Pet birds - dangers and problems, care of birds with links to other sites specifying bird care and hazards

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Page Index
  • Introduction
  • Very lethal
  • Teflon
  • Toxic
  • Threatening
  • Quality of life
  • Helpful ways
  • Cages & toys
  • Addit. points
  • Bird as partner
  • Food & water
  • Perches
  • Toenails/Beaks
  • Medical
  • Speak/Interact
  • Postscript
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    Related pages:    CPR     Animals/Bird CPR     Heimlich Maneuver
    Last Updated: 21 October 2007   Last Link Check: 16 May 2006

    Care of Pet Birds and Coping with Dangers and Hazards

    14 simple and basic rules (described more fully below)

    Never:

  • feed apple seeds, chocolate, avocado (see other foods below)

    Do Not Use:

  • Teflon cooking ware or appliances containing Teflon or same material different name. Above a certain temperature, kills birds extremely fast.

    Do Not:

  • leave birds in open sun with no opportunity to move to shade
  • allow heat build up in room
  • leave birds in car unattended
  • leave in a drafty place
  • feed only seeds to your birds
  • use cage to small to fly (even short distance) or spread wings fully
  • use toilet paper or other such papers which break down easily giving off particles which may be breathed in and obstruct beak air passages

    Always:

  • have 2 water containers and clean, fresh water - spillage,stoppage, etc. can leave birds dry but having 2 containers safeguards against leaving birds without water. Also, if the tap has not been used in several hours, run water about 20 seconds to clear of metals from pipes and joint seals (see Water and Environmental Analysis Lab - University of Wisconsin for more info).
  • have more than two perches in a cage, preferably of different diameters
  • use cage large enough to fly or spread wings fully
  • have more than one bird in a cage

    Be Aware:

  • seed shells in food dish which are left over may fool you into thinking there is food
  • space between bars on cage should be smaller than any cat's paws
  • be aware of dangers in house (certain plants and appliances)
  • know that cages and toys with zinc coating can be harmful to your bird

    Care of Birds BCSPCA Speaking for Animals. An overall info page which is easy to read and adds valuable information to this page.

    Great pages by a veteran birdkeeper easy to read format. touches on many subjects from an experienced point of view.

     

    Introduction     return to index

    This page lists and discusses the dangers to birds, solutions to and prevention of common problems. Additions to quality of life and how to care for pet birds is also included and links to sites specifying hazards and problems. I own the small parrot called budgie or parakeet (budgerigar). However, much of the information and warnings apply to all members of the bird family and should be read by anyone who has any type of bird kept as a pet.

    I have written some of this for new bird owners but there will be many veteran bird keepers who will find topics of interest here. This page is not complete, not covering all potentially harmful and fatal substances/situations. However, it will provide some helpful tips in the safe care of pet birds.

    Many people buy birds and have them die before the end of their normal life span. Other birds spend a long, lonely and boring life. Budgies can have a life span of up to 18 years - a period not many of us see in our birds. Birds have needs, and like us, get bored and lonely. It is to the prolongation of a meaningful life for both our birds and for us that I write this page.

    I am not a veterinarian or a keeper of prize birds, nor do I have many birds but pet budgies for over five years. Louie and Cleo and now Miles and Ella. Louie died shortly after he was with us from a deformation from birth according to the veterinarian. Cleo flew away when the cage door was open once and did not return. Miles and Ella have been with us for two years now and appear to be quite content. They are great friends. She flies but he can not due to a disease he had when he was a fledgling which keeps the feathers on his wings and tail from growing in. He walks the floor and along the sliding window sill and calls worryingly whenever Ella is out of his sight. Sadly, Elle died recently. (see Stories)

     

    Particularly lethal     return to index

  • Always be sure that the birds have access to drinking water.
    Always check to be sure that the water apparatus is unclogged and clean and is working properly and most importantly that your bird is drinking from it (an air bubble rises when a bird is drinking or the water level is going down during the day). Clogged water utensils can cause dehydration and death. If your bird is young or the apparatus or bowl is new, be sure that they recognize it as water. Dehydration and even death occurs quickly in a matter of days if the bird is not drinking even if water is "available".

    I have two water containers in the cage and almost always change water once a day for a number of reasons (see below). For treatment of this topic among others, see Food Mistakes with Birds

  • Pet bird poisoning by common household items - medications, pesticides, plants, cleaning agents, miscellaneous toxicants
    ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: "approximately 880 cases of pet birds being exposed to common household items have been reported to the U.S. Center since January 2003. Of these cases, 29% involved medications, 22% involved pesticides (including rat bait and insecticides), 18% involved plants [see below], 15% involved cleaning agents and 14% involved miscellaneous toxicants." For a very good list of safety tips, see Center's Pet Poison Safety Tips for Bird Owners.

  • Bird Proof Your Home Details the dangers inside the home.

  • Adds new concepts to bird safety The Top Ten Bird Killers Very much worth reading even if you have read everything else. "...Article was written by Dr. Margaret Wissman DVM, a well know avian vet who writes for Bird Talk Magazine,"

  • Teflon and birds - DON'T use Teflon in cooking and oven pans and frying pans and do not use products like it with non-stick coatings under other brand names. The fumes (not the smoke or smell) are very dangerous to birds by effecting the lungs and causing a quick and painful death. Heating over 300 degrees causes the release of these fumes. Even temperatures under this can cause problems. Accidental burning of a Teflon utensil can cause this even if we normally take care not to allow that to happen. Putting tape on the heat selector so that it can not be turned above 250 is one idea for an oven with non-stick coating.

    A very important report by the the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for an excellent overall treatment EWG on Teflon as very toxic for birds (be sure to see all 4 pages) "The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to using the power of information to protect human health and the environment. We depend on the generosity of private foundations, individuals and select corporations to support EWG's efforts to keep toxins out of our air, water, food and bodies."

    For an extremely good explanation about Teflon and other brands including a list of utensils which might have nonstick coatings, see Teflon (should also include self cleaning or easily cleaned internal oven walls). For a comprehensive list by Budgie Bird Services, see: What household products are dangerous to my birds? including lists of: things that contain lead, zinc or copper; other ingested toxins; inhaled toxins; Teflon coated items; physical hazards Also see list of utensils containing Teflon from Africangreys.com

  • Be sure that the cage is cat and rodent proof. Be sure that the cage is securely attached to the bottom tray so that if it is tipped over it will not come apart. If the cage is up on something off of the floor be sure that it is securely attached and can not be tipped over or if tipped over, will not come apart from the tray. Our cage is on a stool and I have tied the cage to the stool with something. I have used several layers of dental floss. Be sure that the bars of the cage are too small for a cat to get its paw through (cats have amazing reach with its leg inside the cage if they can get it through) or for a rodent large enough to attack the birds to squeeze in.

  • Never leave or place the cage in a sunny spot without part of the cage in shade. And keep checking it because the sun changes position and angles relative to the cage.

  • Do not let the heat build up in the room. Even if the cage is not in the sun, heat has a way of building up in certain parts of the house and the area around the cage should be occasionally checked during the day when heat is likely to build up. See Help Your Bird Avoid Heatstroke

  • Unattended birds. Never leave birds unattended in the car. Heat can build up very fast, the air conditioning system could not work the way it should, you get delayed, etc.

  • Unsafe Plants. See in particular, Harmful Plants Birds n Ways giving "a list of indoor and outdoor plants and trees which are poisonous or hazardous to birds".
    For comprehensive list of safe and unsafe woods, plants and flowers by Budgie Bird Services - Is It Okay For My Bird to Chew on...?
    Also see photos(some) and clinical signs of plants to avoid - page is for all pets but ASPCA singles out the following for birds: azalea, oleander, yew or rhododendron ASPCA List of Toxic Plants Avian Poisoning H&D Budgerigar & Cage Bird Society Inc. containing a comprehensive listing of all type of toxicities to birds.
  • General treatment of hazards in the home
    An extremely thorough look at most of the dangers facing your bird in the home Bird Proof Your Home
    See this site for many helpful insights on a number of subjects: Gillian's Help Desk

    Remember that you are the guardian over their well being and in fact their life and death.

     

    Foods - Covers most of the foods to avoid - some harmful, some fatal, and some just not helpful to your birds. But in particular, the following are
    Toxic and Potentially Fatal

    return to index

    Toxic and Potentially Fatal
    Avocado, guacamole (mashed avocado), apple seeds (always remove the seeds before giving apples or slices to the birds), other fruit pits and seeds also), chocolate, rhubarb leaves, alcohol, salt, caffeine as found in
    popular drinks, tea, coffee, chocolate, yerba mate, and caffeinated drinks.
    For a discussion of apple seeds, and the seeds of other fruit, see Apple Seeds from exoticbird.com
    Also a good run through of mistakes we can make and especially how to be sure your bird is eating, see Food Mistakes with Birds

    Listed by others as NOT BENEFICIAL: dairy products, raw peanuts, raw potatoes, eggplant, fried foods, too much sugar.
    For additional listings, see Foods which are dangerous from cockatiel.org
    For a very good listing of foods not to give and other hazards, see How to Kill Your Birds Without Really Trying.

     

    Potentially Threatening     return to index

  • Do not give the birds food directly from the refrigerator. I place the food in some warm or hot water for a minute, not to cook it but just to warm it up and then rinse it with cold water from the tap.
  • Do not use toilet paper or other papers which break down easily giving off particles which may be breathed in. Do not use these materials to clean things or even to wipe up since small pieces of paper float around and can get in air passages and lungs of the birds.
  • Cat's paws can reach far into a cage if bars too far apart. Cats even climbed up to second story via a tree. One cat was only 1 1/2 months old. Even though bars narrow enough, birds frightened. Used tree barrier but do not rely on it.
  • Don't use newspaper at bottom of cage - Many newsprint have a caustic ink or other chemical layer on the paper which has fumes which may not be healthy for the birds. At the very least it is not something which is good to smell all of the time.
  • Do not leave your birds out in the cold on open porches, etc. during the winter. First, birds which survive the winter on their own, find shelter most of the time. Secondly, most birds migrate during the winter to more temperate climates. And thirdly, Budgies are originally from Australia, which is a temperate (winters fairly mild) climate and are not used to severe cold.
  • Never leave your birds in a draft - summer or winter. Draft is a more or less steady stream of air which if warm, cool or cold, can cause distress in your birds and possibly illness.
  • Do not let the shells of seed fool you into thinking there is still seed left. The birds crack open the seed and leave the shells lying on top of the good seed. There are stories of birds dying of starvation because the keepers thought there was still seed left.
  • Zinc and Lead. See in particular Toxins especially articles on the dangers of zinc linked to by Birds n Ways site.
    See in particular, Sick House Syndrome - Is your house safe for parrots? or access it through previous web site.
    Also see Testing for Zinc in Parrot Toys, Play Gyms, and Cages by Ed Harris including list of manufacturers who make stainless steel , non metal or safe metal toys.
  • How To Keep Tweetie Out of Trouble is a very good series of stories and advice on unforeseen danger to birds on the loose in the home plus a couple on hazardous fumes.

     

    Quality of Life     return to index

  • Always have at least two birds in the cage together. Life without someone is terrible. In my opinion, even if you pay a lot of attention to your bird, it is simply unfair because you cannot provide as much attention and constant companionship as another bird. Also you cannot understand what the bird is saying. Think of what it would be like if no one understood you and you were basically in solitary for your whole life. Sorry to those bird lovers who keep their birds alone for a number of different reasons, but I feel very strongly about this. (See below for expansion)
  • When the cage is open, be absolutely sure that every window accessible by a flying bird is shut. Also be sure that glass windows are curtained or sliding doors covered. Even in a short distance, birds can get up quite a bit of speed and hurt themselves flying through what they think is open space.
  • Keep the cage more or less clean. They have a sense of smell just like us if not more sensitive and they can't get away from it if they are shut in the cage. An old toothbrush is useful in cleaning the cage and tray.
  • Be sure that there is a grating other than the floor which allows the droppings to go through to the floor of the cage. I have a metal grating about 1 1/2 inches above the cage floor. So that when one of the birds falls, it can redeem itself without being covered with droppings.
  • I do not use soap to washing anything which will stay in the cage. In fact I do not use soap at all except to wash off the outside of fruit which is then peeled.
  • A computer should not be closer than 10 feet from the birds. If the birds are in direct line to the computer screen, place a shield up so they do not see it. The refresh rate on the screen may not be beneficial to them. Also, I turn off the screen when it is not in use even though I may not turn off the computer.
  • Music - everything in moderation. Some birds may like music but not all of the time, and not always from the same station or same type of music. Give them some variety. Most birds are quite content without it.
  • See Exercising-your-budgie for a good description of letting your budgie out for the first time.

     

    Helpful Practices for Food & Water     return to index

  • If you would not eat it yourself in the condition you give it, do not give to the birds.
  • Wash and then peel fruit and vegetables to take off any insecticide on the skin of the fruit. It is best to cut down a little bit more than just the outer skin itself. And remove all pits of fruits to be on the safe side.
  • As to corn on the cob, (1) if the corn has been partially de-leafed for show purposes, be sure to cut off the end that may have been trimmed (trimming knives are generally not clean and can carry mold with them), (2) cut off the top of exposed kernels.
  • To repeat from above, do NOT feed avocado (in any form), chocolate, apples seeds(or cherry or peach pits rhubarb leaves, alcohol, excessive salt, caffeine.
  • If food has or had mold on it of any form, do not give it to the birds.
  • Keep seed in glass jars and not in plastic. Be sure that the jar is clean and dry and well covered at all times.
  • I do not give or leave seed with small larva or worms in it from small insects attracted by any moisture.
  • Water for drinking should be from the cold tap only. Run the water briefly to remove any buildup of metals from standing in the internal house pipe or in the faucet or hot water from the boiler which may still be there after use.
  • Easily get rid of seed shells left over. This is easily done by shaking the seed holder and pouring out the top shells thus leaving the good seed behind.
  • Be sure to clean perches often, especially those which may be used to hold food.

     

    Cages and Toys     return to index


    See the following for a discussion of several types of cages, feeders and toys

  • What kind of cage...? What about toys? from budgies-n-tiels.com for extensive treatment of cages, bedding, toys, etc.
  • Cage Dangers from Cobber Budgies about the dangers of different types of cages.
  • Zinc and our Pet Birds from Parrot Passions UK Electroplated vs. dipped
  • Detailed article on hot dipped and galvanized zinc coatings from WaynesParrotStuff.com Worth reading
  • GALVANIZED WIRE AND ZINC from Birds n Ways Winged Wisdom Information about galvanized wire and zinc and other metals. Also some information if you are planning to build your own cage.
  • For an extensive treatment of zinc and simple testing for zinc, and several companies listed see Test for Zinc...

     

    Additional points to consider in care     return to index

  • If someone appears to be trying to tell you something, look around the cage carefully for something out of place or empty, etc.
  • If a piece of food is often monopolized or finished or dropped to the bottom by one bird, always provide two of it in different places
  • If something holding food has been shoved out of place, it may mean that the birds want it refilled
  • Don't always give the good stuff (crackers, seed stick) every day. This makes its appearance something special for the birds. Remember life can get pretty boring even if you are used to it.
  • In the spring and fall, budgies lose their under feathers which were grown to protect them during the winter or aerate them in summer- Once in a while several of the larger feathers are lost with them.
  • I have found that grit is very important especially when birds are eating high amounts of the material holding seed onto seed sticks give as treats.
  • There are 14 bars in the cage in different positions. This enables the budgies to move around and chase one another and gives a lot of exercise, especially if they do not fly outside very much. Some of the sticks may even provide some challenge.

    On the other hand, if the cage is large enough there should be sufficient space to allow for flying from one side of the cage to the other. This is particularly important if the birds do not often get outside the cage to fly. One bird has very small tail and wing feathers caused by a disease from birth. The pair chase each other around the cage and get to food sticks or food/water containers by foot rather than flying. However, even if they get out of the cage, there must be enough free space and wing span width for flight. The fully winged and tailed member of the pair flies about tshe cage oen or more times a day and has even been seen flying in place.

     

    Concerning birds as partners     return to index

    Birds definitely need a partner
       they talk to each other beak to beak
       they talk to each other across the cage
       they chase each other
       they vie for the best perches
       they preen each other particularly where it is difficult to reach
       they feed each other
       they generally keep each other company
    In my experience, interaction of some kind takes place 75% of the day.

    No bird should be alone - even if the human thinks that he or she can take the place of the second bird or wants the bird to learn to talk, etc. We cannot give the range of constant interaction that another bird will provide.

     

    Concerning FOOD and WATER     return to index

    Water
    Water should be changed every day to reduce bacteria buildup. Also if the water container is plastic, I feel that any residue or leaching from the plastic (of course depends on the quality of the plastic) should not be allowed to build up.

    Sufficient and clean water is extremely important and should be available at all times
    For this reason, There should be two water containers in a cage. Even though you change the water every day:
    1. the container may lose its water due to any number of reasons
    2. droppings may get into the water
    3. water may run out faster during some periods than others
    and the birds are left without water or with unclean water or potentially high buildup of bacteria for part or all of the time.

    Food (I do not give them anything cooked but others do)
    It should be a variety of food. We can live on bread and water but would prefer not to.

    Different food should be given every day but seed should always be available. Except for the seed, I stick most food on one of the old baked seed-honey-egg sticks in easy reach distance from other sticks, or in a special tray or dish cleaned each day.
    According to schedule below, I give them:
    slice of corn on the cob every 3-4 days (raw - see above for other instructions)
    apple slice every 2-3 days (be absolutely sure to take out the seeds)
    parsley and once in a while lettuce every 1-2 days
    two types of seed (replenished daily)
    sometimes pear slices (which they usually do not eat)
    slice of carrot (every two or three days)
    once every 2-3 days a butter cookie or a wheat cracker
    Once or twice a month, a baked seed stick with egg or honey which is purchased. After the stick is finished, I leave it in the cage as an additional perch.

    However, for general information sheets on what you can feed your budgie:
    fast faq sheet many issues

    I suggest storing the seed in glass jars (large jelly or other food jars) which have tight covers and are absolutely dry, and not in the plastic bags they often come in. Over time, plastic can leach chemicals.

    I feed the birds a slice of raw corn on the cob which is skewered on a stick. The finished cob is left on the stick. The birds like to pick at them even when new corn is put in. I find that they like to stand on them presumably to give their feet a rest from the narrower sticks. They also use them to hone their beaks and possibly for material to help mash food in the crop. New food
    Mostly, all new food is initially ignored.
    Pear slice was eaten but just barely. Other fruits not.
    Chopped up hard boiled egg was ignored but with seed mixed in, they seem to eat the seed and in that way get some of the white and yoke.
    A new form of seed with egg and honey on a stick - yellow in color and very long was placed in the cage. They were afraid of it but finally settled down. However, they would not go close to it after 2 weeks, Miles was the first observed pecking at it. Then he talked to El for some time after that. I still never saw her eating it.

    Finally got the new bird seed but it turned out to be for canaries. After checking in the book, I found it was ok to give to them. I bought some reddish seed which I decided was too old. El once gave me a long speech in the morning, overridden by Miles' input, about something. I finally decided that she had had it, having the red seed there within eye sight and not being given it. I finally bought a replacement sack of seed.

    She has not been flying for some time now. I think Miles finally convinced her that her flying got him nervous since Cleo left that way. Or his experience with the lizard has changed both their perceptions of the world outside the cage.

    Even forgot to feed the budgies once which I have never done before in the 3 years they have been here. I apologized profusely. El just looked at me.

     

    Perches in General     return to index

    Favorite perch I have found that each bird has his/her favorite spot as well as ones that they compete for constantly.

    If a bird has a favorite perch which is not the regular one where the birds always sit, be sure to not move it or change it.

    Special perches
    There should be one perch under something (in our case, a food tray) which is far enough away from other perches so that when a bird goes there it is difficult for others to reach them or to get down there if sufficiently defended. My birds vie for this spot since it allows the bird to be alone for awhile and away from the sometimes constant interaction with the others.
    New perches can be put in at different places. They often give the birds more exercise and also give the possibility that a new favorite can be found. See
    Safe Wood for Perches from exoticbird.com

    Perches have several purposes.
    Some are only used for sleeping
    Some are used for preening
    Some are used for protection
       from each other when they need to be alone for a while
        from sunshine
        from breeze or draft
    Some are used for status and dominance
    Some are used for eating
    Some are used to stand on while eating food on other sticks. Some are used for exchanging food, touching, preening each other from different levels and positions.
    Some are used for cleaning beaks
    Some are used for play and amusement
    Some are used for escape routes
    Some are used for exercise routes
    Some are used to be together on
    And many other uses I can not fathom.

    This is not to say that you should try to provide for all of these things, since some perches are multidimensional.

    Sticks and poles should be of different sizes to allow for different gripping and provide greater or less support for long term resting.

    Important
    Any way you look at it, if there are only one or two perches in the cage, this is a tremendous disadvantage to the birds and may cause a great deal of stress.

     

    Some Home Remedies     return to index

    Eating perches
    They used to eat the perches until I started leaving the corn cobs in after they finished them. Before this, I had lost quite a few valuable store bought perches this way. I found that they spend a lot of time pecking at the dry cobs. This may do several things: provide grist material for the gullet (which I have been told is not necessary for budgies), and also keeps the beak sharp, and honed down, and also provides something to do other than the usual interaction (see below 'trimming of beaks').

    Long toenails
    Solution: El has no problem in this area. Miles does. I didn't know what to do other than try to cut them myself or take him to a vet. However, before either, which would have caused unnecessary trauma to him, they got sufficiently long to break off by themselves. This might cause other problems - grow in upside down, too short, even possibility that the whole nail is pulled out. It is best to have them cut if they are causing trouble navigating around the cage, sitting on the perches, or causes instability on the perches, or are digging into the foot. One piece of advice. If you do it yourself, remember that enough of the nail must be left on so that the bird can use them to hold onto the perches. These are what holds and locks - not the toes.

    Trimming of beaks
    Remedy: My wife was concerned that the beaks of our two budgies were getting too long and we would have to take them to the vet for beak trimming. However, I had an idea. I did at least two things which within one month had solved the problem without the trauma of being handled by the vet which my birds and especially Miles detests. The excess growth had been removed and the beaks were back to normal. Instead of
    Step 1. I left behind several of the corn cob slices which I usually renew each day. I found that the birds continue to bill the old ones especially when they become dry and are nothing but the husks - apparently to keep their bills in shape as well as something to do when everything else has become boring.
    Step 2. I placed a perch do the side of the block of calcium (or bone of the cuttlefish) for easy and comfortable access (it had not been strategically placed up until now) and found that the birds spent more time there sharpening their bills against the calcium block.
    Step 3. Gave them a baked honey, egg stick which needed a lot of work and honing of the bill to eat.
    Step 4. Also, perhaps it helps to provide a form of small grained sand with small pieces of shells mixed in. It is supposed to help in the digestive process (although at least one vet says that it is not necessary - When I was providing it (before I started leaving the corn cobs in the cage after the birds had finished eating them) one of my budgies went there each day while I have only seen the other visit it once) - perhaps also helps in honing process.
    Within one week, their beaks were back to normal.

     

    General Medical and Verterinarian     return to index

    Exotic Pet Vet.net An excellent online veterinarian site for everything avian. See left side of page for index.

     

    Speaking & human-bird interaction     return to index

    Once when I was about to feed them, I looked in at the apple which had not been eaten. I said out load that perhaps I would not get a new apple slice since they hadn't eaten the last one. When I came back with the other food, the apple slice was gone. I looked on the bottom of the cage and it had been torn off the stick and dropped on the floor of the cage. Needless to say, I changed the apple slice.

    ____

    Miles used to talk to me a lot. That's until he realized that I was not comprehending what he was saying. Then he stopped. Now, I can sit and talk to him and ask him to respond but he just sits there. Except for those times when something is very wrong. Then he does everything possible to tell me about it.

    ____

    Once when the major bar had fallen, he talked to me until I fixed it. These are not simple verbal utterances but comparable to those he used to give when, I believe, he was attempting to tell me why Cleo was unhappy. I knew that she was not particularly happy because she would nest on anything in the cage which would provide a place for her.

    We had decided that we should not have chicks and the best way to do that is just not to provide a place for the female to nest. Shortly after Miles attempted to tell me about this, Cleo, waiting for her chance, darted from the far corner of the cage down to the door and out the window once when my wife was watering the flowers. She had never done this movement before and now she was gone. I went around the neighborhood with the cage calling to her but to no avail.

    Miles was stricken with grief. He would call all day long until we decided that we had to get him another bird (see Postscript below)

    ____

    Once when the window was open, Miles came over to the side of the cage that I was on and started to talk. He repeated himself over and over (paragraphs, not sentences or notes). He was really trying to tell me something. I told him I didn't understand what he was trying to tell me, and then my wife said "He wants you to close the window, it's too cold and drafty". I closed it and he looked at me as if to say "that's what I was saying" and he went back to the other side of the cage and sat there peacefully.

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    When I do not clean the cage with the accustomed regularity, El will talk and tell me about it in long sentences. And just to make sure, she will repeat herself and look at the bottom of the cage. As soon as I start doing it, she appears satisfied.

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    Postscript     return to index

    Click here for description of birds and stories on which the above is based

    Life
    The kids who died in Jerusalem from a bomb blast - Why? And what is life that it ends before it is fully lived? What is life that we continue to generate it and continue to build and destroy - only in the end to leave it all behind - to others perhaps more fortunate, perhaps less - and perhaps neither - for there is no more or less where there is no meaning.

    But then, I watch my two parakeets talking to each other, and touching. The young one who mourned the loss of his companion (we got him when he was very young and she was already an adult. We think that she had been like a mother to him) and continued to mourn and to call out until we could not take it any more and found another - a small young female. They sit together for hours, with him talking to her. He taught her to talk - to understand what he was saying. At first, she would emit sounds which were different from his - had come from where she was born - and gradually, her talking became more and more like his, and she would sit for long periods of time - him talking to her and her listening. These were true monologues - stories, with tremendous depth of sound and intonation, each sound made up of a multiple of chords - a complete vocabulary of hundreds of sound groups. And gradually she started answering back in kind. Then they would sit together for many hours in silence, although sometimes she liked to sit outside the cage, but with a lot of persuasion on his part, she would come back in and they would sit together. He knew what life was about - at least for him - to be together with her - to talk to her and have her understand - and what he told her, or what she answered back I will never know, but there was a sense of fulfillment there, of completion, of having created and experienced a fullness of being which was the total universe at that particular point in time.

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    To be together, to communicate, to be understood, to teach and to learn and to create a universe of meaning where none existed before - this is what it is about. It is the creation process, the formulation of the new and the discovery that it is possible. It is the attempt to touch the outer limits of that process - to embody the new found form - to be one with it and to be it. To live but for a moment and to experience this - this is enough - for we have transformed the universe by our being, our creation, our understanding, and we have been transformed. Morgan December 2001


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