By Diane Burroughs
Some of the most rewarding parrot species to keep as pets and companions fall into the medium-sized category, somewhere between budgie and macaw. Often, a budgie or cockatiel owner has a rewarding experience as a pet bird owner and decides to “step up,” so to speak, to a larger pet bird. Whether it’s an Amazon, Pionus, conure, African grey, small cockatoo or mini macaw, there are myriad medium-sized species out there that make great pets. Along with being larger than the ever-popular budgies and cockatiels, these parrots have a list of essential items that new owners must stock in order to keep their pets happy and healthy.
The Bird Cage
First, the cage must be large enough for a parrot to climb and explore, as well as flap its wings without striking the bars. Likewise, bar spacing is important–large enough to allow the toes through for easy climbing but narrow enough to prevent the bird from sticking its head out between the bars. Pet parrots in the medium and large categories use their feet often with climbing, eating and exploring toys, which indicates a high level of intelligence in the avian world. Studies done at Macquarie University reveal that using one foot more than the other–not favoring a combination and using both–when performing tasks is an indicator of a parrot’s degree of intelligence. The more a parrot prefers one side or the other, the higher its intelligence, says Dr Culum Brown, Director of Advanced Biology. This study confirms that that healthy parrot feet are active, thus proper perches and toys are vital to parrot mental stimulation.
Cage bottoms are another area that warrants careful consideration. A metal grate as far as possible above the newspaper bedding is essential to preventing the parrot from reaching through and shredding the newspaper into confetti. Budgies and cockatiels rarely engage in this type of behavior, so it can create a mess that some owners new to the larger species never bargained for or planned on. Parrots are messy feeders and players, and good cage construction can minimize the mess.
Natural wood bird perches are the most popular type of perch. They come in a variety of thicknesses and sizes. Other perch materials include rope perches, pumice or pedicure perches (good for keeping sharp nails dull). There are even heated perches called the Thermo Perch to keep avian feet warm and bathing perches that attach to shower walls. Most parrots learn to love a gentle misting with warm water.
Water and Food Bowls
Other bird supplies to provide for parrots in the medium-size category are sturdy food and water bowls. They must hold enough food for an appropriate meal and enough water to keep the bird hydrated throughout the day. Unlike small parrots, parrots in the medium category love to bathe in their water bowls and make “soup” by fouling their water source with food. They also like to toss their water bowls to the floors of their cages if they can. With all of this in mind, bowls that clamp securely to the cage but are also easy to remove for frequent changing are the best to use. Quick Lock Crocks are dishwasher safe bowls that lock down but come off easily. Often, bowls that screw into place are the best choices. Birds can quickly learn to unfasten bowls secured in place by only metal rings hung from the cage sides. The birds will pull these bowls free and drop them, creating quite a wet mess in the process.
Nutritious bird food treats are also important for busy parrot feet. Some birds will learn to relish their favorite treats to the point of “double fisting” these birdie delicacies if they are offered two at once. They will clutch one in each claw, balancing on the perch on a hock because that leg’s foot is already in use, then lift the other foot to the mouth to eat. Problem solved!
Although they can be fattening if fed too often, pine nuts and peanuts are loved by most parrots. The same goes for sunflower seeds. Fed sparingly by hand, however, they are a special treat every pet bird should enjoy.
Medium Sized Bird Toys
As the Macquarie University study revealed, intelligent parrot species require mental stimulation through use of their feet. An assortment of parrot toys will keep a parrot mentally stimulated and happy.
There are several types of good toys to keep a bird occupied. Among the best are foraging and destructive toys. These toys allow a parrot to explore a toy’s hidden crevices and compartments to find items to shred or eat. Crinkled paper and fabric included in the toy design will be items most bird enjoy shredding and preening. Toys that contain a variety of seeds and nuts as a reward for foraging behavior will quickly become a bird’s favorite item to explore.
Tell us about your favorite medium bird supplies in the comments section below.