Flying into glass windows they are unable to see is one of the leading causes of bird deaths in urban areas. So the invention of a glass coating which is visible to birds, while remaining transparent to humans, is welcome news. Developed by German company Arnold Glas the new product, named Ornilux, reflects ultraviolet light which birds can see, but humans cannot. Tests conducted thus far suggest that its use may reduce window-related bird strikes by 66-68%, and with ongoing efforts to improve the product, this percentage may very well be increased.
The glazing concept was inspired by the web of the Orb-weaver spider which is known to reflect ultraviolet light preventing birds from flying into it and destroying it. Upon reading an article about the Orb-weaver spider, a friend of the owner of Arnold Glas suggested using the concept to develop a coating for glass, for the same purpose as the spider has – to prevent birds from flying into it. The product development took a number of years, with a host of glass and coatings being tested and discarded, until developers discovered a coating they named Mikado – the German name for the game of pick-up-sticks, as its pattern resembles the scattered sticks.
The end product was tested at a flight tunnel situated in a US nature reserve, where birds were encouraged to fly to the end of the tunnel which had been partly covered in glass coated with Ornilux and partly with plain glass. A net was used to catch birds that fell and great care was taken to ensure that none were injured. As mentioned earlier, the results of the test revealed that the product could prevent up to 68% of bird strikes.
The coated glass has recently been installed in a lookout tower at Lindisfarne on the north-east coast of England – the first application of the new product in the UK. The lookout tower dates back to the 1940s when it was used by the local coastguard for the benefit of local fishermen. Having stood empty for some years, it has recently been renovated for use by visitors to the island as it offers spectacular views of the surrounding areas and its wildlife. Safety for the thousands of birds that live in the area, or stop-over at certain times of the year, was a major consideration, and Ornilux provided the solution.
While the cost of the product may prevent it from being used on a wide scale at this stage, it is early days yet and future developments may well make it more affordable. Meanwhile Ornilux offers a solution to the problem of birds colliding with glass, and has been installed at a wildlife center in Canada, a mountain railway building in Austria, a zoo in Germany and a school in the United States, as well as the lookout tower at Lindisfarne.
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.
The most terrifying experience for a bird owner is to have their beloved pet bird escape and fly away. Fears for their well-being and safety are overwhelming. Equally difficult to deal with is finding a lost bird in your garden and not knowing how to care for it until alternative arrangements can be made, or the original owners can be found. Not everyone has a spare bird cage lying around the house, and if the bird was able to make it to its new destination, the chances of him flying off again are pretty good.
Lost birds are often found near homes as they are scared and confused by their unfamiliar surroundings, and over and above the fear of not knowing how to return home, they are hungry and thirsty. One can almost always lure a pet bird into your home or near enough to place a towel over them for capture with food, water, calling and a lot of patience. Once captured, it is essential to remember the basic needs of a bird and to reduce stress as it can be fatal. Trying to touch the bird or befriend it can cause an aggressive reaction, which is due to the stress of a new environment and fear.
It is suggested that a lost bird be placed in a small bathroom or unused room, without a lot of noise and disturbance, where it is able to relax and feel safe. Any room should be made bird friendly, by removing any toxic bottles, closing all toilets and taking away any item that could be damaged by the bird through chewing on it. Birds are also more comfortable if they are perched and with food and water be placed near to where they perched. A backed chair can be useful in this regard. Getting down to a pet shop to get a packet of seeds is recommended, but if that is not an option, fruits, unsalted nuts, vegetables and cooked pasta (without sauce or seasoning) can also be offered. Foods to stay away from, which can cause serious harm to a bird, include onions, alcohol, avocado and chocolate. If a bird is not perching itself or it is suspected that the bird might be injured, the assistance of a veterinarian is strongly advised. The reunion between a grateful owner and lost pet is always worth the effort.
Birds in the wild with take care of their own grooming needs. However, your pet bird will require some assistance from you.
Birds will keep their feathers in good condition by preening. Preening is the process whereby birds keep their feathers smooth by running their feathers through their beaks thus “zipping” the sections on the feather closed.
Bird grooming involves trimming of wings, claws and beaks, as well as bathing.
Trimming of your bird’s wings is an important part of bird grooming as it ensures the safety of your bird. Both wings should have their flight feathers trimmed. This results in a even, controlled descent to the floor. Trimming only one wing may result in “crash landings”. Trimming of the wings is not painful as the feathers do not contain nerves and are made of the same material as your fingernails. The appearance of your bird will not be altered. Before you begin trimming your bird’s wings visit your local veterinarian and he/she will demonstrate exactly how it should be done. It is important to remember that your scissors must always point away from the body of the bird. Also ensure that the person handling the bird does so carefully.
The next aspect to consider in bird grooming is that of beak and claw clipping. In the wild the beak and claws would naturally be worn down. Unfortunately birds in captivity are unable to do this. If clipping is not done the claws and beak will grow too long and the beak may become chipped or damaged. Avoid the use of sandpaper perch covers to shorten nails as these will damage the soles of the bird’s feet. The tools for clipping a small bird’s claws are nail clippers, an emery board and styptic powder (stops bleeding). Larger bird’s require a rotating grind stone. A Veterinarian should trim your bird’s beak. When trimming your bird’s nails have the styptic powder or some corn flour nearby in case of bleeding. Should any bleeding occur it is vital to take your bird to your Veterinarian.
Bathing is also important when grooming birds. This can be done by providing the bird with a suitable container of water in which to bathe. Alternatively you can spray the bird with a light mist of water. Commercial sprays for bathing are unneccessary. Bathing can take place daily or when convenient. Bird’s must be allowed to air dry, preferably in a warm room or sunlight. Whilst a hairdryer may be used, care must be taken not to burn your bird.
Grooming of birds is important to keep them in good health, and also brings you the pleasure of seeing your bird in beautiful condition.
Caring for your pet bird is not difficult once you know the basics. The first step in bird care is understanding your bird’s behavior as this can give you insight into your bird’s health and mood. It is most vital to ensure your bird receives the correct nutrition as this can affect both his/her physical and mental health. Part of bird care is grooming, which includes bathing, clipping of wings, cutting of nails and trimming the beak.
Birds are very active creatures and therefore it is important to take the safety of their environment into careful consideration. You should keep first-aid supplies as well as your Veterinarian’s telephone number on hand in case your bird injures itself. A well cared for bird will be a happy bird.