Passerines - song birds, e.g. finches, canaries and mynah birds
These birds are usually kept in mixed outdoor-aviaries with a sheltered indoor area - outdoor flight area. These birds fly horizontally not vertically, so if kept inside should have a long cage with perches of various sizes at various heights.
They are primarily seed eaters and require a mix of hemp, rape, millet and canary seed. Soft food based around egg; greens such as chickweed; vitamins, mineral; grit; and fruit and vegetables should also be offered. And fresh water.
Psittacines - Birds with a strong curved beak; and with two toes forward and two back when perching e.g. parrots.
It is essential that the bird can stretch its wings in all directions when in its cage. Cages should be for night-time or when it is alone, with the bird generally allowed supervised access to the room/s. All areas the bird has access to should be indestructible, allow easy cleaning, and be made of non-toxic material. Galvanised wire, a common constituent of cheaper cages, if ingested, will cause zinc toxicity. Wooden perches of different thickness and at different heights should be provided.
Sandpaper perches do not wear nails down but it does destroy the papillae on the soles of their feet causing severe feet problems. Plastic and metal perches may also do this; and they are not fun to chew!
Branches with a bit of give a one end will enable the bird to exercise their perching muscles.
Ropes are better than chains. Accept that toys are there to be destroyed. Dog chews, Parrot Kongs, cardboard boxes and wooden toys will help to entertain these intelligent birds.
It is important to remember that these birds are as intelligent as a 5 year old child: they will get bored. They can also be trained. These are topical birds. They need a 12 hour day. This means putting them to bed at night, either covering the cage or moving it to a quiet dark room. Long days lead to behavioural problems (including feather plucking) similar to a % year old child.
Most bird are fed an unbalanced diet that the bird's body 'copes' with for up to decade before it finally shows signs. The usual deficiencies are Vitamin A and/or calcium. Obesity is a further concern. Foot problems, feather problems and falling off the perch are usually related to diet.
A diet of 30% fruit, 30% vegetables, 30% sprouted pulses and only 10% seeds and nuts with added vitamins and minerals. These should be thoroughly chopped together to discourage selective feeding. Nuts and seeds are high in cholesterol (obesity) and low in essential amino acids, Vit A, D3, B6 and B12 and low in calcium and phosphorous. A maximum of 5 sunflower seeds per day as a treat or training aid.
There are commercial diets such as Harrison's. They are eaten quickly leading to boredom. They are quite often different colours but the contents are the same, so it doesn't matter if your bird is selective.
Don't forget fresh water every day.
To change a 'seed junkie' over to a proper diet mix 10% of the new diet, finely chopped, with the seed. Adding fruit juice may help. Sprouted pulses are highly palatable.
Fruit: Peaches, oranges, apples, plums, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, banana.
Vegetables: Carrots, beetroot, celery, corn, tomatoes, watercress, lettuce, mustard cress, dandelion, groundsel, chickweed, nasturtiums.
Pulses: Soya beans, bean sprouts, peas, chick peas, butter beans, lentils, haricot beans, mung beans.
Seeds: Wheat, oats, millet, buckwheat, sunflower seed, hemp, pumpkin seeds, linseed, rape seed.
Nuts: peanuts. Brazil nuts, walnuts, pine nuts.
UV light is also important for their well being. Besides being necessary for Vit D conversion, it also is visible to parrots. Ripe fruit reflects UV light. Remember to check the use by date for the UV tube and keep it out of reach of your parrot.
The exception to this feeding guide is the budgie. Budgerigars are ground-feeding seed-eaters. They will benefit from a passerine-type diet. Trill is particularly good as it has added iodine. Goitre is a common problem in budgies due to iodine deficiency.
Sexing can now be achieved from feather pulp or blood testing for those species that do not have obvious differences.
Chocolate, avocado, salt, alcohol, tea, coffee, and access to heated Teflon pans (they release a poisonous gas). Live electric cables are invariably fatal.
Tobacco smoke is poisonous to birds, it will damage their lungs, and it will stain them yellow and gum up their feathers.
© Hillside Veterinary Centre