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How to Prevent a Bird’s Beak from Becoming Overgrown

Is your bird’s beak overgrown? A beak trim is a serious procedure that is far too often looked at in the same light as a nail trim. However, if a beak is trimmed too short, it will cause the bird pain, will bleed, and may make it difficult or impossible for a bird to eat. Furthermore, beaks shaped improperly or trimmed to the wrong length can cause jaw malalignment and problems that can persist or exacerbate as the beak grows back. But, don’t fret! For the majority of pet birds, beak trimming should never be needed. Here we discuss the beak growth process and how to prevent a bird’s beak from becoming overgrown.

Photo credit: Del Mar Veterinary Hospital, Dr. Nieve’s patient (Coco) before and after he trimmed her beak.

How does a beak grow?

A parrot’s beak grows from the base growth plate in layers. As it grows, it flakes off at the tip with regular chewing. The beak is constantly growing from both the back and below. Since the beak is continually growing, flaking is normal with visible layers of keratin. In nature, parrots constantly use their beaks for climbing, foraging (breaking open fruits and seeds), and excavating cavities for nesting. In our homes, chew toys and foraging toys must take the place of what the birds would find in nature. So, toys are absolutely essential to the critical beak-wear process. The abrasion from destructible toys shapes and trims the beak with each bite.

What causes an overgrown beak in parrots?

One reason why your bird’s beak is overgrown may have to do with diet. The upper beak or lower beak can grow too long, and/or abnormally. The upper beak overgrows far more often than the lower beak. In fact, some flaking is normal and expected, but too much dryness or brittleness indicate a metabolic problem such as fatty liver disease. According to the Animal House of Chicago veterinary center for birds and exotic pets, an overgrown beak can be an early sign of fatty liver disease… and one of the few outward signals that there may be nutritional issues. As a result, it is important to talk with your vet about what diet is appropriate for your bird.

Finally, there may be underlying causes for an overgrown beak that are not related to diet or toy access. According to the Del Mar Vet Hospital of St. Augustine, Florida, in addition to nutritional imbalances, an overgrown beak can be the result of health problems including trauma, developmental abnormalities, or polyomavirus-like infections. “Beak trimming is not necessary in birds unless the beak is overgrown due to underlying health problems or malocclusion,” states Greg Harrison, DVM, Dipl ABVP-Avian, Dipl ECAMS in Clinical Avian Medicine, Volume I, pg14. Therefore, you should talk to your avian vet about what might be the root cause of your specific bird’s beak overgrowth.

How can I prevent my bird’s beak from overgrowing?

But, don’t lose hope! Talk to your vet to identify what you can do to prevent your bird’s beak from overgrowing. Always provide plenty of natural beak-conditioning toys that your bird can chip away at. Experiment and find a wood block thickness that is satisfying to your bird. Bird toys with mahogany pods are great for exercising smaller beaks. And in the process of play, these fun toys are also chipping away at your bird’s beak and helping to prevent stressful beak trims.

Sources:

https://www.animalhouseofchicago.com/news/birds-fatty-liver

https://www.parrots.org/ask-an-expert/cracking-beak-and-avian-nutrition

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parrotJOY Sponsors a Blue-throated Macaw Nest Box in Bolivia

parrotJOY is proud to support Blue-throated Macaw recovery through sponsoring a nest box at Reserva Laney Rickman in Bolivia.

Laney Rickman developed the Nido Adoptivo™ nest box campaign in 2007 in partnership with Asociación Armonía to raise funds to build nest boxes for the critically endangered Blue-throated Macaw in their endemic range in Bolivia. To-date over 100 Blue-throated Macaw chicks have fledged from these nest boxes. We are excited to be part of this growing recovery project!

To-date over 100 Blue-throated Macaw chicks have fledged from the nest boxes, a truly significant number. As a result, the IUCN listing for the Blue-throated Macaw has changed from “Critically Endangered – declining” to “Critically Endangered – stable.” The success of this program is further demonstrated by the five breeding adults from the 2018-2019 breeding season confirmed to be ringed individuals, having fledged from the nest boxes in previous years, returning to breed. This is an important indicator of increasing population recruitment where fledged birds survive and reproduce, showing the success and positive impact of this program.

Please consider contributing to the future of these beautiful, intelligent parrots! Visit https://www.birdendowment.org/ways-to-support to make a donation.

All photos in gallery © Asociación Armonía

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Flight of the Macaw Podcast

Being a PhD student in wildlife science, I had the opportunity to provide fact-checking services KUOW’s wildlife podcast series, THE WILD. I was thrilled to be part of the team to bring you this exciting podcast about wild macaws! Please give it a listen!

There are only 350 scarlet macaws left in the wild in Belize. They face the threats of poaching and habitat loss. In this podcast, meet the passionate people determined to save these colorful birds.

https://www.kuow.org/stories/the-flight-of-the-scarlet-macaw

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Free Webinar: An Overview of Parrot Reproduction

parrot reproduction webinar

Webinar: Where do Baby Parrots Come From? A Veterinary View of Avian Reproduction

Date: Friday, March 12, 2021 at 11:30 a.m. PST

Whether you breed birds or have pet birds, it’s important to understand how a bird’s reproductive system works and to be aware of possible health concerns. In this webinar, Dr. Stephanie Lamb will discuss avian reproductive anatomy and physiology, as well as possible treatment strategies for related issues.

Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_8s2-oUyYSFu43iOx8r9kOA

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Featured Toy Designer: Dani Flanary

parrot toy builder

Dani is one of our long-time toy builders, having put her personal touch on hundreds of parrotJOY bird toys. Dani came to parrotJOY with her own special art – paper origami – and we have been looking for a way to highlight her talent ever since! Although she does not have bird herself, she has learned what it takes to make a safe, exciting parrot toy. Combined with passion for origami, Dani designed and built the Origami Forager natural foraging toy!

When not crafting, you can find Dani out wandering in nature. She loves living in a state that allows her to travel from ocean to mountain in a matter of hours. As a fan of all forms of art, it is paper crafts, in particular, that she really enjoys creating and is very excited to be given this opportunity to showcase some of her work alongside ParrotJOY toys.

We are so lucky to have Dani and many talented artists working with us at parrotJOY! You are always going to see fresh, one-of-a-kind designs originating from parrotJOY. We hope to feature more of our toy builders in the future!

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Free Seminars on Wild Parrot Trade

Recorded presentations are now available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF1mAiGL_G8iwUfnJHnymKQ

We will post one talk per day, so stay tuned!

If you want to know more about what is happening in the Symposium and upcoming events, follow us:@libre_research
@biodiversityresearch 

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For those of you interested in wildlife trade issues there is an online symposium happening every Tuesday over the next four weeks (Jan 12th-Feb 2nd). http://biodiversityresearch.org/projects/wildfile-symposium/

Including…

The role of Facebook in facilitating wildlife trade

International trade in live birds from West Africa

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Bamboo

Bamboo Pieces used in the BAMBOOzler

Bamboos are large evergreen perennial grasses that inhabit the tropical and temperate forests around the world. Bamboo is a member of the family Poaceae (grasses) and specifically the subfamily Bambusoideae. The subfamily can be further subdivided into three tribes: bambuseae (tropical woody bamboos), Olyreae (herbaceous bamboos), and Arundinarieae (temperate woody bamboos). The three tribes contain 115 genera that are broken down into 1400 species.

The two tribes of woody bamboo make up about 93% of the species diversity and are most important to forest ecology and human economics. Bamboo can thrive from sea level to 4000 meters and is found in Africa, Asia, North and South America, and Australia. It is a prolific grower and can reach heights of 120 feet (40 meters) and cover many hectares. Some plants require 7 to 120 years to flower, lending to mass flowering episodes. Bamboo has also been declared the fastest growing plant on earth, growing up to 3 feet (91 centimeters per day) or at a rate of 0.00003 kilometers per hour.

Bamboo is rhizomatous meaning that it possesses rhizomes or modified subterranean stems that send out roots and shoots from nodes. Plants grow in two separate patterns depending on the species: clumping and running. The clumping varieties gradually spread and the running varieties prolifically spread (several meters per year) and sometimes require human control.

Not only is bamboo’s horizontal growth interesting, the vertical growth is equally as intriguing. Bamboo culms emerge from the soil at their full diameter and grow to their full height in a single growing season, which is typically about four months. There is no branching from the stem until the majority of the mature height is reached and branching occurs from the nodes. Over the next several years the culms harden and are either overtaken with fungi and collapse or are harvested. The cycle begins anew each growing season and as the plant matures, the culms reach greater and greater heights.

Most bamboos require warmer climates and cannot survive at USDA hardiness zones below 5. Even at zone 5, the foliage and culms will die off each winter. However in USDA zone 7 and higher, bamboo will retain its evergreen foliage. This ability to survive harsh climates, thrive in poor soil conditions, and grow quickly, have allowed bamboo to thrive in areas that it is not native such as Europe and northern and western United States. Although bamboo is popular for landscaping, it can be highly invasive and outcompete native vegetation, leading to vast monocultures and decreased biodiversity.

Bamboo shoots, stems, and leaves provide nutrition to China’s Giant Panda, Nepal’s Red Panda, Madagascar’s Lemurs, Central Africa’s Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees, and Elephants, as well as rodents around the world.

In addition to sustaining many charismatic species, bamboo also is important to humans as a raw material. Bamboo harvest is a multi billion dollar per year industry in South East Asia and is even on the rise in the United States. Bamboo harvest is found to be more sustainable than traditional timber harvest due to the quick growth rate (harvested every 5 to 7 years) and ability to store 100 to 400 tons of carbon per hectare. Although there are many positives to bamboo, it is important to remember that with any ecosystem, monocultures are generally not the recipe for a healthy environment. Though bamboo farming is a viable option, as with most things, moderation is key.

One of the most utilized forms of bamboo is from the genus phyllostachys (timber bamboo), which is native to central/southern China and northern Indochina. Planted bamboo has thrived in other parts of Asia, Australia, North/South America, and Europe. In some areas bamboo has become so invasive and detrimental to native ecosystems that the sale of this species for landscaping is illegal and homeowners can be fined if it is growing within 40 feet of adjacent properties. It belongs to Arundinarieae or the temperate woody bamboo tribe and has a running growth style. The culms are utilized in construction and furniture products.

Another genus that is typically utilized economically is Bambusa, which is a clumping variety of bambuseae or the tropical woody bamboo tribe. This genus is native to China, India, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, Melanesia, and the Northern Territory of Australia. It has also taken over large swaths of land in Africa and Central/South America. This bamboo genus is utilized for nearly any purpose including: landscape hedge, erosion control, flooring, boats, pipes, food, and even parrot toys.

At parrotJOY we utilize Bambusa arundinacea or thorny bamboo, which is actually quite smooth and safe for parrots. It grows wild in most parts of tropical India, Pakistan, and southwestern China. We love to use this unique toy component because it adds another layer of color, texture and fun to your parrot’s toy repertoire. Look for our 2-3 inch bamboo stalks in the new BAMBOOzler toy!

References:

Hort.purdue.edu. 2020. Bambusa Arundinacea. [online] Available at: <https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/duke_energy/Bambusa_arundinacea.html> [Accessed 20 November 2020].

INBAR. 2020. Understanding Bamboo’S Climate Change Potential- INBAR. [online] Available at: <https://www.inbar.int/understanding-bamboos-climate-change-potential/> [Accessed 20 November 2020].

Kelchner, S., 2013. Higher level phylogenetic relationships within the bamboos (Poaceae: Bambusoideae) based on five plastid markers. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 67(2), pp.404-413.

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Manzanita and Madrone Perches

The tree leaning out over the water is a madrone in Washington, USA. Commonly used to build parrot perches!

If you have purchased a red or sun bleached curvy branch for your parrot to perch on, odds are it once belonged to a tree or shrub somewhere on the west coast of the United States or the Mediterranean region of Eurasia. However, if you are like me, you might be curious as to what the tree or shrub looks like in nature.

I have been fortunate enough to visit and live in some amazing places in the western hemisphere. One of the things I like most about exploring a new place is identifying the endemic or unique flora of that region. Therefore, I was no stranger to the term Manzanita or Madrone before I heard it in the parrot world.

However, I have always been curious as to the difference between Manzanita and Madrone, which seem to be interchangeably used when discussing perch types. Through my investigation I found that Manzanita is merely the common name for a group of plants that belong to the genus Arctostaphylos. Whereas Madrone is the common name for a group of plants that belong to the genus Arbutus. Though manzanita and madrone belong to a different genus they are both members of family Ericaceae and furthermore, subfamily of Arbutoideae.

Ericaceae are a family of flowering plants that are known as heath or heather. They typically grow in acidic and infertile growing conditions and include many popular plants like cranberry, blueberry, huckleberry and rhododendron. The family is often divided into 9 subfamilies, 126 genera, and about 4250 species. One of the subfamiles is Arubutoideae which contains both genera: Arctostaphylos and Arbutus (in addition to 4 others).

First I will explore the genus Arctostaphylos, which is comprised of about 60 species, most of which are Manzanitas. Arctostaphylos are almost exclusively evergreen (keep their leaves year round), and range from groundcover shrubs to small trees. The two main groups within Arctostaphylos are Manzanita and Bearberries.

Bearberries have three species and can grow in arctic and subarctic climates but have circumpolar distribution in North America and Eurasia. Common Bearberry or Kinnikinnick was the first arctostaphylos species that I encountered when I began working at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. It was a unique plant that I had never seen before. It covered large swaths of rocky, seemingly inhospitable soil along mountainsides. The plant itself had thick leathery evergreen leaves with small vibrant red berries that punched through the thin layer of snow. The reddish-tan colored, low-growing branches snaked across the ground in a webbing pattern. As I moved to further west, this groundcover continued with me, and though it makes for a neatly landscaped mountainside it is a far cry from parrot perch material.

The second group of Arctostaphylos plants are parrot perch material, and they are the Mananitas, which are found in the Chaparral of western North America from British Columbia, down along the Pacific coast, and into Mexico. The vast majority grows in the Mediterranean climate of California, many of which are endemic to their respective regions. These species can range from a few centimeters tall all the way up to 6 meters. They typically have green oval leaves with white or pale pink clusters of flowers (winter and spring) and red berries (summer and autumn). The bark is a characteristic smooth orange or red, which grows in a twisting contorted pattern. This last feature makes them ideal for the development of parrot perches.

Aside from general ascetics, Manzanita branches are very slow to decay and last many years, both attached and detached from the plant. Although these branches may seem ready to go straight from the tree into your parrot’s habitat, it is very important that the branches are properly cleaned and disinfected before being introduced to your parrot.

Finally, I will explore the genus Arbutus, which contains about 12 species that are native to warm temperate regions of the Mediterranean, western Europe, Canary Islands, and North America.

Despite seeing my favorite broad-leafed evergreen tree on a day-to-day basis near my home in the Issy Alps of western Washington, my first Madrone sighting was in Texas. During graduate school, Apryle and I made a winter trip to Big Bend National Park where we were fortunate enough to spot a Texas Madrone. In retrospect this was a rare inland sighting of the tree that I have come to associate strongly with the Pacific coast. The smooth dark red bark stood out among the green grasses, succulents, and cacti of the Chisos Mountains.

Since moving to Washington, Apryle and I encounter this amazing tree frequently on our trail runs. The Pacific Madrone is a tree that has flaky bark with colors ranging from orange to green. They prefer well-drained locations, so they are often seen on rocky cliff sides. They also produce red berries that contrast their pale waxy green leaves. The tall (up to 23 m) trees frequently drop their contorted red branches that we sometimes collect to utilize for our own parrots (disinfected first of course).

In addition to the Texas and Pacific Madrone that I am familiar with, there are also another six species in the Americas, mostly found in Mexico, with one other species found in Arizona and New Mexico. There are four other species around the world; two located in southeast Europe and southwest Asia and one endemic to Libya and another endemic to the Canary Islands.

A study by Hileman et al. found that the Arbutus species of the Mediterranean basin were more closely related to genus Arctostaphylos than other North American Arbutus species. This is an interesting finding that further interconnects these two genera in the subfamily Arbutoideae.

Along with genus Arctostaphylos (Manzanitas), genus Arbutus (Madrones) are unique trees that add to the diversity of flora in their respective habitats. After cut, disinfected, and hardware has been added, Manzanita and Madrone are difficult to tell apart, but both of these plants are quite different and are important to their respective ecosystems. These trees should be respected and the wood should be harvested utilizing sustainable practices. When the process is completed properly and the branches are adequately disinfected, they make excellent perches with plenty of natural variation in size and contour in order to maximize your parrots foot health and dexterity.

References:

Hileman, L. (2001). Phylogeny and biogeography of the Arbutoideae (Ericaceae): Implications for the Madrean-Tethyan hypothesis. Systematic Botany, 26(1), 131.

Wells, P. (1968). NEW TAXA, COMBINATIONS, AND CHROMOSOME NUMBERS IN ARCTOSTAPHYLOS (ERICACEAE). Madroño, 19(6), 193-210. Retrieved October 28, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41423299

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parrotJOY Trivia Night Recap

parrot trivia night

The October 23rd parrotJOY trivia night was a great success! We had a total of ten participants and raised $200 for All Parrot Rescue in Graham, Washington. During this online trivia night, we used Zoom to unite parrot lovers from all over the country to answer wacky parrot trivia questions with topics including: biology, pop culture, geography, history, and more!

Apryle Craig, owner of parrotJOY, and Ram Papish, wildlife illustrator extraordinaire, hosted the trivia night. The contestants were challenged with 35 unique and creative parrot related questions, and everyone rose to the occasion.

Our overall trivia night winner was Lauren L., followed by Karen G. in second, and a team of Elizabeth and Zai S. in third. The raffle winners were Kate I. and Elizabeth and Zai. The raffle winners will receive prizes. Kate will receive a custom bird profile logo and Elizabeth and Zai will have three parrotJOY toys shipped their way!

Thank you to everyone that made the parrotJOY trivia night a success!

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Top 5 Parrot Toys for Holiday Gifts

Are you looking for the best Christmas/Hanukkah/Holiday gift for a parrot lover? How about a gift for the parrot owner in your life who already has everything? Here are our top 5 choices of unique parrot gifts for this coming holiday season.

natural parrot foot toys

1. Glass Jar of Foot Toys: This toy is the gift that keeps giving the whole year! For the holidays, our stylish glass jar comes wrapped with a green paper ribbon (parrot-safe, of course!) and filled with many unique natural materials that will provide you parrot with hours of entertainment! A great accent piece for the end table that keeps your parrot’s favorite natural foot toys at arm’s reach. This decorative glass jar is the perfect place to store your parrot’s favorite foot toys.

toy box with parrot toys

2. Parrot Toy Box: This new parrotJOY item is packed with an assortment of natural foot toys, and the natural wood toy box can be used again and again! Foot toys might include cholla wood, loofah, yucca chunks, mahogany pods, pinecones, banana leaf balls, sola balls, and more! Our natural wood toy box has no stain or finish on it – just good old fashion wood! It’s assembled with stainless steel hardware screws and mounting hardware without glue! This allows your bird to safely chew on the box, also! The mounting hardware allows you to affix the box to the side of the cage, or you can easily remove the hardware to sit the box in your bird’s play area. This gorgeous, handmade toy box with its festive all-natural toys is pretty enough to sit on an end table in the living room for the holiday season! The box measures approximately 9″ long x 5″ deep x 3.5″ tall. An awesome gift for parrot lovers!

the best foraging toys for parrots

3. Stainless Steel Baffle Foraging Cage:Our stainless steel baffle cage is perfect for foraging. The top screws off to easily fill it with holiday goodies for your parrot. This is a fantastic toy to encourage your bird to try new foods. Our baffle cage comes pre-filled with the parrotJOY signature shred, ready to hang as a toy. Feel free to stuff nuts or seeds into the shred and your bird will have to forage to get them out! 

parrot toy necklace

4. Corky Parrot Necklace:Does the parrot lover in your life want some bling this holiday season? This parrot-friendly necklace is the perfect jewelry gift for the holidays. Sola, unfinished wood, natural cork (not agglomerated), and mahogany pod slices strung on parrot-safe soft hemp cord. Truly stylish entertainment as your parrot rides on your shoulder. Tie it shut at your preferred length with a bow, or tie a permanent knot and slip it on and off over your head – we left plenty of tails for you to size it to suit your outfit.

platform for arthritic bird

5. Perch-N-Play Platform: Our Perch-N-Play Platform is a perching ledge and crunchable toy all in one! A live-edge platform adorned with every bird’s favorite… mahogany pods, twig shreds, and mahogany carpels. The basswood ledge is a lightweight wood similar to balsa, with a bit more durability and less prone to warping. A great platform for birds with arthritis and foot conditions, to offer an alternative perching option! Approximately 5″ deep by 12″ long x 1″ thick (some natural variation). Stainless steel mounting hardware is included.

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adult synchronized skating