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Healthy Parrot Foods – New Study Compares Pellets, Seed and Produce

When I first began work as a Bird Keeper at the Bronx Zoo, much of my time was spent cooking eggs and horsemeat, rearing and capturing insects, chopping produce and otherwise preparing the diets for thousands of birds (please see the article linked below for more information on feeding zoo birds).  The introduction of nutritionally-sound pellets and chows for birds ranging from parrots to cassowaries forever changed how birds in both zoos and private homes are fed.  A recent study of Parrot foods and nutrition has shed some new light on caring for these exotic pets.

But while it may be convenient to know exactly what nutrients our pets are consuming, many parrots look upon commercial pellets with disdain.  And because pellets can be consumed far more quickly that seeds, parrots that do accept them are left with extra “free time” to fill; boredom becomes a problem unless additional enrichment opportunities are provided.  Much of the research concerning standardized bird diets has focused on species typically kept in zoos.  However, one recent study examined diets commonly fed to Amazon Parrots.  Its results, I believe, have important implications for owners of all types of parrots. Read More »

Breeding and Keeping the Nonpareil Finch or Pin-Tailed Parrot Finch

Nonpareil FinchWhen translated to English, the French language name for this little finch – Nonpareil – means “without equal”.  The name suits the gorgeous bird perfectly…so much so that aviculturists of all nationalities have adopted it.  Also known as the Pin-Tailed Parrot Finch (Erythrura prasina), the brilliantly-colored Nonpareil has long been among the most desired of all Southeast Asian finches.

My first experience with these beauties came while working for a bird importer.  I was captivated by their colors, but despaired over the stress caused them by shipment and confinement to quarantine facilities.  Fortunately, an experienced private breeder helped me to learn the keys to keeping them alive and well.


The 5.5 inch-long male Nonpareils are clad in “grass green”, bright red and brilliant blue, and sport elongated central tail feathers.  Females have shorter tails and are not as gaudy, but are also quite colorful.  While most related parrot finches are attractive (please see photos), none are as spectacular as the Nonpareil.

Yellow-bellied individuals are found in some wild populations, but are not common in captivity.  Birds originating from Borneo have more blue in the plumage, and are considered by most to be a subspecies.  Although few aviculturists see any need to experiment with color mutations, largely-green and pied strains have been established. Read More »

Goffin’s Cockatoo Invents and Modifies a Tool – a Parrot “First”

Goffin’s CockatooHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  A Goffin’s Cockatoo living at the Vienna University stunned researchers by exhibiting behaviors never before seen in any parrot species.  The bird, known as Figaro, went far beyond “mere” tool use.  When confronted with an out-of-reach treat, he first searched for a stick to use, and then modified the stick so as to better suit it for his purposes.  Figaro’s accomplishments are especially surprising because he had not been trained in any way, nor had he observed other tool-using birds.  He seems to have “envisioned” a concept and acted upon it.  Please post your own “smart parrot” stories below.

Spontaneous and Unexpected Tool Use

Parrots are considered among the most intelligent of birds, but tool use has not been documented in their ranks.  True, the majestic Palm Cockatoo bangs wood against hollow trees in order to communicate (please see this article) and many species wedge nuts into crevices to ease the job of opening them, but advanced tool use seemed beyond their abilities. 

Figaro’s talents came to light purely by chance.  A researcher happened to be nearby when Figaro dropped a stone behind a metal cage divider.  Unable to reach the plaything with his feet, the enterprising cockatoo flew off and returned with a piece of bamboo.  He used the bamboo to push the stone within reach. Read More »

Keeping the Tawny Frogmouth with Notes on its Natural History

Tawny FrogmouthPhotos of the Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides), with its huge yellow eyes, gaping mouth, “expressive face” (an impression given by the feathery “eyebrows”) and owl-like plumage, have captivated me since childhood.  For years, I stalked Whip-poor-wills, Nighthawks and other of its relatives that dwelled in the USA.  Actual contact with a Frogmouth was delayed, however, until I began working at the Bronx Zoo.  But it was worth the wait, and I soon came to spend many days and nights cramming food into the capricious maws of hungry Frogmouth chicks…as much to my delight as theirs!


Although superficially resembling an owl in plumage, silent flight mode and nocturnal ways, the Tawny Frogmouth is classified in the order Caprimulgiformes. Numbered among this group’s 118 members is the cave-dwelling Oilbird, the only bird known to navigate via echo-location.

Tawny Frogmouths are placed in the family Podargidae, along with 14 relatives.  Three Tawny Frogmouth subspecies – the largest being 3x the size of the smallest – have been described.  Other species include the Papuan Frogmouth, of the Cape York Peninsula and New Guinea, and the Marbled Frogmouth, a rainforest dweller found in northern Queensland and New Guinea. Read More »

Pygmy Parrots – Thumb-Sized Lichen-Eaters that move like Woodpeckers

Micropsitta PusioI recently attended a fascinating lecture on Island Bird Diversity at the American Museum of Natural HistoryTwo Pygmy Parrot species – the Red-Breasted (Micropsitta bruijni) and the Finsch’s (M. finschii) – drew the speaker to the Solomon Islands. In reflecting back on the talk afterwards, I realized that, despite my interest, I had yet to observe a live Pygmy Parrot. They’ve never been in the collection of the Bronx Zoo, where I worked for over 20 years, and only rarely appear in museums.  Further research turned up one interesting field report, but it seems that we still know very little about these smallest and, arguably, most unusual of all parrots.

The World’s Smallest Parrots

Six species of Pygmy Parrots inhabit New Guinea, the Solomons and neighboring islands. They look, in most respects, like other parrots – but barely exceed a human thumb in size!  At 3.5 inches in length, the Buff-Faced Pygmy parrot (M. pusio) is the smallest Psittacine; its relatives are not much bigger. Please see the video below…it is hard to believe they are real! Read More »

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