Normally, if you are planning to add a new bird to your family, you have a specific species in mind, because, after all, a parakeet is quite different from a macaw. You might look for someone with a good reputation who breeds this species. This is one of the most popular ways to obtain a bird. However, there is another great way to find a feathered friend or friends- through a shelter or a parrot rescue.
Many people find themselves unable to care for a parrot once they buy one. Perhaps they are too messy, or too loud, or not social enough. Other times, the owner may have financial or health problems, and as much as they love their bird, they truly can no longer care for him or her. These parrots usually do not end up in a parrot rescue; instead, they are usually turned in to a local animal shelter. Generally, shelters are not good environments for parrots – they are very loud, the employees are generally not able to give the birds a lot of attention, and they are very rarely able to provide toys or treats. That is where a parrot rescue comes in. They take the animal from the shelter, and put them either in their own facility, or in a foster home. Either way, they are generally able to provide the level of care that the bird needs. Many potential parrot owners prefer to adopt from parrot rescues rather than animal shelters, because the rescues generally are able to spend time with their birds and are able to provide a better description of their behaviors and personalities.
If you decide to adopt from a shelter rather than a rescue, be careful. Although your bird may have been turned in for no fault of its own, and it could be a perfectly nice pet, he also could have been surrendered for various behavior problems. Ask an employee if they know what the reason for surrender was, or if they have noticed any behavior problems during the birds’ time at the shelter. Ask them if you can spend a little time with the bird; sometimes, a shelter will have a ‘visitation room,’ where you can spend some time alone with your potential new best friend. Remember, sometimes birds will act up in the shelter – they may be frightened and screech loudly, or they could be so scared that they shy away from human contact. The shelter environment is loud and frightening, especially to a small bird like a parakeet, cockatiel or parrotlet. However, even the biggest macaw may act unusually in this loud and scary place.
You may find that you don’t want to adopt from a shelter after all. You might want to adopt from a breeder, where they have truly known the bird its whole life, and can tell you practically everything about it. But remember- if you adopt a bird from a scary situation, you are their hero. Even though you might not realize it, your friend will feel grateful. If you are considering a new avian friend, please consider dropping by a shelter or parrot rescue before you buy from a breeder.
Article contributed by Eliza Kuklinski
Active, curious and playful, lovebirds are very entertaining and often recommended as pets. Measuring only 15 cm in length on average, lovebirds are among the smallest of parrots, but are big in personality and have many of the traits of larger species. They thrive on social interaction and can put on quite a show for their human caretakers with very little encouragement.
As their name suggests, lovebirds crave affection, so if owners are not able to give their pet lovebird plenty of attention or are out most of the day, it’s generally a good idea to get a pair. A reputable lovebird breeder should be able to provide a well matched pair of birds, which is important as they can be aggressive if they don’t get along. It’s never a good idea to put a lovebird with another bird species. Pairs of lovebirds are a delight to watch as they play with and groom one another. Breeding pairs of lovebirds even feed one another, carefully transferring food from one beak to the other. It is an erroneous assumption that pairs of lovebirds will not bond with their human handlers. They may bond more with one member of the family more than others, but a lot depends on how they are handled from the start and they will more often than not respond to positive attention from anyone. They appear to enjoy grooming their favored humans with the same degree of affection shown to one another.
The minimum size of a cage for a lovebird should be 1m x 1m x 1m – but bigger is better. They need a variety of safe (preferably wooden) toys, swings and perches to play on and to chew. Providing a cuttlebone is important as this helps to trim their beaks, which grow continuously, and is also a source of calcium and minerals. They enjoy bathing and sunning themselves as part of their daily routine. It is good to remember that lovebirds that are not getting sufficient stimulation and companionship may exhibit behavioral problems such as aggression and feather plucking. Their immune systems may also become suppressed leading to ill health. But, in general, they are easy to care for.
Your pet lovebird’s diet should consist of a good seed, grain and nut mix, along with fresh fruit and vegetables. They also enjoy edible flowers and green weeds, such as dandelion and chickweed. Among the foods to completely avoid are avocado, rhubarb, mushrooms, onions and potatoes.
So, if you’re considering getting a pet bird (or two), lovebirds are a good choice. Just bear in mind that their lifespan is 15 years on average, and they bond for life, so be sure that you want to make a bird part of your household.
Domesticated centuries ago, canaries were popular in the courts of Spanish and English royalty in the 17th and 18th centuries because of their beautiful singing. Over the years selective breeding has focused on creating a variety of colors and shapes, but one of the most desired traits of canaries remains their ability to enthrall their audience, and hopefully a mate, with a repertoire of sounds and songs that are very pleasing to the human ear. Wild canaries are generally yellowish green in color, but domesticated canaries are available in a range of colors, including yellow, orange, black, brown, white and red, as well as mottled blends of these various colors.
Prospective owners of pet canaries need to be aware that they are not generally companion birds, as one would consider a parrot, budgerigar or cockatiel to be. Nonetheless, their cheerful disposition and amazing singing abilities make canaries a popular choice as pets. It should also be noted that only male canaries sing as this is how they attract a mate (although some owners have reported their female canaries can sing). Also, they tend not to sing when molting in summer. So, if you are considering getting a canary specifically for its singing, you’ll need to get a male and he would have to remain a bachelor. However, as they are territorial and not particularly social birds, canaries apparently do not need feathered companions to be happy.
As they like flying horizontally from perch to perch, canaries need a cage that is at least 20 inches or longer, by about 10 inches high and 10 inches wide, for them to get enough exercise. Place a perch on both ends of the cage, and maybe one midway. This will encourage your canary to keep fit and healthy. Tall or small cages are not at all suitable for canaries. They don’t need a lot of accessories in their cages, and may see their reflection in a mirror as an intruder or threat. Position the cage in a room where there is some activity and preferably some morning sun, but not in a kitchen and not in a draft.
Pet shops generally stock seed mixes specifically for canaries, as well as soft food in dehydrated form. Ensure that you canary has fresh seed every day and a teaspoon of moistened soft food, as well as some fresh green food such as carrot tops, parsley or spinach. You can offer your canary a slice of fresh apple or pear twice a week as a treat. Fresh water for drinking and splashing around in should be provided each day. Canaries also require grit, obtainable from the pet shop, and enjoy a cuttlebone. For your canary’s good health, ensure that his food and water bowls are cleaned every day. A healthy, happy canary will reward you with cheerful, chirpy activity, and hopefully hours of beautiful singing.
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.
“I tried to discover, in the rumor of forests and waves, words that other men could not hear, and I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony.” Gustave Flaubert
Most of us have been conditioned to consider bird’s chirping, singing, or squawking as something like noise. How sad for us. Although a great listener of humans and four legged animals, I’ve been woefully ignorant of the rich discussions taking place in the trees. The most basic understanding of bird language would have enriched my experiences with birds both captive and free.
Soon after being given a Quaker parrot in the summer of 2013, a friend played Jon Young’s video about bird language for me. My eyes (and ears) were opened to a new dimension to the world around me. Just like humans and other mammals, birds make noise to communicate. Young’s insights allowed me to hear Dahlia’s comments and requests as clearly as I do my human friends.
Dahlia clucks, trills, squawks, whistles, sings, kisses, clicks, and purrs.
When I walk away or leave the room or car, she makes an unpleasant squawk. This is obviously an emotional response to something she does not like that serves as an alarm. When I walk back toward her or return to the room or car, she often trills, kisses, or coos.
When I stop singing in the shower, she often squawks. When I resume, she makes adorable sounds celebrating music and interaction as if it is a party.
After six months with Dahlia, our ability to communicate makes us friends and roommates rather than human and animal or worse, “owner” and “pet.” She is wonderful company, a fun dance partner, and great entertainment. She is also demanding with a strong sense of entitlement. It is one of the most intimate relationships I have ever had.
“When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life.” Brenda Ueland
By listening better and more often to Dahlia, I have helped her personality develop. Knowing I will respond to her needs, she is quick to make her desires known.
Playing music she likes encourages her dancing while enhancing her quality of life. Letting her take the lead in games we play makes her more than a toy.
“The activity of interpreting might be understood as listening for the ‘song beneath the words’.” Ronald Heifetz
One game we play is a version of Simon Says. Dahlia only initiates this when I am in the room but not engaging with her, which is telling. I hear a distinct whistle, rhuu-whoo-rhuu as she gets my attention. Recognizing the cue, I copy. She quickly gives me another, wheet wheooo, which I echo. Then wrhoo-ruh-wheet and my ready reply.
If I had not listened for meaning or “the song beneath the words”, I would have thought she was merely vocalizing. Playfully copying her led to another activity making us more like dance partners than jailor and jailbird. The connectedness we share as a result of varied interactions makes us both happier.
Having lived with so many animals over the years I am amazed at birds’ interest and ability for dance. My quaker parrot can’t stop moving to the music. It’s automatic. Maybe we should call song birds song and dance birds.
“An appreciative listener is always stimulating.” Agatha Christie
Some species, like mockingbirds, include “elements learned in the individual’s lifetime” in their songs. Researchers call this appropriation. Many scientists contend that song bird calls include grammatical structure. Undoubtedly, we will be learning about bird communication for years to come.
Birds use what they have to communicate much like humans do. Linguists will tell you that humans do not use all of the sounds our mouths can make. Some languages use more than others, but putting together all of the various sounds human language makes leaves some sounds completely unused. Birds however use all of the possible sounds due to their more limited apparatus.
Birds tell us they are content, happy, excited, angry, bored, and scared. Much of the emphasis on human/bird interaction is on how much human language they can learn or already know. But, if birds understand some of the words they use and understand words that they cannot say, our interaction with them, our relationships, would benefit from humans working on their listening and communicating skills.
Some things to consider:
Why you should listen to your bird
What your bird is telling you
What your bird wants you to know
What your bird is trying to tell you
You and your bird will be happier if you become a better listener.
Article submitted by: Lisa Kendall