BIRDIE-WALKS: An Essential Part of Your Parrot’s Mental Health

By Suzanne and Larry Cromwell

Have you ever wondered how you could provide a high place in your home or in your aviary for your birds?

We have a high “birdie walk” in our Florida home. Our pair of Timneh greys are constantly either walking on it, resting on it, or climbing up and down from it. They love it and even need it. We knew before we left our home in Hobe Sound, Florida for our summer house in Milbridge, Maine, that one serious problem was going to be the lack of a birdie walk there. We have a high ceiling in our newly constructed bird room in Maine but had nothing for our Timneh greys to roost on higher than their cages. The result was not pretty. Our almost 54-year-old wild-caught, former breeder pair, mostly just moped in their cage for the first couple of weeks until we were able to construct a suitable substitute for their beloved high roost back home.

We all know that attaching to walls usually results in wall damage. And if you can’t or don’t want to hang something from the ceiling, what are your options? We knew it would have to be free-standing and sturdy.

With a great deal of help from one of the construction crew members, who built our bird room addition, we have come up with a way to build a simple platform for our Timneh Greys to hang out on.

Our birdy platform is 9 ½ feet off the ground but you can build yours at any height that is high enough to be above everything else in the room but low enough so the birds can’t damage the ceiling or the walls.

The support bases for the columns are two heavy duty Christmas tree stands that are tested for trees up to 10 feet tall with a trunk diameter of up to 7 inches.  In our case, our carpenter and very helpful friend provided two 9 foot tree trunks that are approximately 7 inches in diameter. He sawed them down on his land and transported them to our house. We screwed them into the stands and then screwed in a 4” x 1” board on the top of the trunk columns. Our board is 13 feet long but you can’t have a span of more than 6 feet if you don’t want the board to sag in the middle. So our board extends on both sides of the trunks.  We used poplar but any bird-safe wood can work.

We provided both a swing with bird-safe ropes that can be climbed as well as a rope spiral to climb up to the roost. We attached the spiral rope to the top of their cage and attached it to a hook on the platform.  The swing and the rope spiral are attached to hooks (facing in) which made replacing the rope swing and rope spiral easy to do.  We also attached two outriggers for the birds to sit on. This construction is heavy and is not intended to be moved, so place it where you can easily clean around it.

We chose the largest trunk that the stands could support for stability, which we would recommend but the height will depend on your space. Even a foot higher than the cage height will give them a great place to climb up to. 

Our Timneh greys are almost 54 years old and can no longer fly up due to arthritis, but they can and do climb and go up and down many times during the day. If your birds are able to fly up and down they will enjoy it too. We cannot put a tree in our bird room, but I can assure you that they enjoy this enrichment.  They rarely come down except to eat, bathe, and sleep. We think it has saved their lives. It has certainly made them better!

Editor’s note: See more about their Florida birdie-walk in an earlier blog post:
https://blog.phoenixlanding.org/2017/05/27/birdiewalk/

These wild caught Timneh greys were adopted through Phoenix Landing in 2013 and have been living their best possible life since. It’s very hard to find adopters who simply appreciate the magic of birds, without expectation, especially a bonded pair. Suzanne and Larry are extraordinary and we are so grateful!

<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!

Are the Air Fryers from the Instant Pot company safe for use around parrots or other birds? 

Researching whether small appliances contain non-stick coatings is important

Many small kitchen appliances have polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and perfluorooctanoic (PFOA) non-stick coatings on them, which can be deadly to birds. If you have any questions concerning whether or not an appliance you are considering contains them, it is best to email the company that manufactures it with the appliance number and ask if the appliance itself, or any accessories that come with it, contain PTFE or other non-stick coatings.

So, while this information only pertains to one company’s products, if you are considering an air fryer or other small appliance from any company, inquiring with the company before purchasing or using it is important.

Christine Chaffee’s research on air fryers from Instant Pot Company

Christine Chaffee recently was in the market for an air fryer, and because Instant Pot had been so responsive in the past concerning whether their Instant Pots contained non-stick coatings, she wrote to the company to find out if any of their air fryers or toaster ovens with convection/air fryer settings included non-stick coatings.

One model, the Omni 26 Toast Oven (NOT the Plus model) doesn’t contain PTFE

What she found was that one model, the Omni 26 Toaster Oven (NOT the Omni Plus 26 Toaster Oven) was free of PTFE and other non-stick coatings in the appliance itself and its accessories.

From Christine:

I really wanted an Air Fryer but have heard reports of bird deaths due to their use.    I decided to phone the Instant Pot company to get information on the Air Fryers that they sell and to ask about PTFE, Teflon, or any other material that could harm our birds.

I found there is 1 model only that is safe.   I will be buying that model.

I have attached the letter from Instant Pot regarding the safety of their Air Fryers, and they freely admit all other models are not to be used with birds.   The model I will be buying is actually a toaster oven air fryer.

Feel free to spread this information to all of your bird groups.

InstantPot, support
To: Christine Chaffee
Oct 25 at 2:22 PM

Hello Christine,

Thank you for calling us regarding the materials in our various air frying appliances. We take concerns for pet health very seriously, and we are happy to ensure our customers are informed of any potential risks.

Please refer to the following material information for each model:

Omni 26 Toaster Oven:

The cooking pan is made with an enamel-coating
The rotisserie spit, lift, and forks are stainless-steel: 201 and 304
The oven rack and air fry basket are chrome
The interior of the oven has no coating

Omni Plus 26 Toaster Oven:

The cooking pan is made with an enamel-coating
The rotisserie spit, lift, and forks are stainless steel: 201 and 304
The oven rack and air fry basket are chrome
The interior of the oven has a non-stick PTFE coating*

Vortex and Vortex Plus 6-Quart Air Fryers:

Both air fryers have a non-stick PTFE coating on their cooking trays*

Vortex Plus 10-Quart Air Frying Oven:

The rotisserie spit, lift, and forks are stainless-steel: 201 and 304
The cooking trays and drip trays have a non-stick PTFE coating*

*Because of the presence of PTFE in the cooking trays of the Vortex air fryers and air frying ovens, these would not meet your requirements for a PTFE-free product.

*The Omni Plus 26 also has a PTFE coating on the interior, so it would not meet your requirements either.

The Omni 26 contains no PTFE. It contains enamel coating, stainless steel, and chrome in its various parts.

If there are any other materials besides PTFE that may cause a potential risk, please let us know and we would be happy to confirm if they are used in a specific product.

We hope this information will help you select an appliance that is safe to use in your home without affecting your pet. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Matthew J.
Instant Brands – Customer Care
1-800-828-7280

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!