The other day I was in a room at the back of the house when I heard our blind male Congo African Gray Io start to whistle. He has learned to give the first ascending note of the “wolf whistle” and wait for one of us to do the rest of it. He often will whistle the whole thing a few times, as if showing us what is expected, and then do the first part, and wait.

Being a well-trained parrot companion, I finished the whistle. He repeated his part, and I responded again. He then whistled a trill that I hadn’t heard him do before. I walked out to the office where Io’s cage is, and realized I had been whistling a duet with Mike. And doubtless this wasn’t the first time.

We love to talk and sing with our birds. We’re as pleased as parents of a potty-trained toddler when they do something cute or smart, and can talk for hours if someone would just listen about what great companions they are. We wear matching Hawaiian shirts with parrot prints just so strangers will say something and give us an opening.

Ring-neck doves coo and chuckle, and are fun to imitate. But they don’t seem to be aware that we are trying to speak dove. Sky, the female, is docile enough that when we discourage her from laying eggs in the food dish, she will sit on our hands for a long while and be comfortable.

Male cockatiels, tame or not, sing their hearts out at all hours, and don’t mind at all if we sing along. Sometimes the song is a rather boring two notes up and down, that we hope will be over by midnight. But sometimes there are surprises. We had a beautiful cockatiel re-homed to us who sang “Pop Goes the Weasel.” It took him a few weeks to settle in, but then as soon as we were out of the room he would whistle the song. For some reason, Mike never caught him doing it until right before we found a home where the bird could be an only-bird and get the one-on-one attention he craved.

Outside in the aviary, we just placed a re-homed pair of cockatiels this summer. I was out doing yard work when I heard the theme song from “The Andy Griffith Show” float out of the aviary. Pineapple was serenading his girl with the best song he knew.

Mike relates a story from his youth, when a stray cockatiel landed on his brother at a construction site, and decided to stay. Brother Joe took the bird home and with parents’ help, set the bird up in a cage with food and water. The bird was content but not inclined to sing or whistle. Then one morning at sunrise, the cockatiel gave his first performance: The Baby Elephant Walk, a handful of other show tunes, and then nothing again for days.

The best trick the bird could do was wait for the perfect moment, when Mike was out in the front yard, and a pretty girl jogged by. The bird would wolf whistle, and the girl would glare at Mike. Before he realized what she was reacting to and say, “It’s the bird, not me!” she was up the hill and out of sight.

Sometimes the birds like to sing with each other, or pretend to be another bird. Our Indian Ring-neck Parakeet, Wraith, is in a room with finches, canaries, lovebirds, and budgies. He likes to whistle like the cockatiels, and sometimes talks like the CAGs, but never when we are in the room or can hear him.

Sunny the sun conure (I always feel I have to explain or apologize for that name. Come on, how original is that? But she came with the name and knows it. I could have changed it to Money or Honey, but that would have been confusing. But I digress.) likes to make some sounds and wait for me to repeat them. Her Mystery Sound is a soft “chu-chu” whisper. When I make that noise, she stops what she is doing, looks at me, and fluffs up. She makes it back, and if I do it again, she rubs up against me. I guess it means I love you in sun conure. Sunny belonged to an elderly couple who surrendered her to FreeFlight in Del Mar when they could no longer care for her. I still wonder what exactly Sunny associates with that sound.

Speaking of FreeFlight, if you are in Southern California, you should do your level best to go visit the birds there. Their 4th Annual Fund Raiser is coming up on October 12th, and Mike and I will go if at all possible. Last year we went as guests and had a great time. There was some food I could eat on my diet, and lots of birds to talk to and cuddle with. The silent auction is amazing, so worth the time and money and for such a good cause. We wore parrot shirts, of course, and drew some attention and photographers. Two years ago we volunteered and had every bit as much fun as the guests did. Here’s the link: http://www.freeflightbirds.org/

Song is a different thing to different people, cultures, and birds. Hope you have a special songbird in your life!

Europe Bird Shows and Fairs


The Netherlands are home to a huge bird show called the Dutch Bird Fair. Their web page is impressive, even if not too easy to understand. There are overnight accommodations available, because it’s a two-day event. some of the exhibitors are photographers, bike companies, and travel agents. It’s more of a fair for people who want to do bird watching, not so much breeding and pet care. Still, it looks like it would be fun. http://www.dutchbirdfair.nl/


The International Ornithological Association was formed in 1955 by the Roller Canary Fancy to enable them to contest their birds with their European neighbor. IOA-COM.UK’s web page has reports from bird shows around the world, A yellow agate dimorphic pastel canary won best in show at the Gibraltar Bird Breeder’s association last November. The World Show was held last January in Belgium, and showed 23,543 birds. Imagine that! Of course, these are mostly canaries and finches, but still, what a sight! http://www.ioa-com-uk.org/main_page.html


Also in Belgium is the Gouden Ring Show, in December. Members of the IOA-COM-UK sent 197 birds to be entered in the exhibit. The UK team won their first ever gold medals, both with Fife canaries of superior type. http://www.ioa-com-uk.org/the-golden-ring-show-.html


In England/UK, bird shows often mean falconers and such, but the Parrot Society UK holds three shows per year at the Staffordshire County Showgrounds. The web page has lots of great information about pet parrots but the show is not for buying and selling pets. It’s all about breeding. The list of birds to be shown ranges from grass parakeets to macaws. The picture gallery is worth a click. They also produce an eMagazine called Bird Scene. http://www.theparrotsocietyuk.org/home


Cage and Aviary Birds is a weekly newspaper, still being printed and sent out to subscribers in the UK. However a digital version is now available, and it appears the organizers of this rag are keeping up with modern trends. http://www.cageandaviarybirds.co.uk/subscribe.html



Here’s a list of the subjects they cover: Bengalese Finch, British birds, Budgerigars, Canaries, Cockatiels, Gamebirds, Lovebirds, Parrots, Parakeets, Poultry, Raptors and Owls, and Waterfowl.



It’s sad that since Bird Talk magazine stopped printing, the US has nothing like this publication. And you have to visit many web sites to cover all those topics.


E.M.B.B.A. bird events sale day seems to be closer to the bird marts I know. At the Neward and Nottinghamshire showground, the price has stayed the same for the past 10 years, which seems to be a big selling point. Also, if you breed birds, you can’t afford to miss the show! http://www.embba.co.uk/


Moving over to Australia, the Sydney Royal Cage Bird Show now features classes for African Lovebirds, Parrots, Canaries, Finches and Budgerigars. For years these birds were classed with pigeons and poultry, but now have their own section. The show is partially sponsored by Vitafarms, so I imagine some supplies will be sold there. http://www.sydneyroyal.com.au/CageBird.htm


The Avicultural Society of Australia (ASA, not to be confused with Aviculture Society of America ASA) has selling events throughout the year listed on their web page. http://www.birds.org.au/cgi-bin/content.pl?birdsales.htm


I know that society finches were first bred in India, and it seems to me that with the abundance of birds in that country, bird shows and bird marts would be everywhere. I searched briefly, and found this amazing blog on how to train finches! The author states that birds are very popular right now, but vets are not easy to find who know about birds. http://hinduismglance.wordpress.com/how-to-train-wild-zebra-finche/


This blogger shares the going price of parrots in India, and notes that he is not in the business of selling or buying, just giving information. In spite of that, one commenter asks about buying the white-faced cockatiels in bulk. http://parrotsindia.blogspot.com/2012/01/parrots-price-in-india.html


This web page gives some history of the keeping of pet birds in Japan. Interesting that birds were seen as angels, almost, being able to fly between heaven and earth. http://www.zenoaq.jp/english/aij/0902.html


I don’t really know how to describe this page. Just take it with a grain of salt or bird seed.http://en.rocketnews24.com/2013/05/14/pet-bird-flavored-ice-cream-sold-at-small-bird-festival-available-in-parakeet-cockatiel-and-sparrow/


The above mentions a small bird fair, but nothing comes up for me when I search that name. Oh well, guess I will just have to accept that it exists.


I also know from past conversations on Yahoo groups that there are many bird keepers in North Africa, but again I am not able to bring up much information on that. I will see if I have any information left on the Yahoo groups, and may post more on a future blog.


In closing, I want to say that I visited the San Diego Bird Mart yesterday, and found the site to be beautiful and not that difficult to access. Vendors seemed happy with the set-up, and were allowed to choose their spaces. I found a cage I would love to have, and if time had permitted, would have found the female ringneck parakeet for my male. But alas, neither time nor money permitted indulgences, and these purchases will have to wait for a while, perhaps next year.


I spoke with one vendor later in the day who stated she did very well selling her birds and cages. The day was a success for her. In the morning, a vendor we see regularly at many shows had said the last Pomona Everybody’s Bird Mart was dismal, and he only made half of what he usually makes. It’s possible the organizer may give up the business.


I do hope the vendor was wrong, because the Pomona event is important to many of us. But if that happens, and this new site for the San Diego Bird Mart was successful, perhaps the North County Aviculturists will consider doing two marts per year, and we can build on the hard work of Jill Thorburn and her committee. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?


Are You Going to the Bird Mart?

I’ve often talk to people about bird marts, and occasionally receive the blankest looks. “What’s a bird mart?” Really? You can’t figure out that “mart” means a place where things are sold, and bird is an item that can be bought? A bird mart is, indeed, a place where birds are sold and bought. But not just birds, you can get awesome deals on cages, food, supplements, nest boxes, perches, swings, toys, play stands, and books on birds of all types. I love bird marts. Sadly, they don’t tend to exist continually, and sometimes you may need to do some traveling to find one.

Luckily in San Diego, the North County Aviculturists (NCA) holds an annual bird mart. This year, it will be in a new location and have a new name: The San Diego County Bird Mart. Here’s a link to their information flyer: http://asabirds.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/North-County-Aviculturists-23rd-Annual-Bird-Mart.pdf

Another stroke of luck is the relative nearness of the quarterly Everybody’s Bird Mart in Pomona, CA, at the Los Angeles County Fairplex. Many bird enthusiasts set their calendars to revolve around these bird marts. NCA’s ways and means committee attends regularly to buy cages, supplies, and occasionally birds for our monthly opportunity drawings. Here’s the information for that event:


Should you be lucky enough to live in the central part of California, you would have no problem accessing the huge San Jose Bird Mart. This one is just before the Pomona event, which means the same vendors can cart their wares and hit both shows! Most bird fairs try to schedule around other big shows in the area. Here’s the link: http://www.sanjosebirdmart.com/

Just a short stop from San Jose is Pleasanton, and the twice annual Pleasanton Bird Mart. http://www.pleasantonbirdmart.com/

In fact, California swarms with bird marts, and there is even a page or two dedicated to tracking those events. The one I am posting is a vendor who wants to be sure word gets out so people will come and buy her products. I do think she has great deals on cages. And she includes some Arizona events, as well. http://paradisebirdmarts.com/BIRD_MART_LIST.html

Texas has a lot of active bird clubs and bird marts. Here’s a pretty good list: http://texasprideaviary.com/birdfairs.htm

Michigan: http://birdsnmore.biz/upcoming-birds-shows.html

Florida: http://www.exoticbirdevents.com/bird-events.htm

Parts of Louisiana: http://www.totaltat.com/bird_fair_directions.html

And so on. You can Google your state followed by bird mart and you will get whatever is out there on the web. You can also Google bird clubs in your area, and possibly find events that are on just the club’s web page, not any of the bird mart lists.

Next Question: Why would I want to go to a bird mart? Okay, if you have to ask that question, you shouldn’t be reading this blog! Come on, birds at rock bottom prices, cages, feed, toys? You need some or all of that if you have even one bird in your life. If you are a hobby breeder like I am, you need the cages, food and water dishes, toys, and occasional birds. Even the best bird store in the area won’t be able to meet or beat the bird mart prices. Why? Because these vendors who sell at bird marts do not have lives. They drive around and live on the road, sleep in their trucks or vans, and have to sell a bunch of things to make room for the new stuff they will be picking up on their way to the next event. Some or all of this may not be true, but the real deal is that these vendors buy wholesale, have little overhead (They pay $90 or so for a spot at the bird mart, once a week, as opposed to a few thousands for a pet store every month) and can make spot decisions to cut their prices at the end of the day.

In fact, one of the things to know about bird marts is to get there super early and wait in line for a few hours because all the good stuff will be gone in the first hour. Also you may want to hang around all day and see what sales spring up from the vendors as they think about having to pack up all the stuff they brought along.

A side note about food and drink for you at the bird mart. The San Diego County Bird Mart will be selling hot dogs and hamburgers and drinks, so no worries there, but it is unusual for a bird mart to care about the attendees. At Pomona, you can get outrageously expensive food with little or no nutritional value and lots of salt, or sugar, and grease. Just like at the fair! So plan ahead, bring your own vittles and drinks.

Let’s say you got to the fair, or mart, not expecting to buy any birds. Then you spy the bird you have always wanted at half the price you have ever seen it listed for! What to do? In my experience, you can purchase a nice bird carrier for anywhere from $3 to $10, depending on the size of your dream bird. I also recommend you carry with you sliced apple or cucumber to provide moisture for the bird. You can buy single sprigs of millet at most marts.

So plan to attend a bird mart soon, you won’t regret the experience, and you may find your dream bird! But be warned, birds are addictive. Resistance is futile, you may be assimilated.

Next week a look at bird clubs and shows in Europe and other parts of the world.

Note:  I have tried to edit in the paragraphs properly, but WP just doesn’t want to help.  I apologize for the difficulty in reading that may occur.

How to Put Birds in an Aviary, Part Two

Step 8: Put birds out at the right time of the year. You can’t just introduce the birds to the aviary any old time and expect them to thrive. The best time to put the birds out for the first time is when the nights are staying at 60 degrees F or above overnight. And when the temperature is about the same inside and out. Not too hot during the day, not cold overnight. This will give the birds time to acclimate to the weather, and by the time winter rolls in, they will be able to adjust. They still need a place to shelter out of the wind and rain, and that is all part of the aviary design. In addition, give the birds light fairly early in the morning during cold weather, so they can start eating early. This will help their metabolisms fire up and stay warm.

In San Diego county, we get a morning cloudiness called June Gloom, or even May Gray. It’s usually mid-July before I can put the birds outside. They will need a few weeks to get that acclimatization, so the latest I can put them out is in early October.

Step 9: If you were not able to buy a pre-made aviary or pay someone to make one for you, now is the time to get working on making your own. Draw up the design or find one you like in a book or on line. (http://www.finchinfo.com/housing/panel_form_aviary_construction.php for example) Buy the materials. Be sure to include a roofed area that has at least two sides. Measure the area and set up your sides.

When Mike and I set up the main aviary, it went pretty easily without much revision. Then we added on the airlock. Still simple. Then we added on a second cage on the other side of the airlock. A few walls and roof were added, still not a major project.

Then I got a really good deal on breeding cages, and expected to have them up and full of lovebirds by now. But one was needed for surplus button quail. And then Mike told me he didn’t like putting the lovies out in cages that didn’t have an airlock. So we moved the cage that had only doves in it by this time, and configured the airlock and two of the breeder cages to fit together. To Mike’s chagrin, he was misremembering the measurements of the cage, so back to the drawing board. Hopefully we will have the cages ready before the end of the month.

Instead of four cages each with a family of love birds (the breeding pair and their offspring if we let them raise any), I will have two cages like that and maybe one with all the other lovies. There should be enough space for them to get along pretty well. I have an elderly pair, a non-breeding pair, and another non-breeding pair. I have visions of getting all the lovebirds outside, moving the conures to the bird room, and someday watching a movie and hearing the dialogue.

First the weather was too cool, so the extra cages just sat, ignored. They made great flat surfaces outside for drying things and placing projects. Then the weather warmed up, and we got the materials needed, but then the handyman forgot about the project. So I started reminding him. Gently. Repeatedly. Then the weather became toooo hot. Last Wednesday, when I got home from work, we cut the lumber needed for the legs of the cages and the cross supports. Just some drilling and fastening to do now! Thursday it never cooled off enough to do anything. Friday the same. Saturday I have a bird club meeting in the cool of the evening. Soon it will be too late in the summer to put the birds outside. Oh, well.

Step 10: Become incredibly rich and buy a pre-made air-locked aviary from Wingz. (http://www.kwcages.com/wingzcatalog/s00004.html) The way you get rich should not include breeding and selling birds. Let’s face it, if you are in this for the money, you are wasting your time and probably not treating your birds very well. You can’t skimp on cages, toys, food, nutrition, or vet care. You will have to spend a good deal of money on your breeders. Probably my most expensive investment in a bird has been my “white” Indian ringneck parakeet “hen” Wraith. I quote white because this bird is now the most beautiful gray ever seen. And hen because he has brought out a neck ring, a sure sign that he is male. With Indian ringnecks, you lay out good money and have to wait 2 years before breeding. Or you may buy proven breeders but now we’re talking real money. Macaws and other parrots are more costly, in every way, not just initial outlay. Again, don’t get into bird breeding expecting to get rich, and count yourself lucky if you break even. (http://www.parrotforums.com/new-members-welcome/12122-how-much-does-parrot-breeder-make-general.html)

That’s it for the Aviary series. Next time, Getting Ready for a Bird Mart!

How to Put Birds in an Aviary, Part One

Step One: Determine which birds will benefit most from being outside, such as breeders and birds that pluck. Outside, there will be exposure to sunlight, which helps sooth skin and feather issues. Also you can provide lots of foraging opportunities, to keep pluckers busy. And being outside is good for fledglings, for the same reasons.

Step Two: Determine which birds can get along together in the space available. Cockatiels usually can get along with many other birds, but I wouldn’t personally risk finches with them. Loves birds have to be in their own enclosure, and it has to be large or limited to one couple. Parakeets are pretty aggressive, and I have experienced issues with having just parakeets in an enclosure. They can be aggressive to each other.

Note on parakeets: These birds like to flock together. I know some people have had luck breeding a single pair, but usually the hen wants a few other couples around for safety. I had my best breeding luck with a cage holding three pair, a couple of single hens, and providing 4 nest boxes.

Step Three: Decide on a location for the cage or aviary. Remember you want to be able to walk around the enclosure so you can address any issues that arise. You will want a location that offers as much natural shade and sun as possible. Determine when and how the wind blows through the location. You want to make the enclosure is as large as possible.

Step Four: Select the enclosure. If you are lucky enough to afford a pre-made aviary, this is the easy part. I am lucky to have a husband who can design and build cages and aviaries. Be sure to select carefully the location of the doors and food access areas. I highly recommend having an “air lock” or enclosed area that you step into first, close the outer door, and then step into the enclosure. Much safer!

Step Five: Determine the floor composition, cement, dirt, straw, or ? My large aviary sits on cement, but has a good layer of seed on the floor. This allows the button quail to walk around comfortably, and stay a bit warmer in the winter. I have a separate quail cage for the juveniles and a pair that don’t give me eggs, and that floor has dried grass on it. Bare wire is not good for quail. If the extra cage was used as intended and up on legs, the quail could not manage it at all.

Step Six: Sit in the enclosure and visualize the placement of perches, food, water, baths, swings toys, plants, and nest boxes. If your floor is cement or brick, consider putting the plants in an old cage, a small one perhaps, so the birds can trim off the tips of the growth, but not strip the plant. Consider if you will want to walk around inside the aviary. Will you conduct nest checks from inside or outside? If you have birds with different nutritional needs in the same space, how will you provide different food for each? Being able to give caged birds fresh food daily is a goal all breeders need to strive toward. This will help with any plucking issues or health issues.

Step Seven: Keep birds in, pests out. Our baby button quail are so tiny that they are able to walk out of the aviary until they are about two weeks old. To keep them inside, Mike ran a strip of very small square wire cloth around the bottom of the aviary. The air lock also helps keep excitable birds inside. Almost every fledgling cockatiel we’ve had makes one break for the door. Of course without the airlock, I like to think we would be more careful.

Keeping pests out is much more difficult. Ants will invade a nest box and overwhelm weak chicks. Button quail love to eat ants. But they can’t always keep up. Sevin dust in the nest boxes (http://www.homedepot.com/p/Sevin-1-lb-Garden-Insect-Killer-Shaker-Canister-7007/100662149) and AIL sprayed at intervals (http://www.allbirdproducts.com/newproductpages/avian_insect_liquidator.html) keeps the ants in some control. Mice are a problem we haven’t solved yet. When owls nested nearby, our mice population was controlled. but currently the mice can crawl above the small wire strip, and get into the aviary. They like to sleep between the nest boxes and the enclosing wall of the protected corner. Our cat Oreo has just figured out where the mice live, and recently caught and devoured two. Mice burrow into the planters I have just outside the aviary. When I water, they come boiling out of the dirt.

Predators are also pests, and we have had our share of hawks come to look at the birds. they are usually smart enough to realize this is not a Happy Meal. We have had some birds injured mysteriously, but can’t say for sure if it was a starving bird of prey attempting to pull one through the wires. Luckily we haven’t had snakes or other reptiles in the aviary. We do have a beautiful lizard who lives in the front of the house in a planter. I hope he eats baby mice.

Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion of how to put birds in an aviary!