Care of the pet bird- Psittacines

 

Polly

Biology  

Parrots are birds characterized by a hooked bill and feet with two digits that point forward and two- backwards.  These structures are well adapted to arboreal living. Most parrots are tree living diurnal birds of tropical and subtropical areas. They often forage for food in early morning and at the end of the day. They are social and vocal creatures and therefore make wonderful pets.

Females will lay eggs, which may or may not be fertile. It is fairly common for captive females to lay numerous infertile eggs without the presence of a male.

Birds eliminate urine and feces through a common opening- the cloaca. The urine portion is in a form of urates and normally is an off white paste. A diet rich in water or colorful fruits will cause the urates to be more liquidly or stained respectively. 

 

The pet parrot

Parrots make great pets because of their personalities, beautiful colors, playfulness, mocking abilities and social interaction. They are interesting, entertaining and often loud. They enjoy and need people's company and they easily integrate into their owner's life.

They are highly demanding in regards to knowledge, social time and care. Many birds are captive bred and have specific requirements that need to be met. A minimum of one to two hours a day is required for the care they need. Parrots usually live long and make lifetime companions.

 

Husbandry

Parrots Should be confined while unsupervised. Most cages in the market are not exactly ideal in shape and material. A good cage is rectangular, tall and ample. It is better to have only one side open and a large enough door to have easy access and to avoid injuries on the way in or out. Perch material should be natural branches of harmless trees. The floor can be covered with newspaper or similar material, which is changed daily. Avoid grit, wood chips and corn cub litter material, they can cause impaction (blockage) if ingested.

Birds should be kept away from the kitchen, where they are exposed to Teflon fumes, gas or smoke.

Do not allow freedom around the house. This increases the risk of accidents, poison ingestion, encounter with cats or dogs or flight through an open window. If the parrot has a leg band, it is a good idea to remove it. Leg bands can catch on objects and cause serious damage or fractures to the legs.

Whenever possible expose the bird to sunlight. The ultraviolet light facilitates calcium absorption and is beneficial for the overall health of the bird. Avoid sudden temperature changes as they are stressful. 

Food should contain no more then 20% seeds and the rest should be a variety of table food items such as:

 

Animal Protein Sources: Cooked meat (red meat, poultry, fish, etc) dog/cat kibble, cooked eggs (yolk and white), cheese, cultured milk products (cottage cheese, yogurt). Raw and even pasteurized milk should not be offered because they contain coliform bacteria.  Furthermore, many caged birds are sensitive to milk sugar, which is present in milk but not in cultured milk products.  

Whole Grain Products: Dry cereals, cooked cereals, rice, uncooked oatmeal, granola, breads (whole wheat in particular), muffins, pasta (cooked or uncooked), crackers.  

Nuts, Trail Mix: In moderation (nuts are rich in oil and fats). 

Fruits and Vegetables: Fresh, frozen-thawed or canned are all acceptable. 

Fresh fruits and vegetables are the most nutritious. Fruit juice.

Feeding should take place twice a day, morning and evening. Do not leave food over the day as it easily grows harmful bacteriae. Wash the dishes before any feeding.

Nails and beak grow continuously and should be trimmed periodically. Wing trim is optional.

A daily bath or shower is recommended and is important for keeping the feathers healthy.

 

Common health problems

Abdominal distension 

Abdominal distension is a serious problem. It may be caused by organ enlargement (liver), tumor, fluid accumulation or egg binding. 

Beak deformities

The beak can be deformed because of congenital malformation, trauma, tumors, infections, parasites and liver disease. It is common in budgerigars. 

Green urates

Green urates indicate liver problems. Bright yellow or lemon yellow is often seen in birds affected with chlamydiosis, which is a zoonosis and represent a public health hazard.

Bleeding 

Bleeding require immediate attention. Trauma and damaged growing feathers are common causes. Bleeding from the cloaca, oral or nasal cavities may indicate a serious internal disease.  

Brown cere

Female budgerigars and cockatiels often develop overgrown brown cere. This is a benign age related condition.

Conjunctivitis

Inflammation of the tissues surrounding the eyes often indicates upper respiratory disease. It can also be caused by irritants or trauma.

Cloacal prolapse

Cloacal prolapse can be seen in birds straining to lay eggs. It occurs in some cases of abdominal tumors. Some cloacal tumors that look like prolapse may be seen in Amazon parrots and macaws.

Crop stasis/regurgitation 

Crop stasis is common in hand fed baby birds. It is seen in adult birds suffering from certain systemic diseases or foreign material impaction (grit, feathers). 

Depression/lethargy 

Depression or lethargy indicates serious systemic problems. Infections, toxicities, metabolic diseases or tumors are common causes.

Feather loss 

Feather loss is a common problem. It can be localized or general. Diseases associated with feather loss include low thyroid hormone, Viral and bacterial infections. Barbering by cage mates and feather picking are frequent problems. Some of the causes of feather picking include psychoses, nutritional deficiencies, allergies, parasites and systemic or localized infections.  

Lameness/loss of leg function. 

Trauma, mites, nutritional imbalance and metabolic diseases are common causes of leg dysfunction. Leg bands, artificial perches and sandpaper are often associated with leg trauma.

Lumps and bumps

Lumps and bumps are common in birds and can be caused by tumors, cysts and infections (Tuberculosis). 

Oral lesions 

Oral lesions can be traumatic or caused by infectious diseases. Vitamin A deficiency and tumors may also be involved. 

Seizures 

Seizures occur in cases of toxicities (lead), liver disease and various infections. Low calcium levels are a common cause of seizures in African grays and Red-lored Amazons may have epilepsy.

Sinus infection

Sinus infections represent an aspect of upper respiratory diseases. Vitamin A deficiency predisposes birds to infections. Various bacteriae and viruses are responsible for upper respiratory diseases, including Chlamydia.

 

Veterinary care

A thorough initial examination is necessary for newly acquired birds. The veterinarian will discuss specific issues of husbandry regarding your bird. A stool examination and a gram stain should also be done. Birds can carry zoonosis- diseases transmitted to humans, such as Chlamydiosis, Salmonellosis and Tuberculosis. Owners must exercise extreme precautions in handling and keeping birds and provide frequent high level veterinary care.

Birds should have a yearly physical examination and a stool exam at the least. 

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