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.
Due to the adventurous nature of birds it is essential to ensure that their environment is safe.
The first safety precautions to consider are to do with the bird’s immediate environment – its cage. The spacing between the bars of a bird cage must be narrow so that your bird will not get its head stuck. Bars that are of a small diameter are easily bent and can make the gaps larger and less safe. There are a variety of feeding and watering bowls available and these must be selected carefully with the bird’s safety in mind. It is important to use the bowls designed for the holders as gaps will provide opportunity for toes to get stuck. Be sure to secure “guillotine”; type cage doors as some birds may try to lift these and get their heads caught. Look out for cages made of materials that may contain poisonous zinc or brass. Spring loaded latches can also be dangerous for toes and beaks.
Safety in feeding is another aspect to look at. Foods that are bought in bulk and then repackaged are not a good idea as they may be contaminated. Rather purchase food in the packaging of the manufacturer, even if it is slightly more expensive.
Many people recommend that a bird’s wings be clipped so as to prevent it from flying into trouble around the house. If your bird is permitted to leave its cage, it is vital to bird-proof your home for your bird’s safety, and to always know where it is. Many things around the house may prove toxic to birds, to name a few: crayons, various household cleaners, insecticides, lead-based paint, nicotine and table salt. It is also advisable not to let the bird out the cage when cooking or cleaning, as it may consume the wrong things or get burnt on ovens and stoves. Resist the desire to have your bird sleep with you, as sadly, many people have awoken to find their birds have been crushed.
Certain toys can also compromise your bird’s safety. Toys made from fabric may have threads in which the bird may tangle his/her feet or neck. Key rings are often used to attach hanging toys to the cage, however alternatives would be better as beaks, tongues and toes can get caught in these. Rope toys with loose threads may also entangle your bird.
The best thing to do is to carefully watch your bird’s activities around its cage and the external environment and try to predict any possible dangers to your bird’s safety. Rather safe than sorry!
Preparation for showing and displaying of birds typically begins about four months before the date of the show. At this time you should decide which birds you are going to be showing and then place each bird in its own cage to prevent damage to feathers and so on. The birds chosen for showing and displaying should have good plumage, posture and have all their toes. Examine the birds daily to see if they are still in tip-top condition. Maintain show birds on a nutritious diet that will not allow them to become overweight.
Once you have chosen the birds for showing and displaying, begin a routine of bathing or spraying the birds with water daily. Closer to the date of the show clip claws and file beaks. Keep the cages thoroughly clean so that the bird does not soil its feathers. Begin spraying them with a soft mist of water as their showing condition improves. Two days prior to the show stop this spraying and allow natural oils to coat the birds’ feathers giving them a lovely sheen.
Prepare your birds for the show by familiarizing them with their show cages. This can be done by enticing them into the cage by means of treats. By using this method it will not be necessary to handle your show bird and there will be no risk of damage to feathers or injuries. Also get the bird accustomed to the cage being moved around and lots of noise as this is what they will encounter at the show.
On the day of the show make sure that your show cage is clean and sprinkle a layer of plain seed on the bottom of the cage. Also rather use a water bottle attached to the outside of the cage, You do not want food and water dishes obscuring the view of the judges whilst your bird is on display.
When you arrive you will have to register your birds. The stewards will ensure that you have the correct labels for the group you are entering into. Such labels should be properly displayed. The judges will be looking for shape, size, color and condition of the bird. Plumage is to be fully developed. Birds must look lively and active but not nervous. Once the judges have seen all the birds, prizes are awarded.
Showing and displaying birds can be a rewarding and satisfying experience. Even if you do not win, you will have enjoyed the association of like-minded people, swopping stories and learning from one anothers experiences.