Feathered Eden Aviary


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When Feathers Bite

Posted by Danielle on March 17, 2011 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Recently I have had the pleasure of bird sitting a lovely African Grey Parrot. When describing his African Grey the gentleman told me he did not like women and expressed a true concern that I may get bitten. I was not concerned as I have been working with parrots for many years and been bitten several times. Though nothing to scoff at it just goes with the turf.

I was thrilled to meet the Grey and observed him as he settled in to our home and acclimated himself to his new temporary surroundings. By watching I learned a lot about this parrot, and the true source of his aggression.

He did have a noticeable preference for men, but not because they are men. This was a bird who needed strong leadership and nervousness creates fear. Being the wild animals they are parrots fight or flight. So it is only natural to send out a few warning bites. I was not nervous of him, nor was I meek. I was self assured and confident in my handling and ability to read his body language. He took no time to step up for me, and ride around on my arm. Took right to preening my hair and giving gentle kisses with his beak.

This caused me to think about all of the parrots that are re-homed due to aggression. How many of these birds are only acting on our own nervousness and insecurities? We are not dealing with a cat or dog, these are not domestic animals. These are highly intelligent and sensitive creatures that are ruled by a deep instinct. We can’t control them, nor can we tame them. If we are to share our lives with them we need to change our approach.

Most parrot people can share stories of “The Bite”, that one time that they knew they had crossed the line. I don’t know one person who lives with a parrot that can say they have never been bitten. Ask them why…I bet the answer will be the same too. “It was my own fault…I knew better”.

For me it was from my Umbrella Cockatoo, Peekaboo. Peek is the sweetest most social and friendly parrot I have met. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. He did however nearly sever my pinkie. Yes, it was my fault too. He was overstimulated and I tried to pick him up. He grabbed and immediately realized he had me, letting go. As I was being cleaned up he followed around behind deeply concerned. “Ok Ok?” he kept asking. After I was bandaged up he climbed up, gently testing the bandages with his tongue making sure it had been done right.

He still shows extra care to that finger, checking it and tasting it to make sure I am ok. Occasionally he will ask “Ok?”

That goes to show something of the intelligence and sensitivity of these creatures, which brings me to my initial observation about aggression… Why do parrots bite?

There are two main types of aggression, Angry aggression which strives to inflict pain or injury on the recipient and Defensive aggression which is a result of the need to protect oneself or young, food source or home.

These two types can be further broken down in to 7 categories, as follows.

Dominance, which occurs when the parrot sees itself as equal to or higher up than the people in the home resulting in a need to bite or nip to keep the other people “flock members” in line. This can occur when no clear boundaries are set with a young bird, or the well meaning and devoted parront is at the beck and call of a spoiled parrot.

Fear, when a parrot is is afraid it has an instinctual fight or flight response. In our homes the preferreds flight is made difficult so the parrot is left to fight. Biting becomes a tool for the parrot to keep things, people and situations that it fears away.

Food, this takes place when the parrot feels that it’s food is threatened and defends it’s food and/feeding area by lashing out, even at the hand that feeds it.

Territorial, also associated with hormonal behavior this is where the parrot will guard a particular area that it has claimed for it’s nest. This could be a cage, a cupboard even an entire room!

Learned, most often seen in handraised babies who suddenly turn on their owners with out warning. This is caused by allowing rough play when a bird is young, or deliberate teasing and taunting.

Sibling or Community Squabbling, this is a normal behavior very similar to sibling rivalry. It is the natural way of establishing the pecking order within the flock and observed frequently in the wild.

Pain Induced or Disease related. Birds hide illness and injury very well, it is a natural defense against predators, as a result a bird that is showing unprovoked aggression for no reason should receive a full vet check up to rule out medical reasons. If a bird is suffering or in pain it will bite to prevent further pain or injury to itself.

Originally posted on Feathers, Fins and Fur

Tags: aggression, biting, parrots, Uncategorized

This entry was posted on March 16, 2011 at 8:59 pm and is filed under Feathers, Fins and Fur. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

One Response to Feathers, Fins and Fur 2011-03-16 20:59:45 Jason Turner on March 17, 2011 at 1:27 am Very informative article Thanks

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Signs and symptoms of Psittacosis (Chlamydiosis, Ornithosis)

Posted by Danielle on February 6, 2011 at 6:12 PM Comments comments (0)

Chlamydiosis is a zoonotic disease caused by the bacteriachlamydia. This is a reportable disease that can be found in someimported, aviary and pet store birds. Wild and domestic as well aspoultry are susceptible to chlamydiosis. Birds that can carry and orcontract the disease include parrots, canaries, chickens, ducks,turkeys and pigeons.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms are often stress induced. Being hidden until a stressfulevent such as travel, weaning or other illness weaken the birdsimmune system.

Symptoms present very similar to respiratory infection. Theseinclude:



severe and or sudden weightloss

breathing difficulties

lime greenfeces


conjunctivitis (this is a dead give away of thedisease)

Infected birds shed the bacteria in the fecal droppings and nasaldischarge. The bacteria remains contagious for quite sometime. It iscontracted by either inhaling the dust of droppings or ingestion ofdroppings.

Clamydiosis can be transmitted to humans in the same manner. Thisis why proper aviary management and bio security measures arecrucial.

Symptoms presented by humans is as follows:

sudden and/or severe fever


weakness and/orfatigue


muscle pain







abnormalintolerance to light

Though the disease can result in death, but fatal cases areextremely rare. Generally symptoms present like a mild case of theflu.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) reports that between2000-2006 only 125 cases of Psittacosis were reported. In Canada itis reported to be below 1 in 100,000 cases.

My findings are that yes it is possible for human beings to becomeinfected with Psittacosis, however due to tighter governmentrestrictions, reporting protocol and proper aviary managementprocedures it is highly unlikely.

Proper Aviary Management and BioSecurity Procedures

In order to prevent the occurrence of avian Psittacosis in yourhome aviary, under 15 birds, hygiene is of utmost importance. Cagebottoms should be cleaned daily. Paper changed and trays washed inhot water with an effective anti-bacterial soap. Bleach, boilingwater, Lysol ect... are all effective means to kill the chlamydiabacteria. Cage bottoms, trays and bars should be disinfected weekly,as should toys and perches. Food and water dishes should besterilized and washed daily. Stainless steel dishes are best used inplace of plastic. In particular for water or wet soft foods.Newspaper is best used as a cage liner and where birds are paperchewers a grate is used effectively.

An air filtration unit is best used in rooms where birds are kept.Pay careful attention to purchase a HEPA filter or one that filtersout dust, as well as bacteria.

Avoid overcrowding in cages. Be sure to feed a healthy wellbalanced diet. Weigh birds at least once per week as a rapid decreasein normal body weight is often the first sign of illness. Know whatsymptoms to watch for, observe your birds and their droppings.

Wash your hands before and after handling and or feeding yourbirds. Use discretion as to whom is in contact with your birds. Avoidvisiting areas where other strange birds are frequently present withyour birds (ie. pet stores, bird fairs ect...).

When purchasing a new bird buy from an experienced well known orresearched breeder that maintains a closed aviary. Make sure toquarantine any new bird for minimum 30-45 days. This is best done ina separate floor of your home or another building where no birds arepresent. During quarantine be sure to weigh and observe the new birdfor any signs of illness. Get to know them. Again, be sure to washyour hands after handling, feeding and cleaning the new bird's area.Change your clothes or better yet have a specific smock (or lab coat)for handling the new bird. Always handle and feed your birds in theorder you received them (new birds last)!

If An Infection Occurs

If a test shows that one of your birds is infected relax.Antibiotic treatment has proven to be effective against the disease.Be sure to follow your vet's instructions to the letter. Usually yourbird(s) will be put on a course of antibiotics for 45 days. Thoughsymptoms will likely clear up soon, it is important to follow throughthe full coarse as relapse is common. Isolate the infected bird(s)from any others and completely disinfect the cages and cage area'swith a strong cleanser. This includes toys, perches, food and waterdishes ect... When cleaning be sure to wear thick rubber gloves and afacial mask. Follow this practice when handling infected birds aswell.


Let your doctor know that you have been in contact with aninfected bird and follow his/her reccomendations. Usually this willinclude blood work and close observation. Pay careful attention forthe symptoms listed above. Both your vet and your doctor will need toreport the details of infection to either the CDC (US) or HealthCanada. This is just as a precaution to help prevent an outbreak andfurther spread of this disease. Do not let this alarm you. Askquestions if you are unsure of something. If you do not understandwhat is being explained ask for clarification.

*Sources: Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety,CDC,The Merck Veterinary Manual Eighth Edition.*