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The Best Holiday Gifts for Parrots and Parrot Owners

African grey parrot


Providing your pet with a larger cage is one of the most important steps that you can take to ensure its good health and longevity. My observations of parrots, both in the wild and under my care in zoos, have convinced me of this. Appropriately-sized cages allow our birds to engage in a greater variety of behaviors and, by reducing stress, help to limit health-care expenses.

t5071Training is often simplified, as parrots kept in tight quarters are difficult to interact-with.
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Crows as Pets: The African Pied Crow, a Most Intelligent Bird

Pied Crow, Etosha

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Snowmanradio

My fascination with Corvids (crows, ravens, jays and their relatives) began in childhood, when I cared for injured American Crows and Blue Jays.  In time, I was able to work with their exotic relatives at the Bronx Zoo, and was thrilled to observe the antics of Japan’s famous tool-using Carrion Crows (please see article below) in the wild.  Possessed of keen intelligence, insatiable curiosity and voice-mimicking abilities, hand-raised crows have few equals as avian pets.  Native Corvids are protected in the USA, but foreign species may be kept, and several are regularly bred by hobbyists.  Among these is the spectacular African Pied Crow, Corvus alba, which makes as responsive a pet as can be imagined.


Although not common in the US pet trade, the Pied Crows that appeared in recent Windex TV ads have now made the species somewhat recognizable.  Once seen, this 20-inch tall bird will not be forgotten.  The Pied Crow sports an impressively-thick black beak that is midway in size between that of the American Crow and the White-Necked Raven (please see photo).  A brilliant white collar and breast contrasts sharply with the glossy, jet-black plumage.

Range and Habitat

Africa’s widest ranging Corvid, the Pied Crow occurs south of the Sahara and inhabits most of the eastern and southern portions of the continent.  They are also found on Aldabra, Madagascar, the Comoros and other nearby islands.

Pied Crows favor open forests and wooded scrub, but are often most common near towns, cities and farms.  They do not occur in the rainforests or deserts.

African Pied Crows as Pets

Even casual observation reveals crows to be unusually intelligent…and not “just” by bird standards!  Recent studies have shown that their tool-making and problem-solving abilities are on par with those of some great apes (please see articles linked below).  Both ornithologists and those who have worked with crows generally consider them to be the most intelligent of all birds…apologies to parrot fanciers!

All are excellent mimics, and need little if any encouragement to copy sounds and words.  Naturally social, crows quickly bond to their owners and may even learn to respond to simple commands.  Their great intelligence is accompanied by a sensitive nature…despite being quite bold, Pied Crows are easily stressed by unthinking behavior on the part of their owners.  They will not forget actions they perceive as threatening, so be careful not to make any mistakes…please post below for further information. Read More »

Working with Penguins – a Highlight of this Zookeeper’s Experiences

Frank Indiviglio with penguin

Penguins Win Me Over

I first became enamored of penguins at the Bronx Zoo’s old “Penguin House”. Twice a day, a door would open and a pail of fish would be tossed into the exhibit.  Fashioned like a giant aquarium, the exhibit allowed visitors to watch the penguins dive and grab their meals underwater.  Living near the zoo, I had long haunted its grounds and had racked up some great sightings of both captive and wild birds by an early age (nearly 300 native species have been recorded there) – but these creatures were something else indeed!  They were birds, to be sure, but departed so radically from the typical bird body-plan that I was driven to learn all I could.

Today, of course, penguins are well known, but for us bird fanciers they still retain a sense of mystery…more so as new facts about their amazing lifestyles come to light!  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 »

How Pink Pigeons Saved me from Life as a Lawyer

Pink PigeonFirst, I should explain the odd title.  I grew up near the Bronx Zoo and dreamed of a career there since early childhood.  Early on, however, responsibilities made it impossible for me to consider zoo work, a notoriously low-paying field.  By the early 1980’s, however, things changed and I was volunteering at the Bronx Zoo and doing everything else I could think of to break into the field.  But I was a lawyer at the time, and, despite years of experience with well-known animal importers and bird breeders, the zoo’s management did not believe I seriously intended to abandon such a lucrative profession.  Then the Pink Pigeons came to the rescue…

Thanks, Pigeons”

After a year of failed attempts, I managed to land an interview for a position as bird keeper.  As the curator and I walked and talked, I caught sight of a group of unusual birds, and stepped closer.  I thought they might be Pink Pigeons, Nesoenas mayeri.  I was shocked, as there were but 12 individuals left in the wild at the time, and captive breeding efforts had only just begun. Read More »

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