MickaBlog Blog from March, 2010

Mickaboo will be joining other rescue groups in a multi-agency adoption event this coming Saturday, March 27, 11-4!  See us and many of our foster flock at the East Bay SPCA, 8323 Baldwin St, Oakland, CA.  We will also have bird toys and other supplies available for purchase - all proceeds benefit your favorite bird rescue organization.

Date: Sunday, March 28, 2010:
Time: 12:30 - 4:30 pm
Location: For Other Living Things, 1261 South Mary Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA  408-739-6785

We will have the services of an avian veterinarian at our March clinic, and will therefore be able to offer microchipping and DNA sexing as well as our normal wing and nail trim services.

Cost for services:

* Wing OR nail trim - $10 per bird
* Wing AND nail trim - $15 per bird
* DNA sexing - $30
* Microchipping for birds weighing 100 gm or more - $30
Appointments are recommended (and required for DNA sexing and microchipping) and must be received by noon, Saturday, March 27.

To make an appointment, email the following information to pr@mickaboo.org:

  • How many birds of what species you will be bringing
  • Which services (nail trim, wing clip, microchipping, DNA sexing) you want for which bird
  • Any time slot preference.  We can do a maximum of two birds per 15 minute time slot.

(Example: "I will be bringing two African Greys.  One African Grey needs a wing trim; the second African Grey needs both nail and wing trims.  My first time preference is for 12:30 pm; my second time preference is for 3:15 pm.")

For the safety of all, please plan on bringing your bird(s) in a carrier or in a harness.
Payment will be accepted at the clinic in cash or check.

Citrus fruits and birds

We were asked today whether citrus fruits (like oranges) are healthy for birds.  Here's the answer - together with a novel use for the fruit peels:

Citrus is alright only in very small quantities and should not be considered a staple food. Like most fruits, citruses contain more sugar than birds should get on a regular basis. In addition, the highly acidic nature of citrus fruits can cause increased absorption of iron in the digestive system, which should be avoided in some birds.

Some alternatives ways to share fruit with your feathered friends:

-- Squeeze organic juice oranges for human consumption, then hang the empty shells on a skewer.  There's a lot of nutrition in the peel, and they'll get less sugar than from a whole orange.  You can also add greens and other veggies to the skewer and shove them inside the orange "cup".  Your birds will have to chew through the nutritious stuff to get to the yummy orange.

-- Squeeze the oranges and then dry the peels in a low oven.  You can dry them as open cups or tie them in the middle.  They make great foraging containers.

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For more interesting information about bird care, see our reading room .

Birds Play!

We know birds play with toys, but does anyone notice that birds will play games?  Here is one story from a foster parent: 

Rico (green wing macaw) LOVES to play footsie.  Every night when he goes to bed he climbs onto the cage door where I will tell him "I'm going to get your toes!" Rico will then climb up and down the cage trying to catch me with his foot or beak. Now at first I wasn't sure if this was playing or if I was making him mad, but the game has taken on a new direction.  When Rico is sitting on his play stand, he will hold on with one foot and his beak and hold his other foot out trying to "get me".  He actually opens and closes his foot trying to catch my finger! He loves this game!  I am now positive that he enjoys this interaction because I play with him then hold my arm up and he will immediately stop "playing" and come up for a kiss. 

My other macaw, Mackie (Blue & Gold) will sit on my chest and watch television (really I am watching while he is being scritched).  Sometimes he will make this funny hissing sound, squeal, and then try to pinch the skin under my chin.  If I move my hand for protection, he will move to another area to pinch me.  Of course if he gets me we both end up saying "owwww!"  He gets really worked up and excited. Mackie also obsesses over his beloved Babble Balls.  When he is bugging my son, my son will say "Mackie, I'm going to get your balls!" Mackie will run as fast as his legs will carry him to protect those blue babies and squeals like a girl the whole way.  I swear I'm going to have someone videotape this because I know we would win America's Funniest Home Videos!

Mickaboo to the Rescue!

A San Jose household which recently had to leave their foreclosed home released the birds in their aviary to the outdoors.  The news story about the release, and Mickaboo's efforts to re-capture the birds, is at http://www.ktvu.com/video/22781207/index.html

Please spread the word that releasing captive parrots is NOT an option if you can't keep your birds - instead, contact your local rescue or humane society. One bird has already been plucked off by a hawk and despite our volunteers' best efforts, it's likely more of these parrots will die than be rescued :(

Thoughts on Birds' Beaking

The following was written by a volunteer in response to another's question: Are male cockatiels nippy?  The response definitely puts birds' beaking/biting in a different light.

Bird bites can mean vastly different things under different circumstances. All parrots bite, and they bite in various ways. While we should try to avoid biting that is hostile, aggressive, or defensive, it's important to recognize that many bites are none of these things. Some indeed are affectionate, while others simply convey information. Parrots have a whole vocabulary of bites, expressing a wide range of meanings. I would suggest, in fact, that among parrots, biting and beaking are a distinct and highly evolved medium of communication in their own right, as developed and elaborate, rich, varied, and subtle, as their vocalizations and body language. I believe it is not really possible or desirable to extinguish biting of every sort, and if we could (and to the extent we try) the price would be too high, in that doing so would suppress an important and natural channel of communication and self-expression.

To see why biting is so important, consider that parrots, like other birds, stand upright on two legs (one of many interesting features they share with humans). But having wings instead of arms and hands, they use their beaks and tongues for many of the same things for which we use hands and fingers. Most parrots already use one foot as a hand to hold and manipulate objects, so their beak and tongue serve as a second hand, allowing even greater control and deeper exploration. The beak in fact is probably the more important "hand." It has a much stronger grip than the fingers/toes and and very fine control and coordination.

Further, much as our hands and fingers do for us, the beak-tongue complex takes in a great deal of sensory information for the bird. Both beak and tongue have many nerve endings, making them important tactile sensory instruments. They are the bird's most direct and intimate way of knowing its world (and probably one reason you see parrots running their beaks and tongues all over their cages, toys, and whatever else they encounter).

Now when you have an organ that can both exercise fine motor control and has great tactile perceptual sensitivity, it's hardly surprising it should develop into a means of communication. And indeed - again like our expressive hands - the parrot's beak sends as well as receives information. As a form of close-range communication among these highly social birds, biting and beaking express a huge range of emotions, intentions, desires, and other information. No doubt, this medium of communication is important in wild parrot flocks, where you see birds perching very close together, chattering, preening, squabbling and playing with one another. Bites may express affection and trust; they may be playful, taunting, warning, or disciplinary; they may express irritation, anger, fear, and other emotions. A bite may mean "Leave me alone," "Stay out of my personal space," or "Get out of my way!" It may be part of allover preening and mean "I like you," "You are mine," or "Let's play." It may be part of play: "Ha! Gotcha now!!" It may mean "Ow! You snagged a pinfeather! Watch it, buddy!" It may mean, "Hey, I'm talking to you! Pay attention to me!" or "um, ... you were just giving me a head rub a second ago, remember? Hey! HELLO!!??" It may mean "No! I don't want this (food you're offering)." It may be an urgent "Help! Get away from this danger!" or an outraged "You jerk! How dare you!?" ... that barely scratches the surface, but the range of bite/beak meanings is at least this broad. And each of these bites has distinct qualities in terms of its target, strength, duration and/or repetition, and other features. Each usually also has associations with other expressive features of body language and/or vocalizations, as well as a host of other contextual clues, all of which taken together convey a lot of information. One of the things that can be helpful in developing a closer relationship with our birds is learning to know their individual "beak language."

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For more interesting information about birds,  browse our Reading Room.

Sharing a remembrance from one of our volunteers:

I will always remember Mimi (a cockatiel with no feet) who was having her bandages changed.  I was helping the owner this particular time and Mimi was balancing on the table with only one "foot" done.  She grabbed my hand with her beak and held on just hard enough to keep her balance.  It was wonderful to be of service to such a wonderful little girl!  Especially since I am such a big chicken (no offense to our fowl feathered friends!) when it comes to getting bit.  She knew it too and was very careful not to scare me.  Not having hands, she used what she had.

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Having a special bird in your life adds its another perspective to one's view of the world.  We have several birds with varying special needs seeking permanent homes.  See them here - maybe you can be that special person they're seeking!

Bird Quote of the Day

"I never married because there was no need. I have three pets at home which answer the same purpose as a husband. I have a dog which growls every morning, a parrot which swears all afternoon, and a cat that comes home late at night."

Novelist Marie Corelli