Birdie Walk, A Ceiling Playground

By Suzanne Cromwell

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

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

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

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

Birdie Walk

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

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

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

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

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Learning from life with a foster parrot

By Carrie J. Sidener, Foster for Phoenix Landing

It’s been a month since Simon moved in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, he has some weird obsession with my ears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Personal Space, Birds Need It Too

By Emily Sharp

If you have a bird, there is a chance that you may be giving it too much phyiscal affection. Yes, there is such a thing as too much love, especially with birds.

Imagine being a bird in captivity, where an entirely different species than your own is gawking all over you. It doesn’t feel natural for them, and it certainly doesn’t build a trusting relationship. Birds need their own space in order to feel safe. Being too touchy-feely with a bird can be smothering and uncomfortable. In order to build a trusting relationship with your bird, focus more on using positive reinforcement to teach other hands-off type activities.

Using positive reinforcement with your bird for behaviors that you wish to increase (think of different training exercises) is much more satisfying for them. In training, parrots are using similar thought processes as they would in the wild. This gives them a vital element of mental health while they learn new concepts. Providing training opportunities using positive reinforcement for success is giving them recognition for their accomplishments, while respecting their intelligence.

I know it is difficult to avoid over cuddling your parrot, but it’s something we must do in order to give birds a satisfying life in captivity. If your bird notices the lack of physical contact, I’m sure it will have even more appreciation for you because you are respecting its needs.

Emily lives in South Carolina.  As part of a school project, she fostered Cupid for Phoenix Landing. She taught Cupid many skills and tricks using positive reinforcement, and realized that one of the best ways to build trust with a parrot is to do things together that don’t always involve touching, which can make some birds uncomfortable.  Emily has recently been accepted to work with the Blue Throated Macaw Conservation Project in Bolivia.  We thank her for her dedication to wild and captive parrots!  

Here is a video that Emily made for her project:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0shOapmOavpMHF6VllaUk1UY28/view

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?