By Phil Samuelson
Deciding which bird perch to buy for your parrot can be one of the most important choices you make for your avian companion. After all, the perches you arrange in its cage are one of the only surfaces it touches. What works for one bird will be completely inappropriate for another. Perches are more than an area for the bird to stand. If more than one bird occupies the cage, there are social and practical functions relating to perches which often depend on perch placement, size and material. Variety, safety and durability all are important considerations when selecting perches.
Bird Perch Size
The size of the bird perch is one of the most important considerations. After all, a perch intended for a peach-faced lovebird would hardly suffice for a blue-and-gold macaw. Completely different perch diameters are necessary for these very different parrots. Choosing inappropriate perch diameter is probably the biggest mistake made by pet bird owners. The wrong diameter results in cramped feet, overgrown nails and overall poor foot health. A proper perch diameter will allow the bird to grip approximately 3/4 of the perch so it can get a purchase with the tips of its nails.
Uneven or irregular perches are an excellent addition to any cage or bird playpen. Uneven perches are not one diameter like a dowel, but provide a choice of diameters depending on where the bird stands on the perch.
Bird Perch Material
The range of materials available for perches is surprisingly large. Remember that a bird will use the perch as a tool to clean its beak as well as a place to perch. After feeding, especially on juicy fruits and vegetables, a parrot will vigorously wipe its beak back and forth across its perch to remove any clinging food. This being the case, a perch near the cage food station should be relatively easy to clean.
Wood perches such as a manzanita branch are widely used, with good results. Perches of concrete or pumice also serve many parrot owners well. PVC is yet another popular perch material, and although somewhat slippery compared to other perch materials, it is easier to clean. One PVC perch, the Safety Pumice Bird Perch is an exception with a proprietary sanded surface.
Bird Perch Placement
The height of bird perches has a great deal to do with the birds’ sense of security, as well as social standing in wild situations and some captive environments. African grey parrots in the wild forage for food at various levels of the forest canopy, even on the forest floor. Not surprisingly, the higher perching elevations provide the safest environment for these birds while feeding and roosting, as well as the highest sense of security. Bird trappers take advantage of the birds being less wary when high in the trees. A paper published in the Ethiopian Journal of Environmental Studies and Management (Vol.1, No.2, June. 2008) details the trapping methods of African bird trappers. Rather than raiding nesting chambers in trees, these trappers achieve their best results from using gummed bamboo bird perches placed high in the trees. The trappers place a decoy African grey nearby to attract incoming birds as they arrive at their daily roosting spots. The birds are easily fooled by the sense of security the treetop perches provide and quickly become ensnared on the sticky traps when they attempt to perch near their decoy conspecifics.
High perch elevation also provides a sense of security and comfort among pet birds. Within the cage or aviary, bird will usually try to occupy the highest perch possible. Usually, the most dominant bird or pairs of birds will occupy these locations, particularly when sleeping.
Select your bird’s perches carefully. If the cage size allows it, a pet bird owner should provide a choice of perching elevations, but the cage should never be overly cluttered with these roosting areas. When given a choice of a few perches, observing a pet bird carefully will soon reveal its favorite perch and perch location.