Help & Advice
Harrison's Bird Food.
What You need to know
Why Harrison's ?
This was Monty in January 2010
Combat avian disease by fighting malnutrition
90% of avian disease is linked to malnutrition. Many diets contain food items of the wrong type, resulting in a lack of essential nutrients or, equally importantly, an excess of potentially harmful ones. Even offering a mix of foods can be flawed as many birds have the habit of buffet feeding, and will pick certain items from the bowl and not get the full range of foods necessary to get a nutritional balance.
This nutritional imbalance can cause minor ailments, but can also bring about fatal diseases. Birds fed on an inadequate diet may survive, but they certainly will not thrive.
Harrison's Bird Foods were developed by esteemed American avian veterinarian Greg Harrison to meet the needs of the modern educated bird owner who knows the importance of a formulated diet in preventing malnutrition and combating disease and death in companion birds.
Why a dedicated bird lamp?…
Unlike humans, birds can see the UV light that is a part of natural sunlight. The bird uses this UV light for behaviours such as reproduction and feeding - life without UV would be the equivalent of humans seeing everything in black and white, only worse. Without UV we are able to recognise the sex of another. In some breeds, birds require UV to differentiate the sexes.
Where a bird is not kept outside, UV light should be provided. Normal domestic lighting does not do this. Most domestic lights distort the natural colour of the bird. The Arcadia Bird Lamp has been designed to provide the correct level of UV for the bird, and show off its true colours.
What do we mean by full spectrum light?
By full spectrum, we mean a balanced light output across the full spectrum, including the UV segment. Many modern triphosphor tubes have three peaks of energy that match the three colours that our eyes perceive.
Thus the tube's effective output is maximised to the human eye, and the tube will appear very bright. These peaks do not necessarily match the avian eye, and there would be no UV present.
The true full spectrum tube offers a balanced spectrum, with the gaps between the triphosphor peaks being filled in with light emitted from a halo phosphate mixture. In addition, UV emitting phosphors have been added, which give account for some 15% of the tube's output. This is split into 12% UVA and 2.4% UVB.
The overall colour of the tube's light output should be close to that of natural sunlight, which is 5,500K. The Arcadia Bird Lamp is very close to this at 5,600K. For birds, a colour temperature of higher than 5,800K is not suitable. Overloading the blue spectrum produces primarily female offspring. For this reason aquarium lamps should be avoided for bird use.Full spectrum light should also produce accurate colour rendition. The Arcadia Bird Lamp achieves this, with a Class 1A specification.
The importance of full spectrum light
Without a balanced source of light, the oculo-endocrine cycle (light to the pituitary and pineal gland) is affected. This affects every aspect of a bird's life. Skewed lighting can result in agitation, picking behaviours, weakness, breeding problems, and metabolic disorders.
Vitamin D3 synthesis
Vitamin D3 is required by birds for healthy bone development.
Many species can synthesize vitamin D3 from sunlight through their skin. Specifically, it is the UVB light within the spectrum that enables D3 synthesis.
As birds are covered in feathers, they are unable to use their skin in this way. In most birds, the preen gland collects the precursor D3 from the bloodstream, and concentrates it in the gland oils. These are then exposed to UVB light by the bird spreading the gland oils on to its feathers during preening. The bird then ingests the UV exposed material when it preens itself again, and oil enters the body as previtamin D. The liver and kidney then convert this to vitamin D3.
How a bird's visual system differs from the human system
The retina of the eye contains cones, which, when stimulated by different wavelengths of light, transmit colour information to the brain. In a human, there are three types of cones, enabling us to perceive three primary colours: red, green and blue. This is known as trichromatic vision. The combination of these colours enables us to perceive thousands of different colours.
Birds have a fourth cone, which is sensitive to UV light, and can perceive four primary colours, the additional colour being UV. This is known as tetrachromatic vision.
In humans, UV light is unable to pass through the lens of the eye, but the bird has no such limitation.
The latest research has discovered that some birds can even see five primary colours (i.e. have pentachromatic vision), being able to differentiate between two different wavelengths of UV.
The effect of daylight hours on a bird
Birds perceive light in two ways. Firstly, through the eye. The retina of the eye is capable of transmitting information about the intensity, colour composition, and polarisation (direction) of light. This information travels in two directions; to the brain via the optic nerve, and through a special pathway to the pituitary gland.
Birds have an additional way of perceiving light, a special gland which surrounds the eye, called the Harderian Gland. This gland measures the duration of light a bird experiences, known as the photoperiod, and passes this information onto the pineal gland.
Both the pituitary gland and the pineal gland act as regulators to the endocrine system and thus effect the whole metabolism of the bird.
To ensure that the bird's health is optimised, your lighting should be turned on one hour after sunrise and turned off one hour before sunset. This may be facilitated by using a timer. Thus the natural annual cycle of daylight is maintained, and the bird's natural cycle for reproductive conditions, and consequently feathering cycle, is maintained.
Breeders will be aware that breeding behaviours can be induced by artificially extending the photoperiod to 14-16 hours. In most cases this should be done gradually. Where this fails, a sudden increase may work.
The importance of UV to the bird
A bird kept inside may well be deprived of UV light. Sunlight passing through a window would have had most of its UV filtered out. In addition, normal domestic light sources do not emit UV. Thus, there is a definite need to add UV light, and the Arcadia Bird Lamp does this.
Birds' feathers reflect UV light. This reflection of the plumage plays a role in the sexual selection of birds. Breeding should be more successful with UV present.
Birds such as mynah birds that appear black to the human eye will appear multi coloured to the avian eye. The same would apply to some white birds.
UV perception plays a significant role in the selective intake of food. Ripe fruit and berries appear as a different colour to a bird. Pollinating flowers include UV reflections, assisting the bird to home in. What a bird sees affects its appetite. Reds are redder and greens are greener with UV. A reluctant feeder needs UVA light to stimulate its appetite.
UV for navigation
UV perception is used by birds for their navigation. Through the polarization of sunlight, a bird can tell which direction the light is coming from. This enables them to fly in the right direction.
Tips on use
Do not use a glass or protective lens between the lamp and the bird - this will reduce the UV light that your bird needs.
It is important that the Bird Lamp is replaced each year. UV phosphors deteriorate at three times the speed of visible light phosphors. The human eye cannot see this reduction but the lamp will be ineffective after one year's use.
Do not rely on lighting to provide all the vitamin D3 that your bird needs. Your bird's diet should also be appropriate.
Suspend the tube or tubes 12"to 18" above the top of the cage. An Arcadia reflector will ensure that all the light goes downward.
The addition of an Arcadia Reflector above the lamp will ensure that all the light is focused downwards and the intensity of the light is increased.
The suitability of other light sources for birds
Incandescent bulbs, including neodymium types do not emit UV and thus are not suitable for birds. Lamps high in UVB, such as reptile lamps, can cause cataracts, and should be avoided for bird use. Aquarium lamps do not offer the correct red blue ratio, and again should be avoided.
The main benefits are…
• The bird's general wellbeing
• Better breeding behaviour
• For displaying show birds
Palm Fruit Extract
What do we know about it.?
Palm Fruit Extract is rich in beta-carotene and vitamin E which results in improved feather growth, decreased
or stopped feather plucking, brighter
colouration, less dryness of the skin
and less feather dust.
Palm fruit extract
contains a balance of polyunsaturated,
monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids.
In addition, palm fruit extract also contains
essential substances such as linoleic acid
(an essential fatty acid which the body
cannot manufacture) and tocopherols and
tocotrienols, which act as natural antioxidants
against damaging free-radicals.
Palm fruit extract is a major source of
beta-carotene, 15 to 300 times more
than carrots and green vegetables, which
is a precursor to Vitamin A. Among the
functions of vitamin A are healthy mucous
membranes and skin, bone growth and
Palm fruit extract is
also 100% Cholesterol Free. Easily
Palm fruit extract is absorbed
and utilized for support of healthy growth,
contributing towards energy reserves,
thermal insulation, organ protection,
and tissue membrane structure and
cell metabolism. In simple terms, it is 100% natural,
It improves feather colour, especially the
reds, orange and yellows. It increases skin
condition and feather tone.
It improves general health and liver condition.
With modern technology, all grains are first
cooked, thereafter milled and shaped with
a cold process. All additives like vitamins,
amino acids, anti-oxidants, palm fruit extract
etc. are not exposed to high temperatures
Basic Bird First Aid
Basic First Aid Kit For Your Bird
Always have a basic first aid kit to hand. It should contain a few simple things that will be useful should your bird become injured. We always recommend that if your bird has any type of injury, that it is taken to a vet as soon as possible.
These are the basic minimum items that should be at hand in case of an emergency:
1. A substance to stop bleeding (Cornflour is good for this, however there are proprietary brands available in all good pet shops.)
2. A bird safe disinfectant (Such as Avisafe)
3. Cotton wool balls or cotton buds.
4. Tweezers and sharp scissors
5. Savlon cream (The ONLY human medication that can safely be used on a bird)
6. A soft, dark, non striped towel, for restraining an injured bird. (A light, striped towel would represent a preditor to the bird.)
7. De-stressant / Shock medication
8. Probiotics / White cell support / Electorlytes
9. Heat source (Heat lamp to help with shock.)
10. Pen light
11. Bandage material (½ Inch masking tape or micro-pore tape.)
12. Nail clippers
13. Eye dropper (This must be well cleansed if it has been used for other purposes!)
14. Important Telephone numbers (i.e. Vets, Taxi companies)
15. A suitable sized bird carrier (Even if your bird is trained to travel on your shoulder, a carrier should be available incase the bird is physically injured or in shock!)
Do NOT bathe the bird.
A sick bird needs warmth, darkness and a quiet atmosphere.
DO NOT HESITATE TO TAKE YOUR BIRD(S) TO THE VETS IF YOU SUSPECT THAT THE BIRD IS ILL. OFTEN WITH BIRDS TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. THE ABOVE LISTS ARE TO BE USED AS AN EMERGENCY MEASURE AND NOT AS A FORM OF CURE FOR A SICK BIRD!
Bird Feathers: Anatomy & Molting
Bird Beaks: Anatomy, Care, and Diseases
A bird's beak, also called the "rostrum," is used for many things from a weapon for enemies, to grooming, to the delicate feeding of a nestling. Beaks can be a combination of strength and sensitivity, strong enough to crack a walnut yet delicate enough to peel a grape.
A bird, like a mammal, has two jaws: the upper is the maxilla and the lower is the mandible. The nostrils, or nares, are located at the junction between the beak and the head. In most parrots, a small, round, brown structure, called the operculum is found inside of the nostril. This is comprised of cartilage and should not be mistaken for an obstruction or foreign body, such as a seed. Some species of birds, such as the parrots, have an area of fleshy tissue that contains the nares. This is called the cere. In budgies, the cere is blue in adult males, and a pinkish brown in females.
The beak is comprised of the jaw bone covered with a lightweight sheath called the rhamphotheca. The rhamphotheca is made of keratin, which is the same substance found in antlers or our fingernails. And like horns or fingernails, the beak is constantly growing. Depending upon the species, a bird's beak grows from one to three inches a year. The portion of the rhamphotheca covering the maxilla is called the rhinotheca, and that covering the mandible is the gnatotheca.
The proximal (closest to the bird) portion of the beak has a blood supply and a significant number of nerve endings. The distal portion (toward the tip) of the beak, like the end of a fingernail, does not sense pain.
Some parrots have file-like ridges crossing the inside of the upper bill. These aid the bird in cracking nuts and hard fruits.
There is a great variation in the size, shape, and strength of beaks. The type of beak a bird has is usually related to the type of food the bird normally eats.
- Strong, hook-like beaks, such as those on toucans and parrots, can crack an outer shell of a nut or the tough outer skins of certain fruits.
- Short, straight bills are perfect for seed and grub eaters. These include finches and canaries.
- Nectar-eating birds, such as hummingbirds, have long, pointed beaks for reaching into the heart of a flower.
- Wild birds, such as woodpeckers, have extremely strong, chisel-like beaks.
- Water birds, such as cranes, may have long beaks for probing; birds such as ducks and flamingos have flat beaks with special plates called lamellae, which help filter food.
- Raptors have hook-like beaks used for tearing food.
- Insect-eating birds, such as warblers, have short beaks.
- Some birds, such as swifts, have wide mouths, for catching insects while flying.
Signs of a healthy beak
A healthy bird has a healthy beak. And a healthy beak means that your bird will be using it to eat, play, and chew. If your bird's beak is causing him discomfort in some way, he will avoid using it. Signs that your bird's beak is in healthy include:
- Smooth, symmetrical appearance
- No peeling or unusual textures (Members of the cockatoo family should have fine powder on their beaks, the result of proper grooming of healthy feathers.
- No discolored areas
- Proper beak length (Check with your regular avian veterinarian to see if the tip of your bird's beak is as short as it should be for her particular species).
- Proper alignment of the upper beak and lower beak
Abnormal beak growth and development
The most common beak abnormalities include:
- Overgrown beak
- Scissors beak
- Prognathism or "parrot beak"
Overgrown beak: Either the upper or lower beak may overgrow, though it is far more common for the upper beak to do so. For some normal birds, regular beak trimming is necessary. Other birds may keep their beaks in proper form through eating a hard diet, grooming, climbing, chewing on toys, and rubbing the beak on a slightly abrasive surface. An overgrown beak can be the result of health problems including trauma, developmental abnormalities, nutritional imbalances, polyomavirus-like infection (finches), or liver disease (especially in budgies). See table below.
Treatment consists of trimming the beak to the proper shape and removing any excessive flaking. An overgrown beak is similar to an overgrown fingernail in that the overgrown portion has no sense of pain. The overgrown portion may be safely trimmed back to normal length without causing discomfort to the bird. Beak trimming is best performed by a veterinarian, unless you have considerable experience. If a beak is trimmed too short, it will cause the bird pain, will bleed, and may make it difficult or impossible for a bird to eat. Beak trimming may be performed using manual tools, such as human fingernail clippers and nail files, or side-cutting wire cutters. Some veterinarians prefer to use a Dremel drill grinding stone. In either case, the bird is generally not anesthetized for the procedure.
Scissors beak: Scissors beak is a lateral deviation of the rhinotheca. It is a developmental abnormality that occurs most commonly in cockatoos and macaws. It is thought to be caused by improper temperature during artificial incubation, genetics, or incorrect feeding techniques. Other possible causes include calcium deficiency, trauma, or a viral or mycobacterial infection.
Treatment varies with the severity of the problem and the age of the bird. In young birds with mild deviations, simply applying finger pressure to the appropriate side of the beak for several minutes 2-3 times daily, may correct the problem. In older birds, or those with more severe deviations, an avian veterinarian may need to perform surgery and apply a type of acrylic prosthesis (splint) to correct the abnormal growth.
Prognathism or "Parrot Beak:" Mandibular prognathism occurs when the tip of the rhinotheca rests on or inside the gnatotheca. This developmental abnormality is most commonly seen in cockatoos. The cause of this condition is unknown, and may include genetics, improper incubation, and hand-feeding techniques. It is rarely seen in parent raised birds. It is thought that when parent birds hook onto the chick's rhinotheca during feeding, they help to promote the normal development of the chick's beak.
As with scissors beak, treatment varies with the severity of the condition and the age of the bird. For some chicks, applying finger pressure several times daily may help, as will using a piece of gauze to apply traction to the upper beak during feeding. In an older bird, in which the beak has calcified, treatment generally involves the placement of an acrylic appliance on the beak. The type of appliance varies depending upon the extent of the problem.
At-home beak care
Beak care is critical for the overall health of the bird. The beak is the entry for nutrients, and is used for climbing and playing. We can help promote beak health by ensuring the bird is getting all the nutrients he needs and detecting any problems early. Some at-home care includes:
- Daily checking the health of your bird. Look for cracks, overgrowth, or discoloration of the beak.
- Consulting an avian veterinarian if you suspect that your bird's beak is growing unevenly. This can indicate underlying problems such as liver or nutritional issues. Your avian veterinarian can determine the reason for the problem as well as trim it to prevent problems with eating or preening.
- Providing chewing toys, any toy that a bird has to work at chewing will help keep his beak trim. These include build-your-own toys that you can make by alternating mineral pieces with rope, wooden, blocks, and plastic.
- Including different textures of perches, including cement perches specifically made for beak and nail health. Note: Do not use sandpaper perches.
- Housing the bird in a proper size cage. Owners of large parrots, especially, need to provide a sturdy cage. Parrot owners we know have come home to a flimsy cage with snapped bars and the soldering (made of toxic lead and zinc in some inexpensive cages) chewed off.
Trauma to the beak may occur as the result of fighting, chewing on electric cords, hitting the beak while flying or landing, or having the beak trapped between cage bars or other hard surfaces. Injuries may include fractures, punctures, and avulsions (tearing away of the beak). Injuries to the beak often bleed, and the hemorrhage needs to be stopped (usually with electrocautery. DO NOT use silver nitrate sticks - they are toxic to birds). The wounds must be cleaned and antibiotics and antifungals may need to be given. The beak has nerve endings, and pain or the displacement of the beak may make eating difficult or impossible. All birds with beak injuries should be examined by a veterinarian. Acrylics may be used to repair the beak until new tissue replaces it.
Other beak conditions
There are many diseases and conditions that can affect the health of the beak, as shown in the following table.
Respiratory System of Birds: Anatomy and Function
Differences between avian and mammalian respiration
Respiration in birds is much different than in mammals.
Birds have a larynx, but it is not used to make sounds. Instead, an organ termed the "syrinx" serves as the "voice box."
Birds have lungs, but they also have air sacs. Depending upon the species, the bird has seven or nine air sacs. The air sacs include:
- Two posterior thoracic
- Two abdominal
- Two anterior thoracic
- Two cervical (these are not present in some species)
- One interclavicular
Air Sacs of a Bird
The air sacs of birds extend into the humerus (the bone between the shoulder and elbow), the femur (the thigh bone), the vertebrae and even the skull.
Birds do not have a diaphragm; instead, air is moved in and out of the respiratory system through pressure changes in the air sacs. Muscles in the chest cause the sternum to be pushed outward. This creates a negative pressure in the air sacs, causing air to enter the respiratory system. Expiration is not passive, but requires certain muscles to contract to increase the pressure on the air sacs and push the air out. Because the sternum must move during respiration, it is essential that it is allowed to move freely when a bird is being restrained. Holding a bird "too tight" can easily cause the bird to suffocate.
Because birds have air sacs that reach into the bones, and have no diaphragm, respiratory infections can spread to the abdominal cavity and bones.
Bird lungs do not expand or contract like the lungs of mammals. In mammalian lungs, the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide occurs in microscopic sacs in the lungs, called 'alveoli.' In the avian lung, the gas exchange occurs in the walls of microscopic tubules, called 'air capillaries.'
The respiratory system of birds is more efficient than that of mammals, transferring more oxygen with each breath. This also means that toxins in the air are also transferred more efficiently. This is one of the reasons why fumes from teflon are toxic to birds, but not to mammals at the same concentration.
When comparing birds and mammals of similar weight, birds have a slower respiratory rate.
Respiration in birds requires two respiratory cycles (inspiration, expiration, inspiration, expiration) to move the air through the entire respiratory system. In mammals, only one respiratory cycle is necessary.
Respiratory cycle of a bird
Respiratory Cycle of a Bird
During the first expiration, the air is moved from the posterior air sacs through the ventrobronchi and dorsobronchi into the lungs. The bronchi continue to divide into smaller diameter air capillaries. Blood capillaries flow through the air capillaries and this is where the oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged.
When the bird inspires the second time, the air moves to the cranial air sacs.
On the second expiration, the air moves out of the cranial air sacs, through the syrinx into the trachea, through the larynx, and finally through the nasal cavity and out of the nostrils.
Bird Droppings: The Importance of Daily Observation in Early Identification of Problems
Since birds are closer to the wild state than most other pets, and are often the prey of other animals, they are good at masking signs of illness. Unfortunately, this may delay diagnosis of problems, so bird owners must be creative in observing their bird's condition. One quick health indicator is a bird's droppings. Daily inspection of cage papers may be able to tell you if your bird is stressed or becoming ill, alerting you in timely fashion to the need for corrective care.
The digestive system of your bird is physically simple and efficient. From consumption to elimination, the digestive process takes less than a day; thus droppings can provide you with information you can correlate with recent meals, activities, or events. Become familiar with the appearance of your bird's normal droppings, and if something is amiss, you can quickly spot abnormalities and bring them to your veterinarian's attention.
Droppings have three components: feces, urine, and urates.
- Feces are the solid waste from the bird's digestive system.
- As in mammals, urine is produced by the kidneys.
- Avian kidneys also produce urates, which are concentrated uric acid (a waste product from the breakdown of proteins).
| Bird Droppings Should Be Inspected Daily for:
Feces, urine, and urates are all combined at the cloaca, the end of the bird's digestive, urinary, and reproductive tracts. The three waste products are usually evacuated together as one dropping. Changes in any one of the components can offer clues to your bird's condition.
Droppings age quickly, though, and as they age, they intermingle, making them more difficult to inspect correctly.
What is normal?
The droppings of each species vary. Factors such as diet and age also come into play. Frequent elimination is normal – inspection of droppings over several days will define what is normal for your particular bird. Other characteristics of normal droppings are:
Droppings should be odorless.
Feces should be firm and dark brown or green in color, depending upon the species of bird and the diet. If the staple diet is seed, feces will be dark green; while if the staple diet is pelleted food, it will take on the color of the pellets. When feces dry, they often look black.
Urine should be clear.
Urates should be creamy-white, opaque, and almost chalky in appearance.
Budgerigars (parakeets) normally produce 35-50 droppings per day, while larger birds produce less. Nectar-feeding birds, such as lories and lorikeets, will have large numbers of more liquid droppings.
What is abnormal?
You need to be able to distinguish between a temporary change and, for example, a bout of diarrhea. Also, watch for changes in color, volume, consistency, and number of droppings.
Some abnormal signs include:
Feces light in color, mustard yellow, rusty brown, or containing blood
Unusually large feces or feces that are coarse-textured, watery, or mushy
Feces that contain undigested food or have a foul odor
Urine with any color at all
Urates that are yellow or green
Any significant increase or decrease in the number of droppings
To avoid misinterpreting signs, take your bird's recent meals into account. Blueberries or beets will significantly alter the color of feces. A diet high in moisture, such as fruits and vegetables, will increase urine output.
Other signs of illness
If changes in droppings do occur, be on the lookout for other telltale signs of illness such as:
- Not eating
- Sitting low or huddled, with or without ruffled feathers
- Rattled, wheezy, or open-mouth breathing
If your bird exhibits any of these symptoms, contact your avian veterinarian immediately. If you need to take your bird in for an exam, be sure to bring along the cage papers, so the veterinarian can examine the droppings, as well.
Interesting Bird Facts
Some interesting facts about birds:
The oldest bird was known as an Archaeopteryx and lived about 150 million years ago. It was the size of a raven, was covered with feathers, and had wings.
The most yolks ever found in a single chicken's egg is nine.
An ostrich egg needs to be boiled for 2 hours to get a hard-boiled egg.
The Royal Albatross' eggs take 79 days to hatch.
The egg of the hummingbird is the world's smallest bird's egg; the egg of the ostrich, the world's largest.
The now-extinct elephant bird of Madagascar laid an egg that weighed 27 pounds.
Precocial birds like chickens, ostriches, ducks, and seagulls hatch ready to move around. They come from eggs with bigger yolks than altricial birds like owls, woodpeckers, and most small songbirds that need a lot of care from parents in order to survive.
Air sacs may make up 1/5 of the body volume of a bird.
A bird's normal body temperature is usually 7-8 degrees hotter than a human's. Up to three-quarters of the air a bird breathes is used just for cooling down since they are unable to sweat.
A bird's heart beats 400 times per minute while resting and up to 1000 beats per minute while flying.
The world's only wingless bird is the kiwi of New Zealand.
Migrating ducks and geese often fly in V-shape formations. Each bird flies in the upwash of its neighbor's beating wings and this extra bit of supporting wind increases lift, thereby saving energy.
Falcons can swoop at over 200 mph.
Penguins, ostriches, and dodo birds are all birds that do not fly.
Hummingbirds eat about every ten minutes, slurping down twice their body weight in nectar every day.
The homing pigeon, Cher Ami, lost an eye and a leg while carrying a message in World War I. Cher Ami won the Distinguished Service Cross. Its leg was replaced with a wooden leg.
The only known poisonous bird in the world is the hooded pitohui of Papua, New Guinea. The poison is found in its skin and feathers.
The American turkey vulture helps human engineers detect cracked or broken underground fuel pipes. The leaking fuel smells like vulture food (they eat carrion), and the clustered birds show repair people where the lines need fixing.
WHY DO BIRDS FEATHER PLUCK?
Where do we start? There is no simple answer or treatment for this complaint.
One thing is certain though and that is that African Greys and Cockatoos are more prone to feather plucking than other bird species.
Over the years we have come in to contact with quite a few feather plucked birds, the first course of action necessary is to get an avian vet to take blood samples in order to see if there are medical reasons why the bird is plucking. Disease is a common cause for feather plucking, and only last year we received a phone call about a grey that was feather plucking, however when the bird was taken to an avian vet it was found that the poor bird had cancer.
Just like you scratch your skin where it itches, birds will pluck areas that feel uncomfortable. Bad wing clipping, damage to feathers or feather follicles due to the cage being too small for the bird are all causes of plucking. Daily Spraying or shower is also essential when caring for your bird.
This can be due to the bird needing to mate or the mate that it has being incompatible with it. Even a lack of suitable nesting material has been known to cause a bird to pluck its feathers.
We came across one grey that had been hand reared and had never learned to preen its self properly. Then there are those birds that learn that if they pull a feather out, they can get you to do what they want (give them attention)
Stress can cause your bird to feather pluck, yes birds do get stressed if they are in unsuitable or unhygienic conditions or have inadequate space (cage too small)
Then there is the number one cause for feather plucking: Diet
Again, where do we start?
Midland Parrots are still find it amazing how many phone calls we get where the caller tells us their bird has a good diet. Then after a while talking with the caller, we find that the bird is not really being fed a good diet after all.
Such owners buy their seed from the local pet shop, from which 9 out of 10 varieties are full of sunflower seeds and peanuts. Much research over the years has found that, an abundance of sunflower seeds is harmful to your bird, as they are very fattening and they also become sunflower junkies as they are addictive.
Calcium depravation is also a key factor especially when African Greys feather pluck. Additional calcium is essential for any feather plucked bird. It boosts the bird's ability to replace feathers without drawing the necessary calcium needed from the birds own skeletal structure.
Palm Fruit Exract has also been proven to be highly beneficial when dealing with feather plucking birds, especially when the cause is dietary based. The high levels of beta carotene and vitamin E aid the production of replacement feathers while conditioning the skin to reduce the irritation of feather growth.
Its the same bird about eight months later, he is still not 100% but getting there fast.
So you want to buy a Parrot
THINGS TO LOOK AT BEFORE YOU BUY
Before taking on a parrot or parakeet, do give it some thought.!
A parrot is not a pet but a companion for life. They can live as long as humans and require as much care, love and attention as any other member of the family. If you have made up your mind that a parrot is what you really want, here are some points which should help you make the right choice. Read up as much as possible about the species you are planning to buy, its particular characteristics and requirements.
Once you have all the information to hand and given the matter a lot of thought you will be well on your way to a long happy and very rewarding relationship with your new companion.
Getting the right bird for you and your family.
Consider carefully which species will best suit your family, living accommodation and lifestyle. Parrots in particular need interaction, we need to spend time with them and although some books will tell you that you need to get your parrot into a routine, we at Midland Parrots feel that as life is not a routine sometimes it may be better not to have a strict regimental type routine.
Pet birds need company. They shouldn't be left alone for long periods as it can lead to boredom and cause a few problems. Stress in parrots is another issue that you need to address.
· Will the parrot be left on his own all day or for long periods?
· Have you got enough time and energy to give to your bird?
· Is there enough room for the right size cage and other equipment ?
· Will noise be a problem with neighbours? Birds can be very noisy sometimes.
· Are there any other animals in the house that might cause problems?
· Would children be a problem? Sometimes young children and parrots don’t get on.
·Do any of the family suffer from allergies? Remember that some species of birds produce a large amount of dust. Most birds create a lot of dust, particularly African Greys, Cockatoo’s and Cockatiels.
· Are you thinking of starting a family? Sometimes a new member of the family means less time for the bird.
Birds, in particular the larger species of cockatoos, like lots of activity and love to interact with humans.
If you are buying for an aviary, make sure your chosen birds will not upset neighbours. Noise, can be a problem as birds generally start calling at dawn. Mess can cause unwanted visitors (for example, squirrels, rats and mice) which of course can create unpleasantness with those who live in close proximity. Will the birds you have purchased suit your environmental conditions?
Make sure you are buying is captive-bred and hand-reared. Ensure that the bird has identification, either with a leg ring or micro chipped. Always make sure that when you buy a parrot that you can hold the bird and spend some time with him to see if you like him, but more important is that the bird likes you. It is not unusual for a parrot to feel uncomfortable with a prospective owner, remember if you are purchasing a pre-owned bird there is usually a reason why the owner wants to move the bird on. Remember if it’s a bargain that is too good to be true...... , and if you are taking on a pre-owned bird then make sure that it has not been stolen or found, and then been put up for sale. If you are only looking for a bird that talks, then remember that not all birds want to talk, there is never a guarantee.
With wild-caught imported birds there is always a high risk of disease and they rarely become as tame and relaxed as a captive-bred bird. Also, you will be supporting a cruel and unnecessary trade. Make sure you get written confirmation that your bird is captive-bred and not imported. Some birds can be captive-bred in another country and still be subjected to the trauma and risks of importation - so be aware! If the seller cannot provide confirmation of captive breeding in your own country, you should question whether or not you want to buy?
When buying a captive-bred bird
Make enquiries and try to ensure you are buying from a reputable breeder or retailer. A personal recommendation is often helpful. A responsible seller should willingly provide you with all the information you want and offer help and advice after your purchase. A baby parrot should never be sold before it is weaned - that is when it can feed itself independently. Most breeders will fit a closed ring to a chick's leg (that is a 'one piece' ring - not split). This can be very useful as it will establish proof of captive-breeding and will often include the hatching date. Closed rings can only be fitted to a chick when it is a week or so old - after this time the foot will be too large for the ring to go over it.
Micro-chipping is the more favoured way of identification and consists of a tiny chip, about the size of a grain of rice, that is implanted into the bird. It is not a painful procedure but should be carried out by a suitably qualified vet. These chips carry a unique number that can be 'scanned' for identification and are extremely useful if a bird should escape and is subsequently re-captured.
Make sure you are given a detailed receipt for your purchase. This should include the exact description of the bird(s) you are buying, whether it is a cock or hen, exactly what the species is, preferably with its scientific name and if purchased for a pet, it should clearly say so. Also, the price paid and whether or not the bird has had a veterinary health check to establish it is free of disease at the time of purchase - this can often prove extremely advantageous in avoiding future veterinary bills. If the seller cannot include a health check within the agreed price, offer to pay for one yourself - it can save a great deal of trouble at a later stage. If the seller refuses this, it may be advisable to not buy. Reputable sellers of parrots will usually supply instructions on feeding and proper care for your bird.
When buying an older bird
Care must be exercised when buying older birds as often their histories cannot be guaranteed. The owners of such birds may well be selling it in all good faith, but he or she may have been misinformed previously. Why is it being sold? Was it wild-caught or captive bred? Does it scream, bite, particularly dislike men or women? Does it pluck its feathers or have other health problems? Of course, if you are a responsible person and are able to offer lots of patience, love and understanding, even the most difficult of birds can be transformed. But newcomers to bird keeping should be certain they know just what they are taking on.
The bird's condition
The condition of a bird is not always easy to establish. The best and easiest way to judge is to use one's own common sense. Whether young or old, a bird in good condition will appear 'bright-eyed and bushy-tailed'. This means, its eyes should be clear and not watering or discharging. Nostrils should be clear and breathing should be silent - without wheezing or coughing. The bird should be of a good weight - a protruding breastbone may signal a problem.
Wing clipping is and always will be a controversial subject. Some breeders don’t wing clip, some clip only one wing, others clip both. If wings have been clipped, check that it has been done with care and both sides are equal so as not to 'off-balance' the bird. Hacked feathers may point to a general lack of care and can cause feather picking and ongoing psychological problems.
Plumage should be clean and bright in colour although a bird that is kept in a confined space for purposes of selling may well have some marked plumage but generally the above will apply. But don't necessarily be put off by plumage that has been soiled as once a bird is purchased and in the care of a responsible owner, it will soon clean up or moult out.
Beware of birds that seem lethargic, with puffed-up feathers - this can often be an indication of an ailment. A captive-bred bird should appear steady in its cage and have little fear of human hands. Wild-caught birds will generally appear timid, wary of humans and will often cower away to the back of a cage. Wild-caught African Greys will often make a 'growling' noise and cower away from human attention - think carefully before you buy. Don't necessarily be put off by a bird that might be sleeping, as life in retail establishments can often be very tiring.
When you are not around
Have you considered who will look after your parrot when you go on holiday? And what will happen to your bird outlives you? In the event of illness, would vet's bills be a problem? Always make sure you have contingency plans in place.
As soon as you have your new bird(s), make enquiries about the nearest avian veterinarian. You never know when there might be an emergency - so be prepared! There is a list of vets on this website and at the back of Parrots magazine.
There are no cheap deals!
Do not be tempted by what you think will be a bargain. 'Cheap' birds usually turn out to be the most expensive. If a bird is sold cheaply, there is often a good reason. It may have something wrong with it or could be diseased or stolen. There are no reasons why a parrot in good condition should be sold cheaply. Always avoid auctions. Birds in good condition that would make good pets or intended for aviaries, would never need to be sold at auctions. You can never be sure of what you are getting. It is an unfortunate fact that many sick, diseased or stolen birds are disposed of at auctions. There are many documented sad cases of grief and high veterinary costs from birds purchased in this way - so auctions should be avoided at all cost.
And finally . . .
Remember that buying a parrot is a lifetime commitment, and as you can see, there are various reasons why parrot purchases can end up in tragic and costly circumstances. But if the above points are borne in mind, there is no reason why you should not make a successful purchase and enjoy the companionship of a wonderful pet for many years to come.