What are they supposed to look like?
All bird droppings are made up of three parts:
- Faeces (feces), the solid, central part which can vary in color depending on the food the bird eats.
- Urates, the next layer of the ring, which can be cloudy-clear or with shades of white, yellows and greens, again depending on the foods eaten.
- Urine is the clear liquid, usually outer layer of the ring. Depending on the amount of fruits and fluids the bird eats/drinks, this can be a significant part of the dropping.
Human companions to birds need to learn what’s normal for their bird. When the bird is healthy, acting fine and eating a well balanced diet, there’s a general look to the droppings that may vary depending on the time of day, but are usually similar looking. If a bird eats beets one day, the droppings may look frighteningly reddish. Sometimes when the bird eats more dark leafy greens (or blueberries), the droppings can assume a nearly black hue.
When a bird is on a largely seed diet, the feces may be any shade of bright green; pelleted diets without added food colorings would produce a dull, brownish-green. If the bird is eating colored pellets, the droppings may reflect which colors are most often chosen.
True diarrhea is when the feces part of the droppings are not well formed and liquidy. Diarrhea is usually caused by a disease. Polyuria is when there’s more than usual amounts of the urine and urates (the feces are still well formed).
Polyuria may be caused by viral infections, allergies to foods or even a tumor somewhere. There are just so many possible causes that a vet visit is essential in order to catch things early.
If there’s ever red in the droppings and they have no dietary explanation, blood must be suspected and it’s prudent to make an appointment with an avian vet. If droppings remain abnormal more than 24 hours, please see a vet or have a mobile vet visit your home. It’s far better to have a visit and exam find nothing wrong, than to miss something that with early treatment may insure the bird lives.
Abnormal droppings may be the result of food allergies, poisoning (such as zinc or other heavy metals), parasites, Psittacosis or even stress. A vet should do a physical exam and may include any one or more of the following: Blood tests, gram stains/cultures, x-rays, even oral/crop/tracheal swabs and so on.
(Ref: Dr Alex Rosenwax, Pres. Australian Avian Veterinary Medical Association (AAVMA) which is a special interest group for avian veterinarians; UC Davis Veterinary Avian Research;
Feeding Your Bird Junk Science vs Real Science
So much information is flooding the net these days about what to feed a companion bird, whether a budgie/parakeet, cockatiel or marvelous macaw. It’s sometimes difficult to wade through the junk science, old wives tales, well meaning owner advice or just plain dangerous suggestions.
It’s generally recommended that all domesticated birds enjoy a pelleted diet. They have been continually updated since being introduced to the market years ago and today’s formulas are better than ever.
Supplementing this diet with fresh foods every day is ideal and many owners find they can re-introduce seeds – in limited amounts (perhaps once or twice a week) without the bird refusing the pellets overall. There are three persistent fallacies circulating like urban legends (well, there are a lot more than three, but three I deal with more than others) :
- 1. That birds cannot eat parsley
- 2. Spinach inhibits the absorption of calcium and is harmful to birds
- 3. Pellets are not a good main food.
The science is that:
- 1. Parsley does adversely effect water fowl (ducks, etc)
- 2. Spinach does contain oxylates which, in large amounts, may inhibit some absorption of calcium, however, enough calcium generally gets through to make lists by published avian vets as one of the “top five foods”.
- 3. Pellets have come a long way from what they started out as years ago.
When it comes to the debate over seeds or pellets and how much of each to feed?
Avian vets says, (quote) “Pellets are the ideal diet” and “Seeds, if used at all, should never make up more than 10-15% of your bird’s total foods” list. By the way, spinach is in their “recommended foods” list as well. Remember, diet is only part of the needs of our companions. Interaction, proper cage/environment, perches, grooming facilities (including cuttlebone and mineral blocks) as well as ‘toys’ to keep them occupied, challenged, their beak in condition and more is also required.
Always have an avian vet or a facility familiar with bird treatment see your bird to begin with and give a general check up including genetic blood panel to rule out as many diseases as possible (they can also tell you for sure if it’s a boy or a girl!). Once you do this, you’ll also have a doctor you know and who knows your bird – that you can call in case of emergency or when you need advice. There is nothing more valuable than this when you and your bird are in need!
The Bird Ate WHAT?
Most bird owners know it’s important to keep them from access to alcohol, avocado, chocolate, caffeine, excessive sugar and salt, but that doesn’t mean the bird won’t get into these things at some point.
We’ve had frantic owners with children who shared a chocolate chip cookie with their feathered friend and we’ve had owners who insist that Birdy has been sharing coffee at breakfast for years with no problem. In the first case, while chances are the smallest bite of a piece of milk chocolate by a larger bird won’t cause immediate damage, it is something that needs to be followed up. Liver damage may be subtle and take some time to display symptoms. By the time symptoms are seen it is often too late.
In the second scenario, well, same thing. Liver damage and other organ damage may take some time to show symptoms. With health problems escalating from the wrong choices in our own diet – how can people think sharing this stuff with birds is a good thing? It would be by far the better choice for us to start eating like birds!
Whole grains, dark leafy vegetables, fruits and legumes. Include the colors orange, yellow, green, plus reds too! Think sweet potatoes/yams, squash, melons, oranges, peas, chard, beets and others. Brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat couscous and natural, whole grain pastas are great choices. Limit fats, especially the kind from animals. Good fats are most plant fats like soy, olive and canola oils. No fried anything!
We’re not unreasonable. Now and then we all need a cookie. Opt for homemade, natural fruit cookies or admittedly indulge in all natural, organic vegan oatmeal or other (non-chocolate, non-carob) cookies. We eat most of it, the bird gets a thumbnail size (for a macaw).
A 1/2 teaspoon of natural (again, preferably organic) yogurt without artificial flavorings is also ok, as is about the same amount of low or no sugar added ice cream or frozen yogurt. Remember, no chocolate or chocolate substitutes allowed. Read labels. This is not only essential for the bird, but a pretty good idea for you too. Take a look below for more very good information and options about this subject
Nutrition Hot Spot (Nutritionist for Birds)
Screaming? Biting? Your bird hates you?
It’s easy to give animals human characteristics. It helps us identify with them. The truth is though that it’s pretty insulting to the animal.
Animals do not hate. They do not plot against you and they are not mean spirited. When we see actions that remind us of this, it’s always due to the animal being afraid, cautious, nervous or wary. In a new home or even in a new spot in an old home; A new cage or even a new toy in an old cage; A new person in the house or an old person with a new look?
Things that you, as a human, understand, the animal may perceive as a threat or potential threat. Once you take a look at life from the animal’s point of view, it’s amazing what you might see and understand.
Remember – especially when it comes to birds – they don’t get many second chances in nature. If they mess up even once they become another animal’s meal. It makes perfect sense to err on the side of caution. When your bird screams and you react, even if you’re red in the face, yelling and flailing your arms in the air, the bird is getting a reward for the scream – your attention.
The worst thing you can do to a bird is deny them your attention. So, when there’s screaming going on, stop and silence everything. Put the t.v. on mute, put the kids on mute and everybody freeze, turning your back to the bird or even leaving the room. Sure, this is an effort on your part, but think about it. If it stops the screaming, isn’t a few days of effort going to be worth
it? There are no quick solutions, no magic or secret tricks.
Once the bird stops screaming – and your timing needs to be impeccable to catch them during those few seconds as they catch their breath – turn or re enter the room, face them, quietly praise them and interact. The moment they start again, turn your back and hit all those mute buttons again.
A screaming bird is one who also could use a different outlet for this behavior. We’ve got a Severe macaw that has learned to use bell ringing instead. Admittedly this gets annoying too, but we have to be reasonable, birds are going to make noise.
Keep this in mind and set aside a couple times a day for the bird to be a bird. Usually in the morning and just before going to roost in the evening most birds will chatter and call out to touch base with everyone else in their flock, which under domestic conditions is you and your family. Prepare the neighborhood and remind them that at least it’s not loud music, annoying boom-cars, screaming children, barking dogs or fighting spouses (although you want to be careful about what you say and to whom) – this is just a few minutes a couple times a day of a bird exercising their vocal chords.
Another method of curbing the incessant screaming is a simple water bottle set on stream. When the bird begins at the wrong time, firmly say “no” (which will quickly be learned and repeated back to you by most parrots) and squirt at their tail feathers or feet, just once or twice. Always plain, clean water; never – ever at their body or head and do not do this repeatedly. You want it to be a surprise that distracts them from the screaming, not something that terrifies them of the bottle, the water or you! Very shortly you’ll find you don’t need to squirt at all, just point the bottle in their direction, or in some cases, just aim your finger – it works with ours sometimes.
It’s important to remember a water bottle set on stream and not used very often for distraction like this should never be the same bottle used to spritz your bird for cleaning or feather health.
All this will do is stress your bird, confuse them and set you back in your relationship and trust. Some people might employ the “time out” method. I’m not fond of this because many people over-use it and the bird only ends up neglected and developing more behavior or mental problems.
A proper “time out” would be to remove the bird to a quiet room when the screaming gets out of hand. The bird should only be in the quiet room until the very second they stop screaming or between 5-10 minutes (whichever is first). After 5-10 minutes the bird isn’t aware of the association anymore and you’re just being mean. Humans are the only animals that are mean on purpose.
Owww! No biting
Hand raised birds are less likely to bite as long as they are consistently handled, but I can assure you that even these gentle babies will test you a few times. It’s not that they intend to remove your finger, but they aren’t hatched knowing how much a human can tolerate.
When you react, it may frighten or startle them and their instinct dictates that they hang on for safety, which means they’ll bite even harder. Of course it may also be a reaction to a perceived threat – which is you making noises they’re not familiar with (all that screaming and yelling).
That’s one scenario anyway. There are also going to be times when a bird growing up just decides they don’t want your attention at the moment and using their beak is the only way to make you stop.
Some birds have learned this is the only way to control a human and they, by instinct (like so many other animals) want that control. It usually means safety as well. Birds “beak” other birds of the same species. It’s affectionate, it’s play and it’s sometimes a means to let the other bird know just who’s boss.
We’ve found that it doesn’t matter how big the bird is, it’s how they use their beak that counts. A little Mini Macaw is by far more threatening in our in-house flock than the bigger Macaws. The little one strikes like a viper and hangs on like a pitbull, the bigger ones lunge, nip and withdraw. It’s a pinch, but it’s over fast.
The Severe’s bite always causes damage though. To avoid this, make sure you get them out for at least two hours a day (ours are out for 7+ hours every day) and keep the inside of their cage fresh. That is, change the location of food dishes, perches, switch out toys and even move the cage a foot or two in the room.
When a bird starts biting, drop your arm so the bird is below your shoulder level and if necessary shake your arm just enough to distract the bird from biting (these are called ‘earthquakes’ and should never be severe enough to displace or drop the bird). Move. Quickly walk away from where you are – bird still on arm – perhaps to a different and unfamiliar room.
These are all options that you can do just as fast as reacting to the bite the old fashioned way with yelling, crying and swatting at the bird which is never good, always sets the relationship back and only makes things worse every time.
Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Humans don’t usually get enough and look at us! Road raging, passive-aggressive, cranky and moody. At least encourage the bird you share your home with to get enough sleep. It doesn’t so much matter when, just that 12 hours be dedicated to quiet, subdued light and inactivity regularly with 12 hours of daylight, interaction, challenges and activity.
These hours need to be consistent – you shouldn’t be changing the pattern all the time.
If you end up with an especially aggressive bird or an egg laying female, increasing nighttime hours. If this doesn’t work – there is probably something else going on.
Take a closer look at their environment and of course their health.