May/June 2003 Magazine
There are many risks when people take their pet birds outside in the open on perches, or with them riding on their shoulders, as well as risks to aviary birds that are not well protected.
Pet owners don't stop to think about the many dangers in the immediate area. For instance, here in the Southwest, we have many different types of hawks and falcons flying during the day hunting for food, and owls at night. Also there are always loose pet dogs and cats, and in country areas there are coyotes and bobcats, to name a few.
One example of a hawk getting a bird was when a couple were sitting by their pool talking, when their neighbor's Blue and Gold Macaw flew up on the wall on their property. They knew who the bird belonged to and talked a while watching the bird. They decided they should go tell their neighbor where her bird was, when all of a sudden a big hawk swooped down, instantly broke the bird's neck, and began eating it on the spot!
Another incident was when one of our bird club members was walking to pick up her car where she had work done on it, with her pet Jardine parrot on her shoulder. A dog ran out barking, startled the bird who, with clipped wings, went to the ground, where the dog killed it.
Many times birds have been heard making a lot of noise screaming, only to find a hawk circling above, looking for easy prey. Some folks have had birds outdoors in movable cages, only to find the cages knocked over. Luckily the birds did not get loose when this happened. I know of others with aviaries that were not fastened down that had them knocked over and they came home to no birds...they flew away, or were gotten by a predator.
One person living in a cold climate reported all of his birds were indoors for the winter, in a glassed in aviary attached to his house. All the birds were screaming and flying crazily and when he went to investigate he discovered a large hawk flying outside and it actually slammed into the window trying to get his birds! The bird then flew to a nearby tree and watched his birds. Obviously the hawk was hungry, and he went after what he thought was easy prey.
Another report had a person placing a parrot outside in a cage, next to a lost bird's empty cage, trying to lure the lost bird home, when a hawk swooped down and picked up the cage with the parrot in it. It was too heavy for the hawk to get much altitude, so he eventually dropped the cage, and luckily the bird was not injured.
My outdoor aviaries are all completely covered on top to protect my birds from both weather and predators. From the roof down about 18 to 24 inches, we also have a covering to give the birds protection from the weather and also predators...as many birds, especially Ringnecks, love to hang on the wire up high. This is an invitation for an owl to come to dinner if this area is not covered. Most of ours are covered with a metal flashing, available at most lumber yards.
Some years ago I had 3 pair of Cockatiels in an aviary on my front porch, which was covered by the roof on the house. The aviary was up against a wall so it was quite secure. About 11 pm I heard a lot of noise out there so went out to check...the Cockatiels were flying in night fright. I put the light on and talked to them, quieting them down. Then I saw 2 of the males sitting on the floor. I went in and picked them up, looked them over, then turned them upside down, only to find each bird was missing an entire leg right up into the body!
They had obviously been hanging on the side of the wire up high when an owl came in and tried to get them...all it got was 2 legs, but it sure taught me a lesson in a hurry! No more flights without protection from the top down on all sides. The following day the one Cockatiel died from the stress...the other one still lives today as a wonderful pet.
More recently, we've had a Peregrine Falcon hanging around quite often for a meal. He managed to injure two of my English Budgies through the wire badly enough so they died. The Budgies just hang on, and don't fly away quickly. We ended up covering the outside portion of their flight completely with plexiglass, and the Falcon quit coming back.
So, be sure your birds are safe, whether pet birds or breeders, and take extra precautions to protect them from the many predators that are out there.
Winged Wisdom Note: Joyce Baum has raised animals and birds most of her life, and began raising parrots in 1987. She gives advice on BirdBreedersForum@Yahoo and at www.toolady.com. Joyce has written articles for the Asiatic Breeders Association and the Avicultural Society of Tucson. She is currently Vice President of both and also an AFA Arizona State Coordinator.
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Last update: August 1, 2003