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 http://youtube.com/watch?v=N7IZmRnAo6s

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