Friday, June 30, 2006


Birds and their owners

More than just learning about the personality, behavior and health aspects of various pet bird species, my work as a BIRD TALK intern thus far has also exposed me to the personalities and behaviors of bird owners. Keeping and caring for a bird is a complex relationship between the pet and human and being in tune with how that relationship works is an important part of putting together a publication for bird lovers.

As bird owners, the BT editors can relate well to their readers and even so, they work to better cater to their magazine's audience. While the BT team organized and executed a project to further understand the minds of bird owners, I discovered just some of the complicated issues that come with having a companion bird.

What stands out most in my brief exposure to human-bird relationships is that there can be a lot of emotional drain for both the bird and owner. More importantly, and something that I learned is true for most bird owners, is the emotional gain that can come from having a pet bird, which seems to override anything negative that may trail along.

Bird enthusiasts are devoted to their companion birds, regardless of the trials and tribulations they may endure. Understanding this is important for an "outsider," such as me, who may initially think that owning a bird is like owning another, more common pet. Developing a relationship and caring for a pet bird entails much more than just feeding them on a regular basis and occasionally cooing to them as you walk by their cage.

It seems to me that in comparison to owning other types of pets, the heightened intelligence of birds makes for a rougher emotional roller coaster when trying to make a companion pet out of them. However, it also seems the challenge is not one that bird aficionados find as a drawback.


Thursday, June 29, 2006


Avian Flu Mutates But Doesn't Spread

A genetic change in the bird flu virus allowed it to spread directly from human-to human, according to several media reports last Friday, June 23. A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) official was the source in both an Associated Press and Bloomberg story.

The WHO's investigation detailed last month's H5N1 outbreak in an Indonesian family of eight - the largest cluster of human infection to date - to prove that virus was moving from human to human. Seven of the family members died. The WHO speculates that limited human-to-human transmission has occurred with other family clusters, but this is the first time that they've proven it.

Despite the severity of the outbreak and mutation of the virus, U.S. experts did not think this change would increase the pandemic threat, according to the AP report. Viruses are always changing slightly, the source said, and the virus stopped with the infected family.

So, months later, the virus is still killing an alarming number of those infected, but it has yet to turn into a pandemic. It changed slightly but did not mutate to the highly contagious form that health officials dread.


A Checkup Worth The Drama

Tuesday, Bixby and I went in for the dreaded annual vet checkup. Dreaded by Bixby because of the needles, the inevitable poking and prodding, the oh-so-scary towel and, of course, the injustice to his dignity. Dreaded by me for the chunk it takes out of my checking account.

Well, we both managed, despite our misgivings, to get out of the house on time and amble down the 22 East to The Bird Clinic. Dr. Nemetz is an excellent avian veterinarian, something that can be a challenge for many bird owners to find. I grew up in Maine, and we had to drive more than hour to get to our vet who did not have the elusive ABVP, but who was nonetheless, the most knowledgeable bird vet in the state. Once there, Dr. Nemetz started in with annual exam ($65.00), which includes a weigh in, physical exam (nares, ears, oral cavity and vent area are checked) and a nail and wing-feather trim. We also did a gram stain ($42.12); polyoma vaccine booster ($35.34); and a complete blood test ($69.25). I shuddered as my iPod savings fund slipped away. Bixby tried to wriggle free from under the towel.

I knew that Bixby had gained weight (nearly 10 grams!), so I was a little apprehensive when Dr. Nemetz placed him on the scale. I stuttered out apologies about extra helpings of nuts and maybe a few too many Nutri-Berries, but Dr. Nemetz told me to stop being negative. Bixby's on a good diet overall. He eats pellets as his base diet, along with fresh veggies that contain vitamin A and calcium - the big winners in avian nutrition - and he's allowed nightly rations of seed, nut or fruit once a sufficient amount of the rest of his food has been eaten. After the weigh in, Dr. Nemetz checked Bixby's fat levels via a blood sample. Too high. The extra weight meant, "he had just filled out," but too much fat in the blood meant no more corn and reducing the number of nut treats.

Forty minutes and $216.54 later, Bixby and I were back on the road with soothing jazz tunes to calm our nerves. Yes, I was out a chunk of change, but I felt better. Bixby's physical exam and gram stain had not revealed any hidden lumps or bacteria. He wasn't even as chunky as I had thought. Bixby began preening his ruffled feathers with much attention and vigor. Despite the costs, we'll be back next year.

Monday, June 26, 2006


A Different Perspective

News reports, whether on television or in print, always rope me in and keep me tuned to that channel or publication until I know the whole story, or at least what the reporter tells me is the whole story. I'm a news junkie and being a journalist is how I feed my "addiction." Even if the news I read about, see on TV, or report on becomes frustrating, I still want to know more. However, my experience with observing and reporting news has been generalized and mainstream until recently.

At first glance special interest magazines, such as BIRD TALK, don't seem to be the newsie type. I always saw specialized publications as discussing only topics that relate to their hobby or interest with little to no "real news." I know now that the mainstream reporting seen in major newspapers and on 24 hour TV news stations may be generalized for the mass public, but there are particular news stories that hit closer to home for some specialized, niche audiences.

After being assigned two news stories to complete for BIRD TALK's Web site I realized that these topics contained subject matter that would be of interest to the mainstream media to report on as well. However, because the stories dealt with birds and I had the duty of telling the information to bird enthusiasts, my job to report on those stories was different than it would have been if I were writing for a generalized news publication.

While the topic may be of interest to the masses, the niche audience reading BIRD TALK news likely knows and cares more about the subject than would the typical public. Therefore, I had to ensure that I included information in the articles that would answer the questions the BT magazine's audience would want answered and not generalize the information like what might be done in the mainstream media.

Through all this I learned that even in the special interest publications there exists - unlike I first thought - important, hard news. While it is crucial to get the facts straight anytime the news is reported, when writing for special interest publications it seems even more important to not only get the facts correct but also to dive deeper into the subject matter to retrieve additional details and answers that your targeted, niche audience would want to know.


Friday, June 16, 2006


Lessons Learned

Nearing the end of my first week as the BIRD TALK intern I'm pleased to say that I'm doing what I always said I wanted to do for the rest of my life--Learning. I recently graduated with a bachelor's degree from Texas State university-San Marcos, so I've had my fair share of learning through school. However, the type of learning I intend to continue now does not involve school (or at least I hope not too much more of it). My choice to pursue the mass communication/journalism field was largely based on the fact that I would always have to research something that is unknown to me and regurgitate that information to an audience, thus I will always be learning.

Until this week, my knowledge of pet birds involved Paco, the funny talking parrot (the species of which I have no idea), that my siblings and I would visit in the mall pet store in my home town in West Texas. Later in high school I had a limited encounter with my friend's two new parakeets, one of which climbed onto my head and relieved itself in my hair right before I left for a school function.

Reading BIRD TALK magazines this week and learning about the seemingly endless number of pet bird species, I've begun to actually consider getting one of my own, but not until I'm no longer moving around every three months. While I love to check out the birds in the pet store and watch the wild birds around my parents' house, learning and writing about them was something I never thought twice, or even once, about. But, as with every other odd topic I've been assigned in the past to research and write on, the subject of pet birds has become fascinating to me. I've learned there is so much more than I could ever imagine to keeping a pet bird and I'm happy to find out what wonderful companions they can make. Personality in a bird? The ability of a bird to express its feelings toward a human? Just a few of the things I never considered possible, but am glad to be wrong about them.

During the past week I've once again been taught that my goal to always continue learning is something I need to stick with. My introduction into the pet bird realm has reminded me that there are many more topics I am unfamiliar with than are there those with which I am familiar.

I'm looking forward to the coming weeks, working with the BT team. I'm excited that I have the opportunity to work with them on the bird channel Web site that will launch in the coming months. Thanks to working with the BT team, I've been pleasantly surprised to learn that not only must I always be willing to soak in knowledge about unfamiliar subject matter, but I'm also pleased to learn there is more to the print and online journalism industry, beyond my past newspaper experiences.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Change Is Good

Last night I rearranged my furniture. Not because I wanted to, not because I just purchased a new fabulous piece - because of my bird. He thinks that he owns the couch (as I mentioned in the video post). Usually I remove him from the couch as soon as he jumps on it and starts rooting around in the pillows for a suitable nest. Last night, however, I was distracted by a Red Sox game on the radio and wasn't paying enough attention to him. When I finally noticed that he was hiding in a corner of the couch - and had probably been there for a 1/2 hour - I went over to pick him up. He puffed up his feathers, charged and then flew at my face as if to attack me. Not good.

So I decided we needed to mix up his environment and move the couch as far away from his reach as possible. Avian behavior consultants always recommend moving the cage around when a bird starts nesting in it. You're trying to unseat them, make them think that nesting in such an unsteady environment would not be a good idea.

Unfortunately, I only have a 1-bedroom apartment, so this meant moving things into my bedroom, unloading a bookcase and trying to plug the TV and computer into opposite plugs. I now have a phone cord stretched across my living room, and the couch sticks out into what used to be a walkway. Not as pretty, but hopefully it will work, peace will be restored and I'll have my couch back.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Want To Alert Rescue Teams to Your Birds?

I always read those horrible news stories about fires that burned down the whole house and everyone got out except for the pet bird. It always says, "Luckily the family was saved, along with the family dog. A pet bird and numerous treasured items perished in the flames." Well, it's hard for a rescue worker to miss a medium or large pet dog, but what about a bird? Maybe the ASPCA "Animals Inside" sticker would help. You can get yours here.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Bixby's Dance

My Senegal Bixby loves the couch. He is not allowed on the couch, but as soon as I turn my back, he's all over it. Here he's just dancing around the couch saying, "Ha, ha. You can't catch me." I think he also wants me to pick him up, because that camera looks mighty tasty. He'll eat anything. (This is my first video. I promise, I'll work on my skills for future ones!) -ROSE

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?