Does your parrot have everything it needs? Part III

How to tell if your bird is sick
Most bird diseases need urgent attention by the veterinary. Birds are true masters at hiding any symptoms of disease (by nature they do not show signs of weakness to potential predators). Often birds are already in critical condition when presented to the veterinary. Typically, the client informs us that his parrot has been sick since the previous day, examination and diagnosis often indicates that the sickness has been developing for several weeks. It is therefore important to monitor your bird daily and be suspicious of any behavioural changes such as not playing, poor social interaction, vocalizing or change of feeding habits as well as more obvious physical changes including change of  stools and respiratory or eye secretions. A simple telephone call to your veterinary can often resolve problems and answer owners concerns, but always be safe and consult your veterinary at any early indication of problems.

Regular check-ups
At least once a year, your parrot should be checked by a veterinary. Checks may include: Weighing for record logging and prevention of obesity. Beak filing and nail clipping (if required). Legs and feet checked for calluses which are filed if necessary. Skin and feather condition, natural openings and mucous membranes. Blood tests including uric acid, liver enzymes, glucose, red and white blood cell count. Analysis
of faeces allows the veterinary to determine digestion of carbohydrates and fats and also provide an indication of any intestinal parasites.
A radiograph or an endoscopy may also be required to explore their air sacs, abdomen etc, and to see the target organs of certain diseases. In certain cases (especially where there is discharge or regurgitation has been reported), a veterinary may also take samples (pharynx, nostrils or ears) in order to determine any bacterial and fungal flora conditions in these organs.

Visiting the vet
When you take your parrot to a veterinary you should cover the cage with a towel to avoid your bird any stress. If the usual cage is too large, use a cardboard box with adequate ventilation. You should bring samples of fresh faeces. It is recommended that the owner himself brings
the bird and explains any condition. However, it is also advisable that the owner should not remain with the bird during examination, this prevents these ‘sociable’ and ‘trusting’ birds from associating the veterinary drama with the owner.

This article was published in Costa Blanca News.

Does your parrot have everything it needs? Part II

In addition to classic corn seeds, wheat, sunflower, etc., fruits and vegetables are a daily requirement. Raw carrot, apple, pear are good examples (try grated carrot so as to accustom the bird for the first days). Sinusitis and other diseases are very common and often brought about by a seed only diet. Seed only diets are deficient in many vitamins, especially vitamin A.
Encourage your bird to ‘work for its dinner’ by placing seeds in wire mesh or netting, this helps imitate the effort and behavior required in nature. It is preferable to obtain seed mixture which is supplied from a closed container, bulk seeds from shops can be manhandled by the public and can become a vehicle for infectious agents. Once a week, offer the bird dried fruits and for a special monthly treat try honey or fruit sticks. Weight control is important and Parrots often show signs of obesity, especially if overfed the fattier sunflower seeds or peanuts or given too many treats. A bird should not be given cheese, macaroni, pizza, hamburger and numerous human food… it will shorten its life. Chocolate must always be avoided, a small piece of chocolate can be fatal within minutes. Other foods such as avocado and onions are also too toxic for a birds system.
There are commercial feeds such as croquettes that contain many nutrients and food groups your parrot needs and enjoys, but always ensure that these are supplemented with daily fruit.

Drinking water should be changed daily and always kept clean. Do not medicate the water with vitamins or antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. Drink containers  should be placed away from the perch so as to avoid contamination from excrement. From time to time offer your bird fruit juice (not citrus) either on
a spoon or with a syringe as an extra source of vitamins, your bird will probably see this as a game. Plumage should be kept clean and hygienic by allowing the bird to bathe. Access to a water filled bathing tub should be provided for 20 minutes every day (even in winter). Secondary wing feathers can be cut in order to prevent flight and is a common practice for parrots that spend a lot of time outside of the cage. However, this is not recommended as one of the beauties of these animals is to see them fly.

Health and veterinary requirements:

When a bird is first acquired, it is necessary to have it de-wormed and for your  veterinarian to perform a stool test on the bird. This test needs regular repeating if your bird is housed with other birds, or even if other birds are nearby or around the house (eg sparrows). Anti-parasitic sprays are also recommended where birds mix with others. If not exposed to other birds, you do not need to de-worm or spray so regularly. Vaccinations are not normally necessary unless there is an epidemic in the area.

Parrots can transmit numerous diseases to humans. Common allergic reactions to feathers can affect humans, however more serious conditions such as ornithosis/chlamydiosis can also be transmitted. Newly acquired birds should be blood tested in order to establish any presence or incubation of such diseases.
Basic hygiene, such as washing hands after handling the cage or the bird needs to be adopted, as should the avoidance of  mouth contact with the bird (especially the beak). It is very common for bird owners to  allow ‘kissing’, but this really should be avoided. Faeces and urine are mixed in the cloaca and are expelled together. The stool colour may  vary in the same animal, this being dependant on the amount and type of fruit eaten. Stools should be removed from the cage daily as microorganisms grow on them which are dangerous not only to the bird, but also to the health of people living in the household.  It is essential to use an absorbent  cage liner (cat-litter is toxic and to be avoided) the most recommended type of liner is plant based.

This article was published in Costa Blanca News.

Does your parrot have everything it needs? part I

This family of exotic birds includes, naturally the True Parrot, but also within this group we have parakeets, macaws, lovebirds, etc.
These kinds of birds are becoming increasingly popular as household pets, to some extend taking preference over cats and dogs. Much of the
popularity for birds can be attributed to the low

The Parrot (psittacines).

This family of exotic birds includes, naturally the True Parrot, but also within this group we have parakeets, macaws, lovebirds, etc.
These kinds of birds are becoming increasingly popular as household pets, to some extend taking preference over cats and dogs. Much of the
popularity for birds can be attributed to the low maintenance and lesser attention required from owners, however there are minimum requirements owners of these pets should know. The best way to care for any parrot is to mimic their natural habitat as much as possible. 90% of diseases are due to poor care by their owners, especially in terms of food and psychological conditions to which caged birds are subjected to.


When purchasing a parrot it is important to obtain a detailed invoice from an accredited breeder/importer. This invoice needs to quote the ‘CITES’ (Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species) number of the bird and the documentation should be retained for the life of the bird. The ‘CITES’ number is a unique code for each individual bird and is proof the bird has been legally obtained in accordance with international law which governs this protected species. Any bird that does not have a ‘CITES’ identification is illegal and may be seized by the authorities at any time. Although the bird should be fitted with an identification ring, it is highly recommended that a microchip is implanted for added security.


Is it male or female? Visual examination tells us little about the sex of a parrot. Two methods are available for determining the sex, firstly a DNA test can be performed, alternatively an endoscope can be employed to show the internal genitalia. An endoscopic examination will also indicate the maturity of the bird. Sexual maturity is usually reached at 3-4 years.


Typically large parrots live for many decades. Birds receiving a good diet and care can reach 40-50 years of age or more. Smaller parrots such as budgies, lovebirds, etc, can reach 20 years.


Parrots are often ‘one owner pets’ which can be seen in its acceptance, or not, of holding and touching. If you are not paying enough attention they may enter a phase of boredom and depression that can accelerate the emergence of diseases and behavioural problems, including pecking or selfmutilation. Sometimes a parrot develops such a strong bond with an owner that an absolute dependency is established. In such cases the absence or lack of attention from an owner can  prevent a bird from eating or drinking and may result in days of self-starvation, feather pulling and continuous vocalization. Parrots are a sociable species and if an owner cannot give adequate time or attention a partner bird may be a good alternative. Do they talk? In general, all  parrots have the ability to imitate human (and other) sounds. It all depends on the bird’s location and environment. A parrot can imitate a bark or a meow if living with a dog or cat. Teaching a parrot to talk requires patience, but it is not impossible.

In a domestic habitat

The cage should be large enough so that the bird can fully extend its wings without  restriction. Do not place the cage where there is too much sun or drafts. Avoid heating and air conditioning. Never place it in the kitchen or where toxic fumes are  emitted, they are quite sensitive to tobacco smoke. Furnish the cage with branches or leaves so as to provide some replication of a natural environment.
It is advisable to allow the bird out of the cage several times a day, again this is more natural than being in a cage all  day and avoids behavioural problems such as depression or pecking. Do not allow a bird to chew or pick metallic objects or ornaments which might
contain lead, zinc or other heavy metals which are a common cause of poisoning. It’s highly beneficial for a bird to ‘take the sun’ a few minutes a day, but always direct sunlight in measured quantity… not through glass! Provide perches or poles of sufficient thickness and size in relation to the feet, do not use thin perches and poles. Commercial perches are available which are made of rough material which helps
prevent calluses of the feet. Never use chains to tie the legs, these are the cause of frequent fractures. Harnesses (as for cats and dogs) are available to assist in handling, but harnesses should not be left on permanently or whilst the bird is unattended. A thick ‘limestone’, secured
in the cage is a must and will help maintain a healthy beak  and prevent overgrowth. The beak does contain nerve endings which extend practically to the tip of the beak, therefore a beak should only be trimmed by someone experienced in doing so, otherwise the bird could be subjected to great pain. As well as a tool for picking and dealing with its food, the beak (and tongue) is used by a parrot as a method of greeting. Equip your bird’s cage with ‘safe’ toys and gadgets: ropes,  bells, mirrors etc, to prevent boredom. They need things they can ‘chop and destroy’ which they do naturally (eg hardwood and rope).  Reposition toys once a month, this prevents the stereotypical repetitive movements often exhibited by caged birds.

This article was published in Costa Blanca News.