Cockatiels are one of the most common parrots in captivity and actually belong to the same family as the cockatoo. Hand-raised cockatiels can be quite personable and gentle. Although they can speak, they more typically whistle and chatter. Cockatiels need a lot more care to stay healthy than most people expect. Cockatiels need balanced diets (not just seeds), spacious cages with different heights of perches and different diameter perches, access to direct sunshine, and regular baths to stay in peak condition.
Converting a bird to a better diet can be one of the best things an owner can do to provide a healthy life for their pet bird. The act of converting a bird though can sometimes be challenging. Birds that have been eating one type of diet for years may be reluctant to switch over to a healthier one. Especially if they have been eating a high fat diet like seeds. There are many tips and tricks for diet conversion. What worked well for one bird may not work well for another. Some birds will transition rapidly within a few days, while others can take months. Some owners become frustrated with diet conversion if they aren’t seeing results quickly and end up allowing the bird to just eat whatever it wants. This would be like allowing a child to eat pizza for dinner all the time instead of a more balanced meal. Birds may be stubborn, but being persistent and patient will eventually get you the results you are looking for. One of the most important things an owner needs to know about diet conversion is to not give up!
Everyone knows that eating a good diet is one of the best things we can do to stay healthy and the same is true for our pet birds. The question that we must then ask is “What is the best diet for our birds?” Of course this will vary for the species in question but there is an unfortunate misconception out there that seeds are all a pet bird needs to stay healthy. This has led to many pet birds developing nutritional disorders and therefore, seed alone diets have been implicated as a problem. It is true that in the wild, seeds are consumed by many species of birds but that is not all they eat. Parrots in the wild will eat various types of seeds, nuts, fruits, beans, flowers, and even foliage from plants. The varieties of seeds that are foraged for in the wild are numerous and different studies have shown birds to consume greater than 20 different seed types. In captivity many of our seeds mixes only have 5-7 different types of seeds.
PDS, which is short for Proventricular Dilatation Syndrome, causes regurgitation, weight loss, and death in macaws and other parrots. This condition has recently been linked with a poorly understood virus known as bornavirus. Bornavirus has been linked with feather-plucking, toe-tapping, and other conditions in parrots.
You need to plan ahead before you bring a bird into your home. Part of that planning should include a same-day wellness visit to a reputable veterinarian since there is no way to be sure a bird is completely healthy just by looking at it. After a physical examination, the veterinarian may discuss screening your new bird with laboratory tests. Simple tests can be done at the hospital, such as looking at droppings and oral secretions for abnormal bacteria using a Gram stain or checking the droppings for parasites. However, additional tests are often needed particular for birds that have been around many other birds. The importance of this additional testing cannot be ignored -- one study using protein electrophoresis, a kind of blood test, revealed that 30% of seemingly healthy birds had undetected infectious or inflammatory disease. Specific tests for psittacosis (also known as parrot fever or chlamydophilosis), Pacheco's virus, and psittacine beak and feather disease may be important especially if you have other birds at home. If the Gram stain suggests abnormal bacteria are present then microbiological cultures and sensitivities should be performed so that the right antibiotic can be chosed to treat the infection. Your new bird can have its sex determined by saliva, blood, or feather samples to confirm that you got what you paid for or to learn what you got. When you are budgeting for a new bird, make sure you remember to include money for a thorough health check!
Behavioral disorders are a frequent issue identified in companion parrots and one study revealed that 36% of owners felt their bird had a behavioral problem. Feather destructive behavior, more commonly known as feather-picking or feather-plucking, was the most common behavior problem seen by veterinarians and the fourth most common behavioral problem identified by owners. This issue can result from both medical and behavioral causes.
Psittacine Circovirus (Psittacine Circoviral Disease or PCD) is a viral infection that is spread easily through feathers and feces. It affects parrots and other psittacine birds and causes the loss of feathers, usually on the chest or thighs. In some birds, such as Eclectus, king parrots, and lorikeets, the early signs may be a change in color, with affected feathers showing streaks of white, yellow, or black. Cockatoos and parrots often show loss of the powder down first since powder down is replaced often; it may take a few molts to see changes in coverlets and other feathers. With time, the feather loss involves the wings and the rest of the body. Early in the infection, feathers may grow in to replace the missing ones. These regrown feathers are abnormally-shaped and easily break at their bases. As the infection progresses, new feathers do not grow and old ones are not replaced. Infected birds may show excessive abnormal growth of the beak and toenails. The beak and nails curl in unusual shapes. The beak and nails may flake, crack, and develop soft areas that are weak and may break. Yeast and other infections may develop in cracks of the beak and nails. Beaks can become so severely affected that the bird can no longer feed on its own.
Biting is one of the most common behavior problems noted in pet parrots.
To ensure the health of your bird and the safety of your household, Arizona Exotic Animal Hospitals and Colorado Exotic Animal Hospital recommends the following Wellness Program: