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Articles concerning owning pet birds as pets as a whole.

Barbets – Stunning, Unique Aviary Birds for Experienced Keepers

Barbet at feederBarbets combine gorgeous coloration and a unique body plan.  Related to woodpeckers and toucans, barbets somehow bring both to mind.  I’ve always enjoyed working with them, although a “barbet incident” gave me quite a scare early-on in my career…

“Frank, your barbet is on my fence.”

Some 3 decades ago, while still a novice bird keeper at the Bronx Zoo, I was working in a huge, densely-planted exhibit that housed a pair of Fire-Tufted Barbets (Psilopogon pyrolophus) and other Asian birds.  My supervisor rushed in to say that one of my barbets was perched on a fence outside the zoo director’s kitchen window (he lived on the grounds).  The director, an internationally-known ornithologist, was rumored to question the curators more closely about the death of “little brown birds” than giraffes.  Unlike most exhibits, that housing the barbets did not have a double door, and I had often worried about escapes.  So, I thought, there goes my dream job…. Read More »

Holiday Season Treats and Cautions for Parrot and Finch Owners

Yellow Naped AmazonHoliday visits and celebrations, pleasurable as they are, can also bring some nasty surprises to both people and pets.  A bit of planning now can help make the upcoming season safe and enjoyable for you and your birds.

Stress, Noise and Late Nights

Responsible bird owners know that certain holiday treats and, of course, alcohol, are bad for birds.  But many overlook the important role that sleep plays in bird health (please see article below). If you entertain late, or will be out often during the holidays, keep in mind that most birds need 10-12 hours of sleep in a dark, quiet environment. If necessary, move your pet’s cage to an area that is off-limits to guests, and shut the room lights via a timer if the rest of your house will be lit after the usual “lights-out” time.  Maintaining a stable day/night cycle is good for your birds mental and physical health.

Holiday parties can mean a house stocked with loud, tipsy guests, excited children and unfamiliar dogs. Each of these “creatures” (especially, those influenced by alcohol!) may take liberties with your pets that they otherwise would not. If it will be difficult for you to monitor all that is going on, consider keeping your birds in a locked room while parties are in progress (or “raging”, as the case may be!). Read More »

Winter Bird Feeding – Rare Bird Update and Some Useful Products

Mountian BluebirdWinter brings with it unique bird-watching opportunities, as cold weather forces otherwise-shy species to visit feeders in search of food.  Rare visitors driven south by severe weather and others blown off course during migration also brighten birders’ days.  Today I’d like to alert you to several new (and standard) bird feeding products, and highlight some ways to see the unusual avian visitors to your neighborhood.

Birding Surprises

Wherever you are located, winter birding is an exciting prospect.  Often, unexpected birds tend to stay put for quite awhile, due to disorientation and the need to remain near a newfound food source.  Checking with the many on-line and telephone services (yes, phone-based reports still exist, check here!) is a great way to remain aware of what’s going on nearby; if luck is with you, you can then go out and see the bird that has been reported. Read More »

Is a Macaw the Right Pet for You – a Species-by-Species Review

Scarlet and Blue and Gold MacawsMany parrot enthusiasts view macaws as the ultimate avian pets.  Huge, personable, gorgeous and enormously intelligent, macaws seem to embody all that is desirable in a pet parrot.  However, macaw ownership is not to be undertaken lightly…while the rewards are great, there are many responsibilities and “downsides” to consider as well.

General Considerations

If you’ve ever been surprised by the volume of noise a budgie or lovebird can generate, consider what their massive relatives can do!  Macaw vocalizations must be heard to be believed.  I’ve observed Scarlet Macaws and others on Venezuela’s wide open grasslands, and have worked with them in huge zoo exhibits – even in these habitats, their calls were often deafening.  Highly social, it is in their nature to vocalize almost continually.  Read More »

The African Silverbill – a Near-Perfect Finch Pet

African SilverbillZebra and Society Finches are often recommended to those new to finch keeping, and with good reason.  However, in my opinion, the attractive little African Silverbill or African Warbling Finch, Lonchura cantans, deserves consideration as well.  In addition to being a hardy captive, it is also a prolific breeder that hybridizes readily with several other species – ideal qualities if one wishes to experiment with the creation of new finch color phases.


The African Silverbill may seem “plain” to some, but its varied shades of brown, tan, buff, fawn and black both blend and contrast, lending this 4 inch-long mite a unique beauty.  The sexes are alike, but only males produce the pleasant, warbling song.

Chocolate, fawn, cinnamon, white and other mutations have been produced, often influenced by related species with which the African Silverbill has been crossed. Read More »

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