June 30, 2010

The Cobalt-winged Parakeet (Brotogeris cyanoptera)

The Cobalt-winged parakeet is also known as a cobalt-wing. I don't plan on recreating information on this cousin of the grey cheek, but thought I would provide links to information already available. Check out these pages on the web which include photos, habitat maps, videos, sound recordings, diet and other information regarding these parakeets. Juvenile cobalt wing photo (below right) courtesy of Shady Pines Aviary.

Here is a YouTube video that someone shared of their pet cobalt wing, Binky, eating and talking a little:

Publications mentioning Cobalt Wings:
  • Brightsmith, Donald J. "Effects of Diet, Migration, and Breeding on Clay Lick Use by Parrots in Southeastern Peru," American Federation of Aviculture 2004 Symposium Proceedings, Aug. 2004 (pdf).
  • Brightsmith, Donald J. "Nest Sites of Termitarium Nesting Birds in SE Peru," Ornitologia Neotropical, 15:-, 2004 (Neotropical Ornithological Society).
  • Brightsmith, Donald J. "The psittacine year: what drives annual cycles in Tambopata's parrots," VI International Parrot Convention, Loro Parque, Tenerife, Spain, April 2006 (pdf).
  • Brightsmith, Donald J. "Use of Arboreal Termitaria by Nesting Birds in the Peruvian Amazon," The Condor, 2000, 102(3):529-538 (BioOne Online Journals).
  • Brightsmith, Donald. "What Eats Parrots?" Bird Talk, Feb. 2000.
  • Brightsmith, Donald. "Wild Science: Cooperative Breeding," Bird Talk, 17 (Oct. 1999): 74-75.
  • Cotton, Peter A. "The Behavior and Interactions of Birds Visiting Erythrina fusca Flowers in the Colombian Amazon," Biotropica, 15 Mar 2006, 4(33): 662-669 (Wiley Interscience).
  • Hammer, Matthias L. A. "Parrot colpa and geophagy behaviour from the El Gato region of the Tambopata-Candamo Reserved Zone, Amazonia, Peru," Biosphere Expeditions (pdf).
  • Harris, Robbie. "Breeding the Cobalt-winged Parakeet," A.F.A. Watchbird, 1984C, no. 11, p. 30, 32-34, 36-37.
  • Keyworth, Jennifer. "College-Bound Bird," Bird Talk, 11 (Sept. 1993): 112-115 (re: cobalt wing).
  • Low, Rosemary. "Breeding Two Species of Brotogeris Parrakeets (sic) at Loro Parque," Avicultural Magazine, 93 (1987B): 198-201 (re: grey cheeks & cobalt wing).
  • Pinto, Míriam Plaza; Mathias, Pablo Vinícius Clemente; Blamires, Daniel Blamires; Diniz-Filho,  José Alexandre Felizola and Bini, Luis Mauricio. "Selecting priority areas to conserve Psittacines in the Brazilian cerrado: minimizing human–conservation conflicts, Bird Conservation International, 2007, 17:1:13-22 (Abstract).
  • Tello, Jose G. "Frugivores at a fruiting Ficus in south-eastern Peru," Journal of Tropical Ecology, 2003, 19:6:717-721 (Cambridge Journals).

June 19, 2010

Pet Bird Care: Grooming

Topics: avian beak trimming, proper toenail clipping for birds, and correct wing-clipping techniques - do a Google search on any of the grooming topics above to find current articles online.
Web sites with links to numerous articles:
Select online articles:
For further reading, here are articles from various bird publications that you might be able to find at your local library. If none of these publications are available in your library, most libraries have an interlibrary loan service (may be a fee involved). Merely provide them with one or more of these citations.
  • Gonzalez, Fran. "Wing Clipping Basics," Bird Talk, 14 (May 1996): 72-75.
  • Kikuchi, June. "Grooming—Just Do It! Keep your bird safe and healthy with these simple grooming tips," Birds USA, (1997/98): 108-109.
  • Mizera, Richard. "Small Birds: Time for a Trim—Here's How," Bird Talk, 19 (Apr. 2001): 72-73.
  • Samuelson, Phil. "Clip Those Wings!" Bird Talk, 12 (Apr. 1994): 72.
  • Wissman, Margaret A. "Proper Toenail Clipping," Bird Talk, 14 (Apr. 1996): 28-29.
  • Wissman, Margaret A. and Bill Parsons. "Correct Wing-Clipping Techniques," Bird Talk, 11 (May 1993): 69.

Pet Bird Care: Diet and Nutrition

Topics: avian diet, bird diet, avian nutrition, bird nutrition, parrot diet, bird diet, pelleted diets for birds, pellet conversion, converting a bird's diet - do a Google search on any of these topics to find current articles online.

Web sites with links to numerous articles:
Select online articles:
For further reading, here are articles from various bird publications that you might be able to find at your local library. If none of these publications are available in your library, most libraries have an interlibrary loan service (may be a fee involved). Merely provide them with one or more of these citations.
  • Armstrong, D. Stewart. "Diet and Nutrition" in The Bird Care Handbook & Resource Guide, 1st ed., Monterey, CA: Seacoast Publishing (1997): 12-13.
  • Blanchard, Sally. "Parrot Psychology: Proper Nutrition and Eating Behaviors," Bird Talk, 15 (March 1997): 116-119 (mentions grey cheeks).
  • Chamberlain, Susan. "Cage 'n' Cookin': Success with Fruits and Vegetables," Bird Talk, 19 (Jan. 2001): 68-71.
  • Chamberlain, Susan. "Nutrition Dos and Donts," Birds USA, 2002/03: 78-83.
  • Clipsham, Robert. "Fight Malnutrition With Table Foods," Bird Talk, 16 (April 1998): 98-107.
  • Davis, Chris. "Do or Diet," Bird Talk, 20 (Mar. 2002): 38-47.
  • Davis, Chris. "Foiling the Finicky Eater," Bird Talk, 13 (Aug. 1995): 46-54.
  • Henzler, David J. "Avian Nutrition," Bird Talk, 10 (Jan. 1992): 36-40.
  • Kauffman, Melissa L. "Your Bird's Nutritional World," Birds USA, (1998/99): 72-77.
  • McWatters, Alicia. "7-Day Diet," Bird Talk, 18 (Feb. 2000): 23-33.
  • McWatters, Alicia. "Stress Relief Through Dietary Support, Part I," BirdBreeder On-line (Nov. 1997) and "Stress Relief Through Dietary Support, Part II" (Dec. 1997).
  • Nash, Holly. "Switching from a Seed-based Diet to a Pelleted Diet," peteducation.com
  • Rind, Sherry. "Basic Avian Dietary Guidelines," Bird Breeder, 67 (Jan. 1995): 18-20.
  • Sondel, Nancy. "Hooking Your Hookbill on Pellets," Bird Talk, 14 (May 1996): 34-40.
  • Walz, Patricia. "Nutrition ABC, 123...," Bird Talk, 14 (May 1996): 42.
  • Wissman, Margaret. "Basic Nutrition," Birds USA, (1997/98): 96-101.

Enjoy Grey Cheek Videos Online

I created a playlist of grey cheek videos that others have shared online. Enjoy!

Pilot Pookie Takes an Unscheduled Flight

Photo courtesy of Susie Kidder.

At a bird shop looking for a bird, a clerk, announcing that they were 'new to the states,' showed me a box with about 5 baby grey-cheeked parakeets (grey cheeks) in it. She told me that they were not very popular because of a tendency to be nasty and loud. I put my hand in the box, and, a then nameless and down-feathered, ugly little fluffy thing with huge feet and a big, hook bill stumbled over to my hand. Her beak was so heavy that she dragged it across the floor of the box. When she got to my hand, she sat there with her beak resting in my palm and settled down. I said immediately, "Yes, this is the one for me!" The rest is history.

As someone who has raised birds since I was 12 years old, pets, and I believe particularly birds--due to the strong intellect and sensitivity that birds have--quickly become irreplaceable family members. This increases the devastation of their loss in so many ways. For so small a creature, my Pookie is a very cuddly bird that is sensitive, loving, and caring. She likes to sleep nestled under my neck.

Pookie is very protective of me as well. One year while I was still in high school, I had broken my leg and was in a wheelchair. One day I was in my room with her on my shoulder when a very large friend of mine came into my room very abruptly and noisily and scared both of us. For some reason, my friend used to like to startle me. Never did know why. Anyway, Pookie flew from my shoulder and literally attacked this guy (poor fool!). He wound up in the hospital that evening, requiring two or three stitches under his right eye. She had really latched onto his face with her beak. How can you not love a half-pound, 8 inch little fluffy thing that goes and attacks a 350 pound, 6'4" man, because she thinks you might be in danger?

As a side note on bird intelligence, I have read studies that show birds are smarter than most other animals because of the third dimension added to their movement; non-flighted animals move only in two dimensions while birds can move either in 2 (while walking - lateral or longitudinal) or 3 (in flight - vertical, lateral, and longitudinal). This requires a much different type of thinking. Also, air navigation requires a great amount of photographic memory and the ability to recognize objects at a great distance. This recognition requires a great deal of brain power--smaller more distant objects are compared to memories of larger objects, and position is extrapolated from this comparison. There are pilots with great navigational equipment that STILL can not navigate this well! Also, their eyes refresh the image sent to the brain at nearly 300 times the speed of the human eye (from what I understand). This means that they are much faster thinkers which is required due to the speeds at which the move through the air requiring fast thinking for fast maneuvering. Due to the added third dimension to their intelligence, researchers speculate that if humans had the same brain design, we would be much further advanced than we are currently. Imagine that.

Part of the reason that I am a bird lover is because of my love of flight. The other part is due to my love of airplanes. I love all things that fly. Metal and feathered things, that is minus bugs and bats. Ever since I was a kid, I have marveled at a birds uncanny ability to perform miraculous feats of flight. We have enough trouble landing an aircraft on a runway that is 2500' long, yet a bird can land and perch gracefully on a telephone wire! This has always amazed me. Their abilities for navigation (and particularly in the case of Pookie) have fascinated me as well. When I was 12, my parents wanted me to have a pet that I would relate to, and chose right. I was raised Catholic, and although I am not overly religious, I had always loved the way birds were generally portrayed as messengers of God, and always thought that they fit a very glorious role.

I love to watch Pookie fly, and though she is not as graceful at her landings as I am, she is getting better. She has about the same grace with her landings as a brick, only the landings are much softer.

I believe that I may have been the one that taught her to fly. I had gotten Pookie during a time when not many people knew about these birds. I had been a bird fan for a while and had never even heard of a grey cheek. I got Pookie when she still had down feathers and had to hand feed her with an eye dropper for quite some time. But as she got older, she never flew. She would flutter her wings to catch her balance, but that was about it for the first 3 or 4 months or so. I figured maybe they just were not really flight birds like an ostrich or something.

One day, I stood in front of her flapping my arms up and down, and she flew off of the couch. Granted it was straight down to the floor from there, but it was a start! She began to take the initiative from there on, and she is now a great pilot. I may just have gone too far with her flight training though.

On June 25, 1995, I wanted to spend some time outside with my then 6 year old grey cheek. She is now 9. It was a cloudy day, and we decided to go outside just before it began to rain. I clipped Pookie's wings, as I normally had every few months or so, and off we went. Walking though my back yard, we were having a lot of fun. All of a sudden, my fiance pulled into our driveway, got out, and closed the door. Pookie had not spent much time outside in a while and was a little apprehensive about the loud Geo Trakker that had just pulled up. She was even more uneasy with the closing of the door. Off Pookie went!!!

I couldn't believe it! As a pilot myself, I was absolutely stunned by her clipped-winged flight skills. Broken-hearted, I watched as Pookie climbed about 3 feet for every 15 feet of forward flight with blinding speed. She cleared the lower portion of my house (16') to the west after flying about 90 feet from me. I watched her make a turn to the north, over our very rural neighborhood and then over a large wooded area.

I was so upset. I could not understand how this bird was flying after just having had her wings clipped. My fiance and I looked everywhere for her. It began to rain, and I never thought she was coming back. We went home, both heart-broken. I sat on my roof with her empty cage fighting back tears. I felt that I had betrayed this good little friend of mine who had been there for me through some very hard times by not ensuring her safety before taking her outside. I was hoping that she would maybe fly back in the area, see her cage, and fly to it. She had always seen her cage as her home, not a cage, because the door is nearly always open on it.

After nearly six and a half hours, it began getting dark, and I was by now thoroughly soaked with rain. It was a heavy rain that I was sure my little pilot friend would have been downed by. I decided to turn in for the night and continue looking in the morning.

After bringing her cage in from out on the roof, I went back outside to bring something in that I had left on the ground in my front yard. Through the heavy rain, and darkening sky, I heard her screeching. I looked up in disbelief; she was flying right at me! She touched down on my shoulder and then performed a "go-around", as we pilots refer to it. She missed again, trying to land on my shoulder, and crashed right into the rain-soaked grass. When she got right up, I picked her up, and we danced around my front yard in the rain.

My little Pilot Pookie, as I call her now, had flown around my neighborhood for nearly 7 hours and returned home! Though I can never account for that time, and certainly can not ask her to explain it, I am curious as to what she did during the time, but I know that she must have had the time of her life. She seemed delighted to be home again, though! A happy pair, we went inside and cuddled with my fiancee by the TV as we dried off.

Closer examination revealed that I had, inadvertently, missed two of the required 5 or so feathers that you need to clip, on both wings. Although her climb performance was adversely affected, as I had mentioned, she was none-the-less able to fly. This story should serve as proof, if not as a funny short, that proper wing-clipping for bird owners is essential and needs to be done correctly. I was just lucky that Pookie was able to find her way back to me!

Written by  Joe Castanza
Edited by Ladyhawke

Grey-cheeked Parakeets in Guayaquil, Ecuador

In September 30, 2008, an article appeared in the Urban Parrot Conservation section in Cityparrots.org stating that the IUCN lists the Grey-cheeked Parakeet (Brotogeris pyrrhoptera) as endangered. Birdlife International states that this "species qualifies as endangered because it has been affected by very rapid rates of population decline caused by trapping for the cagebird trade, plus habitat loss. Future population declines are projected to be slower, but still a serious cause for concern."

Cityparrots.org went on to mention that "with 59,320 birds reportedly imported by CITES countries between 1983-1988. In 1995, the wild population was estimated at 15,000 birds, principally in Ecuador. This represents a very crude decline of c.70% in 10 years, although it is still locally common in suitable habitat remnants."

The article continued stating that "several feral Brotogeris species do well in cities. The Brotogeris versicolurus subspecies have colonised several cities in North (mostly in Florida and California) and South America. Brotogeris tirica is also numerous in Sao Paulo, locally often referred to as maritacas."

"Cityparrots.org aims to incorporate native urban areas in parrot conservation. One major conglomerate in the range of the Grey-cheeked Parakeet is Guayaquil, the largest and the most populous city in Ecuador. Made curious by Forshaws' note that the Grey-cheeked Parakeet frequents the urban parks of Guayaquil [they] asked [their] friends from Jambeli's Foundation what they knew about the species in Guayaquil. Rafaela Orrantia replied by sending [them] several images and videos of this endangered parakeet visiting her backyard. She notes that the parakeet is very common in Guayaquil. The parakeets probably naturally colonized the city trough the "Chongón-Colonche" mountain range which has its beginning in the city."

"But not all is bliss. Guayaquil was not colonized by the Grey-cheeked Parakeet alone. Brotogeris versicolurus is now also commonly seen in the city and flocks with the native species. This raises all kinds of concerns. Being closely related the two species might interbreed, genetically weakening the species. More research is needed to see if hybrids of the two species are fertile and to what extend hybridisation occurs."

Additionally, "more pressing however is the competition between the two species. B. versicolurus is known to be a very potent urban colonizer. Which in time might out compete the Grey-cheeked Parakeet for which no data on urban colonization exists. Monitoring the population growth of both species would be important to assess the conservation status of B. pyrrhoptera in Guayaquil and if selective removal of B. versicolurus is necessary."

Link: Guayaquil, Ecuador on Google Maps

Sources: Cityparrots.org, Jambeli's Foundation, Birdlife International

The Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde Syndrome

As a breeder who has owned and raised grey cheeks for about 9 years, I have had a chance to observe and puzzle over their seemingly inconsistent behavior. Several individuals have even returned grey cheeks to me because of this, and as a result, I have compiled some useful information from my observations to help new and current grey cheek owners comprehend their bird's behavior.

I think it's very important to understand the maturing process of grey cheeks and some of the personality changes that occur as sex hormones kick in. Whenever I sell these birds, I try to educate people about the changes they may see, since as the bird matures, they frequently do not understand the changes, and the bird is then abused, neglected or worse.

Here is a quick summary of what I have observed and learned by reading every bit of information I can find on grey cheeks:

As they mature...

0 - 12 months - Babies are generally very tame and cuddly, sweet. Some bite occasionally, especially the dominant personalities.

12 - 24 months - Sexual maturing process takes place. Behavior I see is:
  • Continued sweetness, but bonding with certain individuals occurs. May see some biting and aggressiveness towards "competition."
  • Dominating and territorial behavior begins. They can get very noisy if strangers come near.
  • Biting may start, especially in or near the cage (the bird's home). Note that I have had some birds (out of about 60) that never or rarely bite, but most of them do--it's part of their way of communicating and controlling their environment.
  • Like people, cats and dogs, their adult personalities will range from naturally passive and sweet to overbearing and aggressive. Note that you can train them to minimize aggression. I have never been able to predict how a baby will turn out.
18 months and older - Maturing continues.
  • They are a lot like Amazons and can be moody and testy. I have had several mateless birds start plucking all their feathers as hormones arrive, and they need mates. Biting can be frequent and appears random, but I do not believe it is. I think it's for at least one of several reasons:
  • The bird is simply trying to dominate you to show who is boss.
  • It may be competing with someone else for their human mate's attention. In the wild, birds will bite/strike their mates to drive them away from another bird trying to horn in on their mate.
  • It is mating season (from about March to September for grey cheeks), and their natural instincts make them more territorial and aggressive than usual.
  • It is protecting its territory. Usually you see this near its cage or when you are its territory (like your shoulder).

One grey cheek owner shared a video on YouTube about their grey cheeks defeating the slipper demon.

    The fact that your grey cheek is biting does not mean the bird does not like you. If anything, it means it likes you very much and wants you for a mate. It helps to remember that wild grey cheeks live in large flocks and compete all the time for food, mates, and the best nesting places. They appear to take on long-term mates and bond very deeply with their chosen ones. They also get in bad moods and just want to be left alone (PMS?). When my pairs are nesting, even my sweet guys will bite me hard if I come near, and they can get me. They then revert during the off season.

    Here's how I handle biting with fairly good success:

    Like dogs, you have to establish dominance over your bird--you must be the boss! When one of my birds bites me--and it hurts, I hold the bird in one hand and grip its beak firmly (do not squeeze your bird too tightly as they still need to breath) with the other for up to a minute while saying "No!" Basically, it makes the bird helpless, which it does not like. Do this consistently every time it nips or deliberately bites, and after a while, you should see the biting diminish or disappear (at least with you--it will probably still be vicious with others).

    I love grey cheeks and hate to see them mistreated as they age and their owners do not know how to adapt to them. If you keep control over them, most grey cheeks remain some of the best companions I know.

    Written by Kathleen Mandis

    Article has been reprinted with the author's permission. This article may not be reprinted without written consent from the author.

    A Case of Visceral Gout in a Grey-cheeked Parakeet

    Our greycheek, Kelly, died about a year ago from visceral gout. Three years back she was having balancing problems, and we thought she was just being clutsy from getting overexcited. As time grew on, we heard her emit an almost regular short squeak, and with each one there was a slight jerk to her head and body, but she otherwise was alert, and you could see recognition in her eyes. So that night, we went to bed and tried to get some sleep and planned on having her checked out the following morning at the vet. Well a short time later, probably as soon as we managed to knock out, we heard the same squeaking, but this time more rapidly and somewhat urgent sounding. When we went to check on her, she was on the floor of her cage having seizures to one side. We grabbed her carrier box and made a mad pace to an emergency clinic that normally only saw cats and dogs, but had reports of basic emergency bird care. By the time we got her there, the fool bird acted fine.

    So... back home we went. We put her back in her cage to sleep and tried to get some of our own. Not long thereafter, we started hearing the same squeaking, but this time she's seizing on both sides of her body, and her eyes were narrowed shut. We did another pace down the highway back to the emergency vet. He saw her and said he couldn't do anything but called (after midnight mind you) one of the avian vets at the UW Animal Hospital.

    The vet at UW stated that Kelly had grossly elevated urate levels and seemed to possibly have a bacterial infection. She was dosed for a few days under constant watch with allopurinol and an antibiotic. After a few days, she came back home with us, and the doc said she'd also lost enough weight that I should feed her virtually anything she wanted, including her most favorite treat, Nutriberries, and let her eat her fill. She recovered completely, and we were told this was lucky, as visceral gout is usually fatal.

    Well two years later, she started showing the same symptoms. This time we hauled her straight to the UW avian vet. Visceral gout had come back, probably worse though no seizures this time, just the squeak/twitch. She was refusing food and was losing several grams of weight a day. No urate coming out in her poop at all this time.

    She had a brief period of being alert at the hospital, but they said with visceral gout all they could do was give her allopurinol again, minus the antibiotic this time as no infection was noticed. Knowing this disease was usually fatal, I begged them to give the antibiotic anyhow, especially given her chances, along the lines of "if it worked before." They sent her back home with us, and again, we feed her anything she could eat. This time though she was much weaker and was not eating or drinking on her own. I got some banana and rice Gerber flakes, mixed it up slightly thicker than the norm but not real lumpy, and tried to syringe feed her. She would barely eat, but she did eat some. The second day she was worse and was noticeably thinner, so I had to take the risky measure of pushing a crop-feed. Thankfully she didn't choke, and I knew I had been lucky and hit the mark. Her cage area underwent some modifications as well, and with the help of a heat lamp and a sliding light control switch, her cage was kept at a constant 90 degrees, and we kept water near her for humidity.

    She was still getting thinner even with the crude attempt at crop feeding and was also now vomiting. She started looking sub-skeletal, early starvation. I told my roommate that we "had to consider the realistic options." Gads did he ever start acting weird! I had to be the clear-headed one for a change. In a day or so, and after my reminding him of her daily weight drop, I told him that basically she'd die of starvation within just a few more days, 2-3 at the rate she was going. She was almost never alert now, and no food or water was being consumed. So we took her to the vet... a more humane solution than letting her slowly starve to death, and there were obvious signs that she was in discomfort and pain.

    Anyhow, this is probably a combination of release as well as to mention visceral gout is something to watch for. Also, as an early suggestion in view of the fact so little seems to be known about why it comes about in birds, to consider the antibiotic regimen along with the allopurinol anyhow. The vet admitted that he couldn't explain why Kelly pulled through the first time but not the second.

    Article by T. Johnson

    Additional reading for this topic:

    • Bacon, Constance. "Eclectus Diet," Winged Wisdom, Sept./Oct. 1997.
    • Banday, M.T., Bhakt, Mukesh and Hamid, Sheikh Adil. Avian Gout: Causes and Treatment, May 26, 2009.
    • BirdChannel.com. "Medical Conditions: Gout."
    • Ensley, P. Caged bird medicine and husbandry. Veterinary Clinics of North American Small Animal Practice. Aug. 1979, 9(3):499-525. (avail. on PubMed).
    • Foster, Drs. and Smith Educational Staff. Gout in Birds: How to Recognize the Signs in Your Bird.
    • Guo X, Huang K, Tang J. Clinicopathology of gout in growing layers induced by high calcium and high protein diets. British Poultry Science, Oct. 2005, 46(5):641-6 (avail. online in PubMed).
    • Hines, Ron DVM. Gout In Pet Birds, Avian Kidney Disease.
    • McAfee, L.T. and Gergis, A.L. Gout in a parakeet. Modern Veterinary Practice. May 1981, 62(5):388-90 (avail online in PubMed).
    • "Nutrition-Associated and Metabolic Disorders," California Avian Laboratory.
    • Pegram, R.A. and Wyatt, R.D. "Avian gout caused by oosporein, a mycotoxin produced by Caetomium trilaterale," Poultry Science, Nov. 1981, 60(11):2429-40 (avail. online in PubMed).
    • Roth, Erica. How to Treat Avian Gout, eHow.com.
    • Shivaprasad, H.L. Avian Gout excerpt from "An overview of anatomy, physiology and pathology of urinary system in birds," AAV Proceedings (1998) 201-205.
    • Swicegood, Carolyn. "The Kitchen Physician: Nature's Pharmacy."
    • Visceral and Articular Gout. Avianweb.com.
    • Warden, Margrethe. Visceral Gout in Birds. Lorikeets.com.
    • Wissman, Margaret A. "Causes and Cures: Demystifying Gout," Bird Talk, 23 (Sept. 2005): 52-53,86.

    The Accident Prone Grey Cheek

    Owners, in case you have not figured it out for yourself, grey-cheeked parakeets (grey cheeks), due to their inquisitive and fearless nature, are quite prone to all types of accidents. Robbie Harris' book (1985) and some of her articles mention grey cheeks will challenge or try to play with larger parrots and can sustain serious injuries from a larger bird not willing to put up with their antics. In their practice, Drs. Walter Rosskopf, Jr. and Richard Woerpel (1996), Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital in California, have noted injuries in grey cheeks from larger birds as well. In my own experience, my grey cheek, Kiwi, had one of her left, rear toes removed by a quaker parakeet when she was about 5 months old. The nail is completely gone leaving just a stub.

    Grey cheeks also sustain many injuries from their climbing and wandering tendencies. Kiwi--whose wings are clipped--once jumped to the floor from a height of 8 feet. Luckily, she was not injured. She even jumped from my shoulder into a dish of soft margarine one time. What a mess!

    I received an e-mail from a woman named Helene from Tennessee last month about her grey cheek, Baby, who is one of the 'fearless' ones who's antics caused a life-threatening situation. "A year ago my 'baby' dove off the balcony with clipped wings; he glided poorly to the carpet below. He broke his mandebill, and after several operations, his split beak still grows sideways. I have to keep it filed constantly, and he no longer has the ability to eat seeds. His diet consists of bread crumbs mixed with baby foods, vegetables, meat, and fruit. I blend all his food and feed him from a spoon most of the time. Last night we were in the den, and he was on his cage upstairs in one of the rooms. He decided that he wanted to be with the rest of us, so the next thing we knew he came flying off the balcony on to my husband's lap and was billing and cooing and looking for attention. [Though] only 6 years old, he...is doing well [despite his handicap]. He's a character and even with the broken beak he is fearless. We love him to pieces."

    Grey cheeks climb on electrical cords if not supervised and love to burrow in tight, warm places. I have received numerous e-mail messages from owners who have lost grey cheeks due to rolling over on them and crushing or smothering their pet when the bird was allowed to sleep with them. Grey cheeks also get underfoot, get beneath you when sitting, or may be climbing up your clothes and get stepped or sat on. According to emails that I have received, crushing/smothering seems to be high on the list of accidental deaths in grey cheeks.

    Other hazards are ceiling fans, hot burners, open pans of hot grease or boiling water, open lids on toilets, etc.

    Being extremely intelligent and single-mindedly determined is another trait that many grey cheeks exhibit. I have been seriously attempting to keep Kiwi away from my other bird, Chipper, until she recovers from an illness, in order to protect my other bird. She is 'bound and determined' that she will get in Chipper's cage. She stalks the floor, back and forth, looking for ways to get up to his cage. I have a good laugh every time I watch this process. Her latest attempt at accessing his cage was successful. I left the room and came back just in time to see her climbing up the mesh on the stereo speaker and watched her leap over from the speaker onto Chipper's cage. She was extremely pleased with herself, and then perturbed, when she was scooped up by me and placed back into her own cage. The speaker is now farther away from Chipper's cage much to Kiwi's chagrin.

    I have also caught Kiwi hanging by her beak, legs flailing in the air because she had attempted a feat beyond her abilities and needed rescuing. She has started leaping off my shoulder or finger sometimes when we are walking around the house, and she lands fairly hard. No injuries there so far. Unfortunately, since she has been ill, she does not like to have me out of her sight and has started walking around the apartment hunting for me. This is a major concern as grey cheeks are fairly small birds. I have to be extra careful where I walk and of Kiwi's location when she's out of her cage.

    I cannot stress strongly enough that grey-cheeked parakeets must be supervised at all times when they are allowed 'out' time! Please take every precaution you can with grey cheeks in the house. You never know what they might be up to.

    Reprinted from the former Grey-cheeked Parakeet website, 1997.

    Helpful Things You Can Do For Your Bird & What Not To Do

    • Give your bird(s) a lot of love, time, and patience.
    • Consider subscribing to Bird Talk magazine. This is a helpful source of information on caring for pet birds.
    • Wash fresh fruits and veggies before giving them to your bird and give him/her fresh food and water every day.
    • Allow your bird to bath frequently at least a couple of times a week and daily if possible. My bird prefers a bath taken in a small 5-6" wide (2-3" high) bowl of water (room temperature).
    • Teach your bird the "up" and "down" commands. Although with grey cheeks, they don't always wish to obey the "down" command. They sometimes grip their owner's finger even tighter when one gives the "down" command!
    • Take your bird for regular well-bird check-ups with a certified avian vet. Also consider keeping an Avian First Aid Kit in your home and check out NetVet.    
    • Consider purchasing the following books to keep as references in your home: 1) The Bird Care Book: All you need to know to keep your bird healthy and happy by Sheldon L. Gerstenfeld, V.M.D., 1989--$12.95 and 2) First Aid for Birds: The Essential quick-reference guide by Tim Hawcroft, 1994--$10.00.
    • Clip your bird's wings when the primary coverts grow out and trim your bird's nails when they get long and sharp (if you are not acquainted with these procedures, please have a professional do it for you; it is fairly inexpensive to have done).    
    • Dismantle and clean your bird's cage completely, including toys and perches, with hot, soapy water to which a capful of liquid bleach (like lemon Clorox) has been added. This will clean and sterilize the cage to provide a safe environment for your pet.
    • Consider leaving a radio on during the day when you are away at work or school to keep your bird entertained and allow some supervised "out" time for your bird when you are home.
    • Research a bird species you are interested in before you buy one to determine if it is right for you.

    Visit Birds n Ways' Library of Articles/FAQs which has a listing of excellent bird care articles too numerous to reference here.

    What Not to Do
    • Never buy a bird merely for its color, buy a bird on impulse, or for the sole purpose of expecting it to be a talker (and then be disappointed if it is not).
    • Do not lose your temper or get frustrated with your bird or its behavior. Birds, like other animals, are in tune with their owner's emotions and will react accordingly.
    • Do not use teflon or other coated cook ware (fumes from overheated pans can kill your bird if heated past a certain temperature).
    • Do not keep your bird shut up in its cage all the time. Birds have feelings too and will be extremely unhappy if shut up constantly and may develop behavioral problems as a result.
    • Do not feed your bird avocado, chocolate or foods full of sugar, fat, salt, or an all seed diet.
    • Do not use soaps or other chemicals directly on your bird or use aerosols, paint, or other chemical products around your bird(s); they have very delicate, sensitive respiratory systems and could die from asphyxiation.
    • Do not place your bird directly by a heater or place your bird in direct sunlight without providing a place for him/her to be in the shade (sun/heat stroke could occur). Do not place your bird near an open window or near an air conditioner as birds are susceptible to upper respiratory infections.
    • Do not let your bird chew on jewelry, buttons, dried paint, metal blinds, treated wood, etc. (paint and costume jewelry, especially, could contain lead; and wood can be treated with harmful chemicals).
    • Do not walk blindly into bird care without knowing how to care for them.
    • Do not let your bird's nails get too long as they can get caught in frayed ropes or other toys in its cage or let your bird's primary coverts completely grow out. Free-flying birds can accidentally escape through an open window or door, fly into windows, mirrors, water boiling on the stove or a hot frying pan, or land in the commode and drown.
    • Do not let your bird's cage go uncleaned as mites, bacteria, old food, and feces can adversely affect your bird's health.

    Taking Care of your Grey Cheek - Brotogeris Diet

    So, you've found yourself the brand new owner of a Grey-cheeked Parakeet, a member of the Brotogeris family of birds. Now what do you do? This was the situation I found myself in back in 1995! A cute little grey cheek had strained toward me in a local pet shop and begged me to take her home. She was minus a toe and a bit pricey, but it was love at first sight. Luckily, I was an experienced bird owner (or is that ownee?) and had read articles about the species so wasn't totally unprepared to care for a bird. Below is some information that a new owner might find helpful in caring for a new grey cheek.

    • Vegetables: Peas in the shell or thawed frozen peas, broccoli, corn (fresh or thawed frozen corn), green beans, cooked and cooled limas, yellow or green squash (baked), carrots (raw or cooked), grated beets, red or green peppers, cucumbers, greens (such as chopped spinach, Swiss chard or other greens), cooked pinto beans, cooked lentils, cooked white beans. Please note that is important to let cooked food cool thoroughly before offering them to your Brotogeris, otherwise they could burn their tongues and crops.
    • Fruit: Apples (their absolute favorite!), blueberries, cut-up oranges, tangerines, bananas, pears, grapes, peaches, melon (minus the rind), strawberries, mango, papaya, plums, cherries, Always remove seeds/pits from fruit before serving.
    • Starches: Cooked brown rice, cooked pasta, baked or boiled shredded potatoes or yams (corn/peas are also starches). It is also good to sprinkle a good avian vitamin supplement on fresh fruit and veggies mixtures.
    • Other: Pellets (Roudybush, etc.), a good seed blend such as Kaytee's Forti-diet cockatiel mixture, spray millet, sprouted seed, Lafeber's Avi-cakes, a mineral block or cuttlebone, multi-grain cereals that are low in sodium, sugar, and fat.
    As a working woman and head of household, I do not always have time to spend cutting and chopping in the mornings or evenings, so I started doing a few shortcuts. Cook up batches of the following items separately: cooked peas, carrots, corn, green beans, lima beans, brown rice, pasta, yams, acorn squash, potatoes, pinto beans, lentils, white beans, pasta, yams, acorn squash, shredded potatoes, and brown rice. Rinse the batches well, cut them up as needed, and freeze them spread out on a cookie sheet so that they do not stick together. When the items are frozen, the pan is then removed from the freezer, and its contents broken up, placed in ziplock freezer bags, and dated. The same procedures works well with a cooked mixture of pinto beans, lentils, white beans and split peas. In addition, it is easy and fairly economical to purchase a bag of frozen mixed veggies (carrots, corn, peas, green beans & limas) when they are on sale and keep these in the freezer as well.

    Then, as needed, open the different bag mixtures, take out some of each, place in a microwave dish, add a little water, and pop everything into the microwave for 5-7 mins. Some of the newer microwave models cook in less time than this.

    Dump the hot mixture in a colander, run some cool water over it, so that it isn't scalding hot, and give your bird about a 1/4 cup serving dish of the mixture. They REALLY love it! Your bird will probably make contented little noises when he/she eats and have a mess on his/her beak afterward--not to mention the wall, floor, etc.

    Cook enough of the mixture to last for a couple of days and keep it in the refrigerator. Also treat your bird with fruit from the list above. I use the term 'treat' when it comes to fruit since green cheeks definitely have a sweet tooth, and when fruit is mixed into their regular food dishes with the vegetables, they rarely eat the veggies! I found that it's wise to give them fruit at a different time than they are given vegetables. But it is important to provide fruit as a steady part of their diet.

    It is equally important to thoroughly wash fresh fruits and veggies that you give to your birds. Any fresh food that you give your bird should be removed from their cage after an hour or so, otherwise it tends to spoil (bacteria) and is not good for your bird.  

    Housing Your Grey Cheek/Brotogeris

    The HOEI (18.3" x 18.3" x 22") cage is an excellent cage for Brotogeris birds and gives them plenty of room to move around. They are difficult to find these days, but a cage similar to this would work fine for your pet. The cage that you select should have 1/2" to 3/4" bar spacing. One would suggest putting newspaper (cut to the cage size) in the bottom of the cage for adult birds; make a stack of about 10-20 papers high and then just remove the top soiled paper every day as grey cheeks tend to be messy--both their food and stool. However, if your Brotogeris is still a baby, being hand fed, and lives in the bottom of its cage, newspaper would not be a good choice.

    It is necessary to give your bird fresh water every day. All food dishes, glass water tubes, etc. should be washed in hot, soapy dish water with a capful of liquid bleach--lemon Clorox is good--added to the water to disinfect the dishes at least twice a week if not daily (also a good idea to clean their wooden perches and all their toys as well in this solution making sure that the perches and toys are rinsed well and dried off before putting them back in the cage). The entire cage should be dismantled and cleaned with the same solution at least once a month. [Also see article How Clean is Clean?]
    It is important to provide a variety of different perches for your bird, so that their feet do not get sore from being in the same position all the time. Some suggestions for mixing and matching are: 1/2" wooden dowels (untreated), Comfort perches, small or medium Booda cables, natural manzanita perches, and a small (3/4") cement perch to keep their nails dull.

    The site owner suggests that one purchases (or makes one's own) play area for your bird as grey cheeks need a lot of "out" time from their cages when you are home and can supervise. For your bird's safety and to better train your bird, make sure your bird's wings are clipped first by a professional; your bird's nails should be clipped by a professional as well since windows, large mirrors, food cooking on your stove, commodes, etc. can endanger your bird's life). If kept in their cages too much, some grey cheeks can throw temper tantrums that you would not believe! Grey cheeks also need a wide variety of toys to play with to keep them entertained (but don't overstock their cage with toys so that they have no room to maneuver!). 

    In addition, rotating toys every week or two will help keep them from getting bored. The owner's bird enjoys playing with toys that have bells on them. They especially like rope toys that they can swing and climb on (and hang upside down from!).

    The Pet Potential of the Grey-cheeked Parakeet

    Brotogeris refers to this genus' talking ability and means "with the voice of a man." Pyrrhopterus means "red" or "flame" therefore the term "fire-wing" applies to grey cheeks for their bright orange underwing coverts. Grey cheeks are often called "pericos" by Ecuadorians which is Spanish for "little parrot."

    Most common pronunciation heard for Brotogeris has been: broh-toh-JERR-iss with a long "o" sound and the "g" sounding like that of Geritol or Jerry. Have also heard it pronounced broh-TOJJ-uh-riss (accent on the second syllable) and an Americanized version, broh-toh-GAIR-iss (soft "g" sound like in Gary). Pyrrhopterus is pronounced pirr-HOPP-turr-uhs (with long "i" sound, "Pie-ur") and also heard as purr-HOPP-turr-oos. Personally, I'll leave it to the Latin experts.

    From sources I have read, grey-cheeked parakeets (grey cheeks) are unique birds; originating in parts of Ecuador and Peru, they were imported into the United States in large numbers during the late 1970s and early 1980s. They have been set up by a number of breeders in all parts of the country, make excellent pets, and, according to Dr. David Alderton ("You and Your Pet Bird"), have an average life span of 15 years.

    Though relatively quiet birds when compared to macaws, cockatoos, or conures, grey cheeks can be fairly boisterous when they want to be and can even become annoying at times. I am always amused when people ask, "Are they noisy?" or "Are they loud?" Arthur Freud ("The Complete Parrot," p. 10) summed it up best when he said, "Parrots are sometimes referred to as noisy. This is rather like calling river wet. Noise and parrots go together, and if noise would be a problem in your home you probably should not own a parrot."

    Grey cheeks weigh 54-68 grams and are about 8 inches long (this includes the tail) (20 cm), while other members of the Brotogeris family can be anywhere from 7-9 inches in length. These birds were not rated in the top ten by Bird Talk magazine in their talking ability, but a number of them have a good capacity for speaking. My bird learned to say "hello", "peek-a-boo", the name of another bird (also imitated the voice of the other bird to a "T"), made kissing noises, and wolf whistled. All parrots have the capability of talking, although not every parrot, even in a particular genus known to be good talkers, will learn or choose to speak. Some simply do not want to talk.

    Grey cheeks are generally sweet-natured, and those that have been hand-fed love to be held and have their heads scratched (preened). In fact, they prefer to be with you 90% of the time and will even beg with little buzzing beeps for you to pick them up. My bird would even turn her head completely upside down to get my attention! Once on their beloved human buddy, they are reluctant to let go of your hand or clothing and often tighten their grip on your finger. Needless to say, my grey cheek decided not to obey the "down" command (she was very stubborn about it too) and sometimes had to be pried from my finger to be put back in her cage. This was more of an endearing quality than a nuisance. They really like their owners!

    Occasionally, grey cheeks will start frantically flapping their wings or thrashing about their cage right after they have been covered for the night. It seems to me that the bird is simply showing its displeasure at you daring to put it to bed before it is ready to go! My tiels do this too on occasion.

    Grey cheeks will often pick up food with their foot like larger parrots, lift it to their beak, and eat it while standing on one foot. They will even drag a favorite food to a higher perch in their cage--or on top of their cage--before eating the item with relish.

    They are also proficient climbers and are able to get just about anywhere they want to go. I would turn my back one minute and find a certain little green bird had jumped off her cage, ran across the floor, and climbed up the bookcase. How the bird got up the bookcase is still a mystery to me, especially since her wings were clipped, and she usually climbed, walked or hopped to get where she wanted to go! They are also extremely intelligent, very bold, require a lot of time, and seem to need a lot of their owner's personal attention. Very needy birds.

    Many breeders and owners recommend grey cheeks as first time pet birds. It is my personal opinion that they would make a good addition to an already established home of one or more birds as long as one has the time to devote to this bird. One breeder indicated to me that she thought grey cheeks disliked children. According to an article that I read by Susan Hoss ("Hello, My Name Is Captain Flint"), this is not true. Susan and her husband not only have taken their grey cheeks to grade school with them but have used them to help teach classes! The kids absolutely loved them and begged to have them come back! I think the only reasons a grey cheek might resent a child is if the bird were jealous of the child, afraid of a child or if the bird were mishandled by the child at some point or felt that the child was invading it's territory. But I think this would hold true for any bird species and not just grey cheeks.

    lthough they can be very sweet, grey cheeks are also quite territorial and will start 'hollering' or may bite you as a warning when a stranger comes into their home. They also tend--although this is not always true--to nip their owners or owners' friends if they feel threatened, which, of course, can be problematical. A number of articles that I have read mention that grey cheeks will challenge a bird 5 times their size (or even a visitor to your home) and seem quite fearless in announcing their displeasure to newcomers invading their territory. I have seen this behavior in these birds as well.

    Reprinted from the former Grey-cheeked Parakeet website, 1997.

    Additional Reading Materials:


    Video: Whistling Mick the Grey Cheek

    Meet Whistling Mick, the grey cheek wonder, wolf whistling at his stuffed oinking pig. Mick's owner had given me permission to display this for my web site a number of years ago. It is just extremely cute! Makes me miss my Kiwi. She was an excellent wolf whistler.

    June 18, 2010

    New Location for the Grey-cheeked Parakeet Web site

    Hi all! Yes, I am finally getting around to moving the web site to this location where it'll be easier to take care of, easier to navigate, and will be updated more readily. Face it, the old site was ugly, out of date, and an embarrassment.

    I originally created the Grey-cheeked Parakeet Web site, because I had acquired a grey cheek as a pet, and she was quite a handful. There was absolutely no information about them at all on the Web. Before creating the site, I provided some information about grey cheeks to the Pet Bird Page. There was an overwhelming response of email from that page with questions I felt ill-equipped to handle. So, I did something about it. I put up my own website, in 1995, and spent the next couple of years extensively researching the species. It expanded to cover information about the rest of the Brotogeris family and information about caring for caged birds as well. When Kiwi became ill, the research turned to medical problems associated with these birds. Sadly, Kiwi (pictured above) passed in November of 1998. This site is dedicated to her.

    Please note that I am NOT a grey cheek breeder, so please don't ask me if I have any to sell. I do not. I am merely a former grey cheek owner.

    With the status of 'near-threatened' for many years, grey cheeks are now an endangered species.

    Ladyhawke is owned by a green-cheeked conure, three tiels, and a budgie and has been owned by pet birds for 34 years.