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Mischievous Birds I Have Known – Margie the Cassowary

CassowaryParrots are well-known for causing mischief by both word and action (please see article below), but they are certainly not the only birds capable of “misdeeds”. Today I’d like to introduce you to one member of the cast of avian troublemakers who have amused me with their antics over the years. From Birds of Paradise to King Vultures, my zoo years were filled with unique characters that gave new meaning to the phrase “Never a dull moment”!

Courting Trouble

Armed with powerful legs and a long, sharp spike on each foot, the huge Cassowary is one of the world’s most formidable birds. Margie, long under my care at the Bronx Zoo, was peaceful enough, but always refused to come indoors for the evening. She was given snacks during the day, and caught grasshoppers, mice and other treats on her own, and so was rarely hungry enough to be lured with food.  Read More »

Money Saving Tips for Owners of Parrots, Finches and other Birds

Bird-keeping is a most enjoyable hobby, and becomes a passion for many, but there’s no denying that expenses can add up.  Following are some simple ways to cut costs.

Cage and Furnishings

Your bird’s home is likely to be your biggest one-time cash outlay.  A number of beautiful cages and outdoor aviaries are available, but building your own cage, or hiring someone to do so, may be a cheaper option.  Creating a bird room within your home might also save money, especially for those who keep large parrots, macaws or colony-dwelling doves and finches. Read More »

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

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