Sy’s Nutrition Tips: Best Foods to Feed Parrots

Sys-LuckyPeople love food. We serve food at parties, we go out to eat when we socialize with friends, and we even enjoy snacks during movies. We are motivated by food. Your parrot loves food, too. Just like you, your feathered friend needs the right nutrition to stay healthy. Also like you, your bird enjoys food variety—and in fact, needs it in his or her diet! So what do you feed your parrot?

The exact foods you choose for your feathered friend may vary somewhat from species to species, based on the things that type of parrot would eat in the wild. Some species eat mostly seeds and nuts, while others consume more fruits. A few kinds even eat flowers. For that reason, you may need to do some research and talk to a veterinarian about the best balance for your bird’s diet.

There are, however, a few good rules of thumb that you can use to provide good nutrition for your parrot:

  • Use a formulated food – The formulated diet packs in the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals your feathered friend desperately needs.
  • Add in fresh fruits and veggies – Birds love fresh fruit, and that will add to the vitamins they need. Darker fruits like mango, papaya, and cherries have many of the vitamins parrots need but often lack. Bananas, blueberries, and cantaloupe are also good choices. Leafy, green veggies are also a must.
  • Do include seeds and nuts – Cashews, almonds, and walnuts supplement the protein your bird needs. Sprouted seeds are particularly good as well.
  • Try dehydrated fruits and veggies – These make nice treats for your bird, and can help when fresh fruit isn’t available.

Just remember to wash all fresh items thoroughly and always avoid the foods that are actually poisonous to birds, including avocado and onion. If you’re unsure, our team at the Sy’s Piece of Heaven bird sanctuary can help you figure out the best foods for your parrot.

If you’re looking into adopting a bird, or simply love parrots in general, volunteering at the sanctuary is a great way to learn more about how to properly feed and care for a feathered friend. We always need volunteers and sponsors to help care for our rescued birds. If you have any questions about parrot care, simply contact us! You can call (908) 475-8750 to reach us.

Jungle Birds: Parrots from the Rainforest

Parrots are not native to zoos or pirates’ shoulders. They have to come from somewhere else first. Typically when people think of a parrot’s natural habitat, they picture the rainforest. For a significant number of parrot species, that is exactly right. These are tropical birds, mostly living in places like the Amazon. A few species have migrated over time, or escaped into wild areas that have been friendly to them—like the birds that escaped into the Florida everglades. Knowing a little about where these incredible birds come from, however, can help you understand them better and why you need to make special accommodations for them if you keep any as pets.
Sys-BudThe vast majority of wild parrots live in the southern hemisphere of the world, flying around rainforests in South America, Australia, and Africa, though a few are native to parts of Mexico or on various islands. There are 31 species of Amazon parrots dominating the jungle areas in Mexico and the northern part of South America. Most of Australia’s 56 types of parrots are in rainforests as well.

The most popular types of parrots—the “classic” birds people love for pets—are all rainforest birds. Macaws, parakeets, lovebirds, and cockatoos fall into this category. Although these are all very different birds, they do tend to have a few characteristics in common. The hard, curved beak, colorful plumage, and toes of these birds are all very similar across the various species, although they may look slightly different from bird to bird.

Since so many parrots that make good pets are originally from the rainforest, they do need special accommodations when they live outside that habitat in your home. Their food needs to match the kinds of foods they might find in the wild, from nuts and seeds to flowers and fruits. You can’t let your bird get too cold, either.

With a little work, you can make your home a friendly place for your tropical feathered friend. As always with birds, you simply have to be intentional about their care and their needs. If you’d like to know more about how to accommodate a rainforest parrot in your home, or you’d like to get to know some birds and their care before adopting (which we recommend), connect with us at Sy’s Piece of Heaven bird sanctuary. We’d love to help you. Call (908) 475-8750 to reach us.

Parrots and Diseases: The Health of Your Bird

No one likes to be sick. Your pets don’t like it, either. Just like you, parrots can catch illnesses and develop diseases. Your feathered friend is significantly more sensitive than you are, however. They easily catch infections and bacteria that are more than just “unpleasant” to experience—they can be life-threatening to your bird. Parrots and diseases just do not mix.

WeezerMore Than a Passing Cold

Parrots have fairly delicate bodies and immune systems. They can easily pick up infections from other birds, other types of pets, and even you, the owner. Disease of any kind can be fatal if not dealt with right away. Bacteria is an obvious problem, but living situations can contribute to illnesses as well. Worse, some birds many not display overt symptoms of a problem until their condition is already serious. Some feathered friends can even be a “silent carrier.” This means they do not display any signs of the illness, but can still pass it on to other parrots around them.

Common Bird Diseases

Some issues are particularly dangerous and need to be watched for. Here are just a few of the common diseases that could affect your parrot:

  • Food Poisoning and PesticidesBad food or residual pesticides on produce can make your parrot very ill. Only use fresh, organic food that you’ve washed with special veggie wash.
  • Psittacosis – This is a serious infection that can actually pass to humans in some cases. Typically it causes sinus problems and changes the appearance of a bird’s excrement. Sometimes it can cause organ damage as well.
  • Polyoma – Also called polyomavirus, this is particularly dangerous to baby birds. Symptoms like loss of appetite, diarrhea, and muscle weakness appear very suddenly. This infection is usually fatal to young birds.
  • Mycobacteriosis – Also called “avian tuberculosis,” this is an intestinal disease in parrots that can be difficult to treat. Your bird may lose weight and develop breathing problems, diarrhea, increased thirst, and strange masses around the skin and eyes. This illness can also be transmitted to people.
  • Megabacteriosis – Poor sanitation can lead to this wasting disease. Young parrots start to lose weight until they die. Typically a sick bird will become lethargic and have blood in its excrement.
  • Fume Poisoning – Non-sick coatings in pans and ovens can release fumes that are toxic to your parrot. Don’t cook with these surfaces when you have a parrot around.

What to Do When Your Parrot Gets Sick

Since parrots and diseases of any kind can be a fatal mixture, your bird needs immediate vet care if you notice a change in health. Don’t wait. Quarantine your feathered friend and wash your hands both before and after handling it so your bird doesn’t pass around an infection. You’ll need a variety of diagnostic tests from an experienced vet to identify the problem and get the right treatment. Your vet will help you with the medication and care that your feathered friend needs to recover.

At a sanctuary like Sy’s Piece of Heaven, we’re familiar with the risks of disease and infection. Many of the parrots we rescue were abused or came from unsafe homes, so they can have serious health issues or illnesses. That’s why we invest so much in keeping them well. We always have some bird at a vet’s office, receiving the care it desperately needs. Bird sponsors play a huge role in helping us afford the care that each parrot requires to live a healthy life.

If you’re concerned about the health and wellness of your own feathered friend, don’t wait for an obvious problem to seek help. If you need, our team at Sy’s Piece of Heaven can recommend bird health care for you. We’re also looking for more bird sponsors to help us with our rescued parrots who desperately need their own medical attention. If you’d like more information, or to volunteer with Sy’s Piece of Heaven, just call (908) 475-8750.

Polly Wants a Doctor – Signs of a Sick Parrot

Sys-CasinoThere are tell-tale signs when you get sick. You might lose your appetite, start feeling sluggish, run a fever, or develop nausea or intestinal distress. Your parrot develops symptoms when it gets sick, too. These signs are subtle and easy to miss, though. A sick bird hides its illnesses well, and may not show significant symptoms until the disease is already very serious. Learning to spot the signs of an ill parrot before the condition becomes fatal could help you save your bird.

Because most early signs of a sick parrot are easy to miss, it’s important to spend a little time each day observing your pet’s normal behavior. Watch for any unusual changes, particularly in behavior, cleanliness, eating habits, and excrements. Here are a few common signs of illness:

  • Behavior Changes – A bird that suddenly alters its attitude or personality is a bad sign. If your pet is normally sweet and friendly but suddenly acts aggressive and irritable—or vice versa—it may be getting sick. Being unsteady or droopy on a perch is also a sign of a problem.
  • Lethargy/Sleepiness – Parrots are normally very active during the day and sleep at night. If your pet acts unusually sleepy when it would normally play, have your bird tested for diseases.
  • Poor Hygiene – Normally parrots are meticulous about their feathers and general cleanliness, but an ill parrot may not take care of itself. Watch for dullness, discoloration, raggedness, constant feather ruffling, and any crustiness on the body, feet, or legs.
  • Loss of Appetite – A bird that doesn’t want to eat or hasn’t been drinking is definitely sick. Watch for a drop in appetite, or weight loss despite what seems to be healthy eating.
  • Wheezing or Breathing Problems – Parrots have sensitive respiratory systems. Labored breathing may be a sign of an infection.
  • Changes in Droppings – Intestinal problems may show up in your bird’s droppings. A sudden change in the number of droppings per day, or a difference in consistency without a diet change, should be evaluated immediately.

Problems in parrots need to be checked and treated fast. As soon as you notice you have a sick bird, don’t wait! If you’re not sure if your bird needs help, ask for it anyway. Our team at Sy’s Piece of Heaven knows how birds can get sick fast, so you can ask us for recommendations for care. Just call (908) 475-8750 to reach us.

How to Train Your Pets to Get Along with Your Bird

Mr.-KatoIt is unnatural for a cat or dog to leave a bird alone. There are many inherent dangers in combining a cat, dog and bird in one household, but if you have the time, persistence and patience, you can use training to have your pets get along.

There are some basic rules:

  • Never leave your pet alone in the room with a bird. Supervise them at all times when together.
  • Don’t allow your cat or dog to lick or scratch the bird. It could cause a fatal disease in the bird.
  • Watch all three animals carefully at all times for the slightest sign of aggression or a feeling of being threatened.

That said, you might begin by slowly introducing the bird to your other pets in a safe manner. You can hold the bird on your finger, gradually letting them closer to the cat or dog and watching the reactions of all three closely. If the bird doesn’t seem threatened, you can eventually let your cat or dog smell—but not lick!—the bird to become more familiar with it.

If the larger animal makes any move to play with, or touch, the bird, say a loud “No!” so they get the message loud and clear that this is unacceptable. If your dog or cat will not obey this command, it is best to keep them totally separate from the bird at all times.

You can try to let your cat or dog approach the bird in a non-threatening manner, and praise them when they are behaving the way you want them to. The larger pets may be very curious at first, but your hope is that they will eventually ignore the bird.

You also need to watch your parrot closely for hormonal nesting behavior (females) or aggression (males during breeding season). Even puppies and kittens trained to get along with birds will react if the bird becomes aggressive.

Combining a cat, dog and bird in one household can be quite difficult. Only you can know if your cat or dog are mellow enough, or trainable enough, that it will be possible for them to coexist. If you decide that it will all be too much for you or for your pets, you can always get your “parrot fix” by volunteering at Sy’s Piece of Heaven. Call our sanctuary at (908) 475-8750 for more information.

Parrots Living with Other Pets

Parrots are popular pets, but they aren’t the only ones. As you might expect, cats and dogs are loved everywhere and live in many thousands of homes. With so many different animals out there, it’s not unusual for families to have multiple pets from different species. Adding parrots to the mix, though, makes everything more complicated! If you’re a parrot parent looking to add a furry pet to your family, or you already have a cat or dog and are interested in a feathered friend, be aware that there are always risks with mixing birds and other family pets.

It’s Possible but Challenging

Sys-PeecoMixing parrots and other family pets is not for everyone. However, parrots, cats, and dogs can be taught to get along. The key word, though, is “taught”—birds and other animals do not naturally get along. Cats and dogs are larger than parrots and are natural predators to many birds. Their instinct may be to attempt to hunt your feathered friend. You have to train them to interact safely with your bird and otherwise leave it alone. This takes time and patience. Still, you’ll need to keep your pets mostly separate, especially when you’re not around, so your bird has a “safe space” and won’t get hurt accidentally.

Even after you train all of your pets to interact, you have to constantly supervise them. Cats or dogs might pounce on and accidentally injure or kill a bird when they try to play. Worse, cat scratches and saliva can transmit deadly infections to your feathered friend. Irritated parrots that don’t feel safe may become aggressive and lash out at your other pets, too. Simply supervising isn’t enough attention, either. Your birds still need significant time socializing and playing with you every day in a non-threatening environment, which might make your other pets feel neglected. You have to find a balance, offering all your pets loving attention while still keeping them safe.

Tips for Keeping Parrots and Other Pets Together

If you’re up to the challenge of keeping parrots with other pets, here are a few tips to keep all the animal members of your family safe:

  • Don’t keep small birds around other pets. Larger birds are less likely to be bullied or get hurt.
  • Don’t leave your different pets alone in the same room with your bird.
  • Keep your bird in a large, heavy cage that your other pets can’t tip over. Make sure the bars are close enough together that cats can’t reach through them.
  • Make sure your cage has lots of safe places where your parrot can hide to get away from other pets. Toys and nesting boxes work well for this.
  • Carefully train all your pets to get along—but don’t take training for granted. Always supervise your pets when they are together.
  • Treat all cat scratches seriously. Seek immediate vet care if your cat accidentally scratches your parrot.
  • Don’t let your cat lick or groom your bird. Bacteria in cat saliva can make your parrot very sick.
  • Try to avoid mixing parrots with dogs that have strong bird hunting instincts, like poodles, spaniels, and retrievers.
  • If you have ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, lizards, or other small animals, don’t add a parrot. Ferrets will attempt to attack your bird, and birds usually try to eat your smaller pets.

If you can’t safely add a bird to an already pet-filled home, that’s okay! You can spend time loving on the rescue birds we house here at Sy’s Piece of Heaven. We always need more volunteers and bird sponsors. Just call our sanctuary at (908) 475-8750 for more information.

When Parrots Meet Other Parrots

SpringSo you’re a parrot parent already and interested in expanding your feathered family. Great! Many birds get along wonderfully together, and having a companion can keep some parrots from getting bored. Adding a new feathered friend to the family can be tricky, though. Birds, like people, have strong personalities and will need to learn to get along. You have to introduce new family members slowly and carefully to keep both birds healthy and happy.

Here are some easy steps to help make that transition as smooth as possible:

  1. Quarantine the new bird first. This gives you time to make sure your newest parrot isn’t sick and won’t pass on a disease to your first feathered friend.
  2. After the quarantine, introduce the parrots to each other slowly. Allow them to observe each other from a distance for a few days—even just moving the new bird’s cage to the old bird’s area for a few hours can help. Give both birds treats when they are around each other.
  3. After a while, let each bird see you interact with the other. Play with each parrot where the other can observe you, so they grow more accustomed to having a new “flock member.”
  4. When they are comfortable with each other, let them start to play and train for tricks together. Reward the birds when they play nicely. Don’t let them interact without your supervision, just in case one tries to dominate the other.

Remember to always talk the transition through calmly with your current feathered friend so your parrot knows this is a good thing, not a stressful one. Reassure your bird through the whole process, too. Try not to pair other changes with introducing another bird as well—too much change may stress out your parrot.

If you’d like more help with or information about pet interaction, just let us know at Sy’s Piece of Heaven. As a rescue sanctuary that introduces new birds to our “flock” all the time, we’re pretty familiar with the process and its challenges! We could also always use extra volunteer help as we rescue more abandoned and abused parrots. Just call (908) 475-8750 to reach us for all of your parrot needs, or to volunteer with us.

Playing with Polly: Exercising with Your Parrot

Sys-QuincyActive parrots are happy, healthy parrots! Your feathered family member needs plenty of exercise to stay healthy. In the wild, parrots exercise all the time in their daily efforts to find food and socialize. Birds in your home don’t have those opportunities—but their need to move around doesn’t change. Intentionally exercising with your parrot is important.

Sedentary, inactive parrots can actually develop a lot of health problems. Believe it or not, but your bird can become obese. This is particularly a concern for certain species, including the Amazon parrot. Just like in humans, this condition can cause many problems, including heart disease, fatty liver disease, kidney disease, and arthritis.

Exercising with your parrot is a great way to provide both social time and proper exercise. Here are just a few ideas for ways you can be active with your bird:

  • Dance Around – Put on some great music, let your bird perch on your arm, and dance around. Many parrots love music and dancing, and this can become good aerobic exercise.
  • Play Ball – Roll a ball around and let your bird chase it. This is a great way to get your feathered friend running.
  • Spend Time with Toys – Make sure you rotate through different toys so your bird doesn’t have a chance to get bored with something. Let your parrot play with toys during out-of-cage hours, too.
  • Use Moving Perches – Ropes, swings, climbing ladders, and other moving perches challenge your bird to keep moving. At the same time, they aren’t rough on your parrot’s joints, meaning they’re less likely to contribute to arthritis.

You should allow your bird time to be active every day for optimal health. How long you spend doing this each day will depend on the bird. This kind of investment is always worth it to keep your feathered friend healthy and happy, though. Our rescued parrots at Sy’s Piece of Heaven need lots of exercise and play time, too—which is how volunteers and sponsors can help us. We need people to spend time with our birds, and sponsors to help afford their toys and regular care. For more information, just contact Sy’s Piece of Heaven by calling (908) 475-8750.

Tips to Care for Your Parrot

Sys-JoeWelcoming a bird into your home is an exciting time! A new feathered friend can add joy and excitement to your daily life. It also adds many new responsibilities and routines to your days. It takes a lot of time and effort to care for your parrot. A happy, healthy bird, however, can be a life-long friend and family member!

Parrot care is fairly involved. It includes cage cleaning, feeding, exercising, and grooming. Here are a few tips to help you offer the best parrot care possible to your feathered friend:

  • Get the right cage – The cage needs to be spacious enough for your bird to move freely and get some exercise, along with multiple perches. Some birds like taller or wider cages, too.
  • Clean and place it well – The lining in the bottom of the cage has to be replaced daily, and other parts of the cage will need regular cleaning as well. Situate the cage where your bird can see the “action” in your home, too. However, avoid placing it near windows—they are drafty—or in kitchens, since they can contain dangerous fumes.
  • Bird-proof your house – Birds need some out-of-cage time as well. Bird-proof your house so your feathered friend can flutter around in freedom for a little each day. Cover furniture and objects your pet might chew.
  • Exercise and play – Spend time socializing and playing with your parrot. Provide plenty of toys to stimulate its mind, so it doesn’t get bored.
  • Invest in the best food – Parrots need a variety of foods in their diets. Include seeds, fruits, vegetables, grains, and pellets in your pet’s diet in the proportions the bird’s species needs.
  • Watch for signs of sickness – The better you know your bird, the easier it will be to tell if something is wrong. Watch for abnormal behavior or appetite changes that may signal illness. Get to know the bird-specific vets in your area as well.

As always, research all about your prospective parrot’s species-specific needs so you can provide the best care. The Sy’s Piece of Heaven sanctuary can help you find resources if you need them. Knowing all the effort that has to go into parrot care, you can see why we need volunteer help and bird sponsors! If you’re interested in helping Sy’s provide care for birds rescued from abuse and neglect, call us at (908) 475-8750!

A Day in the Life of the Parrot Sanctuary

Maxine2Sy’s Piece of Heaven has been serving and saving abandoned and abused birds for years now, giving them the safety, love, and medical care they so desperately need. This doesn’t happen on its own, of course. The dedication of our staff, founder, and sponsors help make daily life at Sy’s possible!

Our four full-time staff members come to the parrot sanctuary every day to care for the more than 200 birds we host. We feed and water all the birds, as well as clean their cages and replace the cage liners with fresh newspaper. We must change the eight HEPA filters that run daily, since parrots can flake off a lot of dander—and letting that float in the air could cause serious respiratory problems for the birds. We also have to change any dressings and give medications to our feathered friends with health problems and injuries.

Every day, we spend time loving all the birds. Parrots are highly intelligent and can suffer depression after abuse or neglect. They can also become terribly afraid of people. Spending time with the birds helps them overcome this and get them back to healthy, happy lives.

Once a week, our team replaces toys for all the birds. Parrots must have toys to keep their minds occupied—and many get destroyed on a regular basis. Every week our team also unloads and unpacks hundreds of pounds of food, compacts an incredible amount of trash, and does load after load of washing. We’re often picking up or dropping birds off at the vet, too—we always have half a dozen or more receiving urgent care.

All of these day-to-day and weekly tasks take enormous effort and astronomical amounts of money. Saving, providing for, and medically treating abandoned birds is far above $65,000 every single year. Since most of these birds are not adoptable, and we are a nonprofit organization, these costs add up quick. This is where help from volunteers and bird sponsors plays a daily role. Help from others is what allows us to take in new, desperate parrots every day!

Right now we are severely short on volunteer help and sponsors for birds, though. We need this extra help to continue to do our work. If you’re interested at all in volunteering, or you’d like to sponsor a bird, we’d love to hear from you. Call (908) 475-8750 for more information today!