Bird Finders Guide

Keeping Birds for Pleasure and Preservation

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Bird Finders Guide

Aviculture is defined as the keeping and breeding of birds. Dr. Jean Delacour, the most dedicated, influential, and highly respected individual in the modern history of aviculture defined it precisely: "Aviculture - The worldwide hobby of keeping and breeding numerous species of wild birds in captivity to maintain their numerical status in nature with a view of forestalling their extinction by supplying aviary raised stock."

Since the earliest times in man's history, birds were kept for food and eggs -- or hunting!

As with the keeping and breeding of many animals, birds have been kept by humans since the early days of man. While chickens and waterfowl were primarily kept for food and eggs, other types of birds were kept for other purposes, from hawks for hunting to singing birds for household pets. Other birds were used for communication, such as the homing pigeon. In the Far East, especially China, many types of pigeons were kept for their beauty. African grey parrots and Indian ringneck parrots were commonly kept as pets in the Middle Ages in the Middle Eastern Muslim countries. Once the Europeans came to the New World, they took back to Europe many of the different parrot species found in Central and South America. In 1493, Columbus brought a pair of Cuban Amazons to Queen Isabella of Spain.

The United States history of the pets of our Presidents indicates many kept parrots. Martha Washington had a pet Amazon parrot as well as a cockatoo, as well as other parrots. See: www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/birds/ and https://lafeber.com/pet-birds/presidents-their-parrots/ and www.plannedparrothood.com/famousowners.html for information on many famous people who kept parrots.

Budgerigars are small birds with big personalities. They have long been a favorite pet.

From early times in the US, canaries were kept. By the nineteen hundreds, budgerigars and finches were popular. During the 1950’s one could order a green parrot from the Sears catalog, an Amazon parrot from Central or South America or a great billed parrot from the Philippines. However, the average citizen in the US did not own a parrot in the fifties and sixties. But, they might own a budgerigar or a canary or a finch, as these were readily available at the local Woolworth's dime store. (Note: it is illegal for US citizens to keep native bird species in captivity. That is why pet birds, from canaries to parrots, which are non-native species, are legal to own.)

The forests of many countries were available for exploration during the 1960’s and 70’s, due to the removal of trees for lumber or access into the forested areas for minerals or other resources. The new roadways and transport methods opened up these habitats for the capture and transport of wild birds and animals for the pet trade, as well as removal of all sorts of plant life for the horticulturists seeking exotic species. With the expansion of international travel by plane, wild birds and animals could successfully and quickly be transported to other countries.

Once these wild birds and animals were commonly sold in other countries, many who were interested in keeping them and breeding them took advantage of the opportunity and set up breeding facilities during the seventies and early eighties. Today what we have available in terms of parrots and other non-native bird species are very likely the many generations removed offspring of those early imports. (Importation of parrots into the US was ended in 1992 with the passage of the Wild Bird Conservation Act. A few exceptions with appropriate permits can be imported, but those are few in number, difficult to obtain, and primarily for bringing in one’s personal pets or birds for zoo exhibits.)

Who are the aviculturists in the US? There are bird keepers and exhibitors and bird trainers, as well as bird breeders. Some may keep exotic birds at facilities which are designed to exhibit birds, such as zoos. Bird trainers are professionals who work with parrots and other species and/or train them to perform acts, from flying to talking. These trained birds perform at special events or at locations such as Busch Gardens. Bird breeders or propagators generally have a facility which is designed to provide appropriate housing for breeding pairs and their young. Some birds are raised to be future breeding birds and others are raised to be pets or to be aviary birds. Birds may be raised at small facilities such as in homes, or in large facilities in specially designed buildings or outdoor aviaries, depending on the local climate.

However, most pet birds are those kept by individual pet owners. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (the AVMA), there are 8,300,000 million pet birds in homes. The majority are budgerigars and cockatiels, which are small parrots. A parrot is defined as a bird with a curved beak, designed to use power when chewing wood; the beak is an excellent tool used to crack and open seeds, hard nuts and to create nests in tree trunks.

There are over 8.3 million pet birds in US homes, many of them cockatiels.

Sometimes pet owners decide to become bird breeders and start raising birds. However, the basic focus of a pet owner towards their birds is often an emotional one, considering their bird to be a member of their family. This is quite different from that of most bird breeders who do feel emotion for their birds, but their focus is more technical and focused on the details of appropriate species care.

Note: keeping native species is illegal in the US There are birds in our lands that are not native species, such as English sparrows, starlings, pigeons, and Ring necked pheasants; all have been introduced into the US When someone finds a hurt bird or baby bird, those birds should be taken to the nearest official rehabilitation center, because it is illegal to keep them. Most veterinarians know the location of local wildlife rehabilitation centers.

In 1992 the Wild Bird Conservation Act was passed by Congress and signed by the President. This law prevents the importation of most parrot species, unless one has a special import permit issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. That includes zoos or any other entities. Imported birds are required to go through 30 days of quarantine and be tested for several diseases. At this time, in 2016, most of the birds being imported are captive raised birds from other countries, such as canaries, cockatiels and budgerigars, as well as some finches and other non-parrot species which are not covered under the W.B.C.A. Other laws may apply to native and non-native species, such as the Migratory Bird Act.

When choosing a pet bird, there are several considerations that a new owner should consider so that the species is a good fit for the person and their family and lifestyle. Following is a list of considerations:

  1. Space. Do you have space in your home for a cage that will be appropriate for the bird? Large macaws are going to need a cage much larger than a pair of finches will need. When researching species, it is a good idea to note the type of cage that is appropriate.
  2. Noise. Depending on whether you live in an apartment, a home, a duplex, or a townhouse, if you choose a noisy bird, you may find that there are problems with neighbors. Large macaws and large cockatoos can be noisy at times. Apartment dwellers would do well to consider a smaller bird, such as green cheek conures, cockatiels, budgies, doves or finches.
  3. Laws and regulations. If you live in an apartment, in a house in a home owners association, in some cities and counties, there may be laws and regulations that apply to whether or not you can have a pet bird and if so, what kind of pet bird. Always check local regulations. Localities may also have limits on total number of pets, including birds. Some states have laws that require permits for pet owners, such as New Jersey. Some states require that your pet bird have a band, such as New York and Colorado. Some states ban certain species, such as Quaker parrots. Check with the Wildlife Division in your state before purchasing a bird.
  4. Cage Equipment. Most parrots and other birds are smart, curious and active. This means that they are going to need items that are mentally stimulating, such as toys. It is important to select toys appropriate to the size of the bird and to its particular natural behaviors. Many parrots like to chew on wood, for example.
  5. Understanding Bird Behavior. If you have little familiarity with birds, it is very important to learn about their behavior so that you are not misunderstanding what their behavior means. Then you can avoid taking actions with the bird that are going to distress it or alienate your bird. Excellent behavior information is available from professional bird behaviorists such as Dr. Susan Friedman, www.behaviorworks.org, and Barbara Heidenreich at www.goodbirdinc.com. It is wise to avoid some websites on the internet where hucksters are promoting their DVDs and their ideas. Professionals will provide their names and their credentials. If you have trouble finding a name on a website that may be a clue that it is set up by a phony in order to make money.
  6. When you have a pet bird, you are likely at some point in time to need an avian veterinarian. If you do not know of one in your area, you can go to the Association of Avian Veterinarians website www.aav.org  and put in your zip code and search for an avian vet in your area. Friends with birds may also be able to give you some names.
  7. Pet Shops. Most pet shops will have some bird supplies available for pet owners. There are also specialty shops which cater to bird owners. These shops often have very knowledgeable owners and managers who can order special items if you do not find them in the store. It is wise not to take your pet bird with you to the store, as most avian diseases are airborne and some birds which appear healthy may not be.
  8. Bird Groomers. It is a good idea to check out the bird groomer before you have your bird worked on at their facility. Find out if they keep their grooming equipment in a disinfectant solution and what procedures they use to prevent disease transmission. They should be able to tell you about the process. This would include disinfecting the work table and using a clean unused towel on the bird and keeping the scissors and trimmers in a special disinfectant until ready for use. Otherwise, viral diseases can be transmitted from the equipment to your bird.
  9. Bird Organizations. There are several national bird organizations. The American Federation of Aviculture, www.afabirds.org, has a website, publishes a journal and holds annual conferences in different parts of the US Speakers include experts on bird care and behavior, biologists, veterinarians, and bird breeders. The Avicultural Society of America, www.asabirds.org is also a national organization that holds conferences, publishes a bi-monthly bulletin, and has a website and discussion group. The Society of Parrot Breeders and Exhibitors, www.spbe.org focuses on bird shows and exhibitions and also publishes a journal. The National Finch and Softbill Society, http://nfss.org has a lot of information on finches and other non-parrot species.
  10. Rescues and Sanctuaries. There are several non-profit sanctuaries for birds which take in birds whose owners can no longer keep them. There are also responsible bird rescue organizations which take in birds. It is important to discern those that are functioning in a professional and ethical manner, and those that are not, because the birds will suffer when not being cared for by professionals. Generally speaking, setting up a rescue involves more than loving birds and owning a few pets, because appropriate husbandry practices may not be routinely employed. A responsible rescue or sanctuary will have an on-call avian veterinarian and will be placing new acquisitions in quarantine. Ask about their use of a veterinarian and about quarantine procedures before you choose to adopt a bird from one of these facilities.
  11. Finding Your Bird. While there are numerous advertisements on various internet sites, anyone who is not experienced with birds should avoid these sites. It is wise to seek out known and respected bird breeders rather than taking chances. Asking your local avian veterinarian for referrals to good bird breeders is wise. When visiting sites on the internet, a professional breeder will not only be providing you with information on the birds, but with information about themselves, their contracts and warranties. You do want a contract which identifies the bird by band number or microchip number, with species information and with warranties concerning health. Often, reliable bird breeders participate in the Model Aviculture Program which provides inspection and certification of facilities and procedures for bird keepers and breeders. See: www.modelaviculture.org for details.
Eclectus Parrots are intelligent and calm, but easily upset by unexpected noises and interruptions; doing your research and acquiring from a reputable source will help you provide a great life for your pet!

In summary, there are many pet birds of various species kept in homes in the US. Bird owners enjoy the beauty, charm, intelligence, singing, and talking ability of their birds. Modern veterinary medicine provides bird owners with options for maintaining the health of their birds, and specialty companies make cages, toys, special foods, and other supplies for providing proper care. Information on specific species is available both from national bird organizations and specialty Internet groups. Doing some research before deciding on a pet bird is recommended, as there are so many choices and the new bird owner will want to make the choice that best suits them.


 

 



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