The coastal seaport city of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, features a wide variety of habitats which attract large numbers of birds. To encourage interest in local and migratory birdlife, Vancouver hosts an annual event called Vancouver’s Bird Week, with the 2014 program taking place on May 3-10. This week-long celebration offers a host of bird-related walks, talks, workshops, exhibition and lectures at various venues across Vancouver, at no cost to participants. The Roundhouse and Hillcrest community centers will host artists’ workshops for all ages, as well as art exhibitions, and the week will draw to a close on World Migratory Bird Day with a series of nature walks in Vancouver’s spectacular parks.
As part of the celebrations, members of the public are encouraged to choose from six popular Vancouver bird species to decide which will be honored as the City’s Bird for the year. This is the first time a City Bird is being selected in this way, and the winner is to be announced on May 10, the closing day of Vancouver’s Bird Week. Birds in the running for the honor of City Bird include Anna’s Hummingbird, the Black-Capped Chickadee, the Pileated Woodpecker, Varied Thrush and Northern Flicker – all beautiful birds, each with their own unique characteristics.
The Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is the largest of the City Bird candidates and is very distinctive with its black body, white stripes, flaming red crest and long, strong beak. Residing in mature forests and wooded parks, Woodpeckers are known for pecking holes in trees while searching out their preferred meal of carpenter ants. The Pileated Woodpecker makes quite large rectangular holes in trees, sometimes weakening smaller trees and causing them to break. They do not restrict their search to a particular species of tree and will search for ants and beetle larvae in both coniferous and deciduous trees, sometimes peeling long strips of bark from trees as they do so. They also forage through leaf litter on the ground and eat nuts and fruit. The woodpecker’s search for food produces a loud hammering sound that can be heard from far away. They also hammer as part of their mating ritual and to set their territorial boundaries. Certainly the Pileated Woodpecker is among the more fascinating birds living in the vicinity of Vancouver.
Picture courtesy of Nigel from Vancouver (Wikimedia Commons)
First recorded in 1805, the budgerigar, more commonly referred to simply as the budgie, is thought to be the third most popular pet in the world – and for good reason. These lively little birds have many of the lovable characteristics of parrots, but in a smaller package, making them ideal as pets for just about anyone as they require less space and less food, but as with all pet birds, thrive on loads of attention. Available in a wide range of colors and varieties, budgies are very intelligent, are easily tamed and can even be trained to talk.
Originating from Australia, where they are still found in the wild, budgies have a preference for grassland areas where they feed mainly on seeds. They are by nature sociable birds and in the wild they live in flocks of varying sizes. They breed according to the availability of food and in times of plenty may produce clutches of seven to eight chicks, while when drought conditions strike (as they are prone to do in the outback of Australia), budgies will not breed at all as they conserve resources for the existing flock.
Wild budgies have light green bodies and yellow heads, with yellow and black rippled stripes from their foreheads down their wings. They have long blue tails and dark purple cheek patches. Selective breeding over the years has produced a wide variety of colors, body shapes and sizes in pet budgies. The hobby of ‘showing’ budgies has led to the breeding of birds with physical traits that are considered desirable by judges, but are far different from the original Australian wild budgie that has survived in often harsh conditions for millions of years.
Pet budgies are happiest and healthiest when they have a diet as close to that of their ancestors as possible, so a variety of good quality seeds is essential. These should include a high percentage of a variety of millet seed, canary seed and a small amount of whole oats. There are commercial mixes made specifically for budgies, or you can mix your own. Make sure that the seed mix you offer your canary is free from dust and mold. To boost the immune system of your budgie, try sprouting some of the seed. This will also be a good indicator of whether the seed you are using is fresh. Soak some seed overnight in water, tip it into a sieve and leave it there until a white tip starts emerging (24-48 hours). At this stage you can mix this in with some dry seed and give it to your budgie. Remove the remaining mix at the end of the day, as it could make your bird ill if left for too long.
Budgies also need some fresh fruit and veggies. They are fond of chickweed, which is very nutritious, and they enjoy dandelion, carrots, broccoli, apples and a variety of other fresh foods. It should go without saying that all fresh foods should be free of pesticides and other toxins, such as car exhaust fumes, so don’t buy from roadside vendors. It is also a good idea to provide them with a cuttlefish, which they will use as and when they need it. If you feed your pet budgie a well-rounded diet as described, with seeds as its mainstay, it should not need additional vitamin supplements.