hard time seeing past this basic fact. Sometimes as we continually offer affection the bird can show frustration and eventually bite.

Be aware that your bird may see you as a predator. Sometimes it’s hard to see how intimidating we are to our birds, but recognize that it is a distinct possibility that you are approaching your bird in a manner that could set up the bite. Don’t interact when you are stressed or hurried. Approach a parrot with slow, confident movements. Talk quietly to the bird.

CHANGE YOUR EXPECTATIONSParrots aren’t children, dogs, cats, or soul mates. Parrots are fascinating, intelligent, wild individuals who we try our best to live with every day. Parrots have evolved to be social creatures, and we are part of their flock. But sometimes we expect our birds to fulfill roles that they cannot, or to behave in ways that are not possible. Having realistic expectations can help you to reduce or eliminate biting, because you won’t be asking your bird to do things that don’t make sense. Consider a bird’s true nature, what he enjoys from interacting with you, and what’s healthy between you.

For more information on biting, see Biting Matters, published by the Phoenix Landing Press.

Molts and Pinfeathers: A New Year for You and Your Bird

The start of a new year: time to make promises to yourself for positive changes in your life. As you sign up for a gym membership or purge Facebook friends, don’t forget your bird. What resolutions can you make to improve your bird’s life in the coming months?

Don’t get overwhelmed. Start small with an achievable goal for the first few months of the new year. Expand your parrot’s  world with new activities and enrichment items in January. Improve your parrot’s diet in February. March is the month to tackle a behavior problem.

January, when your family is stuck inside, is a great time to make a bunch of simple toys. Begin by re-purposing all of those (safe!) boxes that your holiday gifts came in as foraging toys for your bird, then continue toy making throughout the month. Toys are simple and cheap to make, and Kris Porter’s Parrot Enrichment Activity Book available from parrotenrichment.com  is an excellent free resource. The Facebook group The Parrot’s Workshop provides an almost endless supply of simple toys that are easy to make, often with instructions.

Though toys can be based on items you have in the house, you can also purchase bird toy parts online (a recommended site is makeyourownbirdtoys.com). Recruit your kids and their friends or other bird lovers in your area to have a toy making party. Focus on variety for maximum interest. Experiment with different textures, materials, and colors in the same toy. Toys don’t have to look pretty, they just have to be fun!

By increasing the number and variety of enrichment items, whether these be toys, a new play stand, a wicker basket to perch on, or branches made of safe wood, you offer your bird more choices and more opportunities for learning. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination (and what’s safe for your parrot!).

In February, focus on nutrition. Resolve to introduce a new healthy food item to your parrot each week. This could be food packaged  in a new way. Stuff kale leaves into a cored apple and hang it on a skewer, for example. Try serving fruit or vegetables before they are fully ripe. Split a papaya or cantaloupe in half and let your bird pick out the seeds. Use a food processor to finely chop new foods, then mix them in with a little healthy seed. Another option: slice fruit or vegetables thinly, cut a hole in the middle, and string on a toy.

Offer healthy food prepared in different ways. Your bird may prefer cooked, steamed or raw. See the Phoenix Landing cookbook Nourish to Flourish for a wealth of ideas, methods and information.

During this month, note the foods that your bird will fly through hoops for.

Use your parrot’s coveted treats during the month of March when you focus on behavior. Identify one behavior to train. It could be something as simple as training your parrot to target to a stick or teaching your bird to forage. Training is not difficult, so give it a try.  See the Phoenix Landing Press book Project Parrot for detailed information about training and behavior.

Instead of training a behavior, you could focus on resolving a behavior problem. Biting is a common one.

See the book Biting Matters for tools and techniques to reduce or eliminate bites.

Resolving behavior issues is so often about changing our expectations of our wild companions. An excellent resource for understanding how birds perceive the world is Leigh Ann Hartsfield’s book Birds Beyond Words. Once you understand a bird’s nature, it can be easier to resolve an issue by developing realistic solutions. Rosemary Low’s book, Understanding Parrots: Cues from Nature provides wonderful insight from her travels around the globe over decades to observe species in the wild.

These attainable monthly goals can greatly affect your bird’s quality of life, and the relationship between your bird and his flock, which is your family, in the first few months of the new year. Then, why not repeat this three-month cycle throughout the year?

Use the comments field to share your birdie resolutions!

Gardening for Parrots

Although we consider the parrots who live in our homes our companions, they are still biologically wild animals, designed to live in and among trees and plants. Researchers are finding that parrots in the wild eat an abundance of leaves, flowers, twigs and bark.

There are micro-nutrients and trace elements found in whole living plants, whose nutritional benefits are as yet not fully understood, and cannot be replicated in a pellet. Providing your parrot with as many natural materials as possible will enhance both their physical and mental health.

LIVE PLANTS PROVIDE:
Nutrition: vitamins, minerals, micro nutrients, trace elements and live enzymes.
Enrichment: climbing, chewing and shredding plants provide both physical and mental stimulation, which can help alleviate undesirable behaviors such as screaming or feather picking.
Air Quality: plants are natural air filters, removing pollutants from the environment and converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, and help to maintain humidity levels.
Sound Control: both in the home and in the landscape, plants absorb and buffer sound.

HOUSE PLANTS
Safety First! Please make sure that all plants in your house are safe. If you find that you have plants that are on the toxic list, or that you are unsure of, give these to a friend or neighbor without inquisitive parrots in their home.

Always use organic potting soil. Use parrot safe containers. Never use pesticides, or chemical fertilizers. Keep soil covered with plastic mesh or river rock if your bird has a tendency to dig in the soil. Mix some GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) into watering solution to inhibit the growth of fungus in the soil.

Some common SAFE houseplants include: Aloe, African Violet, Asparagus Fern, Boston Fern, Bromeliads, Coleus, Norfolk Island Pine, Prayer Plant, Schefflera, Spider Plant, Staghorn Fern, Swedish Ivy and Wandering Jew.

Some common TOXIC houseplants; Amaryllis, Dieffenbachia, Philodendron and Poinsettia.

ALOE is a houseplant that every parrot owner should have. Aloe contains powerful pain relievers, anti-inflammatory compounds; relieves itchiness; soothes the digestive tract; heals abscesses and cysts; kills E.Coli, fungus, mycobacterium, strep and staph infections, and salmonella; and treats respiratory infections, yeast infections and parasites.


NATURAL BRANCH PERCHES provide an endless variety of shapes, diameters and textures that enhance the health of your parrot’s feet. Placing branches at unusual angles can provide climbing and balancing exercise. You can make you own perches by selecting a parrot safe variety of wood, scrub well with an organic, nontoxic soap, rinse well, and dry in the sun. Ends can be wedged between cage bars, notched to fit around bars, or fitted with hanger bolts and wing nuts.

Chewing and stripping bark off of natural branch perches provide additional enrichment and nutritional benefits. Branches and twigs can also be bundled and placed in the cage for foraging enrichment. Try some with fresh leaves still intact too.

Some SAFE woods for parrots include: Ash, Apple, Aspen, Bamboo, Beech, Birch, Butterfly Bush, Cottonwood, Crabapple, Dogwood, Grapevine, Lilac, Magnolia, Mulberry, Pear, Poplar, Sassafras, Sweet Gum, Sycamore, Viburnum, and Willow. Remember to use only branches from trees that have not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides.

GARDEN IN A POT
If you don’t have the time or space for a big garden, consider creating a container garden. By choosing and a variety of textures and shades of healthy greens, and mixing in a few vegetables, berries, herbs and some edible flowers, you can have a container garden that is delicious, nutritious and beautiful. Choose a parrot safe container, such as plastics or unglazed terracotta. Avoid glazed terracotta, as many glazes contain heavy metals and other toxic substances. Use organic potting soil made specifically for containers (NOT garden soil) and organic fertilizers such as those made from seaweed. Whenever possible, choose organically grown seeds or plants. Gently remove the soil from the roots of non-organic plants, and replant in organic soil. Wait at least 30 days before offering it to your parrot. Avoid plants that have been treated with pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

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WHY GROW YOUR OWN?
Freshness: Vitamins and nutrient values found in fresh vegetables and other produce steadily decline as soon as they are harvested. In some vegetables their vitamin content may be depleted by as much as half, only minutes after being cut (harvested) and up to 70% or more by the time you see them at your grocery store.

Organic: You have control over the type of soil, fertilizers, weed and pest control.

Variety: There are far more varieties of a given plant available in a nursery or garden center than are available in a grocery store or even most farmers markets. There are even more varieties of a given plant available to grow from seed than can be found as plants in a nursery or garden center.

Dark Leafy Greens & Veggies are rich in vitamin A (critical to parrot’s heath and lacking in most diets), omega 3s (which support the brain, heart and immune system); calcium (for bone strength, and a variety of other vitamins, minerals & nutrients). Try Kale, Cabbages, Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens, Swiss Chard, Broccoli, Broccoli Rabb, Arugula, Celery, Beets and Carrots.

Herbs add wonderful fragrance to your home, when chewed on by your parrot, making for a safe and healthy alternative to dangerous chemical air fresheners. Many herbs are known to have medical benefits as well. Try Parsley, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Basil, Rosemary, Lemon Balm, Peppermint and it’s different flavored mint cousins.

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Edible Flowers not only add visual appeal to any garden, but are greatly relished by most parrots. Many edible flowers contain nutritional and medicinal properties. Try Calendula, Chamomile, Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Pansies, Violets, Carnations, Daylilies, Petunias, Lilacs, and Butterfly Bush. Remember that the flowers of your dark leafy greens and herbs are edible too. NEVER give your parrots from a florist!!!!!

Bring the container garden into the house for brief foraging sessions for your parrot. You can harvest some plants and add to your parrot’s food bowl, stainless steel foraging basket, or weave between the bars of her cage.


If you’re lucky enough to have the money and the space to buy or build an outdoor aviary, the plants can be kept inside the aviary and available when the birds come outside.

Bring you parrot outside in a travel cage, or better yet, make your own Cageoller, carrier or travel cage mounted on a baby stroller base, which can be easily moved around the yard for a variety of plant chewing experiences.

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For more excellent information from Laura Ford about gardening for parrots, go to: https://abirdsbestlife.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/benefits-of-plants-for-parrots/