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Lessons Learned – Larger Bird Cages Can Cause Problems – Part 2

White crested Laughing ThrushWhile providing one’s birds with more space is always a good idea, certain precautions must be taken.  Please see Part 1 of this article to read about an ugly surprise I was handed by a pair of White-Crested Laughing Jay-Thrushes, Garrulax leucolophus.  Today we’ll learn a bit more about these captivating little songsters.

Natural History

White Crested Laughing Jay-Thrushes range throughout much of South and Southeast Asia, and may be encountered from the Eastern slopes of the Himalayas to Vietnam.  They frequent forest edges and overgrown scrub, where their flashy plumage and “maniacal”, laughing calls render them among the most conspicuous of all avian residents.

Jay-Thrushes and some related species (please see photo of White-Collared Yunia) live in extended family groups and have complex social behaviors.  Youngsters usually stay within their parent’s range for quite some time, and help in rearing subsequent broods.

Zoo Antics

Both wild and captive individuals are playful and curious in the extreme, and never fail to entertain observers (at least when they are not stealing keys or other items…please see Part 1 for some amusing stories).  More than one keeper has compared their intelligence and sociability to that of parrots.

Those I cared for occupied a ½ acre exhibit at the Bronx Zoo.  They followed me from feeding station to feeding station and, had I not tossed them treats, would have stolen all the tastiest food items from each pan before the exhibit’s other birds had a chance to feed.  In the course of putting out the bird pans I had to leave one part of the exhibit, go outside and re-enter by another door, far removed from where I have exited. Yet the Jay Thrushes always predicted my movements – meeting me as I re-entered the exhibit required them to fly off in the opposite direction from where I had been, but this never confused the birds in the least.

Jay Thrushes as Pets

Laughing Jay Thrushes make wonderful, long-lived pets and will bond strongly with their owners.  They are not, however, suited to life in even the largest of parrot cages, and must instead be housed in outdoor aviaries or room-sized enclosures.

Not much in the way of food is rejected, but without a great deal of dietary variety they will fail to thrive.  Commercial insectivorous bird diet, into which has been added Softbill Select, hard-boiled eggs, chop meat and a variety of fruits, can form the basis of the diet.

Jay Thrushes have carnivorous leanings, and should be provided with live and canned locusts, crickets, mealworms, earthworms, snails, silk worms and other invertebrates, along with an occasional chopped pink mouse.  Steak or other bones bearing a bit of meat are great favorites.  Their intense reactions to wild-caught moths and other insects will leave no doubt as to the value of these food items.

Further Reading

The Bird Room – a Treat for Birds and Bird Owners

Great video of a pet Jay Thrush trying out his amazing voice



White-crested Laughing Thrush image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Robert Lawton
White-naped Yuhina image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Duncan Wright

Bird Cage Overview…Time to Give Your Pet More Space? – Part 2

Please see Part I of this article for general consideration regarding cage size.

Canaries, Finches, Parakeets and other Small Birds

As mentioned in Part I of this article, the exercise needs of smaller birds are often overlooked…many are quite high strung, and need comparatively more space than do large, calm birds.

A&E Aviary Cages and Double Stacked Bird Cages are true mansions for smaller birds, and the absolute best choice for those that require flying room.  The provision of flying space is especially important for birds that do not climb about in the manner of parrots, and for those which cannot be given out-of-the-cage exercise time.

The Blue Ribbon Tall Cage  is great for parakeets, lovebirds and other climbers.  It can be provisioned with vine and rope perches  to increase its usable space and create a very unique effect.

A useful new concept – the second floor – is included in the Blue Ribbon Series 1418 Cage.

The additional height is very much appreciated by shyer finches.

Small Parrots

Cockatiels, lovebirds, conures and other small parrots make use of both flying and climbing space…their ultimate housing option is the A&E Flight/Aviary Bird Cage .

Our Victorian Style Cage  opens at the top, allowing your pet access to an open-air perch site.  You might also wish to check out our cages for medium-sized birds (please see below).

Medium Parrots

African gray parrots, Goffin’s cockatoos, Amazons and similarly-sized birds are often tricky to accommodate – not quite as large as macaws, they are still hefty and active, and are cramped in typical parrot cages.  Our wide selection of Victorian, Dometop and Playtop Cages offer a great many options for all of the most commonly-kept parrots.

Large Parrots and Cockatoos

A&E Split Level House Cage, which provides ample height, width and length for even the largest avian pets.  It also allows for cage-top play areas, an important consideration for large, intelligent birds.

For something a bit different, consider the A&E Mahogany Cage  which is both a fine piece of furniture and a functional, spacious cage.

Shama Thrushes, Pekin Robins, Quail and other Exotics

Cages for less-commonly kept birds must be chosen with careful consideration to the species’ lifestyle- toucans need to hop from branch to branch, white-eyes must have flying room, painted quail require ample floor space – and so on.

Cage size and shape is particularly important for birds which tend to be shy and for those that will not be handled, and thus will spend most of their time confined.  Please write in for advice concerning individual species.

Outdoor Aviaries

Our outdoor aviaries are the ultimate in bird homes, allowing your pets the benefits of space, sun and natural light.  Ranging from 3.5×4 to 9×5 feet, there is an outdoor aviary for any bird you may keep.

Playpens and Gyms

A larger cage is the most effective means of providing your bird with additional space.  You can, however, increase exercise options for tame birds by providing them with one of our unique cage top or free-standing play areas.

Further Reading

Please see my article on Outdoor Aviaries for further information on these ultimate bird environments.



Bird Cage Overview…Time to Give Your Pet More Space?

Sun Conure CageCage size has a direct impact on pet bird health and quality of life.  This fact is well-recognized by experienced aviculturists…zoos in the American Zoo Association must adhere to strict exhibit size requirements for all species they maintain.

Small Birds

Oddly, smaller birds sometimes fare worse than larger species.  Most people realize that large birds need large cages.  They often assume, however, that finches and budgerigars can get by in tiny cages because they are “small”.  But size is relative, and each bird’s particular lifestyle must be taken into consideration.

Actually, many of the tiniest finches are quite high strung and, having evolved in a world where even large spiders are potential predators, are stressed by limited quarters.  Also, because they do not climb about as do parrots, most cannot use “as much” of their cages as can parrots, and need comparatively larger living quarters.

Cage Size and Health

Providing your bird with a larger cage is one of the most important steps that you can take in ensuring its good health.  Although an expense in the short term, it usually pays off in terms of reduced health care costs.

It is important to bear in mind that “survival” does not indicate that a bird is healthy or enjoying an appropriate quality of life.  Unsuitable living conditions are a primary source of stress in captive birds.  Stress weakens the immune system, and can leave birds open to attack by microorganisms (i.e. Aspergillosus fungi) which are of little concern to properly-housed individuals.

Birds should be able to “stretch their wings” each day…ideally, their living quarters should be large enough to offer reasonable exercise opportunities.  You will need to think carefully when deciding upon a cage purchase or upgrade…unfortunately, birds usually offer little indication of their needs in this area.  And, no matter how smart your parrot is, he or she will not tell you that the cage is too small (but if it does, by all means let me know!)…so please write in with your questions.

Improving Life for Bird and Bird Owner

Larger cages allow our birds opportunities to explore and engage in natural behaviors.  It is easier for us to hide food, add a variety of bird toys  that encourage foraging behavior, alternate perches and otherwise improve their lives and add to our own pleasure in keeping them in our homes.

Training is also greatly simplified, as personalities usually improve when additional space is provided.  A bird stressed by tight quarters is nearly impossible to interact with.


When it comes to reproduction, a comparatively large cage is a necessity for most species.  Often, a move to larger quarters will actually stimulate breeding activity.

One caution … sometimes increased space, and the possibility of establishing a territory, leads to aggression among birds that co-existed in close quarters.  I learned this when I gave a group of laughing jay thrushes access to larger quarters without monitoring the situation…two of the five were dead the next morning.  Please write in if you feel this may be a concern in your collection.


Further Reading

You can read about the effect of cage size on finch behavior at http://www3.sympatico.ca/davehansen/finbehav.html.

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