<strong><strong>A Bolivian Adventure, Wild Parrot Conservation</strong></strong>

A Bolivian Adventure, Wild Parrot Conservation

We have just returned from an adventurous two weeks in Bolivia. As with all our ecotours, the goal is to learn about native parrots and support conservation efforts. There are 54 psittacine species in Bolivia, ranging from the critically endangered red-fronted and blue-throated macaws, to a diverse number of other macaws, Amazons, conures, and pionus species. The Bolivian constitution is committed to the rights of all living creatures, but it is not an easy country to create NGOs (non-governmental organization). This poses challenges for much needed conservation organizations.

Our tour was organized by José Antonio Díaz Luque, a brilliant researcher and scientist from Spain who has spent the last 13 years of his life committed to helping the critically endangered blue-throated macaw, and other threatened species like the red-fronted macaw. Both of these macaws are down to small numbers and live in very remote areas.

The infrastructure of Bolivia is not set up for tourism, especially for seeing these particular birds. So, we found ourselves on many bumpy roads (and rivers!) traveling to remote areas; definitely an adventure. Sometimes if we want to see something rare, we have to work hard to get there, right?

In the Jardin Cactaceas Municipal Protected Area, community of Anamales, we parked in front of the roosting areas of the red-fronted macaw. There were a few individuals flying around and “shopping” for potential nesting areas. 

There are only an estimated SIX breeding pairs remaining in this protected area. However, thanks to the CLB Foundation (www.fclbolivia.org/, Facebook and Instagram), this small community is developing a true appreciation for the need to preserve the species. We were greeted kindly by the park ranger and families of the area, who provided us a wonderful lunch and friendly welcome. The children even wrote a poem about the birds which they recited for us.

Our tour group contributed some much appreciated medical supplies to the community. And thanks to Angie Yeung, owner of the Celltei company, Phoenix Landing was able to make a $1,000 donation for a community garden. This garden will benefit the local families as well as the rare stingless bees they are also breeding for medicinal honey, providing new economic opportunities for the families of this community.

When we show support for a community in the name of parrots, the people understand how much we care about the birds and this encourages them to invest in their protection as well. 

During our travels, we also saw many other species like the canary winged parakeet, conures (white eyed, green cheek, mitred), blue front Amazons, and other macaws (military, hahns, severe, and yellow collared). We thoroughly enjoyed watching their social behavior and the kinds of food they eat (flowers, pods, nuts).

We also came across an illegally kept captive blue and gold macaw on a home patio. This bird has severe feather destruction and has been deprived of baths and proper nutrition for many years. The government was notified and the bird was rapidly picked up for rehoming. More about that shortly!

One of the highlights of our trip was visiting CIESA – the Endangered Species Research Center, (Facebook and Instagram), where there are plans to breed blue-throated macaws for future reintroduction. We also visited the Gran Mojos Municipal Protected Area, where there are an estimated 50 wild blue throats in this protected area, and we saw about 12 that morning. Beautiful and rare!

At the CIESA center we met the blue-throated macaws who will be part of a future breeding program. CIESA does a great job of caring for the birds, and we were especially impressed with their diet program, which involves a wide variety of fresh foods rotated on a daily basis. Laura Epperson picked out some toys from our store to take along, to include skewers from Expandable Habitats. Just like our birds in captivity, skewers are a great way to encourage foraging and activity. Here is one of the skewers being used for food, and the blue-throat who was so excited to try it out!

We also met a group of very young canary wing parakeets that will be released soon. Look at this brilliant approach to teaching foraging and feeding. They put food on the browse and placed it in a carrier with the young birds. This simulates wild foraging and teaches the birds how to find food once they are released. Sheila Carpenter and Kathleen O’Neill generously donated money onsite to help the center build a larger enclosure for the birds, as the next step towards their future release.

We had the privilege of meeting the blue and gold macaw who was rescued a couple of days earlier. Dr. Rhoda Stevenson (ABVP-Avian) from the Exotic Bird Hospital in Jacksonville, FL was part of our group, and she was able to consult with Dr. Vania Gonzalez Rodriquez, a World Parrot Trust funded veterinarian onsite at CIESA. They even named her Phoenix, since we were instrumental in helping this distraught macaw to move forward to a better life!   

We would like to thank the incredible leaders of CLB (Lyliam Gonzalez, Pamela Suárez, and Cecelia Nuñez Poggi) for the efforts in facilitating our adventure and telling us about their exemplary work in the protected area communities; as well as the members of CIESA who hosted us at their center which will have an important role in the future survival of the blue-throated macaw (Vania Gonzalez, Marcella Franco, and Michael Arce). Phoenix Landing, along with the Lafeber Company, will be supporting the purchase of a much needed microscope and medical supplies for the CIESA center. Let us know if you would like to help too!

Most photos courtesy of Angie Yeung, thanks Angie!

It’s Cherry Season! Cherries are wonderful for parrots

by Ann Brooks

Cherries have many positive health benefits. They lower total cholesterol, are anti-inflammatory,  contain antioxidants, and are a natural source of melatonin.

As we learned from Dr. Rhoda Stevenson, DVM Diplomate ABVP-Avian during our recent Wellness Retreat, cherries are also a superstar healthy food for birds. Dr. Stevenson owns the Exotic Bird Hospital in Jacksonville, FL and gave us an informative talk about holistic supplements in avian practice.

Birds with poor kidney function often test high for uric acid. At some point, high uric acid can lead to gout, which is a very serious problem for parrots. Cherries can help to decrease uric acid and manage gout.

Having regular labwork can help your bird stay ahead of this problem, although sometimes the disease has seriously progressed before uric acid is noted. So maintaining a healthy diet is the key!

One of the main causes of kidney problems for birds is a seed-based diet. Please make sure your parrot enjoys a wholesome fresh veggie, fruit, legume, and grain diet, with access to plenty of fresh water and a quality pellet. Providing fresh foods takes more time and resources, but feeding cheap, unhealthy seeds to your bird will only cause ill health, high vet bills, and probable early death.

Here is Bertie enjoying her cherries and she likes to roll the cherry seed in her beak for awhile. We are not aware of cherry seeds being a problem for birds, they know how to discard them after a bit of fun!

A Space for Parakeets: Creating an Enriched Environment for Small Birds

by Tricia McManus

I never planned on adopting birds, until a cute little parakeet appeared in my backyard about five years ago. Since then I’ve become enamored with these small birds. In my desire to set up a good environment, I read a lot of books, took courses from Phoenix Landing, found ideas on the Internet, and sought advice from my vet.

Parakeet on top of a cage in a bird room with lots of enrichmentCages and perches – encourage exercise

Based on my vet’s advice, I chose double flight cages to provide plenty of room for exercise, including keeping a clear path for flight from end to end.  Perches of different materials, textures and thicknesses are provided for interest and foot health, including lots of different types of natural branches, rope, ladders, wood and metal platforms, along with a few wood dowels and concrete/pumice perches.  Rope perches are used on the outside of the cage and at the door entrances to make it easy for the birds to get in and out, and to provide additional places to play or hang out.  I like the ropes, because they can be configured in many ways, and the plastic end caps are safe inside the cage.  Long ladders can also be used between the floor and the cage doors if your bird spends time on the floor.

Two blue parakeets are seen in a room - on a cage. In the room there are playstands and perches. There are also toys, swings, perches and tents on the shelving in the room for the birds.Toys – Projects to keep birds active and busy    

Toys are the fun part!  There are an incredible variety of toys available to keep our birds busy and active and give them choices.   Swinging and moving toys and perches provide variety and help with balance.  I look for a variety of material types, such as balsa wood, yucca or mahogany for chewing, different types of straw and vines, leather, bells and rattles, paper shreds, cardboard, plastic, and non-pill fleece.  The ends of paper cord often used for toy-making are also great chewing material.  One area for caution is bells.  Parakeets love them but some bells have heavy clappers that can contain lead.  If the clapper does not appear to be made from the same material as the bell, you might want to replace it with a plastic toy link.

Parakeets inside their cages, with ladders, toys, many different perches of different materials.Multiple places for food, water, light, and privacy (when needed)

My cages are set up to have multiple food and water areas to give every bird an opportunity in the event one bird becomes protective of the dishes.  Full spectrum daylight lamps are used during daylight hours, along with a UVA/UVB bird lamp for short intervals each day.  Each cage also has a few quiet resting areas that are shaded and hidden from view.  In setting up the cages, I also considered that each half of the cage could function independently with everything needed and varied experiences for one bird, in the event the divider needs to be inserted to separate the birds.

Evaluating and setting up the space: Safety, flexibility, and more

Parakeet room with hanging ladders and perches visibleThe first consideration is to evaluate your space and think about how the room will function, including identifying potential hazards.  I put decals on the windows and installed Venetian blinds to provide a buffer for potential crashes.  I also removed carpets and used furniture that’s easy to wipe clean.  I keep paper towels and a spray bottle with water handy for clean-up, along with a small broom & dustpan and a covered trash can.  If you notice a particular out-of-cage location where your bird spends time, placing paper towels or newspaper below that spot makes clean up easier.

My intent for the room was to provide lots of choices for flight and exercise, along with additional variety in experiences from what could be provided inside the cage.  Ideally, the birds would explore and use the entire room.  Moveable tables with play stands allow the room configuration to be changed.  A large dogwood tree branch was potted to provide views out the window, and spray oats or millet is sometimes clipped to it to encourage foraging.  Untreated baskets provide perches and play stations along the walls.  Hanging perches and ladders provide opportunities for swinging and movement.  A stud finder was used to locate structural ceiling joists, and eye bolts were installed to hang the toys.

Parakeet room - Playstands in view

Parakeet out in his playroom. Different play areas well in viewThe room and cages are evolving all the time as I continue to learn and come across new ideas and examples.  You will learn your bird’s preferences and what works best for you!

Lights, sideways basket on the wall, hanging toys, and more

Pumpkins for Parrots!

by Ann Brooks

Why pumpkin?

Phoenix Pumpkin
Birds require vitamin A, and many are deficient because of an inadequate diet. One of the best sources for vitamin A are foods rich in beta carotene. These are generally the dark orange, red, and green vegetables and fruits. So this is the perfect time of year to take advantage of current crops of scrumptious pumpkins and winter squashes. Not only are these beta carotene rich, but they also make a quick foraging activity.

Ways to serve pumpkin to parrots

Simply putting half a pie pumpkin or squash on a skewer, or in a bowl, can give a bird fun and exercise activity at the same time.  No need to remove the seeds! Just wash thoroughly prior to feeding, and buy organic if possible. You can leave cut pumpkins and squash out for 2-3 days, making for several days of fun!

What other foods are rich in Vitamin A?

Papillae

Pumpkin with chia hemp etc

1/2 pumpkin with chia, hemp, and almonds

Other vitamin A sources include carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, papaya (including seeds), cantaloupe (seeds especially good for macaws), leafy greens, apricots, and mango. If your bird is eating a packaged seed diet, it’s possible they are vitamin A deficient. A seed diet also leads to obesity! Try to convert your bird to a whole foods and pellet diet for long-term health.

Why is Vitamin A important for birds?

Birds with vitamin A deficiencies can have dull feathers,   and many other symptoms. Your avian veterinarian will check the papilliae in the roof of your bird’s mouth during their annual exams. Pointed papillae are a sign of good vitamin A health. Make sure your bird has the opportunity to enjoy these nutrient dense foods!

6 tips to help keep birds calm during fireworks or thunderstorms

by Michelle Underhill

Django_flagSome birds have no problem with thunderstorms or fireworks, and may even enjoy watching them. Others shake, hide, or, worse yet, bolt off or thrash. If you have one or more birds who are the latter, rather than the former, here are a few tips that might help calm your birds during Fourth of July fireworks or thunderstorms.

Tip 1: Keep them inside

If the July 4th neighborhood parties are in full swing, and firecrackers or fireworks are predicted, keep your bird inside. Even if they usually enjoy being in front of the window, make sure at least half of their cage or playstand is against a wall instead of glass, so they can move away from any scary sights. Of course, being inside and away from windows is important during a thunderstorm, too.

Tip 2: Make sure they have a place to hide if they choose to

In addition to having a place away from windows, put a large toy on their playstand or in their cage that they can go behind, and look out from, if they feel threatened. If your bird is fearful of new toys, add it in advance of storm season or a holiday with fireworks, to give them a chance to get used to it. Another option is to put a cover over part, but not all, of their cage, so they can go behind it if they choose to. Being able to choose whether they can hide or look around may help.

Tip 3: Be calm yourself, and present

We cannot always be home with our birds, but if you are home while neighborhood fireworks, or a thunderstorm, are happening, be in the same room with the bird who is anxious around loud noises, and do something calmly. It’s okay to talk to them quietly about the noises. This is a great time to read, perhaps even aloud to them! Or, to listen to music or watch a TV show together.

Tip 4: If away, leave some music on

If you are away when fireworks are scheduled or a thunderstorm is predicted, you may want to leave the radio on for your bird, or a white noise machine. If your bird has musical preferences, try leaving something on that they enjoy. This may help to give them something else to focus on.

Tip 5: Try a calming supplement

There are several supplements I have used to help calm nervous animals during thunderstorms or fireworks. As with anything, check with your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns about using them with your birds. Bach’s Rescue Remedy is available at stores like Whole Foods, as well as at some good pet supply stores. The pet and children’s versions of Rescue Remedy do not contain alcohol in them, so are safer for pets. (Sometimes the children’s version is less expensive than the pet one.) I have also used Animal Essentials’ Tranquility Blend with birds. It does contain Valerian, so may make some birds sleepy. Many online retailers (Amazon, Chewy, etc.) sell these, too.

Adding dried chamomile and/or lavender flowers to food, or brewing some chamomile tea and serving it room temperature, may also be helpful. Always make sure fresh water is also available to the bird if serving tea. During thunderstorm season, I have at times left some room temperature chamomile tea that includes a few drops of Rescue Remedy in it in a bird’s cage who gets stressed by noisy thunderstorms while I am away at work.

Tip 6: Reward calm behavior during loud noises, storms, or fireworks

Especially if you already use positive reinforcement training with your birds, rewarding calm behavior in your birds during a thunderstorm or fireworks is a great way to assist them with remaining calm during such times. I start ahead of the storm or predicted fireworks by giving treats for doing everyday, normal behaviors. This means telling the bird s/he is good and rewarding with a tiny treat or attention (whatever the reinforcer might be) for eating, preening, playing with toys, sitting with fluffed, relaxed feathers, etc. You can continue rewarding calm behavior during the thunderstorm. Of course, never punish a bird for not being calm. Simply reward them if they are calm.

What are your tips for keeping birds calm during fireworks or thunderstorms?

If your birds aren’t concerned by fireworks or storms – wonderful! If you have had birds who are, and have found additional tips to help them, please share them in the comments.

We wish you a safe, happy, wonderful 4th of July!