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.

Garden in a Pot_fixed

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.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

SONY DSC

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/

EcoTour to the Pantanal in Brazil

Do you think parrots are magical?  If so, then nothing compares to witnessing a flighted parrot in the wild.  This is where they best express a bird’s true magnificent nature and beauty.  It will forever change the way you view parrots, and the lives they so deserve.

hy_fly_nestbox

If you would like to experience the elegance of wild parrots, you can join us for another Phoenix Landing ecotour to the Brazilian Pantanal this upcoming September. The Pantanal is a unique place, completely flooded in the spring and summer, very dry in the fall and winter. Since September is the end of the dry season, it’s possible to move around the area and enjoy a wide diversity of wildlife, including parrots from small conures to the once endangered hyacinth macaws.

This tour starts with a visit to meet acclaimed scientist Neiva Guedes. She almost single-handedly brought the hyacinth macaw back from the brink of extinction. Thanks to Neiva, this majestic macaw is now flourishing in several parts of Brazil.   Neiva also believes that parrots and humans must learn to live side-by-side in order for parrots to survive. She and her volunteers monitor macaw nests in the heart of a major city, Campo Grande. We enjoy visiting those nests and watching her scientific team at work.

Neiva Guedes and Luiz Paiva Filho

Neiva Guedes and Luiz Paiva Filho

Next, the trip includes a stay at two fazendas (or ranches) where wild parrots often abound. In past trips we watched nanday conures gulping down dung from farm animals, a pionus eating cashew flowers, macaws and Amazons flying overhead looking for mates or nesting sites, and quakers fiercely protecting their extraordinary nests.

quaker (2)

Nanda conuress eating dung

Nanday conures eating dung

Blue front Amazon foraging and having fun

Blue front Amazon foraging and having fun

The trip ends with a visit to the indescribable Buraco das Araras, known as the hole of the macaws, where greenwings and other parrots fly below into a deep sinkhole. Here is a brief movie to give you a flavor for this enchanted home to greenwings, peach front conures, very rare yellow-faced Amazons, and much other wildlife.

While visiting in 2014, we actually witnessed a pair of greenwings take on a pair of unfledged vultures. As you can see in this photo, they had a brief encounter and the vulture was thrown into the 300’ deep sinkhole by the macaw. It was shocking!   The macaws clearly wanted the vulture’s nest hole for their own, and they were willing to fight to the death for it. What might this say for some of the macaw behavior you see in your own home?

Greenwing macaw takes on a young vulture

Greenwing macaw takes on a young vulture

Lastly, we have an amazing guide, Luiz Paiva Filho. He has a gifted knowledge of Brazilian wildlife, is fluid in English, and most of all has a herculean heart when it comes to the lives of parrots. We cannot imagine a trip there without him by our side. Luiz will often say “life is beautiful!” and you just know he means it. Life is indeed beautiful in the rugged floodplains of the Pantanal.

You can also read about our 2014 trip in two exceptional blog posts by Susan Orosz, PhD,DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian), Dipl ECZM (Avian). It was extra special to have her and Dr. Rhoda Stevenson, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian) with us on the last trip!

If you’d like to join us for the next tour in September 2015, you can find more information about it at phoenixlanding.org.  All our trips include a tax-deductible donation for conservation projects in Brazil. Helping wild parrots is very important too!

Fun With Foraging

More and more parrot owners are hearing that their parrots should be foraging for their food.

Even many vets are recommending foraging as part of a treatment plan for such issues as obesity, screaming, feather destruction and other undesirable issues. Unfortunately, more often than not, little if any information is given on exactly how to provide foraging opportunities, how to teach a parrot to forage, or what kind of foods can be used in foraging.

On February 9, 2013, in Towson Maryland, Phoenix Landing presented a class called Fun With Foraging, where these issues were discussed. Simple steps were shown teaching parrot owners how to introduce their birds to foraging and how to slowly build complexity and challenge into foraging opportunities without frustrating the parrot or the owner.  Ideas were given on how owner could make many foraging items themselves, and adapt toys they may already have for their parrots into foraging toys. Various options were explored as to how to provide foraging not only for pellets and nuts, but fresh, cooked and dehydrated foods.

For those who were not able to attend the class, I have made the slide show presentation available here. And though it’s never as good as attending a class in person, I hope you get some good ideas for adding foraging into your parrot’s life.

Please share some of your foraging experiences!

Author’s Note: Special thanks to Kris Porter, David Hull, Nyla Copp, Carina Law, Cheryl Celso, Karin Olausson, Kathy James, Sheron White Hagelston, Angela Harrison, Anna McGregor, Jennifer Slaughter, Lisa Bakalars, Leanne Burton and Debbie Russell for use of the great photos.
There are a couple photos in the presentation that I could not tract down who the photographer was but they were too awesome not to use. If you see a photo that is yours, please accept my apologies and let me know which one it is so that I can give you the credit due.

Go Outside!

Earlier this spring I had the great pleasure to attend a Phoenix Landing lecture, with guest speaker Nyla Copp, “Get  The Flock Out!” in which she discussed the importance  for the health of our parrots  to provide them with  time outdoors in the sunshine & fresh air. Exposure to UV light is vital to parrots in order for them to produce vitamin D, which is essential for the utilization of calcium, a necessity for parrot health. There is no better source for UV light than pure, unfiltered sunshine. Parrots have a highly refined respiratory system which makes them more susceptible to chemicals and contaminants in the air. With indoor air quality decreasing over the years, avian vets have been seeing an increase in the number of companion parrots with respiratory illnesses. This was true of the little lovebird, Orlando, who came to live with Nyla several years ago. Nyla combined her construction skills, creativity, and passion for providing the best care possible for her new companion and built Orlando an outdoor aviary. Through her business, My Birdie Buddy, Nyla now designs and builds custom aviaries, as well as unique perches and playstands. In her presentation she shared invaluable tips and advice on design, materials and construction techniques for building aviaries, from simple to elaborate, from enclosing a porch or deck to building large free-standing structures or small portable ones, and left the entire audience longing for their own aviaries for their birds.

I have yet to build an aviary, for my requirements for one are high, as it must be able to contain my very powerful GreenWing Macaw, Annie, and be big enough to allow each bird to have enough personal space to prevent fighting and allow flight. In truth, I think I will need at least two separate enclosures; but this does not mean that my birds are sitting indoors waiting for me while I plan and dream and research aviaries? NO! We go outside as often as we can, nearly every day.


From my very first days with parrots, I have always taken them outside. At first, my little parrotlets were in a cage that I could pick up and carry so I would bring them out and set them on a table or bench or chair whenever I was out working in the yard. Then when Ariel joined the family, her cage was too large for me to carry around, and a friend gave me an older, travel sized cage which we used. But even that was very awkward, as it became more challenging to find places to safely set her outdoor cage.

Then one day I was attending a Phoenix Landing event, and I saw John Kerns, rolling a travel cage mounted to a babystroller frame. Wow, what a great idea! John told me that his wife Bobbie put them together and calls them “cageollers” and  most generously offered this one to me! I will be forever grateful! Thank you, thank you John & Bobbie!
Once home I mounted Ariel’s outside cage onto the stroller frame and secured it firmly with zip ties (the cage that John gave me had bar spacing to large for Ariel’s little head). Now she traveled with me all around the yard wherever I went, she could reach through the bars and nibble on parrot safe plants, could easily be moved in or out of the sun or shade, with ease and safety.
From the day I knew that we would be getting Trixie, I began looking for a second stroller base to build a cageoller for her.  I had no luck finding another like Ariel’s, and upon meeting Trixie, a BIG Blue & Gold Macaw, realized I needed something bigger anyway. We had a large wire dog crate in our attic that would work as a cage section, and I just needed to find a base. While glancing through one of my husband’s tool catalogs, Harbor Freight Tools, I noticed an ad for a flat (no sides) powder coated steel garden wagon. I checked the measurement of the wire crate, 36” long x 23”wide x 24”high, and realized it would fit nearly perfectly on the 24”x48” wagon, all the better that it was on sale! I removed the bottom plastic tray from the wire crate, and again used zip ties to attach the two together, trimming off the excess of the tie. I initially replaced the plastic tray, but realized that without the tray, poop, and water from misting, and pieces of food could fall straight through into the grass, resulting in less required clean-up.
As I continued to foster various birds for Phoenix Landing, I kept searching for baby carriage bases, still with no luck, so I consulted the cageoller creator, Bobbie, again. She was now buying used Snap-N-Go stroller bases, made by Baby Trend. This is a stroller base designed for a baby car seat to be snapped into place, and comes in a single and double model. Used ones can be found for sale on Craig’s List. Bobbie uses the double stroller frame with a wire dog crate, like that first one that her husband John gave me, for her macaws and larger Amazons. These would be suitable for larger cockatoos as well. For smaller birds, I have used standard “pet store” bird cages, as there are so many around that are really too small for a parrot to live in, but this puts them to good use. (Important side note here, make sure all doors, even food bowl doors are very securely latched when using these cages outdoors, use quicklinks, clamps or zip ties for extra safety.)
One of the major downfalls of using this type of cage for cageollers though, is that since my birds really love being misted (and I mean soaked down to the skin wet!) nearly every time we go outside, the cages were rusting and powder coating peeling off very quickly.

That’s when I came across the King’s aluminum travel carriers (contact Phoenix Landing for purchasing questions). They all have 5/8” bar spacing, this would work for all but the smallest birds. The larger one is 20x29x20, the smaller one is 18 1/2×16 1/2x 18. Aluminum is very light weight, will not chip, flake or rust like powder coating. I will admit they are pricey, but I look at it as a long-term investment.
The Kings are too small for Trixie and Annie macaws who still use the wire dog crates, but they work great for my other birds, so everyone has a cageoller to fit their needs.

Cageollers are great for traveling with your birds too. Once removed from the cage/carrier, the stroller folds flat, and when you reach your destination, reattach the cage to the stroller using several bungee cords, or you could use zipties, just remember to bring scissors to cut them off when you are ready to take the cageoller apart for the trip back home.

So go find a cage or carrier appropriate for your bird, pick up a stroller or wagon, build your own cageoller, and get outside this summer!

Made by Judy for her birds Dixie and Wilson

Join us for the Parrot Wellness Retreat

You’re invited to The Phoenix Landing Foundation’s…

PARROT WELLNESS RETREAT
OCTOBER 20-21, 2012
UNC-ASHEVILLE, NC
A Weekend of Knowledge and Hands-On Training for Parrot Professionals and Owners

An amazing combination of teachers will join us for an exceptional event in one of the most beautiful fall locations in the country.

This retreat is an opportunity to learn about many aspects of avian health, from basic topics like feather health and nutrition, to the more complex issues like sensory perception and how the parrot brain functions.

In addition, there will be side labs where you can acquire some hands-on training for things like how to medicate or towel your bird, how to make nutritious foods, or create some extraordinary enrichment items.

Understanding avian medicine makes it easier to work with our veterinarians to protect the well-being of our birds. This gives our parrots the opportunity to live the long, healthy lives that they deserve.

The Wellness Retreat will focus on assisting companion parrot owners with the tools they need to understand avian medicine and care for their birds.

RETREAT TOPICS:

  • Disease Update
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Avian Emergencies
  • The Avian Exam and Nutriceuticals
  • Nutrition
  • Spiritual and Emotional Communication
  • Husbandry Training
  • The Brain and Special Senses
  • Social Needs of Parrots
  • The Miracle of Flight
  • Aging Parrots
  • Relationship to the Outdoors
  • Wise Arrangement of the Indoors
  • How to Medicate and Towel a bird
  • Laser Therapy
  • Making Mash and Other Good Foods
  • Enrichment Ideas

Entire conference earns 14 IAABC Continuing Education Credits (CEUs)


Registration: $75 for 2-full day sessions. $15 for lunch each day.

We recommend making hotel reservations ASAP! Asheville is very busy during the fall leaf season.

For more details about this amazing event, speaker biographies, and to register, please go to  http://phoenixlanding.org/wellnessretreat

 

Mardi Gras

On Saturday, March 3, 2012, Phoenix Landing hosted its 5th Annual Mardi Gras!  This event is intended for potential adopters to meet a wide variety of adoptable birds and learn about different species.  We had a range of parrots there from parakeets to cockatoos.  There were parakeets, cockatiels, a Quaker, a Senegal, Conures, Lories, Meyers, Amazons and Cockatoos.

Meet some of the parrots looking for new adoptive homes:

Riley, a Black Capped Lory

Xavier and Tootie, Meyers

Kiwi, a Senegal

Luke, an Umbrella Cockatoo

Gabe, a Jenday conure

The event was attended by lots of people and lots of birds went to new approved homes where we are hoping they will be a match and get adopted. In order for birds to move to new homes from this event, you must have already submitted your application, attended a required class and had a home visit done.  For more information about this process, please visit our website at:

http://www.phoenixlanding.org/adoption.html

2012 Mari Gras

At each Phoenix Landing event we sell supplies and usually have a raffle to benefit the parrots of Phoenix Landing.

Phoenix Landing Sales Tables

Phoenix Landing Raffle

Phoenix Landing puts on 3 events like this one each year in the DC metro area. Upcoming adoption events:

  • 9th Annual Luau, Saturday, July 14th in Springfield, VA
  • 2nd Annual Fall Festival, Saturday, October 6th in Springfield, VA

Please mark your calendar and join us!

Nourish to Flourish: Chop Chop

Phoenix Landing hosted a very special guest, Ms. Patricia Sund!  She presented another seminar in our Nourish to Flourish series, called Chop Chop! Patricia has been creating Chop for many years and taught us how to master it.  Chop is a feeding concept.  How many parrot owners chop fresh veggies each morning and evening?  I know I do and it take so much time each day.  However, as a parrot owner I want to provide the best possible diet to my feathered friends as possible.  Chop is the way to go!  There is no recipe!!  You purchase fresh, seasonal, vegetables and greens that are available the time of year you make Chop.  Purchase organic when you can and check the dirty dozen list each year and make sure you purchase those items on the list in organic when possible.

Patricia Sund

Patricia Sund

Once all your ingredients are washed, dried, cooked, chopped, you mix them well and place in Ziploc baggies and freeze.  Make one baggie for each day.  Depending on the number and size of your parrots will depend on the size of bag you should use.

Greens used in Chop

Greens used in Chop

Some ingredients that you could use include the following:

Wheat grass powder

Dry oatmeal (old fashion raw cut)

Crush red peppers

Seeds like flax, rape, hemp, celery

Grains like kamut, rye berries, quinoa (cooked)

Wild Rice, brown rice (cooked)

Pastas like whole wheat, quinoa pasta (cooked)

Red, green, yellow, orange peppers

Hot Peppers

Carrots with tops

Zucchini

Turnips

Brussel sprouts

Ginger

Sweet Potatoes

Cauliflower

Butternut squash

Acorn squash

Swiss Chard (green or red)

Dandelion greens

Kale

Cilantro

Broccoli rabe

Red cabbage

Beet green (do not use the beet in Chop because it will turn it red.)

Garlic

This list could go on and go!!

For more information about Chop and to see instructional videos, please visit http://www.parrotnation.com.

The Phoenix Landing cookbook has more information about Chop and other recipes for our feathered friends.  The cookbook can be purchased at PL events or  on our website at http://www.phoenixlanding.org/books.html.

Good luck with your first batch of CHOP!