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  • Can I give my bird the branches, leaves, pods from the Australian Crows Ash tree?
    Yes all parts of this tree are safe.
  • Plant Toxins
    People need to be aware of toxins within plants, seeds and fruits before providing these to your bird. It is important to note that just because you may see a wild bird eating a particular fruit seed, berry or nut etc, this does not mean that it may be safe for your bird to eat. Birds in the wild have a natural process through foraging different foods and materials that counteract the reactions of certain toxins within plants and fruits. For example, Gloria Scholbe an author for The Holistic Bird Newsletter states within her literature that Macaws in South America eat many seeds which contain toxins and to rid their systems of these toxins they eat large quantities of clay per day
  • Safe Plants for your Parrots.
    This link provides information on safe wood,trees and bushes for you parrots. Click here
  • Should I bathe my bird? How often and why is it important?
    Many of the parrot species popular as companion animals today are considered `neo-tropical parrots which basically means that their natural distribution is within the tropical latitudes of the globe. These areas are high humidity and often high rainfall areas, therefore many parrot species in the wild are presented with frequent or seasonal opportunities to bathe and shower. Moisture is essential for long-term feather health and condition and supports proper preening behaviours so therefore opportunities to have feathers dampened helps to reduce poor feathering and in the case of flighted birds will even aid mobility. Species that particularly prone to feather picking behaviours, such as African Grey Parrots, Eclectus Parrots and numerous Indonesian species of lories and cockatoos, rely on regular bathing to stimulate proper preening and feather care behaviours. The combination of a nutritionally sound diet and regular bathing opportunities results in an optimum level of feather condition. How Do I Go About Bathing My Parrot? The techniques used to bathe or provide parrots with access to feather dampening vary and we now consider this essential husbandry role at a species-specific level. In the wild there are parrot species that leaf bathe, those that bathe in pools of water and those that wait for rain showers. Not all parrots appear to appreciate being wet and yet some relish the opportunity so it is important to make a judgement as to the technique used depending on the reactions of the individual bird. Here's a useful strategy guide for bathing parrots: Outdoor Misting: Use a hose nozzle that caters for an ultra fine mist. Direct the mist above where the bird is placed and allow it to fall in a manner that simulates natural rain. Its a great idea to do this at the same time as regular cage cleaning 2 jobs covered at once! Always mist/shower early in the day and not on windy days where the combination of being damp, cold and in a draft can potentially contribute to illness in birds that may have a compromised immune status. If the hose and water spray has an aversive affect on your parrot then try simply placing the cage beside a garden bed and mist that area with incidental water reaching the cage. Gradually extend the water coverage of the cage in response to a reduction in fear towards the water. Indoor misting: You can utilise a standard garden spray bottle set to a fine mist. You may even try different water temperatures and see if your parrot has a preference. In my experience parrots are often more responsive to cold water than warm water. Never direct a spray bottle towards a parrot and always allow the mist to fall gently from above. Leaf Bathing: Use a section of leafy Eucalypt branch and heavily dampen this with water. Place this in the enclosure and allow your parrot to play amongst the wet leaves on the branch. Bowl Bathing: Use heavy, glazed crock bowls with shallow sides and large diameter for this purpose. Ensure that water depth is not deeper than allowing the bird to sit in the bowl with a water level not greater than their flanks. The Shower: It may seem odd to some but many parrot owners regularly take a shower with their parrot joining in! Special shower perches are even available on the Internet to give your parrot a place to perch so these could be worth investigating. Food for Thought Without regular opportunities to bathe the feather condition and potentially even the skin condition of your parrot may deteriorate. Lack of bathing opportunity has been linked to problem behaviours such as feather picking and poor preening behaviours. Always take a common sense approach to bathing your aim is to ensure that it is non-intrusive, non-stressful, facilitated only when weather conditions are suitable for feather drying and the bathing strategy used is species, or even individually, appropriate.
  • Sunlight
    Sunlight contains UV rays that provide essential vitamin D3 for birds. This is a vital supplement for breeding birds and to provide ultimate health for your bird. Having a bird near a window in the house does not provide sufficient light needed to give the birds this essential vitamin, as windows block out the sunlights UV rays.
  • Toxic Fumes
    Cleaning products, pesticides and Teflon dishes should not be used when your bird is in the house. The bird should be put outdoors when these products are used, and the house should be aired out after using these products to ensure there are no gases remaining.
  • What is a safe way of removing or discouraging ants in the aviaries/cages?
    I remember asking someone about ants, as I think our house is built on a giant ant nest and at different times of the year they can be a real pest..........Their answer was to make sure there were no food crumbs around to attract ants. I realised that these people did not own parrot!. No matter how many times I clean their cages and sweep the floors, there are always some sort of food bits strewn around.......parrots are messy! Because parrots are easily affected by chemicals, you have to be extremely careful, and in fact I do not use any chemicals at all near the birds. So, first try and clean up as much used food, crumbs etc., as possible. Next, try wiping all surfaces, if hard, like floors and walls, with a mixture of 50/50 white vinegar and water. This can be used on the bird's cages also. As well as cleaning the surfaces, it also mucks up the ant's scent, which they leave and use for trails. If it is outside, you can try spray the areas around the cages. This will have to be repeated, especially after it rains. As I said ants rely heavily on scent trails they leave and do not like strong smells, so sprinkling, black pepper, chilli powder, paprika, or cayenne pepper or cinnamon, You can also boil up bay leaves and / or cloves and spray and water this around on the ground. Even citrus oil can be sprayed Tea tree oil can also be used as a wipe, or a spray, but be sure not to get it near the birds or other animals, as it could burn them. Some one told me even coffee grounds, if you make fresh brewed coffee, can be sprinkled on the ground. Anything that can descent the area. As a poison, you can use a mixture of Borax and either jam or honey. mix them together and place in plastic lids, or soak an old kitchen sponge in the mixture and cut up and place around the outside of your bird's cage. If you have other pets such as cats and dogs, you do not want them eating this, so either cover with wire, or place in sealed containers with holes made in them to allow the ants to and feed, but other pets cannot eat .. The ants eat the mixture and take the borax back to the nest where it will kill even more ants Any of these mixtures I have described, keep away from your birds and only use on the outside of the cage and protect other pets as well Another concoction to kill ants is a mixture is 4 tablespoons of Cornflower, 3 tablespoons of bacon fat, 3 tablespoons of baking power and 3 packets of rapid rise yeast.mix them all together and place near ant trails in containers as explained above, ( don't want other animals eating it), The ants eat this and apparently swell up and pop. Another similar one is Baking Soda and Sugar in equal parts and then the yeast. Another thing I read, but have never tried is......Apparently, place cucumber peel and citrus skins around as this kills fungus, thats ants feed on. If you have smooth surfaces you can sprinkle either talc, corn flower, but this can get a bit messy, or draw a thick line with chalk and the ants cannot walk on this, so cannot pass. If your house is built on an ants nest, it may be just as well as to remove the birds and other pets for a day or so, and get a professional exterminator in to spray your place, or use poisons which are taken back to the nest and destroy the queen ant. Check which companies use natural spays that are not toxic to other pets.......just because it is natural, does not mean that it is not toxic.......pyrethrums are a plant and are natural, but they are still toxic.
  • What plants are safe for our companion birds?
    All parts of the following plants can be given to your bird. They are classed as being totally safe and also healthy. Chewing and eating native flowers, nuts, leaves, weeds and bark are normal and essential for birds in the wild, this to is true for your companion bird at home. These are a list of safe plants that we use at the PRC. All eucalyptus species which include the flowers and seed pods (Gum nuts) that forms after flowering. (All parrots love to chew on the sweet tasting eucalypts flavour on the gumnuts. These nuts and flowers are also a vital source of food and nutrient.) Dandelion, which is an herb, this is a non native Australian plant, but is safe for birds and provides health benefits as well as enrichment. (This plant is great way to firstly introduce to those companion parrots that are not interested in chewing up branches and leaves.) Wattle trees including flowering and seed pods. Melaleucas known as paperbark trees, provide flowers and nut pods. Banksia including flowers and seed pods. (Black cockatoos love the seed pods and there beaks are strong enough to break it to bits.) Bottlebrush including flowers and seed pods. Grevillea including flowers Lilly Pilly Lemon scented ti-tree Milk Thistle and other thistles Tropical Chick weed Swamp Dock For Further safe plant information please read the FAQ- Safe plants for your parrots.
  • Are the PRC Adoptee's and Foster carer's experienced with parrots?
    We place all birds in a safe and caring environment with dedicated carers who have been through our strict adoption/foster care process. Adoption Process: We have created a strict set of criteria and application standards for New Adoptee's to help care for your birds best interests. This enables us to ensure that your bird will be rehomed to someone that has the knowledge, experience and dedication to keep your parrot forever. Foster Care Process: This process ensures our foster carers have experience with caring for birds already, provide a high standard of care and have a good understanding of the needs and requirements of parrots. Our adoptee's and foster carers sign an agreement with us to ensure they agree to our strict terms and conditions.
  • Do I get to know where my bird is going?
    Yes, once we have chosen someone to adopt your bird we will give you their contact information so you can arrange to give them your bird. You will then be able to stay in touch with them to see how your bird is going.
  • Do you provide Foster care?
    If you require urgent rehoming and we do not have a home available, we may be able to organize a foster carer to care for your bird/s until their forever home is found. We can only provide this if we have a foster carer in your area. Please see FAQ "What urgent rehoming situations can you help with?" We require atleast 5 working days notice for urgent rehomes, if you cannot provide this then please contact your nearest RSPCA. There are additional upfront fees with foster care with some urgent rehoming situations. Fees include: Health Check $300 - All birds that go into foster carer have to have a recent health check by an Avian Vet, you can opt to pay us and we will do the health check for you. If you are going to do the health check please check with us what this needs to cover. Boarding - $120 Rehoming fee - $80
  • How do birds go with being transported interstate?
    Most birds are fine when being transported. They will go through periods of stress, but nothing that will hurt them, just like our stress/fear levels are spiked in certain situations, but we are not hurt by them. The only time that we wouldn’t want to transport a bird is if they are phobic in nature, so the bird becomes easily scared with new things or people. If a bird is very timid and needs transportation then we suggest that most of the crate be covered on the outside with heavy duty cardboard, with only the front open. This will give the bird the ability to hide and feel more secure. A good method to try to see how your bird responds to being transported, is to try and see how he/she goes in a pet travel crate/cage in the car, the first time they maybe a little scared, but after a few times they should start to settle quicker, especially if you make the trip rewarding, talking to them, giving them treats on the journey and a big treat at the destination. We also recommend providing some Spark in your birds water for a few days prior to travel, this will help to keep them calm.
  • How long will it take to rehome my bird?
    We cannot guarantee a time frame for how long it will take us to rehome your bird. Some birds are rehomed within a couple of weeks, some take several months or longer.
  • How much is the Rehoming Fee?
    This will vay depending on the option you choose. Please contact us for more information.
  • What are the most common reasons for companion parrots losing their homes?
    Behavioural issues- such as biting, aggression, noise, feather picking and self mutilation. Health, Medical costs and owner stress. Owner’s life style change- moving, financial hardship, illness, death. Owners feel it is in the Birds best interest to be with other birds in a flock environment. Transferred from other rescue and sanctuary facilities. Lost and unclaimed Rescue due to abandonment, cruelty, danger
  • What urgent rehoming situations can you help with?
    Our organisation is only small and has a limited number of foster carers and placements for foster care available, so we can only help in certain situations. At present we can only help with urgent rehoming in the following situations and foster carer fees will apply for some of these situations. See FAQ "Do you provide foster care" Urgent rehoming situations include: Need to go into hospital urgently and no one to care for bird/s. You have been in an accident and due to physical disability you cannot care for birds and have no one else to care for them. Moving into a nursing home. Found bird Bird that has been left on a rental property Each case will be fully accessed before approval and we would require documentation confirming the situations mentioned above. There is no guarantee that we can take your bird into foster care even in the above situation’s, as we do need to make sure we have a foster care placement available. We will recommend other options if we cannot help. If you do not meet any of these situations above and you still need to rehome your bird urgently then we would suggest placing your bird into a boarding facility till a good home is found or you can contact the RSPCA or Animal Welfare league in your area.
  • Will I be able to find out how my bird is going once he/she is adopted?
    We will put you directly in contact with the adoptee once the adoption paper work is complete, so you can stay in touch with them to see how your bird/s are going. We unfortunately do not have the time to keep in contact with previous owners, so we ask that you keep in contact directly with the adoptee.
  • Can I adopt a Macaw, African Grey or Amazon?
    We receive many enquiries by adoptee's for these species. The reality is that such species have not become available for adoption in Australia due to their high demand in the general marketplace. We have found that the owners of these species will generally sell these parrots due to their market value. We currently have a large database of current adoptees that have adopted birds from us interested in these species and we are no longer taking any more applications for these species. Please do not apply for adoption if these are the species you are looking for, we do not process adoption applications for these species. Please read the FAQ "Common Birds available for adoption"
  • Can I Breed with my adopted Bird?
    No, we do not allow the breeding of birds that are adopted from us. They are strictly only to be kept as pets. You will be required to sign a contract stating that you will not breed and if you do there are fines associated. Why? One of the main principles set by all rescue groups worldwide, is that rescue’s do not breed birds or place birds in breeding situation. We have hundreds of birds that need rehoming each year, so we do not feel we need to take part in the increase of birds being available for rehoming. There are already a lot of breeders or general people breeding birds, we do not want to add to this.
  • Can I come and visit a bird that is for adoption? I want to see if the bird likes me.
    No we do not provide a viewing facility for birds for adoption. Most of the birds for adoption are with foster carers or the owners. Foster carers do not have the time, licences & insurances involved with visitations and owners are generally not wanting multiple people visiting their home. Birds do generally take time to warm up to new people, so a first time visit is not going to indicate how a bird will interact with you long term. Some examples; Some birds that have come to the PRC will not interact with us for days and then after a few days are happy to step up and interact with us. Some birds that are still with their owners will behave differently to new people in their home compared to being in a new environment. They may be aggressive and not friendly when new people are in their current home, but then you put them into a new environment and they are friendly and non-aggressive.
  • Can we adopt if we do not live in Australia?
    No. Birds are only available for adoption within Australia. Australian Law prohibits the export of birds overseas.
  • Common birds available for adoption?
    Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, Galahs, Corellas, Lorikeets, Cockatiels, Lovebirds, Indian Ringnecks, Princess Parrots, King Parrots, Alexandrines, Quakers, Conures, Major Mitchells and Eclectus parrots.
  • Do you do interstate Adoptions? If so how?
    Yes most of the birds can be transported interstate, unless the owner does not agree. Birds are transported normally by plane and transport is organised through an animal transport company. Below are two animal transport companies & one booking agent we recommended. The cheapest option is normally airport to airport, so you can call them to receive a quote, based on the bird's location and your location. The first two transport companies can organise the pet crate and transport to and from the airport if required. Dog Tainers: Jet Pets: The following company is only a booking agent, so they do not organise the pet crate or transport to and from the airport. Feathers and Scales
  • Do you do Trial Adoption?
    No we do not do Trial Adoptions. We ask that if you are going to adopt a bird on from us that you look at it as a long term commitment no matter what comes up. Obviously if things are not working after at least 3 to 6 months and we see that you have tried everything to try and make it work, we would then help rehome the bird. We have found it can take at least 3 to 6 months for a bird to finally show their true colours and feel really comfortable in their new home. You would also need to be willing to hold onto the bird until a suitable home is found.
  • How do I apply for a Licence to keep birds?
    You are required to have a Licence to keep particular Australian Native pet birds in Australia and also if keeping a large number of birds. Example birds that require a licence are: Black Cockatoos, Major Mitchells, Eclectus Parrots, Rosella's etc. Please go to the following link to find out more and apply Queensland: CLICK HERE New South Wales: CLICK HERE Victoria: CLICK HERE Western Australia: CLICK HERE Tasmania: CLICK HERE
  • How long does the adoption process take?
    Can take anywhere from 5 to 10 working days (Working days are Monday to Friday) Sometimes longer if we require you to make changes to your current setup or do further research to expand your knowledge.
  • How much is Adoption?
    The adoption fee will vary on each bird from $20 to $150 per bird. This will depend on species and vet fees that we have had to pay with birds in foster care.
  • I've notice some birds says no interstate adoption. Why is that?
    Birds vary on why they cannot go interstate, some are found birds, so need to stay within the area they were found incase the owner turns up and some are still with their owners and the owners request that the birds stay within the state.
  • How do I convert my Bird over to Pellets?
    The Rissole Method The evening previous to beginning the changeover, remove all food from the cage before your bird settles for the night. Moisten a spoonful of pellets with a little hot water, leave to sit until soggy then mix to a dough or paste-like consistency. Add an equal amount of budgie seed, mix well and roll into small rissoles the size of marbles, then refrigerate. On the morning of the first day warm one rissole in your hand and put it into the dish that used to hold your birds seed. Put the dish in the same place as usual. The bird will probably treat it with utter distain, but may pick out the seeds. In the unlikely event that the bird eats the whole rissole immediately, give it another one and so on until the bird has finished eating. Remove leftovers after an hour. Feed nothing else. Repeat the whole process in the evening. Always add another rissole if the bird finishes the one it has had and so on until it eats no more. Over the next few days or weeks, depending on acceptance, gradually increase the pellets and decrease the seed in the mix. Feed nothing else. Eventually make the rissoles out of pellets only and add a few dry pellets to the mix and the dish. Slowly reduce the amount of liquid in the mix until you are feeding just dry pellets. Feed nothing else. After the bird has eaten nothing but dry pellets for a couple of days, start to introduce vegetables and fruit for variety. Always supply plenty of fresh clean water. Add a vitamin supplement, while this transition is being achieved. Please also watch the the following YouTube clip by Vetafarm on Converting your bird to pellets, as it explains the process of converting birds to pellets in more detail. Click here
  • How important is my birds diet?
    Please read the following article - The Importance of a Balanced Diet. Click here
  • Toxic? Non Toxic?
    Here is a great link that will explain all the Non-toxic and Toxic Plants, wood, foliage, Fruit, Vegetables and Household Items. It is a great read. Please check it out!!! Click here.
  • Variety is the key!
    Variety is the spice of life! A birds quality of life and health is compromised on just an "all seed" diet. If you feed your bird a seed diet, ensure that the type of seed that is given is appropriate for your species and that a vitamin and mineral supplement is added to the birds water, also include fruit and vegetables. Please do research on your particular species, as some should have more fruit in their diets, more vitamin A or more vegetables etc. The PRC recommends a pellet diet including fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis and seed to be given on a weekly occasion as a treat. Pellets provide a full rounded diet for birds that include all the essential vitamins, minerals, fatty oils and protein etc. Remember variety is the key for a pellet diet also. Nuts in shell should also be incorporated into an exotic parrots diet such as Macaws. Macaws come from and area of the world where they predominately eat foods high in fat, though Australian Native parrots should only be given nuts as an occasional treat. Australian Native Birds such as Cockatoos come from drought areas and their body make up can not deal with allot of fat in their diets. Research is essential to ensure you provide the correct diet for you bird!
  • What are the benefits of Pellets that are EXTRUDED, not PELLETED?
    EXTRUDED, not PELLETED. This means that the food is steam heated, pasteurizing the ingredients and increasing digestibility. The texture created is more attractive and useful to pet birds than a farm-type pellet or crumble. Extruded products can also hold more fat (an important factor for palatability and for proper maintenance of species such as the blue & gold macaw).
  • What foods and treats are best for my Lorikeets?
    We recommend: Wombaroo Lorikeet and Honeyeater Mix (A wet mix is always best for lorikeets), A variety of fresh fruit e.g. apple, melon, grapes, citrus, paw paw, banana, mango, stone fruit etc. Also a mix of vegetables if they are interested in them. Only small portions of each should be given, so they are receiving a well balanced diet. Blossoms and Flowering plants such as Grevillia, bottle brush, Lilly pilly, Banksia flowers, make sure you give these a good rinse in water before giving them to your birds and don't pick them from the roadside. You can also provide a nectar mix. Some people use the nectar mix in a syringe as a reward to encourage your bird to step up, fly to you or even their favourite fruit can be used for training rather than having it in their daily food bowl.
  • What foods should I avoid feeding my parrot?
    A breif list of toxic foods include: Alcohol Avocado Caffeine Candy and other sugary foods Chocolate Eggplant Fatty foods Fried foods Milk and milk products Pickles, chips, hot dogs and other salty foods Processed foods with high preservative content Raw mushrooms Raw or undercooked meats of any kind Rhubarb Spoiled Foods Also be cautious of Apple, pear and peach pits as they may be poisonous. Sourced from the book The Essential Cockatoo, by Laurie Baker and Stuart Borden. Here is a great link that will explain all the Non-toxic and Toxic Plants, wood, foliage, Fruit, Vegetables and Household Items. It is a great read. Please check it out!!! Click here.
  • What is the difference between Tropican Pellets and Other Pellets?
    1.READ THE INGREDIENT LIST. Tropican contains NO fish meal, and is not based on wheat or soybeans. In fact, Tropican actually contains ingredients such as sunflower meal, oat hearts and peanut meal. Palatability is second to none. Of course, it is still very moderate in protein and fat - nothing like a seed diet. 2.NO PRESERVATIVES. Many clients are looking for this important feature. AND every bag has an expiry date, AND state-of-the-art packaging is used to protect freshness (vacuum packed with carbon dioxide in a gas barrier film to limit oxidation). 3.Tropican sales support our large research center. Without continued research by SPECIALIZED, QUALIFIED institutions, we will be unable to improve the level of nutrition for the wide variety of pet birds now being bred in Canada and the USA. Why recommend monkey chow formulas ( or any other manufactured diets whose sales will not support research) any longer? 4.Tropican does not have any premature species streamlining claims. It is our belief that our present level of nutritional research does not yet support species "typing" ( ie. not all cockatoos are the same). However, we DO know what we have tested it on (800 birds in house), for 7 years - including second generation production - with NO supplemental fruits or vegetables of any kind. When we say one of our formulas can be used for maintenance (for example), we mean it. 5.Tropican is supported by a large and elaborate quality control system. Why risk a clients valuable parrot with anything less? EVERY batch of Tropican ( not random or occasional samples) is ACTUALLY fed and tested on our own huge collection. EVERY batch is tested for a wide variety of microbial contaminants and nutritional parameters. Just ask to see a report - we will be delighted to produce it. EVERY question or potential problem is immediately investigated by the in-house avian veterinarian and our nutritionist. 6.Tropican is EXTRUDED, not PELLETED. This means that the food is steam heated, pasteurizing the ingredients and increasing digestibility. The texture created is more attractive and useful to pet birds than a farm-type pellet or crumble. Extruded products can also hold more fat (an important factor for palatability and for proper maintenance of species such as the blue & gold macaw). 7.Tropican incorporates the latest in vitamin D3 research into the formula. B & G macaws have a lower tolerance for this vitamin than other species* and the Tropican formula is newly balanced to provide an increased safety factor. 8.Tropican does not feature gaudy colours or odd shapes; the birds still love it. Waste is minimized as the birds eat an entire piece, not throwing down portions. The only colours ever used are natural ones, such as chlorophyll and beta carotene (a great natural antioxidant). Vitamin C and vitamin E also used as natural antioxidants. 9.Packaging is also environmentally friendly. No bulky canisters are used (low volume packaging is featured in all popular sizes).
  • What type of food & water bowls are recommended?
    Stainless Steel bowls are highly recommended over other types, being 100% safe, easy to clean and lasting a life time. Heavy duty plastic bowls are good too, such as the Quick Lock Crock Bowls, but should be replaced once starting to look old. The old style galvanised metal bowls that come with some cages are not recommended and can cause metal toxicity, especially when water is provided in them. Glossy finished ceramic bowls are safe and can also be used for water in aviaries or on the bottom of the cage as a large bath.
  • What types of fruit and vegetables are appropriate to feed a parrot?
    Without a nutritionally balanced diet, which is impossible to achieve with seed only, your birds will lack vitality and good health as well as lustre in their feathering. Eventually they are likely to get liver disease and they will have much shorter lives. Vitamin A is usually lacking in birds on a seed only diet. In severe cases shiny pink patches on the bottom of the feet are one of the telltale signs. If vitamin A is low in a parrot you can be sure that other proteins, minerals and vitamins are also missing from the diet. According to avian veterinarian, Dr. Rob Marshall, Eclectus parrots need ten times more Vitamin A than other parrots. In the last issue I discussed the merits of feeding extruded parrot pellets and explained how to train your birds to eat them. If you have managed to convert your parrots from seed to pellets, or if they were already eating pellets, I suggest that you now train them to eat another brand of pellets so that if there is a shortage of supply of the one you are feeding you can always grab another sort. Always make sure that you are feeding extruded pellets. Even though high quality extruded pellets are a complete diet in themselves I like to add as much natural food as possible, for example, cotoneaster and privet berries as well as almost any native berries, casuarina and pine cones, gum nuts, hakea nuts (all left on their branches), native flowers (especially for lorikeets), milk thistle and seeding grasses. This is for variety and enrichment. I also like to give them fruit and vegetables for the same reason, especially those that are high in vitamin A, rather than those with a lot of empty calories or with a high sugar or fat content. Below is a list of foods high in Vitamin A and their approximate values: Vitamin A Food IU per 100gr Broccoli leaves 76,000 Fresh red chillies 20,000 Dried red chillies 15,000 Dandelion greens 14,000 Carrots 10,000 Sweet potato 9,000 Spinach 8,000 Turnip leaves 7,000 Mango 5,000 Rock melon 4,000 Endive 3,500 Broccoli flowers 3,000 Egg yolk 3,000 Paw Paw 2,000 Almost all other fruits and vegetables are safe, apart from avocados and rhubarb. Lettuce is not particularly nutritious and tends to cause runny droppings whereas dandelion leaves, spinach or silver beet is a far better choice. Salt, avocado, raw onions, rhubarb, the leaves and stems of the tomato plant, chocolate, dairy products and alcohol can be deadly. Here is a healthy, nutritious food that can be fed hot and wet, as often as you have the time to do so. It is great for increasing or building the bond between yourself and your birds. It can be made in batches and kept in the freezer. I serve it at least three times a week to all my birds. Serve it hot from a spoon or even better, your fingers. The temperature should be the same as you would have it for a human toddler. Vitamin A Mash Ingredients: Sweet potatoes, carrots, chillies (fresh or dried), broccoli leaves or dandelion leaves. Method: Microwave the sweet potatoes whole until soft, scoop out the centres and discard the skin. Microwave or boil the carrot pieces until soft. Microwave the broccoli or dandelion leaves in a plastic bag until wilted, chop finely. Chop the chillies, mix all the ingredients together and add enough hot water to make the mixture sloppy. Apart from when you are feeding hot, wet food to increase bonding try to feed things in their natural state, for instance leave the skin on washed fruit so the bird has to spend a bit of time removing it and leave peas in the pod. Captive birds have a lot of time on their hands and our challenge is to keep them busy. A chicken or chop bone with most of the meat taken off is okay once a week and some birds will spend a lot of time getting every bit of marrow out. Its good to have a small piece of at least five different types of fruits and vegetables each day and change these often for variety. Hand feed sunflower seeds and nuts as treats only. Parrots can be selective in their eating habits, therefore in order to force them to eat a variety of foods, it is a good idea to restrict the amount of pellets supplied to them. It is also good to feed the pellets late in the afternoon because the bulky food will keep them warm through the night. I feed my birds morning and evening only and leave no food in the cage or aviary during the day or night. This way they really appreciate what they are given and will eat what you want them to eat. In the wild they gorge themselves at sunup and sundown and only nibble at branches and leaves during the day. Having no food lying around also discourages vermin and in turn the lack of vermin discourages snakes. Weigh your parrot regularly in order to catch the first signs of ill health as well as to know just how much food they need to hold their weight while eating a varied diet. Something like 80% of all pet budgies escape, never to be recovered. I dont know the figures on cockatiels and other pet parrots, but I suspect that it is quite high, even when they are clipped. The other day I was with a friend when she opened the aviary to feed her lorikeets and one of them escaped. She walked over to the tree he had landed in and showed him the food bowl. He flew straight back to her because he hadnt eaten since that morning and the food looked good. Most pet birds dont even know what its like to look forward to a meal, like we do, because they eat all day out of boredom. Having your birds on a nutritious diet and restricting feeding times keeps them interested in food and happy to stay home. They will live longer and, if they also have fresh natural branches to chew on during the day, they will have a better quality of life. This way you will have a longer, happier and more rewarding relationship with your pets. Further Diet information is provided in Verna Shannon's book '12 weeks to the Perfect Parrot' which covers info on understanding your bird, bringing your bird home, diet, enrichment, wing clipping, training and lots more Click here
  • Which diet is best for my bird? FOOD/SPECIES CHART
    Food / Species Chart This chart is a recommended list of appropriate foods for your species of parrot. The list is based on the foods that the PRC Shop sells only. Quantities of each need to be based on how much your parrot eats. Providing a small amount of each food daily and making sure your bird is eating everything that is provided ensures they are eating a full rounded healthy diet. For example if you provide a 1/2 cup of dry food and your bird eats everything with no wastage, then the next day we would suggest increasing the amount slightly. If they do not eat it all, then you can decrease the amount slightly until you find the perfect amount that you parrot eats each day. Please make sure your bird is not just eating his favourite treats such as nuts and fatty seeds. Birds need to be eating everything provided to ensure they are getting all the nutrients required. If you notice that your bird is not eating all their pellets, fresh fruit and vegetables then reduce the amount of nuts and fatty seeds. Pellets: Pellets are a nutritionally balanced diet, but variety is the key! Include a fresh array of fruit and vegetables with your pellets daily. Also you can include some seed, sprouted seed, cooked food on varied days to mix it up! When providing Tropimix only a small amount should be given daily and the whole mix (fruit, pellets, and seed) should be consumed not just the seed parts. A mixed variety of each type of pellet can be provided daily. Seed: A seed only diet requires a vitamin and mineral supplement in their water plus daily fruit and vegetables. We highly recommend that you also provide sprouted seed on a daily basis if on only a seed diet. Nuts: Birds weight should be monitored on a regular basis to ensure that you are not over feeding your bird nuts and high fat seeds. It is important that your bird eats a well rounded diet including pellets, seed, fresh fruit and vegetables and nuts. Species Pellets Seed Nuts Budgies, Cockatiels, Lovebirds, Kakariki, Rosellas & Neophemas Vetafarm Nutriblend Minni or Maintenance. Zupreem FruitBlend or Natural Small Budgie Seed or Diet Budgie Seed, Small Medley, Vege Supreme. Sprouted/Soaked seed. Minimal nuts. If you would like to use a treat for foraging we recommend using a small amount of Sunflower training treats. These should only be given once or twice a week. Conures- All Types, Quakers, Senegal, Alexandrine, Ringnecks. Vetafarm Nutriblend Minni or Small, Vetafarm Maintenance, South American. Tropican parrot, Tropimix Small, Zupreem FruitBlend Small or Medium Small Parrot, Small Medley, Vege Supreme, Tropical Fruit, Delicious Diet and Nut Medley. Sprouted/soaked seed. Almonds in Shell, Paswell Nut and Fruit Mix, Raw Mixed Nuts Deluxe. King Parrots & Eclectus Vetafarm Nutriblend Small, Tropican Parrot, Tropimix Small or Large, Zupreem FruitBlend Medium, Medium/Large, Zupreem Natural Medium or M/L Small or Medium Parrot Seed, Small Medley, Vege Supreme, Tropical Fruit, Delicious Diet and Nut Medley. Sprouted/soaked seed. Almonds in Shell, Paswell Nut and Fruit Mix, Raw Mixed Nuts Deluxe. Galah, Corella Sulphur Crested, Red Tail Black & Gang Gang Cockatoos Vetafarm Nutriblend Small or Large, Vetafarm Maintence.Tropican Parrot Size. Zupreem FruitBlend Medium or M/L, Zupreem Natural Medium or M/L Diet Budgie Seed, Small Medley (small quantity). Vege Supreme. Small quantity only of Tropical fruit, Delicious Diet and Nut medley. Sprouted/Soaked seed Minimal nuts in shell. If you would like to use a treat for foraging toys we recommend using Sunflower training treats and breaking up the Raw Mixed Nuts Deluxe into small pieces. These should only be given once or twice a week. Amazon & African Grey Vetafarm Nutriblend Small, Vetafarm Maintenance, South American. Tropican Parrot, Tropimix Small or Large. Zupreem FruitBlend Medium or M/L, Zupreem Natural Medium or M/L Small or Medium Parrot Seed, Small and Large Medley, Vege Supreme, Tropical Fruit, Delicious Diet and Nut Medley. Sprouted/Soaked seed. Almonds in Shell, Paswell Nut and Fruit Mix, Raw Mixed Nuts Deluxe. All other nuts in shell can be fed, but will need to be cracked slightly for these birds. Macaws- All types Vetafarm Nutriblend Large, South American. Tropican Parrot, Tropimix Large. Zupreem FruitBlend M/L, Zupreem Natural M/L, Macaw Nuts Large Parrot Seed, Large Medley, Vege Supreme, Tropical Fruit, Delicious Diet and Nut Medley. Sprouted/Soaked seed. Almonds, Brazil, Walnuts, Pecans, Hazelnuts in Shell, Paswell Nut and Fruit Mix, Raw Mixed Nuts Deluxe. Lorikeets Lorikeets require a specialised diet and it is not recommended that pellets, seed or nuts are provided. Lorikeets should be provided with a daily wet mix (Wombaroo Lorikeet & Honeyeater Food) and a mix of fresh fruit and vegetables with a small amount of Vetafarm Blossom nectar as a supplement. Foraging treat suggestions are grapes, apple, dried fruit, blossom nectar and bottle brush flowers. Please help support the PRC and purchase your bird food through our online shop CLICK HERE
  • Why should I feed my bird Pellets instead of Seed?
    It has been the tradition in this country to feed caged birds on bird seed. Of course birds can survive on a seed diet, but the length of their survival and the quality of their life is compromised heavily under these circumstances. The problem is that, in the wild birds are free to seek out exactly what they require in regards to the correct vitamins, minerals and fat levels, they know what they need. Unfortunately, humans mostly do not know the needs or requirements of birds, and this is the problem. In an attempt to offer variety and overcome some of the deficiencies of an all seed diet, many people offer their birds fruits, vegetables etc. Fruit and vegetables make a good carrier for a water soluble vitamin/mineral supplement to add to a seed based diet, but they do not contribute much themselves as they are mostly water, with some fibre and relatively low levels of vitamins. Their remains can also cause sanitation issues, and leave a large amount of wasted mess to clean up after they have been picked through. The most dramatic nutrient problem with a seed only diet is not their deficiencies which can hopefully be met with supplements, but their excesses of fat, which cannot be removed prior to feeding. Fat levels in the three most commonly fed seeds are so high that they are referred to as oil seeds. High fats result in feather and skin problems, small stools and low water intake, shortening and reducing of a birds life. HARI (Hagen Avicultural Research Institute) of Canada has spent 15 years and many millions of dollars researching bird nutrition. The complete bird food Tropican is the result of all these years of hard work, developed by Mark Hagen M.Ag director of Research at HARI. HARI understands that often a gradual introduction of the change of a birds diet is important and has three ranges of foods using Tropican Food Pellets. These are: Premium -Blend of premium seeds, nuts, oil seeds, and fruit with a small amount of Tropican granules. Tropican - A Full mix of extruded pellet food, made from a blend of nuts and fruit mixed with a comprehensive range of vitamin and mineral supplements. Tropimix - An even blend of Tropican pellets and premium hulled seeds, nuts legumes vegetable and fruit. A 100% edible mix. Further Diet information is provided in Verna Shannon's book '12 weeks to the Perfect Parrot' which covers info on understanding your bird, bringing your bird home, diet, enrichment, wing clipping, training and lots more Click here
  • Cheap home made Foraging Ideas?
    It is easy to help stimulate your parrot s life by providing foraging toys and activities. There are many foraging toys available for parrots today or there are easy cheap ways of making toys that do the same thing as bought foraging toys. Some examples of cheap home made foraging toys are: Toilet rolls after the toilet paper has been used can be filled with treats, wood bits and food and then raped in newspaper like a lolly, your parrot will rip, chew and have a great time trying to get to the hidden treats. You can drill some large holes into a wood log that is about 10cm thick at all different angles and then hide nuts, vegetables etc in the holes. Roll up an old magazine and put some treats in the middle, then tie the magazine up with natural sisal rope and tie to the cage, your parrot will throw the magazine around like a bell. Open Pine cones can be filled with treats and then wet the pine cone and it will close with all the treats inside, your parrot will chew the pine cone up to shreds to get the treats. Spreading some safe natural dirt on the bottom of the cage and sprinkling budgie seed down, so your parrot has to go to the ground and fossick for their food. Providing a large ceramic dish filled with rocks, grass, sticks etc and hiding treats and food amongst it, so that your parrot gets in and empties everything out to get to his food. Covering your parrot s food bowl with paper, so they have to rip through the paper to get to the food- you may have to demonstrate it to them to get them started.
  • Enrichment Ideas?
    Parrots love to chew natural wood. Threading cut pieces of natural wood onto leather strips, chain or sisal rope can provide endless chewing fun and is a cheap alternative for toys. Parrots love perches that move. Hanging swings or perches from the aviary or cage are good ways of keeping your parrot busy. In the wild tree branches move in the wind and when they land on them, this helps with balance, exercise and provides some stimulation.
  • Foraging Ideas?
    Some natural ways of encouraging your aviary and pet birds to chew and forage within branches and bark perches are to drill holes under, on top or on the sides of the perches to hide favourite nuts, seeds and treats etc (the size of the hole will depend on size of treats and birds). Also using the v intersection amongst branches is a good place to wedge pinecones or nuts.
  • Can someone please help me with advise on how to stop my scaly breasted lorikeet from laying eggs? I have placed a mirror in her cage, get her out daily for two hours . When she does lay I allow her to sit on them until she eventually rejects them.
    There is no simple fix to this problem - you should contact your closest avian veterinarian - however here are some things to consider. How old is the lorikeet? Is she bonded to you? Do you have her on your shoulder? Does she display sexually for you? (bum up and tail fanned out) In the wild single female birds do not lay eggs - when they go through puberty, their instinct is to find a mate - they form a pair, undergo courtship, find a nest site and raise a clutch of eggs. In captivity, if they go through puberty on their owner's shoulder they will often inappropriately bond with that person - this causes a lot of sexually frustrated behavioural problems (eg. in a female - chronic egg laying) - to discuss this further, you need to contact an avian veterinarian. (by the way, don't put a mirror in her cage - seeing her reflection only adds to her frustration)
  • How can I tell if my bird is sick?
    Bird Examination Chart - By Kaytee Please click on the following link to find an informative information sheet on the ABC of illness detection in your bird. CLICK HERE
  • How do I react when my bird bites me?
    A natural reaction is to jump, yell and maybe even hit back. Firstly never hit your parrot, this will only create fear and insecurity and may even injure your parrot. It is important not to show any reaction. Parrots love when you make a commotion, so it is essential that you keep calm, say a firm no and either walk away from the bird or place him back in his cage.
  • How do i stop Biting and Aggressive behaviour? Part 1
    Over the next few issues Id like to respond to a few questions on managing biting and aggression in pet birds. With each issue Ill focus on a specific context that is often observed in pet parrot situations. To start off we re going to have a quick look at the influence of a major species-specific difference and how our lack of awareness of this difference can result in biting when handling. Here s a common question that I often receive around this time of year... `We recently purchased a 6 month old Alexandrine parrot. Wed love to be able to give him scratches but if we try to scratch him he bites. How can we get him to allow us to scratch his head without being bitten? Different Strokes for Different Folks Biting behaviour can occur in many contexts and this FAQ is a great example of how a little understanding and appreciation of the differences in the way parrot species interact naturally can help guide our handling expectations with pet birds and prevent biting from occurring. The species we are dealing with here is an Alexandrine Parrot. Alexandrines belong to a group of parrots commonly referred to as the `Asiatics due to their predominantly Asian distribution. All of the Asiatic parrots are birds that do not naturally indulge in intense mutual preening in the same way that we commonly see with the lorikeet, cockatoo, conure and macaw groups that are also commonly kept pets. Asiatics are not alone in their non-physical pair bond nature. Eclectus parrots and Australian long-tailed parrots such as the King Parrot and the Rosellas also do not mutually preen each other in the wild. How this translates in captive, pet situations is that these species retain an aversion to being `preened around the head whilst those species that do normally mutually preen readily allow this interaction to take place with their human carers. Over the years I have known many Alexandrines, Eclectus and King Parrots kept as pets that resorted to biting due to owners forcing preening expectations on them. When the behavioural indicators tell us that such an interaction is not desirable we need to listen, reshape our expectations and hopefully avoid conflict. Knowing that we have a species that would not normally tolerate intrusive handling around the head helps us to develop more sensitive handling approaches to these birds. In the next issue Ill look at territorial aggression and some tips on how to manage this in the home.
  • How do i stop Biting and Aggressive behaviour? Part 2
    In the previous PRC Newsletter we started a series looking at aggression in pet birds. The first focus was on acknowledging that differences in behavioural tendencies of certain species groups may provide us with insights into firstly, whether it is natural for that species to accommodate intense physical preening from a mate and secondly, how a lack of natural accommodation for this interaction can often precipitate aggression in pet parrots forced into preening interactions with humans. If you missed the last newsletter then contact Zarita to request it! In this issue well consider monogamous pair bonds as a further general influence on aggressive behaviour in pet parrots and offer some insights on how to best manage this. One of the most endearing aspects of parrots as companion animals is their tendency to form strong bonds with their human carers. Many (but not all) species invest in a monogamous pair bond in the wild. This investment has evolved to provide the optimal outcome of reproductive success for the form of breeding strategy employed by most parrot communities. In captivity we tend to see this duplicated, with the result of an individual in the household establishing a relationship with the bird that is often to the detriment of interactions that others may be seeking to share. This scenario is a common factor leading to parrots being re-homed. It's unfortunate that this is the case as its really up to us to establish some fair expectations of our parrots when we commit to keeping them as pets. If we are aware that there is a strong likelihood of them over-bonding with one individual in the environment then we are challenged to work on handling, training and positively reinforcing interaction schedules with our parrots throughout their life. This is essential if we wish to minimise the potential for problems developing that can quickly break down social relationships in the human-parrot flock. So lets look at another common issue that arises with pet parrots and human carers that may result in bites occurring: Territorial Aggression. Success for parrots in the wild environment is dependent on how they achieve and maintain access to resources. We can easily identify food and water as primary resources required for survival, but if we look at social success, and ultimately breeding success, we should also consider resources such as access to roosting perches, ownership of nesting sites, access to a bonded partner and possibly even something less tangible such as `personal space. When resources are limited, competition increases in the wild. Such competition occasionally requires rigorous defence strategies in order to maintain ownership of and access to these valued resources. Nothing much changes in our living rooms. The artificial environment of the pet parrot cage offers a one-stop resource shop, complete with food, valued roosting areas and maybe even a nest box or `happy hut to make things seem even more like `home. It s not unreasonable then to expect that if we have provided all of these resources in one locale in our home that over time it can become an area worth defending if our parrot views an intruder into this environment as competing for its resources. The intensity of territorial aggression that is displayed by a parrot is learned over a period of time, often with `us as the key element in the environment establishing a learning sequence whereby progressively stronger aggression is required by the parrot to achieve its behavioural goal of defending its territory. Aggressive defence of resources rarely progresses to the inflicting of a bite amongst parrots in the wild. Unfortunately, this is often the end result in captive situations. This occurs largely due to our ignorance of the non-verbal cues parrots present to communicate with us. Our failure to appreciate the need for a two-way communication dynamic precipitates many aggression and biting problems with pet parrots. Where territorial defence behaviours get out of control and become a serious issue is when we have failed to maintain positive reinforcement based training with the parrot. Consistently implemented positive reinforcement based interactions help to establish an environment that reduces the perception of non-bonded humans as competing for resources and increases the potential for them to be viewed as stimuli in the environment that offer additional, highly valued resources. Achieving this shift in stimuli association provides an alternative influence on the behaviour of our pet parrot. As an example, responding to handling cues such as `step up, ultimately needs to have a greater consequential reinforcement value to the parrot than standing on top of a cage and biting a presented hand. The learning environment for our parrot needs to bet set up to provide clear behavioural alternatives so that; Our parrot has choice It develops a relationship between the behavioural choice it makes and the consequential reinforcement it receives for that behaviour and; We respect the choice that our parrot makes and resist the temptation to enforce handling when it obvious that our parrot is not receptive to us. If the choices that your parrot is making are not achieving a behavioural goal that you have set then it is up to you to re-evaluate your expectations, improve your reinforcement schedule for the desired behaviour and perhaps most importantly, re-think how you have arranged the environment to set the parrot up to succeed with the highest potential to present the behaviours you seek. Managing the feeding schedules of our parrots obviously provides opportunities to deliver highly valued primary reinforcers that can often help to persuade a parrot that has started to establish aggressive behaviours in specific contexts within the home environment to behave differently. Rather than providing all free feed opportunities within a single enclosure or area where territorial aggression is suspected, it may be more effective to deliver food and certain food types at different times of the day, in different contexts, and to reinforce different behavioural goals. If your parrot has access to all of the resources it considers necessary to maintain ownership of, then it is unlikely to be motivated to interact with stimuli in its environment that present no real value alternatives. In summary, avoiding and managing territorial aggression can be achieved via the following... Developing a sensitive awareness of non-verbal, visual cues that may indicate that it is time to step back and away from a potential confrontation. Appreciating that many species of parrot are not naturally receptive to the sort of communal interactions that we expect from pets. We are therefore continually working to help them learn that communal interactions can be just as positively reinforcing as developing a monogamous relationship with a single household member. Maintaining consistent interaction schedules with pet parrots where each human member of the flock delivers highly valued reinforcers for desired behaviours presented by the pet parrot. Minimise handling and preening interactions that promote the sexual bonding of the parrot with one individual in the household. Establish feeding schedules that provide opportunities for the parrot to present behaviours that are an alternative to or incompatible with biting and territorial aggression. Continually re-evaluate how you have arranged the environment of the bird so that it is best set up to succeed with behavioural choices that you desire. As usual, this just pretty much touches the surface of what can be a complex behavioural issue. Ive actually introduced some pretty cool behaviour analysis concepts such as `Differential Reinforcement without elaborating on them this time around. Perhaps next issue we will find out what `Differential Reinforcement is all about and how it is one of our most powerful tools in behaviour modification with pet parrots.
  • How do I stop my parrot from screaming?
    Firstly you need to find out the cause of the screaming and eliminate that from the birds routine or environment. If they are screaming for attention, it is important to ignore the behaviour, so when the bird is screaming walk out of the room, do not scream back or go to them while they are screaming, as this is only re enforcing the behaviour. It is essential to build a routine for the bird and try not to extremely change that, it is important to be flexible but also keep some normality for them. Praise the bird when he is quiet, so then you are reinforcing that being quiet is good and screaming is not. If the screaming is from boredom, ensure that toys are rotated on a daily or weekly bases and add natural toys such as branches, rocks, grass etc. Try to give the bird time out of the cage on a routine bases so that they have time to flap their wings and gain exercise, this will wear them out and they will then appreciate resting in their cage.
  • How important is it for parrots to be kept together or by themselves?
    My personal philosophy is that, where the social enrichment and companionship of humans is inconsistent and highly variable, it is extremely important for parrots to share their environment with other parrots. Apart from that classic exception to just about every psittacine rule, the Kakapo, the two most unnatural situations that many parrots seem to struggle to adapt to are lack of flight, and lack of opportunities for stimulation and socialisation with other parrots. Along with a lack of foraging opportunity, those deficiencies are often the key contributors to the development of many behavioural problems we deal with in companion parrots. I have travelled throughout Australia, Asia and Central America observing parrots in the wild. It is an extreme rarity to ever observe a parrot without either a bonded partner, small family group, or a seasonal flock close by. In the rare circumstances when parrots are observed on their own in the wild there is a reason for this. It is always a temporary situation and one that, among other things, potentially leaves them vulnerable to predation. So much of the behavioural ecology of a wild parrot is intimately linked to having evolved and been naturally selected as a social, flocking creature that it really does confound me that humans consider it acceptable to keep them on their own. We also need to have realistic expectations when it comes to species compatibility. The common misconception is that we look at `parrots’ as a single organism that comes in many different shapes, sizes and colours. The reality is that we’re looking at 350+ different species, each offering a suite of different behavioural characteristics that may not immediately cater for compatibility with different species. There are however, plenty of indications that much of the social behaviour we observe is learned, rather than innate. This sets up opportunities for mixed species groupings to work when individuals of different species groups are raised around each other in captivity. Parrots are also socially adaptable, so in the absence of their own species, it is not uncommon for an individual to develop relationships with other parrots of different species. This gravitation towards developing a pair bond, even outside of a conspecific, is indeed the basic characteristic that results in parrots bonding to humans and endearing themselves to us. Of course, there are many parrots out there who are kept on their own and perhaps, all observations indicate they are doing fine. I am inclined to suggest that in those cases, the interaction schedule with their human owners is high and they live in a great and stimulating environment that caters for their needs well. I would also suggest that these are the exceptions, rather than the rule, when it comes to parrots on their own. Over the years, I have developed an extensive amount of first hand experience observing the behavioural results of parrots making a transition from an isolated life to one that offers exposure to other psittacines. Given an appropriate set of conditions, this transition almost always results in an enhanced degree of behavioural activity, on many levels. Of course, there are many considerations that need to be made to successfully achieve such a transition. Some parrots kept in isolation from other parrots for many years may lack the socialisation skills necessary to avoid conflict. I have one such bird, and although we are yet to find a parrot that he will tolerate in the same enclosure, you only need to observe the degree to which he interacts vocally with the other parrots in our environment, and how he responds to the subtleties of their behaviours, to know that there is a really intense interaction dynamic at play, and one that I am certain he is benefiting from. Species compatibility, housing and enclosure design, access to food and perching resources in mixed flock enclosures and monitoring incompatibility stress are all essentially considerations for the welfare of parrots kept with other parrots. Just finally – before making the decision to add another parrot to your flock, make a sensible and honest assessment of your ability to properly house, feed, enrich and provide health care for any additional bird. Acquiring another parrot to solve a behavioural problem with an existing bird is not a sensible strategy to take. Whilst I may advocate the benefits of multiple parrot flocks in captivity, before considering adding to your flock you must be competent with the training of your existing birds, comfortable with their behaviour, be committed to all of your bird equally, and most importantly of all, be able to maintain the standard of care you are currently providing
  • I'm wondering how the intelligence level may differ between large parrots vs. small parrots? For example, is an African Grey "smarter" than a Lovebird or a Parrotlet?
    Thought provoking question Im glad you asked J. Debate, generalisations and assumptions about the comparative `intelligence level of different parrot species has long been an issue that seems to generate some poorly considered discussion amongst parrot keepers. Most of what I read on parrot intelligence has a tendency to set criteria for making judgements on perceived `intelligence that has little relevance to what would be considered `intelligent for that species in the wild. As a wildlife biologist, if I have to consider the `intelligence of different parrot species then its in an ecological and environmental context relevant to the behaviour of the individual in the wild. Unfortunately, the criterion for intelligence usually set by parrot owners is often highly anthropomorphic and I rarely see any discussion of parrot intelligence accompanied by a suitable and appropriate definition. Perhaps we can consider that here. A quick look at a variety of available definitions for intelligence suggest that intelligence can be defined as an ability to comprehend, understand, benefit from experience, solve problems, use language and learn. These are all skills that every parrot, regardless of the species, needs to employ to be successful in their natural environment. When we appreciate the huge variation in ecological contexts that the 350+ different parrots species that we are concerned with come from, we realise that all have learned how to solve the key problem of surviving and succeeding to the next generation. That, for me, is my best indicator of `intelligence success of an animal in its natural environmental state. Drop me off somewhere deep in the jungles of South America, or the arid inland of Australia, and Im not sure that Id last more than a couple of days, regardless of how `intelligent I might think I am in my own environment. This realisation should challenge us to reconsider some of the judgements we make about perceived `intelligence levels of parrots when we keep them in environments that fail to facilitate the expression of natural behaviours. In captive environments we have a tendency to place demands on parrots and make judgements about their `intelligence in contexts that often have a huge set of unrealistic expectations embedded in them. These captive contexts often also fail to provide the most appropriate conditions, stimuli and teaching practices that are required to set the bird up to succeed. What might be best to question is the `intelligence of the keeper and whether or not they have provided the environmental conditions required to facilitate their parrot demonstrating its capacity to engage effectively with its surrounds, whether that be in performing a trick, extending their vocabulary or simply flying to the hand on cue. The parrot, whether its an African Grey, Lovebird, Budgerigar or Hyacinth Macaw, has the capacity to learn do we have the capacity to be the good teacher they need and set up the environment they require for their `true intelligence to shine?
  • My Sun Conure has started to peck at his toy/toys until he regurgitates and then eats. Is this a behavioural thing or dietary? I removed one toy as I thought it was over exciting him but now he is finding alternatives. He is also making love to his bed.
    Thanks for sending in this question Lee and thanks for supporting the Parrot Rescue Centre! The scenario you described is a common issue amongst companion parrot owners and one that we can hopefully share some insights into through your question. Regurgitating food onto toys and masturbating on inanimate objects in the cage are certainly strong behavioural indicators of a parrot that is keen to prove that he or she has `come of age so to speak. These behaviours can be observed in both males and females, particularly in species groups such as the Conures. As artificial as captive life is for most pet parrots, there are some natural behavioural tendencies that can be difficult to avoid and this is certainly the most classic example. What were observing here isnt `abnormal behaviour its natural behaviour being expressed in an unnatural environment. In the absence of a receptive conspecific (same species) mate, the toys and birdie bed are simply offering an outlet for sexual behaviour to be directed towards. Often its the owners of the parrot that are on the receiving end of such unwanted advances. Were not always comfortable with our animals becoming sexually mature and therefore being exposed to the behaviours that are associated with that often make us a little uneasy as well. Its undoubtedly one of the numerous reasons behind the desexing of many of the animals we keep as companion pets. We dont desex pet parrots therefore we can expect that at some stage in the life of most companion birds that we will see behavioural changes attributable to the onset of sexual maturity. I can still remember my own Conure outrageously displaying and sexually engaging with her mirror when given the opportunity. Visitors would sit and watch these displays and marvel at what an odd creature I had living in my house unaware of what was `actually going on! For most pet parrots such behaviour is harmless and may present infrequently enough for it to be ignored and is of no real concern. One of my Amazon Parrots will occasionally regurgitate to me but this is infrequent and largely ignored, or his attention is carefully redirected. He is an aviary bird and simply handling him in certain ways and building up his excitement levels can see such behaviours being presented. For a few parrots out there though, such behaviours can increase in their frequency, duration and intensity, become repetitive or excessive, and may suggest that some modifications to the environment and daily management is needed. Heres a basic summary of recommendations that I would suggest for you... *Seek Veterinary Advice: The first stage for you is to access an avian veterinarian, have a health check-up done on your Sun Conure and discuss your concerns with your vet. If you have not already determined the sex (male or female) then I would recommend doing this. This knowledge can be particularly important if the bird is a hen. Female parrots will still lay eggs even when kept on their own and owners should know how to handle situations such as egg binding. This is again, something to discuss with your avian vet. *Understanding the Behaviour: The onset of sexual display behaviour has a number of associated distant and immediate `antecedents the events or conditions in the environment that set the behaviour up to occur. There are three key antecedents that are most often influencing the behaviours described here. The first is usually a diet that is high in fats, sugars and nutrient density. Such a diet provided all year round (as is usually the case with pet birds) can set off a cascade of physiological triggers that switch on the sexual response of the bird to an environment that really is prime and flush with great food availability for the rearing of young. The next key element is often how we have arranged the environment in terms of presence of suitable areas to nest in, such as `birdie beds or nestboxes, the presence of reflective objects (parrots dont recognise their reflection as their own as higher order primates do they often either ignore it, view it as a rival or display sexually to it), and even time playing around on the couch behind cushions, under cupboards etc. You name it, Ive seen parrots setting up a whole suite of places around the home as a possible nesting site and engaging with everything but the kitchen sink in a sexual manner. The third antecedent, and perhaps the most immediate, is often our own physical handling and interaction schedules with the bird. We often inadvertently `turn them on through our tactile handling of them. Humans are primates and as such, we have an intrinsic `hands on approach to the way we engage affectionately with people and animals close to us. Excessive amounts of time spent mutually preening our parrots, especially in areas under the wings and over the back and abdomen are the perfect signal to your bird that can suggest youre just as keen as he or she is to take the relationship to the next level. Lets face it, any Sun Conure living in a predator free environment, offered a veritable smorgasbord of food on offer 24/7, provided with plenty of spots to set up happy homes and being turned on by their human buddy really is establishing the conditions for exactly the behaviours we see described here. *Behaviour Management: Modifying the behaviour may require an evaluation of the daily diet of the parrot and a reduction in the amount of high sugar fruits, high fat seeds and nuts and the provision of a daily food management plan that also helps to redirect some of the time spent sexually displaying to toys towards time spent actively foraging for food in foraging system toys. Often just setting the environment up so that our parrots need to spend more time `working for their food in an enriched enclosure can be enough to see a reduction in undesirable behaviour and an increase in alternative or incompatible behaviour. *Re-evaluate your handling schedule with your bird and minimise opportunities for inadvertently presenting interactions that may be developing a heightened state of excitement and leading to increases in sexual responses from your bird. *Replace non-functional `passive toys in the cage with `active foraging toys and increase time outside the cage that is devoted to training simple play behaviours or novel tricks, rather than indulging in excessive preening. Remove toys that are receiving excessive attention but be prepared perhaps to tolerate occasional sexual behaviour towards novel items in the cage. At the very least, rotate toys and enrichment items in the cage more frequently to reduce the level of `attachment that might be occurring whilst increasing the potential for exploring new stimuli. *Make a decision about the birdie bed being in cage. These can certainly be appreciated by parrots such as Conures but perhaps withdraw it for a few weeks while you are reworking the diet and enrichment schedule and reintroduce it at a later stage. Alternatively, simply remove it during the day and place it in the cage in the evening a great cue perhaps for `days over, time for some rest. From the above it should be obvious that managing these behaviours requires an approach that appreciates the influence of a range of environmental factors your own behaviour being an important component of that. Hopefully with some simple changes to the diet and enrichment schedule you will see less of a `Sex Starved Sunny and more of a `Seed Seeking Sunny in the future.
  • What are some causes of constant screaming in parrots?
    If your parrot is constantly screaming, there may be firstly a problem with the cage or environment they are in, such as nothing for them to play with, or not a big enough area for them to stretch there wings or something threatening there environment. Secondly it may be that the bird is seeking attention, if the bird is spoilt with to much attention all the time and then that stops, they can become frustrated and upset. Thirdly a parrot that has not been trained and disciplined accordingly may feel they are in charge and scream to show their importance. Fourthly if a bird is bored in their environment with nothing new to play with or not enough time out of their cage they can scream to gain your attention or to occupy themselves. Lastly during seasonal breeding periods birds can be triggered into matting rituals, which may cause them to scream out for a mate.
  • What does my birds body language mean? Interpreting expressions of communication in non-verbal behaviour chains.
    One of the most common precipitating factors leading to the onset of behaviour management and handling problems that we humans experience with captive companion parrots is a lack of understanding and awareness of the subtleties of the non-verbal `body language of our parrots. Developing your knowledge of how to interpret the behavioural displays of your avian companions is an essential step in progressing to a deeper level of appreciation of how to more effectively and sensitively interact with your parrot. In answer to this FAQ well examine communication forms that our parrots utilise in `non-verbal contexts that dont include vocalisations. We might be able to discuss vocal communication for the next FAQ! First of all, lets define what were talking about when we say `body language. Essentially the scope of this encompasses observations of individual physical behaviours that result in definable variations to the anatomical and mechanical movements of the bird. Some of the most commonly recognised physical behaviours associated with parrot `body language observations are often described as follows: Beak gaping, beak rubbing, beak grinding, pupil dilation, nape feather raising, tail flaring, blushing (in Macaws), contour feather tightening, wing quivering, heightened and lowered posture, mechanical movements around an enclosure or on a perch, leg tucking, stretching and plenty of variations of all of the above!!! Interpreting the body language of parrots is not as easy as it is for primate species such as humans, monkeys and apes. With their well-developed and evolved skeletal musculature there are literally dozens of subtle variations in `expression that primates are capable of that carry meaning and message to the environment around them without the need to utter a sound. What we find in parrots however is a more limited range of physical behaviours, so indeed we sometimes see combinations of individual physical behaviours that carry more than one communicative meaning! Consider the typical `crest raising physical behaviour of a member of the Cockatoo species group. This `display could indicate a range of communication possibilities. Is the cockatoo excited, alarmed, alert, afraid or soliciting interaction? In reality we cant be confident of the intended message by observing such a single behaviour in isolation. We need to start by looking at the other physical behaviours occurring in combination with the crest raising to really form an understanding of what that cockatoo is trying to tell us. When we focus on `body language what we are really doing is connecting individual physical behaviours together in what we call a `behaviour chain. A behaviour chain is simply a sequence of observable and measurable behaviours that, when performed in a particular sequence, serve a functional role in response to environmental and/or physiological stimuli. What we then tend to do is to assign labels to these behaviour chains that help us define their function. As an example, when we refer to a parrot as `aggressive what we are really doing is labelling a behaviour chain that we have observed in relation to the way the parrot might then be expected to interact with a stimulus in its environment. Taking the raised crest of a cockatoo out of isolation we might also observe a flared tail, a lowered posture, dilating pupils, lengthways rubbing of the beak in a rapid motion along the perch, beak gaping and swaying. Sensitive observers would recognise such a behaviour chain as related to potential `aggression from such a bird towards a given stimulus. Of course thats a pretty overt and obvious one to arrive at a good interpretation for! Many times its the more subtle shifts in our birds that take us by surprise. When we seek to interpret the physical displays of our parrots it is essential to keep in mind one of the fundamental understandings about the behaviour of our birds. Essentially this involves acknowledging that all behaviour is functionally related to environmental stimuli. Looking at the non-verbal language of our parrots we need to always consider what we observe in relation to the status and dynamic of the environment. When we sit back and observe our birds and their behaviour chains in combination with whats going on in their environment, and not in isolation, we can reach a new level of enlightenment about `why our parrots might do what they do. When we reach this stage of awareness we can then really start to develop strategies that enable us to implement highly positive and rewarding experiences for our birds that will either increase behaviours that we wish to reinforce and encourage and/or set about working on extinction schedules to diminish behaviours wed rather see disappear! So, the next time your parrot performs a physical behaviour that you consider `body language and an attempt to communicate with you non-verbally, think about the behaviour `chain at work and combine this with the environment dynamic. This will help to set you up to succeed in responding to the behaviours in a highly sensitive and potentially rewarding way.
  • What might be causing feather loss in my companion parrot? (Part 1)
    As a behavior consultant I am regularly asked about feather condition in my clients birds. The dilemma with such situations however is that many factors can impact on feather health and feather loss, including clinical health issues. In almost all cases my advice is to seek a consultation with an avian veterinarian first. As with any potential health problem that includes the possibility of clinical illness, it is essential that a thorough evaluation of the birds nutritional and health status be achieved by a qualified vet and an assessment as to whether the feather loss is clinical or behavioral be made. No amount of work on the behavioral and enrichment side of care will provide the solutions for health issues directly related to disease and/or malnutrition. Unless you are certain that feather loss in your companion parrot is behavioral, seek veterinary advice first. Here's a few situations where an avian vet evaluation would be imperative Feather loss around the head of a bird kept on its own Localized feather loss or damage in a specific area on the body Feather loss that has progressed to tissue injury Failure of a juvenile parrot to fully develop its feathers Poor general feather condition and/or coloration Rapid loss of feathers resulting in inability to fly Continual state of moult (constant presence of pin feathers) Your avian vet is the best-qualified person to then offer insights into the potential clinical causes, which may range from parasitic problems to localized infection to nutritional abnormalities to viral and bacterial diseases. Ive observed quite a few parrots kept by new parrot owners who were concerned about the feather loss in their bird only to find that the bird was actually moulting quite normally. Moulting patterns differ depending on the species. Some species experience very obvious seasonal moults (such as Asiatic parrots), some may undergo minor, but definable moulting periods throughout the year and some species may maintain regular, but difficult to observe, moulting and replacement of feathers. In captivity we tend to see the added variable of inconsistent or altered photoperiod effects on feather health due to the keeping of birds indoors and in artificial light environments. This can further cause confusion when determining whether feather loss is `normal. Every parrot owner should therefore get into a routine of regularly monitoring the amount of feathers they observe lying around the cage each day combined with the general state of feather condition on the bird. Over time you will develop a picture of what is `normal for your parrot. Combine this evaluation with an examination of the state of the feathers found in the enclosure. Feather that are fully intact and undamaged are most likely normally moulted feathers. Observations of obviously damaged feathers can provide some insights into whether the situation is outside of the normal spectrum and may suggest the need to discuss the issue with your avian vet. Its a good idea to take the feathers you are concerned about with you when you go for your consultation. If feather loss in your companion parrots has been diagnosed by an avian veterinarian as behavioral then the first stage of developing a support plan for that bird is to successfully categories the situation. In next months newsletter well look at how a behavior consultant categorizes the different forms of behavioral feather loss and damage and examine the potential causes. In part three of this Q&A well then progress to developing some remedial strategies to support behavioral feather loss and damage. If you are experience behavioral feather loss in your companion parrot then contact me to discuss a support plan that best suits your situation. Alternatively, why not come along to our next Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Parrot Workshop. In this workshop well discuss the behavioral and environmental enrichment needs of parrots that will help to prevent feather problems developing.
  • What might be causing feather loss in my companion parrot? (Part 2)
    In last months edition of Q&A we focused on the initial evaluation of feather loss and the importance of seeking avian veterinarian advice as the first point of reference if concerns arise about the feather condition of your parrot. Once an evaluation has been made by your avian veterinarian that the feather loss is behavioural, its time to focus on the potential causes and underlying issues that may have led to the condition. Firstly, at a surface level we can usually categorise feather loss and damage into: Feather Picking: Damage to the feathers via improper preening that does not result in their complete removal. Feather Plucking: Complete removal of feathers from the body. In some circumstances it may even be a combination of the two, where the feathers are first excessively preened, resulting in damage to the feather barbs, and then removed completely. Other terms occasionally used are feather mutilation and feather destruction. These are essentially synonymous with the above. I ve personally managed and consulted with feather picking and feather plucking in companion parrots for more than 10 years now, including parrots in my own flock. Over that time I have been able to establish some general correlations between the observable feather damage characteristics and the most likely causes. In every situation however, a thorough examination of the environment and all of its dynamic components must be made. Feather picking and feather plucking is considered a `stereotypical behaviour, and by definition is not a normal and functional behaviour. All behaviour however, functional or otherwise, is linked to the environmental context. We need to acknowledge and appreciate that this is a captive phenomenon that is not observed in wild parrots. For a wild parrot to remove or damage its own feathers is equivalent to suicide. The accountability for self-induced feather damage in captive parrots ends with `us as ultimately, this behavioural problem is an indicator of our failure to provide the captive conditions and experience conducive to proper behavioural health. Sometimes achieving an optimum captive environment can be extremely difficult; indeed despite my own best efforts, we still struggle to find solutions for some of the birds we have taken on with this condition. Evaluating the situation below the surface level we can draw some potential insights into precipitating causes Behavioural feather picking: In such cases there may be mild damage to body contour and wing contour feathers resulting in damaged barbs and barbules and a general appearance of poor feathering. In my experience this is often related to boredom, lack of access to regular bathing opportunities and lack of access to a partner in the case of those species that indulge in mutual preening with flock mates (such as Conures, Cockatoos, Amazons, Macaws, Lories, African Greys). Unfortunately, many companion parrots lack the presence of a conspecific partner, are not provided with species appropriate bathing opportunities and are not provided with an enriched environment. Managing feather picking at this level requires an approach that focuses on re-evaluating the environmental enrichment on offer, being more creative with feeding schedules to extend time spent engaging in feeding activity and ensuring that bathing opportunities are increased to promote proper preening behaviours. In cases where the enrichment, bathing and feeding schedule is appropriate and the bird is provided with access to a conspecific partner, consideration of incompatibility stress in the environment may be required. Stress from being housed with, next to or near incompatible parrots or other animals can potentially result in self-induced feather damage due to anxiety-based stress. This is where a sound knowledge of parrot body language will provide insights as to the observable degree of comfort level that the parrot may be at in its environment. In addition to the above, handraised juvenile parrots are often exposed to stressors early in life that may result in juvenile feather problems. In appropriate weaning schedules, lack of opportunity to fledge, improper clipping of wings and early removal of parental figures can all potentially result in stress-induced behavioural feather picking in juvenile birds. In the case of certain species such as Gang-Gang cockatoos and African Greys, removal of juvenile birds from environments that allow access to parental support can be considered highly contributory to feather picking and plucking observed before 12 months of age. Behavioural Feather Plucking: Feather damage that extends to complete removal of feathers is usually either an extension of long-term lack of enrichment (considering all forms) and/or the result of stress induced by inappropriate housing, inappropriate exposure to aversive stimuli (including incompatible animals within the environment), inappropriate interactions with humans (excessive use of negative reinforcement and punishment), inappropriate feeding schedules and potentially, psychogenic issues related to hormone dynamics and sexual maturity. Hormone relationship to feather plucking has not been adequately studied and profiled to my knowledge therefore, in my opinion, the common blame for feather plucking being directed towards `hormones in sexually mature parrots is an inadequate response to this situation and may fail to empower the owner with need to focus on environmental change for effective behaviour change. In some cases the situation extends to tissue damage and self-mutilation. At this stage significant clinical care may be required and involve a combination of strategies, including medication, which will involve consulting with an avian veterinarian as well as a qualified behaviour consultant. After reading this Im sure you can appreciate the potential complexities of self-induced, behaviour feather damage in companion parrots. Successful remedial management of the situation in many circumstances is often dependent on a `holistic approach that seeks to cater for numerous potential causes. In next months Q&A well take a look at such approaches. To read Part 3 of this article scroll down to the bottom of the page.
  • What might be causing feather loss in my companion parrot? (Part 3)
    So far in this three-part Q&A, weve examined behavioural feather damage in the contexts of identifying and evaluating the potential causes and then categorising the problem. These initial diagnostic steps are extremely important in developing a remedial plan to resolve what can be the most perplexing behavioural issue we deal with when keeping parrots in captivity. The focus of this final part is to provide an overview of the general remedial strategies commonly implemented by behaviour consultants to assist clients with managing behavioural feather loss in their pet parrot. As mentioned in Part 2, often a holistic approach, that is multi-faceted and targets a range of potential precipitating factors, may be required to provide the greatest relief to symptoms of the problem. This may be particularly important if the cause of the problem is not readily identifiable. In any case, it should be obvious to experienced parrot owners that each of the following represents best practice for successfully maintaining behavioural health in pet parrots. Diet Management & Foraging Opportunity: Scientific studies have demonstrated a significant disparity in the time spent actively engaging in foraging and feeding behaviours of wild parrots compared to captive parrots. Reduced active foraging can be considered a precursor to boredom or lack of activity. This activity deficit has been linked to excessive amounts of time spent preening by captive parrots, which of course has been linked to improper care of feathers over time. The more dynamic, variable and creative the captive parrot owner can be in terms of food allocation, presentation and access, the longer the parrot will need to spend engaging in feeding activity. This strategy has been used for decades now in the zoo industry to reduce stereotypical behaviours in a range of animal species. Diet management involves more that just withholding favoured foods for training treats. Creative diet management for parrots is concerned with a range of goals. Initially, it is important to establish a formulated diet as the daily base for food consumption and then supplementing this with a range of other food types, including fruit, vegetables, seeds, natural foliages and livefoods. The composition ratio of each of these supplements should be considered at a species-specific level. Not only will a diet based on a formulated food offer a sound level of nutrient value, whilst minimising fat intake, it will also support the motivation for the parrot to engage in foraging activity for items of `higher value. Essentially therefore, you can achieve improved physical health combined with enhanced behavioural benefits by effectively balancing a daily food intake with formulated pellets. Diet management then extends to catering for food allocation at various times of the day. Most parrot species do not feed for only an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon as some articles claim. Feeding durations of up to 8 hours have been observed in the wild at all times of the day so therefore we need to cater for the natural tendency to forage outside of the established feeding regime. All parrots, regardless of species, benefit from the opportunity to forage. This is achieved by balancing the amount of food allocated throughout the day with the provision of natural browse. This is where a species-specific understanding of parrots is required and an appreciation of the huge variability in foraging behaviours and preferences. What works as a foraging motivator for one species, or even one individual, may not work for another. In any case, if the daily food intake is staggered for a companion parrot then it is important that natural foraging opportunities are provided outside of those times to reduce boredom and relieve pressures associated with behavioural feather picking. Enclosure Variability & Suitability: A dynamic and creative approach to food management needs to extend to providing a captive enclosure that facilitates normal behaviours. In my experience, most pet parrots are maintained in enclosures far too small, and for too long, to maintain optimum behavioural health. Larger enclosures obviously facilitate the provision of a wider range of materials, substrates, perching and food positioning options. If small enclosures are used then it may be beneficial to maintain a regular schedule of variability and change in terms of enclosure furnishings. Care should be taken with sensitive individuals with a history of aversive reactions to changes. Such individuals should be catered for via gradual desensitisation of enrichment items, and even new perches. Parrot owners also often over provide enrichment items such as toys and inadvertently create a cluttered environment that reduces healthy movement within the enclosure. Providing excessive amounts of artificial enrichment may also result in lack of interest in such items so a rotation schedule, with a minimum number of artificial enrichment items being provided for no more than a week at a time, may be far more beneficial than a saturation approach. This is often particularly relevant for young parrots. When we consider enclosure suitability we also may need to consider the position of the enclosure. It was mentioned in Part 2 of this series that incompatibility stress with other animals in the environment might be a potential contributor to feather problems. This therefore prompts reflection and careful observation of any parrot that is damaging its own feathers and is housed with or around other birds and animals and appropriate modifications made if necessary. The ideal, in my opinion, is to provide companion parrots with access to an outdoor aviary. This facilitates enhanced provision of natural browse and exposes the bird to a huge variety of natural stimuli, particularly visual and aural stimuli, that is rarely achieved indoors. Bathing Schedules: Skin and feather health may be dependent to varying degrees on humidity and access to bathing opportunities. Owners of companion parrots kept indoors, particularly in air-conditioned environments, may need to reassess the bathing schedule of their bird if behavioural feather picking is diagnosed. I have consulted with a number of feather picking birds that were rarely, if ever, bathed or provided with opportunities to self-bathe. This is very important for keepers of neo-tropical species whose natural range is within areas of high annual rainfall. Proper access to bathing promotes natural preening behaviours and can often be a significant component of successful recovery. For an overview on providing species-appropriate bathing opportunities contact Zarita and request a copy of the July 2005 newsletter. Balanced Social Interaction: As noted in Part 2, companion parrots are often deprived of natural physical interactions with conspecifics (same species). When we consider that mutual preening is an integral part of natural pair bond behaviour for a range of species commonly kept as pets, the lack of access to such interactions can be considered contributory to some cases of excessive preening leading to feather damage. Aside from the physical aspect, balancing social interaction for pet parrots encompasses the behavioural and psychological side as well. Most parrot species (the kakapo is one exception) are highly social and often form strong pair bonds. It is extremely unnatural for most parrots to be alone for most of the day, as many pet parrots often are. I firmly believe that many parrots fail to cope with the inconsistencies of the human-parrot bond and as a result we often see behavioural abnormalities arise. Obviously there are exceptions but there is little arguing that captive parrots that are kept alone and without the stimulation of other parrots in their environment or without regular human interactions will benefit from being provided with another parrot, preferably of the same species, in their environment. A whole suite of behaviours can be observed between parrots, even in different enclosures, housed in the same environment that would otherwise be absent in a solitary individual. Such stimulation can equate to increased activity and engagement in enrichment items and less time spent damaging feathers. The key to this strategy is achieving compatibility and minimising incompatibility stress. When considering taking on another parrot it is important to access advice and input from a parrot behaviour consultant first. For more information on developing a multiple-parrot/social interaction dynamic ask Zarita for a copy of the October 2005 newsletter. I havent covered all bases with this Q&A, particularly from the enrichment side of things. If you would like to delve deeper into environmental enrichment then please contact Australian Birdkeeper magazine at and consider ordering the back issues from 2005 that I have written articles for on the topic of environmental enrichment. If you are experiencing behavioural feather problems with your companion parrot then consider taking the opportunity to contact me and discuss your situation. Attendance at one of our Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary workshops, a phone consultation or even an in-home consultation might provide some of the solutions that youre searching for.
  • What tips do you and others have about making the decision to have a baby when you have pet birds?
    Question? I wondered if you could include some advice and information in your next newsletter about babies (human) and companion parrots. My partner and I are trying to get pregnant with our first child. However a constant source of worry for me is...' How will the birds cope?' I have a little Green Cheek and an Eclectus who live in our lounge room and are our best friends. What tips do you and others have about making the decision to have a baby when you have pet birds? Are there specific things that work for others in this same situation? I never want to give up my parrots as they mean so much to me and I just know that we can give them the best life. I appreciate your time and consideration of my request.ᅠJust thought it might be a topic that other readers could benefit from too. Answer! Thanks for being a PRC supporter, for sharing your question, and for so obviously caring about and considering your parrots as you encounter the prospect of parenthood and the implications that has on your relationship with, and management of, your birds. This is a question that perhaps has no definitive answer as all of our circumstances, lifestyles and capacity to cater for our parrots differ significantly from one situation to the next. The best I can do is to offer some insights into how I have managed this sort of change in my own life, having a child of my own and the impending arrival of two more! Ultimately, the decisions you will make will be based on where your approach and goals lie. Firstly, predicting how any companion animal will cope with significant environmental change is extremely difficult. Parrots are so incredibly individual that you just wont know until you get there. Having a newborn in the home does indeed result in a completely different schedule and routine from what most families and households without children have been accustomed to. One of the first considerations is how you plan to balance that schedule and ensure that your parrots still have access to the most essential of their daily activity and social routines in and around the new demands that will be placed on you. To be perfectly honest you simply wont have the same amount of `spare time, or the energy, that you had prior to having a baby or toddler in the home. Ive actually found that to be one of the hardest changes to cope with personally I just dont have the time I used to have to do all of the things I used to do. Accepting that is probably the first and most important step in ensuring you dont get depressed about no longer having as much time for your birds as you previously had because quite simply you wont. Caring for a human baby and toddler is just not even comparable to looking after the needs of a bird despite what some people might want to suggest. Finding that balance is more than likely going to require compromising to some degree the flexibility of the time you can currently spend with your birds. Here are perhaps a few things to consider that might support both you and your birds during the times ahead. Make sure that you consider the current placement of the birds cages and think realistically about how sustainable that will be. Both you and your parrots will benefit from establishing areas within the home that are dedicated to just the birds and just the baby. You will need space and areas within the home where you can concentrate on one responsibility not be trying to feed a crying baby with two parrots squawking away at you at the same time. That wont be good for your nerves. As your time with your parrots will inevitably be reduced, start building in daily environmental experiences for them that will, to some degree, compensate for that. Simple things like partitioning their daily food at multiple times of the day to keep them occupied during the times when you need to attend to your baby. Introducing a rotational schedule for enrichment so that, once again, distractions and redirections away from dependency are achieved. If your husband/partner is willing and able then start shifting some of the daily husbandry routines his way. Allow the parrots time to learn the new routine and new people that will be necessary in building relationships with them if they are to support you in working as a team. Consider an outdoor enrichment flight aviary. In my opinion, there is nothing better that we can provide for our companion parrots than daily opportunities to engage in experiences that can only be offered within an outdoor enclosure. Access to rain, natural light, wind, movement of foliage, greater scope for foraging and exploration these are all perfectly natural daily experiences for parrots that reduce the need for human companionship and increase the level of independence in the behaviours of our birds. It also helps in establishing daily routines where you can indeed have your quality time with family and bring the birds into that on your new schedule. Youre actually in a better position than some already in having two parrots and not just one. The presence of the second parrot makes a huge difference to a parrots ability to cope with reduction in time spent with a companion human carer. For many of us, the thought of not spending as much time with our birds as we were perhaps once able to is not a thought we are comfortable with. What we need to remind ourselves of though is that parrots have basic needs that can be catered for in many more ways than just through interactions with human carers. Over the past 15 or so years I have gradually changed my own expectations of my birds. Ive looked for ways that I can create larger, outdoor environments for them to spend their day active and behaving functionally without the constant need to be interacting with me. The end result has been a greater level of enjoyment in birdkeeping for me personally and, Im sure, the sort of lifestyle that is a closer approximation to natural than that provided for them when I kept them all indoors. I wish you and your husband all the best and hope that you guys will have a new addition to your home in the near future. Your story and experience will be a valuable one for others so consider keeping a diary and perhaps one day write an article to share with us how you managed such a change.
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