Aviculture
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10 Things I Realized About Keeping Birds

Indian Ringneck Parakeet
Indian Ringneck Parakeet

I am Charlie! Destroyer of wires, chewer of toys, and unlocker of cages!

If you noticed in my previous posts I had this 100 days of logging about keeping lovebirds. What I may not have mentioned is WHY I started keeping birds and I have an android game “Birds of Paradise” to blame. It’s basically a Farmville for bird keeping. Eventually I ended up buying a pair of African Lovebirds but it didn’t stop there.

Today I have more than 30 birds at home, 8 different species, and a couple more birds coming soon because it’s breeding season.

African Lovebirds

Bonnie and Clyde, my first pair of African Lovebirds

Keeping birds comes with great responsibility so I was able to pick up a few things that I’d like to share to other would-be bird keepers in the future.

1. Birds are intelligent and may surprise you if you socialize with them

Especially Parrots, smaller hookbills, Crows/Ravens, and even finches, these birds are amazing and I have my fair share of escaping lovebirds, parakeets and one easily bored Green-naped Lory. One time I forgot to hook properly the door for the food entry and my Lory just lifted up the door and squeezed out of the cage!

Their intelligence improve as you give them more toys or things to play with. I have one Indian Ringneck Parakeet, Charlie, who can find his way around doors, windows, and even the containers where I hide his favorite treats! But my other Indian Ringnecks that are mostly in the flight cage just preparing for breeding is not as interactive or clever with levers or latches.

They learn with experience and they also learn from watching other birds perform tasks. I have this pair of Lutino Indian Ringnecks that used to be afraid of me except for the male one. The male IRN would be curious about me and so I started feeding him with sunflowers–directly handing it over to him. Eventually the hen caught sight of this and she stopped flying away and screaming. Now she allows me to give her sunflower seeds! This same thing happened with my Sun Conure pair.

2. Different birds, different needs– it can get overwhelming

I love birds for their flight and character. So it was only normal on the first few months of getting birds I started binge-buying birds. I bought doves, lovebirds, parakeets, finches, a lory, and even a pair of pheasants!

Parrots

Pili and Charlie. Pili craves for Charlie’s presence. Charlie doesn’t share the same feelings

One week into it I realized maintaining them was like dealing with very demanding hotel guests who all had their own special needs! The lovebirds had to eat with a different kind of food dish because they are MESSY eaters. The Indian Ringnecks are fine but they need their sunflower seeds occasionally to have some fat. The Pheasants eat pellets so they can get their sustained diet. The Lory is a messy pooper and so cleaning is necessary and frequent while requiring a special diet on fruits and nectar mix. Don’t get me started with the finches, who knew such little birds can poop so much!?

Eventually I started narrowing down to fewer species that were easy to keep and fun to socialise with.

3. Your Birds are Birds, not dogs or cats.

The common mistake of someone who wants to have birds to assume immediately that they will behave like dogs or cats who want a cuddle or who want a hug. Birds that are not tame will tend to be fearful and wild. They will even bite you when needed!

Green naped Lory

Pili loves chewing on stuff on the coat-hanger so I just had to cover it with a towel… now he chews that!

Taming a bird takes a great deal of consistency, patience, and understanding. You have to be sensitive to how a bird may feel but when you finally get across that wall of wildness, a tame bird is delightful and fulfilling! My dear Pili, a green-naped Lory, once was wild and would fly around hitting the wall or ramming into delicate stuff! Eventually he familiarised with me and now even jumps onto my hand! And since he’s a lazy flyer he pulls my hand towards me so he can climb onto it.

4. Bird-keeping isn’t too expensive

I used to have a Labrador Rertiever and I would end up spending for expensive good quality food so that his poop wouldn’t stink and his coat would be beautiful. That made me spend about 1500-2000 PHP a month worth of shampoo, food, treats, and medication.

With birds, I would say the most I would spend is around 500-700php a month for about 35 birds with different needs. That already includes the medicine (they only need really really tiny amounts per bird), vitamins, fresh vegetables, seeds, pellets, nectar, and toys. Sometimes I feel though like buying toys is more for me than them.

5. You need papers for birds. Legal stuff from DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) – Philippines

OF gouldian finch

(Orange faced Gouldian Finch) Gouldian Finches are native to Australia but the ones we have in the Philippines are all captive-bred

Okay for dogs and cats in the Philippines the minimum requirement of the law is getting registered in the local government and having a Rabies shot. If you want to make sure they are pure-bred you have the PCCI (Philippine Canine Club Inc.).

For birds though, they are by default considered wildlife (even if the ones I’m keeping are all domestic-bred and some are not even found in the wild). This is to protect the species that are often victims of wildlife trade and to assure that only captive-bred birds are in the trade.

When you buy a bird from a breeder ask for a Captive Bred Certificate which you register into a Certificate of Wildlife Registration. If you want to sell birds you need to register as an aviary with DENR as well. Sadly, I feel that a lot of folks working in DENR don’t have any know-how about birds and can’t even tell one bird from another. I can’t blame them totally. Bird identification is not easy but I do wish they do research before doing aviary inspections. Calling a parakeet a lovebird is just dumb.

6. Birds have personalities

Indian Ringneck parakeet chick

Even at an early age Charlie was already a very curious bird

For example, there is a common notion that Indian Ringneck Parakeets are highly independent birds that are aggressive and assertive. While this is widely true but there are still tendencies for one to be different. Gouldian finches are sensitive and easily scared but the ones I have seem to be accustomed to noise and are not even afraid of human presence.  There are birds that are easily jealous, birds that are greedy, and even birds that are overprotective. If you do keep a pet bird, only time and observation will give you a better picture of what your birds is like.

7. Breeding birds is not 100% success thing

Sun Conure Egg

Their first egg! Sadly a clear one.

You have higher success in breeding mammals. With birds anything bad can happen and it’s worse when you don’t know why they happen.  I once bred African lovebirds that had four eggs that hatched into chicks but the problem is that they all died. One breeder told me it’s probably because I didn’t add sunflower seeds or enough food to help with the feeding with the chicks.

The good thing with all these failures in breeding though is that it teaches me to become more sensitive to changes and anticipate anything. Which leads me to realization no. 9.

8. You become observant and sensitive to changes

Because you need to anticipate changes you become sensitive to tiny details such as the color of the poop like how Professor Trelawney pays close attention to tea leaves. That much attention. Sometimes as simple as a bird suddenly not being active or blinking too often could mean a weak bird and therefore isolation and treatment needs to be done (case to case basis).

This sensitivity also became relevant to my work in the field of marketing and hopsitality. I became more sensitive when there are slight changes to routine or even customer behavior.

Birds unlike dogs, are not very obvious and some birds like Cockatiels, are good at hiding their illness until it is too late.

9. Books and articles can only teach so much, experienced mentors are awesome.

Diamond Doves nesting

Diamond Doves are very small doves that have a nice cool cooing sound

Speaking of mortality and failure in breeding, I found that books and reading materials can only tell me so much. To a hyperlocal extent, mentors and friends in the field of aviculture are the best sources of information to concerns I have for birds.

They would teach me very simple things such as adding this particular plant diet or even separating this bird from that bird and great changes occur! Their experience just far exceeds usual teachings of the books but of course nothing is absolute. I still believe that there are possibilities anywhere and that these mentors can also possibly be wrong.

 

10. You become patient.

At first when you get your first bird or first pair of birds you have already built so much expectation around them. Heck I wrote a 100 day log for my first pair of African lovebirds! I even came to a point of boredom where I couldn’t wait anymore and the excitement was rekindled when I saw my African Lovebirds finally mating! (How? I had them on camera. Don’t ask why.) I saw an egg, then two, and more; then a month later I saw chicks! Sad to say all died and never matured due to dietary issues.

 

One more case of expectations raised to disappointment was when my Sun Conures had an egg! Sad to say this egg was a clear one and so I had to wait once more.

To conclude, bird keeping is a delightful hobby and if done right can teach you a whole set of values and lessons. What is important however is that you must have the commitment and compassion to care for your birds as living things and not like mere ornaments. They are beautiful, alive and capable of sharing joy to one who keeps it.

As St. Thomas Aquinas once said: “Ubi Aves, Ibi Angeli!” Where there are birds, there are angels!

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