Virtual Mailbag 3

Q. How can I stop my parrot from biting?

A. First, make sure your parrot is not hungry. If the bird doesn’t like the food you provide, he or she may be tasting you. Parrots do eat meat in some cases. My Amazon likes a nice chicken bone now and then. With meat still attached, but he doesn’t care for white meat.

Once you have determined your companion is not looking for a snack, you need to look more at your own behavior. Most of the “bird behavior” classes I’ve seen are actually training the humans. If you are nervous around the bird, or hesitant about picking the bird up, the parrot may bite down hard just to have a firm grip while stepping up. This is one of the best articles I’ve ever seen on ways to stop biting: I especially like the “dirty look” idea. And this article covers the same information in more depth. We can now say, Save the Drama for Your Llama, because you only reward negative behavior if you yell at the parrot.

Q. Is it normal for my lovebird to tear up paper into little strips and stick those in between his tail feathers?

A. I rarely see the words “normal” and “lovebird” in the same sentence. In this situation, however, it works. Peach faced lovebirds do shred paper or palm fronds or whatever nesting material is available, stuff it in their tail feathers, and carry it back to the nest. Here’s a video of a companion lovie shredding the paper, but apparently she never makes it back to her nest with it. This is a cute video of an argument over the paper.

This page shows the difference in nesting habits between three of the more common species available as pets. Apparently there actually are results from a study done on hybrid lovebirds who are confused on which of the nest building behaviors they should be doing:

Q. I have lots of tall grass with seed heads growing in my yard/my neighbor’s yard/my Aunt Fanny’s yard. Is it okay to feed to my budgies?

A. If you know for sure the grass has not been chemically fertilized or had pesticides sprayed on it, then go for it. However, if your neighbor has a grudge against you or your birds, or if your aunt resents that you inherited grandma’s tea service, consider if you trust your birds’ lives to them or not.

Once all the hurdles and concerns are cleared, then make green seeds a regular part of your birds’ diet. Much more than the dry seeds that make up the bulk of so many cage bird diets, green seeds have the best in nutrition that your budgies can actually use. Here’s a great page with lots of advice on what to feed different parrots, links to more articles on the subject, and information from Australian aviculturist Mike Owen:

Q. How do you stay sane with so many birds to care for?

A. Hold on a second, let me look up that word you used. Sane: Ah! I see. You think I am sane, do you? Let me talk to you about some oceanfront property I have in San Onofre.

Part of my sanity is that the job of caring for the birds is shared between my husband and myself. We share the watering, bowl cleaning, refilling of food bowls, fresh food distribution, cage cleaning, and setting up for breeding. Then we share stories about the birds. “Bo Dangles is saying Derp now!” “Guess what noise Wraith is making?” “Gracie has been less aggressive.” “The button quail flew straight up and landed on my shoulder, much to the surprise of both of us.”

Another part is that I love 95% of the noises that the birds make. If they are just chattering or singing, I can actually nap through that. Canary song, dove cooing, or budgie chirps, it’s a sweet lullaby. The screaming I can do without, and for the most part (like as I am writing this) no one is really screaming. The living room sun conures are giving a loud call now and then, but not what could be termed screaming. Our blind CAG Io makes some very loud, very high pitched whistles which are painful to the human ear-drum, but don’t elicit the rebuke from Bo of “Knock it off!” that Maynard’s yelling “Mama!” does. I guess I just love what I do with my birds.

Q. Where’s the second half of the Spring Clean Fling from Wednesday?

A. It will be right here next Wednesday. See you then!


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