Why do green parrots have no green feather pigments and why are their feathers different from other bird feathers?

Hi Mitch

I recently inherited a Yellow Naped Amazon and love her to pieces, but not being a bird person previously, I could use some advice. He is guessed to be about 50 years old, actually, I was told that Rhoda is a female but, she has never laid eggs so they say she is a he!

No matter, I have noticed some of his feathers have black coloring on them. Is it true that could be caused by him not getting enough sunlight? His cage is in front of a window, but the window has a sun screen on it. What is needed to provide “sun” for him in his cage? I would also like to purchase a “Happy Hut” for him but I need to know what size I should order. 

Thanks for any help you can give me and I welcome any advice!

Ginger Oliveira

Read moreWhy do green parrots have no green feather pigments and why are their feathers different from other bird feathers?

Should we demand gay rights for our parrots too?

Did you ever have that problem of trying to define what you did for a living to another human? I spend a lot of time triangulating information on the Internet in an attempt to fine-tune the accuracy of our Caged Bird Keepers knowledge base.

I read journals, blogs, forums and more emails than Tom Petty (maybe) – Did you know that Tom Petty has the second longest-running show on Sirius XM? Whoda thunk it?

Sometimes the extent of my ability to reach out to experts and execute query after query on Google, there still remains some questions that are above my pay grade.

A major challenge to the Caged Bird Keeper’s understanding of the effects of civilization and confinement of basically a wild animal. Captivity changes everything.

Sea World reminded us how Killer Whales got their name. Take an animal out of an ocean and put them in a bathtub and all bets are off.

Parrots are no different. We make our environment a couple hundred square feet, in their home 10 square feet (if they are lucky). Thus it should be should be no surprise one may observe totally unexpected behavior with our birds.

I’m not embarrassed to say I don’t have all the answers. I’ll post my thoughts after the following question but I really like input from anyone reading this.


About brooding activity: I have a strange story. I have two 7-yr-old male jenday/sun conures. They are definitely male. When their mother was still alive, they both regularly tried to mate with her, but were driven off by their father. Absent an available female, they have always had sex with each other regularly (taking turns with the “male” role), and both feed each other.

2 jenday conures and one sun cinur parrot with Japanese children

For several months they have been nesting on the top shelf of a kitchen cupboard. They use shredded can labels as their bedding. They sometimes spend hours there and strongly resist leaving their nest during the day, except when they are hungry or thirsty. When they are not in their nest, they socialize with us. They are happy to sleep in their cage at night, back to back, with one hanging off the side of from the top of the cage.

They seem to be happy, so I don’t want to change their behavior, but I am curious if others have observed similar behavior.

end question

Personally I’m not convinced that they are both males which cannot be determined conclusively without DNA sexing. I’m also sensing a little incestuous activity here with the whole jenday/sun conure thing. Jenday and Sun Conures are by all rights cousins or are our birds watching the news with us and slowly coming out?

Help me here please – because this issue needs resolution.

Moving along to what I call a “doozy” of a question. I’ll share my thoughts if you share yours.


Because everything important and accurate that I’ve learned about being a bird mom came from you, I’d appreciate your opinion on what it means when my only-child parakeet, Rosie, reacts loudly when she hears bird calls from outside. Is she warning them off or begging for rescue?? I used to think that the excitement of this vocal interaction was good but now I’m not so sure. Also, just as a comment, it is a shame that your cagescape contest was not open to email entries because we would have SO won but I’m not on social media 🙂 Thank you for all the great info (and pictures) and products we get from you.


end question

She’s simply vocalizing and is happy to be making new feathered friends April.


Now if anyone wants to test this, play this song for your bird and wait and for the last 20 seconds of the song.




Or play all two minutes of this video.



Let us know how chatty your bird suddenly became 🙂


While on the subject of obscure bird behavior questions let’s listen to our contestants third and final round.


Hi Mitch,

I have an unusual question for you. I recently adopted an African Gray, she is 19 years old and came from a very dirty situation. She is very happy now. I can’t stand her name so I picked a name that is close. The person I got her from said if I change her name she will die because it would stress her. Told me this is a fault of the African Gray. Have you ever heard anything like this? Thank you for any information you can give me. Virginia


Look at the source (of the information:-) your grey just wants to be part of a loving social flock – sounds like you fit the beak, er’ bill.


In the wild birds have no names – just visual and vocal identification – start clicker training right away. Birds just love it once they realize they are getting a reward for good behavior, and are happy to perform well.



You guys not only have the best products, but also great advice. Here’s a question…..We have a 25 year old, female Umbrella Cockatoo. I recently met a woman, who has a 12 year old male Moluccan. She said, “We should get them together for a play date”.


Neither bird has had contact with other cockatoos, although my bird does have a Maltese dog who she adores (and likewise). Both birds are sweet and friendly, but I have reservations, given the larger size of her bird and that he is a male.

Should we let them meet? and if so, how?

Thanks, Ling

end question


Supervised visits only. Ideally they should start on separate stand and you can have tea or coffee and observe. They should not be forced together or left in a room alone until you know if they will get along.


Let us know how it goes.


Catherine Tobsing


For our bonus round we ask:


The question really is one that researchers can never measure – do animals think it’s humorous or sad that humans have so much to learn?


written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing


Assembly of a Deluxe Foraging Tree Station & Bird Stand by Mango Pet

Assembly of Deluxe Foraging Tree Station & Bird Stand by Mango Pet step 1
Step 1: Install 2 metal vertical uprights
Assembly of Deluxe Foraging Tree Station & Bird Stand by Mango Pet step 2
Steps 2 & 3: Install “Traveler” lift off stand on short vertical. 
Install top long perch and 2 short perches on long vertical.
Assembly of Deluxe Foraging Tree Station & Bird Stand by Mango Pet step 4
Step 4: Install manzanita tree into pre-drilled holes in base with included wrench
manzanita tree from bottom of base of Assembly of Deluxe Foraging Tree Station & Bird Stand by Mango Pet
Tighten securely but do not over tighten
(you don’t want to see the metal crimp)
blue tap marks pre drilled holes on Mango foraging stand
Blue tape indicates pre-drilled holes 
for feeder dish rings & toy hooks
Assembly of Deluxe Foraging Tree Station & Bird Stand by Mango Pet Last step
Step 5: Install feeder cup rings & toy hook into pre-drilled holes.
You need not install ALL the cup rings
Install feeder dishes and you’re done!
traveler stand easily removes for use around the home
Traveler stand easily removes for use around the home
order a foaring tree bird stand from mango pet


Why Lactobacillus Is Important to Your Bird’s Health

By Cheryl Lake

Lactobacillus Acidophilus is a source of a viable live, naturally occurring micro-organism, which is found predominant in the digestive system of man and all warm blooded animals. Stress conditions such as new arrivals, molting, breeding, feeding young, growth, preparation for flight, illness and injury, along with contaminated feed and water, food soured in the crop, chlorinated water, antifungal and antibiotic therapy, can all cause a great imbalance of various types of micro-organisms in the crop and intestine tract, leaving birds susceptible to digestive problems. A bird’s death may result from organ failure, not caused by the initial microbial imbalance, but from the secondary invasion of a disease causing micro-organism through the intestinal barrier. Once a pathogenic organism penetrates the intestinal barrier, an antifungal or antibiotic is most likely a necessity to improve the animal’s condition. Numerous factors influence the interactions among intestinal micro-organisms and their hosts. The cumulative effect of these interactions control the composition and metabolic activity of this gut microflora. An optimal “balance” in microbial population has been associated with good health. There is evidence indicating that certain micro-organisms, particularly the lactobacilli, can help maintain such favorable microbial profile in the gut either through being part of the natural microflora or as a dietary supplement. As a part of the natural flora, they can exert healthful effects through antibiotic and organic acid production, lowering of pH and oxidation potential, competitive antagonism, and bile deconjugation. As a dietary supplement, they have a positive impact on growth, are functional in preventive and curative treatments as well as being sources of certain enzymes essential for metabolism of some nutrients. There generally exist two kinds of microbial flora in the digestive tract. The first consists of indigenous, beneficial micro-organisms which have achieved a close relationship with the host through a long period of evolution. The other consists of potentially pathogenic microorganisms. The major role of this microflora is to aid digestion of food. For efficient digestion and maximum absorption of nutrients it is essential that a balance of micro-organisms be maintained. However, in this day and age, maintaining a normal healthy intestinal tract is difficult. Animals are often subjected to stress conditions. Under these circumstances the pathogenic bacteria may predominate bacterial overgrowth, and create an “imbalance” which in turn may impair normal gut function and lead to various problems ranging from inefficient digestion and utilization of feed enteritis. Studies indicate that lactobacilli are the bacteria most affected by stress. This results in a reduction of the tract. When this occurs, the beneficial effect of lactobacilli in maintaining a proper pH and microflora is lost. Alteration in the micro flora by such imbalance coincides with onset of vomiting, diarrhea, or other gastroenteritis infections. More specifically, the significance of selected lactobacilli to intestinal well being, the defense of the host, and in the interruptions of certain disease is now well documented. Lactobacilli have been employed in preventing overgrowth by antibiotics resistant species of Candida, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, and E coli during antibiotic therapy, when the normal micro flora is suppressed because of stress functions or by antibiotics. Another consequence of bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine is the formulation of a variety of protein end-products which are no longer of use by the host. That is, the proteins normally available to the host are so changed by the intestinal flora that they can no longer be utilized. Such detrimental effects of this microbial imbalance can in many instances be prevented by supplementing the intestinal tract with a functional level of lactobacilli. The probiotic concept is defined as the concept of increasing the beneficial micro-organisms in the digestive tract of the host animal by introducing large numbers of desirable bacteria to reestablish and maintain an ideal situation in the gut. There have not been any reports of pathogenicity, and there are no known side effects, withdrawals, or problems from excessive dosages. Strains of Lactobacillus Acidophilus and other lactic bacteria have been found to possess marked inhibitory properties against intestinal pathogens as well as food spoilage organisms. Selective inhibition has been attributed in part to the ability of lactic acid organisms to produce natural antibiotics. Lactobacillus Acidophilus specifically has been reported as producing antibiotics, notably acidophillin, lactolin and acidolin. The acidolin production together with the lactic acid production is responsible for the excellent anti- microbial activity against enterpathogenic organisms including E.coli, Klebsiella, pheumoniae, Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, Pseudomonas aeruginosa (green diarrhea), Shigella paradysenteriae (New Castle), and against sporeformers. Further, it is active against polio virus (type 1). Inhibition of pathogens by lactobacilli also is attributed to their alteration of pH through acid production. Because of their extensive fermentive capacity, lactic acid bacteria produce significant amounts of metabolic products including acetic, formic, and lactic acids, the inhibiting properties of which are well recognized. Lactobacilli changes the oxidation-reduction potential through its production of metabolites. By making the environment less conducive for organisms requiring oxygen this action of the lactobacilli contributes to the overall inhibiting effect of these bacteria. Another means by which lactobacilli may retard growth of other micro-organisms is through nutrient depletion (competitive antagonism). Differences in metabolic activities make it possible for an organism to exhaust an essential nutrient from a growth medium and thus inhibit growth of other bacteria. In this respect Lactobacillus Acidophilus is very effective. Implantation or adherence to the epithelial cells of the gut (villi) is of central importance for the function of a probiotic. The chicken is a unique experimental animal in which to examine the phenomenon of implantation. Its crop characteristically contains a microflora in which the lactobacilli predominate over coliforms and streptococci. This population of lactobacilli is in a position to influence not only the microflora of the crop, but also that of the small intestine. That is the reason why chickens have been used as the biological test system for the study of the implantation of bacteria in the intestines. It is believed, however, that the phenomenon of implantation has a general application to other species. It has been suggested that the adhesion to crop epithelium allows large numbers of lactobacilli to remain behind after the food moves on, and thus it provides a continuous inoculum for incoming, freshly ingested food. Thus a vigorous lactobacillus fermentation is maintained in the crop producing a low pH which is harmful to the growth of most other bacteria. The present results confirm that ability to adhere to the epithelium is a distinct advantage in the implantation of the crop by lactobacilli. An interesting experiment was conducted with 360 broad-breasted, large white turkey poults to study the effect of application of Lactobacillus Acidophilus in drinking water from 0-20 weeks. The average weight of the treated birds at the end of the experiment was 1.6 lbs. per bird greater than control birds. Birds in treated groups consumed 2.577 lb. more feed per bird on an average when compared with controls during the 20 weeks. ANTEMORTEM FINDINGS Treated birds appeared distinctly healthier than controls. The treated birds had white, glossy feathers that were more smoothly distributed over their bodies than the off colored feathers of the control birds. The carcasses of the treated group were distinctly larger, and the color of skin was white. The carcasses of the control groups had yellowish discoloration and were smaller. POST MORTEM FINDINGS The birds were slaughtered commercially, and 20% of the livers, intestines, and fat pads were randomly collected from both groups for their physical comparisons. The carcasses were also compared physically. It was observed that livers from the treated group were darker, more solid and a little smaller in size than livers from the control group of which were large, soft and discolored. Such signs were not observed on the livers of the treated group. Intestines from the control group were heavier, congested and thicker. The color and consistency of the fat pads were also different in the treated versus control birds. The treated group had white fat pads that were more solid in consistency, while the control group had yellow fat pads that were soft in consistency. It appears from this observation that the lactobacillus organism has helped the bird to utilize carotene pigment more efficiently. In general, the treated birds were more active. The condition of the liver and intestines in the control group where the birds were apparently healthy may indicate the birds experienced biological stress and low grade infective process. The above findings-i.e., dark healthy livers, less congestion and thinner intestinal walls, and white fat pads having solid consistency can be attributed as a response to Lactobacillus Acidophilus application, the net result being larger carcasses. A functional level of lactobacilli must be supplied, i.e. the concentration of viable cells must be significant. Research has shown that while lactobacilli attach to the epithelial cells in the intestine tract, they do not colonize. In other words, lactobacilli implant and grow, forming an outer coating on the villi. But this coating will eventually slough off as the food bolus moves through the intestines. Contrary to this, many disease-causing organisms form colonies of bacteria that actually penetrate the villi and are not sloughed off as easily. Therefore, to compete with these organisms, lactobacilli must be administered regularly at a high dosage level. The method of application must be such that the animal received the viable organism at the functional level. This seems very obvious but is not fully recognized. Lactobacilli cannot survive pelletizing or be mixed into the feed for long periods of time prior to administering. Therefore, direct application methods, such as via the drinking water or as a top dressing are necessary. Neglecting these criteria obviously has affected research work and the validity of the resulting data. There is no doubt that this circumstance is responsible for the limited usage and acknowledgment of probiotics in feeding animals or as a dietary supplement for humans. But with today’s knowledge and technology this obstacle should be overcome. For the first day of life on a healthy chick, we feed only nonchlorinated water and add Lactobacillus until it resembles skim milk. Depending on the age and size of the baby birds we add I/4 teaspoon per day for 1-2 macaw chicks, or approximately the same 1/4 teaspoon for 2-4 babies of the smaller species. If I see the first signs of a slow moving crop, or if any leftover food residue remains, treating immediately with Lactobacillus Acidophilus will generally correct the balance in the crop and eliminate the need for antibiotics. I will first let all the food pass through, or flush out the crop to avoid the possibility of creating an imbalanced incubation chamber of potentially disease causing organism. I then feed a bland, easily digested diet to which I add 2-4 times the normal amount of Lactobacillus Acidophilus. On our healthy adult birds, we add 1/4 teaspoon per 1 1/ 2cups of drinking water once every 2-8 days. If I see a potential problem with an adult bird’s dropping. I determine the amount Iuse by what their droppings look like. lf one teaspoon doesn’t correct the problem within 24 hours then l’ll double the dosage until I see the results l’m looking for. lt is interesting to note that a formed dropping is impossible in the absence of sufficient lactobacilli organisms. The process involved behind these observed benefits of feeding Lactobacillus Acidophilus requires further studies. There are many other unanswered questions regarding techniques and environmental stress conditions that need to be investigated. Further studies with these and other strains of Lacto

The time to DNA sex your bird is now!

Before we get into the hows, whys and wherefores of DNA sexing let’s talk about the species of birds and parrots that do not need anything other than eyeballs to determine their sex.


About 20% of parrots and parakeets are consider sexually dimorphic meaning you can tell the bird’s sex by its color.


male eclectus parrot preening female eclectus parrot

male eclectus parrots are green – females are red


That still leaves about 600 species of birds whose sex you can’t determine without DNA testing or performing surgery (surgical sexing).


The new beard-cockatiel-preening-toy-style-thing has presented some challenges. I’ve literally had short hair for the past half a century and suddenly I have a 4 inch long beard that I need to deal with in the morning.


white cockatiel chewing rubber bands holding man's beard tightly


Catherine is blessed with naturally curly hair and one of her very few extravagances is Paul Mitchell’s “The Cream” which sells for $18.50 at Ulta (before the cashier feels sorry for me and gives me a $3.00 off coupon). With the two of us using it now we go through about a tube a month

2 lillians lovebirds


watch a lovebird shred paper to determine its sex


Let’s get the small talk out of the way.


Does a bird have to be a certain age to be DNA sexed?


Feathered factoid: From birth to death, DNA remains the same across all species, so there is no age range for the most accurate results. What is DNA? This acronym stands for Deoxyribo-Nucleic-Acid. It is a long, complex molecule carrying information in the form of a chemical code and dictates how the body and cells should form.


We’ve gotten a lot of blowback in social media specially Facebook about the supposed “alpha male myth”. My response is, anyone who has captained a dogsled team as I had for many years in the past can see, feel, rely and go to sleep at night knowing that your lead sled dog is an alpha male. Anyone who has tried to retrieve an alpha male Green winged macaw from the top of a 7 foot tall bird cage knows exactly what I’m talking about.


male and female ringneck in tree

male ringnecks have a ring – females do not


Conversely a gestating female bird has her body redirecting caloric energy to the reproductive system while calcium is depleted as eggs are being produced. You end up with less than stellar looking feathers but you don’t know why because you may not be seeing any eggs. If it’s winter her resistance is lower making her more susceptible to bacterial infections (think poop water).


Your bird is also expecting a flock dynamic which is much different than a bunch of humans sitting around tapping out gibberish into small rectangular pieces of glass and metal.


Look me in the monitor and tell me that not knowing if you have a male or female bird is of no consequence? I will tell you that knowing the sex of your bird will set you up for success.


2 budgies kissing

healthy adult female budgies have a brownish cere (nose area)

male budgies usually have a bluish cere


With a swagger you stand up and shout “but my bird laid no eggs in 10 years it’s got to be a male!” Is that so? Is it at all possible because your bird’s wings are clipped and it’s stuck in the cage 12 hours a day and you neglected to weigh it – ever that it is in fact producing eggs but…….


is it possible that the eggs left the ovary but didn’t make it to the oviduct because your bird is fat and that fat is hidden under all those beautiful feathers so the eggs are consistently absorbed directly into the body and never ending on the floor of the cage? Turns out it happens – alot.


Feathered factoid: a bird’s ovary sits over it’s left leg so if in an egg gets stuck you may see the bird raising her left leg as an indication that she needs help.


As a teenager did you ever have a crush on someone? Is it possible your bird may have a “crush” on you? How helpful would be to know if you had a boy bird or girl bird?


For less than a tube of (Paul Mitchell The Cream) hair goo, you can know with 100% certainty the sex of your parrot. Tell me again why knowing this information has no importance to you meaning you’ll lack the ability to responsibly raise and train him……….or………..her?


Or order your DNA bird sexing kit here for 18 bucks.


It will make you a better cage bird keeper.


written by mitch rezman

approved by catherine tobsing


sexing chickens is a whole nother story


Birds and full spectrum lighting. We got it wrong.

I was at my first AFA convention last week. It was the 41st annual convention of the American Federation of Agriculture. You’re familiar with the organization – right? Or not so much.

Members of the AFA are the unsung heroes helping solve legal, behavioral and nutritional problems if it has anything to do with an exotic bird or parrot  

Read moreBirds and full spectrum lighting. We got it wrong.

Holy Crap, My Budgie’s Toe Is Gushing Blood And Nothing Is Stopping It!

How to Deal With Nail Bleeding Emergencies and Other Minor Foot Bleeding Accidents

Hi, I’m Nora Caterino.

Some of you may know me from other parrot-related websites from my pasts, but for you of those to whom I am new, I have over 25 years of small and medium parrot experience.

I began as the ‘owner’ of a single tame parakeet and eventually became a parrot parent and web and magazine published expert.

Read moreHoly Crap, My Budgie’s Toe Is Gushing Blood And Nothing Is Stopping It!

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