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About Pet Birds

Pet birds are warm blooded egg-laying vertebrates with feathers and wings. Their native habitats vary from dry land, fresh or ocean waters to marshes, forests, or desert. Some birds are migratory, some stay localized, and some cannot fly, like the ostrich. Some are predatory; some are scavengers. Their ecosystems determine their colorations, their food preferences, their migration patterns, and their body adaptations - short, long, pointed, or flat beaks; long or short, weak or strong legs, and webbed or toed feet.

Bird-safe(alternatively bird-proof) is a term used to describe objects and surroundings that are safe for captive birds and it is most commonly associated with pet birds. Birds are smaller than humans and other pets and therefore are considerably more vulnerable to dangers. Bird-safe environments are particularly important for parrots as they are inquisitive agile climbers and they have a tendency to chew objects.

Household Dangers For Pet Birds are one of the most easily avoidable kinds of dangers for birds. Common bird dangers include other pets, ceiling fans, ammonia based cleaners (glass cleaners), hot surfaces such as heaters and stoves, mirrors, electrical cords, open windows and doors, aerosol sprays, chemicals/pesticides, filled tubs, sinks, or open toilets, terrycloth towels (toe tangle), and certain kinds of applicants as well as lubricants. In some of the older buildings - roughly those built before the 1970s - the paint can also include a certain amount of lead, which can be dangerous to birds if they swallow it. Also a pet bird should never be let out of its cage unattended, or else it can contact objectionable materials in its surroundings; such mishaps can also be avoided by keeping the bird's surroundings clear and free from dangerous objects. Most common household dangers can be avoided by proper supervision of the bird when it is outside its cage and by wing clipping, a bird that is not flighted will not try to fly through a window or mirror or land in a bathtub full of hot water. Birds should not be left alone on the floor or allowed to wander on the floor unless being closely supervised. Captive birds do not see people as a source of danger and can be accidentally stepped on, or rolled on by wheeled chairs. Even a trustworthy bird should not be left alone out of its cage unless the entire room bird-safe: a bird that slips and falls from its cage or play gym might try to climb back up by using the holes in an electrical outlet, or decide to chew the toxic varnish from between the boards of a wood floor.

Bird Cage Safety

Except for cage constructed of stainless steel, almost all finch and parrot cages have some kind of covering on the wires, e.g., a powder coating, which not only protects the bird from bare metal, but also keep the metals from rusting in reaction to air. Exposure to metals such as lead, zinc, tin, or nickel can cause heavy metal poisoning in captive birds, so the cage is less safe when the coating is worn. Hardware, such as screws or wiring, may also be a source of toxic metals. While some groups recommend washing the zinc mesh of outdoor aviaries with vinegar to guard against zinc poisoning, other advocate that zinc should never be used near birds, especially parrots, as they not only chew on everything (birds may detach and consume particles of toxic metal), but climb using their mouths. Before buying items such as bowls, toys, perches, play gyms, cages and other accessories, it is important to check the items for toxic metals. Stainless steel dishes and hardware while more expensive and considered safe are worth the higher expense. Cubic cages are preferred over round cages because a round cage lacks a safe corner for a bird to hide when frightened or alarmed. Round cages may also affect a bird’s psychology. When kept in round cages birds often exhibit an unusual and repetitive stereotypical behavior whereby they twirl their heads and look round-and-round at the domed ceiling. The bar positioning in round cages can also affect a bird’s feathers - particularly the tail feather. Bar spacing is an important consideration. There should be no possibility of a bird getting its head stuck between the bars, or getting it head through then injuring its neck while panicking. Some caging that is safe for large birds can pose a toe-entrapment risk to small birds such as finches or parakeets. For example, a collapsing cage with hinges cannot trap a macaw’s enormous toes, but the small space of the hinge can catch the nail of a tiny parakeet and cause it to break a leg or hang by its foot until it is removed.

Bird Safe Plants and Food

There are also many plants that can be harmful to pet birds. In some cases and entire plant can be harmful to a bird and on some cases only some parts of certain plants can be dangerous to birds. Toxic foods are foods that can cause allergies and/or health problems in bird. Avocados, alcohol, chocolate, milk, foods high in salt and/or sugar, and fatty foods should be avoided. Any food considered junk food for humans should also be considered junk food for pet birds. Guacamole contains avocados and can cause almost instant death in birds. Seed-only diets are not healthy for most pet birds, contrary to popular belief. Seeds are high in fat and low in nutrients, qualities that can lead to obesity or malnutrition. Your bird will live much longer if your feed it a healthier diet of pellets, fresh vegetables and fruit, and only using seeds as occasional treats. Salty foods are considered toxic as bird species that do not live on the seashore have very low salt in their diet. Salty food can lead to a condition known as salt toxicosis. Foods that contain the mineral iron can be toxic to certain species, such as toucans where iron storage disease can come about from the consumption of such foods. Special “low iron softbill diets” are available for iron-sensitive species. Birds are not equipped to digest milk so milk and milk products are considered a poor choice by some bird keepers. However, cheese and yogurt can add helpful bacteria to a bird’s digestive system and offer a calcium boost for example when a female lays eggs. Some captive birds enjoy milk products and show no ill effect from eating or drinking them.

Toxicity of Overheated Non-stick Surfaces

Many reports from bird owners claim that their pet birds died after the owner used a non-stick cookware around the birds. The cause of this phenomenon is polytetrafluorethelyne (PTFE), a chemical used in the manufacture of non-stick coatings. When they are overheated, the resulting combination of particles and gasses emitted from the surface is extremely toxic when inhaled for only a short time. PTFE becomes dangerous when the surface is heated over 572 degree Fahrenheit / 300 degrees Celsius. The most common source of these non-stick coatings is DuPont’s Teflon, but there are other brands that product non-stick coatings. PTFE-coated surfaces should be used very carefully, or perhaps not used at all in household that contain birds, as there are not warnings on these products about the dangers. Other sources of PTFE include waffle makers, some irons, and some self-cleaning ovens, among other things. People using PTFE-coated surfaces in a household that has birds should make sure that the stove is never left unattended while something is cooking on it and that kitchen in particular should be well ventilated. A pet bird should not be kept near the kitchen due to the proximity of these fumes when cookware is overheated.

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