How long do parrots live?

Homeward Bound

IMG_2474So you want to bring a new bird home and am wondering if:

Before  I really get into the topic, I want to say that getting a bird for another bird is generally not a good idea.  If they do not like each  other,  and you really don’t want it,  you have just committed the new bird to a lonely fate.  It really isn’t fair to do that to an animal as sensitive and flock oriented as they are.  To get another bird for you is fine, as long as you can give it what it needs.  I personally have enough love in my heart for eight of them, even though I  have to admit that several of them live happily at my store.

Okay, enough preaching and onto the topic.  Frequently we are asked if someone should get a bird to keep their bird company.  My answer is always the same, which is absolutely not.  The first question I ask is what if they don’t like each other.  All that has happened is that tension could have been created for the established bird for no reason.  Birds are flock oriented and you become their flock.  They bond to you and consider you their equal.  They grow to love you and want you.  Now you have thrown a monkey wrench into their life for no reason.

Okay, so the decision has been reached to buy another bird and the next big statement we hear is that it is going into the same cage with an existing bird.  This is a huge no no for a number of reasons.  The main one being one bird can kill the other, and that can happen intentionally or unintentionally.  Think about a stranger coming into your house and announcing they live there now.  I am pretty sure you are not going to embrace them with wide open arms.  Actually I am quite sure the opposite would occur.  You would in all probability forcefully tell them to leave immediately.   Unfortunately our feathered friends can’t do that.  What can happen is that one bird can kill the other.  The victor of that fight could be the new one, with the one you desperately loved dying or needing immediate and costly vet care.   Another thing that could happen is one bird doesn’t let the other eat.  That could lead to death as the worse case, or hunger as a poor second.

Another often overlooked item is that of disease.  Even though your bird and the new one probably looked very healthy when this all started, stress could easily bring out any health issue either of them were having.  If they are housed together,  chances are high that disease will spread from one to the other.  They have a much better chance of not getting sick if housed separately. Are you still willing to take a risk knowing all the facts?

Okay, I have weighed in on the topic as I always do.  I would love to hear what you have to say about it.  If I have left something out, please feel free to comment.

Warm Regards,
Andrea Cirillo
Certified Avian Specialist

Raging Hormones Part II

ourbirds9As discussed in an earlier blog, we now known what to do if your bird is aggressive towards you or someone else due to seasonal hormonal changes. Unfortunately, that is not the end of their behaviors. In some cases it is only the beginning.

Your holding your bird and suddenly he/she is trying to regurgitate. Obviously everyone’s response is that they are sick. Since I am not an avian vet, I would never tell you not to worry about it. In most cases though, your bird is simply looking to you as its mate, and wants to take care of you. What better way than to fed you? I would strongly recommend that you try to stop that behavior quickly. Bacteria in your birds crop will come up into their throat and mouth and could make them sick. Better though they throw it up than swallow it. Not wanting to encourage that behavior I tell them no, switch hands, or move position and place if it comes to that. I have also had to put my birds back in their cages when they do that. Unfortunately, that behavior generally does not go away once started, but consistency on your part can help slow it down.

Okay, so what other behaviors does your bird do during this time of year? Vocalizing is a big one, tearing paper up to make a nest, finding a cozy spot to hide in, getting grumpy and moody, rubbing up against a favorite toy, or putting their butt up in the air. All big hormonal signs that require different responses. The cozy spot and the rubbing against is easy if it is in their cage, simply remove the object. The same would hold true for any object outside the cage, unless it is a big bulky piece of furniture or cabinet. In that case you could move the cage to another room and totally switch up their environment. Birds generally dislike change and that could stop that behavior. Vocalizing and aggressive behavior could be changed by ignoring it, or putting them in time out. Chances are it will not work, but it is worth trying. The good thing about hormones, is that it generally ends once it is too hot and the days get shorter unless they are a winter breeder. The last thing worth mentioning is weight fluctuations during this time. Birds will bulk up during their mating time to fed babies and than lose it when they do not need the extra reserve. For several years I ran one of my birds to the vet in a panic when she had huge weight loss. I was finally told the reason why and was okay with it.

As a final thought, mirrors in cages are generally not a good idea. The stimulation of it could force your bird into a breeding response also. Your bird could bond with the bird in the mirror and display some or all the above mentioned behaviors. I would suggest you do as little as possible to stimulate that for not only your sake but your birds as well.

Warm Regards,
Andrea Bornheimer
Certified Avian Specialist

Raging Hormones Part 1

It’s spring which is generally breeding season for most parrots.  There are some exceptions that bred all year long or in the winter only, but the majority of birds are starting now.  Just because your bird doesn’t have a mate, does not mean it is exempt from the hormonal changes this time of year brings.  It is important to understand your bird in an attempt to avoid aggressive behavior.

There is not one set behavior that indicates your bird wants to mate, but rather several.  Over bonding with just one person is a no no, as it is more than probable your bird looks to you as its mate.  One of the things I consider taboo is for one of my birds to refuse to go to other members of my family.  I will admit I am their favorite person, but I make sure they all go to my husband.  It is flattering to know they love me so much, but if something were to happen to me, my husband would need to be able to hold and take care of them.  That would be impossible if they are use to lunging at or biting him.

That obviously leads to the question of how to avoid that from occurring.  It is as simple as the person they are bonded to not accepting that behavior.  I have a story that illustrates typical behavior and how I got around it.  One night I was holding my Red Fronted Macaw when my husband came over and started massaging my neck.  The feathers on his head went up and he started to immediately lunge at my husband.  In bird language he was warning my husband away.  I quickly told him no and handed him to my husband.  The next night when I was holding him, I told my husband to come over.  This time he started lunging at me. In bird language he was telling me he couldn’t defend me and our space, and I had to leave.  My response was identical.  I told him no and handed him over.  The third night was just adorable.  Instead of lunging at anyone, he looked at us and said “I wish the two of you would stop that”.  He never tried that again.

While that was an easy fix, it doesn’t always work that way.  I caught the behavior when it just started and was able to stop it immediately.  If your bird has been getting away with it, it will be a slower fix.  Patience and consistency  is required.  If your bird lunges, there are several things you can do.  Sternly tell them no and try to hand them over to the other person.  If they lunge again, tell them no and stroke the other persons arm.  What you are telling them is that the other person is okay and they can go to them.  If they still try to bite, sternly tell them no and put them in their cage.  You might need to do this for several months.  It is hard to change behavior once started but not impossible.  The goal here is to catch it before it because a problem.

Warm Regards,
Andrea Cirillo
Certified Avian Specialist

The Battle Of The Sexes

Boys are better talkers than girls.
Girls are sweeter than boys.
Birds are attracted to the opposite sex in humans.
Tight pelvic bones signifies a boy.
Girls heads are smaller than boys.
Girls coloration is not as pretty as boys.
Boys are bigger.

I think that covers most of what we hear on a constant basis.  I could tell you the truth about those statements, but it would only be my truth.  You could speak to a number of people who work solely with or around birds and probably come up different opinions on each and every statement.  Confusing especially when you want a talker and disappointing if you don’t get that.

Two big reasons people buy birds is because they want something to talk to and/or they want the love birds are capable of giving.  Purchasing a bird on sex or talking abilities though does not mean it will automatically bond with you or ever utter a word for that matter.  African Greys are highly sort after for their talking capabilities.   A little known fact is that one in four will never utter a word.  To be honest, I am not sure why that is.  They are known to be late talkers and maybe people give up.  I never really gave it much thought.  Unfortunately, the majority of my birds talk to me.  Funny thing is though that I could care less if they did or didn’t.  Maybe they know that and stage fright isn’t an issue.  When they were young I did train them to talk, so I do believe talking can be taught.

I have a female Red Belly Parrot that has an enormous vocabulary.  She is amazingly super sweet but only to me.  Anyone else including my husband will be bitten if they try to handle her.  She is a very large Red Belly with an extremely large head.  If Red Bellies were not sexed visually,  I would be running a DNA test on her.   On the other hand I have a female Meyers Parrot who will go to a number of people but only hums hello.   I had a male Cockatiel who never spoke a word but loved to whistle.  He was a gentle, loving bird who just wanted to be with you.  My female has never spoken either which is actually quite normal for female Cockatiels.  What is funny though is that she will hiss if I try to handle her.  Male versus female…….what do you think.  I go for option three which is genetic.

I used to breed.  During that time, I had two pairs of Sun Conures.  One pair has gorgeous color as did their babies.   One pair spit out the nicest babies who retained that sweetness.  We did not DNA any of the babies, but I can tell you with the number of babies they had, I am sure we had both sexes.  That second pair was a totally different story. None, not one, of their babies were really sweet.  Some were okay, and some were marked down and needed training.  What do you think, a sex issue or genetic disposition?  I am placing my money on genetics.

Let’s talk about those pelvic bones.  In regards to the pelvic bones, I have only one word “hogwash”.   I had a “male” Jenday Conure who had extremely tight pelvic bones.  The pet shop I bought him from assured me he was a male.  It was many years ago, but I think the words they used was that an egg was never going to pass through that bone structure.  He happily laid 5 eggs.   She also choose me as her person over my husband of the opposite sex, which leads me to my conclusion.  Birds like people form strong opinions on who they like or dislike for whatever reasons.  They are kind of like people for that matter.  Anyway, I have weighed in on all the issues.  Does anyone out there have any opinions you would like to share?  If so, leave us a comment.

Warm Regards,
Certified Avian Specialist


Helping you understand our feathered friends

From 1982 to 1988, 1.8 million birds were imported into the United States.  In 1992 the importation of parrots without a permit was banned.  Overcrowding of containers, starvation, and disease lead to a high morality rate.  Of those that survived, they were wild caught  and only the strongest made it.  It has helped lead to the severe decline of parrots in the wild,  to the point that it is now estimated that 40% of all parrots will become extinct.  A mind boggling number which I find depressing considering my great love for these amazing animals.

The reason for this blog is to help you understand our feathered friends.  Obviously, if most of the importation occurred in the 70’s and 80’s, and the birds were wild caught, birds are lacking the domestication of other animals like dogs and even cats.  Dealing with a bird is not hard, it just takes some basic understanding of what makes them tick.

In the wild, a birds life is dependent on knowing it’s environment.   After all, no one is serving them meals and predators are abundant.  One of the main reasons birds are flock oriented is because of the protection that gives them.  If a bird is to be attacked, it generally comes from the back.  Most of the time someone will have their back covered.  The exception being the weak or sick.  Any sort of aggression will send them into a flight or fight mode.  With they being said, they are wary of the unknown.  Being as flock oriented as they are, they either strive for that one dominant spot or consider themselves our equal.  As equals, they do not understand or tolerate behaviors that would be acceptable to a more domesticated animal.

The best way to treat a bird and have a more rewarding relationship is to treat it with a lot of respect.  I always tell customers how would you like…….being done to you.  Fill in the blank with having a stranger come up to you and do such things as waving hands in your face,  rubbing your stomach, touching your nose, petting you, kissing you, etc.  I hope you get the point.  Keep in mind the key word here is stranger.  The majority of birds get nervous around such behavior and either want to bite or flee.  Giving  them a minute to get to know you goes a long way with these amazing animals.

I come and go from my store.  When I am in, I spend the majority of my time up front.  When I do go to the back, the majority of the birds do not know me.  It is truly unfortunate, but I do get bogged down with the administrative end of the business.  I love birds.  I also want them all to love me.  With that said, like people,  I have to be worthy of that love.  I almost never push myself on a bird.  Instead I talk to them softly through the cage bars.  If they seem to like me, I will open their door and ask if they want to come out.  If they don’t, I will talk to them softly and try again.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I have walked away not getting them out, but I always go back.  Eventually even the more stubborn ones will give in.  Once in a rare while, I will have that one that simply does not like me, and nothing I do will change that.  I had to stop a customer once from buying a bird because it was obvious to me that bird was never going to like her.  Pushing yourself on them will do nothing but scare them and force the flight or fight response.   Unfortunately our feathered friends are intelligent with very good memories.   There is no recouping that lost ground.  Hence my question to you…….how would you like that!

In closing I would like to add that our feathered friends are a strange combination of scared versus curious.   I have been known to hold them while I am totally ignoring them.  The next thing I know is they are playing with my toys (jewelry and clothes), because I am not representing any kind of threat to them.  Within a short time I have a new buddy.  A win win with no one feeling threatened.

Owner and Certifies Avian Specialist

Fingers in bird cages

Every day without fail, we have people putting their fingers into cages to pet the birds. We always politely ask them not to do so, and have signs requesting the same, but no one seems to want to listen.  Unfortunately, we have to get on them about it, and many times stop what we are doing to explain the reason for the request.   If we are busy, we don’t have time to explain and once in awhile someone will get in a huff and storm out.  I hate to have someone leave like that, but I really hate to have them do it more, so here we are both frustrated.

I have to admit I do find it amazing that people get mad about that.  If someone asked me to not touch something,  I would assume there was a good reason for it and do as requested.  I would especially not hesitate in the case of a live animal.  I would be afraid of getting bit and would absolutely keep my fingers out of harms way.  So, I write this blog to get out a little frustration but also to help explain the reason for the request.

If someone is serious about getting a bird, or just love to look at them, they generally go to bird shops to see them.  The fingers that are in my birds cages have probably been in cages at another store.  That is were the majority of my problem lies.   Birds are masters at hiding illness.   In the wild a weak or sick bird is preyed upon,  so they have to act as if they are fine even if they are not.  Now you have a customer going from a store where they probably touched the birds there and come in and touch mine.  If there was any issue with a bird at that store, it could have now been spread to mine.   The same holds true with the bird at their house.  Bird diseases are airborne and could be carried on clothes.  A bird could also be a carrier of a disease without showing shows of it, or ever being bothered by it.  Going from one cage to the next, could effectively spread that issue.  Do I sound radical,  probably.   Am I being realistic,  absolutely.   Is it a precaution worth taking, you bet.  Is there a way around it, not fool proof but yes.   It would be unrealistic of us to believe that customers won’t touch birds.  Nor would we want that since we are in the business of selling them.  The solution is simple, ask us and we will be more than happy to spray your hands and work with you on proper handling of the bird.  That limits problems and keeps our birds healthy.

One of the things I wanted to close on is this.  Think about how you would feel if someone went around and put their finger in other people’s mouth.  All of a sudden you find that very finger that was in strangers mouth put into yours.  Not only would that gross me out, but I would rightly be worried with thoughts of a cold or worse.  It truly is the exact same thing with our feathered friends. I know if I was looking for a bird I would much rather get it from a place that cares about the health and safety of their birds.  Hopefully you agree.

Should you clip your bird’s wings?

There appears to be some controversy in the avian community about letting a bird fly or clipping it’s wings.  Unfortunately there is no right or wrong answer.  I personally believe in clipping even though I have a bird that can fly.  The sole reason I have left his wings alone is curiosity.  You see he is a Red Fronted  Macaw and they are able to turn on a heart beat and to hover.  Unfortunately, I waited to long before I made that decision and he doesn’t know he can fly.  Giving him the tool he needs to fly though puts a huge limitation on him, and that is he can no longer go outside.  I have heard too many horror stories of people thinking their bird can’t fly and taking them outside.  The bird gets spooked by something and away they go.

Sunshine is extremely important to a bird and a general requirement is 20 minutes per day.  The light that comes in through our windows does not have the UV rays which is exactly where all the benefits of the sun come into play.  Plopping them in front of a window is good stimulation but has absolutely no health benefit for them.  To match the suns benefits they would need a bird lamp with an ultraviolet bulb left on for 12 hours a day.  Imagine 12 hours of a lamp  equals 20 minutes of sun.  A fact I find  mind boggling!

Okay, I get chatty and can be here all day, so I will cut to the chase.   Leaving a bird flighted poses more than one problem and challenge.  The problems I see are plentiful.   A bird can get easily spooked and fly into the window, wall or ceiling fan and get hurt.  Furthermore,  if a bird is out and the door opens, it is easy for them to fly away.  Trust me I have heard that numerous times.  The lucky bird might find a new home if it is smart enough or hungry enough to land on someone.  The majority of them though get attacked by hawks,  and simply don’t make it.  Once in  awhile I will hear a story about  a bird showing up at a wild bird feeder but that is extremely rare.  They have been trained to have their food brought to them and that is all they know.  The ones that do find a new home are the lucky ones.  Good for the bird, bad for the old owner.   I have been in business 17 years and have rarely found someone willing to find the owner, even after explaining the bond that could exist between them.  Unfortunately, at lot of people want to know how much the bird costs and rub their hands in glee.  I even had one customer forced into paying a return fee to get her bird back!

The last thing of issue here is dominance.   A bird that can fly can get picky about having things there own way and bite the owner.  We wind up clipping a lot of wings for that very reason.

I have heard the argument that birds are meant too have wings as they do in the wild.  I really can’t argue the point except to say they are in our homes and not the wild.  The only other argument I have heard in which I totally agree is that it is good exercise.  It is good exercise, and builds confidence.  All really important good stuff.  The only way around that is to help them exercise.  I have turned that into a game with my birds.  I will put a thumb over their feet and flap my arms up and down.  The simple act of doing that makes them flap their wings.  I will  run around the house doing that screaming “let’s fly”.  We have great bonding time together and get exercise while doing so.  Now I can just hold them and say let’s fly, and away they go.  I always praise reward them and they feel great afterwards.

Okay, I have finally run out of words to say here.  Please keep in mind this is only my opinion based on what I have read and heard from customers.  If anyone has a different slant on this I would love to hear it.  Post it on our Facebook page and let’s have a discussion about it.  In the meantime,  I wish you all a great day.

Warm regards,


Is it a good idea to give someone a bird as a present?

Today is my birthday.   It is also the very first time I ever wrote a blog.  As I was contemplating what to write, it clearly came to me.  Is it a good idea to give someone a bird as a present?  With the holidays fast approaching,  I thought this would be very timely. Unfortunately, this is not an easy question with a clear cut answer.

We get this a lot at our store and I am almost always at a loss for words. Someone wants to get that special present for that very important person in their lives. It is truly a very loving, noble thing to do and with lots of thought and planning, a great idea.  Keeping in mind that parrots are very long lived, I would strongly recommend knowing what the person is looking for, or better yet, bringing them with you.

Many decisions go into getting the parrot that is right for you.  As I start to question people as to the qualities that are most important to them , I get talking followed by loving.   Also of importance is the vocalizing (loudness) of a species, its looks, its type of personality,  and it’s ability to get along with a number of people.   While cage size does not come up much when someone is looking for a gift,  I consider that of major importance.  Birds need certain size cages based on the type of bird and its energy level.  Several of the cages needed for the more popular birds are rather large.  Now the available places to put a cage might be drawn into question  and  how much of their living space are they realistically willing to give up for a new pet can become an issue. Add in bird toys (a necessity), perches and food, and suddenly the purchase dollar commitment has substantially changed.  Another reality of parrot ownership is that most of the investment is done up front.

Parrots are not something you can order from a shelf or return easily.  Bird breeding season is quite short and availability has been severely limited the past few years.  Getting an older bird off of the internet might sound like a good idea on the wallet, but it generally holds true “you get what you pay for”.  Most people generally look to get rid of their bird due to bad behaviors such as screaming and feather plucking to name a few.  In a lot of cases, the “bargain” bird is a biter and cannot be held.  Instead of getting something of pleasure,  you have just purchased a job.  Careful consideration to getting a lifetime companion is key.  Getting the right bird is extremely important.  Doing that for someone else could be a daunting task.

Asking a lot of questions in advance could help save time all around.  Bringing the person with you is ideal.  If a customer calls us in advance and gives us a heads up, we will be more than happy to keep their secret.  Birds as well as prospective owners have been known to fall in love.   That would make the decision extremely easy.  In any case, doing so at the very least ensures the likability of parrot and owner.

Hopefully this blog has given you fuel for thought.  Most birds are flock oriented and find comfort and safety in being with people they love in familiar surroundings.  It is heartbreaking to see or hear of a bird going from one home to the next.  They are amazing animals deserving of our love and respect.  Starting off with the right bird from the very beginning helps ensure a happy ending all around.