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Parrot Exercise

Expert Question

Dear EB, I have a Jardines parrot and a Senegal. They are both about 7 months old. My Jardines doesn’t fly as much as my Senegal (don’t know if this is a special issue- I live in a flat). When she does fly around she seems to tire more quickly than my Sennie and pants if they have been going after flying around for a few minutes. The panting only lasts for a few of seconds. My Sennie also pants as well but this is only after going absolutely ballistic. Is this normal and how can I get them to do more exercise.

Regards, Lee

Expert Answer

Dear Lee, First of all congratulations for allowing your parrots to retain their wing feathers and fly around!

More and more conscientious pet bird owners are discovering the joy (and convenience) of having flighted psittacines in the home.

It is usual that the larger the parrot, the more it will have to work and hence tire when flying inside a house. This explains why the Jardine’s pants more strongly than the Senegal after flight. Just maneuvering indoors is much more difficult for a larger bird. In an outside or wild situation, the Jardine’s would be flapping briskly and flying very long distances in order to keep fit. This is not possible indoors.
The way I have solved this problem with many of my flighted indoor pets is to trim the first two narrow strong ribbed primary flight feathers at the front of the wing. This effectively cuts down the flight capacity for speed by about 15% depending upon species and athleticism of the parrot; but it does not seriously affect maneuverability. The pet will then begin to flap more exuberantly to accomplish the same flight skills it is used to and will begin getting stronger and making up the 15% difference. The choice can then be made whether to take a third feather or part of the third outermost feather—something we do not always do.
Pay particular attention to the speed and noise of your Jardine’s flight as that will tell you how much effort he or she is expending. As Jardine’s are stocky psittacines, they do need more primaries to get around easily—than say a cockatiel or conure. So it would be most prudent to trim only one of the first two feathers, on both wings the same of course, at a time; then wait a week and do the second.

Also it would be well to take the time to examine your feeding regimen. Most of us overfeed our parrots and keep them 5-10% overweight all the time—especially in the overheating of winter homes. Cut back the fat and heavy carbs in a few food items and replace it with sprouted pulses, fruit pips like pomegranate, melon, papaya, passion fruit, fig, etc. and your bird will trim down accordingly.

Good luck.
Aloha, EB

EB Cravens
About EB Cravens

“If we TRULY believe our captive-raised hookbills are important to world parrot conservation, we must work ceaselessly to ensure that these same psittacines retain as much of their wild instinctual behavior as is possible,” affirms avicultural writer and hobby breeder EB Cravens, from his small organic farm on the slopes of the Big Island Hawaii.

“Our goal is to birth and raise only a few baby parrots who know that they are parrots, but choose to befriend humans, because humans are nice to them… feed them… and are fun to be with!”

EB has bred, trained, raised, kept and rehabilitated more than 75 species of psittacines during the past twenty plus years both at his home and while managing the notable exotic bird shoppe, Feathered Friends of Santa Fe, New Mexico. His emphasis on natural environments for birds, the urging of babies to fully fledge during the extended weaning process, and the leaving of chicks for many weeks inside the nest box with their parents in order that they may learn the many intangibles of their species, have succeeded in changing for the better the lives of so many captive parrots.

A science writer by training, he was for years a regular contributor for AFA’s Watchbird Magazine and the Companion Parrot Quarterly. EB currently writes a monthly column entitled “The Complete Psittacine” in PARROTS Magazine out of England; and another, “The Hookbill Hobbyist” down under in the well-regarded Australian Birdkeeper. His monthly series of articles “Birdkeeping Naturally,” is sent out to bird clubs and individuals around the U.S.

“As devastating pressures continue upon avian species in the wilds,” he says, “it is critical that those keeping birds in captivity do so with responsibility and foresight.”