Friday, July 28, 2006


There's Something About That First Bird

Every bird aficionado has their story about how they were lured into their ‘addiction’ to pet birds. While I have noticed this during my internship with BIRD TALK Magazine, I don’t think I truly recognized it until one of the editors here told me that several weeks ago. Since then I’ve paid more attention to the bird owners I am in contact with and they never fail to excite me with their stories of how they first came into keeping pet birds. The enthusiasm they have about their current and past birds is contagious, but you can tell there is always something special about that first bird.

In the stories I’ve heard, the person was hooked on pet birds regardless of the ridicule they may have received from friends or family members when they first acquired a bird. In many of the stories about initial bird ownership, contrary to what most novice bird people might think, it seemed the bird chose the human. This is likely the reason for the strong connection that keeps the human going back for more.

I was able to speak with a woman who became a bird breeder after she fell in love with a bright red lory years ago, which she kept as her first bird when little was known about keeping lories as pets. Her contagious energy when she spoke of her first pet lory had me ready to go out and find a lorikeet of my own immediately after hanging up the phone. An avian vet recently wrote me an e-mail responding to some questions I had and he discussed his first pet bird, a cockatiel. It was obvious the bird positively impacted his life and he will forever remain passionate about cockatiels, and pet birds in general, because of his initial experience.

Getting to hear these stories and communicate with people who are so deeply fervent about pet birds is one of the most fun parts of my job. What’s your story about your initial experience with pet birds? Everyone has one.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006


High Temperatures Carry A High Price For Some

Here in Southern California it's sweltering out. Fortunately, I'm in an air-conditioned office, and when I return home, I can plop myself in front of the fan or take a cool shower, but what about my Senegal? He should have access to the same things if I want him to survive the summer heat.

Some bird owners think that because many of our pets come from tropical or other south of the Equator locations, they'll endure the summer heat just fine. Maybe that's what a young Virginia woman was thinking when she locked her cockatoo in the car while she went to see a movie? She cracked the window an inch. It was 90 degrees outside, the Associated Press story reported. Moviegoers reported the presence of a distressed bird to theater staff who called the police. By the time they could open the car door, the bird was dead in its cage, the story said. The cockatoo owner was charged with animal cruelty.

Obviously, it's NEVER a good idea to leave an animal in a stationary car. We all know this, but how else can you prevent your pet from suffering in the heat? Well, for starters, don't leave the cage in full sun. Be certain that the temperature in the house remains tolerable throughout the day. Use a fan or AC. Always provide your bird with a place to bathe. I drop ice cubes into my Senegal's water dish and he loves tossing them around. Smaller birds might lick the water drops off of freshly washed lettuce leaves, or they just might roll around in them. Try spritzing your bird with a fine mist in the morning to keep him cool over the day. Fruits with their heavy water content help birds stay hydrated, too.

If your bird starts holding its wings away from its body or opening its beak in a panting motion, cool it off quick. Other suggestions?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


One Too Many

Why do people hoard animals? It's a strange thing, but I think that it mostly happens to good people, people with big hearts that just go a little overboard. A recent article on reported that 46 cats and 1 African grey were removed from a Virginia woman's home earlier this week. A friend, concerned about "the living conditions of the woman and the animals" reported the situation to the local Humane Society. The grey was not socialized and was retrieved from a filthy cage, according to the article.

This phenomenon seems to happen frequently with both cats and birds. Bird hoarders often become overwhelmed after taking in some of the many unwanted pets out there; others become obsessed with collecting more and more species and colors until they can no longer care for any of them properly.

I would love to have more birds, but I like knowing that my single Senegal is one spoiled bird! I'm not sure that I could handle cleaning one more cage every week or chopping up extra vegetables each morning. It's probably something that we should all consider before taking on an extra pet, no matter how "in need" that animal seems to be. I'll try to remember that the next time I enter the bird store and those baby green cheeks are calling my name!

Friday, July 14, 2006


Constantly Changing

Since beginning work on the species profiles for BIRD TALK I've read about various pet birds, and everyday I change my mind about which one I would like for myself. Today, I’m focusing on the Australian parakeets, which has me set on having an aviary someday to house a few of the grass ‘keets. I’m sure my mind will change when I return to work Monday and read about another group of companion birds.

Everyday after work I call my mom and at some point the conversation almost always turns to my newfound interest in pet birds and having one of my own. While I often find my mom at home watching the hummingbirds flit around the trees outside the kitchen window, she recently told me that I have piqued her interest in pet birds. In this same conversation she mentioned several family members who had pet birds that she enjoyed visiting as a child. I began to wonder why I have just begun to have any interaction, experience or knowledge of pet birds.

My entire life I was surrounded by horses, cattle, pigs, lambs, dogs, cats and anything that ran wild around my parents’ land in Texas, but birds were the last animal I would have thought of as a pet. After visiting the bird store last week I was excited to get back, so I took a couple girls from work along with me to make a second trip this week. One of the other interns who came along pointed to the large macaw and asked if I had ever held one. My answer was no and she then elaborated on her brief experience with macaws. Again, I was surprised that many of the people around me, even those without a pet bird, have had many more encounters with birds than I have, making me wonder, where have I been?

I have vacationed to locations where parrots live in the wild, but I never opted to take the bird watching tours. I would briefly admire the birds in passing, but never took the time to learn anything about them or consider them as a pet. My internship keeps me constantly stimulated by the various pet bird species that I continue to learn about and I’m sure my daily conversations with my mom will include my ever-changing choice of pet bird. I’m glad my eyes have been opened to a different avenue of pet ownership.



Parrot Ambassadors

As bird people, we know the healing power of our pets. The comical song of an Amazon or the frantic dance of a conure can make just about anyone - except the most extreme ornithophobics - crack a smile. The companionship of these feathered creatures brings comfort and high spirits to many. A teenage girl from war-torn Sri Lanka found all of the above to be true of her Indian ring-necked parakeets.

A recent BBC online news story, explained that despite the tough journey from her native country to a refugee camp in India via a cramped fishing vessel, young Bhovana Nishanthini Lombert could not leave her parrots behind.

The BBC story quoted her as saying, "I love these birds as much as I love my three brothers and parents. They are part of our family." Well said.

And so, the Indian immigration officials allowed the brightly-hued birds into the country. The sight of the parrots actually may have eased the tension of the process. The BBC quoted a local journalist as saying, "The sight of Bhovana with two parrots sitting on her shoulders ... brought an instant smile all around ..."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Once Lost, Now Found

Strange developments in the case of the wayward cockatiel. Recap: We first sighted the lost 'tiel outside our home on Saturday evening. My husband took over 'tiel watch duty yesterday (Monday) when I left for work. He and a couple neighbors pulled their resources together -- a large playgym, travel carrier, cage, pole stick and a large mirror (cockatiels love their mirrors!). The bird was obviously tired from being outdoors for over two days, but he could still fly enough to stay just out of reach.

I got a call yesterday around 4PM for an update ... the lost cockatiel was now flying around with another (lost) cockatiel! The two sat side by side high up on a telephone wire. I ran out of the office so I could rejoin the rescue effort before night fall. By the time I got home, lost 'tiel No.1 was secure in our travel carrier thanks to the quick reaction of my husband. He and the other lost 'tiel got startled and parted ways. Lost cockatiel No.1 was being chased by crows and landed on a neighbor's roof. The neighbor used her hose to "ground" the bird from taking off. From what I hear, the cockatiel seemed to relish this spray bath because he got closer to the spray instead of fleeing from it.

So we now have the lost cockatiel we first sighted on Saturday. He was pretty scared last night, even hissing, but he seemed more chipper this morning. Next step is a vet check, lost bird signs and hopefully either a reunion with his owner or a new home. We'll keep a look out for the phantom 'tiel who showed up alongside him last night ... not giving up just yet.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Poor Little Lost 'Tiel

We came across a wayward cockatiel this past weekend. Poor thing was clinging to the phone lines above our house, calling out with a typcial 'tiel wolfe whistle. We brought our own cockatiel outside in his cage, hoping he could help lure the bird down. No such luck. This lost 'tiel doesn't seem to know how to land. He tried a couple times, but a strong breeze sent him off in different directions. By sunset on Saturday, he was quiet in his telephone pole roost. Sunday morning, we were happy and relieved to wake to his cockatiel calls (he made it through the night!), and again brought out our 'tiel, a travel carrier and food cups. After an hour and a half of whistling to him, we thought he was finally coming down, but a car startled him, and he flew off. This time he kept going until we couldn't hear or see him. We could only hope he landed somewhere safely and into the hands of someone who knows birds.

When we returned home Sunday evening he was back, on a tree right across from our home. The sun was already going down, so we knew we didn't have a lot of time. Our neighbor had a long mop-style pole that would reach up to where he was in the tree. I was really hoping he would step up onto the extended arm of the pole, but no such luck. Off he flew to the same spot high on the telephone pole where he roosted the previous night. Well, this morning I woke to cockatiel chirps right outside. Sure enough, our brave little 'tiel was still on the telephone pole. I went back in the house to get food, but he was gone. I whistled to him and he came flying back my direction from the next street over and landed on the telephone line again. We're still trying to get him to come down. He's been flying about for atleast two and half days now, so the clock is ticking. He wants to be rescued, we just have to figure out how to make that happen.

Friday, July 07, 2006


That's Hot?

According to this celebrity stalker blog, Paris Hilton recently purchased a kitten and a Goffin's cockatoo... simultaneously! Many bird people might find several things wrong with the photo of Ms. Hilton and the newly acquired pets, but my thoughts fall on what's in the best interest of the bird. A cockatoo is a huge commitment and, whether we've tried to avoid the stories or not, we all are familiar with her track record with committed relationships. With her jet-setting lifestyle, will she be able to offer an adequate amount of attention and bonding time? How will the cockatoo fair among all of the other pets - the new kitten, Tinkerbell, the chihuahua or the ferret? Oh wait, I think she had to give that one up.

To her credit, she seems like a true animal lover at heart. She probably can afford to provide the most spacious cage with plenty of toys and the kind of life we can only dream about. Who knows, 'toos might become the next big trend. Well, I hope the bandwagoners read up on how to properly take care of a bird.

With that in mind, I'm extending Ms. Hilton the offer of a subscription to BIRD TALK, so she may be pointed in the right direction on good bird ownership.



Field Trip

Since beginning work as a BIRD TALK intern, I've been eager to get some hands-on experience with pet birds and after today, I'm convinced I need a bird of my own - maybe. The BT editors and I visited Omar's Exotic Birds store, and I finally got to pet and hold a few birds, my first time doing so since high school.

I'm sure I had a smile glued to my face as I watched two baby green-cheeked conures preen each other while the third one on the perch slept peacefully. I made it obvious I'm an amateur when it comes to birds when I called out, pointed, laughed and made a scene about the cutest Senegal as it shimmied its way to the bottom of the stand, hanging upside down along the way. The Senegal then playfully rolled onto its back. Ready for a belly rub? I'm still smiling at the sight of that.

Each time I passed the lone Indian ringneck, I was amazed it was still vigorously chewing its toy. While I stood watching one of the African greys climb to the top of its playstand, my wishful thinking has me convinced that it mimicked me when I said "Hi," although the sound was unclear and could have been just a noise. Once the grey lost interest in me, I moved onto the toucan in the cage beside me, which I somehow almost missed. Bright colors attract me, and I was fascinated by the intense yellowish-orange and indigo colors around the toucan's eyes. I watched closely as the toucan hopped in place on a perch then jumped down and around the cage. Editors Melissa and Rose stood at a distance letting me have my fun but hoping I knew enough to refrain from poking my finger inside the cage.

After I oohed and awed at all the birds, I mustered the courage to try to get a bird to step up onto my hand. The courage was needed not because I lacked the confidence or desire; rather I was worried I'd make a wrong move in trying to hold the birds, harming them somehow, and I was surrounded by the BT editors, who I wouldn't want to disappoint. The recently awoken 4-month old jenday conures struck my interest, and they had a field day beaking at my hand when I offered it for them to step up onto.

By the time one of the jendays was perched on my hand, I realized it was time to return to work, but it was difficult parting with all the birds. I realize my sole trip to Omar's was hardly an appetizer for what would come with owning a bird. I think I'm hooked, however, and even if I'm not ready for a bird of my own, I know I'll be visiting those at the store more often.


Thursday, July 06, 2006


Space Worthy Bird Poop

Photo courtesy NASA/Sandy Joseph, Robert Murray
NASA scientists recently discovered something that bird owners have known for years: bird poop is tough. Tougher than a launch into space.

A recent Associated Press (AP) story reported that bird droppings on the wing of the Discovery shuttle remained despite being battered by 300,000 gallons of water during launch and a journey through the gaseous levels of the Earth's atmosphere and into space. The poop remains after pieces of the shuttle's exterior fall off.

Maybe this experience will encourage those rocket scientists to come up with supersonic strength bird poop remover?

The Discovery flight coordinator suspects that the during landing, when the shuttle's exterior could reach 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the poop will burn off, according to the AP report.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Long Weekends = Pet-Sitting

Holidays, long weekends and vacations mean good things for most people, but those words can send bird owners into a panic. "What will I do with the birds?" We're consumed with guilt about leaving them behind and assume that no one will be able to take care of them quite right.

I spent the July 4th weekend camping. That meant that Bixby needed a sitter. Luckily for me, I have a handy one in the neighborhood. We swap sitting services whenever a business trip or holiday pulls one of us away. I feel comfortable with her, because A) she's a bird owner and B) we go to the same vet, so I know her bird is healthy and vaccinated. A few weekends ago, I took care of her cockatiel. Bixby loved that 'tiel. I couldn't tell if he wanted to play with her or eat her, but he was VERY interested. He was hanging off of his cage trying to get her attention. Of course, I didn't let him anywhere close to her (his beak is way bigger!), but he enjoyed whistling at her and staring at her from across the room. She didn't even look at him twice.

If my pet-sitter is busy, I take Bixby to a bird boarder who has a state-of-the-art air filtration system and uses the diet that I specify. I also bring along the favorite toy of the hour as well as a perch, so he has the comforts of home.

I know he gets out of the cage time with both options, human interaction, and in some instances, other bird interaction. Of course, I still feel guilty and give him a nut as soon as I walk in the door, but I feel better knowing that Bixby's receiving quality care while I'm away.

Another option for those summer vacations ... take your pet along! A comfy carrier and fold-away cage can mean that your bird can accompany you on just about any type of trip.

What do you do with your birds while on vacation?

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