Category Archives: News Letter

Talking about the care of exotic birds and feeding exotic birds


Birds have excellent vision; better than mammals. However, the range of motion is very limited. This is compensated for by a great ability to move the head and neck.

The iris regulates the amount of light entering the eye. It also gives the characteristic color. In many parrots, the iris is dark in young birds and lighter and more pigmented as they get older. In cockatoos, the iris color usually indicates gender. In males it is black or very dark brown and in females, it is reddish or burnt orange. This iris gender determination is unique to cockatoos.

Birds have ears; however, they are not as apparently visible as in mammals. A bird’s ears are located behind and below the eye. Feathers lie over the ears and there are no ear flaps as in humans. The small opening in birds is actually the beginning of the external ear canal.

Birds can discriminate sounds; however, they are less sensitive to higher and lower vocal tones as compared to humans. On the other hand, their ability to differentiate various sounds is 10 times faster than humans. For instance, before a human could identify all the notes of a canary’s song, it would have to be slowed down 10 times!

Birds have a poorly developed sense of smell. Odors quickly fade above the ground where birds fly so, a strong sense of smell was not a necessary adaptation.

Birds also have a rather poor sense of taste because they have fewer taste buds in the mouth – taste buds are found on the roof of the mouth, not on the tongue.

A bird’s skin is very thin and appears somewhat transparent. The red hue you see on feathers areas is the underlying muscle being seen through the skin. During nesting time, a bird loses its lower chest feathers. This areas thickens and develops an enriched supply of blood to provide extra warmth to the eggs.

Feathers are like hair on mammals. A budgie has approximately 3,000 feathers! The primary purpose of feathers is to insulate and help maintain proper body temperature. They are also used in courtship displays, signs of aggression, as nest material, and flight.

Feathers are arranged in rows called pterlae, as opposed to mammal hair that grows randomly. The bare areas between the rows are called apteria.

When old feathers fall out, new feathers come in to replace them. The first sign of a new feather is a thickened, pointed projection of skin. Soon, the emerging feather, wrapped in its own protective sheath appears and is called a blood feather. If one of these feathers is damaged, bleeding will occur and must be stopped. Do NOT use styptic powder, as this will damage skin. Use flour or cornstarch to stop bleeding from a blood feather. Once the new feather has fully grown in, the sheath falls off or is removed by the bird and the new fully developed feather is a dead structure.



Some criteria to consider when purchasing a cage:
1. Is it spacious?
2. Is it comfortable?
3. Is it safe?
4. Is it easy to clean?
5. Does it have proper bar spacing to prevent a bird from getting its head stuck between the bars?
6. Will the cage material hold up to the beak strength?
7. Is it mobile?
8. Are doors secure to prevent a bird from escaping?

The dimensions of the cage must be adequate for the size of the bird. Macaws have a large wingspan and so their cage should have opposing sides greater than that of their wingspan. If your bird has a long tail, the cage should accommodate that tail so when the bird turns 360 degrees, the tail fully clears the sides of the cage.
The activity level of the bird should be taken into consideration. For instance, caiques and parrotlets, although smaller birds, are highly active and require cages with plenty of room to run around and expend their energy.
Canaries and other finches require wide cages so they can fly back and forth. Long, rectangular cages are much preferred over tall cages without much flying room.
Never put a bird in a round cage – they need corners for orientation.
All bird cages should be lead and zinc free. Do not use decorative cages, as those found in antique stores, as these are for aesthetics only and not to be used as functional bird cages.
Proper bar spacing is very important and a crucial safety concern. The general rule is to purchase the largest cage possible; however, be aware of the bar spacing. Larger cages usually have wider bar spacing. No bird should be able to fit its head through the cage bars. This can be life threatening.
Rule of thumb is: Parakeets and Lovebirds 3/8”
Cockatiels and small Conures ½” to ¾”
Amazons, African Greys, and similar size birds ¾” to 1”
Macaws and large Cockatoos ¾” to 1 ½”
The security of the food and entry door(s) is important, especially when larger birds are concerned. Birds such as cockatoos and macaws can be masters of escape. Also, it is common for cages meant for smaller birds like parakeets and cockatiels to have doors that slide up and down. Bird like conures and larger should have doors with locking mechanisms.
Bird Paradise and our on-line store at carries the full line of A&E cages. These are all toxicity tested and with the exception of those cages geared to the small birds, all come with secure locks on food and entry door(s).
Owning several birds of my own from cockatiels to macaws, all of my cages are A&E. They hold up to the strength of a hyacinth as well as the “Houdini” tendencies of a cockatoo! Shop A&E with confidence.

Parrot on my shoulder

In my many years experience with birds, I have found that the majority of bird owners, old and new, naturally allow parrots to perch on their shoulders. This generally leads to problems, especially if it is a baby bird or a bird new to you and your household. So, you may ask, “What’s the big deal about a bird on a shoulder?”

First, the best way to establish “control”, is to be able to make eye contact with a parrot. When the bird is on your shoulder, this is difficult without making your eyes and face vulnerable to making contact with a beak.

Second, parrots are very inquisitive and with little to do on your shoulder, they naturally find earrings, moles, hair, glasses, etc. most interesting. I have heard of many cases where birds performed dermatological procedures without a license to practice medicine!

When birds behave like birds and find interesting, although unwanted things to do while on your shoulder, owners instintively begin to admonish the bird for this behavior. Of course, birds love drama and now we have the situation where the owner is trying to get the bird off their shoulder so then can put them in their cage as a consequence for their behavior. First of all, the bird has no idea what he or she did wrong. They are enjoying the drama, while their owner is in the midst of reinforcing negative behavior.

What results is sometimes a bite from excitement overload. This quickly escalates into a game and the parrot learns to escape hands by hanging on the person’s back or other unreachable places. It is not unheard of for owners to have to resort to undressing in order to extract a bird.

Parrots who have been allowed to consistently perch on shoulders create more problems as they reach sexual maturity. As time goes by, the bond between parrots and owners becomes stronger and in the process, parrots become more territorial. Parrots in the wild perch on the highest branches because they have better protection up there from predators and are therefore in greater control of their surroundings. We can liken parrots perched on tree branches to parrots perched on shoulders. Up there, birds are more likely to defend their territory.

This is where a pleasant experience with a parrot on your shoulder becomes a problem. Birds instinctively defend their territory and you are part of that territory. In the wild, pairs of parrots defend their area by spreading wings, tails, crests and pinning their eyes. Both parrots participate in this posturing behavior. Our houses are not the rain forest but, birds are still hardwired to respond to their instincts. When a child, friend, dog, another parrot, etc. approach their “turf”, parrots expect you to also engage in defensive behavior. When owners nicely greet the “intruder” or do nothing, birds want to send owners a message that says, “I can’t defend our “turf” myself, so you have to go. BITE!

My philosophy when it comes to allowing parrots on shoulders is, “Never Say Never.” I do allow my amazon, Jose to be on my shoulder but under these guidelines. First, I place her there. She is not allowed to just wander up my arm. Second, I am in control of the commands of step up and step down. Third, if I know anyone will be approaching, especially my husband, I remove Jose from my shoulder.

There is also the case of the sweet cockatiels who naturally enjoy riding around on a shoulder. These birds are usually the exception to the rule. Cockatiels rarely cause problems while allowed on shoulders, other than an occasional ear nibbling. Other than ‘tiels, remember the shoulder rules and never forget that birds are not domesticated animals like dogs and cats – their instincts are strong and caution is always the best policy.