Reference Library

COMMON SOURCES OF HOUSEHOLD LEAD Contrary to many older beliefs, lead is rarely encountered as a toxic threat in newspaper print, “lead” pencils, or most child-safe paints seen today. However, watch out for these:

  • Lead weights – both curtain weights as well as fishing weights
  • Weighted bird toys – Plastic penguins, leaded bell clappers, etc.
  • Leaded paints – including cage and household paints
  • Backs of some mirrors
  • Solder
  • Some forms of putty or plaster
  • Some types of linoleum
  • Stained glass, including Tiffany lamps, windows, and ornaments
  • Leaded foil from champagne and wine bottles
  • Costume jewelry
  • Some ceramic glazes
  • Galvanized wire and some welds from wrought iron cages
  • Hardware cloth
  • Batteries

CARRIER BIRDS Several years ago, before importation was stopped, wild caught conures were considered to be carriers of disease, particularly Pacheco’s. But just what is a carrier and how does a bird get to be one? Over a period of months and years, a bird may have been exposed to a constant low-level dose of disease-causing germs which stimulated the bird’s immune system to produce antibodies that probably destroyed most of the foreign invaders. The carrier state allows some of these germs to escape destruction and live in the bird’s body in numbers too low to cause full-blown illness. When the bird becomes stressed, its immune system becomes less efficient and antibody production drops, permitting the germs to multiply unhindered. In this way, the bird may come down with disease after having appeared healthy for years.

WHAT’S IN A NAME If you’re anything like me, you enjoy reading about what interests you. Well, those new to the world of aviculture can sometimes find confusing information about this field especially when it comes to identifying the birds. Depending on what part of the world you’re from, you may call a bird one thing and someone from Europe may call the same bird an entirely different name. To add to this confusion, some birds look very similar and only subtle differences distinguish, say a half-moon conure from a peach-fronted conure. I’ve compiled a list of birds that have two or more names and one of birds that look alike but really are different species.Birds that have two or more names:Cockatoos

  • Galah or Rosebreasted
  • Major Mitchell’s or Leadbeater’s
  • Salmon-crested or Moluccan
  • White or Umbrella
  • Little Corella or Bare-eyed


  • Blue and Yellow or Blue and Gold
  • Caninde or Blue Throated
  • Chestnut-fronted or Severe
  • Greenwing or red and green


  • Golden or Queen of Bavaria
  • Orange-fronted or Half-Moon or Petz’s


  • White-fronted or Spectacled
  • Green-cheeked or Mexican Red Head or Red Headed
  • Red-lored or Yellow cheeked

Birds that look the same but are different species


  • Yellow faced and White tailed
  • Citron crested and Lesser sulfur-crested
  • Greater sulfur-crested and Blue-eyed
  • Goffin’s, Little Corella (Bare-eyed) and Long-billed Corella

African Birds

  • Congo Grey and Timneh Grey
  • Meyer’s, Brown-headed and Senegal
  • Redbellied and Ruppell’s


  • Hyacinth and Lears
  • Buffons and Military
  • Caninde (Blue-throated) and Blue & Yellow (Blue & Gold)
  • Scarlet and Greenwing


  • Mitred and Cherry-headed
  • Jenday and Sun
  • Orange-front (Half-moon) and Peach-fronted


  • Orange-chinned, grey-cheeked and canary wing


  • Lilac-crowned and Green-cheeked (Mexican Redhead)
  • Blue-fronted, Double Yellowhead, and Orange-wing
  • Yellow-naped and Yellow-crowned

by Bonnie Kenk
Under the right conditions, i.e., good nutrition, good lighting, daily environmental and foraging activities and lots of love, parrots are very long-lived creatures. Let’s face it, unless you got your bird when you were a small child, it will probably outlive you. Are you preparing your bird now to live in someone else’s home?

PEAC frequently takes in birds that enter our foster flock following the death of their owner. Some of these birds adapt readily to life in a new home if their former owner prepared the bird with the necessary skills to successfully transition to a new home.  Successful skills include, stepping up on a hand/stick/towel, learning independent play, learning to remain on a play top or play tree, and acceptable levels of vocalization among other behaviors.

One bird in particular prompted this article. He lived with someone for 14 years. In his 15th year of life, he was sold to a family with small children. Because he wasn’t properly prepared to live in a new home, he ended up biting one of the children and eventually was turned over to PEAC. This bird had been allowed to have the run of his house for the first 14 years. He was extremely territorial around his cage and would only come out on his own. Any hand placed in or near the cage while he was in it was promptly bitten.

His first owner wrote 12 pages of instructions on his likes and dislikes. Her instructions were almost impossible to duplicate. Her lifestyle was such that it was conducive to his “needs.” Most people could not provide for him in the manner he was accustomed to and he learned to bite and scream incessantly for attention.

Parrots thrive when taught basic life skills using positive reinforcement training techniques.  Tame, hand raised parrots retain all the wild instincts and behaviors of their free cousins as even todays parrot babies are likely less than 3 generations from wild caught birds.  As their stewards, it’s our responsibility to teach them the skills to live successfully in our homes. Having a daily routine is helpful in teaching your bird the limits of daily life and what to expect at certain times of the day.  This doesn’t mean you need or should do each daily activity at exactly the same time each day.  It’s not wise to structure your day around your bird. Sure, you always need to attend to his needs, which include time out of his cage with his human(s). Just don’t do it according to a strict time schedule. Birds need consistency, not predictability. Prepare him for the time when you’re no longer around and he has to cope with life with another human. If you do this now, his transition to another home will be oh so much easier.

It is a good breeder’s responsibility to properly socialize baby parrots in order to prepare them for life in our homes. It is a parent’s responsibility to prepare human children for life as adults. And it is our responsibility to prepare our parrots for life without us.

CAN BIRDS CATCH COLDS FROM HUMANS? Birds do not get what we refer to as a simple cold. Any signs that are similar to our colds are symptoms of a more serious problem and are termed Upper Respiratory Infection or Upper Respiratory Disease. Since the respiratory apparatus of birds is complex and vastly different from mammals’ respiratory systems, signs and symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, abnormal breathing, tail bobbing, swollen or runny eyes, or a voice change should be checked out by your avian vet as soon as possible.  Fortunately, most viruses are species specific, meaning that human viruses usually only affect primates. Human chlamydial infections cannot be transmitted to our birds. Unfortunately the reverse is not true. Psittacosis in birds, a type of chlamydial infection, is contagious to humans.

When you’re ill, to be on the safe side, be extra careful around your birds.

Ewing, Dean E., D.V.M. “Bird Notes”
Wissman, Margaret A., D.V.M. “Causes and Cures.” Bird Talk, January 1997.

ZINC Zinc is extremely toxic to birds. Sources include galvanized cage wire, quick links, clips or staples, zippers, keys, nails, plumbing nuts, nuts on older animal transport cages, hardware cloth, padlocks, some anti-rust paints, costume jewelry, some shampoos and skin preparations. Padlocks are frequently used on birdcages. Other types of locking devices should be considered on cages of large birds who may attempt to chew on the padlock. Chrome-plated cages should not be used for larger birds.

Comments are closed.