J.M., Naples, FL
Tags: bird Naples FL
Mar 18, 2013
You should retract your advice you gave to a reader regarding suggestions for taming a parakeet. All interactions with this bird should be positive in nature, not aversive, like using the glove. I'm horrified at this advice. Picture a glove from a little bird's perspective. It's terrifying.
Much good information is available for the new bird owner without cost. I was a volunteer with Cleveland's Parrot Education and Adoption Center before I moved to Florida. The organization has online behavior courses that the reader could take. Barbara Heidenreich of Good Bird Inc. has tons of good information.
I assure you, no one with real parrot behavior knowledge would ever suggest using a glove. In the meantime, a much better approach would be to sit quietly by the bird's cage and place its favorite treat in a cup. Don't force interaction. In time, the owner can offer the treat by hand. Take small steps to keep the bird comfortable. The idea is to positively reinforce it stepping onto the hand. A glove does not breed trust.
Please retract your advice before more harm is done.
J.M., Naples, FL Mar 19, 2013
I stand by using the glove to protect birds and small animals, such as hamsters, from the avoidance reflex of children and adults who are not experienced handlers and when the animal is not yet used to being in contact.
I recall one veterinarian who was examining a hamster who bit him and evoked the avoidance jerk response, which flipped the poor animal onto the floor with a fatal concussion.
A light protective glove -- not a huge leather gauntlet -- gives self-confidence to the wearer and can be left inside the bird's cage for short periods to facilitate habituation/desensitization.
S.A., Jupiter, FL
Tags: bird Jupiter FL
Jul 02, 2012
This is not a medical question, but I would like to know how to get my baby parakeet to be people-friendly.
This is our fifth parakeet. I had the last one for 12 years. He was very friendly, but he didn't talk much. All of my previous birds were yellow males (or so I was told).
Number five is a very busy bird: He loves his cage and toys, and, more important, he has a good appetite. His wings were clipped and are now growing in.
What can I do to get him to perch on a hand or allow me to touch or pet him? He threatens to bite whenever I approach him.
S.A., Jupiter, FL Jul 03, 2012
Your parakeet is still young and is behaviorally flexible, so establishing friendly social bonds with humans should be easy. My guess is that he came from a breeder. Before you purchased him, he was with other birds, he bonded with them and had minimal human contact. So you must be patient with him and not force contact.
Parakeets (budgerigars) are highly social birds. They live in flocks in the wild. Once your bird habituates to your presence, caregiving routines and chatty conversations with him, his need for social affirmation should result in him becoming attached to you, his caregiver and surrogate flockmate.
For short periods, put a tough work glove in his cage to get used to, then wear it and offer him his favorite treat from your glove-protected hand. You will be less afraid, and you won't make sudden avoidance movements. This will make him less apprehensive, since fear is a contagious emotion. Once he is bonded with you, I would advise you to consider adopting another parakeet -- birds of a feather belong together. To deprive your bird of contact with his own species in order to imprint onto humans and facilitate his learning to speak is ethically abhorrent, even though it is the norm.
F.P., Naples, FL
Tags: bird Naples FL grieving
Oct 17, 2011
I enjoy reading your column in our newspaper, and I would like to share with you a story about the appearance of a sweet little bird during a very emotional time for me.
My mother always loved nature, especially birds, and the little wren was her favorite. We lived on a small farm in northern Minnesota, so you could say Mother Nature was all around us.
My dear mom died in December 1979. On that very cold day, as we all gathered at the cemetery and the priest was reciting prayers, a little gray bird came from nowhere and flew right onto the coffin, fluttering and chirping away.
It has been 32 years since that event, and I am convinced that little gray bird was chirping "goodbye" to my mom.
F.P., Naples, FL Oct 18, 2011
Thank you for your moving account of the little bird alighting on your mother's coffin. Birds do seem to somehow "connect" when a person dies, especially with one who had a deep love and respect for all creatures great and small, and offer spiritual consolation for those in mourning.
S.P. of Syria, Va., wrote to me about a blue heron that stood on the site where her son was murdered the day before. Later that day, a blue heron circled repeatedly over a nursery her son used to visit, and the following day there was a blue heron in her front yard.
E.L.M. of Bloomfield, N.J., was visited every morning by a bird as she sat outdoors drinking her coffee and mourning the death of her husband.
L.C.V. of Bethesda, Md., related that she has two distinct memories of her mother's death nine years ago:
"One was just around the day she died. I was in her bedroom and heard a loud fluttering. Approaching the window, I found a bird on the outside flapping its wings to stay put, since there was no ledge to perch on. We looked each other square in the eye and it then flew away, leaving that vision in my memory forever.
"Sometime near the day of her remembrance party, a bird flew into the house. I've lived in that house on and off for 43 years now, and that is the only time a bird has ever been in the house. I left the door open and it returned to the outdoors, but left a comforting memory."
During times of grief, we may look for "signs" of consolation, which could be sheer coincidence, but perhaps not. Either way, creatures wild and tame can provide spiritual comfort and affirmation that we are all participants in the great mystery of existence and should treat all living beings with respect and loving kindness.
J.Z., Ayr, ND
Tags: bird ND Ayr
Sep 18, 2011
One of my good friends in Minnesota just completed her training to become a wildlife rehabilitator. Now a game warden in North Dakota is fighting her over a baby duck she took from North Dakota.
There is also a woman in Fargo who has taken in baby birds for about 30 years. She has about a 90 percent rehabilitation success record. Well, this game warden got wind of her, raided her house and took all the birds, some of them in various stages of recovery and others still fledglings. He then fined her and her veterinarian.
My land is a wildlife haven, and I have spent 20 years making it that way. Now when I raise a baby robin, which my mother taught me how to do, I may be raided by the cops. (My mom wrote a pamphlet for the North Dakota Audubon Society years ago titled "How to Care for Baby Birds and Animals.")
This is North Dakota. Sometimes it's torturous to live out here, where I seem to be the only animal lover. Everyone shoots everything; shelterbelts are clear-cut in the middle of nesting season; people have cat factories at their farms; and dogs are full of ticks and cockleburs. It's sickening.
J.Z., Ayr, ND Sep 19, 2011
Some readers may find your letter inappropriate for my column, if not offensive. But what is truly offensive is how the land and animals, wild and domestic, are mistreated in much of rural America.
The fact remains, as I emphasize in my new book, "Healing Animals & The Vision of One Health," that our physical, mental and spiritual health and long-term economic well-being depend on us keeping animals and the environment healthy.
Years ago, Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater intervened when the state Game & Fish department confiscated a baby quail, I think it was, that a boy had rescued. Surely the governor of North Dakota or some caring members of the state legislature could intercede and restrain this overzealous, if not uncaring, game warden from causing further harm.
Wildlife, including what are often called trash and nuisance species, may be the "property" of the state, but that does not mean the state has no responsibility with regard to their health and well-being. The state has no right to prevent experienced, if not licensed, citizens from caring for sick and injured animals, especially when there are few or no state-run wildlife rescue and rehab facilities.
B.K.G., Arlington, Va
Tags: bird small pet Arlington VA
Aug 14, 2011
We adopted a blue male parakeet who is still jittery around my husband and has nipped his fingers more than once. He's fine with me and likes to nibble and rub my ear. Sometimes I think he's courting me.
So what to do about his nipping? Is he jealous of my husband?
B.K.G., Arlington, Va Aug 15, 2011
Your bird is probably used to being around and being handled by women, since birds naturally imprint or develop strong attachments early in life. Ideally, therefore, they should be socialized with both male and female handlers and, where possible, with children.
Parakeets are highly social birds that live in large flocks in the wild, and I consider it borderline cruelty to raise and keep them alone in separate cages their entire lives. While they compensate to a degree by bonding with humans (even engaging in courtship behavior, as well as social preening as they would with a mate), they generally fare better in pairs or small groups in large flight cages. With time and patience, your "rival" husband may win him over. In the interim, wear a protective glove.
J.K., Bethesda, Md
Tags: bird Bethesda MD
Jul 11, 2011
I read with great interest your column about birds and your request for other stories that involve the appearance of birds during an emotional or sensitive time. I had an unusual bird event on the day that my mother died, Dec. 16, 2000.
My mother had stopped talking and was in a sleeping state. I was alone with her in her bedroom on the second floor of her house. The room was very quiet, until I heard a chirp at the window. This by itself was unusual. I walked to the window and saw the most amazing sight: The tree outside was filled with birds, and not just a flock of one kind. There were representatives of all types: cardinals, robins, crows, chickadees, purple finches, goldfinches, mourning doves, sparrows and one tufted titmouse.
Our minister came to deliver last rites later that afternoon. I told her what had happened, and she said she'd heard of such a gathering before. Nature knows when something extraordinary is happening, and these birds were gathering for the event.
The arrival of these birds continues to amaze me and has given me hope that there really is a spiritual world beyond the living. I ponder this nature mystery and hope that sharing this experience will give hope to others.
J.K., Bethesda, Md Jul 11, 2011
Readers may remember my earlier account of an event virtually identical to what you describe that occurred around the time of my mother's death thousands of miles away.
Skeptics speak of mere coincidence, but we should not lose our sense of awe and wonder. In the metaphysics of such coincidental events may be deeper truths that we mortals do not yet fully comprehend.
Those whose hearts and minds are open to nature are surely more receptive to such messages or unusual animal phenomena, especially during the passing of a loved one, than are those who are not mindful of a possible spiritual connection between humans and fellow creatures.
K.F., Silver Spring, MD
Tags: bird Silver Spring MD
Jul 10, 2011
Soon after we put a mirror in our parakeet's cage, we found it smeared with some kind of milky goo. He keeps wiping his beak on it. Should we remove the mirror? We gave it to him because we thought he might be lonely.
K.F., Silver Spring, MD Jul 10, 2011
I appreciate your concern over your highly sociable, naturally flock-living parakeet enduring a lonely life in a cage with only human contact.
Providing toys, balls, ladders and mirrors is one step toward environmental enrichment, but it is no substitute for providing your bird with a healthy young female parakeet. Set her in a cage next to his until they become habituated, then connect the two cages so they can be together as they choose.
You may need to remove the mirror if your bird starts to lose condition and seems thinner, and if his plumage becomes dull and unkempt. Some birds become addicted to or besotted with their mirror images, which I do not find amusing. Rather, it is a pathetic reflection of a deprived existence, as well as a profound insight into bird emotions and physiology. He is probably courting his own image and producing crop milk as he would for a mate and to help feed offspring, a shared responsibility. The visual stimulation of his reflected image activates internal hormonal changes that underlie courtship and parental care under more natural social and environmental conditions.
J.F., Virginia Beach, Va
Tags: bird small pet Virginia Beach VA
Oct 24, 2010
I have a 35-year-old male Amazon parrot that has developed weakness in his feet and has trouble gripping his perches. After blood tests revealed nothing, the vet determined that his diet was to blame. He had been eating mostly seeds supplemented by nuts and a few vegetables and fruits. The vet recommended we switch to Harrison's High Potency Organic Coarse Pellets as his only food. Unfortunately, he doesn't care for it. I continue to encourage him by removing it and adding fresh pellets, but he barely nibbles at it. I have eliminated his seeds and have added more variety of veggies, fruits and scrambled egg. He has variety of perch sizes, and I encourage exercise.
J.F., Virginia Beach, Va Oct 24, 2010
A grow light or Vita-Lite that emits full-spectrum light may help your poor bird. Many caged birds develop bone and joint problems in part owing to a lack of natural sunlight, so artificial lights may help. Your bird should also benefit from a vitamin and mineral supplement, especially vitamin D, calcium and magnesium that he probably needs. If you have a blender or food processor, include the shell in any egg you feed him.
S.R., Norfolk, Va
Tags: bird Norfolk VA
Aug 02, 2008
In reference to C.D. of Norfolk, Va., whose miniature schnauzer appears to have impacted anal glands, my wheaten terrier, aged 11, had two situations that were so severe. The vet warned that surgery might be necessary should they reoccur. I referenced a natural-remedy book that recommended a teaspoon of olive oil in the food daily to stimulate anal-gland contraction. I followed this advice and, in seven years, we have yet to see the problem return.I also give her probiotics when I notice sluggish digestion or gas and get immediate results.
S.R., Norfolk, Va Aug 03, 2008
Many readers will appreciate your natural remedy that is certainly worth trying on dogs with chronic anal-gland problems. Olive oil and olive leaves have some remarkable properties as powerful antioxidants and are good for animals'' coats and skin.
A.G., Easton, CT
Tags: bird Easton CT diet food
Apr 21, 2007
I am an 11-year-old boy who wants to be a veterinarian when I grow up. I was wondering if you have any tips that can help me in the future.Also, my friend and I love foxes and would like to get one when we are older. We went to the library one day and started looking up all we could about foxes. Online, we came across a site that says foxes should not be domesticated. Can you give me some advice about this?Lastly, can you give me a cat-food recipe that my cats might eat (like turkey, chicken or tuna)?.
A.G., Easton, CT Apr 22, 2007
By all means, volunteer at a vet''s office and your local animal shelter. I started helping out at the vet''s when I was about 13. The more time you spend around animals, with the right people, the more you will learn.Check your library for my out-of-print children''s book "Animals Have Rights, Too" (Continuum Intl, 1991) and check out books by veterinarians describing their work and sharing their insights about animals, like Dr. Franklin McMillan''s "Unlocking the Animal Mind" (Rodale Press, 2004), and books on caring for dogs and cats.Foxes are not pets. Please don''t even consider trying to domesticate one.You will find my cat-food recipe at www.doctormwfox.org.DOG-BUDDY NETWORKWhen you are out walking your dog and you meet up with another person with a leashed dog and both dogs want to play, I say don''t be shy. Share phone numbers and set up a time and place for the dogs to meet and play off leash.Life on a leash can drive dogs crazy. When they are constantly restrained and isolated from their own kind, they