Glimpses Into The World of Pet Bird Owners

Today’s post is an exception to the ‘no fluffy pets’ parameter on my blog.  Well, technically birds aren’t fluffy, are they?  Once they’re through the fledgling stage they’re ‘feathery’.  So its OK just this once.  I could always claim I am inspired to design a quilt  on the theme of birds… now that’s an idea perhaps.  But, anyway I do have just a little experience with pet birds – as a kid I had several budgies in a cage, and later I worked in an office where I was a co-owner of a lovely male canary we named Mario (Lanza) for the quality of his voice; and our nextdoor neighbours here have a medium sized parrot which is often out in the garden; his wings are clipped and he can climb around.  He can’t see us, but plays Marco Polo with us over the fence, and babbles a running commentary on things, in Spanish of course, often demanding the attention of “Abuela!”  (Grandmother)  I didn’t see Daniel and Maria  move in, so for the first couple of days this racket over the fence had me wondering about the noisy naughty child that was being made to stay outside all day it seemed – I had begun to think ‘child abuse’ …but all is well at #2043.   Over here we balance things up with our loudly vigilant dog, and no one complains.  Parrots often live 60+ years and they’re often mentioned in wills.


When you move to another part of the world, most countries will happily accept you and your children without any quarantine as long as your shots are up to date, etc.  But animals of all kinds, not just dogs and cats, are a different matter.   I recently met a new arrival to Montevideo and he opened my eyes to the difficulties of relocating internationally with a bird.  I have friends who have had cats, dogs and sheep coming and going, but until  I met new arrival here, Mick, I just had not thought about how strongly a bird owner might want to bring his pet along too.  Mick’s bird is a small parrot called a Wierro or Cockatiel.  Native to Australia, these little birds are cheeky, fun, curious and, because they learn to talk well too, they’re popular as family pets.   You can find many lovely images of them here , gorgeous.  Bobby is pictured below, but he just could not resist pecking and clawing the camera’s shiny bits and pieces, making it impossible for a good clear shot.  When I tried to sharpen the image he looked OK but then the arm/perch he was on and the background looked rather grainy – impossible! Hence, the link to the images which will show he’s a classic little specimen in every way.

Bela the Bird

Mick and Erica wanted to bring Bobby with them on assignment here for a few months, and contacted Australian and Uruguayan customs authorities, to learn what they had to do for this to happen.  Heaps of paperwork covered a mandatory month of supervised domestic quarantine both before and after travel, the cost of that plus vet and permit fees at every turn, and then doing all that in reverse a few months later.  Once they realized how costly and involved this would be, they dropped that approach and looked around for someone to board him with for the few months they’re here.  They discovered extensive networks out there for bird owners, on- and off-line, exactly like what’s around for dog and cat owners, and if truth be known, probably goldfish and gerbils, and other creatures great and small.  There are vets who specialize, there are search and rescue groups, there are adoption and humane groups, and, online, there are chat lists and discussion forums.   And boundless opportunities for networking while exhibiting your bird and competing with other owners.


Someone put them in touch with Kaylene, a dedicated bird lover and owner who’s become the temporary carer for Bobby.  She takes it very seriously, as the following message to Mick recently shows: “Bobby won’t eat any of the yellow fruity ‘Pretty Boy’  items, nor the one yellow thing in the cockatiel seed mix I bought. Should I just throw them out? Does he hate yellow? I tasted them–can’t see any difference in flavor or texture between the little red, orange, green balls, and the crescent shaped yellow items?  Bobby isn’t really happy, misses you I’m sure. He squawks like crazy when I leave the room or talk on the phone, but doesn’t trust me enough to come out of the cage yet. Every evening around 5 he whistles and sings–very sweet. Does he have a problem with yellow foods?”     I laughed hearing this, but Mick had more gems, too.  Read on.


Kaylene herself has a new young little budgie, Sweetie, everyone knows these little cuties  they’re easy care, and lots of fun, but Kaylene is currently a bit concerned about Sweetie, as she posted on the chat board that Mike now follows:  “…he sleeps hanging upside down like a bat, the only time I’ve seen him asleep he’s hanging upside down. Is this normal? He seems fine when he wakes up.”  And sure enough once she posted this, someone was there with helpful advice: “Budgerigars like to sleep high in their cages. You might try putting a small sleeping perch or shelf/roost close to the top of his cage to see if he prefers it.   I prefer shelves for sleeping and I prefer them to be fairly small and one-per-bird so if you have multiple birds they won’t fuss and fidget for position on the same perch. Obviously if you currently just have one budgerigar alone in a cage that is not as much of a concern but IMO you should still build out his cage as if he is going to have a roommate someday, because he probably should.”   What a hoot – this budgie expert fancies the birds will be better sleeping on shelves for heavens’ sakes!!  and has obviously never seen them in the wild or even a small flock in a large zoo or bird park – because they DO jostle on perches and branches, constantly, with a whole lot of soft chattering going on.  It’s probably the pecking order thing that needs every bird to get in their right position before the group can calm down.  Shelves indeed.  I could add here I had budgies once and they loved the little swings we had in the cage.  Trees blowing in the wind kind of motion?


Then the new budgie owner wondered: “Should I mist him? Is bathing critical ?”  and a more experienced owner responded : “Definitely – I mist my birds with warm water and they love it! You can mist them daily or a few times a week – it helps keep their skin and feathers healthy. When you mist Sweetie, just mist in the air above his head; not directly at him. See how he likes it that way first, so it isn’t so traumatic.”

And the response demonstrates Kaylene’s anxiety for all this care and responsibility: “I have a mister, must try it out soon. I’m sure he will run away from it, so I’ll only mist him a little bit at first.”  Like any other new carer of a little young life, she must have been somewhat calmed by this advice: “Regarding mist baths, spray into the air and let it waft down on him to  get him used to it. Be persistent and give him time. If he is scared of the mist bottle, let him slowly get used to seeing it from across the room, then successively closer to his cage until he is comfortable around it.”  Shades of Dr. Spock or a modern parenting magazine,  LOL.


The chat forum produced this one, too:  “Kiki, my parakeet has taken up drumming, rat-a-tat on a cardboard box. Almost every day. Are little drums for parakeets available? ”    Someone responded:  “LOL 🙂  she needs a friend to sing to her drumming 🙂  ” 


But, back to the bird importing process Mick and Erica had started but then just let lapse.  Within a couple of days of their arrival in Montevideo, they were visited by very worried customs officials demanding to immediately inspect (and possibly impound) Bobby the cockatiel – and they took some convincing that after all the bird did not come with them.  Of course, Mick and Erica hadn’t notified customs this import wasn’t going to happen after all – why would you?  I guess the customs people believed the bird had been smuggled in to get round the paperwork and costs.   Clearly, once a bit of paper is in the system here, it’s on the record and difficult to remove.   But I’m not going to inflict bureaucracy stories on you in this post –  like the 9 hours it took to get a duplicate driver’s licence, or the incredible difficulty we had changing something on our fixed line phone account because someone hadn’t entered my husband’s ID# on the account years before, leaving the original subscriber’s ID# in place.  That man died several years before we came along, and despite that we’d been paying the monthly statement that always came addressed to us, in the end it needed a paralegal with good table thumping ability to sort that one out.




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