Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Snowball dances to Ringo Starr

Although it sounds like a crazy woman laughing maniacally and ranting inchoherently in the background during the first half of this song, the laughing and shouting is coming from Mookie an 18 year old female Moluccan cockatoo who is a sanctuary bird at Bird Lovers Only Rescue Service, Inc. Mookie is a bird who is extraordinarily happy and active despite her physical disabilities which inhibit her from walking normally.
"Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On" is a song off of Ringo Starr's "The Christmas Collection" CD which was sent by Snowball's Auntie Mary for him to dance to. He loved this song the first time I placed it in his CD player to dance to. Snowball asked me to thank his Auntie Mary for this wonderful Chrtistmas gift!

Snowball dances to "Another One Bites The Dust"

I want to thank Auntie Annette for sending me the Queen CD. I still love the Back Street Boys the best, but there sure are some good songs on here that I like dancing to! I hope you enjoy my dancing to "Another One Bites The Dust."
There will be a crew coming from a Japanese TV show to film me and I'm set to audition for "America's Got Talent" for a March episode. I hope you've all been watching me on Animal Planet's "2007: Year In Animals" which runs for four weeks on different days and times.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Animal Planet & Snowball

"The Year In Animals"

Snowball and Bird Lovers Only Rescue Service, Inc. will be on Animal Planet's "The Year In Animals" beginning December 22nd and will run for 4 (four) consecutive weeks. It is scheduled to air on December 22nd at 8pm Central Time. Please check local listings for times in your area.

Also, we were told that Snowball is listed in TIME Magazine as one of the top ten web videos of the year 2007. If you have this issue, please write to us at to let us know which issue he is in.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Nutritional Diseases of Adult Birds

Skin/Integument/Epithelial Tissues
1. Itchy, dry skin: Linoleic acid deficiency, poor amino acid profile, food allergies.
2. Squamous metaplasia of the epithelial lining of the upper respiratory tract, gastrointestinal, urogenital tracts, uropygial gland: hypovitaminosis A.
a. Blunting or lack of choanal papillae. Hyperkeratosis of the epithelial surfaces can also occur. It is common on the metatarsal and digital pads of the feet, which can predispose a bird to developing pododermatitis.
b. Clinical signs can also include nasal discharge, swelling around eyes, swollen sinuses, polyuria, polydypsia, dyspnea, or anorexia.
c. Masses (keratin cysts) may be present in oral cavity, white pustules or masses can occur in the oral cavity, crop, or nasal passages. Secondary bacterial infections commonly occur.
d. Treatment for vitamin A deficiency includes parenteral vitamin A weekly, then oral supplementation once improved, usually 2 to 3 weeks. Treatment with antibiotics for secondary infections may be required.
3. Other nutritionally based skin disorders include biotin, niacin, pantothenic acid deficiency, and mycotoxin ingestion.

Reference: "Manual of Avian Medicine" by Glenn H. Olsen and Susan E. Orosz

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

David Letterman Show

We have had many requests for us to place the segment of the David Letterman Show that featured Snowball on our site. Someone emailed the site to me that is presently on You Tube. For those of you who had missed the show, please click on this link to view it. We are the third guest on the segment.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Seed to Pellet Diet Conversion

I am finding it necessary to share a very successful method of converting your bird from a seed diet to pellets. Months ago Dr. Karen Becker suggested we use "Harrison's High Potency Mash" which is a powdered form of the pellets that they sell. When we receive a new rescue bird that has been on a 100% seed diet, we begin converting by sprinkling a generous layer of the Harrison's High Potency Mash over the seeds. The next day we introduce some pellets into the seed mix (about 80% seed to 20% pellet) and continue to sprinkle the Harrison's Mash over this. We continue adjusting the ratio of seed to pellet (75% seed to 25% pellet; 50% seed to 50% pellet; 40% seed to 60% pellet; 25% seed to 75% pellet; 10% seed to 90% pellet) until you get to 100% pellet. Each day you continue to sprinkle the Harrison's mash over the mixtures. Even after you have converted over to 100% pellet, continue sprinkling the mash over the pellets for a few days. Each day sprinkle a lighter layer over the pellets so that by the end of the week on 100% pellets, you won't need be sprinkling anymore of the high potency mash over it. We had tried several methods in the past of converting from seed to pellet. Those methods ranged from taking months to convert to no success at all. Although we have only been using the Harrison's High Potency Mash method for only four months, we have been able to convert with a 100% success rate within about a week or two at most.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Your Votes Needed

Please go to the following links to place your votes for the:
We have the opportunity to be paid for our videos if one or both are chosen to be on TV. Everything we receive goes toward our habitat building fund. Thank you!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

PDD Birds Need Homes

I received the following email recently from Mary-Jo Meyer at Milo's Ranch, an exotic bird rescue and sanctuary in southern Florida.

"Our focus has been on the rescue, study, and treatment of PDD infected birds. After nearly ten years, we have been forced to close our doors due to the lack of funding. We are in desperate need of homes for approximately 50 (fifty) exposed and/or infected birds. I understand your rescue consists of physically healthy birds, however we are at the end of our rope and I refuse to allow euthanasia to be the solution. So we are alerting everyone we can."

I wrote a reply to Mary-Jo asking for details on the birds so that I can help spread the word to get these birds rehomed. PLEASE pass this around to anyone and everyone you know so that these birds can live out their natural lives in a safe environment.

"All the birds are in my personal care right now. We had to down-size from 12.5 acres to 1.25 which could become tricky if the neighbors become impatient. I've compiled a list of the birds. There are also 7 cockatoos who are now in the care of a horse rescue. I'm not sure if they'll be staying there. They may also be added to the list. All of the birds listed here have been biopsied positive for PDD or have been exposed. None of them have shown any signs of illness in a number of years. They live in various flights. I would prefer they stay that way, however if I can identify who loves who best, I would be willing to separate them into pairs or small groups.

Marty - wild caught blue and gold macaw. Plucked over most of her body. She has head, tail and wing feathers. Doesn't mind being in the house and taking treats out of your hand, just don't try to touch her. Has her own 5x7 walk in (approx).

Kojak - red fronted macaw. He is missing the right wing, plucked, has wing and tail feathers. Wild-caught, doesn't mind people being around, but would probably prefer to live with a VERY mellow female. Has same type cage as Marty.

Savanna - red lored amazon. May be suitable as a pet with alot of patience. She was an abused bird.

Baby - Mexican red headed amazon. May be suitable as a pet with alot of patience. Her left leg turns out, but has no trouble perching. Prefers men.

Larry & Moe - Quakers. They are nest mates and should stay together.

KC (Nanday conure) and Max (Quaker) - Bonded, should stay together.

Baby through Max live together. The little guys enjoy each other. I don't think Baby could care less)

15 to 20 quakers, various conures, and 3 cockatiels. All live together in an aviary. A few have wing issues and 1 mitred conure is blind, but does well as long as the food is always in the same place.

No Name (Mealy amazon) and Bo (Bodini amazon). Have recently bonded in the aviary. Would like to keep them together.

Aspen (Major Mitchell's) and Willow (Medium Sulphur crested). Aspen is OLD and blind and can't fly. Willow lost her top beak to mate aggression. They live in a 4x4x6(ish) alone. Willow needs her pellets ground and gets cockatiel seed. Must stay together. Cage included.

Nasty (orange winged amazon). Lives up to his name. I believe he is wild caught. Has done well in this mixed aviary, but doesn't get along with every bird.

If someone were willing to take the whole group that includes Nasty, the Mealy and Bo, quakers, conures and tiels, the aviary (approximately 10x10x8tall) would be included.

Please either contact Mary-Jo Meyer at or myself (Irena) at if you can help in ANY way at all. Please help.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Feathers Bird Clinic Question of the Day

What treatments are available for a feather picking umbrella cockatoo? The bird has been vet checked. I've tried about everything, except a collar, which I wouldn't do unless the bird was mutilating. Bach flower essences and aloe vera did not help.

Dr. Karen Becker's Answer:
Unfortunately, feather picking is one of the most frustrating syndromes for avian veterinarians and owners alike. You mentioned your bird was "vet checked", which is important. There are a variety of reasons birds feather pick and we can't always assume it's behavioral in origin. It's important you know your bird is free from diseases, including PBFD (psittacine beak and feather disease) and Chlamydia (psittacosis). It's also important your veterinarian does bloodwork to make sure internal organ funciton is normal. A Giardia parasite test should also be a part of the work-up. After this comprehensive vet check your veterinarian may conclude the picking is more of an emotional issue, which means there are no physical abnormalities causing the behavior
At this point it's important to evaluate the bird's environment and diet. Were there any abnormal circumstances surrounding the start of your bird's picking? A family member leaving for college, a divorce or death of another bird? Was the cage moved to a different spot in the home? A new baby? Many people don't realize that birds will pick up on the general stress level in the home. If you are stressed, angry or hostile your bird knows it.
Is the bird eating wholesome, living foods? Are fresh fruits and veggies a daily part of the diet? A pelleted (preferably organic, dye-free) diet is imperative. Is the bird allowed to eat junk food? Dairy and meats? A balanced diet is not only important to maintain normal physical well-being but very important when the body must repair itself or produce new plumage. Consider adding a source of essential fatty acids, such as red palm oil or coconut oil, if the bird has been consuming seeds. Also consider a full spectrum (UV) light.
Once the diet and environment has been evaluated (and all controllable factors corrected), it's time to consider all the treatment options. Traditionally, avian vets have used human psychotropic drugs, tricyclic anti-depressants, antihistamines or hormones to help alleviate the urge to chew. Depending on the reason and severity of the case these medications may be minimally to significantly effective. Downsides include drowsiness and lethargy as well as potential internal organ changes, including liver and kidney enzyme elevations. Sometimes owners don't see any side effects, but also don't see any improvement. Some owners and veterinarians are not willing to use these medications because of the potential side effects.
Some drug-free options we use at Natural Pet Animal Hospital include aquapuncture, herbal therapy, homeopathy and flower essence therapy. Aquapuncture involves injecting tiny blips of vitamin B12 at acupuncture points known to balance emotions and promote a sense of well-being...the Chinese call these "Shen" points. I used this technique on my own Timneh after I rescued her. She required 8 treatments one week apart. That was 4 years ago. She had been pick-free since then...until April 26th! That week she was in the middle of a moult. It must have itched something fierce. I awoke on the 26th to find a cage full of chewed new and covert feathers. I was shocked and quite dismayed. I gave her an aquapuncture treatment that day and included points for itchy skin. She has not picked since...but her tattered appearance is there until the next moult!
We also use calming herbs like St. Johns Wart, L-theanine, Passion Flower, Hops, and Valerian to take the edge off of stressed birds. Dosing is always consult an avian vet before supplying these herbs to your birds. Homeopathy is a wonderful, natural way of encouraging your bird to become more emotionally balanced. Homeopathic remedies are dispensed based on your bird's unique symptoms, so you need to work with a homeopathic practitioner..
You mentioned you tried Bach flower essences. I have had some good luck using flower essences, but they need to be selected and prepared correctly. Did you work with a Bach flower therapist? I have not heard many success stories about people adding Rescue Remedy to their bird's water and, in turn, improving their bird's feather picking condition. However, I have seen first hand the wonderful effects of accurately assessing a bird's condition according to Edward Bach's methods. Then blending, storing and dispensing essences correctly to achieve the desired effect.
The most difficult question: which therapy will work best in your bird's case? Would a combination of drugs and herbs be most beneficial? These are questions that are best addressed with the help of your vet. The most important thing is to be understanding about your bird's condition. Don't become irritated or upset. After all...our feathered friends never become frustrated with how we look!

Reference: Dr. Karen Becker runs Feathers Bird Clinic within Natural Pet Animal Hospital located in Bourbonnais, Illinois. She also happens to be SNOWBALL's avian veterinarian of several years.

Monday, November 12, 2007

"Rescue Me"

In one year's time, Bird Lovers Only Rescue Service Inc. had adopted out approximately 200 birds. We've had very sweet and tame birds relinquished here, but we've also had some hard luck cases which were here for quite some time before they were considered adoptable. There was a handful whose trust we had to earn and it wasn't easy. But each and every one of those hard luck cases were eventually adopted. And we thank the wonderful people who opened up their hearts and homes to them to continue where we left off.

This video is a tribute to those birds who are now in their wonderful new homes as well as the birds who are still waiting for the 'right family' to come along and love them unconditionally. Sometimes I wonder...did I rescue Snowball or did Snowball rescue me? Maybe it's a little of both.

Irena Schulz
Founder and President of Bird Lovers Only Rescue Service, Incorporated
Author of "Rescue Me"

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Animal Planet

Animal Planet will be out to film at Bird Lovers Only Rescue Inc on Thursday, November 15th. We will keep you informed regarding the air date.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Respiratory Emergencies


  1. Clinical signs: open-mouthed breathing, exaggerated respiratory effort, tail bobbing, change or loss of voice or song, wheezing.
  2. Etiology includes the following: Primary respiratory diseases such as bacterial, fungal, parasitic, chlamydial, and mycoplasmal infections; toxins, foreign bodies, trauma, neoplasia; Extrarespiratory diseases such as organomegaly (thyroid, hepatic, renal, gonadal), oral masses, coelomic fluid, cardiovascular disease, neoplasia.
  3. Diagnosis includes the following: Thorough history and observation of patient and; Minimum database which includes CBC, Chemistry panel, Radiographs, and Abdominocentesis (if fluid is present)
  4. Therapy is based on the diagnosis; it may include oxygen therapy (oxygen case, intubation of air sacs) and fluid and nutritional support.

Reference: "Manual of Avian Medicine" by Glenn H. Olsen and Susan E. Orosz

New Snowball video on uTube

There has been a new video created by DBD International using footage of Snowball and the rescue.

Please check out this video at

Thank you to David Brier, President and Creative Director at DBD International for helping to further our efforts in making the public more aware of rescue birds and the increased need for experienced and educated bird owners to open up their hearts and homes to them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

David Letterman Show

Snowball and Irena will appear on the David Letterman Show on Thursday, November 1st. We are thrilled to have such exposure for our rescue and our efforts. If you enjoy the show, please send a thank you to Mr. Letterman.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Message From Snowball's Mom

My name is Irena. I am the founder and president of Bird Lovers Only Rescue and, more recently, the new mom to Snowball. Snowball was relinquished to us in August of 2007 along with a CD of the Back Street Boys. His previous owner stood at the foot of the stairs and watched the reaction on our faces as we watched Snowball lift his legs in rhythm to "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and then proceed to slam those little parrot feet down on my arm with enthusiasm to the beat of the music. Snowball's previous owner told us he danced well, but we had no idea we were going to see this type of show. It's too bad we didn't have a video of him dancing on my arm that first day he was here because I know my jaw was dragging on the ground and my eyes were bulging out of my head in awe. It was a good thing I was sitting down.
We decided to place this video on our blog which we had just created. We wanted to provide educational material, interesting articles, and some fun to break up the monotony. Someone had taken the video from our blog and placed it on uTube and from there it spread like a virus to thousands of web sites and reached every internet connected continent on earth. TV and radio media from around the globe emailed and called us. Snowball had become the most popular rescue/sanctuary bird on earth. He was now the spokesbird for parrots around the world.
But there was more to Snowball's story than the natural gift to dance. He was a rescue bird, and not many had heard of a rescue bird before. I know he had at least two owners prior to coming here and he was only 11 years old. He used to belong to his previous owner's daughter, but she moved out for some time and then when she returned he bit her out of resentment for having left him. He had turned on her. In Snowball's eyes, she had been his mate. And his mate left and did not return for quite some time. Imagine your spouse leaving you without warning and then returning a year or two later. Wouldn't you want to swing a frying pan in your spouse's direction as a welcome home? Birds seem to exhibit many of the same emotions that we do...happiness, sadness, fear, resentment, anger, love, and so on. But instead of telling us that they're upset because we ignored them for five minutes, they'll bite to show us their disdain.
Ultimately, humans should never have taken such beautiful, intelligent, and sensitive creatures out of their natural habitat to live out their long lives in captivity. But as my dear friend has so eloquently put it, "You can't put the genie back in the bottle." There are over 400 known rescues and sanctuaries in the United States and they are all either filled to capacity or quickly nearing it.
Idealistically, these birds should be out in their native lands to forage and fly freely. Realistically, they're not. They're here in my home and yours. So then what are we to do with not only the parrots that are in rescues, but those that need to be relinquished due to their outliving the owner or that need to be relinquished due to health issues? We educate those who wish to continue to care for these displaced birds through adoption.
There are some who are strongly opposed to parrot ownership and feel that no one should purchase a parrot. Again, this is idealism versus realism. If someone loves birds and wants one to cherish, what is going to stop them? If your friend who has three children tells you not to have any children because they don't clean their rooms but still expect the keys to the car, are you going to be convinced to not have any if you would love nothing more than to have a child of your own? Human children go through the terrible twos. So do parrots. Human children go through adolescence and their personalities change. So do parrots. Children don't come with instruction manuals and neither do parrots. But that doesn't stop anyone from having either. So, again, education guides those that are less experienced. And for some issues where there aren't any black or white solutions, we offer support much like a group session at a therapist's office full of parents who have thrown their hands up in the air not knowing what to do. Sometimes it helps to know that you're not alone.
Parrots are the most difficult pet to have because they demand so much attention. They are needy and clingy. They are not going to be quiet when you are having a conversation on the phone. They want to join in. They are not going to be quiet while the baby is sleeping, they want to rejoice in being alive through loud and sometimes piercing vocalizations. The larger birds such as cockatoos and macaws are not going to be satisfied with your petting and playing with them after only one short hour. They want you to pet them and play with them from sunrise to sunset.
Yet as demanding, needy, temperamental, and sassy as they can be at times, I couldn't imagine life without them. I have had birds all my 47 years of life and my love and devotion to them only grows stronger.
I thank God for Snowball. Snowball opened the world's eyes to rescues, the plight of the parrot, and the increased need for more education. But most of all, Snowball has brought sunshine and laughter to a world clouded with negative news. Snowball, a dear rescue bird, has danced his way into my heart.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Snowball and Huey

Snowball doesn't dance unless he's inspired. Huey Lewis and the News came on the radio a few days ago and we noticed him doing a slightly different dance. So we found the CD for this song and decided to let the video roll. Towards the end of the clip, Snowball twirls his head repeatedly to the instrumental part of the song. It looks as even Snowball can get dizzy if he keeps that up for too long! Shake it off, Snowball.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Team Work

Team Work

We have decided to randomly select some informative e-mails which we receive from the public. We thank each and every one of you who write to us with your input and ideas!

I have a Severe Macaw who was neglected by his previous owner. Luckily we got him when he was about a year old and the neglect didn't last too long for him. Chilie is now 13 years old and he is just a delight. He also used to have a lunge and serious bite problem. We discovered that my Severe, Chilie, had two crop infections. One was bacterial and the other was yeast. Both nearly killed him. They changed his personality to a cranky, bitey, regurgitative, noisey bird and I got the brunt of his misery.
I had to wean him from the water container and use the bottle dispenser because he dipped his food in the water which caused bacteria even though I changed his water twice daily. I also had to wean him from a seed mixture to pellets (Roudybush). Apparently, the seed/fruit mixtures can develop mold (microscopic so human eye doesn't see it). To get Chilie to take his medicine, I mixed it with some yogurt, gave it to him in a spoon while I held it, and he licked it up completely! It not only was a good way for him to take his medication, it gave him a treat for trusting me.

Sent in by Betty Holland

Footnote: Please be careful about leaving fresh foods in your bird's bowl for longer than 4 hours. This can develop mold spores and cause Aspergillosis. For those of you who use water bowls, you can add a couple of drops of Grape Seed Extract to minimize bacterial growth.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Normal Droppings

It is important to become familiar with the appearance of your bird's normal droppings. Within any given period of time, the droppings will vary slightly. Factors such as diet and stress can quickly change their appearance. Learn to recognize these normal variations.

Unlike mammals, birds urinate and defecate at the same time. In fact, the digestive, urinary, and reproductive tracts all empty into the same receptacle, the cloaca.

The droppings consist of three distinct portions:

  1. Feces are the solid waste material from food. The feces should be tubular in shape and formed into a coil. Their color and consistency is affected by diet. A diet consisting mostly of seeds produces a dark green to near black-colored feces. Formulated diets (pellets) produce a more brownish stool.
  2. Urine is the liquid portion. It is normally clear. Diets high in fruits and vegetables will produce more urine.
  3. Urates, also called uric acid, is the creamy-white or chalk-like substance on top of and around the feces.

Reference: "Manual of Avian Medicine" by Glenn H. Olson and Susan E. Orosz

Abnormal Droppings: Interpretation

Once the appearance of the normal droppings are known, recognizing abnormal ones will be much easier.

Feces: Abnormal changes in appearance

DIARRHEA (soft or liquid feces): Diarrhea is uncommon. An increase in urine, which produces wet droppings, is frequently mistaken for diarrhea. Increased urine can cause the feces to become wet and slightly loose. Diarrhea is not a disease. It is only an indication that a problem is involving the digestive tract.

Causes of Diarrhea

  • Diet (sudden change in diet, addition of new food, spoiled food), intestinal infection, ingestion of foreign object or poison.
  • Diseases of other organs
  • Egg ready to be laid or egg binding
  • Abdominal hernia
  • Overtreatment with antibiotics
  • Stress
  • Parasites
  • Cancer

BLOODY (red, reddish-black, or tar-like):Bleeding in digestive tract, severe intestinal infections, bleeding disorders, some poisons, cloaca papillomas, tumors, ingestion of foreign objects, parasites, egg laying.

UNDIGESTED FOOD (whole seeds or pieces of pellets in feces): Poor digestion, parasites, intestinal infection (e.g., proventricular dilatation disease), pancreatic disease, oil ingestion.

INCREASED VOLUME (bulky feces): Egg laying, poor digestion.

DECREASED VOLUME (small, scant and dark feces): Appetite loss or shortage of food, intestinal obstruction. Urine: changes in volume.

INCREASED URINE OUTPUT (wet droppings, polyuria): Normal with increased stress, diets high in fruits and vegetables; abnormal with infections, diseases (i.e., diabetes, kidney disease), poisons, drug reactions.

DECREASED URINE OUTPUT: Dehydration. Urates have a change in color. Remember, urates should always be white or whitish-beige in color. Color changes indicate a serious problem.


RED OR REDDISH/BROWN DISCOLORATION (bloody): Poisoning, liver disease.

Color changes can also indicate an overindulgence in a favorite food, such as beets, pomegranates, or blueberries. Don't be fooled by the red dye in some newspaper ads wehn they are used as cage tray lining. When a wet dropping comes in contact with this red dye, the color can "bleed through, and it has been mistaken for blood in the droppings.

Reference: "Manual of Avian Medicine" by Glenn H. Olsen and Susan E. Orosz

Monday, October 15, 2007

Snowball the dancing cockatoo

We wanted to re-post Snowball under our October blog so viewers would not have to search through the archives in order to find his video. We at Bird Lovers Only Rescue have felt that Snowball dances better than many 'humans'...and it seems as though that sentiment has been shared by many all around the globe. We knew Snowball could dance great, but we had no idea just how many days he would brighten.

You can also see a longer version of his dance at

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Morning Show - FOX

Just wanted to let you know that Irena and Snowball will be on The Morning Show With Mike and Juliet on Fox Monday morning. Please check your local listings....and pray that Snowball doesn't have stage fright.

Friday, October 12, 2007

White Blood Cell Counts

White blood cells, also called leukocytes, are an important part of the body's defense against disease. In response to infection the WBC count typically increases. Therefore, measure of the WBC count can give an indication if there is infection or inflammation occurring. Increases in WBCs can also occur in some cancer conditions such as leukemia. A bird under stress may have a WBC that is doubled, but greater elevations are a definite indication of disease. Reduced numbers of WBCs can occur due to bone marrow disease, severe acute disease and other conditions.

At this time, there is no automated system as is used with humans or dogs and cats that has proven effective for determining avian white blood cell counts. The complicating factor is that birds have nucleated RBCs in addition to nucleated WBCs. Most automated systems count nucleated cells, which are WBCs, as humans, dogs, cats, and other mammals have non-nucleated RBCs. The nucleated avian RBCs interfere with most automated counting methods. A new system that shows promise is laser flow cytometry which may be able to perform automated WBC counts in birds. Veterinarians who do not feel comfortable performing hematology procedures send the blood samples to one of the commercial laboratories that perform avian clinical pathology.

There are different varieties of WBCs and changes in their numbers can indicate particular disease conditions. The cells include heterophils (equivalent to the mammalian neutrophil or PMN), lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils. A differential count can then be performed to evaluate the percentages of each type of cell. The normal distribution of leukocytes is approximately 50% heterophils and 50% lymphocytes with small percentages of the other cells, but different factors will change the distribution. Some species respond to stress with a lymphocytosis (increased lymphocytes), while others do so with a heterophilia (increased heterophils). Allergic or parasitic conditions may show increased numbers of monocytes (monocytosis). Monocytosis can occur in cases of chlamydiosis (psittacosis).

Reference: "Understanding Avian Laboratory Tests" by Peter S. Sakas DVM, MS

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


In the wild, it is common for birds to spend the morning foraging for food. They move from place to place seeking, probing, tearing, and discovering edible foods. In other words, they work for their meal. They must also be on the lookout for predators during their food searches. To minimize exposure to danger, many birds have evolved a food-holdingsac called a crop. This allows them to ingest large amounts of food in a short time and move on to a safe haven to digest it. The day is left for other activities, but the food search begins again in the afternoon.

All parrots and passerines (mynahs, canaries, and finches) have crops. Other groups of birds, such as penguins and gulls, do not have crops.

Pet birds, on the other hand, usually have food provided for them all day long. Foraging and twice-daily feeding behaviors are eliminated. What can result is boredom, lack of natural curiosity, and "fussy" feeding behaviors.

To help ensure a pet bird's emotional and physical well-being, an attempt should be made to modify the environment to stimulate natural feeding behaviors. It may require time for birds to adjust to new routines and toys, but persistence pays off!

The list below provides some ideas on how to eliminate feeding boredome and stimulate interest. These are only some suggestions - creativity and imagination can supply the rest.

  • Hang vegetables and fruits on a rod-type feeder. Birds must hold the feeder to keep it from moving while they eat.
  • Weave foods into the bars of the cage. The bird must climb to the spot and "unweave" them.
  • Provide cooked chiclen leg bones to larger parrots. It will require considerable effort to strip the meat and crack the bone to reach the rich marrow.
  • Stuff food in the "nooks and crannies" of pine cones. This encourages food-seeking and probing behaviors. Treats will reward the bird for its effort.
  • Commercially prepared or homemade food-toy combinations can combine nuts, dried fruits, and vegetables. This combines playtime with food-gathering activities.
  • Put your bird on twice-daily feedings. Remove food after 20 or 30 minutes. This stimulates active feeding twice a day and provides the thrill of anticipation.

Reference: "The Complete Pet Bird Owner's Handbook" by Gary A. Gallerstein, DVM

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


In the wild, birds are masters at hiding illness or weakness, because to demonstrate ill health makes the bird an easy target for predators. As a result, by the time many parrots show obvious signs of illness, they are really quite ill and they may not be able to be nursed back to health.

Giardia is caused by a protozoan called Giardia psittaci. Signs of a Giardia infection include loose droppings, weight loss, feather picking (especially under the wings), loss of appetite, and depression. Because the Giardia organism is difficult to detect in a bird's feces, arriving at a proper diagnosis may be very time-consuming. The disease can be spread through contaminated food or water, and birds do not develop an immunity to it. Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate medication to treat Giardia.

Reference: "Why Does My Bird Do That?" by Julie Rach Mancini


Function: Niacin is involved in many different body processes. It aids in the breakdown of fats and proteins and in red blood cell formation. Also important in reproduction.
Symptoms of Deficiency: A deficiency of niacin can cause pellagra. Signs of pellagra are inflammation of the tongue and mouth, as well as poor feathering and a scaly dermatitis of the feet and the head. Nervousness can also be observed.
Symptoms of Toxicity: While in people it can cause both the cholesterol and triglyceride levels to decrease, it can also cause the blood vessels to dilate. This may result in indigestion, itchy skin, liver damage, ulcers, and an increase in glucose. These problems are not always seen in birds.
Found: Niacin is found in all foods, but the highest amounts are in animal products. In plants, it is poorly absorbed. Rice polishings, as well as yeast, are rich sources of niacin. You can also find niacin in chicken, tuna, peanuts, sesame seeds, brewer's yeast, salmon, eggs, peas, and potatoes.

Reference: "The Healthy Bird Cookbook" by Robin Deutsch


Many dried fruits and vegetables contain sulfites to preserve them. Longer shelf life is what many consumers want. It also makes the fruit look better. However, like some humans, birds can react to these sulfites. Some birds may display bizarre behavior, including plucking and even aggression. Use dried fruits and vegetables from a health food store. These do not include sulfites in their foods.

Reference: "The Healthy Bird Cookbook" by Robin Deutsch

Treat Street

Carrot Broccoli Omelette

2 eggs with shells (washed)
2 tbs low-fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup shredded or finely chopped carrots
1/4 cup finely chopped broccoli

Mix ingredients together. Grease frying pan with organic red palm oil. Scramble eggs until firm.

Reference: "The Healthy Bird Cookbook" by Robin Deutsch

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Vitamin A (Beta Carotene)

Vitamin A is stored in the liver and is needed for good vision. Without adequate vitamin A, night vision is the first to be affected. It is essential for resistance to infections, particularly in the sinuses. This is one of the most common deficiencies in birds. It belongs to the group of vitamins that are known as carotenoids. It is important for healthy eyes, skin, and mucous membranes.
Symptoms of a Deficiency:
A bird with a vitamin A deficiency lacks energy. The bird can have abnormal feather structure, coloring, and growth. Decreased egg production, longer time between clutches, and poor hatchability are also reported. Males will develop a low sperm count. In extreme cases, the central nervous system is affected. Sometimes there can be lesions around the eyes, mouth, feet, and skin. Bones may not develop properly and even kidney problems may occur. Night blindness is also reported, as well as changes in the cornea. Skin problems evidenced by a dried, thickened appearance, can be seen on the feet, cere, and face. Swelling of the sublingual salivary gland can be present, especially in Amazons, African Greys, and Cockatoos. Renal gout may occur in some cases.
Symptoms of Toxicity:
Decrease in appetite, weight loss, muscle soreness, enlarged liver and spleen, dermatitis, poor growth, diarrhea, and nausea.
Vitamin A is found in most fruits, and in yellow or green vegetables. These foods include carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, spinach, apricots, cantaloupe, dandelion leaves, red chili peppers, broccoli, peaches, egg yolk, and peas.

Reference: "The Healthy Bird Cookbook" by Robin Deutsch

The Bach Flower Remedies

Dr. Edward Bach recognized the need to improve the emotions as one of several ways to treat disease. He started his research in the 1900s, investigating how flowers might affect emotions. He knew that the sight and smell of certain flowers produced various emotional shifts in humans. Eventually, he learned how to isolate the flower's essence, which then can be used for therapeutic purposes.
He categorized 38 flowers by their ability to alter the emotions of his patients. Flower essences are intended to work only the mental and emotional aspects of the patient. There are flower essences for fear, anger, transition, anxiety, depression, insecurity, stress and many other emotions. Several different flower essences often are combined in the same bottole to deal with multiple emotional symptoms. A flower essence formula is usually used with other therapies.
English flower essences, modeled after the 38 flowers of Dr. Edward Bach, are remarkably effective for various emotional problems.
(Please note that Bach Flowers are to assist in healing your birds. They should not replace conventional therapies that your bird might need.)

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

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ways to Establish Trust with a New or Frightened Bird

Ways to Establish Trust with a New or Frightened Bird

  • Use a gentle touch and a soothing voice.
  • Move slowly and steadily when you handle the bird.
  • Avoid startling the bird. Announce yourself by talking quietly as you come into a room or when approaching the bird's cage.
  • Remain mindful of the bird's likely reactions to new objects and situations.
  • Remember that the noise level in your home and sounds you and your family consider normal might startle your new companion. These sounds include appliances, people, and other household pets.
  • Be patient.
  • Open your heart and communicate through love.

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

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Foods to Avoid - Sugar

Too much sugar in a bird's diet has been reported to cause severe problems in the digestive system. Like with people, diets that are high in sugar can precede diabetes. This has been reported in many cases when the bird's diet consisted of high-sugar treats and not enough healthy foods.
Because refined sugar has been heavily processed, there is little nutrient value left. Too much refined sugar can not only lead to diabetes, but it can also contribute to yeast infections, heart disorders, high cholesterol, and calcium imbalance. Too much sugar has also been linked to feather plucking, irritability, anxiety, and nervous disorder.
The best kind of sugar comes as natural sugars which are found in fruits and in sweet vegetables like corn.
Reference: "The Healthy Bird Cookbook" by Robin Deutsch

Monday, September 24, 2007

Feathers Bird Clinic

Feathers Bird Clinic is operated out of Natural Pet Animal Hospital in Bourbonnais, Illinois and is run by Karen Becker, DVM, NMD.
Dr. Karen Becker has graciously agreed to allow us to post her informative articles each month. To learn more about Dr. Karen Becker and Feathers Bird Clinic, please visit her web site.

Hypocalcemia and African Greys
For years avian veterinarians have been aware that African Greys are more susceptible to hypocalcemia (low blood calcium levels) than other types of parrots. There are still lots of parrots that are being fed a seed-based (low calcium) diet with the improper ratio of calcium to phosphorus, yet African Greys tend to have more notable problems including seizures, excessive falling and muscle tremors. Recent studies indicate that low calcium levels may result from a dysfunction in parathyroid hormone, most likely as a result of hypoparathyroidism. Parathyroid hormone is released from the parathyroid gland (located in the bird's neck) when serum calcium levels are low. This hormone stimulates the body to remove calcium from the bones when there is not enough being ingested. Like mammals and reptiles, birds that are fed a calcium deficient diet may develop an enlarged parathyroid gland in an attempt to secrete more hormone to get more calcium. Avian researchers speculate that African Greys may not be able to secrete adequate amounts of parathyroid hormone and are therefore more prone to having hypocalcemic episodes. Although the research is still ongoing, these preliminary results provide more proof that African Greys should be raised on a calcium rich pelleted diet and minimal, if any, seeds. It also demonstrates the importance of yearly blood tests to determine the inner health of our feathered friends. Birds that do succumb to hypocalcemia are treated with injectable calcium and vitamin D3, which helps in calcium absorption. We know that inhalent anesthesics alter calcium metabolism and most avian vets will administer injectable calcium to deficient African Greys before any surgical procedure, just to be safe. We also know that steroids can induce hypocalcemia and should be used with caution (I don't use them at all) with African Greys.
Bird Lovers Only Rescue would like to thank Dr. Becker for contributing to this blog and for educating us to be better bird owners and caregivers for many years prior to opening this rescue.

Treat Street

Birdie Quiche

Grease an 8 x 8 pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat together 10 medium or 8 large eggs with small amount of milk.

Place the egg shells (good source of calcium), fresh brocolli, and fresh carrots in food processor and grind until well pulverized. Add to egg mixture. Add 4 oz of shredded cheddar cheese (can substitute mozzarella) to mixture. Stir and pour in pan. Bake until golden brown. Allow to cool and serve.

Another variation is to replace the brocolli and carrots with spinach and mushrooms.

Another Gala Payne masterpiece.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Treat Street

Gala Payne is very well liked by the birds here. She knows that the way to a bird's heart is through his crop, so she cooks up her special plates and we watch the birds woof down the food.
Gala has 15 birds at home and NONE of them will voluntarily eat their veggies. So she was forced to think up ways to "hide" the veggies so they will have a balanced diet. In addition to 15 birds, she also has a full time job so these recipes have to be quick and easy. One of the easiest and most quickly eaten is her rendition of "Birdie Bread."

"Birdie Bread"

Grease an 8 x 8 pan and preheat oven to 350.
2 boxes of Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 small can peas and carrots
1 small can lima beans
1 small can whole corn

Mix muffin mix according to box. Drain and add vegetables. Mix well. Pour in pan and bake until golden brown. Allow to cool and serve.

The FIDS love this because it is semi-sweet and they love bread type textures. In order to keep them from getting bored with this , I routinely change the vegetables. There are several frozen vegetable mixes with various seasonings that can be alternated.

Compliments of Gala Payne, Head Chef at Bird Lovers Only Rescue

The Respiratory System

The efficiency of the bird's respiratory system is a wonderful thing, but it can be the downfall of companion birds. If we as their caregivers fail to recognize potential problems, our birds may die. Pesticides, perfume, oven cleaners, spray-on oil, paint fumes, air fresheners and other common airborne contaminants can hang in the air. If we fail to remove our birds from a room of our home before we spray these toxins or if we bring our birds back before the contaminants have settled out of the air, we endanger them. The efficient respiratory system of the bird takes in relatively huge amounts of the airborne contaminant in relation to the bird's size, and this can kill the bird.

Nonstick coatings on cookware are another source of airborne toxins. Although manufacturers are quick to say that if used properly such coatings will not emit toxins, these assurances can lull people into forgetting that levels of toxins in the air that do not cause any noticeable reaction in humans or other mammals can still kill a bird. Of particular danger are items such as nonstick drip pans that fit under stove burners. These routinely reach temperatures far in excess of precautionary guidelines. The best idea is to remove all nonstick items from your household. This will prevent you and any guests from accidentally misusing such items and killing your birds. There are often times nonstick parts in self-cleaning ovens and can omit toxic fumes that can kill your birds within a couple of hours due to the high temperatures needed over a prolonged period of time.

If you live with a bird, do not smoke. It's as simple as that. If you or your guests smoke, your bird takes in a huge volume of second-hand smoke. Enforce this simple rule: NO SMOKING INSIDE YOUR HOUSE.

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

Vitamin E

There are 8 forms of vitamin E found in plants. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which is used by the body to prevent chemicals in the body from damaging cells. Vitamin E deficiencies can lead to muscular dystrophy and other disorders.

Symptoms of a Deficiency: Birds with a vitamin E deficiency will lack vigor, develop problems that are associated with the nervous system, and develop blood and vasular disorders, anemia, and muscular disorders.

Symptoms of Toxicity: Vitamin E acts as an antagonist to vitamin A, destroying its antioxidant effects.

Found: Vitamin E is found in whole grains, some cereals, and fresh, green leafy vegetables such as spinach. It can be found in safflower oil, canned peaches, dried prunes, asparagus, broccoli, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, brussel sprouts, and whole-grain breads. Feeding too much cod liver oil (to make up for vitamin D3 deficiencies) will lead to deficiencies because it will oxidize the vitamin E in the bird's system.

Reference: "The Healthy Bird Cookbook" by Robin Deutsch

Treat Street

Treat Street Recipe of the Week

"Bean Deluxe"

1/4 cup pinto beans
1/4 cup navy beans
1/4 cup kidney beans
1/4 cup lentils, cooked
1/4 cup yellow or green split peas
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup cooked white rice
1/4 cup cooked bulgur
1 pkg frozen veggies
1/4 cup banana chips (optional)

Soak the beans overnight. Drain. Add enough water to cover beans and chips. Cook until tender which usually takes about 1 (one) hour. Add the frozen veggies and continue cooking until done. Add the previously cooked rice and bulgur.

Reference: "The Healthy Bird Cookbook" by Robin Deutsch

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Introducing Mitzi

Mitzi arrived on Saturday, September 8th. She is a Congo African Grey and is between 15 and 17 years of age. She is plucked in front, but her follicles look healthy so she should be able to regrow her feathers. We will be concentrating on feather regrowth.

Mitzi speaks just like her previous owner. She has an adorable southern accent and speaks very lady-like and demurely. She is such a chatterbox...constantly carrying on conversations. She also has a contagious laugh. She is a very nice bird and knows the step up command.

Mitzi had us chuckling at her toddler antics when she would toss a treat on the floor in defiance. She has an incredible personality and talents to match. She's a happy bird that loves to dance and swing through the air. She also will lay on her back while you rub her tummy, but since she prefers men she will only do this with a male. She loves attention and loves to be spoken to in a gentle voice.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Apple Cider Vinegar

Organic apple cider vinegar is a wonderful product for the health of the intestinal system. It has a number of beneficial vitamins and minerals. Perhaps it is most useful as an acidifier of the intestinal tract and the entire body. It can be placed into the water bowl daily when needed. Indications for its use include chronic disbiosis, candida infections, chronic gram negative bacterial infections, chronic diarrhea due to an abnormal bacteria in the intestinal system, foul-smelling stools and proventricular dilatation disease.

Dose: 1 to 2 tablespoons in 8 ounces of water. You can flavor it with a little honey. Use it as the only source of water for one to two weeks at a time.

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

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Food Dyes

Many food dyes are synthetic and are not natural. Synthetic food colors are sometimes derived from petroleum or coal tars. In high doses, these food dyes have caused cancer in lab rats. They are also linked to allergies and even behavioral disorders. According to the FDA, different dyes can cause different problems.

Red dye #3 has been linked to thyroid tumors, chromosomal damage, and hyperactivity. Red dye #40 has been linked to lymphatic tumors and hyperactivity. Blue dye #1 has been known to cause chromosomal damage, while blue dye #2 has been linked to brain tumors. Green dye #3 can cause bladder tumors. Yellow dye #5 has been known to cause thyroid and lymphatic tumors, allergic reactions, and hyperactivity, and yellow dye #6 has caused kidney tumors, chromosomal damage, and allergic reactions.

It is highly recommended to use natural dyes in your bird's food (and yours as well).

Treat Street

Treat Street Recipe of the Week

Each week we offer a different recipe that someone has either tried from a recipe book or just decided to wing it (no pun intended) and ended up a hit with their birds.

"Oatmeal Delight"
  • 1/4 fresh banana, mashed
  • 1 tbs of coconut milk (for thinner birds)
  • 1 tsp finely ground nuts
  • 2-3 strawberries, mashed
  • 1 tsp granola or Grape-Nuts
  • Yogurt (optional)
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1-3/4 cup water

Mash fruit together. Cook the oatmeal according to instructions. Add the coconut milk to the oatmeal and stir. Add the mashed fruit. Then add the nuts and stir again. Top with the granola or the Grape-Nuts. Add any flavor of yogurt and stir well. Serve.

May I have this dance?

Snowball is a medium sulphur crested Eleanora cockatoo and he loves to dance and sing. He loves the Back Street Boys. No one taught Snowball to dance...he just heard this song and suddenly felt like dancing. We're all jealous because he can outdance each one of us...nobody likes a show off! When he's really in the mood, he dances and sings. And at the end of the performance he takes a bow or two or twenty!! Enjoy the show.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

George the Severe Macaw

George is approximately ten years old and won our hearts when he said "George? Want a cracker? Want a cookie?" It doesn't take much to win us over. All some birds have to do is give us the 'look' and we're melted butter. The Severe Macaw is the largest of the mini macaws and resembles its larger counterparts in that they have facial feathers.
George loves playing with his toys...especially his bell. He will ring his bell and wrestle with it. Sometimes when the bell swings back at him he thinks it's on the attack and goes at with even greater enthusiasm!
We're presently working with George away from his cage on parrot stands since he is very cage territorial. George does not step up on command so we have work ahead of us.