Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Echinacea is also called the purple coneflower and has been used as an immune booster in all animals, including birds, for a very long time. It is not one of the most potent immune stimulants, but it is very safe. It primarily boosts the part of the immune system used to fight viral infections, and it is most effective in the early stages of infections.

It has been widely reported that one should only use Echinacea for fourteen days at a time and then stop to rest the body, but there is no evidence to support this claim. We might use Echinacea in the following situations:

  • Early on in the course of any infectious condition.

  • For chronic rhinitis and sinusitis conditions.

  • At the onset of any viral infection within an aviary such as polyoma virus outbreaks.

  • For Candida (yeast) infections of the crop or intestinal system.

  • To aid in the treatment of psittacine beak and feather disease.

Reference: "Holistic Care For Birds" by David McCluggage, DVM & Pamela Leis Higdon

Exercise A Necessity

Healthy birds are active for most of every day as they go about normal activities. When we choose a bird as a companion, we need to supply plenty of opportunities for stimulating physical and emotional activity that suits the unique needs of the individual bird. Because we control their environment, it's up to us to provide the opportunity for action.

Birds should not remain confined in a cage all day, every day. This results in a condition we refer to as cageosis. Cage-bound birds exhibit neurotic impulses such as feather pulling, screaming, and endless bouncing or banging their bodies on the sides of the cage. Many people mistake this behavior as happy dancing. You can compare the bird's frustration and resulting mental illness to that of a human who has been kept in solitary confinement with nothing to do for endless periods of time.

An exception to this would be small birds such as finches that are kept in flocks in large cages or aviaries. These birds carry on their daily activities much as they would in the wild. To keep them happy and healthy give them enough room to fly and interact, plenty of perching spots away from the flight paths, nutritious food and nests or nesting materials.

With other birds, though, you must provide regular activity time outside the cage as well a rotation of appropriate toys inside the cage. The best way to make sure you give your bird adequate activity time is to create a formal schedule. Every bird should be allowed out of its cage at least twice daily. If your day is busy, let your bird out of its cage for a short time in the morning and then plan the more extensive out-of-cage interaction time in the evening, centered around sharing dinner and evening pastimes.

Reference: "Holistic Care For Birds" by David McCluggage, DVM & Pamela Leis Higdon

Monday, January 21, 2008

Feathers Bird Clinic

Australia's Nectarivorous Birds

Nectarivorous birds are those birds that rely on the nectar produced by flowering trees and shrubs. Most nectarivores are from Australia, including swift parrots, lorikeets, and honeyeaters. Avian veterinarians are still studying and learning about the nutritional requirements for maintenance, growth and reproduction of these birds and the physical adaptations necessary to digest and process their unique food sources.

Nectar is a sweet, sugar-rich liquid food source that provides lots of calories for lorikeets and other nectar eaters but is very low in amino acids, vitamins and trace minerals. Birds that ingest nectar must also rely on other food sources to meet their nutritional requirements. Pollen (composed of highly digestible proteins and diverse amino acids) as well as manna (the sugary excretions of aphids called honeydew as well as lerp, the waxy material produced by Psyllidae insects. There are several reports stating that Australia's nectarivorous birds rely on insects as the main protein source for their growing chicks. These birds have been recorded eating several species of insects including mayflies, grasshoppers, cicadas, psyllids, robber flies, lacewings, lycid beetles and moths.

Nectarivorous birds have developed a variety of adaptations to accommodate their unique diet. Their plumage tends to be tighter and glossier than other parrots to prevent feather soiling by the nectar. They have extensible brush-tipped tongues that allow for the rapid harvesting of nectar. These birds generally have lower protein requirements, lower metabolic rates and some special digestive and kidney adaptations. Some Lorikeets have a grealy reduced gizzard muscle and centrally located stream-lined openings through their gastrointestinal tracts to facilitate nectar passage. Their G.I. tracts are shorter than other parrots (because of their highly digestible diet) and these birds tend to ingest much more water than other parrots and also produce more urine. This also requires their specially adapted kidneys to resorb more water to prevent dehydration.

As researchers learn more and more about wild nectarivorous diets, veterinarians and aviculturists must apply the knowledge to our domestic nectarivores in the pet world. By fine tuning our nutritional recommendations and protocols for these birds we can improve their overall health and quality of life.

Reference: Karen Shaw Becker, DVM of Feathers Bird Clinic within the Natural Pet Animal Hospital in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

PBS Nature Series - Parrots In The Land Of Oz

PBS Nature Series will present "Parrots In The Land Of Oz" airing on January 27th featuring an array of parrots from Down Under, including the elusive and breath-taking Palm Cockatoo. Please tune in to witness these magnificent birds in their home land the way that nature had intended.

Friday, January 4, 2008


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