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Category: Parrot Care

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I live in Northern Virginia with 2 macaws, I'd like to know what type of wood from trees in my yard etc I can give to my birds. Can I just bring them in from outside or do I have to do something to make them safe? I have multiple trees (pines, oak, poplar) in my yard and 2 parrots that would LOVE to snack on the wood. Thanks, BJ

Answered by E.B. Cravens:

Dear BJ...

I remember a time when I was travelling through Virgina and stopped to visit a friend who had several pet caiques. One morning I went outside for a stroll around his neighborhood, and came back with an armload of chewable boughs and greenery for his parrots.

There were many trees and other plants available: maples, beech, oak with tiny acorns, fruit trees of many sorts in early spring bud, elm, poplar, even some flowering bushes like quince, lilac, forsythia, roses, and the like. Psittacines can also chew on conifers--pine, spruce, fir, juniper, tamarack, etc. though we only utilize these for birds in the winter months when deciduous leaves have wilted and fallen. If you go online and google safe plants for parrots you will find a host of other things to offer your macaws. The most nutritious portions of greenery are the new growth buds--sepioles and petioles and often hookbills will spend hours removing each leaf or flower, eating the succulent attachment node and moving on to the next. We also like to give our birds flowers such as snapdragons, geraniums, pansies, asters, chrysanthemum, orchids, marigolds and other safe blooms. If you have berry bushes psittacines often like the berries at the tart stage. Small crabapples and thronapples are the same. Tannins appeal to most parrots and offer gastro and other health benefits, as does the often mineral rich bark form limbs. I personally keep a woodpile of older dry branches that my parrots love to tear into. It can make a mess in the house, but I feel it is much more interesting and healthy than finished lumber and wood.

Safety wise, avoid plants with milky sap, Hawaiian type tropical plants such as oleander and dieffenbachia, magnolia. There are lots of toxic plant lists online also though some are designed for people and are not up to date about parrots. If you wish to have an indoor plant for your birds, though of course macaws can destroy things rather quickly, I would recommend a bamboo or a Ficus benjamina. We also like to cut a large branch and fasten it into a Christmas tree stand for our birds to climb and chew on throughout the year.

You can rinse off outdoor greenery in the shower or with an outdoor hose, but by and large clean branches and plants away from roadside or neighboring spray areas are chemical free and perfectly fine for our birds.

Cheers, EB

filed under: Parrot Care

Hello Phoebe, Three years ago my wife and I adopted a 13 yr old yellow-headed amazon. The bird was originally wild-caught. His first owner had died, and his children sold his two (bonded) parrots to a store,which sold them separately. His partner was already gone when we found our Bobo. In spite of all that he has been through he has become a happy & healthy member of our family. We have no other birds. He is bonded to me but tolerates my wife as a caregiver & playmate. Because of all he has been through-(most of which we'll never know, for instance, he has a big scar on his face)-we have been hesitant to go on vacation. If we drop him at a board-and-care facility he'll probably think he's been abandoned again. Do you have any suggestions for how we might someday handle this? I have one other minor concern: sometimes he eats his poop; Is this a sign of some sort of nutritional deficiency? I would very much appreciate any help you could give me.
Thanks, Joel

Answered by Phoebe Green Linden:

Hi Joel, Thanks for writing about your mature Amazon, Bobo. It's a great story of a parrot losing his home, then finding one with you!

The last bit you write, about him eating his feces, is a red flag for me and I want to encourage you to have him thoroughly checked out by an avian veterinarian as soon as you can. The vet can run tests for bacteria and advise you about nutrition. Given his history, I think a full blood panel plus protein electrophoresis would be prudent, or as your vet advises.

If it turns out Bobo is perfectly healthy, by the end of the tests, you'll have a good normal panel against which to compare any future examinations. So, get him in for a check-up!

Getting to know your avian vet is also a great way to get to know qualified parrot pet sitters in your area.

Chances are, someone at your avian vet's office will either be a parrot sitter or can recommend one. Or perhaps the veterinarian's office also includes a boarding facility which is usually a last resort in my book (mainly because my parrots are accustomed to being together as a large flock), but could be good if Bobo is particularly comfortable around other birds. While he's at the vet, watch how he reacts to other parrots. Amazons are usually forthright about their feelings, so he'll let you know. If he seems nervous, agitated or aggressive when he sees other birds, you'll know right away that an in-home sitter is best for him.

Together, you'll decide which is best for Bobo: if you decide with an in-home sitter, find someone who will visit your home in advance and get to know you and Bobo and Bobo's routine. Then you'll feel more comfortable going on vacation.

Considering all that he's been through and his relative ease now, he'll most likely be OK with an absence, especially if the parrot sitter resembles you, he likes the sitter and Bobo's routine stays pretty much the way he likes it. You might also consider finding a parrot sitter who will come to your home twice a day, or even two sitters, one for morning and one for evening, depending on what would feel normal to Bobo. Some sitters even like to house-sit (my favorite kind!) and can be depended upon to bring in mail, water plants and generally look after the house.

All that said, sometimes the best parrot sitters are people with no parrot experience but an eager open mind who Bobo likes and who will listen to you and do everything you say. So, if you know someone who is an "animal person" who's open to learning about Bobo, and who Bobo likes, try them out for a short time (perhaps an over-night visit at first) and see how it goes.

Because Amazons are super smart, tell him in advance that you'll be going away, and reassure him that you'll be coming home. Starting now, when you go out -- like to the grocery store or dinner or whatever -- establish a bye-bye and a hello routine. Use it consistently, so he gets accustomed to your leaving for various lengths of time, but always returning. A simple heartfelt greeting upon return usually suffices.

The parrots at my house know how to count, so together we count out the number of days I'll be gone -- I even point it out on a calendar -- and they watch intently. Even if they don't actually count the days I'm gone, the exercise makes me feel better. Plus, we've never had anyone be mad at us when we return. Oh yes, and they love our bird sitters, too, mainly because the birds sitters love them.

Another thing to help your sitter is to be sure s/he knows Bobo's favorite treats and has ample supply of them. Favorite foods, toys and lots of chewing materials: everything that brings trills of joy to Bobo should be provided for him during your absence.

The best strategy for getting him ready for your vacation is to keep up the good work of making him feel valued and secure in your home. Now that he's been with you 3 years, he has a pretty good idea of your constancy and dependability, so you've laid a solid foundation.

If circumstances force you to use a board-and-care facility, be sure your thoroughly check it out in advance. Ask around -- sometimes dog and cat places know about good parrot places. Ask if the parrots who board there are vet checked and avoid those places that take in un-checked birds. Visit unexpectedly, in the morning during feeding and cleaning time, for example. Make an appointment to see the back rooms and where the parrots sleep, not just the public areas. Avoid holidays and long weekends when lots of people travel.

Again, thanks for giving Bobo a good home, thanks for supporting the World Parrot Trust, and have a great time on your vacation!

All best,
Phoebe Linden
Santa Barbara CA

filed under: Parrot Care

Dear Phoebe, I have two questions. Firstly I have a Hahn's macaw (Einstein) and a Sun Conure (Gizmo), I stopped clipping their wings about a year ago. Gizmo doesn’t fly much at all, but Einstein is becoming very handy with his wings and is able to maneuver around the house very well. The problem is about a week ago an Ibis flew past a window and frightened them, in a panic Einstein flew across the room so fast that he flew into the opposite wall (I would never have believed a parrot could fly so fast if I hadn't seen it myself), luckily he was not injured, but I am concerned that if it happens again we may not be so lucky.

Is there a way to clip his wings to reduce his speed without having a huge effect on his maneuverability, or is there something else I could try to slow him down? I don’t want to deprive him of flight unless it is absolutely necessary for his safety (and as soon as money allows I will be building an outdoor flight about 3m x 9m).

Second question. PTFE fumes. Are they only a problem with Teflon and similar coatings or are enamel and ceramic coatings also a problem? I recently found a 'green pan' that is ceramic coated and claims 'no PTFE or PFOA' and 'no toxic fumes', is this safe for birds, or is it better just to stick to good old stainless steel?

Thanks, Bruce Wilson

Answered by Phoebe Green Linden:

Hi Bruce, We are so excited to get in on the flight action with you, Gizmo and Einstein. Bonnet (one of my wonderful avian companions) and I are also amidst flight explorations and we, like you, have had our share of lucky-and-we-don’t-want-to-push-it experiences with parrots in flight in the house. So, we're with you and we'll be ready to fly in a moment.

First, good question on the pans. In order to keep it simple, I stay with stainless and well-seasoned cast iron pieces, then abide by simple reminders: use veggies and olive oil, avoid overcooking, and ventilate for clean cooking and air that's parrot-healthy.

Our first question is for Gizmo, as in what's up with the not flying very much, buddy? We've seen your cousins zoom around like gleaming banners crossing paths in mid-air and landing fast in order to turn tummy to sky for Sun Conuring. Bruce, as the human, you probably need to check in with Giz to see what kind of physical activities he’d like to check out to further his psittacine-physicality. Maybe Gizmo likes stretching – what is his full range of motion? – or big flapping hops from this cool place to a new cool parrot place. Bonnet says, think flock habitat expansion, Bruce – parrots love habitat. Set up a great place for Gizmo to do his wing-beats and let’s see what happens.

Einstein is indeed a genius and you must be super excited to be sharing space and consciousness with such an amazing parrot. Do you know that “Hanh's” stands for “His Honor”? I just made that up, but it seems right, doesn't it? Anyway, an Ibis flying across one's fields of vision is a flap-worthy event, so Einstein was acting like a parrot when he took off in response. The wall is the problem, not Einstein's wings. Bonnet wants to know, will you knock out the wall when you build the aviary?

In the meantime, survey the habitat as if from Einstein's point of view, taking in to consideration the picture window and its often still-except-when-moving, sometimes surprising, views. As you see what he sees, wait a while, fit into that habitat, relax and try it on for size, Hahn's size. Some changes to Einstein and Gizmo’s environments will be obvious, and those you should make right away. Others will reveal themselves over time and yet others will be inspired by their increasing athleticism.

Bonnet and I also enjoy quiet moments together in front of windows especially when she gets to show me something humans might otherwise miss. You and Einstein can together experience lots of different interesting views, so put some time into looking.

Additionally, create more and more suitable parrot-specific landing places for your budding athletes. Table-top perches, a weighted basket on top of the refrigerator, a trusty chair back – all are great. Bolt-worthy events will happen. When you and your parrots are all comfortable that there’s a variety of safe landing spaces that all competently access, flight is no longer twisted with fright.
Bruce, have you watched PollyVision with your parrots? If not, we recommend it!! Here we see parrots really flying and acting like parrots and here we get our best decorating tips, too.

All best, Phoebe and Bonnet

filed under: Parrot Care

My Question: have 8 rescue Greys in a large outdoor aviary. All get on very well, and two pairs are very bonded. to encourage breeding, what shape should nest boxes be, what nesting materials are needed and how does mating take place - we had a pair in an existing nest box yesterday, for two pairs, who seemed to be mating. Thank you.

Bettina Hickman

Answered by E.B. Cravens:

Dear Bettina, The short answer to your question is we would offer African greys a nesting box out of thick wood (not metal or plastic!) which was 8 inches by 10 inches interior floor size, 30 inches tall, 4 to 5 inch round opening at the top under a large overhanging roof board. It needs to be facing a private area so the hen and cock do not always have to be looking out of their box and seeing other greys interested. Food and water should be near at hand so the pair does not have to compete for nourishment or choose to eat and drink less because they do not want to leave their egg clutch and venture far.

Inside we place coarse wood chips (not sawdust) and a few chunks of bark and rotting log material for them to chew up, also a small green bough of eucalyptus, rosemary, etc. to deter bugs. Depth of chips is four inches to start, then they add to it usually by chewing.

The longer answer to your question would be "why are you breeding African greys" at all. As can be seen from your eight rescue Greys, there are so very many unwanted parrots of all kinds out there, and sometimes it seems best not to bring more babies into the world where good 'forever' homes are increasingly hard to find...

Do you have a plan for the chicks you might get? Is the space they are kept in large enough for three, four, six or more extra Greys? Are you making a decision to breed to sell or adopt out? How old are you and your family, and is everyone committed to long term care for the young parrots?

Now, I am not trying to be negative here. There are some fine ethical reasons for permitting a pair of African greys that wish to become sexual and have a family, go ahead and do so. But it can become complicated, certainly in a colony situation where all birds are not firmly bonded and paired up. In the wilds we know that greys nest in "communal" types of situations--but captive parrots can have issues about territory and baby noises coming from a box and extra food treats (pairs with babies being fed need four or five times the food that everyone else gets and it often needs to be special, i.e. premium greens, extra nuts and cooked beans and sprouted pulses, corn on the cob, pomegranate and fig seeds, soft food, etc.) Your situation may make it hard to provide extra nourishment to the pairs setting on eggs and feeding chicks without making other birds jealous or assertive.

There are also the serious questions of double and triple clutching breeding parrots. It is early in the season still. Do you plan to let the parents do the fledging and weaning, or take away babies for human feedings?

Anyway, I applaud your concern and the fact that you were willing to take on the care of eight needy, unwanted grey parrots. Just think carefully and proceed slowly with this next phase and realize there are many options, like hard boiling or addling the eggs and giving your pairs a chance to copulate and interfeed and set on eggs to term in a peaceful family pair way--without actually producing more captive Greys.

Good luck to you,
With aloha, EB Cravens

filed under: Parrot Care

Dear Mr. Cravens,
I have had my 7 year old Grey Sparkle for 2 years now. I re-homed her from a young couple who couldn't look after her and their 2 children at the same time. Sparkle will not bathe. She is terrified of bathes and spraying. I suspect spraying was used as a punishment because the previous owners have been less than helpful when ask about Sparkle bathing. I have tried allowing her to take a bath at her leisure. I have tried taking her into the shower with me to no avail. I have even tried giving her leaves of lettuce with lots of water on it and she will have nothing to do with it.

She keeps her skin in great shape through preening and her skin is not dry. I just worry she needs a bath. I am at ropes end on this one. Does anyone have any ideas that might help Sparkle get over her fear of baths? Any help at all would be appreciated.

Rodney J. Semones

Answered by E.B. Cravens:

Dear Rodney, It has been my experience that many African parrots will not bathe in their water dish and if not trained young, can be afraid of hoses or spray bottles. Your lettuce leaves attempt was on the right track, but a more positive way to bring out your Grey's instincts would be to get a good sized, thick leafy bough of some soft-leaved tree--not oak for example, but more elm or poplar or plum. When she is accustomed to perching in the branches or being near them on her perch, get a spray bottle filled with warm water and spray the leaves near her but not on her. Concentrate on feet level and spraying a VERY LIGHT mist up in the air to sprinkle down on the leaves and a bit on her head and back. Make imitations of her most joyous sounds while you are doing it and go about it very patiently. If she backs off, stop getting her misted and just do the leaves until they are soaked. Then go away and let her react. This procedure has coaxed many of my timid bathers to begin romping through the wet leaves on their own.

If you take her into the shower, just put her up on a wet stable towel on the shower curtain pole and let her watch you and soak in the damp warm air and the humidity--even that is good for her. She may eventually become comfortable enough that you could gently splash her a bit and get her used to water as nothing to fear. Again choose a habitual joy "shower noise" to utter to show this is supposed to be fun!

Good luck and keep us posted on her progress.

filed under: Parrot Care

hi my name is melanie and i live in the algarve in portugal i have rehomed
an amazon who is about 30yrs old he lives in the avairy with my macaw and
my newley rehomed cockatoo. the avairy is a steel framed structure built
around a tree and the flight is about 9 metres long so they have a lot of
space the amazon has been treated bad in the past and hates humans when i
walk into the avairy he flies and attacks me i have overcome this by
training him to fly into a cage when i enter it has been a great result.
the birds love to be in the sunshine play and swing on the ropes and have
great fun together. this morning the amazon attacktd the cockatoo because
he couldnt attack me it was bad i had to separate them my cockatoo is the
sweetest bird and sometimes seems vunerable i have another avairy which is
12ft long and i can put the amazon in there but i am worried he will be
alone and miss out on the fun i want to do what s best for them all do you
have any advice for me thankyou mel

Answered by Steve Martin & Staff:

Hello Melanie! My name is Chris Jenkins, and I am one of the Supervisors with Natural Encounters, Inc. I recently received your question about your new Amazon and his interaction with your other birds, and I’d be happy to offer my advice.

First off, I’d like to thank you for seeking advice on the care of your companion parrots. It sounds like you have several large and enriching enclosures for your birds, and the fact that you are looking to do what's best for all your parrots in regards to the aggression that you’ve seen shows that you are a caring and responsible companion parrot owner.

The kind of aggression that you’ve described from your Amazon is what is known as “redirected aggression.” An animal cannot take out its aggression on the target of its frustration (you), and therefore redirects it to another object in its environment (your cockatoo). I’m happy to hear that you separated the birds, as we’ve found that a bird that practices aggression only gets better at it, and it’s possible that the aggression between the Amazon and the cockatoo may have just gotten worse and worse.

As for what is best for all of your birds, you need to take into consideration both their health and their safety. From a safety standpoint, I think it is probably best to keep your Amazon separated from the other birds at this point. Even though they are in a very large aviary, if the Amazon decides to pursue aggressive behaviors towards your other birds, they only have so much room until they cannot avoid it any longer. This may in turn lead to defensive aggression on the part of your other birds, and you may soon find yourself with three aggressive birds instead of one!

As for the mental wellbeing of your birds, I think all three would be just fine with the Amazon separated from the other two. At 12 feet in length, this second aviary that you have is far larger than the enclosures that most companion parrot owners are able to provide for their birds, and if it is filled with toys, perches, and other enrichment items, then your Amazon’s new environment should provide a fun and stimulating environment. Many people think that companion parrots have to be housed in pairs or groups for them to be happy, but some parrots prefer to have an environment that is all their own over which they have control and free reign. Keeping your Amazon in this new, enriching environment also has the added benefit of keeping your cockatoo and macaw in a separate environment where they feel safe, happy, and secure, which I know is of equal concern to you as well. This may be more comfortable for the two of them as parrots generally pair off when in groups, thus creating a situation where your Amazon might be the “odd man out.”

The biggest thing that I think will ultimately end up benefiting all the parrots you own is to try to build a more positive relationship between yourself and your Amazon parrot. No matter how aversive the bird’s relationship with humans has been in the past, each and every day is a chance for him to start over, because animals live in the here and now. If you have taught your Amazon to fly into a separate cage so that you can enter his enclosure, then you’ve already proven that you are a skillful trainer, and I would utilize this skill to try to build up your history of positive interactions with your Amazon outside of his cage. By offering him treats and attention from outside of his cage when he is playing, sitting calmly, or displaying other desirable behaviors, you strengthen the positive bond between the bird and yourself. A good way to go about this is to take whatever your Amazon’s favorite treat is (maybe a particular seed, nut, or type of fruit) and save it so that he only gets it from you, given by hand either to him or into a bowl in his cage, when you want to reinforce him for performing behaviors that you like – making sure this treat is something he doesn’t get everyday along with the rest of his diet gives that treat special value, and will help your bird to more quickly the distinguish the behaviors that you like from anything else he might be doing. When he realizes what it is that he has to do to get this favored item, chances are you’ll start seeing these desirable behaviors a lot more frequently!

Another great way to strengthen this bond is to teach your bird other behaviors from outside of his cage. Training behaviors from outside the cage (or, in this case, from outside the aviary) is one of the best ways that you can both mentally stimulate and increase your positive history with your bird, and what you can train him is only limited by the bird’s physical capabilities and your own imagination. You might want to consider training him behaviors that will help you to be able to work with and manage your birds’ care in the future, such as being able to call him to different perches around the aviary or to “station” (what we call it when we teach an animal to sit/hold still in a particular place and stay there) on a particular perch where you’d like him to be. The possibilities really are limitless!

At the same time that you are working to reinforce behaviors from your Amazon that you like, you should try to take yourself out of his environment if he is exhibiting undesirable behaviors such as screaming, biting, or lunging at the cage walls, or if he is displaying body language that suggests that he is uncomfortable with your presence. Some signs of an uncomfortable Amazon that we’ve seen in the past include slicked down body feathers, alarm calling, pupils that are rapidly expanding and contracting, and tail feathers that are spread out in the shape of a fan. If your bird begins to display these behaviors when you approach his aviary, he is uncomfortable with having you approach him at that time, and you should simply walk away and try again later.

Over time, your positive interactions with your bird may lead to a relationship that might allow you to go into the Amazon’s aviary without having to have him fly into a separate cage first. Given time, you may even be able to try to reintroduce your Amazon to the larger aviary, perhaps by first letting him spend time (maybe in a smaller cage, if you have one) just outside the large aviary to see how the birds all react to each other. At the same time that you are working on teaching your Amazon new behaviors in his enclosure, it may also be beneficial for you to work on training your cockatoo and macaw to “station” on different perches in their aviary as well. Giving them a job to do will give them something to focus on other than the Amazon, and you might even consider training the two of them to fly into different cages within their enclosure so that you can bring your Amazon into the larger aviary alone and train him to station on his own perch as well. Strong stationing behaviors are important for the management of animals in groups, and can help you to calm things down if you see aggression flare up amongst them in the future. Note that it is important during this process to notice and be ready to avoid any patterns that you see amongst your birds that might potentially lead to aggressive behavior, and to try to notice whether that aggression is something that only occurs when you are around the birds. If the cause of the aggression between your birds was the relationship you have with your Amazon, then first building a strong, positive relationship with that bird will be a huge first step towards your three birds having strong, positive, and rewarding bonds between the three of them.

We hope that your relationship with your birds continues to grow, and that the advice we’ve provided helps to build your levels of skill, sensitivity, and enjoyment of your birds for many years to come. If you are interested in learning more about the care and behavior of companion parrots, please check out our website at, which features a variety of papers and articles on the training, enrichment, and behavior of companion parrots. If you are interested in a more hands-on approach to learning about the care, training, and enrichment of your parrots, you may also want to consider attending one of our Companion Parrot Owner Workshops. Held at the Natural Encounters Training Facility in Winter Haven, FL, this 6-day lecture and hands-on training workshop teaches the principals and applications of the art and science of using positive reinforcement techniques in working with companion parrots. Our president, Steve Martin, teaches the lecture portion of the workshop himself, while outside the classroom participants work with our Senior Trainers and other parrot owners to apply the information covered to a wide variety of parrot species. Space in these workshops is limited and they usually fill to capacity quite quickly. More information can be found on our website,, or by calling 407-938-0847.

Best of luck, and we look forward to hearing about your future successes!


Chris Jenkins
Natural Encounters, Inc

filed under: Parrot Care

My 6 year old African Grey seems to have a problem with growing her flight feathers on one wing. When I rehomed her 2 years ago she had all her primaries on the left wing and none on the right. Her first owner informed me that she played so hard that she frequently knocked out the primaries on this wing. At her first vet visit (a few days after rehoming) my vet advised to clip the left wing to keep her balanced while the right wing grew in. Since then all her primaries are back on the left wing and the primaries on the right wing have attempted to grow in 4-5 times, only to be knocked out when playing with her toys and wiping out or spooking and flapping to the ground. I have noticed that the primaries (especially the first two) on the right wing appear ragged when growing in compared to how the left ones come in. Marnie eats a balanced diet considered excellent by my vet which includes Harrisons pellets, fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, a cage mix free of sunflower and peanuts (avian naturals) and sprouts. All of these are a combination of dried, cooked and fresh. 95% of what she eats is Organic and that which is not is pesticide, preservative etc free. She is offered a herb mix (twin beaks aviaries) free fed and a supplement of OptOmega recommended by my vet. She get everything except her cooked foods via foraging toys which she loves using. She averages 4-12 hours out of the cage on a large playscape every day. Her cage is 28"X42"X66" with a variety of toys and perches. Could you please offer any advice as to how to help her grow in her right primaries without breaking them and have them grow in healthy so that she may finally regain the flight that she so desperately wants?

Answered by Ellen K. Cook, D.V.M.:

First, I must commend you for rehoming Marnie; I know that rehomed parrots take lots of effort, but they repay that many times over! It appears that you are giving Marnie a great diet and a wonderful environment.

Unfortunately, Marnie's situation with breaking blood feathers is not an unusual one in clipped birds when the primaries (the first ten wing feathers) grow out. Normally, primaries usually molt and regrow one at a time; as the new feather regrows, it is supported and protected by the older, mature primary feathers on either side.

There are a couple of things I would recommend to help Marnie:

1. Keep her left wing trimmed while her right wing feathers grow in to keep her more balanced. This may take a year or more, as feathers normally molt every two years.

2. Keep her perches low in her cage and playstand, pad the floor with towels or blankets and put her toys downm low, so that if she does fall, she won;'t go far.

It takes time to resolve this kind of problem, but our parrots will be with us for many, many years, so a year is not that long in the scheme of things. Keep up the good work you have already begun, persistence will pay off!

filed under: Parrot Care

My Question:
I bought a pair of rosellas in November 2007. I realised at the time that one of them (the male) had sore feet but I didn't realise the severity of it until I got home. The poor bird had 2 very very sore feet, so sore in fact that he was barely able to perch and was spending most of his time resting his body in the food dish so that he wouldn't have to put pressure on his feet.

Previously to this experience two of my own rosellas (pale-headed) had suffered sore feet but I spent weeks treating them with antibiotic and antiseptic cream and managed to cure them. Obviously I discovered the feet in the early stages.

I have been treating this poor bird for six months now and his feet are still not better. They are not nearly as sore and lumpy as they were and he is not in as much pain but something else is needed and I would be grateful if someone couldn't enlighten me as to what is used for pododermatis in birds. The poor bird is so stressed from being picked up 3-4 times per week. I have done a lot of research and have found treatments for rats and other rodents but am afraid that the creams used would not be safe for birds.

I have gone to a few small animal vets for advice but none of them are avian trained and are unable to help me. We have no avian vets whatsoever in the republic of Cyprus.

Would be so grateful for advice.

Gemma Ralph

Answered by Ellen K. Cook, D.V.M.:

Hi Gemma, Pododermatitis can be very difficult to treat. The main problem is that one of the criteria of treatment is to get the bird's weight off his feet, an impossible task for an animal who spends most of his time on his feet! One of the best things you can do for your rosella is to provide clean, soft, padded surfaces for him to perch. The only ointment I recommend using on birds is Silvadene; place a thin layer on any open sores on the feet daily.

There are many various causes for sore feet in parrots and it is impossible to diagnose and prescribe treatment without actually "laying hands" on the bird. While small animal veterinarians may not be skilled at treating birds, they are skilled in the art of practicing medicine. A physical examination has the same elements whether you are dealing with a Rosella or a Rottweiler. Would your small animal veterinarians be willing to examine your bird and consult with an avian veterinarian via phone or email? That would be the best thing you could do. Good luck!

filed under: Parrot Care

Dear EB,
I have a common Indian parrot and unfotunately the seller has clipped it's wings. I want to know as to how long it will take for its wings to regrow ie the centre wing span. Daily i take it out of the cage to give it flying lessons but am not sure when it would be able to fly. Presently it flies about 8 to 10 yds only.
Ranjan Bakshi

Answered by E.B. Cravens:

Ranjan, Normally an Indian parakeet will moult out its primary wing feathers once a year--if it is in good health. That means the promptness of your parrot growing in new feathers depends upon when they were trimmed by the previous owners. Look for the new flight primaries to begin erupting shortly after you see old large feathers being dropped by the bird. When the new feathers are growing, the shafts will be full of blood, so be careful your parrot does not crash land too hard when it is exercising in its short flights.

filed under: Parrot Care

Hi EB, A while ago, you asked if my Hawkheaded parrot is OK sharing the indoor sunroom with our 6 other companion parrots. In this room we have 3 amazons, a galah, a vos eclectus, and our Alexandrine, Hedda Pearl, who has survived many strokes but shows the signs of her illness. She is otherwise abled.

Hawkeye is pretty good about being out in the room with everyone else out, too, but that situation can change in a flash, so she's only out when I'm home and attentive. EB, of all people, you know how wonderfully tuned-in these birds are, so please let me know how you'd handle. I'd love it if
Hawkeye could be out 24/7 in this specially-designed-for-them room, but if, say, a hawk flies overhead or there is another disturbance, Hawkeye takes off and generally, she flies to Hedda's cage. There Hedda quakes because she's seen/heard the scary thing, too, then she flaps in the non-rhythmic way of a stroke survivor, and Hawkeye flares.

When I get there -- because I am being attentive -- they both settle down; how quickly depends on whether or not the situation escalates.

So, can you hear and envision the bird room? The Amazons are all yelling their war cries, Hawkeye's war bonnet is fully flared, Hedda is going crooked, Nikki and Cella are trying to stay out of the way. Hawkeye will always come to me, of course, so that's good. But still, when it happens,
I'm always glad I'm close by.

So, it's a situation I invite only with supervision. Hawkeye is strong, Hedda is brave; accidents can be avoided, yes?

In your experience, any techniques to keep Hawkheads steady in a flock?



Answered by E.B. Cravens:

Hi Phoebe, Answering flock behavioral questions is, as always from afar, a bit touchy. It sounds like you have a somewhat stable situation with the seven birds in your bird room; and given the supervision they all get, it is working adequately.

More to the point, how would I set parameters to provide the hawk-head with unlimited time out of it's cage? Frankly, I see no way....

If my years with hawk-headed parrots taught me one thing, it was that these birds are extremely unpredictable. You have the good fortune to be keeping a single female instead of a male, which alleviates some of the aggression, but, basically once a hawk-head of either gender becomes mature, he or she becomes the most dominant psittacine in any room full of similar sized birds. Our former pets and breeders (we no longer keep hawk-headed parrots) were high strung and unsettling to our other parrots. They would attack and bite on slight provocation any intruder they perceived as a threat or rival--dogs, cats, humans included. A case in point was our male hand-fed, Chen, who would take a nut from April's hand, then a minute later, attack her hair and viciously bite the back of her neck if she was not wary.

Add to this the fact that you have an unwell parrot in the room with Hawkeye and it becomes doubly dangerous. Certain aggressive hookbills are agitated and prone to attack birds that are behaving erratically as stroke victims, begging hens of parakeet species, wet birds after a bath, etc.

I would surmise that Hawkeye grew up as a baby handfed with some of the birds in the birdroom already in your home, and that helps the environment by eliminating the "new intruder" concept, but nevertheless, I would hardly risk it to leave Hawkeye out unsupervised---to my way of thinking, it is a bit like keeping a pet chihuahua who has always been "good around the birds."

Besides, hawk-heads are most predictable around other hawk-heads and the way that they have been observed in the wilds suggests they are not at all the social type of pet most parrot lovers envision when they see the helpless little fledgling at the pet store. Hawkeye might be happiest getting "away" from the bird room for out-of-cage stimulation in an outdoor flight or garden greenhouse--that also might give the other six parrots a break too, as living with a hawkhead a few feet away can truly up the tension level in any mixed flock.

Good luck and keep up the great work smilesmile

filed under: Parrot Care

I found Sid elderly wild-caught and rescued Timneh African Grey parrot, dead in the nest box where he sleeps. Sid could not fly. HE has shared since last September the shed in which the nest box is placed with Vernon 6 year old Timneh cock. In the aviary are a pair of Amazons in a separate flight, one Timneh hen and 11 parakeets.

His head was gnawed on one side eye and his brain eaten and his windpipe exposed. I suspected a rat. After 2 and a half hours searching the perimeter of the aviary which consistes of 4 X 25 foot sections and 20 foot broad, we have found no holes nor are there any gaps visible in the roof wire. WE have had a recent infestation of field mice which has been controlled with poison in small bait boxes.

Since Sid's death 5 days ago I have put down 4 lots of rat poison but it has not been touched. The pest control officer visited today. I was disappointed that, like us, he could find no evidence of rats. He suggested a stoat or a weasel. There is a chicken house in the aviary with a dozen hens. They are untouched.

As he found no evidence of rat holes he put down no bait. He suggested that Vernon, Sid's companion had done this. I have had parakeets attack weak ones. And a Timneh has killed a weak Alexandrine hen. They have never eaten the corpse.

Sid was ailing. He was definately killed at night as I saw him alive at dusk. Vernon had no blood on his feathers and did not eat for a day or so. Has anyone any ideas or solutions? I am totally at a loss of what to do.


Answered by E.B. Cravens:

Dear Dot,

Not only is this a complex question, but 'tis one which I find quite difficult to answer from afar. Predators and rodent infestations in an outdoor aviary usually are best solved in situ where one can observe and deduce properly.

That said I have several conclusions about your state.

Normally it is best to have a post mortem on parrot mortalities where one is unsure if the bird was injured/killled by another occupant in the aviary. This is not always conclusive but may shed light on whether the psittacine died and then was chewed and mutilated by other avian occupants of the cage. Cause of death is why we call in an avian vet...

I have spent two plus decades of avicultural work with differing African species and never received input to the supposition that two male grey parrots in a large enclosure would fight to the death over one issue or another (no female being involved). I think you can rule that out...

The circumstances you describe indicate to me that Sid was obviously partially eaten by a carnivore/omnivore. The eating of the brain cavity is consistent with killing animals that are not overtly hungry but choose the gourmet portion of the animal they killed or they found freshly dead. Certainly weasels and stoats and mongoose and mink and such all fit into this category. Well fed varmints I suggest....

The rodent problem you acknowledge is probably not limited to mice. Large mice make their way into an aviary, and are followed in scent and tunnel by small rats which are in turn followed by larger rats that expand entrances minimally to allow passage. Furthermore, the photos you provided WPT about your aviary show that some wire walls are of hardware chicken wire and other openings have been stretched and expaned by beaks--even the smallest of these openings in the wire are sufficient to allow a rat entrance to the flight. Anywhere a rat can insert its head when hungry, it can enter by squeezing its body----one inch round wire openings are excellent for entrance.

Now I have not known rats to eat the brain of a victim. The ones I have experienced were more likely to chew the toes and eyes and extremeties of a bird. But overnight who knows what might happen if rats entered your flight where a grey parrot had died.

A flighted Grey parrot attacked by a predator such as a stoat or a weasel will usually put up a brief fight.. That means clumps of feathers and evidence of plumage disarray on the ground the next day or in the nestbox at night. The same with rats.

You did not say what kinds of parakeets so I am assuming Budgerigars. They are unlikely to chew a brain or windpipe. You also did not say whether the amazon parrots in the flight ever tried to usurp the nestbox. Keeping box sleeping species in an aviary along with the box---with Amazons or other nesting parrots when the days begin to lengthen and rains commence towards breeding is not a good idea.

On the other hand, normally rats in and around a flight will at least sample baits put out for control, so that indicates a larger predator.

Rats leave droppings which can be smelled and can be located around food areas. A rat does not kill a Grey; it may bite and bleed them, but it cannot take them down one on one unless the bird is weak and dying.

As for recommendations. I would say it is time to upgrade the wire and structure of your adoption facility. I personally doubt that a Timneh killed a weak Alexandrine unless there were a nestbox or a food station involved, but that and this recent death should be indicators of something amiss at the site. Having a chicken coop in a parrot aviary is old fashioned and also leads to pests.

The statement "Sid was ailing" leaves a lot to be interpreted. Perhaps he should have been in special care or at least isolated during the "ailing."

I am sorry for your loss and your consternation. April and I shall light a candle this week in memory.

Aloha, EB and April

filed under: Parrot Care

My Mother-in Law always clips one side of our Amazonian Brown parrot. She says it is to prevent it from flying away. Is this true? Should she stop doing this? Please reply as soon as possible. The parrot is in Trinidad and Tobago. Thank You.

Answered by Phoebe Green Linden:

Hi and thanks for writing World Parrot Trust.

We have seen many types of wing-clips over the years and this "one wing clip" was advocated in the 1970's, but no longer. In our experience, it's best to clip both wings symetrically. That is, take off an equal number and amount of feathers from each wing. This way, the bird can maintain her balance which is beneficial for flapping and climbing.

When parrots are given an adequate indoor play area, they can be successful with partial flight, or with full flight, depending on the skill and commitment of the caregivers involved, as well as how well the environment supports flighted parrots.

All best,
Phoebe Greene Linden
Santa Barbara Bird Farm
Santa Barbara CA USA

filed under: Parrot Care

My Question:
winter feeding of parakeets in unheated outdoor aviary.
I live in East Anglia. This winter seems especially harsh. The parakeets have sheltered spots but no indoor housing. 2 ringnecks & one alexandrine hen sleep in nest boxes. The others roost outside concealed in fir tree branches.
I feed fresh fruit, birdy bread cooked with vegetables and parakeet seed mix with little sunflowers. I put up wild bird fat balls as well. The parakeets are eating far more seed than in summer. It was suggested that I add more sunflower seed to the mix in cold weather.

Parrot Care
Requestor Name:
Dot Schwarz

Answered by Phoebe Green Linden:

Hi Dot,

Thanks for the question. Your parakeets sound healthy and well-acclimated to life outdoors. However, I understand that a particularly harsh winter is cuase for concern.

Yes, I'd add more sunflower and safflower to a "winter mix" and also supplement with fresh corn on the cob, slightly cooked. Our psittacula relish corn. They'll also eat other vegetables on cold mornings, especially when served warm -- yams, squash and yellow potatoes.

As always, keep a close eye on them and encourage their exercise to maintain good health.

All best,
Phoebe Linden
Santa Barbara Bird Farm

filed under: Parrot Care

I need some help in finding my parrot a new home in Scotland had him for 9
years. He has just starting pulling feathers out under wing. I had him at
vets, was only feeding sunflower seeds, he has been fine for years. He is now
getting fruit and veg and 10 days of medicine. I've been off work for 3 months,
going back in 4 weeks, don't want to leave him at home anymore. I love him but
need help for him to live happy ever after. ps he was a adult when I got
him from Glasgow Zoo so cant be sure how old he is. Any help would be great.

Answered by Susan Friedman & LLP Course Graduates:

Dear Colin,
I’ve asked Gay Noeth to respond to your question. Gay is an instructor for my Living and Learning with Parrots (LLP) course and related lists. She raises small numbers of parrots and disseminates excellent behavior and parrot care information (see Another WPT member in your region will contact you directly with information about re-homing your bird if that’s what you decide to do. Gay suggests that you rethink your choice. All best, S.

Hi Colin,
My name is Gay Noeth and I work with Dr. Friedman on her Parrot Behavior Analysis list. I see you have asked for help finding your parrot a new home. While that is really all you asked for help with, I would like to take this opportunity to mention a few other things.

We really don't know that much about feather destructive behaviors. Does it stem from an underlying medical cause? Does it stem from an underlying behavioral cause? An interesting discussion of the different correlates associated with feather picking can be found at

If you are interested in reconsidering re-homing your bird, here are some guiding questions: Are you thinking of re-homing your bird because you feel it is necessary for your situation or are you thinking of re-homing him because you believe that somehow you are failing the bird? Feather plucking shouldn't make us feel the bird needs a new home. Instead, it may be a call to action. Yes, you need to ensure all medical avenues have been explored, and you might need to take a closer look at the bird’s environment to reduce possible stressors (like noise and air quality), or to see if there is someway you can make your bird’s daily activities more enriching. There is a great little book written by Kris Porter that she donated to the Internet community called, "The Parrot Enrichment Activity Book." It can be found right here on the WPT website at On that same page are some great behavior articles that might help you learn more about your bird’s behavior.

You're already working on changing the diet and there is a good list at yahoo that can help you even more with that aspect of keeping your bird (see Many birds do just fine with their caregivers going to work. Even with all these possibilities accounted for, our birds may pluck. Accepting the situation may be all we can do for now. Bottom line, If you are doing all you can, that's the best you can offer, and that may well be enough from your bird’s point of view. A new home won't necessarily stop the plucking. It's even possible that the stress of the move could add to it! As you can see, I lean toward keeping birds in their homes whenever possible.

Good luck with your decision,

filed under: Parrot Care

We are thinking about building an outdoor aviary for our cockatoos and we live on the coast in Oregon. Is it warm enough to keep them outside year round?

Answered by Phoebe Green Linden:

Thanks for the question and for your intention to get your Cockatoos outside in the fresh air and light. The answer to this question will come through conversation, because the answer is determined by us finding out what's right for your birds.

Before you begin aviary construction, ask your avian veterinarian for an assessment of the physical condition of the birds. Examinations, histories and thorough work-ups will help determine their suitability for year-round outdoor activities. I ask my vet to run the same tests she would run on her own beloved birds if faced with the same decision. Then, we analyze the results together. I hope you have a similarly supportive avian vet or that you will cultivate such a relationship as soon as possible for the welfare of your parrots. Perhaps your avian vet already knows your birds and people who have outdoor flights in your area. If you can network with local aviculturists or companion caregivers, their trials and triumphs might be pertinent to the process you follow and the goals you achieve.

We have our Cockatoos outside all year around but central coast CA (3 miles up in the mountains from the coast) is different than Oregon. We enjoy watching them hang upside down in sunlight -- crests ablaze, wings out and flapping, they show us luminous colors in full movement. Our Cockatoos have aviaries that are covered on three sides in the back (4'), uncovered wire in the center (14') and roofed in the front (2') by the feeding stations. They are long-term outdoor birds in excellent health; daily watchful caregivers are alert to their feeding, preening and activity levels for all times of day and night; perches are correctly sized; enrichments are placed to encourage activity and also to allow for privacy if desired. However, we know that the art of aviary design continues, as does the science.

I knew my Galerita elenora Josserlynn was perfectly healthy when I put her in a flight about 10 years ago. A flyer since fledging, Joss immediately loved her new bigger space outside. Still, I checked her on her first cold nights night by touching the foot she perched on -- it was cold. Then I touched the foot her held against her downy chest -- warm as toast. She switched feet: the cold one went up, the warm one down. She was and is fine.

Katy McElroy lives in Ohio and keeps her Cockatoos in a combination indoor/outdoor aviary. The indoors is a cinderblock building heated to 33F in the winter, so the water bowls don't freeze. The doorway to outside is one missing brick. Through this small portal, the 'Toos enter gloriously large and well-perched outdoor flight. I've seen footage of her Cockatoos chewing away at ice-covered perches, and flying in the snow. Importantly, 1) these birds are in amazingly wonderful physical condition and 2) at all times they can choose whether to be inside or outside.

Steve, be sure your birds are physically capable of withstanding its fluctuations. Additionally, you'll want to watch them carefully so you can postiviely reinforce them when they explore their new habitat. Keep the final perch design flexible -- they will show and tell you what they like and how they like it. In an aviary, the larger the better, we can provision our birds with spaces that encourage positive activities such as foraging, swinging, flying, bathing, interaction, privacy and goofing off. An aviary safe from predators that provides escape from harsh weather, access to nice weather, a place where humans and parrots are comfortable as they flock together for meals, playtime, singing and hanging out -- this is the aviary to build.

All best,
Phoebe Greene Linden

filed under: Parrot Care

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