Parrot Health and Happiness
(A.K.A. The Budgie or Parakeet)
General Info: This cute little parrot is one of the most popular of all captive birds here in the United States because of it's small size and easy upkeep. It's a great bird for first time parrot owners. Although it is well known as a parakeet or budgie, the bird is actually called a budgerigar (budgie is just for short, and the name parakeet is really a name that includes a wide variety of small parrot species). This bird is native to central Australia, living in terrains that include wooded areas, dessert, and scrub. The wild variety are a lovely green and yellow color with a light tan beak. Captivity and a whole lot of selective breeding has produced a whole rainbow of colors in these birds, including light-blue, white, and yellow. There are also two distinct types of budgies: The American budgie and the English budgie. The English budgie differs from the American budgie in overall size. The English budgie is a few inches larger. In addition, the English variety has a very distinct "puffy" appearance to the feathers that surround the beak (almost as if the English budgie is sporting a beard!).
Size: They are small birds under 10 inches in length. The average length is about 8 inches.
Lifespan: These birds typically live about 8 years, but have been know to live up to 15-20 years. Of course, a happy bird on an nutritious diet will have a greater chance at a long life.
Dietary Needs: All too often, budgies suffer from malnutrition. This is in large part because first time owners will be told that a simple seed diet is adequate for their budgie and they will not deviate from this seed-only advice. Seeds, high in fat and low (or even lacking) in many essential nutrients cause many health problems. A budgie will thrive on a diet of a MIXTURE of seeds, pellet, fresh fruits and veggies, and sprouts. Although fresh fruits are great as a snack every once in a while, veggies, especially those that are dark green in color, are fantastic additions to your birds diet. An example would be fresh spinach leaves (be sure to take out any uneaten fresh veggies or fruit after a few hours as they can spoil quickly. Spoiled food may cause illness in your bird). Have fun with variety. Who knows? Perhaps you will start to experiment with different types of fresh fruits and vegetables right along with your bird. Be adventurous!
Cage Size: For a single parakeet: no smaller than 18 x 18 inch cage. However the larger the better. They need 1/2 inch bar spacing.
For two or more birds we suggest a 30 inch wide cage or larger. They need lots of branches to perch on and a wide variety of toys for mental stimulation
Train-ability: These intelligent parrots are among the top 3 "talking" species of birds (the other 2 are the African Grey and the Yellow-headed Amazon). Usually, it is the male budgie that learns to mimic human words (you can tell which bird is a male by the blue cere. The cere is the area on the birds beak that contains the nostrils. The cere in females is brown). Their tiny little voices sometimes make it hard to decipher what is being said, but they are capable of repeating words that are taught to them. Budgies are very friendly and make great pets. Sometimes you must tame your bird to make them friendly toward you. This can be done by simply spending a lot of time with your bird for the first two weeks of his or her life with you (for example: 4 or so hours a day of holding, talking to, or interacting with your bird in any way). If you want to minimize the need to tame your bird, you can get a bird that is very young and hand-raised. In my personal opinion, the hand-raised birds are the very best for use as pets.
Health concerns: Watch your bird closely for health problems. Illness in birds is very serious by the time a problem is noticeable to you. This is because birds developed in instinct, in the wild, to hide their illnesses because predators tend to target birds that show illness as they are the easiest to capture. Common diseases/illnesses that budgies suffer from are tumors, diabetes, malnutrition, gout, mite infestations, polyoma and liver disease. "Scaly face", caused by mites, seems to be the most common.
Written by: Arianna Pleitez
|THIS MONTH IN AVIAN HEALTH:
For the love of your bird:
Feather Picking in Parrots
Feather picking in parrots is a bothersome habit, both for the bird and for the owner(s) of the bird. One of the most sought after qualities in a pet bird is beauty. Feather picking, of course, will severely demean the appearance of the bird with the problem. Unfortunately, feather picking can be an extremely difficult problem to fix. There is an enormous list of reasons that birds pick and mutilate their feathers. Some pick because of a specific physical problem or a list of physical problems. A few examples would be a painful bug bite or mite infestation. Or perhaps the bird is not ingesting adequate amounts of certain vitamins and minerals. Other birds pick because of environmental problems. This could include not getting enough sunlight or even having too much noise pollution (loud or annoying noises).
A good first step in fixing a feather plucking problem is to assess the birds surroundings from the time it wakes up one morning all the way until it wakes up the next morning. Is there a lot of noise that may irritate the bird? Does the bird get adequate sunlight everyday? Is anyone bothering or scaring the bird, such as a child or even another family pet? Does the bird get enough daily exercise. Does the bird get enough daily attention? Are there enough toys for the bird? Is the bird's cage clean (this includes fresh water and food offered daily)? If the birds surroundings seem stress free, the next step is to take the bird to the veterinarian for a full workup to check overall health.
If the problem was either environmental or physical and was fixed accordingly, the bird may very well continue feather picking. This is usually the most frustrating part of stopping this annoying habit. Often, birds become habitual feather mutilators even after the problem that initially started the plucking is remedied, much like when humans develop habits of biting their fingernails or popping their knuckles. I have read a lot about this, and most people, including veterinarians, say to simply distract the bird. This "fix" can also prove difficult because it may very well make the problem worse because your bird may figure out that they get attention payed to them if they pick their feathers. In the world of psychology, this is called negative reinforcement. Your bird may learn to pick its feathers when it wants attention. Another approach, instead of the distraction approach, is the ignore approach, in which you never acknowledge your bird while it is feather plucking. Another approach is for sensory overload in the form of a large array of new toys switched out every few days so as to, hopefully, distract the bird for long enough (a few weeks) that it may forget the miserable habit of feather plucking. None of these approaches are fool proof ways to stop feather plucking and many birds still feather pick no matter what their owners do.
Some owners find that, despite trying "every trick in the book", their bird continues to feather pick. This is unfortunate, but not uncommon. The good thing about feather plucking is, it's rarely severe enough to cause extreme damage. In other words, your bird will likely not pluck to the point of injury to skin or bone. So, if you try everything and still your bird plucks its feathers out, you can continue to try to fix the problem, but the worst side effect you'll have to deal with is that of a partially bald bird.
Written by: Arianna Pleitez
QPS is a registered 501(c)3 non profit organization for by Quaker Parakeet owners, breeders and conservationists committed to promoting national interest and understanding of Quakers.
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