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. Read More »
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As spring slowly makes its way across the Northern Hemisphere, aviculturists’ thoughts turn to nests and nestlings. Many birds, even those from tropical habitats, respond to the coming of spring by becoming increasingly active, hungry and interested in the opposite sex. While we often attribute this to longer days and warmer weather, this is only part of the story – the birds are more interested in the glut of new, nutritious food items that accompanies warm or rainy weather in nearly all habitats. Read More »
As I write this from NYC it is not yet officially winter, but I’m looking out over waist-high snow drifts. So I’m inspired to consider a special treat for the visitors to my bird feeders, and one which finches, softbills and other pets relish as well – mealworms.
The Importance of Insects
A bag of Freeze Dried Mealworms is a very useful item for both pet keepers and wild bird enthusiasts to have on hand. Providing both calcium and much-needed protein, insects continue to figure in the diets of many birds even during the coldest months. Although not visible to us, insects are always about – some species hibernate, while others pass the winter as eggs or pupae. These are avidly sought by many typical feeder visitors, but especially Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Blue Jays and Juncos. Insects become especially important in late winter, when female birds need to increase their calcium stores in preparation for egg-laying.
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The importance of dietary variety is a constant (annoyingly so, some say!) theme in my writing. In my own and zoo collections I have noticed improved health, color, vitality and breeding success when appropriate variety is introduced to most any type of bird. Providing foods in different forms, especially where birds must search or otherwise “work” for their food, is also a very useful means of improving the general quality of their lives.
I have found that even birds that are known to live long captive lives on somewhat limited diets show great improvements in their condition when variety is introduced. Be it frogs offered to fishing owls or fresh sprouts provided to red bishops and other finches, the vigorous reactions induced by novel foods leaves me with no doubt as to their value.
A Practical and Inexpensive Tool
Of course, life often intrudes on our abilities to provide our pets with diets comprised of dozens of ingredients, however noble our intentions. That Pet Place Variety Treat Packs offer an ideal solution by combining several types of difficult-to-find foods in one convenient package…and at a lower price than if the items were purchased individually.
There is a specially formulated Variety Pack for all types of popularly kept birds, including large macaws and large parrots, conures and small parrots, lovebirds, cockatiels, doves, finches, canaries and parakeets.
Each pack contains a wide variety of foods, with some in the form of toys that encourage natural foraging behaviors. Lafeber Nutri-Meals and Avi Cakes, which are helpful in introducing pelleted foods to bird diets, are included in some of the packs. Other ingredients include fruit, nut and berry treats, dried coconut, papaya and other tropical fruits and honey-dipped seed sticks.
For a look at what it was like to prepare bird diets for a collection numbering thousands of individuals, please see my article Alternative Bird Diets, Yesterday and Today.
Carotenoids are compounds that, in most birds, impart red, yellow and orange colors to the feathers. They are obtained from the diet, and are most abundant in brightly-colored fruits and vegetables. In theory, a bird with bright plumage is “advertising” the fact that it has been eating well, and is in prime health. Until recently, however, this theory was largely unproven.
Health Benefits Conferred by Carotenoids
Findings released this month (Feb. 2009) by Arizona State University researchers indicate that carotenoids do indeed provide a great many health benefits to birds, and therefore the “advertisement value” of the plumage is quite significant. These nutrients seem to enhance both vision (specifically color perception) and sperm quality.
The researchers theorize that a diet high in carotenoids leads to better color vision which in turn allows the bird to find foods of higher quality (brightly colored fruits, for example) and a more fit (again, brighter-hued) mate.
Carotenoids function as antioxidants in people, but it has not been determined if the same applies to birds.
Choosing Carotenoid-Rich Products for Your Pets
Here at ThatFishPlace/ThatPetPlace, we carry a wide variety of bird foods that are packed with carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables. There are a number of products available for most types of birds – for starters, please check out Wild and Spicy Avian Entrees, Fiesta Food for Canaries and Finches and Sunny Orchards Nutriberries.
I also recommend as additions to your pets’ diets those foods consisting entirely of carotenoid-rich items, such as Veggi-Crisp Delights and Diced Blueberries, Raspberries and Papaya.
Of course, a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, with amounts and types tailored to the species of birds that you keep, should also be offered to your pets.
Goldenfeast Dried Sweet Potatoes are a great source of carotenoids and other valuable nutrients. Please see my product review and notes concerning the many zoo animals which I have found to relish this healthy food: Goldenfeast Sweet Potatoes Bird Treat