Can My Bird Safely Eat People Food?

My parrots love eating any kind of fruit or juice, nuts or seeds, but aren’t interested in any other kind of food I think is good for them. How can I change this?

This article is written with the understanding that you are providing a high quality formulated parrot pellet to your bird. Seed diets are ok but many nutrients are lost from “vitamin fortified” seed diets when the hull of the seed (where the vitamin fortification is applied) is discarded by the bird. We advocate a multi vitamin supplement to insure optimal nutrition with an all seed diet.

Read moreCan My Bird Safely Eat People Food?

Can My Bird Eat Dairy Products?

2 lorikeets drinking from a milkshake in tall glass with other lorikeets looking on
It’s important to remember, that although birds are warm-blooded unlike mammals, they hatch from eggs. The placenta is the delivery system for mammals providing nourishment to their embryos. Colostrum is the substance mammalian mothers produce which provides antibodies and essential nutrients for newborns.
Within a few days mammalian mothers produce milk which is a combination of water, fats, proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and other nutritional necessities. Mammals produce enzymes (lactase) which enable the digestion of lactose. 

Read moreCan My Bird Eat Dairy Products?

The Magic of Bird Eye Sight & Challenges of Blind Bird Care

Pet bird features

  • Body mechanisms that put a Swiss watch to shame
  • A coat of thousands of feathers requiring constant maintenance
  • Eyes that see invisible (to you & me) light
  • Beaks that can crack large nuts or hull tiny seeds
  • Use of flight to travel 3 dimensionally throughout your home
  • Can land then stand on any 3 square inch surface
  • Knows what time it is – precisely
  • Can detect the motion of the sun
  • Solves problems
  • (Some) can verbalize
  • Can pre-plan events into the future
  • Can do all of this for decades

makes caged bird keeping the most challenging of traditional pet husbandry.

 

The science of bird sight

 

Good eyesight is imperative for flight safety and birds eyesight is much better than that of any other species having vertebrae. It’s been said that pigeons are nothing more than two eyes and a pair of wings. Birds eyes are similar to that of reptiles, meaning the shape of the lens can change quickly, much more quickly than we mammals.

 

 

Birds have the largest eyes relative to their body size of any animal on the planet. Raptors have very large eyes for their size, 1.4 times greater than the average for birds of the same weight, and the eye is tube-shaped to produce a larger retinal image. But the movement of the eye is limited because birds eyes have a bony socket. Most vertebrates have two eye lids, birds have a third transparent membrane that is movable which is unique to birds.

 

Birds have four types of color receptors in the eye (unlike humans who have 3). That means birds are able to see the ultraviolet part of the light spectrum – light that is not visible to you nor I. They also have far more light receptors in their retinas than mammals and more nerve connections between the photo receptors in the brain. This is whyproper lighting for your bird is so important.

 

The four pigments in a bird’s conesextend the range of color vision into the ultraviolet.

 

Many birds in the wild show plumage patterns that are actually ultraviolet and invisible to we humans. Some birds who appear to be monomorphic (cannot tell the sex of the bird by their colors) to the naked eye can be sexually distinguished by the presence of ultraviolet reflective patches on their feathers – but only by other birds.

 

Birds can also resolve rapid movements of light far better than humans. Neither you nor I can distinguish the individual flashes of a florescent light oscillating at 60 Hz BUT Budgerigars and chickens have flicker thresholds at more than 100 Hz. A Cooper’s Hawk can pursue prey through heavily forested woodland, avoiding collisions at high speeds which If you are I were to try to keep up – would all appear as a blur.

 

Birds can even detect the motion of extremely slow-moving objects like the sun and constellations across the sky (think GPS attached to an altimeter but covered in feathers). Another thing humans cannot do without sophisticated instruments. Centuries ago, things like sextants (John Bird made the first sextant in 1757) were needed to figure out “where am I on the planet?” This 3 dimensional geographical accuracy is instinctive to our feathered companions. Birds use celestial movements to properly orient themselves in relation to the earth’s surface.

 

 

Birds of prey have a very high density of receptors that gives them acute vision. From flying Falcons, I have learned a falcon can see a “mouse at a mile” Nocturnal species of birds have tubular eyes with few color detectors, but more night cells that help vision in poor light. Many seabirds actually have red or yellow oil drops in the color receptors that are used to improve vision, especially in foggy conditions – I wear amber goggles while riding my motorcycle on overcast days for the same reason.

 

Most birds cannot move the eye a cormorant being an exception. Many birds have eyes on the sides of their heads because it provides a wider field of vision useful for predator lookouts. Birds with eyes in the front their heads like owls have what is called “binocular” vision, which makes them excellent hunters because they can estimate distance precisely.

 

The eye is kept clean by tear secretions from the lachrymal gland and protected by an oily substance from the Harderian glands which coats the cornea and prevents dryness. These substances lubricate the eyes when blinking. The third concealed eyelid (nictitating membrane) that we talked about earlier, sweeps across the eye horizontally like an automobile’s windshield wiper acting as a “lubrication delivery system”. This membrane covers the eye and acts as a “contact lens” for aquatic birds while underwater. In most birds the lower eyelid rises to cover the eye when sleeping.
Studies have shown that many bird species focus on distant objects and will orient themselves sideways to help maximize visual resolution. For a pigeon, resolution is twice as good with sideways monocular vision than forward binocular vision, whereas for humans the converse is true.

 

Some causes of bird blindness

 

There are many reasons a bird can go blind. Eye injury, eye infection or the side effects of other medical problems. One of most common disorders is conjunctivitis. This is where uveitis will inflame the inner parts of the bird’s eyes and needs to be addressed quickly by a veterinarian to avoid the formation of cataracts.

 

Marek’s disease is caused by a viral infection and will cause the birds pupils to be shaped irregularly leading to Iritis Blindness. It could also possibly lead to cancer. This can be prevented with a veterinary vaccination.

 

 

Another viral infection found in birds is called Avian Pox. Symptoms include swelling and blister like formations of the eyelids which can lead to partial or complete vision loss. If the infection is treated vision can return.

 

Bacterial infections like salmonella can cause conjunctivitis and ophthalmitis yielding an inflamed eyeball with pus and conjunctiva sometimes leading to blindness. Salmonella is contagious and can spread from adult to young bird even through an egg yolk.

 

Moldy seed is another reason we advocate never buying bulk food in pet shops or re-bagged bird food on line (all our bird food is sold in factory sealed bags) as mold (caused by not emptying the bulk bird food bins and not sanitizing them between bin refills) can cause fungal eye infections leading to disorders of bird’s eyes. The most common is Aspergillus which infects the birds respiratory system, but can also lead to compromised eyes and even problems with the brain.

 

Immune suppression can also lead to Aspergillus infections. Immune suppression can be caused by stress,Vitamin A deficiency (common with an all seed diet)and prolonged use of antibiotics. If you see yellow plaque under the eyelid and inflammation you must get it treated rapidly by a veterinarian because it can result in long-lasting eye damage. Aspergillus is also difficult & complicated to test for but if your bird exhibits respiratory distress, take that as a warning sign.

 

 

Interestingly, if a breeding bird is deficient in Vitamin E the result might be a blind-at-birth, chick. Vitamin A is necessary to help bird’s eye’s tear and for proper pigmentation. This is where engineered foods a.k.a. pellet bird foods are able to ensure that your bird gets all the necessary vitamins without guess work. If your bird is on all seed diet, we strongly recommend supplementing it with a multipurpose vitamin from Avitech.

 

Recommendations for dealing with a blind or disabled bird

 

A customer of ours is rescuing a blind Senegal parrot and reached out to us for advice. Here’s our recommendations.

 

With blind parrots it’s important to set up the cage so it enables them to move about easily. Normally we recommend changing and rotating bird toyson a regular basis as well as the perches, but with blind parrots keeping all the toys, accessories and feeding dishesin the same place will help give the bird a sense of security.

 

It goes without saying wing clipping is mandatory for blind birds but It’s important to remember that birds use their wings for balance while on their feet (another check mark in the column for keeping sighted birds flighted) so with an impaired ability to maintain balance (clipped wings) having flat perchesplaced low in the cage will also help. Keeping things low in the cage is a good rule generally speaking, so accidental falls have low impact. If the bird goes higher in the cage take that as demonstration of confidence you’ve instilled in the bird.

 

Whereas we normally recommend lots of uneven branches helping normal birds exercise their feet, by keeping items evenly spaced, a blind bird will get around in the cagemore easily.

 

 

Birds are very smart and once they get the “lay of the land” they should be able to negotiate the cageeasily. Many of the toys should be those that make noise, lots of bells and toys with tightly woven leather around wood chunks and Marbella beads.

 

Bathingcan be a challenge so consider using a spray bottlewhile the bird stands on a towel on the floor. Speaking of the floor, this is the best place for the bird to get exercise. Holding the birds feet and allowing wing flapping without flight is a great cardiovascular exercise for a bird.

 

Another bird in the household may help by leading the disabled bird, but that would be up to experimentation. Humans should move slowly and quietly around a blind bird so as not to trigger reactive biting. Music may be helpful too although you may have to experiment to see what seems to be soothing for your bird.

 

 

When first introducing blind birds into the household, before touching and handling, talk softly to the bird using the same words repeatedly to let the bird know you going to touch him or her. When you’re ready to get the bird to “step up” offer the palm of your hand instead of a vertical hand giving the bird a bigger platform
This is about all the information we could gather on this serious issue. We welcome your input – feel free to comment below.

The skinny on air purifiers for birds

Your science lesson for today is a brief refresher on how birds breathe. When you and I breathe, air flows in AND out of our lungs. Air sacs in a bird’s chest allow air to flow one way through the lungs. Mother Nature provided benefits to using this unidirectional airflow. The first benefit is air moving through a birds lungs, is mainly fresh air which means it has a higher oxygen content.

The second reason is if birds had bi-directional airflow through their lungs they would rise and fall as they flew much like a submarine taking on and releasing ballast to submerge and surface.

Read moreThe skinny on air purifiers for birds

Your Resume Has Bird Poop & Beak Bite Marks – You’re Hired!

In an effort to show you reasons we should be your bird supplies purveyor of choice, we feel it’s important that you know we offer expertise, answers and solutions to the endless problems associated with caged bird care. For example you don’t have to shop with us. Feel free to enjoy the Learning Center. We offer lots of bird related information which is updated regularly.
 
 
To that end having people on our team that can fulfill these needs is essential. So you’d think it would be easy to find someone to write relevant content keeping our website what we call “sticky”. We want you coming back. The content in the Learning Center much like bread has to be made fresh daily and God knows, I’m just a guy. Since the recession began it appears as though every MBA who’s looking for work has become a social media expert and a blogger. 
 
There are companies that specialize in providing written content. You design a project and several authors will “bid on the project”. I tried to explain to the “project manager” I really needed someone who preferably was companion to multiple birds, because I know that person understood the meaning of getting bit, screamed at, wiped red substances off of walls and laid awake at night trying to figure out Why one of the birds didn’t like the the toy with the red blocks.
 
“Oh no” the project manager person wrote back, “Our people are professionals and we have lots of work with many animals and have lots of pets”. So I put a project out to bid and 4 authors expressed interest. The project was to produce 100 words that would enhance the product description of Higgins safflower gold natural bird food. I stated that bird owners like this because it had no sunflowers. The last of the four authors wrote, and you can’t make this stuff up, “Your bird will love this food because they won’t have to spit out sunflower shells keeping your bird from making a big mess” – I tried.
 
One day I’m cruising my LinkedIn groups looking to make a little trouble and I ran into (virtually speaking) a woman who was also a fan of our Facebook page, and she started asking me some very pointed questions. One thing led to another and I learned that she has – Experience. Here’s the resume I was looking for – complete with bite marks and bird poop (Angels singing).
 
“Currently I am owned by a vivacious and mischievous blue and gold macaw named Keiko (12 yrs old), re-homed to me 7 years ago. She was my first ‘screamer’. Who knew? I also live with a red factor African Grey, (12 yrs old) Phoenix, who is an absolute love doll, bonded to me. I met her when she was a baby bird. Never look into a baby bird’s eyes, or she’s coming home with you! She’s had some health concerns and presents some aspects of beak and feather disease.
 
Denise, Keiko (right) & Phoenix
 
We do have some health challenges. The Macaw has asthma and is allergic to spring and fall flora My African Grey recently had pneumonia. I’ve also lived through some pretty intensive health issue with my other parrots. 

 
My incredible Blue Fronted Amazon, Kenya, came to me after one year of being moved from pet store to pet store, always locked down as she was a vicious biter. We had that whole love struck thing through the bars and after a few weeks of visiting her at the store, I bought her. After a year of careful and loving introduction to my home Kenya became the absolute heart of my heart – goofy, loving, and gentle. And she’d go everywhere with me. She lived only to 7 yrs old. I lost her to aspergillosis and I grieved her for a year. I was devastated. I also learned a lot from that experience.
 
I also re-homed a delightful Sun Conure at the age of 7. What a nut. He had his own health issue after catching a toe and tearing it — he ended up losing half his foot, went septic, and I almost lost him too. A Conure in a cone is something to be seen, and he made it. He, too went everywhere with me and was seriously socialized. I’d pass him around to the children at the mall–enchanting little creature. However, about 5 years later, Charlie became unable to stand living with my dogs. He just freaked and screamed at them, and so he’s living happily ever after with my best gal pal, in a very quiet home, but I get to see him all the time. He’s adorable and feisty and crazy. And I miss the little bugger.
 
The menagerie of parrots I was enslaved to before that included (along with all of the above) another African Grey, crazy intelligent Chiku; another Blue and Gold Macaw, Max; a fantastic Green Winged Macaw, Gjasy; and a gentle sweet Cockatiel Phoebe who held her own with the macaws. We had a very large bird room, to say the least!
 
Due to divorce, we had to divide the birds since my mate at the time refused to separate the macaws, who were very bonded to each other. Leaving behind my gentle giant Green Wing was so so hard. Chiku our African Grey was equally bonded to both of us (it can be done!). 
 
The stress of the divorce was tough on all the birds. Kenya the Amazon plucked out ALL of her feathers. The Grey pulled out every last one of her tail feathers, blood all over the cage.
 
The worst bite I ever got was from the smallest one of course, the Conure. Biggest bruises? Macaw. Worst heartbreak? All of ’em in one way or another. My forearms are pockmarked from bird claws and I don’t mind one bit.
 
So I guess you’d say I am definitely one of those crazy bird ladies! My beginner birds way back when? (18 years!!) Finches. Then Budgies. Then Cockatiels.
More recently, I’ve done parrot consultations with local people who couldn’t handle their parrots (usually, yep, cockatoo’s, those devils). Once you’re captivated by these intelligent birds, it’s your job to ensure they live happily ever after, yes? We live in Ontario, Canada.”
 
 
Denise has her own blog http://www.wildhair.ca/about-me/ which I read so I knew she could write professionally. For those of you that have been following me for any length of time know that I spend a lot of time thinking about parrot behavior, Catherine my wife and motorcycles (not necessarily in that order). I decided to have a virtual “track day.” In motorcycle lingo that’s where we take our bikes to the track to assess performance of said motorcycles. In that this is a blog about parrots, I asked Denise to show me “what she’s got.” Here’s the “A” side of her newest release on a 45 (Sorry, just turned 62 – I’m showing my age – If you’re old enough you’ll know what I’m talking about). Find some solutions for screaming parrots here.
 
Please share your thoughts and experiences below.
 
written by Denise Wamsley
in collaboration with Mitch Rezman CMO
©Windy City Parrot, Inc, 2014
Simply Everything for Exotic Birds – Since 1993

My parrot has started screaming. A lot. What can I do?

Q: My parrot has started screaming. A lot. What can I do?

 

  1.  Living with a companion parrot is very much like living with a mischievous child, isn’t it? And much like raising children, it’s a matter of catching your parrot doing something right, and not rewarding bad behaviour like problem screaming.

 

Parrots scream to communicate:

 

As spring approaches, bringing longer days and more sunshine, the volume in our home increases dramatically, especially at sunset. In the wild, parrots naturally call to their flock at sunset to bring everyone in safely for the night. The call of a macaw or cockatoo can be heard for miles, and that’s precisely the point. Even the call of a conure can be heard for a mile. Have you ever heard the piercing call an African Grey delights in making? You need to consider your living arrangements before introducing one of these species to your home.

 

Alarm screaming:

 

Your parrot is alerting its flock to danger. To your bird that could mean a plane overhead, a strange car in the driveway, the shadow of a hawk, you name it. Can you draw the blinds? Move the cage? If your parrot is in a front room where delivery people are constantly walking by, you can solve that by closing the blinds for that portion of the day.

 

Parrots in the wild:

 

Wild parrots are very busy all day flying and searching for food, with social play time and grooming in between. When it’s dark they sleep; they awaken at first light.

 

 

How can you mimic that environment at home?

 

Do you have a good variety of rotating chew toys to keep your parrot’s beak busy? Interactive toys are an excellent way to stimulate your bird. Do you have a play stand or foraging area away from the main cage area? You can make your own foraging toys. A favorite foraging toy is a box filled with appropriate sized smooth stones on top of sunflower seeds or other treat. You can try putting less food in the bowl and more in cardboard, paper towel rolls with masking tape, that sort of idea. A clever macaw, grey, cockatoo, or amazon needs a more intricate set up to work through. For a small parrot, simply mixing small chew toys in a bowl with food can do the trick.
As foraging makes up the majority of a wild parrot’s existence, this activity can’t be stressed enough. I will recommend a well balanced treat that also includes pellet, so you’re not overfeeding with sunflower seeds or peanuts.

 

Tired Parrots:

 

Like children, when your parrot is overtired, or bored, it will scream. A parrot needs 12 hours of sleep, so perhaps a sleep cage in quiet room is a simple solution if its main cage is in the midst of family activity. A cage cover may also be helpful.

 

My parrots go back to their cage every afternoon for a ‘rest’ period. The radio is turned off and the blinds pulled. It’s their quiet time, like clockwork, every day around 1 pm. I give them the “Shhhh” command and leave them to it.

 

 

Parrot Screaming releases energy:

 

Lots of daily exercise is essential, from wing flapping to misting or showering. Mental stimulation is also necessary for these exceptionally smart creatures.

 

If your bird isn’t free flighted, you need to work those wings! With small parrots, make sure your thumb is over its foot so it doesn’t fall, or feel a fear of falling. Start slowly, moving your hand in a large circular motion. You can also train her to flip upside down, or all around, whatever kind of fun you want — it’s excellent exercise. Your bird should be panting when you’re done.

 

Daily misting or showering works wonders as well. A wet bird has its entire body to groom after a shower and that’s a quiet bird. Before any large gathering at our house I ensure my parrots are fully exercised and showered. Just as a good dog is a tired dog, so too is your parrot.

 

Clicker training is not only rewarding for you, it’s mentally stimulating for your parrot. Parrots love to learn new things at any age, so it’s never too late to try with this beginner’s kit.

 

And finally, Parrots screaming for attention:

 

If you’re following all of the steps above and your parrot is still screaming for your attention, it likely means this has been a rewarding behavior in the past. This is where you have to be on your toes. You cannot reward the screaming or you’re part of the problem. You must ignore the screaming and wait, patiently, until the moment (or second) your parrot is quiet. Then and only then, immediately speak to your parrot in whisper. If your parrot responds with a scream, turn your back to ignore or leave the room. And start over. It doesn’t take long for a parrot to learn that responding in a whisper earns a reward—your presence, and recommended, a treat in the beginning of this training.

 

Observe and investigate your parrot’s surroundings and you’ll find the solutions are close at hand.

 

Denise Wamsley

Windy City Parrot

 

What Does Hundreds of Dollars of Free Bird Stuff Look Like?

Girl and African Grey Parrot on California Bird Cage
Why is this girl and her parrot smiling? 
 
They just won Hundreds of Dollars of Free Bird Stuff (a Facebook promotion) 
 
(Deep announcers voice) “Previously on the great birdcage makeover contest, Mitch went to visit Amberly and Jenga to talk about Jenga’s needs and current caged environment. For scenes of that prior episode click here
 
Last Saturday I returned with all the stuff. Amberly’s disposition was for lack of a better term was “giddy” like a kid on Christmas morning. Jenga seemed rather pensive but did climb onto my hand and we then walked back to the room with her main cage.
 
You can see the list of everything she won at the bottom of this page. For those of you who are fearful of changing anything in their bird’s cage because it may upset your bird, the following may be painful – stop reading now and back away from the Kindle. 
 
The following occurred between 12:15 PM and 2:15 PM CST Saturday March 1st. 
 
It was early in the day so we decided to “gut” Jenga’s cage and start fresh – why not? Amberly was a cross between a ninja and Xena, Warrior Princess when it came to redoing the cage (I like to call it Cage-Scaping). Parts flew into her her hands from magic compartments around the room like a Sorceress. She pulled cable ties from some quiver she wore on her back. It was breathtaking. 
 
Jenga to that point had been simply an observer and, something I knew – an aficionado of almonds. Part of the loot I had brought was a bag of Higgins Boca Nuts. While Amberly was moving about the room with the precision of a hummingbird I stood next to the cage and introduced Ms. Jenga to the virtues of walnuts. 
 
A single whole walnut can be a bit intimidating but if I have three in my hand and squeeze real hard at least one will crack. Once she got a taste of the walnut meat, I had a friend for life. 
 
Jenga the African grey in her primary cage
 Not only is Amberly efficient, she’s creative. I brought one of our most popular forging toys which was designed by (literally) an Umbrella Cockatoo. Quick story, the maker of this toy was in his workshop before it was one of his toys. Like most woodworkers he had lots scraps lying around the shop which is a U2’s nirvana. He had this one block of wood that had been used on the bed of the drill press and had lots of holes.
 
The bird hopped over to the block of wood and started cutting channels between the holes and had a grand old time for about 30 minutes, which is how this toy was born. I think it’s a great toy. Amberly made it a greater better super better toy thing. Wow!
 
Foraging Delight Big Bird Chew Up Toy 106 Read more: http://www.birdandparrot.info/Foraging-Delight-Big-Bird-Chew-Up-Toy-106_p_3600.html#ixzz2vLDIoqYA
 
Straws, popcorn it’s all a blur but it ended up as a tremendous cage asset. Cage assets are items that promote the physical and mental well-being of your bird’s captive environment. It’s also always helpful to have a second set of hands when installing accessories on a large parrot cage, requiring the two-washer-single-wingnut thing that’s 10 inches farther than your arm will ever reach on the opposite side of the cage. 
 
The entire process was quite fluid and I think the end of the process speaks for itself.
 
California bird cage filled with foraging & interactive bird toys
 
And there were other treats included in this package a steam cleaner, a play stand for Jenga so she could sit at the end of the couch and watch TV with Amberly. We also introduced a large swing, a beak conditioner, some flat perches and other bird cage accouterments like Bird cage crocks for that big ole Cal cage. For a diversion from Zupreem we included a 3 pound bag of Higgins Sunburst Parrot with lots of fruits & nuts to break the monotony of the pellet. 
 
In the interest of full transparency, here’s the actual “invoice”. Amberly is a hard working young woman who deserved it. Congratulations Amberly. 
 
winning amount of free bird accessories
 
Mitch Rezman
CMO, Windy City Parrot
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