It’s never a good thing when you look down and notice that the sweet little bird that you are holding pooped on your very clean pair of jeans. It’s worse when you realize that it’s whole seeds that are coming out. Anyone who has a PDD bird knows that this is one of the symptoms of PDD and since we have one PDD positive bird in our flock, it was concerning from the get go. With a lot of things in our flock, I will take a “wait and see” attitude before I will run the birds to the vet. It’s not just a money thing. Sometimes it’s a symptom that happens once and never happens again. Other times it’s important to observe more than one symptom before making a judgement as the fids cannot tell their doctor what symptoms they are having and they rely on our observation to determine when they are ill. However, in this case I didn’t take any time to call the vet. I noticed this on Tuesday of this week. Wednesday she was in the vet’s office. Poor thing, she had the full workup. The first part wasn’t so bad. She had a physical that showed that she was a healthy little girl. Then it was the X-rays to see if she had a swollen proventriculus. There was a slight abnormality that was so small that if I hadn’t mentioned the whole seeds the vet wouldn’t have even noticed. Finally, she had a fecal gram stain done just to make sure that it wasn’t an infection in her GI tract that was making her pass whole seeds. That test also came back negative. She also had the test sent off to the lab to check for the bornavirus. We haven’t heard the results of that test yet, but to be honest, I am not too worried about that. There is so much that we don’t know about this disease that it is hard to decide if a positive test for the bornavirus means that a parrot will be a PDD victim.
It is possible that some birds carry the virus but do not spread the disease nor do they show any symptoms. Others shed the disease and spread it but also do not show symptoms. Some have the bornavirus, show symptoms, but can be controlled with NSAIDs or even with mild support seem to beat the disease altogether. Other birds shed the bornavirus, respond poorly to the medication, and succumb no matter how much is done to support or care for the bird. It’s so hard to grasp as the disease has no known cure and the treatments work with some and not others. It makes me worry about my little Wynter, she is a sweet and adorable bird, but to be honest, I won’t do anything different in my flock. Each one of our birds will be allowed to live out their lives as normal and as loved as they possibly can. They will not be treated different as this flock was together before we even realized PDD was in the flock and there was nothing we could do about it. There’s no reason to change anything other than give the metacam to those who need it and give extra love when they don’t feel good. That’s how they were brought into the flock- to be loved. That’s how it will stay.
I had a tumor removed from my hip yesterday and have been in and out of sleep due to pain killers since. I have had my little caretakers being my watch birds ever since as well, making sure that I had everything I needed, including being soothed back to sleep if I woke up. I didn’t get a chance to snap one of Daffy. But I woke up to this one of Summer. Adorable picture. Sleeping softly, next to my head on the pillow, she would be up in seconds after she realized I was moving, only to lick my face to insist I go back to sleep. How do they know when we are hurt and we need rest? Who knows! But they do! Too cute!
Poor little Puffin. He thought it was the greatest idea in the world. There was Cinnamon. She was happily munching on an avi-cake, holding it up in her foot like she always does, enjoying life and Puffin thought that she was holding it up as an open invitation for all to snack on and walked over to Cinnamon gingerly to take a bite. Cinnamon lunged down at him, batting him gently, trying to tell him that the food in her foot was only for her. Puffin didn’t take the hint. Cinnamon went back to eating and Puffin tried again. Cinnamon, being the gentle Quaker that she is, tried to bite Puffin as softly as she could, but when a bird three times the size of a budgie bites the beak of a budgie, good things do not happen. Puffin’s beak was instantly punctured, almost all the way through, and the top of his ceres were bruised. Jumping between the feuding two, a quick assessment of Puffin’s beak showed that the inside of his beak was bruised, but not broken, and a trip to the vet was in our future. As the inspection of Puffin’s beak went on, Puffin had a horrid bloody nose from the entire incident. The bleeding didn’t take long to subside but it was enough to scare us. The trip to the vet made for the second cracked beak in Puffin’s family- Summer has done the same thing when she was just a couple of months old with the other Quaker in our flock. Will our young budgies ever learn that they aren’t the biggest birds in our flock? I hope so!
I awoke from a terrible nightmare this morning. I had a horrible dream that my quaker, Maple, had died. I got up, tried to go through my morning routine, even got out Summer like usual and tried to shake that feeling from my mind. Didn’t work. Even though Maple is very used to routine, and that routine includes my husband, not me getting him out of bed and ready for the day ahead, I risked the bite I might get to get him out of bed. I needed to assure myself that he was okay and just as cantankerous as ever. He must have known that I was bothered by something because he didn’t put up much of a fight. Summer, who is usually very unforgiving about sharing her morning time with me, even allowed for this time with Maple. Right now, Summer is cuddled to my neck and Maple is happily sitting on my monitor, being fed Cheerios, his favorite treat. He’s adorably bobbing his head in happy acknowledgement that his people love him and life is good.
Unlike Summer, life wasn’t always good for him. We don’t know where he came from exactly, but we do know that things weren’t working out wherever it was that he was. On consignment at a local pet shop, he and Peaches were in a cage together that was big enough only for one of them. Scared and helpless, they had lost the family that they knew and weren’t sure what to do next. My husband and I couldn’t leave them there. We had the ability to give them a good home and they needed one. The choice was clear. However, after my house started to fill up with “unwanted” birds, I became more and more aware of something. People didn’t seem to understand that the commitment to a parrot is different than that of a dog or cat. Not only do these birds depend on you for food and other care-taking, they become very attached and it does break their hearts to be apart from their flock. They do adapt but not as quickly or as smoothly as cats and dogs. They get depressed. They start to pluck their own feathers out. They can become neurotic and even insane.
The problem isn’t with the bird. It’s not their fault. The problem is with the people who buy them and forget that they have just added a family member, a flock member, who is going to have needs and wants similar to a child for the rest of their lives. Decisions and choices must be made that include the bird. The bird no longer becomes an obstacle to figure out, but a non-negotiable that is a “given” in life. My husband and I have gone on more than one vacation with all of our birds. At first, the traveling in the car is a bit stressful, but as they have gotten used to it and have been shown time and time again that the flock travels together, they have feared it less and enjoyed it more. No place to live has been considered unless the birds can come along. All of them are considered because all of them are important. There is not one bird in our flock who isn’t. They are part of our family. They are our responsibility.
Our birds weren’t just purchased because they were pretty. If that was my goal I could have jewelry. They weren’t just rescued because they could talk. If I wanted conversation, that’s what other people are for. I don’t have them around because they are a novelty. Various oddities on the shelf can serve the same conversational piece. In other words, if this is an impulse buy that might just wear off after the pretty bird’s newness wears off and the realization that responsibility comes with this parrot package, do us all a favor, don’t. My house is full of “unwanted birds”. They are now very wanted and loved by my husband and I. But the path that they took made it very difficult on the birds who came to us like that. It is much better to do research, decide if a bird is right for you and your household. See if you can commit to taking care of a bird for its entire lifespan, be it twenty or seventy years. Get to know other bird owners. Talk to them about the joys and downsides of owning a bird. Learn about vet care costs. Learn about first aid that you might have to give the bird, including how to stabilize your bird to get them to the vet. Like any other life changing event, birds cost money. Learn about the cost associated with birds such as proper food and nutrition, toys, cage and housing requirements, and playstands. Learn how to deal with frustrations, like when they can be loud, when they do bite, and what to do when they just flew up on the curtain rod that you can’t reach. If you can think about all that, have a plan, and decide that you want a bird, please, come right in to the aviculture that we all know and love. Parrots are the most unique, most amazing, and the most adorable pet ever brought inside a home. Just remember, when you do bring the feather bundle home, he’s not disposable. He’s part of the family, now.
Ah, the UBE- Unidentified Bird Emergency. The event that causes a bird to completely go insane with fear, darting from one part of the house to another, careless about what they are flying into or how they are getting hurt, until the panic subsides and they realize that maybe that wasn’t the best idea. No matter what, they still can’t tell you what it was that they were so frightened of. Was it another bird? Was it a bug? Was it a piece of fuzz? Who knows? However, it was something with which to panic over completely and fly to the nearest and most dangerous thing that could potentially cause harm because, well, the other unidentified thing is much more scary. At night, many times these are called night frights. Cockatiels are prone to them. They will thrash around their cages, breaking feathers and spraining joints, because something scared them, be it real or in their dreams.
Wynter has been having many of these lately. Everything has scared her. Last night, I couldn’t hardly get any sleep because she would thrash about over ever ordinary sound. A car would drive by outside and she would UBE. Another bird would shift in their cage, she would freak out and act as if something was in her bed trying to kill her. I would turn on the light, check her bed, there was nothing in there but her normal roommates. If I left her in her bed, she wouldn’t stop thrashing, which meant that she was hitting the budgies that shared her cage, so I pulled her out and decided that I wasn’t going to get some sleep for a while. I cuddled her for a while while I was laying down in bed, as she loves to cuddle. She would settle down for a while, even tucking her head to go to sleep, but whatever it was that was scaring her would make her flip out again and there she was, thrashing about. I would be able to catch it fast enough when she was pulled into bed with me, so I could grab her and hold her through the UBE, but that didn’t make it last any less amount of time, it just kept her from hurting any other bird while she panicked. In order to get some sleep, I finally decided that the best way to help little Wynter, all the other birds, and myself, was to leave a light on and hope that it would help her. I turned on the closet light. Wynter went right over to the hamper in the closet and went to sleep. Deciding that she was probably calm for a while, I went to sleep. It worked. I got some rest, Wynter got some rest, and the rest of the fids in the flock didn’t have to suffer listening to a UBE, wondering if there was really something wrong or if everything was really okay. I would love to say we are over this, but we’ll see how tonight works out.
Maple has been able to talk since we first got him. We didn’t know he was a talker when we got him, but that really wasn’t a “selling point” ever for us. We wanted to give him a good home after everything that had happened to him and Peaches. However, we have tried, at different times, to teach him to talk so that he could demonstrate it to others, whether it was in our bird club, for people who were just learning about birds, or for educational purposes that helped people understand that birds are not disposable. However, Maple is a very stubborn Quaker, as many Quaker parrots are, and he likes to chose when he is going to talk and what he is going to say. Using much the same strategy as Irene Pepperberg used to train Alex, we have been using a favorite treat of Maple’s, Cheerios, to help him communicate more about what he wants instead of just a cute “trick” to get the people smiling and have their approval to get the treats. Because he is a rescue and he didn’t start with us like Alex did with Dr. Pepperberg, we decided to start with what Maple knows. Where this goes is entirely up to him. Tonight, we utilized the phrase “thank you”. Maple will get insistent about the words “thank you” even going so far as to yell out, “Say thank you” so that he can get you to say thank you to finish the phrase with, “You’re welcome”, so that the entire interaction is complete in his mind. However, he doesn’t always “thank you” for things that you give him. So, we decided tonight to work on this. If he is going to correct us when we don’t say thank you to each other and when other birds don’t say thank you when we give them things, he needs to be more consistent with us as well. Using one of his favorite treats, whole oat Cheerios (believe me, the irony is not lost on us that my Quaker likes oats) we worked with him to see if he would become more gracious about the treats we give him. The result was a flustered bird at first who would do any trick to just get the “O” (our nickname for the Cheerios) so that he wouldn’t have to actually do what we were asking. It was very much a battle of the wills. However, when he realized that he wouldn’t be given his treats until he thanked us for giving it to him, a sheepish, almost bashful “thank you” was mumbled. Rewarded with a “you’re welcome” and the “O”, Maple happily munched on the treat, bobbing his head with feathers poofed to show that he was happy about what he just accomplished. He was proud of himself, we were proud of him, and it just made for a good night all around.
Sammy has been getting along fine in our flock. He has learned that we are here to take care of him and has mostly accepted us as his new flock leaders. He has made new friends with the other budgies in the flock, especially enjoying time with Tuffy and Puffin. However, there are still times that we have to grab him and put him different places. The funniest thing has emerged from this very normal action in the flock. Summer, the budgie who is the most human imprint of all our budgies, has decided that she doesn’t like it when Sammy bites me, showing that he doesn’t appreciate being grabbed. So, when she starts to notice that he is biting me, she will fly over to the hand that is holding on to Sammy and and bop him on the head each time he bites me while threatening him. She won’t hurt him unless he gets more aggressive with me, which then prompts me to separate them. She will get more aggressive with him the rougher he gets with me. I don’t think I have ever seen a bird react quite like this when another bird is doing something that they don’t like. I thought at first it might just be a one time thing, but after watching this happen over the last couple of weeks, I have realized that Summer is very determined to teach Sammy that biting me is not okay, and she is going to break him of that habit. The thing that is even more ironic about this is that Summer isn’t exactly a gentle bird. She doesn’t draw blood or bruise, but she will punch and lightly beak when she doesn’t’ like what is going on in her world. It is almost like the big sister that states that no one can beat up her little brother except for her. I may not understand why Summer does that exactly but I do know that she does it because she does love and care about her people, even in an odd, budgie sort of way.
Ask any doctor, psychologist, nurse, or other healthcare worker, and they will tell you the benefits of having a pet at home. They help lower blood pressure, improve one’s outlook on life, and generally will lengthen life for their owners. Most people have dogs or cats to fill this void. Not me. I am all about those of the avian variety. But I think that they have an ability to help me in ways that a dog or cat maybe can’t. These little feathered packages of great personality don’t start out naturally just trusting their people. Long ago, there were books upon books teaching people on how to “tame” their bird. But it’s not really about tameness. It’s about friendship. Just like with people, you have to show your bird that you aren’t there to hurt them, that you want to genuinely help them, and that you do in fact, love them. Like children, it does have to be unconditional. Sometimes that bite after a long, frustrating day, may be more than you can handle, but the bird doesn’t know that. However, once the friendship moves on from the basic trusting stage, it is amazing what these little guys are capable of doing to help.
Not just an ear when you want to vent, these little guys will get involved to help you get on your way to feeling better. Daffy is amazing when I am crying. She will gingerly walk up to me and start cleaning my face of the tears because she knows that they don’t belong. She will try to clean my eyelashes to make them “pretty” again, like they were before I started crying, as if they were feathers that needed cleaned out. The amazing thing about this is that Daffy hates to be wet. But she will risk having her feathers get a little damp to make sure that I know that she loves me and that she will take care of me when I am upset. She also knows when I feel sick. There have been many times when I have been “camped out” on the couch, feeling less than stellar, and she has taken it upon herself to be my “watch bird”, that is, the bird that alerts me to when there is trouble around so that I can rest and get better. In fact, she takes her job so seriously that my husband has had to watch his fingers around her when I am not well, as she will attack him to get him away from me so that I can get the rest that I need. She also knows that I am a horrid insomniac and at times cannot sleep to save my life. During these times, Daffy will choose to cuddle me close, pushing herself up against my face, and preening my eyes so that they will close in an effort to put me to sleep. She will sing softly to me or continue to “preen” me, trying her best to comfort and cuddle so that I will relax. Just as when I am sick, if someone comes up to me when this is happening, she will quickly turn violent towards them to keep them away from me, protecting me from any outside issues that would prevent me from sleep, as she knows I need it. How? Your guess is as good as mine, but she does know. Wynter has started watching Daffy in this and has started to pick up the same mannerisms with the exception of the extreme violence if someone disturbs me. She also takes it upon herself to take care of her humans if she sees that they are not in tip top shape.
Our budgies tend to act more like clowns. Summer, the most human imprint of all of our budgies, will cuddle and take care of us as the cockatiels do at times, but generally the budgies tend to want to make us feel better by making us laugh and doing silly things that will then cause us to play and forget about what is upsetting us. From playing pranks on each other to playing on toys that inevitably get them into the most awkward situations, they won’t stop until we are giggly and smiling, and then they know that they have done their job. However, as with all budgies, it isn’t easy for them to know when it is time to quit. Many times the antics will continue long after the hurt or the upset has began to fade, to which the budgies expect “extra credit” and I believe that they get extra proud of themselves for actually making us start to forget about what we were upset about in the first place.
Our conures and quakers are a happy mix of both. They work hard to make sure that we are not too upset about anything that is going on, but depending on their mood and how they are feeling about life, they are either the biggest cuddle bugs in the world, or they are working hard to make sure that you are laughing at the goofy stuff that they are getting into. Though they don’t usually go into “extreme watchbird” mode, they will cuddle as close as they can to help you feel better if you are so down that you just don’t feel like you can get up because the world has knocked you down too many times.
And perhaps that is the neatest thing about birds. They acknowledge where you are at and how you are feeling and work hard to help you feel better if you are down with their own personality taking into account what your needs are. I do believe this is different than dogs or cats because they seem to do it rather instinctively instead of needing to be called over to be asked for a cuddle or picked by the human to play with so that the human can feel better. They are flock creatures who are very intuitive to body language and I believe that this is a positive part about the fact that they are flock birds. They need each other for survival and that means that they genuinely care about how everyone in the flock is doing. That means that they take care of each other very well. In the case of our flock, they take care of us incredibly well.
There are many times that we take our birds for rides in the car. It helps when we have to take them for longer trips such as trips to the vet or vacations (where they come with us- no one is left behind!). My husband was dropping me off at Curves for a workout and then heading off to church to do some work and we thought it might be good for Summer to get out and get some fresh air. She will wear, but abhors, her diaper, so we thought since she was small enough that we could just grab her and hold her when we got in and out of the car. The start of the trip went great. I got out, went to workout and my husband went to church. While at church, he ran into one of his parishioners that had been toying with the idea of getting a pet bird of his own. So, Summer was invited to sit on this parishioner’s finger just to make friends. My husband is sure that Summer got it in her head that she was being given away or something. When he grabbed her to go back to the car to come and get me, she was unusually squirmy and bit him harder than normal. While trying to switch hands for a better grip, she got loose and flew free and away as fast as she could. Summer is clipped, but as with all birds, there are feathers coming in that we couldn’t clip and those probably gave her more lift than normal. It was about this time that I called my husband, wondering if he had forgotten to pick me up at Curves. Hearing him pick up the phone with wind in the background and him a little winded with panic in his voice, he told me what had happened. The church is only a couple of blocks from Curves, so I started to make my beeline for the church to help in the search.
Already thinking that I was going to have to call into work to find this cantankerous budgie, I was making my plans for how things were going to work for the rest of the day while trying to keep my own panic down. Summer was hatched in our apartment. My husband pealed her out of her egg when the membrane got stuck on her skin. He held her before her own mother took care of her. When she was weaning and fledgling, she broke her leg and had to spend time in a cast, and she had a playstand on my desk where I both cared for her and gave her a type of physical therapy for her foot so that it would be usable when she got out of the cast. She was a very special bird to us and I had to work very hard to keep the panic away. Daffy had flown away once and had sat down in a open field of grass and waited for me. I was hoping that Summer would do the same.
My husband was asking permission from the local neighbors to look in their backyard for a bird. One man stated he was just back there and didn’t see anything. My heart started to sink. It’s easy to miss a bird this size. The church sign was in sight. I was close enough to help with the search when I heard my husband say that he thought he could see her. “Summer, you knot-head!” Those were the best words I heard all day. My husband had found her on a windowsill and he said that as soon as she recognized him, she had a look of both relief and realization that she was in big trouble. She halfheartedly dodged his hand as he grabbed her one more time. She didn’t even bite this time. I was so relieved. My husband got into the car and drove about a hundred feet to pick me up. Summer got kisses, cuddles, and of course, a good talking to for running away, or in her case, flying away. Maybe she just wanted something in common with Sammy. My husband wondered if she was mad at him for trying to give her away, even though that never entered his mind, and so she was trying to find me. It was only after she got away that she realized she had no clue where I was. Either way, I was just happy that she was safe and uninjured back with us.
It was the day after the Fourth of July and my week off of work. I had just finished my workout at Curves and was enjoying some fresh cherries when my husband called. Someone had called him and let him know that there was a little budgie flying around free in their next door neighbour’s backyard. Normally I hate these types of phone calls. The bird is rarely caught, and if it is, it is usually sick, dying, diseased, hurt, or very abused. I didn’t say anything, but when my husband said that the bird was friendly and was eating and drinking from a feeder in this backyard, I decided to have hope and see what we could do. I got over there with a travel cage armed with millet, a water dish, and a water bottle in case anything spilled or the little guy needed to be cooled off by putting his feet in the water. I got to the house and sure enough, Sammy was sitting on a patio table in the backyard with my husband and the owner of the house nearby. He was hungrily devouring the outdoor bird food and not caring that the people around him were so close. My husband had mentioned that he must be well trained as he knew the command, “step up, ” and had done so a couple of times. Even though Sammy didn’t know us, he knew that people were there to help him and that he couldn’t get out of this mess on his own. I grabbed a sprig of millet and placed it on the table next to Sammy. He immediately recognized it and went straight for it. I couldn’t help but admire the little guy. Here he was away from his family, his home, everything he knew about life, but he had pieced together that these strangers were people that could help him. They had a kiddie pool with a bit of water that he had gotten a drink from before and the seeds were not what he would have chosen first, but they were something he recognized as safe to eat. I mumbled something about getting ready to receive the worst bite I had gotten in a while, and quickly snatched up this little bundle of feathers in my hands before he saw me coming. He jumped in surprise in my hand, but didn’t bite. Instead he almost relaxed a bit and I put him in the travel cage, where there were more sprigs of millet waiting and some water. I don’t think he saw anything else for a half hour but those two things. He relaxed knowing the relative safety that he was in a cage and that meant that nothing in this big world he had been flying around in could get him. He was calmer in the cage than out, which told me that he was someone’s very special pet. That night and every day for a week we hunted through Parrot911, a lost and found bird website, looked for posters, watched craigslist and the newspaper, but never found a hint of Sammy’s family. The searches became less as the hope of finding his family dwindled. Just in case he was let go for a reason, the day after we caught him we took him into the vet. We were afraid he might have caught something or had a horrid disease that someone didn’t want to pay to treat, but that wasn’t the case, he was perfectly healthy. As time went on, he just became part of our flock. We are still working with him to show him that we aren’t going to hurt him. He trusts that people will take care of him, but he is still scared of individual contact and would prefer to watch from a distance, but even that is fading. Right now he’s sitting on my monitor, watching me type, singing softly to me, puffed up and content. I would say that we saved him, but it was more like he saved himself and we were just at the right place and the right time. These little guys are way smarter than we give them credit for!