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Springtime Tips for Bird Owners and Bird Watchers

Spring is an exciting time for those of us who keep birds as pets and observe them outdoors.  In the past I’ve written articles dealing with special concerns and opportunities that arrive with the spring…I’d like to summarize them here, and add a few new thoughts.

Canary and Finch Chicks

Finches tend to breed in the spring.  While adults do well on a seed-based diet, the young of most require a great deal of protein and, if possible, insects.

Be sure to provide the parents with large quantities of small live crickets, waxworms and mealworms.  Wild-caught insects offer nutrients unobtainable elsewhere…The Zoo Med Bug Napper Insect Trap is well worth considering.

Other foods that should always be available to finch parents include Egg Food, Finch Nestling Food, Anole Food (dried flies) and Canned Insects.

Parrot Chicks

For reasons that are not yet entirely understood, otherwise attentive parents sometimes pluck their chicks’ feathers.  This is most commonly seen in budgerigars, lovebirds and cockatiels, and may be caused by an inherited, genetic defect or a misguided re-nesting instinct.

Short of pulling the chicks for hand-rearing, Bitter Apple Spray is the most effective solution to the problem

Outdoor Aviaries

Spring is an ideal time to consider an Outdoor Aviary.  There’s nothing like providing your birds with fresh air, sunshine, exposure to natural light and weather cycles and an influx of nutritious insect food to get them breeding.

Available in 5 sizes ranging 3.5×4 feet to 9x 5feet, an aviary will please you as much as it does your pets, as they will no doubt reveal an astounding range of new behaviors once established outdoors. 

Gardening for Pet Birds

“Bird conscious” gardening will ensure that you are visited by an assortment of interesting native birds as well as insects that can be fed to finches and softbills.

Trees will provide limbs for gnawing, leaves for shredding and tasty fruits and buds.  Seeds and grasses of many types are also simple to grow at home.  Some that find favor among many cage birds include figs, pears, various berries, sunflower, maize and flowers such as dogwood, magnolia, dandelion and gardenia.

A number of common plants are potentially toxic, and should not be fed to birds.  Please see my article on Toxic Plants.

“Abandoned” Baby Birds

Many of us who keep birds are presented with nestlings by well-intentioned friends who have found them and fear for their safety.  Actually, most birds leave the nest while barely able to fly, and are fed by the parents for a few days thereafter.  If a nestling has feathers, it has most likely not been abandoned…the best course of action is to leave it be.

If the chick lacks feathers or is unable move about, return it to the nest if you can do so safely.  Contrary to popular belief, the parents will not reject a chick that has been handled.

If this is not possible, contact The National Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators (320-230-9920) for a list of local experts who accept birds.  If interested, ask how you can become licensed as a rehabilitator – it’s a lot of work, but very rewarding!

Further Reading

For more info on springtime bird topics, please see the following articles:

Becoming a Bird Bander

>Pionus Parrot chicks is posted here.

A video of (many, noisy!)


About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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