Keeping a Pet Caique

April 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Pet Birds

The Caique is known by a variety of names such as the Seven Color Parrot, Yellow Thighed Caique, Black Headed Caique and the Dancing Parrot. There are, however, two Caiques, namely the Black Headed Caique (Pionites melanocephala) and the White Bellied Caique (Pionites leucogaster). Over the years they have slowly become more popular as pets, as they are known for their playful personalities, curiosity and entertaining talents. Their wonderful coloring is another beautiful feature that they offer, and more bird owners are starting to warm up to the Caique as a pet bird.

Growing to a length of approximately nine to ten inches, the Caique is a relatively small parrot. The Black Headed Caique has black plumage on its head, with green just below the eyes and orange cheeks. Green plumage covers the upper tail feathers and wings, while its belly is beige, with grey coloring to its beak and legs. The White Headed Caiques feature pink legs, yellow and orange head plumage, white bellies and green on the tails and wings. They can live an estimated twenty years and are very energetic.

Caique parrots crave the attention of owners, so owners need to be very interactive with them. These clever little parrots are able to quickly pick up and mimic tunes whistled to them. They do have the ability to talk, and speak in tiny high pitched voices. They need a lot of activities and toys to keep them stimulated, as they bunny hop, swing and roll to keep themselves entertained. Bells, ropes, swings and hoops are recommended toys for Caiques, as well as toys they can destroy by chewing and biting. They are able to adapt to being alone in a cage, or with a mate, but do not do well in a cage with other bird species, as they are known to become aggressive towards them and can deliver a harsh bite when provoked.

Nutrition wise, the Caique can be fed the same as any other pet parrots, supplemented with fresh fruit and vegetables. If bird owners are searching for a pet bird that they can cuddle, love and play with, the Caique is the ideal bird, as it is interactive, excitable and always ready for attention and love.

Warblers Ward off Imposters

April 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

Cuckoos have never been very popular amongst other birds species. They are known to be lazy parents and have become sophisticated in their methods of camouflaging their own eggs to look like those of other species, so that they are able to introduce their own eggs into the nest and have the other birds raise their chicks. But host birds are beginning to wise up to the counterfeit eggs being laid in their nests and have developed their own skills to fight off imposter eggs.

Studies conducted at the University of Cambridge, led by Claire Spottiswoode, revealed that host birds, especially warblers, have become more vigilant in regard to recognizing imposter eggs. Most birds use one of two methods. They either teach themselves to be able to recognize the imposter eggs purely by sight, or they have taught themselves to change the coloring of their own eggs, making it more difficult for the cuckoo to copy. During the research studies, scientists placed the eggs in the nests of bird species that were closely related to warblers. It seemed to show that the red-faced cisticola was quite apt in noticing an imposter egg purely by sight, while the tawny-flanked prinia was not very confident in noticing a difference. In its defense, the prinia is able to lay a rainbow color of eggs, complete with variable patterns, which deter cuckoos from the challenge of laying eggs in their nests. In addition they are able to recognize the imposter egg due to their defenses and eject the eggs immediately. The rattling cisticola is no longer the target of the cuckoo, as it has been able to use both defenses, that of recognition and color changing of eggs, to establish which of the eggs are imposters.

Researcher Dr. Martin Stevens expressed his findings of the outcome of the studies, saying: “Our experiments have shown that these different strategies are equally successful as defenses against the cuckoo finch. Moreover, one species that has done a bit of both – the rattling cisticola – appears to have beaten the cuckoo finch with this dual strategy, since it is no longer parasitized. The arms race between the cuckoo finch and its host emphasizes how interactions between species can be remarkably sophisticated especially in tropical regions such as Africa, giving us beautiful examples of evolution and adaptation.”

Monitoring Your Bird’s Body Condition

April 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Pet Birds

Even though our pet birds are domesticated, there are still some natural characteristics that remain in them, such as the instinct to hide weight loss. In the wild birds are able to mask illness and weight loss as their lives depend on it. It is a survival feature that allows them not to look like the most vulnerable bird, thus protecting themselves from predators. Even in captivity birds can still do the same, and monitoring their weight will allow bird owners to establish if their bird is hiding illness or is in good body condition.

Body condition refers to the weight of your pet bird. If a bird is too thin, it could show signs of illness. If a bird is overweight, owners will be able to monitor their feeding habits to assist them in losing weight. It is vital for the bird owner to monitor the bird’s weight, as obesity can also lead to a number of health problems. The most effective and convenient way to monitor a bird’s weight is to buy a bird scale or any scale that is able to measure weight in grams. It is usually recommended that birds be weighed once a week when they are adults, and daily in younger birds, enabling owners to monitor their weight closely. When weighing a bird, owners should take into account whether the bird has been given a treat and depending if weighing times vary, the weight could vary too.

Another method of ensuring that a pet bird is in top body condition is to feel its keel bone. The keel bone is stands out from the chest bone and runs down the front of the bird, from the chest wall, at right angles. By gently moving one’s fingers across the keel bone, moving from top to bottom, the body condition can also be assessed. There are muscles attached to the keel bone, so in healthy birds, the edge of the keel bone should be able to be felt, while in obese birds, the keel bone will be harder to feel. In sickly birds, suffering from weight loss, the feel bone will be sharp and extremely prominent. Monitoring the body condition of a bird is vital to the overall health and welfare of domestic birds, and by assessing their weight and keeping notes on their weight variances, owners will be able to ensure that their birds are always healthy and happy.

Small Bird Sightings Increase

April 5, 2011 by  
Filed under News

The Big Garden Birdwatch in the UK is an annual event that has taken place for the last thirty-two years and is organized by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. This is a massive undertaking as it involves over six hundred thousand participants, but it is vital to the tracking and recording of small bird numbers. Members of the public volunteer to take note of their gardens or open public areas and record the number of birds and individual species they see within a dedicated hour. This year the count took place on 29 January 2011 and the feedback was astounding.

During a very severe winter experienced in the United Kingdom in 2009, a significant decrease in small bird sightings was noticed. The new information received proved that the numbers were on the rise again. During the campaign, more than ten million birds were counted and recorded by the public, and it showed that the number of small birds in the United Kingdom had doubled, with sightings of goldcrests, blue tits, greenfinches, wrens, pheasants, jays, kestrels, lapwings, robins and even waxwings, which migrate to the United Kingdom from Scandinavia. It was the most successful count of waxwings in over thirty years. The research also showed that house sparrows were the most highly sighted birds in the gardens of the United Kingdom.

Sarah Kelly, the co-ordinator of the Big Garden Birdwarch, commented: “We were really interested to see how the small birds fared after such a disastrous last year.” She went on to say, “It appears that many may have had a decent breeding season and have been able to bounce back a little.”

The real excitement, however, was with the wonderful sightings of the waxwings. Even Mark Eaton, scientist for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, commented on them saying, “We knew this was going to be a bumper year for waxwings as we’d had so many reports from all over the UK. But the Big Garden Birdwatch is the first indicator of exactly how many were seen in gardens, and we’re pleased that so many people got to enjoy sightings of these beautiful birds.”