Forest Bathing is a thing. When my family took any kind of vacations, we would pack up the army surplus tent Mom bought and drive the short way to the Sunshine Highway, to the mountain campsites there. I have no memory of what we brought along for food, but I do remember seeing deer, hearing coyotes, and scaring rabbits in the meadows. Birds were everywhere and the jays were my favorites. The experience was relaxing and a treasured memory.
Now, I love to be out walking a trail around a nearby lake, even if it’s not all that wildernessy. It’s as close as I can get most days to Shinrin-Yoku or Forest Bathing. This Japanese therapy started in the 1980s and has proved so beneficial that scientists have given it a closer look. The discovery that trees give off organic compounds that help our immune systems stay strong is only one way this custom can help people out.
I wonder how much my flock can be benefited by having trees and plants around. And if it helps them, it would certainly help me at the same time. No one seems to be doing much research on the subject. The closest I found was how walking your dog in the forest can make you feel better. But birds are forest and jungle creatures. Having trees and safe plants around them must be beneficial.
Over the years I’ve bred and raised many Australian birds and learned about their connection to the Eucalyptus trees. Budgerigars, in particular, get enzymes from Eucalyptus leaves that initiate breeding. As one of the trees that grow best in the Outback, eucalyptus are essential to the lives of many birds of Australia and all the parrots. Unfortunately, it is listed as unsafe for parrots since the African and South and Central American parrots don’t get along with it.
Budgies are mainly seed eaters but they will nibble Eucalyptus leaves and bark as something to play with or make nesting material out of. In a shortage of grass seeds they can survive on Eucalyptus fruit and seeds.
One of the United States’ best sites to forest bath is the Olympic National Park in Washington state. There, Sitka spruces, Bigleaf maples, and western hemlocks provide the smell, the calm, and the sighing leaves of the only American temperate rainforest. Your parrot can deal pretty well with spruces, will enjoy maples if the bark is removed (potential fungus growing area), but hemlocks are not bird safe.
Another thing the park is known for is moss, which can be a fun toy for your birds. Your finches and canaries will love it as a nesting material and it’s not likely to get wrapped around baby bird legs and cause injury. Real, undyed and untreated moss will be a fragrant addition to an aviary or cage that might have the soothing effects of forest bathing.
Sometimes you mean well and your parrot just happens to get into a plant that you didn’t intend for it to consume. I had a beautiful hanging plant of something like Mood moss that needed, obviously, to be kept in shade and kept watered. In the summer, I had misters going on top of my aviaries so I hung the plant on a shady side of a breeder cage where it could get mist and water drops. My Indian Ringnecks at that time decided the moss was a refreshing treat and pulled it through the bars of the cage so they could snack on it. By the time I realized what was happening, enough time had gone by that any damage the plant could cause had been done. Lesson learned and I moved the plant. I don’t think it provided me with any health benefits whatsoever.
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back next Sunday.