Parrot Current Events and Important Information
Over the past month, there have been some developments in areas which should interest bird owners and non-bird owners alike. Among them are Avian influenza (H5N1), healthier items available for Parrot Diets, and things to consider when boarding your bird.
My last article in this publication suggested that the spread of this disease could be seriously diminished if the USA quarantine stations were closed down. Well, thank goodness (and I doubt my article had any influence, but who knows?) as of February, the California quarantine stations have been closed down until further notice. (However, Florida Stations are still open). Remember that the virus is not currently a serious threat to humans, and is only spread from and between chickens, swans, doves, and other waterfowl. And, the only people that have died from the disease were in very close contact with huge flocks of chickens.
It also appears that the experts now believe the cross-country transport of these types of birds is responsible for the rapid spread of the disease into Europe and Africa. So, as long as quarantine stations stay closed for now, nobody illegally brings this type of livestock into this country from an affected country, and, the migration of birds from Siberia and Alaska down the west coast does not spread the disease, we should be OK.
Avian Influenza is absolutely nothing that should prevent you from buying a parrot or finch. As of now, no parrot has come up positive for the virus. It is mostly a poultry issue, and a big one since contamination means mass culling of the affected poultry flock. Please do not be unnecessarily scared by some articles and recent ABC TV shows which do not point out these important facts, like it should be called the “Chicken Flu” rather than the “Bird Flu.” The biggest problem with Parrots as far as the Avian influenza is the media, and their constant hype, hysteria and misinformation regarding this disease. I believe that this country will see its first case before the year is over. However, an informed, educated public (and public officials) can moderate the adverse affects on parrots and stick to the population at risk, namely chickens, ducks, and swans.
Now they are saying that pet cats have been tested positive for the virus in two countries in Europe and Africa. Lets not go crazy over this thing, but lets be prepared.
Healthier Items for Bird Diets
It is now common knowledge in the bird industry that a Parrot’s diet should consist of 60-75% pellets and the balance healthy table foods and high quality seed, nut, fruit, and herb mixes. What most people do not understand is that even though we consider sunflower seeds to be a “health” food, too many sunflower seeds are not healthy for your bird. As well, peanuts are not great (Aspergillus leads to the formation of aflatoxin in raw peanuts, which is toxic to both humans and birds), and if you must feed peanuts, make sure they are ROASTED UNSALTED peanuts. Likewise, if you must feed them sunflower seeds, go for the mixes that have predominately white sunflower seeds. The white seeds are less palatable and contain less oil than the black seeds.
Many people now eat only organic foods, and now there are many organic diets, both seed and pellet, that are available. As well, there is a growing movement toward sulfite-free products. Sulfite preserve and give dried fruit a rich color, but they are harmful to us and our birds. So, if you do not go 100% organic, at least try some sulfite-free fruits and see how much more your Parrot enjoys these healthier foods.
Going Away on Vacation?
Important questions to ask when boarding your bird are:
- Does your store require any testing prior to boarding?
- Do you have Certified Avian Specialists on staff?
- How often are the boarding birds fed and watered?
- Is my bird given treats while boarding?
- Do I need to bring in some toys?
- How often are the boarding cages cleaned, and how are they sanitized from the prior boarder?
Although it is impossible to screen for all diseases, we require at least a Psittacosis test and a visual inspection of the bird. The reason we chose Psittacosis is that it normally sheds, or becomes active, when a bird is under stress (boarding is stressful in that the environment is changing). Also, it is an airborne organism, so if one bird is active, then all birds breathing the same air are exposed and should at least be monitored for the disease. If the boarding facility does not require testing, then you are putting your bird in a risky situation, and you may have a healthy bird going in and a sick bird coming out.
If Certified Avian Specialists are on staff, then you know that the people taking care of your bird have made the extra effort to take a test which proves their dedication to and knowledge of birds. This knowledge could be critical in caring for your bird. For instance, a Certified Avian Specialist studied and learned of the different bird diseases, and is familiar with proper bird behavior and posture. This extra knowledge may save your bird – with early detection, your bird can be brought to a Board Certified Avian Vet for testing and treatment.
Birds should be watered and fed in the morning, given a treat mid day, then have their food refilled at night. Also, if the store does not require you to bring in a toy, then they do not care very much about your bird. It is critical for your bird to be entertained while you are away. In fact, we have many clients that demand we replace toys when they are destroyed during boarding. In the morning, it is important to clean the cage and change the papers.
Always ask for a brief tour of the boarding facility. In today’s environment, the facility should have Hurricane shutters, a generator, and a hurricane emergency plan. As well, you should look at the condition of the boarding birds, the lighting, whether there is any music, and the cleanliness of the facility.
It is important that the perches in the cage perches be non-porous (like plastic) or at least a hard, dense wood (like manzanita) so that they can be properly sanitized in between uses. Plastic perches are preferred only for this use; for your birds at home, we suggest natural wood perches for chewing, and beak conditioning. The varying diameter is great for keeping their feet strong.
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