Rain and Bow and the road to better health

Help birds like Rain and Bow through the Phoenix Landing Healthy Parrot Medical Fund! Up to $2500 in donations will be matched by generous supporters between November 15 – 23, 2019.

For information about adopting Rain and Bow, see their Petfinder profile, and information about Phoenix Landing’s Adoption process.

This is the story of Rain and Bow, two male cockatiels who came to Phoenix Landing with 34 other cockatiels in the Spring of 2017. They were initially in a group of 167 cockatiels who had been living in horrid conditions in a home in Pennsylvania. Many kind, compassionate people helped them get better. And, our hope is that someone soon will help them turn the page to begin that next chapter, by adopting them into a loving, knowledgeable, patient home.

In the beginning

After learning a shelter in Pennsylvania had received 167 cockatiels and desperately needed help placing them, Phoenix Landing’s Maryland Adoption Coordinator, Debbie Russell, and committed volunteer, Anne Hawthorn, made the trip to Pittsburg to pick up 36 of them to help. Donated supplies and cages from The Parrot Posse allowed us to house and care for so many at once. Many amazing people stepped up to adopt or foster many of these cockatiels, and provide them with a better life. Hawthorn herself graciously fostered many of them until they could be placed with other volunteers or adopters.

Finally breathing easier

Rain and Bow battled respiratory issues until August of this year when, finally, they can now breathe easier! Bow, especially, had very persistent respiratory infections. We are grateful to the knowledgeable team of experts at Stahls Exotic Animal Veterinary Services, who remained committed to helping us see them through to healthier days. Numerous appointments, diagnostics, radiographs, medicine, and more were required before they were healthy. The total amount for their veterinary bills between 2017 – 2019 is $2979.86. Over $2100 of that was from 2019. But, it got us to that happy announcement this past August that Bow seemed to have finally beat the respiratory issues that he just couldn’t seem to completely kick previously. It was, indeed, happy news to us all!

Volunteers made a huge difference in Rain and Bow’s lives

Beyond just the medical care that was needed, they needed caring, compassionate, knowledgeable volunteers to foster them. Not everyone is prepared to administer medicine to a bird who is wary of hands, and we are grateful to those who stepped up to help them, and helped them day in and day out. As such, we’d like to highlight some stories from two of their most recent fosters, about their time with Rain and Bow!

Catherine fostered Rain and Bow from 2018 through July 2019. She helped them through several respiratory issues, and brought them in for exams when there were signs something wasn’t right. She administered medicine when they were ill. She fostered them for about a year (a long time to foster), until she had upcoming changes so sought a new foster for them.

After we sent out a few requests for a new foster home for these special boys, Ava came forward, continued their care, and has been fostering them since. Bow had an especially difficult time getting over the respiratory infection. Radiographs and additional diagnostics were done, and a more aggressive, multi-prong approach was recommended to finally get him through it. It worked! Rain and Bow would not be healthy now, though, without the incredible care they received in their foster homes and at SEAVS.

We hope their next move will be to a home that hopes to adopt them! (Could that be you?)

Catherine’s Story: Fostering Rain and Bow

During the year I fostered Rain and Bow, they were pretty easy little birds. They never had night frights and readily returned to their cage for bedtime. With time and persistence, Rain eventually showed some interest in shredding toys. Overall, they are not loud, playful, or mischievous. When let out of their cage, they enjoy sitting on top of it or walking on the floor foraging. While they are fine being around other birds, they mostly prefer one another’s company. Rain and Bow are great birds that enjoy the simple pleasures of a full food bowl, fresh water, and a nightlight for bedtime.

Bow kind of takes care of Rain. I often saw Bow preening Rain, and where Rain went, Bow followed.

Because of Bow’s persistent respiratory infections, Bow had weekly showers to help his sinuses. While he wasn’t fond of them, he became accustomed to the weekly routine and accepted them.

I tried to get them to try new foods, and wheatgrass was the first one they were brave enough to try. Rain is very curious, so he was the first to try it. In fact, with time and patience, after building trust with him, Rain will take food from your hand.

Ava’s Story: Fostering Rain and Bow

Rain and Bow came across my Facebook feed as a request to help two cockatiels in Northern Virginia who needed nursing back to health.  At first, I pushed it to the back of my mind – there are lots of people who might want to help.  A few days later, I saw the request again, and tried to ignore it, telling myself that I had too much going on.  The third time I saw it, I knew it had to be me: I am in NoVa and local to SEAVS; I’ve been a bird owner almost as long as I’ve been alive; I’ve worked in multiple veterinary clinics so I’m familiar with medicating animals, dosing, signs and symptoms, etc; and finally, I’ve also done raptor rehab. I figured if I could handle hand feeding and medicating aggressive red-tailed hawks and sharp little kestrels, two cockatiels would be nothing.

I arrived at SEAVS not sure what condition to expect the birds to be in.  The vet tech went over medications and dosage, Rain scrambled around looking terrified and hyper-vigilant, and a fluffed-up Bow tried to sleep.  Meanwhile, I focused on learning their markings to tell them apart later – Bow was still sick but Rain had been cleared and would no longer need medication.  When I finally got them home and settled in, I covered their cage and began making up a daily checklist of medications for the next 14 days – pain medicine once daily, oral antibiotics twice daily, boric acid saline flush once daily (which required diluting boric acid into the saline by hand), followed by two different nasal drops administered 5 minutes later, 5 minutes apart.  I printed out my chart and wondered if I had gotten in over my head.  And then I heard one of the boys grind his beak.  I knew I’d done the right thing, and I knew the birds were going to be fine.

14 days eventually turned into nearly a month of medicating Bow, but a few days after that we were able to move them out of quarantine and began introducing them to our flock. Now they hold their own, much to my inquisitive Illiger’s chagrin, and while they are still very nervous about people, they’ve been making good strides on stepping up to be moved back and forth from cage to play stand.  Rain is vocal, and while Bow sometimes joins in, Rain can be counted on 100% to sing his song exactly when things get too quiet — like when the entire house tries to nap on a weekend!

Tips for Living with a Special Needs Bird

by Dawn Grace

Special needs Quaker parakeet hanging out with cockatooIs it more work to live with a special needs bird? Not necessarily!

Living with a parrot is challenging, no doubt about it.  So, does that mean that living with a handicapped parrot is more difficult?  Not necessarily!  The basics still apply – ample cage space, good nutrition, proper avian vet care, environmental enrichment and safety.  With a few adjustments, you can help your bird live fully with its disability.

My experience with a special needs bird

My experience has involved 18 years living with a doubly handicapped Quaker.  He came to me with a missing foot.  Many years into our journey, he also managed to fall, which resulted in losing his sight in one eye.  Since his foot had been that way since birth or nearly so, it didn’t slow him down at all.  Birds use their beaks as an appendage for many activities anyway!  He did, however, go through a period after the blindness where he was less active.  I watched him carefully to see how I could help.  Approaching him from the sighted eye was an easy adjustment for me, and gave him more security.

Thinking outside the box concerning housing and enrichment

For a disabled bird, you may have to think outside of what is recommended for cages, play stands, or enrichment.  For example, if a bird is blind, has arthritis, or is missing a limb, work with your veterinarian to consider what an optimal environment looks like concerning cage size, shape, and placement. What modifications cane be made for your bird to feel and be safe? Sometimes, special perches, like corner perches, can be easier for special needs birds to stand on.  In some cases, a bird who is very challenged with mobility might do better in a space with enrichment and perching opportunities that are low in the cage, to prevent falls.

Observing your bird in the cage helps.  Can he get around the toys without difficulty?  Are there enough perches, in various widths and types, to allow access to the bowls (ideally there are three bowls – water, pellets, and fresh food)?  Parrots in general like to hunt (forage) for their food.  That is what they would do naturally in the wild.  However, foraging might look a little different depending on your bird.  Start easy and small – a tasty item covered with a thin tissue for example.  It might be that a handicapped parrot wants its environment simple.  Making this decision, as with all the choices suggested here, is one that is best chosen by you, as you spend time watching your companion (and keeping in contact with your vet too!).

Flight may be especially important

Another option to consider with handicapped birds is the opportunity to fly.  As with any parrot, you should always be aware of the environment. Our homes have many dangerous opportunities for a bird, including but not limited to other pets, open water (toilets, tubs, pans), ceiling fans, hot stoves, fireplaces, windows, and doors. My birds have their own room with a door that can be shut, keeping them safe from kitchen, bathroom, and other dangers.  If the Quaker falls in the bird room, he can more easily fly to the ground without hurting himself. To allow a bird flight is a very individual decision.  Again, checking with your vet first to weigh the pros and cons is essential.

Special needs Quaker parakeet eatingNutrition and food

Nutrition remains the same for the disabled bird, with one possible exception.  A beak injury may require syringe feeding or a mash diet, instead of more whole foods.  Please do your best to offer a healthy varied diet, including pellets, seeds & nuts in moderation, and plenty of veggies, fruit, whole grains and omega 3 sources (including but not limited to flax seed, chia seed and walnuts).

Veterinary visits

A yearly visit to your avian vet applies to full bodied and disabled parrots equally.  Baseline blood work can help you help your bird through all the transitions of life.  Additionally, this visit can alert you to possible deficiencies in your bird’s diet.

The most important thing to remember in caring for your bird (handicapped or otherwise) –please give him or her plenty of loving attention, with intention.