Avian health n 2011-11-07 13:29:56
Avian Health Network Newsletter Volume II Issue VIII
Celebrate Greys in May!
In this issue:
— Vendor Spotlight
— Just for Fun
— African Grey Pilaf Recipe
— Website of the Month
— Ask the Expert
— Are Greys Clumsy?
Vendor Spotlight: Nature Chest Bird Shop
By Jayne Meyers
This month’s spotlighted vendor, Nature Chest Bird Shop, located in Decatur,
Alabama, has generously donated an African Grey-themed end table that will
soon grace the home of the lucky winner of our May drawing. Please visit
http://www.stoppdd.org/may.htm to see the table and enter the Stop PDD
Debra Morgan, the owner of Nature Chest Bird Shop, has turned her lifelong
interest in birds into her life’s work. As an outgrowth of breeding parrots
over the past 20 years, with a focus on Conures, the retail exotic bird shop
was opened in 1996 and began its adventure in e-commerce in 1999. It has
long been Debra’s goal to make Nature Chest Bird Shop a one-stop source not
only for every kind of bird-related product imaginable, but to provide
consumer education and support. The shop offers many free brochures and
handouts about safety, health, nutrition and the responsibilities that go
“hand-in-talon” with bird ownership.
While still breeding a few clutches a year, as well as providing a loving
home to a flock that includes two Umbrella Cockatoos, one Blue Fronted, two
Yellow Nape and one very elderly Red Headed Amazons, two Congo African
Greys, two Quakers, a handicapped Cockatiel, two Green Cheek Conures and a
Ringneck, the focus of these very special people has evolved to educating
the public about parrots – their personalities, needs, their lives in the
wild and the importance of preserving our dwindling rainforests.
Frequently, five to seven members of the Nature Chest flock can be found
visiting local schools, summer camps, community organizations, church groups
and nursing homes.
As if that wasn’t more than enough to keep them busy, these dedicated
“parronts” also operate a safe haven for abandoned and abused birds. While
every effort is made to rehome the birds that find their way to Nature
Chest, Debra has a deep commitment to provide a stable and permanent home
for those parrots, which through abuse, injury or illness, may no longer be
considered “pets.” The current population of the flock is approximately 150
Their website, at http://www.naturechest.com, is easy to navigate,
guaranteed to keep you fascinated for hours and most likely has whatever
treat, toy or supply you’re looking for.
The good folks at Nature Chest Bird Shop are committed to bird health and
finding a cure for ravaging diseases such as PDD. With that goal in mind,
they have generously donated an amazing table to the May 2004 Stop PDD
drawing. This approximately 21″ high table has a round glass top, resting
on a natural tree trunk adorned by two African Grey parrots, carved in
lovely, life-like detail. More a work of art than just a table, this
well-crafted item would be a perfect end or accent table in just about any
room of your home. You can view this delightful table at
http://www.stoppdd.org/may.htm. Tickets for the drawing can be purchased at
the Stop PDD website.
Just For Fun!
Follow this link to fun videos of Roy’s pet parrots!
African Grey Pilaf
By Pamela Clark, Avian Behavior Consultant, Veterinary Technician
This recipe has been developed to provide the nutrients necessary for good
health in African Grey parrots. Quinoa and sesame seeds are both sources of
calcium. Brazil nuts are high in selenium. Yams and dark green leafy
vegetables provide valuable Vitamin A. The oil blend contributes essential
1/2 cup quinoa (pronounced keen-wa)
1 cup water
1 cup grated yams, sweet potatoes or carrots
fresh corn kernels cut from one cob corn or cup frozen corn
1/2 cup grated broccoli or other finely chopped dark green leafy vegetable
1/4 cup grated Brazil nuts
1/4 cup unhulled sesame seed
1/4 cup canary seed mix (optional)
1/4 cup Abba Green 92 (or other) nestling food (optional)
2 teaspoon Udo’s Oil blend (look at health food store for this)
Bring water to a boil and add quinoa. After mixture has come to a boil
again, cover and turn heat to medium-low. Cook for five minutes, and then
add carrots or yams. Cover again and cook for another 10 minutes or until
liquid is absorbed. Turn into a bowl and mix with other ingredients. Serve
warm (no hotter than 110 degrees) or at room temperature. (Feel free to
experiment with this recipe. You can use almost any combination of fruits
and vegetables. Most parrots love this mixture.)
Website Review – The Alex Foundation
By Elaine Hutchison
Only thirty years ago, many thought parrots were only capable of mimicking
the sounds of the human voice. The pioneering work of Dr. Pepperberg and her
African Grey parrot, Alex, made the world aware of the intelligence and
learning ability of this species. Years later Dr. Pepperberg and the Alex
Foundation are still breaking ground in the field of psittacine learning.
Visiting the website of The Alex Foundation (www.alexfoundation.org) opens a
window into the mind of the African Grey parrot, showing why this species is
considered a genius in the avian world. Using a treasure trove of articles,
links and imagery, one can access a wide array of options which range from
scientific articles about the perceptions and language capabilities of the
African Grey, to watching video clips of Alex and his cohorts displaying
their brilliance in the lab.
This site’s broad appeal is one of its most amazing aspects; it will
fascinate almost everyone interested in the intelligence of African Greys.
No matter what the level of one’s interest, www.alexfoundation.org will have
the needed information, or at the very least, a reference to it. Academic
and amateur researchers alike will appreciate the comprehensive lists of
scientific papers authored or coauthored by Dr. Pepperberg, as well as
articles from the popular press.
Aside from the plethora of information available to the serious student of
psittacine learning, this site is just plain fun! The photo page shows
impromptu portraits of these grey-feathered heroes “smiling” and posing for
the camera. Video clips provide a peek into even more intimate moments, such
as Wart taking a bath and Griffin doing some serious shredding. The
personnel page contains little known personal traits of these avian
Einsteins. For instance, Alex likes key chains and corks, while Griffin
hates corks and loves bottle caps!
Stopping by the Gift Boutique is a “must” for any human owned by an African
Grey. The instructional video, Training Your Parrot the Alex Way, is
indispensable for training parrots to “boss” their humans. If the
humans-in-training should find themselves in need of inspiration on the
rugged path of learning, a photo of Alex and Dr. Pepperberg, signed with a
personal dedication and autograph, is available for purchase.
Perhaps the most poignant aspect of this wonderful site is the threat facing
the Foundation’s future research. Because Dr. Pepperberg at present does not
have a regular academic position, she cannot apply for federal grants or
even most private foundation grants. Dr. Pepperberg says “Expenses run
between $90-100K per year, which pays for renting laboratory space, all the
student trainers, organic food, the lab manager, and research items. The
research is now supported completely by contributions to The Alex
Foundation.” Because The Alex Foundation is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3)
organization, donations to it qualify as charitable contributions.
Contributors employed by a company that matches employee donations can
actually double the amount of the original donation. Contributions can be
sent to The Alex Foundation, c/o Dr. Irene Pepperberg, 30 Curry Circle,
Swampscott, MA 01907, or by using PayPal at www.alexfoundation.org. Dr.
Pepperberg adds, “And for folks who order items from Amazon.com, The Alex
Foundation gets a small percentage of the order if they first go to our
website, www.alexfoundation.org, and click on the Amazon.com button.”
Ask the Expert
By Bobbie Robinson
If you have a question for Ask the Expert, please submit to
Question: Is it safe to take a bird outside with me as long as wings are
Answer: In a word, no. Unfortunately, many people believe clipped wings
will keep a bird safe in any situation, but it simply isn’t true. A clipped
bird faces far more danger than a fully flighted one. The type of clip makes
Birds are hard wired to see almost everything as a potential predator. If a
dog, cat or other creature should suddenly appear, they often startle and
try to take flight. If there is a bit of wind, it can provide just enough
lift to allow the bird to fly and often for quite a distance. Once the bird
lands, it cannot fly up and becomes prey for anything in the area of
landing. Vehicles have hit many birds while in low flight or as they begin
to lose altitude. Native wild birds frighten our parrots too, especially
when in flocks, or if they are larger birds like crows, blackbirds, or
starlings. Many large birds have been taken from the shoulder of their
humans or from perching areas by birds of prey, such as hawks or falcons.
The fast movements of children at play easily frighten some birds.
An acquaintance lost her Amazon while walking with her bird on her shoulder
through a quiet residential neighborhood. A very loud motorcycle roared
along the road and frightened her bird into flight mode. His clipped wings
allowed him only to glide to the ground, and he ended up under the wheels of
the motorcycle as it passed. Cats or dogs will quickly grab a bird from the
ground too, especially if the bird lives with one or both and doesn’t fear
Birds benefit greatly from sunshine and fresh air. To safely take them
outside to enjoy spring and summer weather with you, it is best to provide
some type of protection. Harnesses work very well, although it may take
several attempts to get your bird to accept one. Many newer carriers and
backpacks allow plenty of sunshine to reach the bird inside, or a small cage
(with secure doors) while outside will keep it safe. Please remember to
leave your bird in the sun for only short periods of time. In confined
spaces, birds overheat easily. Keep some cool water with you and offer a
drink every now and then, or offer a piece of juicy fruit to provide liquid.
Provide equal amounts of sun and shade. Never leave a bird (or any animal)
in a car, not even briefly, during hot weather. If you see your bird
panting, provide liquid and take it to a cool place immediately.
Please don’t let your bird become a lost bird or a statistic. Simple safety
measures will ensure you and your feathered friend enjoy a safe and happy
Are Greys Clumsy?
By Diane McKinney
“Who me? Clumsy??”
Although the word “clumsy” is not associated with African Greys as strongly
as it was years ago, the clumsiness myth still exists in the parrot
community. Although I’m not a scientist or behaviorist, I do share my home
with six Greys and have had three others who are no longer living.
My first two Greys were from bird stores. The first, a female, was clipped
but the second, a male, was absolutely butchered. Neither bird had been
given the opportunity to fledge. The hen fell constantly – primarily when
she tried to fly. The male dropped like a rock, even while trying to perform
the simple task of moving about.
A four-year-old male and a two-year-old female came next. Both of these
birds were fledged and, after a time, were good flyers.
My fifth Grey was a very paranoid, clipped Timneh who was very fearful of
everyone and often fell in a panic if I simply walked by her cage. After
some patient and intense socialization, the constant falling slowed down and
the flying began. Grey number six was a former breeder who was fully
Grey number seven was only a year old and had fledged as a baby. However,
he is a very opinionated bird and not a pet quality. Although fully
flighted, he only flies to escape me.
When he was an infant, Grey number eight suffered a traumatic nest box
injury. Because of damage to his right foot, coupled with his heavy weight
of 535 grams, he has learned not to try to fly to high spots, but to land in
a larger, flatter area.
My ninth Grey had fledged and been clipped before I brought her home, but
her clipped wings didn’t deter her from making the rounds, flying from cage
to cage and to various playstands with the grace of some of my most
By keeping a watchful eye, it’s sometimes easy to figure out the most likely
reasons why our birds are clumsy. Often it is because the bird was never
properly fledged. Over time, I’ve learned that very often either fear or
laziness can be a factor. With baby birds, the mere fact that they are
toddlers and not quite accustomed to those big feet plays a role in their
For more information on this topic, you might like to check out the
A big THANK YOU goes out to David & Terri Jones of
http://www.flockstockandbarrel.com for sponsoring the StopPDD
Campaign at their store last month! With David & Terri’s generosity and
that of everyone who placed an order at Flock
Stock and Barrel last month, AHN will be able to send another check to EDRG
this summer to help keep their PDD research
funded. Thank you David and Terri and all the Flock Stock and Barrel
customers for making our Vendor Spotlight in April
such a big success!
If you are a vendor and would more information on how you can join the fight
to StopPDD go to
http://www.stoppdd.org/downloads/brochures/04sponsor.doc.pdf or contact us
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“This newsletter is dedicated to Jessie; lost to PDD in September 2003. To
read his story go here:
The Fine Print ~ The information contained herein is for educational
purposes only, and is not meant to substitute for quality avian veterinary
care. AHN cannot guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of the information
contained herein, nor the information distributed by other groups or
resources referenced in this document. Those with a bird(s) exhibiting any
symptom of illness should seek the advice of a qualified avian medical
Avian Health Network, Inc. #54-2068091 is a 501(C) 3 headquartered and
incorporated in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We are an organization of
volunteers with no paid personnel. We are committed to raising public
awareness and funds for avian diseases such as PDD. Financial Statement is
go to help subsidize the research of the Emerging Diseases Research Group
(EDRG) at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine.