Parrot Health Care
Clipping Greys African Greys - special considerations.
ECOLI Many parrots test positive for ECOLI.
Emergency Sick Bird Care Things to consider.
Non Stick Cookware Danger ! Danger Danger !
Plucking This article, by Terri Leinneweber was written in reply to a request for help. It offers excellent insight and ideas on methods to deal with plucking.
Plucking - An Interesting Survey Our bird club did a very unscientific but none the less interesting survey of people with plucking birds and one of the more common correlation's was having species from different continents.
Quick Stop Danger ! Danger Danger !
Scented Products Danger ! Danger Danger !
Self Cleaning Ovens Special instructions to be aware of !
Toxicology Very Important! - A link to Gillian Willis
Zinc Poisoning & How To Test Metal For Zinc Content A common problem with details how to test metal for zinc content.


There are five important elements to consider in supportive care of a sick (or injured) bird, listed in order of importance:

1. Heat

2. Humidity

3. Fluids

4. Nutrition

5. Quiet/Level of Activity

1) Birds use a considerable amount of their energy and metabolic resources in keeping their body temperature up (at around 104 degrees.). Therefore, the single most important thing you can do for a sick bird is to artificially support its temperature, thus freeing as much of its energy as possible for dealing with the illness. The correct temperature is at least 85 degrees, and 90 degrees is preferable. Turn up the heat past 85 until the bird begins to pant, then slowly back it off just until the panting stops. When the bird begins to recover, remember to lower the temp gradually, no more than 5 degrees per day, until back to room temp.

2) Humidity is extremely important in cases of respiratory involvement in the illness, as it eases the breathing and helps the bird keep the air passages clear and moist. A vaporizer is best, a humidifier will work, and in a pinch placing the bird in the bathroom and periodically running hot water in the shower is better than nothing. If there is NO respiratory involvement, or the bird is physically injured and not ill, humidity is not so important. Respiratory involvement is indicated by any of the following: wheezy, raspy, bubbly, or clicking noises in the breathing; discharge from nostrils; breathing heavily or with difficulty (if the tail moves noticeably as the bird breathes, it is breathing heavily); beak held open to breathe but not panting.

3) A sick bird is easily dehydrated, especially since it may not drink as much on its own, its temperature is elevated, and its digestion may be disrupted. In extreme cases a veterinarian may administer fluids under the skin, but oral fluids are also very helpful. If your bird isn't drinking a lot on its own, give fluids from your finger, a spoon, or by syringe. Some suggestions for fluids to give: Infalyte brand infant electrolyte solution, apple or grape juice, D5W (medical glucose/saline solution), bottled water with a little sugar or honey. Don't use Gatorade, it's too high in salt!

4) As you are maximizing the amount of energy the bird can use in fighting the illness by elevating the ambient temperature, you should also ensure that food energy continues to be available. The best things to give a sick bird are high in carbohydrates and easy to digest. Examples: hand-feeding formula, infant rice cereal, baby food, ground-up pellets mixed with fruit juice, molasses, honey, Instant Ounces brand emergency food for birds, cream of wheat, papaya juice or nectar, fruit juice (except orange). If your bird doesn't eat on its own while ill, you need to hand feed it, or force feed it if necessary. Birds can starve to death in 48 - 72 hours when healthy, and can go even faster when ill. Inadequate nutrition will severely impact the bird's ability to recover from the illness. 5) Keep an ill or injured bird quiet and inactive. Keep it in semidarkness with no toys and nothing to climb or play on, much as you would keep a sick child in bed and encourage it to sleep. Limit noisy activities or move the bird to a quiet part of the house. Additional notes: If the bird regurgitates food or fluids, you may be giving too much. Try smaller amounts more frequently. If your bird is on antibiotic therapy, remember that these drugs also kill the "friendly" bacteria that help it to digest its food. Give yogurt, bene-bac, lactobacillus supplement, or acidophilus to help digestion and to prevent backlash Candida (yeast) infections. If you see any sign of yeast (white spots in mouth or on tongue), call the vet and get an antifungal preparation to give with the antibiotic.

Article contributed by Heike Ewing

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I do have one question, if anyone can assist. The vet called with the test results (well bird visit) tonight and told me that there is a small "ECOLI" bacteria which he will give me medication for. He said that it is really nothing to worry about, and it is normal for store bought birds. However the word "ECOLI" scares me a little. Any experiences you may have come across would be helpful. Is this common or something I should be concerned about? Please help the new nervous daddy if you can. >

Not to worry, Most all birds for the first week or two after a move will show a little ECOLI. Some vets don't even treat for it, just bring back in a few weeks for a re-test.

Jean "The African Queen" Pattison , FL

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The flights of an African Grey (and other birds, IMO) should be clipped so that the cut end of the flight is sandwiched between the upper wing coverts (the short overlapping feathers that cover the base of the flights on the top of the wing) and the under wing coverts on the underside of the wing.

Towel the bird and place him on his back. Open the wing. Carefully clip the flight from the underside of the wing so that the cut end is just above the level of the coverts. Gently lift each flight feather and push away the coverts so that the coverts aren't accidentally clipped.

You will want to watch for blood feathers. Fortunately these are very obvious. A blood feather will be encased in a spongy sheath and will have black, brown or red coloring in the sheath. Mature sheaths are hollow and quite hard.

The cut edge is between these matching coverts and won't poke into the bird's flank and possibly irritate him. A bird is much less likely to groom in a long sweeping motion only to be brought up short by a worn, damaged or splintered cut end. If the cut end has been exposed to wear, the bird will constantly try to smooth and groom the end - fruitlessly.

Greys need to be custom cut. Each bird is different in strength and determination. I suggest that 4 feathers be clipped initially. Watch the bird to see how far he can fly or flutter with 4 flights clipped. If he is able to fly or flutter more than 15 feet, clip one more feather from each wing. Observe him again for distance and altitude. If he can flutter more than 15 feet, clip one more feather on each wing. Observe him again for distance and altitude.

I have found that the 15 foot distance will enable the bird to flutter safely to the floor with control and adequate power.

Under no circumstances should the secondary flights or the coverts be clipped.

A diagram and text describing this clip can be found at the African Parrot Society web page (see Links). I suggest downloading and printing out these instructions and taking them with you to the vet or the person doing the grooming.

Bobbi Brinker

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Non-stick cookware is coated with PTFE, which is sold under trade names as Teflon, Silverstone, and a few others. PTFE heated to over 525 degrees Fahrenheit will break down, giving off toxic fumes, which are deadly to your parrot. Most people recommend either removing all Teflon coated items from your home, which would also include irons, ironing boards, hair dryers, and some heaters, or, using them with the utmost care, as the fumes are extremely deadly. Cast iron, Pyrex, and stainless steel pots, pans, and baking dishes make good substitutes, so you may want to look into that.

Eric Edelman

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GLADE (AND OTHER) SCENTED PRODUCTS Kenny & Judy of Iowa went out and purchased several fragrances of GLADE CANDLE SCENTS and one Wal-Mart brand scented candle to freshen their home during the long winter months without fresh air. The candles were burned frequently for 2 days before their first lovebird died. The second lovebird died later that evening. The Quaker was acting strangely the third day and by that afternoon, was also dead. The symptoms were shakiness/trembling, inability to perch, and then death. The time between the first sign of shakiness and death was a matter of a couple to a few hours. The candles had not been burned since the night before when the Quaker "Bob" succumbed in the morning.

The candles have a higher concentration of the volatile (essential) oils than the plug-ins contain and it is released into the atmosphere much more quickly. The fragrances are a mixture of volatile (essential) oils. The majority of these oils can cause either stimulation or depression of the central nervous system, as well as possible irritation to the eyes, nose and upper respiratory tract, depending on the oil and concentration used. Birds are very susceptible to the effects of inhaled volatile toxins, including essential oils. There is also a report of a woman who experienced marked respiratory tract irritation caused by excessive use of Glade Plug-ins in her home "to keep it smelling fresh." Judy and Kenny have ruled out every other possibility. They performed Carbon Monoxide checks all over their house and it showed nothing, until they lit one of the candles and sat it next to the tester for a few minutes. The indicator went into the lethal range. Now, if it was the Carbon Monoxide level that killed the birds, or the volatile essential oil fumes, we can't be 100% sure. I can attest to the fact that the birds were in apparent good health before this situation occurred. The birds were all in separate rooms when they succumbed. There was a candle burning at different times in all of the rooms, so there is not one specific fragrance that could have been at fault.

ANOTHER CASE involved two Cockatiels brought to an avian vet. One bird had been lethargic for a few days and was brought into the clinic for assessment. The owners brought in it's mate to keep it company during hospitalization. Over a period of hours, both birds became progressively lethargic, could not stand, and developed hyperventilation and respiratory distress. Despite aggressive intensive care treatment, both birds died within a minute of one another, within 24 hours of presentation to the clinic. Necropsy revealed congestion in the lungs. There were no other significant findings. Heavy metal poisoning was considered and ruled out radio-graphically. After an extensive investigation into the possible cause of death in the two birds, (one being apparently healthy prior to being brought into the clinic) the cause of death was likely due to exposure, during transport in the motor vehicle, to TWO pine-scented impregnated paper air fresheners. The length of exposure was approximately one hour, in a closed vehicle. Clinical manifestations in both birds were consistent with pine oil inhalation exposure.

IN A THIRD CASE a breeder sold a baby yellow-nape to a young couple. They called a few days later and told her she had sold them a "bad bird" and that he had died. She said she would come and get him immediately to have her vet do a necropsy. Apparently, they had sprinkled that "Love My Carpet" all over and then vacuumed and the baby died within hours. They lived in an apartment without great ventilation. The breeder said it was one of the worst days of her life to have to go over there and pry that baby's toes from his perch where he literally died on the perch.

THE TAKE-HOME MESSAGE here is that any volatile oil (fragrance) has the potential for causing illness and possible death in birds. Obviously, the concentration in a product and length of exposure are factors to be considered. Products containing a high concentration of volatile oils, as in Glade Plug-Ins, should be avoided completely. Many manufacturers have started making their cleaning products 'more pleasing' to the senses by including these (fragrances) essential oils. The bottom line is to protect yourself and be aware of the possible hazard these products could cause to the health of your pet birds. Volatile (essential) oils are in many products that we frequently use in our homes.

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You need to make peace with yourself about her plucking. Cut yourself some slack. You are not at fault. CAG's pluck with no rhyme nor reason in many cases. You are right. You can do everything, "but it's never ENOUGH" BECAUSE YOU are not causing her to pluck. You will drive yourself and her crazy if you can't learn to "go with the flow" on this one, since she may never quit.

Once you have calmed down, here are a few things to think about.

1) You are newly married. How long have you had Miss Gussie? Did she start plucking soon after your husband moved in?

2) Before she started plucking, did you have a routine with her? If so, it might help to get back to that routine, rather than giving in to her every whim, and indulging her every desire, and probably some she didn't know she had. Regardless of the state of her plucking, you are entitled to some time to breathe, and recoup from the stress she is causing you.

3) Take all peanuts -- peanut butter, peanut oil, peanut anything from her diet. There have been reports of a correlation between peanuts and plucking. There is of course no proof of this, just anecdotes.

4) Do you or your husband smoke? Handling a bird after smoking, or being around smokers, has been implicated as well.

5) Make sure she is getting 12 uninterrupted hours of rest each night. Make sure she gets some play-alone time in her cage while you are in the house with her. Make sure she gets some supervised play-alone time while you are in the room, but not hovering over her.

6) If you can get fresh, unsprayed willow branches, wash them off, and stuff them through the bars of her cage. See if she will chew them. If she will, make sure she has a supply of them at all times. I've heard a coupled of reports of this helping -- I suspect the ingredient in the bark that is the active ingredient in aspirin might help with any itching she is suffering.

7) Spray her with fresh, clean, cold water every day. Let her air dry (Do not use blow dryer unless your room is very cold), preferably while sitting in a sunny area. If you can remove/replace her collar, take it off while you spray her; leave it off while she dries. As soon as she is dry and/or starts plucking, replace the collar. If she wants to preen with the collar off, let her but try to re-collar her before she start to pluck.

8) Make sure she has toys that have "intellectual interest" -- knots to untie, music to play, treats to remove -- that kind of thing. Try to rotate them so that there is a different toy/set of toys each day.

9) Play nature-sound tapes for her.

10) If she likes a particular kind of TV show, try to leave the TV turned to one if you need to leave her.

Don't let people convince you that you are causing this plucking. MANY MANY Greys pluck; sometimes it seems to me that the best-loved ones tend to pluck the most. We don't know why they do this. I don't know why. None of the vets know why.

You may happen upon a solution. You may not. So you have to learn to accept the plucking yourself first, so that you stop giving her the message that she is controlling her environment (you) via plucking.

I wish you the very best of luck with this. My CAG male stopped after he got a girl friend. They are bonded, but do not mate. This is a solution that tends to work better with males than females, it seems to me, so I do not suggest it as a solution for anyone else's plucking CAG. Let us know if you get her to stop. I keep "notes" on every CAG that stops. I never know when someone's solution might be useful, to me or to someone else.

Terri Leinneweber

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The toxic fumes produced by the high temperatures generated by the self-cleaning cycle of a self-cleaning oven, are not PTFE. They are pyrolysis products of fats and other material inside the oven. The exact nature of these toxic fumes has not been elucidated, but they have caused deaths in birds who were in the kitchen during the self-cleaning cycle. The self-cleaning feature is safe to use so long as birds are not in the immediate area and the kitchen is adequately ventilated (open windows or fans) during the cycle. Birds should be kept in a separate part of the house until the cycle is complete and the oven has cooled down.

Gillian Willis

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Plucking - An Interesting Survey

Our bird club did a very unscientific but none the less interesting survey of people with plucking birds and one of the more common correlation's was having species from different continents - new world birds with old world birds - usually the old world birds were the pluckers etc.   There was lots of discussion about this finding as they were as many homes with multiple species where nobody plucked - as there were those who did.  I came away feeling pretty compelled to believe that for nervous high strung birds - perhaps from weaning trauma, falling etc. or other early development stresses - being placed near a bird who exhibits a different repertoire of behaviors from a different continent (remember - an amazon and a CAG would never encounter
each other in the wild!) might contribute - and there are anecdotes of pluckers improving when removed for the a more boisterous other species. It stopped me from considering a Goffins and instead I brought home a Senegal for my recovering CAG - and now I have three CAGS, a Senegal, six lovebirds and two tiels - the tiels are so benign that they don't seem to bother anybody.

Contributed by:
Real Macaw Parrot Club in northern NJ & The Big Apple Parrot Society in NYC

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Quick Stop

DO NOT use silver nitrate sticks or Kwik Stop to control bleeding from broken blood feathers or on any part of the skin. Silver nitrate is used as a cauterizing agent and destroys skin. Kwik stop can cause tissue damage. Both silver nitrate and Kwik Stop can cause systemic poisoning. "

For more detailed information on this subject visit Gillian Willis web site.

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Zinc Poisoning & How To Test Metal For Zinc Content

A few weeks ago we became concerned that Scooter, our 4 1/2 month old baby TAG had somehow gotten zinc poisoning, even though he lives in a stainless steel cage. He’s fine, but that incident caused me to wonder about how much exposure to zinc that Scooter might be getting from toys, toy hangers, chains, etc. We had already purchased some stainless steel quick links and knew these were safe. Many of the toys we had purchased were supposedly “bird safe”, but unless they were stainless steel, I was concerned that they still might have zinc in some of the parts. This also applied to screw eyes in the various play gyms we had purchased.

After searching the web, I discovered that there is an American Zinc Association. The American Zinc Association is a Washington, D.C. based trade organization comprised of primary and secondary producers of zinc metal, zinc oxide and zinc dust marketed in the United States. I sent them a general email asking if there was any easy way to tell if metal contained zinc. I was not expecting a reply other than perhaps a polite acknowledgement of my question and maybe a link to an article or two. To my surprise, I received a detailed and highly informative reply from a gentleman from the organization named Ralph Leonard.

It turns out that zinc is commonly used as a coating for steel, but is almost never part of the steel itself (it makes it brittle). There is an easy chemical test for determining if steel is coated with zinc. If you put zinc coated metal into diluted hydrochloric acid, you get a very vigorous response with the zinc reacting with the acid to produce a gas. In the process of testing, the zinc coating is removed from the steel. Hydrochloric acid is not easy to get, but a dilute form of hydrochloric acid called muriatic acid is readily available at paint stores.

I purchased some muriatic acid, put on rubber gloves, safety goggles, long sleeve shirt, etc., and tested a variety of toy parts, screw eyes, chain, quick links, etc. I was very dismayed by the results of my testing. With the exception of the items I knew were stainless steel (this is easy to test for a magnet will not stick to stainless steel), almost everything I tested was coated with zinc! A number of toys are made with a wire core. All of these turned out to be zinc coated. This was also true of screw eyes, quick links, chain, metal rings etc. Unfortunately, Scooter’s most favorite thing to chew on and taste is the metal parts of toys. I have since started to rebuild the toys using all stainless steel wire, quick links, etc., but this is turning out to be a major job.

I would urge you all to consider this problem seriously and check with your toy vendors to make sure the toys are safe. Unfortunately, I think you will find that almost no toys are zinc free unless they are made with just leather, plastic, and/or wood. I think we should all put pressure on the major toy vendors to make sure that they switch to using safe metal components.

If you want to test some of the toys you have for zinc coating, please contact me for detailed instructions on how to safely test for zinc muriatic acid is very dangerous to work with.

I am only posting this email to the African Grey boards; so if you are also on other parrot boards, feel free to repost this email as a warning to other parrot owners. Feel free to contact me at if you have any additional questions about this.

Ed Harris

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