Monday, March 27, 2006

Feathered fascination

Carroll Myers uses a firm but gentle grasp as he places one of his English budgerigars into a show cage. The male bird quickly finds a spot on one of the two perches and, with no prompting from Myers, puffs its plumage in a display of confidence. He knows it's time to show off.Eagle Myers is a nationally known budgie breeder and judge who got started after seeing an ad for the birds. "I gotta have a few of those," he said.
Meanwhile, about 400 birds in crisp whites, cool blues and vibrant greens waddle on perches in Myers' custom 1,000-square-foot aviary.
His fascination with breeding and showing English budgerigars started two decades ago as a hobby and has evolved into a passion that takes him all over the United States. He has won dozens of awards at regional and national budgie shows.
"It's the fact you want to raise something, and raise something better. You're trying to build a bigger, better bird," he said.
The English budgerigar, also known as a budgie, is a larger cousin of the common parakeet. The bird is native to Australia and in its native habitat has a bright-green body and black-and-yellow wings.
Myers, who also runs a cattle ranch, said his interest in budgies stems from his work with the cows that roam his property near Navasota. "I enjoy the cows because I enjoy the genetic aspect of breeding. It's the same thing with the budgies. The genetics are just unbelievable."
Myers said there are 23 varieties of budgies. Breeding different birds results in vibrant colors that range from cobalt blue to army green. Other birds have "cinnamon" colors, budgie talk for pastels.
To assist in the breeding process, he tracks each bird's lineage with a special computer program. That way he can find birds and breed a couple with particular strengths such as colors or spot patterns.
Myers' fascination with budgies doesn't stop at breeding and showing the birds at contests in Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, California and Colorado.
He also has served as a judge for national shows and is the past chairman of the Budgerigar Association of America.
The ideal bird, Myers said, is about 9 inches long and will stand upright on its perch in a "very regal" position. It has a large head that's almost as wide as its body. Budgerigars are orginally green but through breeding take on many other colors and color patterns.
Myers was introduced to the birds in 1990 by a friend in Houston who was moving. He had about 75 American parakeets, Myers said, and couldn't take them.
Myers agreed to watch the birds and, as he learned more about them, became more interested.
Soon after, he came across a newspaper ad for an English budgerigar show in Houston and decided to go.
The attraction was instant.
Today, Myers is a nationally known budgie breeder. He fields about five calls a week from prospective buyers across the country; they'll pay $50 to $1,000 per bird depending on the rarity of its color.
But vibrant colors don't always make a star show bird. Aside from physical characteristics, Myers said you can tell whether a certain budgie feels comfortable in the spotlight.
"We look for birds that have spunk, showmanship and good color. See how that one is shy and goes to the back of the cage? A good 'show bird' comes up to you and puffs up its head. Some just naturally like to show off."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Young Rescues

I rescued a very young (based on internet reserch he was maybe 4 months old) male budgie this past New Year's Eve. I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada and this little budgie was outside on a store sidewalk in minus fourteen degree freezing cold weather. He allowed himself to be caught and from that moment on lives with me!!! I've attached 2 pictures!! The pictures were taken the day after he was rescued!! The pink perch in one picture came with the cage, I threw it out.

I have always had finches. I have 2 pale hooded munias right now. My new budgie "Kiwi" is my first and only budgie. I bought him a mirror and he loves it. He feeds it, sleeps by it. I would prefer to buy another budgie so he's not alone, but I'm not sure if I should do this because he has his mirror. And if I should (and would prefer to) how do I introduce a new budgie???? I do not trust anyone in my area who knows birds for their advice.

Dear Dr. Fox:

Q: I have two parakeets — a male, Sparky, and a female, Sparrow. Sparky has been eating the perch covers. I change them all the time. In the cage, I have a mirror square, cuttlebone, tropical-fruit-blend seeds, gravel, a bird swing, water and other toys. Sparky has a strong voice and is always singing. Is he lacking some vitamin? Please advise.

L.W., Hollywood, Fla.

Dear L.W.:

A: Sparky is probably playing, and his tearing up the perch covers is more a sign of wanting some material to shred and manipulate than a sign of some nutritional deficiency. Give him some unbleached paper towels or clean hay or straw to play with.

It sounds as though your birds are well cared for, and the real plus is that they have each other. So many caged birds live a solitary existence, and I think it is a widespread and unrecognized deprivation and form of cruelty.

I hope your birds have the opportunity to get out of their cages and can flit and hop around in a safe room or porch.

As for diet, avoid a seed mix too high in millet, which can lead to obesity and thyroid problems. While millet is higher in carbohydrates than other seeds, and budgies thrive on it, some seed variety is advisable. Thyroid problems may be prevented by giving the birds pieces of nori (thin sheets of seaweed) that they will enjoy playing with.

Seaweed is an excellent source of essential trace minerals. Adding a little flaxseed to your birdseed mix will provide important essential fatty acids. Ideally, the seed mix should be organically certified.

The fact that Sparky sings means he's happy and you are a good bird parent.


Friday, March 10, 2006

Birds workshop in Moora

BIRDS Australia is to hold an information workshop focusing on habitat revegetation in Moora on Tuesday March 21 as part of Conservation Week.
Western Australia's Wheatbelt, located in the Southwest Botanical Province, is home to a diverse mixture of plants and animals.
This unique area has been classified as a biological hotspot because it is an area of extreme biological diversity with a high level of degradation.
The Wheatbelt has been cleared of 70 per cent of its original habitat, leaving remnants of natural bush scattered across the landscape.
This is called fragmentation. These areas have now become invaluable to the animals that inhabit them, such as Carnaby's Black-Cockatoo.
Birds Australia is coordinating the Carnaby's Black-Cockatoo Recovery Project.
This project aims at conserving, protecting and increasing Carnaby's Cockatoo habitat; predominately bush types known as Eucalypt Woodlands and Kwongan Heathlands.
Birds Australia plans to achieve this by working with the community and revegetating known nesting and feeding areas and creating corridors of vegetation between the two areas.
The project's Regional Coordinator, Helen Pitman, said habitat loss was a major concern for the species.
"If a male Carnaby's Cockatoo has to fly further than 12km between nesting and feeding areas to provide food for the female and a chick, then the likelihood of the pair successfully raising that chick is low," she said.

Amazonian Parakeets Live With Humans

This is a Canary-winged Parakeet (also called White-winged Parakeet, although this race lacks white along the yellow edging of the wing), locally known by its Spanish name Periquito Aliamarillo. This is a wild bird brought into a tame relation -- that is, turned into a commensal with people.

Domesticated parrots and parakeets are common in many parts of the world, but it is unusual for this species and in this place.

This parakeet is found along the Amazon River and some of its tributaries. We are in a very remote corner of the Upper Amazon River Basin in northeastern Bolivia, close to the border with Brazil, in a tiny native village called Porvenir along the Rio Paragua, a distant tributary of the Amazon.

Canary-winged Parakeets inhabit open forests and savannahs, as well as seasonally flooded forests and river islands. This one has taken to a forest clearing here in the dense seasonal jungles of the Amazon, and is now a friend of a local villager.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Avian bird flu

I am getting very concerned at budgie owners who are having their pet birds put down in fear of catching the bird flu.


What should be done with regard to having budgies in an outside aviary and other pet birds in aviaries?

The risk of such birds becoming infected, even if the UK's wild bird population were infected, is very small.

The budgies or pet birds would need to make contact with infected, wild birds or their droppings.

Whilst this is possible, from infected birds flying over the aviaries, the risk is very small.

As a precaution and in the event of avian influenza reaching the UK such birds should be brought indoors or the aviary proofed against wild birds and their droppings.

Bird flu: Your questions answered