Friday, May 1, 2009

Basic Bird Care Guide

For Parrots and Other Pet Birds

There is a great deal of literature available concerning exotic birds, but careful attention must be paid to obtaining current information. Read magazines, go to bird shows, talk to breeders and other experts and join bird clubs. It is important to keep reading and expanding your knowledge.

Virtually all species of parrots are either endangered or soon will be. Domestically bred, hand-raised parrots make infinitely superior pets and do not deplete wild populations. Insist on purchasing a domestic bird.


How long would you stay healthy on a diet of seeds and water? Well, the same holds true for parrots. In fact, an excellent rule of thumb for birds is: "If it's good for me, it's good for my parrot!"

Try the three bowl system.

  • Fresh water
  • Fresh Veggies and fruits
  • Pellets, nuts and seeds
All bowls should be washed dally with soap and hot water. Drinking water should be changed frequently, ("if you wouldn't drink it...") and should not be placed directly beneath a perch or favorite toy.


Apple Bananas Berries Broccoli Carrots Cauliflower Cheese
Chilies Collard Greens Corn Grains Grapes Green Beans Kale
Mango Melon Orange Papaya Pasta (raw or cooked) Pear Peas
Popcorn Spinach Whole Wheat Breads Yogurt
More specifically...

A good seed mixture should be provided, but only in an amount which can be eaten daily. Avoid sunflower seeds and limit peanuts, as they are high in fat compared to their nutritional value. Pelleted foods provide a much more complete diet than seeds and nuts alone but should still be given in conjunction with a variety of fresh foods.

Cooked foods are also great, such as mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beans, eggs, rice, etc. Most birds will enjoy cooked chicken, skinned and on the bone (which they will also eat).


Avocado, chocolate, caffeine, heavily salted or greasy foods, alcohol and fruit pits. Many of these are toxic and can kill your bird.

If your bird doesn't jump right into the first bowl of spinach you give him, remember:

Persist ... Persist ... Persist

Provide a good variety of foods and don't be afraid to be creative. Vitamin supplements are available, but avoid those given in your bird's water.


Yes, birds need baths. In fact, most birds love being bathed.

There are three basic ways to introduce wings to water:

  1. Fill a clean spray bottle with tepid water and set the nozzle to mist. Hold the bottle about 18 inches from the bird and let the fun begin!
  2. Take your bird in the shower with you. (Just don't tell your friends!)
  3. Set up a "bird bath" in the sink or with a shallow bowl and an inch or two of water.
How often ...

Two or three times a week should be enough and if at first the bird seems afraid, be gentle and be persistent. Soon he will be begging for more.

After a bath, gently towel off the excess water and avoid drafts. Remember, parrots are tropical birds. Always supervise all bathing carefully, as parrots cannot swim. After a bath, many birds love to be blown dry. Set the dryer to warm, not hot, and keep at least 12" to 18" away.


All birds should have a thorough medical exam no more than 72 hours after they come home with you. This is for your protection as well as the bird's; most health guarantees expire within 3 to 7 days. Remember, not all vets are avian specialists. Use an avian vet exclusively.

In the wild, birds mask symptoms of illness so as not to be perceived as weak and easily subject to predation. An illness may be quite advanced at the onset of any perceivable symptoms. Do not hesitate to contact your avian vet at the first signs of Illness (loss of appetite, any discharge from eyes, nares and beak, runny or irregular droppings, sitting fluffed, wheezing, sneezing, listlessness, or a decrease in body weight of more than 10%.

It is a good idea to purchase a small digital bird scale and weigh your bird every few days). Any bleeding or vomiting should be treated immediately, as these are usually related to serious conditions. Animal styptic powders are available at most pet stores and should be kept for use in an emergency. A common source of bleeding is an injury to a blood-feather--one that is still growing in and has a supply of blood. While this can be dangerous, the bleeding usually stops when the feather is pulled out. An avian vet can show you how.


All parrots' wings should be clipped to prevent flight. There are a dozen good reasons for this, not the least of which is the possibility of your friend escaping forever. Nails also need to be clipped. Frequent, minor clippings are better than waiting two or three months. Until you are properly trained, have all grooming work done by a qualified vet or groomer.


Use Common Sense.

Keep birds away from anything that should not be chewed because if your bird gets near it, it will be. Knives, electrical cords, small glass and plastic items and the like can be fatal. Make certain that any staples or perfume samples are removed from magazines that are given as toys. Be aware that some house plants are toxic to birds. Click here for a list of toxic plants, or ask your avian veterinarian.

Coated, non-stick cookware gives off fumes that will kill your bird. This goes double for self cleaning ovens, which can cause your bird to keel over on the spot. (You can use the oven, just don't use the self-cleaning feature.) Also, birds are easily poisoned by lead. (One common source is the tops of certain wine bottles.) Keep birds away from all household chemicals, such as hairspray, bleach, cleansers, etc. If any amount of lead is ingested, the bird must be treated immediately.


Quite simply...

Buy the biggest cage you can afford!

Your bird should be able to flap his wings without hitting the sides, but the bars must be close enough together so he can't get his head through. There should be room for PLENTY of toys and at least two perches of varying diameters to let the bird climb around. The cage should be easy to clean, have smooth welds, must close securely and allow for a lock.

Powder-coated finishes are easier to clean and resist corrosion. This is important because parrots are chewers and certain paints, rust or wrought iron can be very dangerous. Place the cage in an area of bright (but not direct) sunlight and avoid drafts. Cages must be kept clean.

Birds should have a separate play area away from the cage, such as a playpen or a perch.


Toys are imperative to the happiness of your parrot

Parrots are highly intelligent, curious, playful and tactile. Give your bird a variety of toys and change them every few days. Avoid toys on open link chains, bent wires or other devices that could injure your bird's beak. Many household items such as paper towel rolls, cardboard boxes, paperback books, magazines (remove the staples) and cardboard beer six-packs (remove the beer) can occupy your bird for hours. If your bird is afraid of a new toy, leave it in the room within his line of sight and gradually move it closer to the cage. Once the bird shows interest in it, put it in the cage.


You must spend time with your parrot.

It is essential both for his happiness and for the formation of a trusting, peaceful relationship between the two of you. Exotic birds are not decorations for your home. They are emotionally sensitive and highly Intelligent creatures; recent studies have placed them on the level of primates and marine mammals.

Small parrots can live 25 years; large ones up to 75 years and may well outlive you. Many of the species are endangered, so the decision to buy an exotic bird is not one to be taken lightly. While an Amazon may not require as much scratching and cuddling as a cockatoo, they are all genetically social animals and need to be played with and talked to every day. To fail to do so is nothing less than cruel, and may turn your sweet, interactive little pet into an unpleasant house partner.

But it is precisely this social aspect of exotic birds that makes them so special. It you invest time and love in one of these intelligent, entertaining, social and beautiful creatures, you will be rewarded with a relationship unequaled between man and animal.

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