June 19, 2010

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.

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