The most common pet birds are classified as the Psittacidae (most parrots) e.g. cockatiel, budgerigar, eclectus parrot, macaw, and the cacatuidae (cockatoos) e.g. sulphur crested cockatoo.
- The majority of parrots and cockatoos feed on; seeds, fruit and nuts.
- Lories and lorikeets have a specialized brush-tongue and feed on pollen and nectar.
- The majority of birds in captivity are granivores, in which specific seeds and pellets are formulated based on their size.
- Vetafarm are a great brand of specially formulated diets of pellets and seed mixes
- Pellets provide the perfect balance of vitamins and minerals and should be given ad lib daily e.g. provide a bowl and change by the next day (quantity varies depending on the size of the bird and number of birds)
- Seeds are high in fat and should be given in moderation e.g. two tablespoons worth daily
- Fruit and vegetables can be given daily
- Insectivores include magpies or owls and their diet consists of a variety of insects.
- The weight/body condition of your bird can be assessed based on the prominence of the keel bone and regular weighing.
Considerations for outdoor aviaries:
- The advantages of large aviaries are:
- Birds have a wider choice for mate selection
- Allows mimicking of natural flock behaviour
- Space and ability to fly
- Sunshine and fresh air
- Fitter birds
- Enables more natural behaviour
- The disadvantages of larger aviaries are:
- High potential for aggression (esp during breeding season and with overcrowding)
- Spread of disease between birds (esp with overcrowding)
- Dominant birds may prevent others from breeding
- The birds need to be acclimatized to outdoor life and are exposed to violent weather
- More open to attack from predators or wild species
- Harder to monitor health and behaviour
- The basic essentials of aviaries include; nest boxes, perches, food and water bowels and shelter from direct sunlight/rain
- Wire mesh for aviaries vary in thickness according to the housed species; large macaws need 13G, whereas grass parakeets require 16G.
- Avoid a low quality mesh, as they can be a source of zinc poisoning
- Be aware the exposed wooden frames can be attacked by large beaks
- Ideally mount the frames on solid bricks/concrete to minimize rodent invasion
- Bedding can include: soil, stone, bark chips or paving/concrete
- Ensure aviaries are cleaned at least twice per week
- Ensure adequate perches are provided and these should vary in thickness and surface (e.g. natural branches) to prevent injuries to the feet. Do not use smooth, even sized perch pieces (e.g. dowel). The diameter should vary according to the species so the toes are not over tightened or too tightly flexed
- Ensure outdoor aviaries are in an appropriate position; adequate shelter/shade, not too close to noisy roads, away from a smokey bonefire or bbq
- Indoor parrots must be provided with a UV light:
- UV-A is important for normal vision
- UV-B is important to allow birds to produce their own vitamin D for normal calcium metabolism
- Keep the bulb 30cm away from the bird and should be turned on for at least 60 minutes per day.
- Bulbs must be replaced every 6mths, as after this time they will no longer produce UV –B
- Your parrot will not be able to access UV-B through a glass or plastic window
- A cage should be no smaller than the wing span cubed, e.g. for a macaws 90cm wing span; 90cm x 90cm x 90cm this would be the absolute minimum for temporary holding.
- Most cross wires should be horizontal so the parrot can spend time climbing.
- Make sure the cage is powder coated and not made of zinc
- Toys e.g. wooden blocks and mirrors should be provided for enrichment
- Use bowls for food and water as parrots tend to enjoy tipping them over
- Minimize exposure to noisy pets or children
- Be aware a warm, dry atmosphere esp in winter with heating birds can be predisposed to; poor feather quality causing dullness, brittle feathers and irritation. This can lead to feather plucking.
- Boredom and diet can also result in feather plucking.
- Common indoor hazards include; other pets, fires/chimneys, saucepans (Teflon), salt, chocolate, alcohol, salt, cigarette smoke and poisonous plants
- Parrots are very intelligent and require regular interaction with a feathered companion or human. Inappropriate or excessive handling can result in stress related illnesses
- Captive bred parrots can develop severe psychological problems as they are innately wild. This can cause aggression, destructive behaviour, feather plucking and inappropriate sexual behaviour
- Birds must be allowed to regularly bathe or have their feathers sprayed to maintain the feather quality
Sexing your bird:
- Some parrots are visually dimorphic; so you can tell the gender based on colour differences.
- Budgerigars vary in their cere colour
- The grey variety of cockatiels have different plumage
- Adult ring neck parakeet males have a cervical ring of coloured feathers
- White cockatoos have a different iris colour
- Parrots without colour dimorphism can be sexed with DNA analysis of blood or feather
- Surgical endoscopy can also be utilized.