Bird Atlas Tracks Trends in Britain and Ireland

December 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

Featuring more than 1,300 maps describing patterns of distribution for nearly 300 bird species, the new British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Bird Atlas 2007-11 has recently been released to the public. This comprehensive study of bird distribution trends in Britain and Ireland was compiled from data gathered by more than 40,000 volunteers over a period of four summers and four winters. The information was analyzed by scientists and authors Simon Gillings, Dawn Balmer, Brian Caffrey, Bob Swann, Rob Fuller and Iain Downie and compiled into a treasure trove of information for all who are interested in the birdlife of this region.

Among the wealth of interesting information presented in the Bird Atlas is the fact that as many as forty exotic species have taken up residence in Britain and Ireland. These include the white-cheeked turaco from Ethiopia and Sudan; the red-rumped parrot of Australia; the pin-tailed whydah of sub-Saharan Africa; and the Alexandrine parakeet from Sri Lanka and India, as well as zebra finches and Chinese pheasants. While these are most likely originally escapees from private owners, they have adapted to their surroundings and many have started breeding. So, although they are not indigenous to Britain and Ireland, it appears that they are there to stay and should therefore be monitored along with local populations.

This monitoring becomes even more important when exotic species start posing a threat to native birds, as appears to be the case with the ring-necked parakeet from Delhi. These birds were first reported in the wild in Britain in 1971, having escaped from aviaries. The survey notes that there are now more than 30,000 ring-necked parakeets resident across southern Britain and they appear to be moving northwards. As they use holes in trees to lay their eggs, they are encroaching on the nesting territory of the nuthatch and other birds – and are not shy about taking over.

Observations regarding native birds include the disheartening fact that nightingales, yellowhammers and woodcocks numbers are declining. On the other hand it’s been noted that the little egret and avocet is experiencing an increase in numbers. In addition to listing statistics, the Bird Atlas provides explanations regarding changes that have taken place. For example, the decline in Dartford warbler breeding pairs from 3,214 pairs in 2006, to 600 pairs in 2010 is attributed to the harsh winters experienced in two successive years. It’s not all doom and gloom for Dartford warblers though, as the Bird Atlas notes that they have the capacity to recover and expand their range.

For more information on the new British Trust for Ornithology Bird Atlas 2007-11, visit the BTO Website.

Attending a Local Bird Fair

November 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

Have you previously attended a dog or cat show? Wasn’t it fun to view all of the animals for sale, especially the adorable babies? It was also interesting to see the wide variety of things for sale at the vendors. You may be surprised to know that events like this exist for bird lovers as well. They are generally known as bird fairs, exhibitions, shows, or expos. Often, owners or breeders will enter birds to be judged and, if they are lucky, win prizes, much like a canine or feline show. Breeders may also sell baby birds of all species, varying from pigeon squabs to little finches to parrot chicks. They will also sell adult birds at these events, or they will sell a breeding pair. It is unlikely that someone will be selling a breeding pair of macaws or cockatoos at a bird fair, however- generally, you will only find them selling breeding pairs of parrotlets, parakeets, cockatiels, doves, finches, or canaries. But one of the best parts of a bird fair is the vendors. Here, you can find anything your avian buddy could ever want, need, or dream of- giant stainless steel cages, the newest spill-free birdfeeder (although most parrot owners would firmly argue that such a thing does not, and will not, ever exist), freeze-dried treats, supplements, toys of all shapes, sizes, and colors, free-flight ‘harnesses’, even bird-themed items for people such as artwork or stuffed animals.

Remember, it probably is a very, very bad idea to bring your bird to a bird show. Generally, it is not even allowed, and you will have to go back home with your bird. If it isn’t prohibited, however, it still doesn’t mean you should do it. Your bird could get parasites or a disease from fellow birds at the fair. All of the screeching and tweeting, and all of the people milling around and talking, could frighten your bird. If your bird becomes frightened, you will probably have to head back home, because your bird could hurt itself trying to escape from a small travel cage. And if it isn’t trying to escape, it could upset other birds or their owners if it is loudly screaming or making other unsuitable vocalizations.

Another fun part of bird fairs are the raffles. Although bird fairs don’t always have raffles or auctions, it is fairly common and generally it isn’t a big surprise if your local bird fair has one. A wide variety of items can be raffled off- birdcages of all sizes, coupons for free avian vet checkups, bird toys, bird food and treats, and playstands. You may also see some bird-themed human items, like paintings, photos, t-shirts, and more.

Bird fairs are fun opportunities to socialize with fellow bird lovers, owners, and breeders, to buy your avian friend some interesting toys or treats –or perhaps a new cage, and, to possibly find a parrot or other bird that you would like to add to your feathered family. Look for bird fairs near you- they can be extremely fun events suitable for the whole family.

Article submitted by: Eliza Kuklinski

Parrotlet or Parakeet- What Is the Difference?

January 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Pet Birds

When you go to buy your first parrot at the pet store, you notice the tags on the cages: Parrotlet. Parakeet. You wrinkle your brow. Huh? They look similar to each other. What is the difference? A more experienced aviculturist will know immediately that you are dealing with two very different birds.

Parrotlets

Parrotlets are small, feisty birds. The ways they differ from parakeets can actually be quite obvious, if you look. For example, by general rule, parrotlets have short tails – while parakeets (also called budgies) lave long ones. Second, they have larger beaks (compared to body size) and they are usually a lighter color than a budgie. They also do not have the stripes that budgies do along their feathers. Parrotlets have a very large appetite, sometimes eating as much as a cockatiel daily.

Parakeets

Parakeets are the quieter, more calm of the two parrots, but that isn’t all. They also have different colored ceres (nostrils) from parrotlets. Females usually have a slightly deeper pink than parrotlets, or a light gray, and the males have a bright blue cere. While the two are both ground foragers, they forage in two different places. Budgies, or parakeets, live in Australia, whereas parrotlets usually live in South America. Parakeets can also be kept in flocks; however, parrotlets are not great aviary birds and tend to fight with cagemates. Parakeets are also much more common as they have been bred for a much longer period of time. Also, they are cheaper – Parrotlets can cost hundreds of dollars, while parakeets can be found at pet stores costing around twenty five dollars.

While these parrots may be similar, hopefully you have picked up some tips on telling them apart. Remember, both of these species can be found at local pet stores, so if you are interested in a bird, they are worth considering.

Article contributed by: Eliza Kuklinski.

Sun Conures

August 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Pet Birds

Sun conures are a medium-sized parrot. They are green with a yellow head and breast. They look similar to Jenday Conures and the now extinct Carolina Parakeets. Sun conures are known for having moderate talking ability and being very good at tricks. They are very loud so they are not recommended for apartment-dwelling bird owners. However, they are not usually aggressive so they are good for a multi-bird household, and are actually generally bossed around by smaller birds! They can be kept in an aviary with other sun conures or other similar parrots. The loud shrieks they emit may bother neighbors, so make sure to tell them in advance you have outdoor parrots. You may want to invite your neighbor to meet the bird as the bright coloring and intelligence generally wins them over.

These parrots can still pack a powerful and painful bite, even though they are not known for nipping, so be careful as you would with any other bird. They will generally not bite, however, so they are good for families with slightly older children. Their cheery whistles even win over teens. If you are worried about biting, teach your bird to step onto a wooden dowel instead of your finger or hand. The birds are known for making bigger messes than small birds like parrotlets and budgies, so if you like things nice and tidy they may not be for you.

These birds can easily be occupied by a foraging toy or in-shell almond, but even so, remember to let them have at least an hour a day with you, their flockmate, otherwise they may begin screaming throughout the day for you. Sun conures are very intelligent birds and need stimulating activities so they do not get bored. You may want to get a very large cage and house them with other non-aggressive conures, lovebirds, or even cockatiels. Do not house them with other Aratinga conures besides other sun conures that are not the same sex, as they may mate and have a fertile egg which will hatch a hybridized baby. These contaminate the gene pool of the few captive birds we have and the baby may have health problems due to the odd genes. Even though they are very loud, do not cover the cage during the day in an effort to stop screaming. While it does work, it is cruel to the parrot. Even if they are loud, sun conures are great pets and are lovely birds.

Article contributed by: Eliza Kuklinski.

Birds Down Under 2010

August 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

The captivating The Birdman’s Birds Down Under Bird Show, kicked off on 3 July 2010, and will be ending on 15 August 2010, so now is the time to get down to the Blank Park Zoo to ensure you do not miss out on this birding spectacular. The show, which is hosted by Joe Krathwohl (aka The Birdman), will introduce a variety of Australian birds to the public, such as parakeets, Kookaburra, wonga pigeons, diamond doves, silver gulls, eclectus parrots and much more.

For more information, visit the Blank Park Zoo website at http://www.blankparkzoo.com/index.cfm?nodeID=18240&audienceID=1.

Date: 9 August 2010
Venue: Blank Park Zoo
City: Des moines, Iowa
Country: United States

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