Tuesday, March 30, 2010

If you like pets that fly, you may like this too!

Years ago I was in the gift shop at the Newport Aquarium in Newport, Oregon and bought a small book that has always meant a lot to me. I later bought several copies for friends. It is:

The Bat in My Pocket:
A Memorable Friendship
by Amanda Lollar

Unfortunately, it's out of print now. Wish it wasn't, but I did find some copies still available at Amazon. If you love animals, this will make you see bats in a whole new light. This woman rescued a tiny bat off a hot sidewalk without actually touching it. After all, we don't consider bats as safe animals, do we? It changed her life, she ended up with an affectionate pet, and has made bats her interest ever since.

From Amazon:  The Bat in My Pocket: A Memorable Friendship
Visit her site for Bat World:  http://www.batworld.org/found_a_bat/found_a_bat.html

Tuesday Baby Photos

Homely little 8-day-old baby Bourke parakeet. The blur by his beak comes from throwing his head back suddenly. You can see right through their stomach and craw at this age.  He is out of the nest in order to be banded. Banding usually takes place at 7-9 days. He's #16. The band reads EGL is for our aviary, OR for Oregon, and 10 represents hatched in 2010.

The additional black plastic band tells me who his parents are after he's grown and on his own. In this case, Bonnie & Clyde.

The tiny lid holds mineral oil that helps the bands to slide on easily. A flat toothpick aids in getting the fourth and smallest toe out of the band after it's first slipped over the three longest toes.
We've already had as many baby Bourkes this year as we had all of 2009 (it wasn't a good year). The beginning of 2010 is starting to be a wonderful year for baby Bourkes. This little fellow has a sibling in the nest, and three other hens are currently on fertile eggs.

Just to prove this little baby is alive and well ... Here are some of his older siblings. They like to fly and land on me in all sorts of places. Fortunately, in this photo at least, not on my head!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Today's Bourke Baby Photo

Taken today, March 27, 2010. This hen, Bonnie, has had her picture appear here before. She's one of my calm mothers and it's easy to photograph her.

The baby she's feeding here is four days old. A two-day-old baby is snuggled beneath her, along with two eggs. Bourke eggs are typically laid every other day and hatch that way too, although exceptions aren't unusual.

Mother and baby are beak to beak in this photo. Broken eggs shells are probably from baby #2. Since the egg shells from #1 disappeared, and I think she ate them for their calcium.

Bonnie & Clyde are excellent parents. Bonnie Blue is out of Rhett & Scarlett. Not all Rosy Bourkes have a blue rump like she does, although it is common. When Clyde was purchased, his name went with Bonnie (famous outlaws). Clyde doesn't have a blue rump. He's almost all Rosie except for wing tips and tail and their youngsters usually don't show blue rumps either.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Recently had an instructive conversation with master bird breeder, Bob Nelson, and thought I’d pass on some of his wisdom.

Our conversation winged its way to something flying about online (sorry, couldn’t pass up the pun).

Apparently, there’s been a misconception traveling over the internet that grit and oyster shell aren’t necessary, and perhaps even harmful, to birds. Stuff and Nonsense.
Bob says this was sparked by an article written by a young veterinarian after the death of a Blue & Gold Macaw. The Macaw that died was brought to this vet. Upon examination, the vet found that it had totally filled up on grit and nothing else, causing blockage and death. From this, the young vet assumed other birds might eat too much grit or oyster shell and have this happen to them. His article reflected a warning about giving grit or oyster shell to birds.

However, according to Bob’s information, all care for the Blue & Gold Macaw had been assigned to a child. As children will, the child forgot to feed the bird. In desperation and hunger the Blue and Gold filled up on the only thing in its cage, grit and oyster shell. It had nothing else.

There’s conjecture that parakeets and other seed eating birds don’t need grit. It’s true they can survive without it, unlike birds that don’t hull seed to survive. Yet, in the wild, seed-eating birds still consume grit, and oyster shell is a valuable source of calcium. I believe you are better off providing both, rather than not. Let your birds decide what they need and when they need it by always making it available.

By following their instincts, birds eat what is good for them. No bird, domestic or wild, is going to kill itself eating grit or oyster shell unless it’s starving. The tragic story of the Blue & Gold Macaw’s unnatural death doesn’t make a valid argument for not supplying pet birds with grit and oyster shell.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Differences in Newly-Hatched Parakeet Varieties

For the fun of it, here are photos of new baby Budgies, baby Bourkes and baby Splendids, just to compare the differences.

A baby Budgerigar parakeet.
An albino baby Budgie parakeet.
Budgerigar parakeets don't have fuzz and hatch out completely bald. Notice the one on the left has dark eye sockets and the other doesn't. The one on the right grew to have pink eyes, an albino. It is five days old already and still not fuzzy.

Newly hatched Rosy Bourke parakeets. Not bald like Budgies.
Bourkes sometimes have pink eyes too, but their feathers are typically still pink, although their faces are often white. You can always tell who will have pink eyes and who won't, by the color of the sockets even before they open their eyes. These all have dark sockets. Baby Bourkes show very pink skin under their fuzzy down. Of all newly hatched babies, I think Bourkes are the cutest. There are four babies shown here, huddled together. Unlike Budgies, Bourkes like pine shavings or something similar under them, rather than an indented wood surface. So do Splendids.

Splendid (Scarlet-chested) Parakeet chicks also hatch with fuzz.
These are Splendid/Scarlet-chested baby parakeets in my hands. Their skin color is slightly darker and more tan-toned than pink like the Bourkes. They, too, have soft fuzzy down, but less than on the Bourkes. And, certainly more than on a Budgerigar!
Splendid Parakeet chicks (also called Scarlet-chested parakeets).
They have more "fuzz" than Budgies, but less than Bourke parakeets.
All three varieties of parakeet are approximately the same size.

Violet-Green Swallows

There are many varieties of swallows. On the west coast of Oregon, U.S.A., we primarily have Barn Swallows and Violet-green Swallows. Since Barn Swallows make mud nests, we prefer to encourage the Violet-green Swallows. These lovely birds are the best way to keep mosquitoes and other flying insects under control. We put up bird houses for the Violet-green Swallows.

If you do this too, don’t allow perches on your bird houses. Swallows don’t need them, and Starlings or Jays can use a perch to reach in and steal newly hatched babies to feed to their own young. Sad… Let them eat something else!

Our swallows are very beneficial birds. They only eat insects, so they aren’t going to harm fruit trees or the garden. In fact, they help get rid of harmful insects that DO harm fruit and vegetables.

Swallows on our west coast migrate and typically return to our area after the middle of March. Coincidentally, returning just when mosquito season starts. No doubt by arrangement of a Higher Power, thank you.

California’s San Juan Capistrano Mission always expects the return of their swallows on March 19 every year. They might miss by a day or two, but they always return.

English Sparrows that were imported to the U.S. have become very prolific and compete with native birds. However, they are not as serious a problem as Starlings, who were also imported, and DO eat fruit and damage crops. Although pretty, these two species of birds have taken over much of the habitat of our native species. Sad again.

Prevent English Sparrows from using your bird houses. Do this by adjusting the size of the opening. The hole into the box needs to be big enough for a swallow, but too small for sparrows. An entry with a diameter of 1-3/8 inches works perfectly. For metric readers, this is 35mm.

We live on several acres and have 7 bird houses scattered around. The one shown in the photograph above is outside our back porch window. We loved watching the parents come and go last year. The bird sticking its head out of the box is a baby ready to fledge.

I found this VHS film on Amazon: The Swallows of Capistrano [VHS]. It has great footage of the birds return to the California Mission every year on March 19. Since that's my father's birthday, we always remember it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blog Labels

As an FYI, I spent over an hour going back through my previous blogs to add "Labels." I was unaware of what Labels did, or how they worked, and have since learned. Hopefully, by adding Labels to each of my blog posts it will help you locate special items of interest. They appear at the end of each post and you can click on any of them. They should bring up related posts. Good Luck and keeping smiling.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Recognize Dangers to Birds

If you allow your tame birds to fly free, be aware of potential hazards. Here are photographs of the hazards in our home that we try to stay aware of.

When we built our home, and chose the lighting fixtures, we didn’t keep birds. Now we do. To keep our birds safe, overhead lights with exposed bulbs like these are turned off and allowed to cool before we release any birds to fly. This includes when I’m handfeeding youngsters outside their cage. Some have been known to fly off even before all their feathers are in! All they need is the will, a few wing feathers, and a loose hold by me.

You should already know that hot stoves are a high risk. As a child, I remember my grandfather’s yellow budgie, Goldie, who had crippled feet from landing on his hot frying pan. She recovered, but her feet were never the same. Make sure all burners are off and cooled before you release your birds. Even though you might be in another room, if doors are open, they could fly anywhere!

Windows are the most likely risk to birds. We’ve tried to cover our windows with curtains or blinds so that birds won’t fly into them. However, the laundry room has a large window that isn’t covered. The master bath also has windows that are open, as shown. The frosted pictures help prevent wild birds from flying into them, but small parakeets like ours might decide to fly through the areas that aren’t frosted. I close all doors with access to either of these rooms before allowing any of our birds to fly free.

The biggest hazard in our home is two small windows in the peak of the living room. Covering them would be a problem. Fortunately, our tame birds seldom go up that high, but I’ve had youngsters head for them. We have a disabled male Splendid whose wing never healed correctly after flying at full speed into a window. We call him “Flip” because whenever he attempts to fly, he flips. He has lots of toys and sticks to climb, but it would be so much better if he’d never injured his wing. It happened on his first solo flight when he escaped while being transferred from his parents’ cage to another cage with his siblings. Now, he lives in a large cage with “retired” Bourkes and one other bachelor Splendid (who I’d like to find a hen for, by the way).

We have three cats and a big dog … any of whom could dispatch a bird in quick order. However, we’ve spent time training the cats and dog to leave the birds alone, and they do. Yet, we’re careful to never leave the birds alone with them over night.

Admittedly, we do run outside for a few minutes without any concern for the birds’ safety while cats sleep on a nearby couch or chair. We even forgot and left one of the cats asleep in a window seat once, and were gone from home for 8 hours with no harm done.

I honestly don’t think the birds would be at risk, but why take chances? Our cats and dog sleep elsewhere at night…away from any access to the birds.

It is important to train your pets to accept one another though. We’ve had three instances where a baby bird escaped from me and flew over a cat (or all three), even landing in front of one of them. When that has happened, our cats freeze. They know they’d be in trouble if they hurt the bird. Even the old stray cat we adopted leaves the birds alone. She appreciates being taken in. My kitties amaze me, but if animals love their owners (or fear reprisals?), they can be trained to behave as you want them to.

If you haven’t already, go through your home and identify potential risks to your birds. Better to be prepared. Luck and Love …

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Healthy Additions for your Bird’s Diet

I have a cage of tame Bourkes who get preferential treatment. Whenever we cook vegetables, they often get some, and I’m learning a lot from them.

Along with seeds, I’ve always offered my birds extra vegetables or fruit, usually raw. They favor most veggies over fresh fruit. (Go figure, I like fresh fruit myself). However, our birds seem to prefer cooked vegetables, over raw. An exception to this is Spinach or Kale, which are favorites. They also like lettuce, but it doesn’t have the same nutritional value. They love sweet corn, petite peas and steamed broccoli, just as we do. I also offer them bits of bread of any variety we’re having for lunch or dinner. They enjoy taking the treats from my fingers as much as I enjoy offering them.

Here’s a list of foods that will introduce more calcium into your bird’s diet – especially valuable for breeding hens, or young birds.

Calcium in mg From Highest to Lowest:
Turnip Greens 694
Mustard Greens 582
Cabbage (outside green leaves) 429
Chinese Cabbage 400
Kale 390

Kohlrabi 390
Broccoli Leaves 349
Chard 300
Beet Greens 188
Dandelion Greens 168

Spinach 156
Okra 144
Turnips 112
Broccoli Stem 111
Endive 104

Rutabaga 99
Carrots 90
Raspberries 82
Strawberries 68
Cantaloupe 64

Yellow Wax Beans 63
Green Beans 55
Watercress 53
Oranges or Tangerines 48
Parsley 46

Cabbage (inside white leaves) 46
Celery 44
Yams 44
Blackberries 43
Squash 36

Watermelon 33
Blueberries 33
Lettuce Dark Green Leaf 25
Guavas 15
Pears 15

Collards (cooked) 14
Apples 10