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Author Topic: Some questions answered Part I - by Tony Silva  (Read 749 times)

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Boegie

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Some questions answered Part I - by Tony Silva
« on: May 22, 2016, 02:47:58 PM »
Some months ago, I addressed three questions that I had selected from the plethora that I receive each day. Here I selected four more questions from a batch that I receive.

QUESTION: What is best for my birds. Fruits or vegetables?

This is a question that I receive at least four times each week. The answer requires examining wild parrots for it to be understood.
Over the last four decades, I have studied parrots in their habitat across the globe. Some of these birds have been seen in the backyard and others in fairly remote areas. To see the unique Kakapo Strigops habroptilus I had to catch a helicopter to Little Barrier Island, where I would remain for many days, to walk with researchers to see the large flightless birds. The effort cost me several thousand dollars and several days of my life living in rather poor conditions. In the case of the Severe Macaw Ara severus the effort requires that I walk onto a balcony in an apartment that I own in North Miami Beach at a certain time of the year. The birds will then be seen feeding in a large tree only meters from the balcony. I can also see Brotogeris in summer when they come to feed on guava fruit in the farm where I keep my birds. These observations and many thousands of hours spend watching parrots feeding has taught me that in virtually all cases parrots in the wild eat fruit that is not ripe; they cannot wait for the fruit to ripen as they must then compete for the same resource with primates, other mammals, frugiverous birds and bats. The parrots have strong bills that can crack the hard casing that protects fruits, nuts, seeds and more in a green stage. Once ripe many of these items split open or the protective covering is easily breached and this is why a frugivore that has a small pointed beak waits for this stage in order to feed.
To prevent unripe fruits, seeds, pods and more from being predated, the plants produce toxic alkaloids to deter predation. The parrots nullify these substances by eating bark or clay or even bits of coal from burned ground. Taste any fruit that wild parrots are eating and your tongue and mouth will quickly pucker. Try this with the seeds of Chinaberry Melia azedarach, which is widely grown the world over, and you will quickly understand what I am saying.
The parrots that eat ripe fruit tend to visit backyards where they have no competition. Virtually all of these flocks are introduced. They are waiting for the fruit to ripen because they can.
Fruit sold for consumption by humans tends to be sweet. A juicy peach that has a high sugar content is far more appealing than one that is green, firmer and less sweet. The same can be written for grapes, apple, pear, bananas, nectarines, plums and more. The list here is endless. The appealing quality is the sweetness in the fruit, which have been bred to meet this demand. Taste a wild apple or a green banana or mango and see how unappealing they are.
So the fruit available in the modern grocery store is very different from its original ancestors or from what the parrots naturally feed on in the wild. Because of this, I feed very little fruit and when I do I provide the birds with tropical forms, which are far more nutritious. Papaya, guava, mango and many others that the parrots eat in the wild, including the fruits of Melicoccus bijugatus and Spondias mombim, are given to my birds.
I do not feed temperate fruit like apple or grapes when I have much better fruit available. I understand that some hobbyists have no other option. When feeding these, try to always provide heirloom varieties that are more tart.
My reason for not wanting to give very sweet fruit is that they are unnatural and that they can contribute to health issues. The emphasis should be on vegetables, which are far more nutritious. Peppers, sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrot, corn, peas, pumpkin, gourds and a very long list of other vegetables should replace the main of the diet, with fruit being used as a supplement or treat. Greens can also be given.
When preparing the menu, examine the items being used to provide them in the best form possible or to exclude them because they are nutritionally poor. Hobbyists that contact me often tell me that they give their birds cucumber or celery. When I question them, all display a level of surprise. None had ever looked at the nutritional value of these. Giving a bowl of water provides the same level of nutrition as cucumber and celery. Select foods rich in vitamin A, calcium, etc. and then prepare them so that they are at their nutritional peak. Carrot, sweet potatoes and pumpkin should be steamed to break down the fibers that allow the beta-carotene to be accessible to the birds. Spinach can be great but should be given in moderation, as the oxalic acid can inhibit calcium adsorption. Weeds like dandelion and plantain are super valuable in terms of nutrition and can be fed whole. Some simple research can help you boost the nutritional diet of your birds very easily.
Vegetables, greens and fruits in that order should comprise about 20-30% of the diet for most parrots irrespective if they are fed seeds or pellets. Other foods, including cooked grains and pulses, can comprise another 10-20% of the diet. The key is variety and to be redundant to focus on vegetables. Enrichment which is edible can replace a significant percentage of the fruits or vegetables,
A balanced and nutritious diet is important for wellbeing. Please do not expect your birds to breed on paddy rice, yellow millet, some sunflower, apple and cucumber. Give them the variety that they need, be judicious in your selection and then witness the result.

QUESTION: My bird is ill, so I am giving it a tonic. Will it improve?

ANSWER: Many of you know that while I believe in homeopathic medicine, I also believe in the miracle or antibiotics. I also view with suspect many of the tonics available. I have had enough hobbyists contact me very depressed because their bird diet after being given a tonic for several days. When I have asked for the list of ingredients, many could simply not tell me. They were giving their bird something that they really had no clue what it was. In the few cases where they knew, the ingredients in one case included iron, in another lead and in a third case arsenic. Imagine giving a lorikeet, which is highly susceptible to hemochromatosis or iron storage disease, a tonic containing iron? Or a sick African Grey parrot arsenic in large amounts? Or a cockatoo a product containing lead? The owners were silently speeding the inevitable: death. I always recommend staying away from these products as they have in the great majority of cases never been tested in birds.
Sick birds need heat, fluids and in most cases antibiotics, which are selected based on sensitivity cultures or specific clinical signs. There is a long track record of their use in birds and there are specific dosages established through clinical trials. When a bird is ill always consult a veterinarian that understands cage birds. If none is available, then an experienced hobbyist may be able to help, but please understand that in virtually all cases the hobbyist does not have the medical training to make a proper diagnosis and prognosis.

QUESTION: What medication can I use to get my birds to breed?

ANSWERS: Aviary management should include proper hygiene, a varied and nutritious diet, a basic understanding of the specific requirements of the species being kept (ie, nest size and shape, aviary requirements and more) and patience. These can never be replaced with antibiotics. Indeed, if one has to manage a crisis continuously with antibiotics, then there are serious management flaws that are being overlooked. Provide the birds with the best conditions possible and they will breed without ever having to resort to antibiotics. If you do have to use these, then they should be selected based on a specific problem and after the drug of choice is identified through cultures or consultation with a veterinarian.

QUESTION: Where can I buy fertile parrot eggs?

ANSWERS: It is incredible that there would be a consumer na´ve enough to consider buying parrot eggs in this modern day. Firstly, if the species is on CITES, then CITES documents are required to ship the eggs to another country. Secondly, why would anyone sell an egg for $50.00 when hatching it and raising the chick for six or eight weeks could generate ten, twenty or even a hundred times that amount? In other words, if a Hyacinth Macaw is worth between $10-20,000.00 depending on what part of the world you live in, why would someone sell a fertile egg for $50.00? Thirdly, eggs do not ship well and mortality is great. Fourthly, if you do not have experience incubating eggs and hand-rearing the young, then you are destined to fail. Parrot eggs just cannot be placed in an incubator and forgotten. Their incubation requires equipment (incubators, scales, etc) and at least a basic understanding of the incubation process. Fifthly, it is invariably a con artists that advertises that he or she is selling fertile parrot eggs, invariably using photos belonging to others as part of the process and interested only in taking your money. Their lack of understanding of aviculture leads these unscrupulous merchants to offer, for example, seasonal nesters like Asiatic parakeets and Amazons every month of the year. If you are going to consider sending someone money for eggs, do yourself a favor: donate the money to charity. You will do some good and will not feel cheated in the end. I state this because recently an aviculturist in Asia did not listen and was conned 1 Lakh for Hyacinth Macaw eggs that were never going to arrive. I warned him but he did not listen and then had the audacity to ask for help when he got no eggs, no refund and only a loud laugh from the authorities in the country where he wired his hard earned money to when he contacted them. The moral of the story is simple: if the deal sounds too good to be true, it is not true.


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