September 2, 2010

What To Do If Your Parrot is a Biter

Have a problem with your parrot biting you? You are not the only one. I have had three different parrots who enjoyed biting the crap out of me. Learn to look for what kind of mood they are in before handling your bird.

If their irises are mere pinpoints, if their wings are jerking a bit, if their head and neck feathers are puffed out, or if they are chatting angrily to themselves, stay away. I have avoided many bites just from watching their mannerisms before handling them.

There are a number of reasons that parrots will bite you. View the video playlist below and read the articles provided about this problem behavior in parrots so that you can prevent bites and regain your parrot's trust.



Additional reading in various publications (try requesting via interlibrary loan):
  • Athan, Mattie Sue. "Beyond Biting," Bird Talk, 16 (Sept. 1998): 62-71.
  • Blanchard, Sally. "Biting: Getting Past the Fear," Pet Bird Report, 9 v. 2 (Feb. 2000): 6-10.
  • Blanchard, Sally. "No More Biting Birds," Bird Talk, 9 (Oct. 1991): 109-115.
  • Blanchard, Sally. "Parrot Psychology: Cheeky Grey Cheek," Bird Talk, 6 (Mar. 1988): 26.
  • Blanchard, Sally. "Parrot Psychology: Minimize Biting Behavior," Bird Talk, 17 (June 1999): 68-69.
  • Blanchard, Sally. "Stop That Screaming!, Nippy Fits, Do You Dislike Your Bird?" Bird Talk, 12 (Apr. 1994): 118-123.
  • Blanchard, Sally. "Why Birds Bite," Bird Talk, 11 (Mar. 1993): 68-72.
  • Chamberlain, Susan. "The Big, Bad Bite," Bird Talk, 23 (Jan. 2005): 26-35.
  • Davis, Chris. "The Biting Bird," Bird Talk, 12 (Jun. 1994): 32-38.
  • Davis, Chris. "Heart to Heart: Why Does My New Bird Bite," Bird Talk, 20 (May 2002): 22-23.
  • Doss, Joanie. "Biting the Hand That Feeds Them," Bird Talk, 13 (Oct. 1995): 106-109.
  • Dorge, Ray. "10 Ways to Avoid Bird Bites," Bird Talk, 15 (May 1997): 80-83.
  • Micco, T. & M. "Why do Birds Scream and Bite?" Bird Talk, 4 (Apr. 1986): 25.
  • Moustaki, Nikki. "Turn Down the Volume," Bird Talk, 20 (Apr. 2002): 50-59.
  • Thornton, J. "Taking the Bite Out of the Bird," Bird Talk, 6 (May 1988): 16.
  • Wilson, Liz. "Take the Bite Out of Biting," Bird Talk, 19 (July 2001): p. 30-39.

August 29, 2010

Brotogeris: The International Diplomat

by Howard Voren

For the Indian cultures of Central and South America, having a pet bird for the children to enjoy is almost as easy as plucking fruit from a tree. With such vast resources, the choices are endless. One would tend to believe that the choice would vary according to locality or tribal custom. The interesting thing is that regardless of the country or the tribe, the choice for a starter bird is almost always the same: a parakeet.

Here in the United States, the word "parakeet" conjures a completely different image than in the jungles to our south. Here, one immediately envisions the budgie. There, when someone says the word parakeet, he is talking about one of the representatives of the group of small parrots known as Brotogeris. Measuring about 7 inches from the tops of their heads to the tips of their tails, these little Latin diplomats are loved and cherished as pets throughout their range.

Although they are small, they have great presence and can always steal the show with their clown-like antics. Regardless of which type you choose, when hand-raised, they have the perfect personality to charm anyone into realizing the joys of having a bird as a companion.

Housing and Diet

The Brotogeris' small size and relatively wide bodies allows the use of some of the smaller parrot cages that are available. This is assuming that the bird will be spending quite a bit of time sitting on top of and climbing around its domicile.

Its diet should consist of a high-quality cockatiel seed mix or one of the pelleted diets as the mainstay. This should be supplemented on a daily basis with a variety of freshly diced fruits and veggies (don't forget the greens). It's worthwhile learning which foods they like best. These clever characters can easily be taught all types of tricks for treats.

Species

Depending on the book you consult, Brotogeris come in about eight different varieties. Most carry names describing the coloration differences that allow them to be differentiated from their fellow ambassadors in neighboring countries.

The most widely distributed form, and the one that was imported in the greatest numbers in the early days of mass importation, was the canary wing (Brotogeris versicolorus chiriri). This little bundle of joy is bright green and flashes a bright canary-yellow patch of color on the upperside of its wings. This type has the largest range, including the vast majority of South American countries.

Literally thousands of these were imported from Paraguay, where the indigenous Guarani Indians call them "chi-ri-ri." This name comes from the call that they make as the flocks fly through the trees. In accordance with this, the subspecific scientific name chosen by the Scientist who first described them to the rest of the world is chiriri. Although they were all wild-caught, once they were separated from their "buddies" and had their wings clipped, they quickly became tame and affectionate pets.

During the same time period, small quantities of the canary wing's closest look-alike were also imported. This was the white wing (B. versicolorus) from Eastern Peru and Ecuador. With its wings closed, it shows a yellow patch that is just like the canary wing's. The bird is an overall duller shade of green but flashes a big surprise when it opens its wings: The yellow on the wing is replaced by pure white as the colored wing patch moves toward the tip of the wing. White is a very rare color in New World parrots. This bird was always relatively rare in aviculture but is now beginning to gain a small foothold. This is due to the introduction of new bloodlines into aviculture from a wild flock in South Florida. Like the canary wing, it was also released from imported shipments but in much smaller numbers.

The second type of Brotogeris to be imported in large numbers was the grey cheek (B. pyrrhopterus) from the Pacific coast of western Peru and Ecuador. This bird's overall pastel greens, blues and grays make it look a world apart from its cousins.

Grey cheeks were not only the most divergent in coloration, but were also the first Brotogeris in modern times to be imported exclusively as hand-raised babies. These birds were harvested seasonally from the nests of their wild parents and hand-fed until they were old enough to export. Due to this, the grey cheek is the bird that is responsible for the vast popularity that the entire family enjoys in the pet trade today. Unfortunately, grey cheeks have not proven to be reliable breeders, and since importation has ended, they have become difficult to find.

The next best-known member of the group is the orange chin (B. jugularis). This bird is the family representative throughout Central America. These highly intelligent and gregarious clowns have bright-green body feathers with a bronze-brown patch of color on the sides of their wings. True to their name, they sport a bright-orange patch of feathers under the lower mandible.

Those that were imported came in from Honduras and were all hand-raised. Unfortunately, most importers were only interested in the highly valuable yellow-naped Amazons that were being collected from the same areas. They chose not to take the health risk of bringing in these relatively inexpensive birds with the yellow napes. Due to this, only a few shipments of several hundred birds each were imported during this short time period. Fortunately, several breeding facilities, including my own, are producing them regularly on a yearly basis.

Quite similar in appearance to the orange chin is its Bolivian cousin, the cobalt wing (B. cyanoptera). They do not have the same rich green coloration on the body, but this is more than made up for with the cobalt-blue coloration displayed when they open their wings. Imported in very small numbers during the early 1980s, most of the birds wound up in the hands of bird breeders. Although this bird has a foothold in several breeding facilities, it will be a while before there are sufficient numbers to reroute them from the breeders to the pet trade.

The rarest of the "available" members of this clan is the golden wing (B. chrysopterus) from Surinam, South America. These birds have an unusual deep dark-green body coloration that is different than the green seen on any other New World parrot. They are highlighted by a bright-orange patch of color on their wings when in flight. As with all the other members of the family, they are incredibly entertaining and affectionate pets. Although this bird has proved to be difficult to breed in most aviaries, we at the Institute have been lucky enough to have several pairs that produce regularly every year.

The remaining two members of this group are the plain color (B. tircia) and the tui (B. sanctithomae). The plain color is a bird from Brazil that was never imported. As its name implies, it lacks the flash of color that all the other members of the group have somewhere on their bodies. The tui, on the other hand, was imported many years ago from Colombia. This bird looks like a miniature yellow-fronted Amazon and makes a marvelous pet. It is probably the most highly sought-after bird of the group. Unfortunately, during the time that they were imported, there was very little interest in captive-breeding. Due to this, they have all but disappeared. There are still a few pairs in competent hands, and we are all hoping for the best.

Howard Voren in the founder and director of the Voren Research Institute for Psittacultural Science and has bred several species of Brotogeris. Article originally appeared in the 1996/97 Birds USA. This is copyrighted material, reprinted with the author's permission. This article may not be reprinted without written consent from the author.

Brotogeris: The Masters of Adaptation

by Howard Voren

If any New World parrots could be called the "masters of adaptation," it would be those of the genus Brotogeris. Whenever you travel through Central or South America, the representatives of the parrot family that you are almost guaranteed to experience are those from this unique group. Their high visibility stems from the fact that they enjoy flying in large flocks and soar as a group through any areas that have stands of large trees.

"Not so unusual," you say. Well, it is if the stands of large trees are in parks in large cities. These are the only parrots that seem to pay no attention as to whether the trees in which they play and feed are in the city or in the jungle.

As long as there is still a supply of seeds, fruits, berries or blossoms, they will continue to return to their favorite feeding sites, day after day. The general rule that "if people move in, the parrots move out" has been largely ignored by these little wonders.

Flock Behavior

Although individually they are small enough that they could never attain the description of being noisy. As a group of 100 or 200 they can more than attract your attention with their excited chattering.

I will never forget that during one of my trips to Central America I spent 10 minutes staring incessantly upward into the foliage of a 100-foot-tall ficus tree. I could hear the chatter two blocks away, but I couldn't see them. All of a sudden, like a huge green cloud, they burst out of the canopy all at once and flew off to another large tree a few blocks away. They chattered as rapidly as they flew. They were oblivious to the fact that they were in a major metropolitan area. After all, at the 100-foot level, there was little concern regarding us humans.

Habitat

Brotogeris have found a niche and held on successfully in almost every Central and South American country. A group of escapees have even "colonized" in and around a metropolitan area of South Florida, called Coconut Grove. As well as they get along in the presence of humans, they do as well or better in uninhabited areas. All seven species of this small green parrot are common throughout most of their range.

Brotogeris have also shown their talent for versatility in the fact that they are one of the only members of the parrot family that has adapted to more than one type of nesting habitat. They not only test in tree hollows, as do most all other psittacines, but they will also create their own nests as an alternative when other hollows are not available. The most common place for this alternative nest is an arboreal termitarium (a termite's nest in a tree).

In Central and South America, there are termites that will build nests in trees. These appear as large brown mounds of paper mâché, sitting in the crook of a tree limb. The birds will excavate tunnels and make nesting chambers in the center of the termite mounds. They will lay their eggs in their "custom-built" nesting chambers. The Brotogeris are also the only parrot-type birds I know of that have been rumored to, on rare occasions, have females sharing their nests with one another.

Size, Color And Availability

Brotogeris are all quite similar in body size. Although their length ranges from 6½ to 9 inches, the bulk of the differences are in the length of the tail.

Plain parakeet. The longest species, the plain parakeet (Brotogeris tirica), has the longest tail; it measures one half of the bird's body length. As far as I know, this bird is either quite rare or nonexistent in American aviculture.

Unlike all of its cousins, it lacks a highly colored area on its body. This highly colored area is what has lead to most of the common names given to members of this group. Because of this the bird is called the plain parakeet. It is very common is eastern Brazil where, in true Brotogeris fashion, it not only populates the open country but also the large parks and botanical gardens in the big cities.

Orange-chinned parakeet. The species that has the most northerly range is called the orange-chinned parakeet (B. jugularis). The small bright-orange patch of feathers on its upper mandible is what has given this member its name. Orange chins also have a stronger yellowish tinge to the green feathers of the breast than other members of the group. Their range extends from southern Mexico, south through Central America into the South American countries of Colombia and Venezuela.

Although they have a very long range, the majority of those that were imported into the United States were from Honduras. They were never imported in large quantities. Those that were imported were taken from their nests as babies and hand-fed until independence. Because of this, they made such wonderful pets that most of them never resurfaced into the breeder trade. The few that were set up for breeding are producing well, but their production falls very short of the large demand. They are an old favorite that has now become quite difficult to obtain.

Grey-cheeked parakeet. The one member of this group that was hand-raised in the greatest quantity for export to the U.S. was the grey-cheeked parakeet (B. pyrrhopterus) from Ecuador and Peru. A large area of light gray on the cheeks is set off by a beautiful blue-green coloration on its head.

Literally tens of thousands of these birds were imported from Peru. In fact, during the "heyday" of their importation, they were commonly called Peruvian grey cheeks. It was not uncommon for shipments of up to 1,000 birds to land in Miami, Florida, from Lima, Peru, to be quarantined in USDA-run facilities. As with all legally imported birds, they were quarantined for 30 days before they were released to the pet trade.

Because they were hand-raised before they were exported from Peru, they made excellent pets. At one point in time, they were, by far, the most popular pet bird in America next to the budgie and the cockatiel.

For a few years before their importation was ended, waiting for the Peruvian grey cheek season became a yearly tradition for pet-bird retailers. Unfortunately, this species has failed to maintain itself in captive-breeding programs. As the importation era slips further and further into the past, they are becoming more and more difficult to find.

Canary-winged parakeet. The bird most commonly thought of when one thinks of this group is called the canary-winged parakeet (B. versicolurus chiriri). The scientific name of this subspecies, chiri, comes from the name that the indigenous Amazonians gave to the bird. "Chi-ri-ri, chi ri, chi-ri-ri" is a very accurate rendition of their chattering call as they fly through the jungles. Having a range that involves the majority of South America, they were by far one of the most commonly imported birds into the U.S.

Its outstanding color characteristic is the canary-yellow patch of color that it sports on its wings. This bird carried several different popular names in the U.S. pet trade. Among them were "bee bee" and "pocket parrot."

Although it was imported in the largest numbers, most of these numbers were brought in before there was an interest in captive propagation. In short, when they were available, no one cared to set them up for breeding. Because they were wild-caught rather than taken from the nest and hand-raised, they never developed the reputation for pet quality that the grey cheek and the orange chin maintained. Now that the entire group is more fully appreciated, there is a new demand for them as pets. Until recently, it was very difficult to obtain good specimens for breeding purposes. Almost no one was breeding them, and those who were still around were too old to be used in a breeding program. In a unique turn of events, the birds that are now being used to populate American breeding farms so hand-raised babies can be had for the pet trade are captured from wild flocks that have established themselves in Florida. This is also true of the well-known but relatively rare white-winged parakeet.

White-winged parakeet. Very similar to the canary wing, the white wing subspecies (B. v. versicolurus) differs in having the majority of the large colored area of its wing white instead of yellow. They are duller green in body coloration than chiriri and still show yellow as their patch of wing color when their wings are closed. When they open their wings for flight, however, a large impressive area of white is displayed. This was a bird that was always very rare in American aviculture until recently. There is now an established wild flock of these in South Florida. Thanks to this, American aviculturists are getting a second chance at establishing this unusually colored bird.

Cobalt-winged parakeet. This one member of the family that is the most commonly misidentified is the cobalt-winged parakeet (B. cyanoptera). Although it is named for the extensive area of blue coloration on its wings, it also has the orange "chin" coloration of the orange-chinned parakeet.

Although its range extends from southern Colombia and Venezuela, south to northern Bolivia, those that were imported into the U.S. were from Bolivia. This bird was never imported in large numbers. The greatest percentage of those that came into the U.S. were sold to those who wished to breed them; however, some did go to the pet trade. Those who are lucky enough to have them in their homes as pets are usually under the misconception that they have orange chins, not cobalt wings. One easy method for determining the difference is the coloration on the head. Only cobalt wings will have yellow feathers around the nostrils.

Golden-winged parakeet. The rarest from the standpoint of numbers imported, is the golden-winged parakeet (B. chrysopterus). Although they are commonly from the area of Brazil, in and around the Amazon River, the ones that are here in the U.S. were imported from Surinam.

Their name stems from the bright, golden orange patch of feathers on their wings. This brilliant color is highly visible when they are in flight. Their overall body coloration is a very unusual shade of dark green. This shade of green is never seen on any other Central or South American parrots. At the Voren Research Institute, we have made a concerted effort to establish this uniquely colored bird. We now have 20 pairs that include the offspring of our original group of 15 unrelated birds.

Tui parakeet. By far, the most highly sought after by connoisseurs of the group is the tui parakeet (B. sanctithomae sanctithomae). These delightful, little birds look like miniature yellow-fronted Amazon parrots. They are a beautiful bright green in body coloration and have a large patch of yellow that covers the forehead. The tui is distributed along the entire length of the Amazon River as well as its tributaries. This bird is the favorite childhood pet of the tribal peoples that live along the Amazon. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, before there was the requirement of quarantine in the U.S., these birds were imported in fair numbers. Unfortunately, this was a time in history, when there was no interest in breeding Brotogeris in captivity. Shortly after this, the countries that were permitting their export banned all exportation of birds. At present, the bird is almost nonexistent in the U.S.

Master aviculturist Robbie Harris from California has been lucky enough to obtain a few birds and is making a valiant effort to re-establish them in captivity.

The entire family does well on a seed-based diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. We feed sprouted beans along with a "cockatiel" seed mixture. They also get diced carrots, apple and corn. We dust these items with wheat grass powder (green food supplement) and an all-inclusive vitamin and mineral supplement. This diet has kept them strong, healthy and productive for many years.

Pellets can also be considered if you don't have the time to feed them a varied diet. They are not only very hardy birds, they also have the ability to be quite long-lived for their size. I was personally acquainted with one that lived to the ripe old age of 35 years.

Whether you would like to have them as a lifetime companion or as a breeding investment, sharing your home with members of the Brotogeris family is a rewarding experience.


Reprinted with permission.

Howard Voren in the founder and director of the Voren Research Institute for Psittacultural Science and has bred several species of Brotogeris for the last 10 years. Article originally appeared in the May 1997 issue of Bird Talk. This is copyrighted material, reprinted with the author's permission. This article may not be reprinted without written consent from the author.

August 28, 2010

The Grey-Cheeked Parakeet and Its Family

by Robbie Harris

The ever popular grey-cheeked parakeet is part of a genus of birds called Brotogeris. This group has seven species, with the grey cheek now being the most popular.

More than 30 years ago, the bee-bee parrot (also known as the orange-chinned parakeet) was the member of the Brotogeris genus that most people sought out as a pet. Bee bees were offered for sale in most pet shops, and even today, people over the age of 70 are still calling me looking for bee-bee parrots. This bird was a very popular little pet back in its time. The orange-chinned parakeet also goes by the name of the Tovi parakeet, but the bee bee nickname is the most common name used for this bird.

Many years later, over a decade ago, a new little bird was imported here into the United States. These cute little birds stole the hearts of almost everyone who came into contact with them. The birds would beg for human attention, practically screaming, "Hold me, hug me, love me!" For years, the import stations would sell out quickly--many times in just a couple of days. The name of this charming import was the Grey-cheeked parakeet.

The grey cheek imports were hand-reared babies, and that is the only reason they came into the country so tame. Grey cheeks are far from naturally tame birds. A wild-caught adult bird can be just as nippy and feisty as a wild lovebird imported grey cheeks were very young babies that were hand-reared in Ecuador and Peru. For years, the chicks were hand-fed right here in U.S. quarantine stations by employed hand-feeders. Babies were hand-fed a baby food formula two to three times a day until they were able to eat solid foods on their own.

The general care and breeding of all Brotogeris is the same. All the birds in this family make excellent pets when purchased as very young hand-fed babies. The most commonly available is the grey cheek, followed by the canary wing, the Tovi, the cobalt wing, and the golden wing. Until very recently, these were the only Brotogeris being bred in the United States. Now, the Tui parakeet--the most beautiful to me--is being bred here, too (by me). These birds will not be available as pets for many years; aviculturists must establish pairs of them for future breeding. Establishing breeding pairs first and selling pets second is very important for all uncommon species.

Some of the young and adult Brotogeris will tame with much patience and time, but nothing can compare to a hand-reared baby. These by far make the best pets. Grey cheeks and their relatives are highly intelligent, which has contributed to their popularity as house pets. They are very bold, and even though they are only 7 to 8 inches long with a weight of 50 to 60 grams, they will challenge a parrot three times their size.

Members of the Brotogeris genus often become very attached to their owners. Their chattering voices can become loud at times (this happens more frequently with grey cheeks than with the other species). A single bird kept as a pet, however, is usually not very noisy. Most birds learn to vocalize because their new owners run to pick them up or remove them from their cages at the first sound of a peep, thinking, "How cute, he's calling me." Soon, the bird learns to expect attention when it calls. If the bird is ignored, it just continues to scream louder and longer, hoping someone will hear and come to play with it like they used to do. Remember, birds, like all animals and people, learn by association. Take your pet out to play when it is being quiet, never when it is being noisy. Don't teach your bird to call you, and you could end up with a quieter pet.

When purchasing a young, weaned bird, try to be sure of its age. Once the babies of most Brotogeris are fully feathered and weaned, they resemble their adult parents. If you are a novice with birds, you may find it difficult to determine the true age of your fully feathered pet; many young and older birds look very much the same. Healthy baby Brotogeris are feathered by the time they are 7 weeks of age. The most important thing is to buy your bird from a reliable source, whether it's a breeder or pet shop.


Grey-cheeked Parakeet (Brotogeris pyrrhopterus)

The most common of all Brotogeris, the grey cheek has also been referred to as the pocket parrot, the orange-flanked and the orange-winged parakeet. This brightly colored green bird is paler on its underparts. The gray chin, forehead and cheeks are what give this bird its name. The primary coverts are blue, and the crown is bluish. The grey cheek is the only Brotogeris with a bright-orange patch on its underwing coverts, which sometimes can just be seen as a touch of orange on the shoulder tips. When a grey cheek lifts its wing, the large orange area can clearly be seen.

Very young chicks are easy to identify by their prominent black beaks. The black-colored beak will soon turn to the horn color of an adult, usually by the time the chick reaches 6 months of age. Range: Western Ecuador and northwestern Peru


Canary-winged Parakeet (B. versicolurus chiriri)

This is a bright apple-green-colored bird, lighter colored on its underparts. A large band of bright canary-yellow color appears on the secondary coverts. This, of course, gives this bird its common name. There is a slight tinge of blue to the flight feathers. I often see canary wings offered for sale as domestic babies. Range: Parts of Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina


White-winged Parakeet (B. v. versicolurus)

This bird, the nominate race of its species, differs from the canary wing in many ways, almost so much that it seems hard to believe they are just different subspecies rather than entirely different species. First of all, the white wing's green color is darker and slightly more olive-colored. The white-winged parakeet also has a canary-yellow color on the wing and a large patch of white as well. With this bird's wings folded, the white often does not show. White wings also have less facial feathering around the beak and eye areas.

My son Larry has a domestic white wing for a pet, which I raised. This little bird just adores him and will fly to him when he calls her. Larry plays with her as if she were a toy. She'll lie on her back and stand on her head, and stay in that position until he stands her back upright. She has complete trust in him. She also speaks a few words that were not taught to her, things she heard and picked up. Her favorite word is "Larry," which she yells when he is not around. Range: Parts of Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru


Orange-chinned Parakeet (B. jugularis)

Back in the 1950s, 1960s and even the 1970s, it seemed like anyone who knew anything about a bird knew what a bee-bee parrot (also known as the Tovi parakeet) was; these birds were commonly kept as pets. Many were brought in the country and tamed for pets. They are mainly a bright-green color with lighter shades of green on the underparts. A bright-orange spot can be seen right under the lower mandible, which gives this bird its common name. A large yellow patch can be found on the underwing coverts. There is a blue tinge to the crown, lower back, rump, thighs, and under the tail and flight feathers. Range: Areas of Mexico, Columbia, and Venezuela


Cobalt-winged Parakeet (B. cyanoptera cyanoptera)

Like the orange-chinned parakeet, this bird has an orange chin spot. The forehead is yellow, and the crown is a bluish color. This birds earns its common name from the wing flights and primary coverts, which are a bright cobalt blue. The central tail feathers also have blue, and the underside of the tail is a yellowish green. The overall color is a dark, almost olive, green.

Back in 1983, I received the first U.S. breeding award from the American Federation of Aviculture for breeding the cobalt-winged parakeet. Since then, I've bred large numbers of these beautiful birds, with my third generation now producing young. Range: Part of Venezuela, Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia


Golden-winged Parakeet (B. chrysopterus chrysopterus)

This bird gets its name from the small orange patch on its outer primary wing coverts. A brownish-orange chin spot is present just under the lower mandible. The forehead has a band of dark brown. The main color of this bird is a very dark shade of green. The crown has a blue tinge, as do the cheeks and flights. This is the shortest Brotogeris, at about 6 1/2 to 7 inches, and the stoutest. Range: Areas of Venezuela, Guiana, and Brazil


Tui Parakeet (B. sanctithomae sanctithomae)

This beautiful bright-green bird has a forehead that is yellow, and this yellow extends to the crown. It looks very much like a small 7-inch version of the yellow-crowned Amazon parrot.

Most Brotogeris have a light-colored beak when mature, but the Tui has a very distinctive chestnut-colored beak. The wing flights are a bluish green, brighter blue on the primary coverts. A tinge of blue can be found on the nape, cheeks and undersides of the wing flights.

My young chicks, when just feathered, had dark eyes. As they grew, now more than 6 months of age, their eyes have lightened. When mature, the iris is a glowing golden color. All other Brotogeris have very dark eyes.

Most books state that there is no breeding of this species in captivity. I am breeding these birds and hope to get breeding pairs well established. The adorable chicks are a real challenge to retain for breeding stock; they would have made beautiful pets. I am resisting this temptation, however, to create and establish large numbers of breeding pairs before I ever consider them suitable for the pet market. Range: Areas of Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia


Plain Parakeet (B. tirica)

This bird is also known as the all-green parakeet, with this title describing the bird's basic overall color. The plain parakeet lacks the color of other Brotogeris. A bluish tinge is on the hind neck, mantle and underside of the tail. The upper back and wing coverts have a brownish tinge. This bird is not available in the United States. A blue mutation is part of a bird collection in Brazil. Range: Brazil

Brotogeris Diet

A good diet with a variety of foods is very important for these birds to help them maintain excellent health. An improper diet can result in vitamin deficiencies that lower birds' immunities toward diseases.

A well-balanced diet for Brotogeris must contain a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Many diets on the pet market today are called complete diets--such as pellet-type diets. As nutritious as these foods might be, Brotogeris need fresh fruits and vegetable in their daily diet. Even if the manufacturers of pelleted diets insist their foods are complete, please offer fruits and vegetables along with the pellets. My birds have done very well on their diet for 20 years now. The following is what I feed my breeding birds as well as my pets.

As a staple food, I offer a seed mix containing a medium-size sunflower seed, safflower seed and a parakeet mix (containing 42-percent canary seed). This food is available to my birds at all times. A good cockatiel seed mix should work just fine for pet grey cheeks or other Brotogeris. Included in their dietary needs is fresh clean water and a mineral block. The mineral block I use is the all-in-one mineral block that contains grit, oyster shell and minerals. Each day, various fruits and vegetables can be offered to your birds. Keep in mind different individual birds prefer different things. The various foods I offer are apples, oranges, peas (fresh or frozen), corn (fresh or frozen), beets, carrots, and greens (spinach, collards or Swiss chard). These can usually be found year round at your grocery store. Additional foods, when in season, are also good to include. These foods include grapes, cherries, plums, pears, bananas, peaches, squash, papaya, and sweet potato (baked and cooled). Other nutritious items include multi-grain wheat bread and breakfast cereals.

Never feed avocado. I know of many birds that have died after eating this fruit. Never use spoiled or overripe produce. To ensure that no insecticides remain, make certain all fruits and vegetables are thoroughly washed before you offer them to your birds. Also purchase a good bird vitamin and lightly dust it on fruits and vegetables at each feeding.


Housing

A simple, safe cage--like one for a budgie or cockatiel--will do just fine for a single pet grey cheek or any other Brotogeris. If using a cockatiel cage, make sure the bars are spaced close enough together so that the bird cannot get its head between them. Many birds injure themselves or worse by getting their heads caught.

Playgrounds with toys and various foods make great play areas for pet grey cheeks. Be sure to supervise your curious pet when it is out of its cage. Grey cheeks are known to get themselves into mischief, so keep a close eye on your pet. If enough toys and treats are kept on their play areas, it helps keep these energetic parrots from wandering off. Many good, healthy treats are available at pet shops, and they should keep your pet happily entertained.

Other interesting treats that seem to amuse my birds are different types of breakfast cereals. Trix now comes in different colors and shapes that seem to generate interest from birds. Other fun cereals come in O's, such as Cheerios.

Breeding

Both sexes of Brotogeris species look alike, so picking pairs can prove difficult. I have all my birds surgically sexed by a competent veterinarian who specializes in birds. Yes, problems can arise from surgical sexing, and a bird can be lost, but this is very rare. I suggest that people do not surgically sex their pets, but have the sex determined by other methods available, such as DNA and feather chromosome analysis.

Sometimes the hens seem more petite in the head and face, and the males may be a bit larger in size. Keep in mind this, too, is not always true when picking out birds; there are many large hens and some very small males.

In the wild, Brotogeris nest in termite mounds found in trees. Aviculturists are unable to come up with these mounds in captivity, so we use the next best thing: wooden nest boxes. I line my Brotogeris nest boxes with a soft type of cork that is used for ceiling and wall covering. This cork comes in 12-inch square tiles. I can easily break these tiles into any size when working with them. I attach the cork lining with a nontoxic glue, such as a white school glue.

At the bottom of the nest box, I place a 2- to 4-inch layer of white pine shavings. The birds will toss out any or all that they do not want inside, so don't worry if your Brotogeris thinks you added too many shavings and send them flying everywhere.

I breed and house only one pair of birds per cage. Quarreling can and does happen when two pairs occupy the same cage. These birds are very capable of killing one another when fighting over territory, so keep this in mind when setting them up for breeding. I live in Southern California where the weather is somewhat mild all year. My birds do well outdoors all through the year. In areas where the weather is good, these birds do just fine outdoors, but they will breed well indoors too. I have seen people breeding grey cheeks right in their living rooms with all the family commotions going on. These grey cheeks seemed to feel right at home and went ahead with their own business. When these birds are ready to breed, there is no stopping them.

I have had very young pairs go right to nest and produce young even before they were a year old. I set up my breeding pairs close together so they can see one another. Grey cheeks remind me of the old saying, "monkey see, monkey do." If one pair starts breeding, many times the other pairs follow and do the very same thing. This type of behavior can send the whole colony to nest, so sometimes it is a good idea to set up individual pairs close together within sight of each other.

The average clutch size is four eggs, but they can lay as many as seven. Usually, however, they will not raise that many on their own. If there are large clutches, I step in and help out, usually by removing some of the older chicks for handfeeding. Many times I have even raised all the chicks from day 1, hatching them in my incubator.

I feel an incubator is a must for anyone who owns breeding birds--even one pair. Many incubators are very inexpensive, costing under $150. One life saved will more than pay for that incubator. I use the incubators put out by Lyon Electric. I run at least six of them at all times during breeding season, hatching eggs as small as a parrotlet's and as large as a big macaw's. When incubating Brotogeris eggs in an incubator, I can candle the eggs in just four days and see the embryo developing (I use the M.D.S. probelite). But when candling eggs under a pair, it could take close to two weeks before I can see if the eggs are alive.

Many Brotogeris do not start incubating their eggs until the last egg has been laid. They may look like they are incubating when they actually are not. Usually an egg is laid every other day, so the complete laying process could take almost two weeks.

Don't discard any eggs until you are absolutely sure the eggs are no good. I have known too many people who broke open eggs that they thought were no good because of the length of time they were in the nest box, only to find a live under-developed chick inside. Incubation is about 26 days from the time the hen starts to sit and actually incubate her eggs. Candle yours eggs about one week after the last egg was laid to be sure of what is happening inside of them.

Most of my Brotogeris, which are set up outdoors all year, start to breed in late winter or early spring. Most usually lay one clutch per year. A few will lay two clutches per year, and on very rare occasions, three times per year. Birds set up indoors may breed anytime they please, even nesting numerous times a year. Remember, each pair is different and has its own individual personality.

Sometimes, owners of grey cheeks become upset when their cuddly pets become aggressive and nippy. If this happens, it is usually an indication of sexual maturity and the birds' desire to breed. Instead of getting rid of their pets like some owners do, these people should buy mates for their birds and supply them with nest boxes.


Hand-Fed Brotogeris Pets

Hand-fed Brotogeris make excellent pets. When raising Brotogeris chicks, it is best to remove them from the next box for hand-rearing between 2 to 3 weeks of age. If the parents raise them all the way to weaning, the chicks may not end up tame, and too much work may be necessary to tame them into sweet, trusting pets.

Handfeeding them at about 3 weeks of age is easy. You can make your own formula or buy a good commercial formula. Many different brands are offered in pet shops. For grey cheeks, as well as any of the other Brotogeris, I would be sure to add some baby food fruits and vegetables. A couple of different varieties are available at grocery stores, and you can add a very small amount to the formula at each feeding. Applesauce, peas, green beans, corn and sweet potato are just a few that may be good choices to add. Add one or two types of fruit or vegetable per feeding.

All hand-reared Brotogeris make excellent pets. Grey cheeks are the most sought after of the Brotogeris because their availability has made them popular. Many people became owners of imported, handfed grey cheeks unexpectedly when they walked into a pet shop to browse. These tame birds just begged for attention, and before the unsuspecting person knew what was happening, he or she became a new bird owner. Soon the word spread that the grey cheek was the only bird to own as a pet. Well, this is just not true. There are lots of really nice birds out there, but the key thing to remember is that they should be hand-fed and tame. Make sure the bird is tame when you get it. You should be able to handle the bird at ease without getting nipped.

There are other Brotogeris besides the grey cheek that are being bred and make just as nice and wonderful pets. Canary-winged and Tovi parakeets are often offered for sale and make great pets when hand-fed. Cobalt-winged parakeets are rarely available, but when they are, they, too, make excellent pets.


Importation Ending

We as birdkeepers and breeders need to be aware of bird-related issues in our world that change quickly. New regulations concerning animals are being drafted all the time, and imported birds that some of us took for granted may soon be unavailable.

A few years ago, new regulations were put into affect that would no longer allow the importation of baby birds unless they were eating on their own, requiring no handfeeding at all during their quarantine stay. All imported birds had to be completely self-sufficient. The day of the real baby grey cheek as a pet may soon end unless they are domestically reared in larger numbers. Most of the grey cheeks imported were still young and tame, because they were hand-reared in their country of origin.

Now there has been an even newer regulation that has just gone into effect pertaining to grey cheeks. This has stopped all imported grey cheeks from entering the United States. Now, anyone wanting a tame grey cheek is totally dependent on grey cheek breeders. The most unfortunate thing about this situation is that there are very few bird breeders keeping and breeding grey cheeks and other Brotogeris. Something must be done quickly to set up pairs for future breeders to enjoy. Right now, there are still large numbers of grey cheeks in the United States. Pairs can still easily be put together. Soon, however, it may be next to impossible to procure these birds.

Look at the very popular bee-bee parrot, a formerly popular member of the Brotogeris group that has practically disappeared. There were large numbers of these birds at one time too. Now it takes some effort to find even one for sale. This is what could easily happen to the grey cheek if people do not start obtaining them and creating true pairs for breeding.

Soon, if not already, the famous grey-cheeked parakeet will be very difficult to find--especially tame sweet babies. Regulations to stop all birds from entering our country may soon be imposed. With all the deforestation, very few birds may be left on earth at all. Domestic breeding of birds is a must!

I can remember telling people that when importation closes, the price of grey cheeks will soar. Well, that time has finally come. The shortage of grey cheeks here may not be felt for some time because of the large numbers that were imported in the past few years. But the number of available baby grey cheeks has now been cut drastically.

Yes, they do take some work and patience to breed successfully, but believe me, they are well worth the effort. These birds should not only be kept as pets but bred as well to assure a future supply. If this does not happen, they may disappear for good.

Article originally appeared in the March 1993 issue of Bird Talk. This is copyrighted material, reprinted with the author's permission. This article may not be reprinted without written consent from the author and Bird Talk magazine.

August 27, 2010

Grey Cheeks are Great

by Robbie Harris

The popular little 8-inch grey-cheeked parakeet has captured the hearts of millions of bird fanciers as well as impulse buyers who just happened to walk aimlessly through a pet shop one day with no idea that they would become happy grey cheeks owners.

Most people know this bird (Brotogeris pyrrhopterus) by its common name, the grey-cheeked parakeet, but it is also called the orange-flanked parakeet, the orange-winged parakeet and the pocket parrot. The main color of this small parrot is bright green; its underparts are a little paler. The forehead, cheeks and chin are gray, and the large, bright orange patches on the underwing coverts are the basis for two of its alternative names. The orange color just peeks over the tips of the shoulders as the bird sits on a perch with both wings held close to its body, but when the bird lifts its wings, the bright orange patch is clearly visible. The wing coverts are blue, and the primary feathers are a greenish blue. There is also a bluish tint to the crown.

Very young grey cheeks are easily distinguished from adults by the upper beak, which is gray to black in color. The younger the bird, the blacker the beak. Usually by the time the young bird is 6 months old, the beak has lightened to the horn color of the adults. After the beak changes color, it is hard to determine the age of the bird. Young grey-cheeked parakeets are usually just as colorful as the adults.

Wonderful Pets If Hand-Fed

Grey cheeks inhabit a small range in western Ecuador and northwestern Peru. When they were first introduced into the United States in large numbers (less than a decade ago), they were very inexpensive. Thousands were imported, and most of them were completely tame and sweet, costing from only $25 to $35 each. A good friend of mine who retails birds purchased 150 grey cheeks the first time they were imported in such large numbers. Within five days, he sold every one of those virtually unknown little parrots, and customers were begging for more. Needless to say, the quarantine station quickly sold out of all the grey-cheeked parakeets in stock. To this day, when grey cheeks are imported, a good many of them are spoken for even before the birds are released from the month-long U.S. quarantine.

Most people are unaware that grey cheeks are not naturally tame. I have seen many adult imports that were just as nippy and feisty as a wild lovebird. Tame, sweet imported grey cheeks are birds that have been hand-reared. The South Americans remove the chicks from the nests and accustom the young birds to being handled and fed by humans. Thousands are collected for future sale to foreign bird dealers. Often the young grey cheeks are not even cracking hard seed when they arrive in quarantine stations. These grey cheeks are fed cooked cracked corn and/or soaked monkey biscuits. Sometimes grey cheeked chicks have to be hand-fed by quarantine station employees.

Some bird breeders have allowed the parents to fledge their own young because the people thought that hand-feeding grey cheek chicks would be a waste of time--that the chicks would be tame no matter how they were raised. Most of these domestically bred, parent-raised chicks became completely wild, nippy birds.

Choosing and Keeping a Pet

When purchasing a grey cheek for a pet, start with a young, tame bird. This types makes the best pet because it is playful and may learn to talk. My son's pet grey cheek will come to him no matter where he is in the house. When he calls Peppy, she flies right to him. She also returns to her cage on command. Peppy trusts Larry enough to lie still on her back in his hand until he tells her to roll over. This little parrot has the personality of a larger parrot yet is a compact size. I have also noticed that my grey cheeks seem to be extremely intelligent.

Any cage suitable for a cockatiel will do just fine for a pet grey cheek. Perches should be 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter; dowels too large or too small could cause foot problems. Natural branch perches are always welcomed for climbing and chewing.

Grey cheeks love to play on open playpens with treats and safe toys. They should, however, be supervised when out of their cages because they can be very mischievous and wander off, possibly damaging furnishings or endangering themselves.

Grey cheeks, like all other birds, need a well-balanced diet to be healthy and strong. Our grey cheeks are offered parakeet mix, safflower seed and medium sunflower seed. If more convenient, a good cockatiel mix is suitable. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a vital part of the diet that all our grey cheeks love. Each day they receive a bowl of various soft foods such as sprouted seeds, apples, oranges, peaches, bananas, grapes, peas, corn (fresh or frozen), spinach, grated carrots or beets, or whatever is in season at the time. Grey cheeks, young and old, also relish monkey biscuits soaked in water or fruit juice. Some grey cheeks even enjoy meal worms as a special treat (which are a good source of protein).

To illustrate how unusual some of their personalities can be, I had a pair of grey cheeks who began dumping the contents of their soft food bowl when their first clutch of chicks hatched. Even when I refilled the bowl, they turned it over. For days, I kept offering them the soft food mixture over and over. Then one day when I scooped some of the soft food in their bowl, the pair ran over to it chattering with excitement. They immediately started to pick out all the peas--that particular scoop of soft food contained extra peas. This time they did not tip over their bowl. The next time I fed them, I put extra peas on top of the soft foods, and again the pair was excited, and the bowl remained right-side up. I soon figured out that when this particular pair has chicks in the nest, they demand extra peas, and if not given their way, the soft food goes flying. Once the chicks are removed for hand-rearing, this pair acts "normal" again, content with my usual mixture of soft foods.

Breeding Grey Cheeks

Grey-cheeked parakeets can be bred in cages or aviaries. They are very hard to sex because they are not sexually dimorphic. In some cases, males appear to have slightly larger heads and beaks than females, but this is not necessarily reliable. The most accurate way to determine the bird's sex is to have the bird surgically sexed. Keep in mind that surgical sexing is an operation that can be more risky with smaller birds, so find an experienced vet to perform this procedure. In small birds, the dosage of anesthetic can be critical. Grey cheeks seem to recover best if they are kept warm while they are waking up from the surgery. I advise against having a special pet surgically sexed just out of curiosity. The risk is justified only if you intend to breed the bird.

When setting up pairs of grey cheeks for breeding, give each pair its own cage or aviary. Breeding pairs can become quite ill-tempered when getting ready to go to nest and may even kill other birds in the same enclosure. I've had even the tamest pair of grey cheeks become vicious toward me, lashing out to attack while I am trying to feed them or clean their cage. Our pairs use standard parakeet nest boxes with a layer of pine shavings on the bottom. There is no set number of eggs per clutch. A clutch can be as small as three eggs and as large as eight, but our normal clutch size averages four to six eggs. (I had one hen that laid an egg every other day for about six weeks; this is not normal!)

The incubation period is 25 to 26 days, but some fertile eggs do not hatch for more than a month after they are laid. Some birds seem to start incubation only when they are almost finished laying all the eggs in the clutch. The hen may stay in the box with her newly laid eggs, but she may not sit tightly until at least three or more eggs have been laid. Usually the hen does most of the incubation with the male standing guard just outside the box. Both parents tend the chicks when they start to hatch.

Because the hens do not start to set until they have laid three or more eggs, it is not unusual to have the first three eggs hatch on the same day. The chicks are tiny, smaller than baby budgies, but they grow rapidly. At 12 days old, their eyes are open, and within two more days, dark quills can be seen developing under the skin. This is the time to start pulling babies for hand-feeding. Because grey cheeks have such large clutches, the nest can become quite crowded, and the parents must work very hard to feed all those hungry mouths. Hand feeders have learned that it's best to first take the largest two or three chicks, leaving the rest with the parents, then take a couple more several days later.

Grey cheek chicks are a pleasure to hand-feed if the parents have done a good job for the first two weeks. Before that, they are almost too small to handle and, unfortunately, they are almost impossible to foster. After the two-week point, they eat eagerly and grow rapidly, and even before they are feathered, they are showing the bold, affectionate personality that endears them to pet owners. Although they are small, their nutritional needs are the same as other South American parrots, so grey cheeks will thrive on a baby formula that has been successfully used on larger parrots.

At about 4 weeks old, feathers start to pop through the quills on the tail and wings, soon followed by color on the rest of the body. If left with their parents, chicks fledge at about 6 weeks old, with both parents continually feeding the chicks outside the nest box until they are eating on their own. By the time they are 9 weeks old, the babies are usually weaned and eating mostly soft foods.

When the chicks are eating on their own, they should be removed so the adult breeders can return to nest. Most of my pairs have only one clutch per year, but there are some that double- and even triple-clutch. One excellent pair raises three clutches a year, averaging four chicks per clutch, between February and July.

Breeding Indoors or Outdoors

The grey cheek is a very hardy bird housed outdoors in Southern California weather. An indoor pair can be kept outside (weather permitting) as long as they are properly acclimated to the weather conditions. Late spring to summer, when the evening temperature does not drop below 55 degrees Farenheit, is usually the best time to move birds outdoors. Our birds are housed outdoors year-round and survive weather as hot as 118 degrees in the summer and as cold as 28 degrees in the winter. Of course, they have shade and shelter to protect them from the elements.

The grey-cheeked parakeet will hybridize with most other Brotogeris species, given the opportunity. One of our grey-cheeked hens who was temporarily housed with a male canary-winged parakeet laid a fertile egg, but the egg did not hatch. I have heard of other grey cheeks that were paired with other Brotogeris, however, producing hybrid chicks.

More people should be encouraged to set up pairs of grey cheeks for breeding. I know of several people who have set up their pairs of grey cheek pets by attaching a parakeet nest box to their cage in the living room. Many of these birds have gone to nest and raised chicks right there in the midst of normal household activities. Two pet birds can become a family. Their cute chicks can be sold or given as gifts to friends or family, thereby spreading the joy and pleasure of owning these precious little characters.

In the past couple of years, relatively few grey-cheeked parakeets have been imported into the United States. Most of the grey cheeks hatched in the world end up as single pets to spend their lives in cages. The wild population is dwindling. When there are no more imports, we will have to rely on domestically bred grey cheeks. We must start now if we are to assure that grey cheeks can still be available, popular pets in the next decade.

Article originally appeared in the November 1987 issue of Bird Talk. This is copyrighted material, reprinted with the author's permission. This article may not be reprinted without written consent from the author and Bird Talk magazine.

More About Grey Cheeks

by Robbie Harris

The grey-cheeked parakeet is the most common of all the Brotogeris. When first introduced into the U.S. in large numbers in the late 1970s, they were very inexpensive (costing between $25 to $35 each). Thousands were imported here with almost all of them completely tame and sweet. A good friend of mine, Frank Lanier, of California, purchase 150 newly imported grey cheeks. This was the first time he had seen this type of bird offered for sale. He said as he reached into the cage (in the quarantine station), a number of these little birds rushed toward him. He thought at first they were coming to attack, but instead they were all pushing toward him for attention and affection. he did not know that all of these imported grey cheeks had been hand-fed. He said they covered his arm like a swarm of bees. It was very hard to pick which one he wanted because they were all tame and sweet. Within five days, he sold every one of those virtually unknown parrots, and his customers were begging for more.

Within days, the quarantine station quickly sold out of all the grey-cheeked parakeets in stock. As the years went on, thousands more entered the U.S. Unfortunately, very few, considering the numbers, ended up as breeders. This shortage will only continue unless more people set them up for breeding now. This past year, I raided a couple dozen, with demand a much higher price than back in the 1980s. With all the changes of U.S. regulations, the cost of grey cheeks have increased tremendously. This is because there is a much higher demand than supply of these birds. I see baby hand-fed grey cheeks priced as high as $600 each in pet shops now. This demand is unreal for these birds! The other Brotogeris are less expensive.

Most people are unaware of the fact that grey cheeks are not naturally tame. Many hear the word grey cheek and instantly think of a sweet, tame little bird. Let me clarify something--not all grey cheeks are sweet, little things. I've seen the sweetest babies in quarantine stations that had just been imported from Peru. But, on the other hand, I have also seen wild-caught imported grey cheeks that were just as nippy and feisty as wild lovebirds. The sweet grey cheeks that were imported were birds that had been hand-reared. The natives would remove the chicks from the nests and hand-feed them for future sale to foreign bird dealers. Thousands were collected to be exported out of South America.

Many times the young grey cheeks were not even cracking hard seed yet when they arrived into the U.S. and were placed in private (government-controlled) quarantine stations. Those grey cheeks were fed cooked, soft cracked corn and/or soaked primate biscuits. Sometimes there were even really young grey cheek chicks in quarantine that still had to be hand-fed by the station employees. I was told that the losses of baby grey-cheeked parakeets in quarantine were almost none. They were quite hardy in quarantine and took to hand-feeding very well.

I've talked to some bird breeders who successfully raised a clutch of grey cheek chicks and allowed the parents to fledge their own young. They believed that hand-feeding grey cheek chicks would be a waste of time because they would be tame no matter how the chicks were raised. Many of these newly weaned, domestically bred and parent-raised chicks were completely wild and nippy. So, if a grey cheek is wanted for a pet, not for breeding, be sure that the bird is already tame.

Very young grey cheeks are easily distinguishable from adults because the upper beak is black. The younger the bird, the blacker the beak. Usually, by the time the young bird is 5 months old, the beak is the same color as the adult. Once the beak changes color, it is difficult to determine the age of the bird. My young, feathered grey-cheeked parakeet chicks are usually just as colorful as the adults.

The tame, hand-reared chicks make wonderful companions to their human owners. They are so intelligent that many times one must stop and wonder if there is a little person inside. For a pet, either sex is equal in talking ability, companionship and entertainment.

My son had a pet grey cheek that came to him no matter where he was in the house. When he called Peppy, she flew right to him. She also returned to her cage on command. She was a real character. She liked to chase his wallet, a game she came up with years ago. He would put Peppy on the floor or on a table. He'd keep moving his wallet, and no matter how fast, she would run after it to bite it. He would hold on to the wallet, and just as Peppy ran up to bite it, he'd life up the wallet and move it a food or so. Peppy kept chasing it to give it that nip. Every time she did get it, she seemed so proud of herself.

Peppy, like many Brotogeris pets, learned to lie on her back in the palm of a hand until she was told she could roll over. Peppy has since passed on, but my son has a pet white-winged parakeet about 10 years old now that is just as wonderful of a pet. She, too, will lie on her back in his hand, and she is just as playful and loving.

Article originally appeared in the June 1998 issue of Bird Talk. This is copyrighted material, reprinted with the author's permission. This article may not be reprinted without written consent from the author and Bird Talk magazine.

Pockets Full of Pleasure

by Robbie Harris

Brotogeris is the Latin name for a group of small parrots admired for their tameness and affection toward their owners, as well as their intelligence and pet qualities. More than a half century ago, "bee bee" parrots filled the hearts of many pet bird lovers. These loving pets were actually the orange-chinned parakeets, also known as Tovi parakeets. The pet shops always had an abundance of these birds. Young and adults were quickly snatched up by bird lovers for their ability to be easily tamed into wonderful, intelligent family pets. Tame Brotogeris act like large parrots in compact form, and they crave attention from their owners.

As the years went on, many other Brotogeris were attached with the common name bee bee parrot--such as the canary-winged and white-winged parakeets. Even cobalt-winged parakeets were once released from a quarantine station labeled and priced as bee bee parrots.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the grey-cheeked parakeet came into the picture as the pet bird to have. Thousands were imported, with almost all of them being tame and sweet. Within days of a shipment of grey cheeks arriving in the United States, the word got out, and the demand was bigger than expected. They were all sold before they were even released from the 30-day quarantine stations. From then on, the demand was big and constant; orders for these birds were coming in from all over the country.

Even now, the demand is great and popularity is still growing. Grey-cheeked parakeets quickly earned the nickname "pocket parrot" as they became household pets because they love to climb inside their owners' shirt pockets and stay there, just poking out their heads. I even heard of someone who walked into a pet store and a grey cheek jumped onto her shoulder and quickly found her shirt pocket and climbed in. The name pocket parrot was soon attached to other birds as well. I have heard people call most Brotogeris pocket parrots, and even parrotlets have been called pocket parrots. But, just as a bit of trivia, remember that the true pocket parrot is the grey-cheeked parakeet.

One can only have high hopes that these wonderful birds will not disappear in the U.S. with many people so enthusiastic about Brotogeris. However, less and less are available following the importation restrictions of CITES. In order to maintain this species in captivity, we breeders must put our efforts into these birds, or they will no longer be available in the states.

Back in the late 1980s, I published a Brotogeris newsletter called Grey Cheek and Company. I continued it for some years, but it became too much work and quite costly for a single person to run. It created lots of phone calls and letters containing questions that need to be answered. My book Grey-cheeked Parakeets and Other Brotogeris (published by T.H.F.) appears to now be out of print due to not enough demand.

In the 1980s and into the '90s, the spread of grey cheeks was like an epidemic. Once a person had one, many of his or her friends and family were soon struck with the uncontrollable desire to own one (or two, or three). Many people took it upon themselves to get two for household pets. With a good diet and a roomy cage containing a nest box, grey cheek lovers hoped that the two would soon have more little grey cheeks. Many have had such luck.

Appearance and Distribution

The following birds, listed by their common names, are part of the genus classified as Brotogeris: grey-cheeked, canary-winged, white-winged, orange-chinned, cobalt-winged, golden-winged, tui, and plain parakeets. The members of Brotogeris are distributed from southern Mexico down through central South America.

They range in length from 7 to 9 inches, somewhat similar to lovebirds in size, but more slender. Brotogeris have full-feathered wedge-shaped tails varying in length (some have short tails, and other species have longer ones). The wings are long and pointed, which enable them to be swift fliers.

All these birds are mainly green in color with many having other colors on the forehead, chin, primaries and under the wing coverts. The beak is a similar shape to an Amazon parrot (but much smaller, of course) with the upper mandible deeply notched in a hook-like fashion. Their small, naked eye ring makes them resemble the conure family. Both sexes are alike, and the young babies closely resemble the adult birds.

Many Brotogeris species are overly abundant in their native lands. Thousands had been brought into the U.S. quarantine stations in the past, but this importing practice is over. The first and most frequently imported Brotogeris was the orange-chinned parakeet (more commonly referred to as the bee bee parrot). They were well known as extremely good pets. Later, other Brotogeris were imported in large numbers into the U.S., such as the grey-cheeked parakeet and canary-winged parakeet.

Sometimes stragglers of the less common Brotogeris were in these large batches. Many years ago, I received a phone call from a pet store owner to come down to the shop to see the unusual bee bees that had just come out of quarantine. They were not bee bees--they were cobalt-winged parakeets.

After carefully examining the birds, I purchased four that I hoped to be two pairs. I chose them correctly (using the pelvic bone method). Soon, one pair nested, rewarding me with the U.S. First Breeding Award for this species. Years later, I acquired a few tui parakeets that came into quarantine; that, too, gave me another U.S. First Breeding Award.

Personality

Brotogeris are quite bold, even though they are compact parrots. One may challenge a parrot two to three times its own size. Many learn to talk quite clearly and can be taught tricks. Some grey cheeks will make a cooing sound when very content, usually when they are resting quietly on their owner's shoulders. Some have also been successfully "potty trained" by being instructed to go back to their cage with a keyword, or by the owner saying a keyword letting the bird know it is all right to do its thing.

I know of a baby female grey cheek that I sold for a pet that learned to speak more than 30 words. Not only would she speak, but she learned to associate words with meanings very much like many African grey parrots learn to do.

The grey-cheeked parakeet, as well as most any Brotogeris, can make an excellent family or single-person pet. Most birds bond so closely with their owners that they are considered family members.

Sometimes problems arise when a bird first receives a lot of attention, and later is neglected when the newness wears off. Remember, they love attention, so try not to forget that they need time with their owners. Because they are very intelligent and playful, these birds can become bored when just left in their cages. They can start the nasty habit of feather plucking.

Keep them occupied with safe toys and bird treats, such as chew sticks or a cracked open walnut. Rotate toys and playthings so they do not get bored. Chewable toys can help keep their beaks in proper shape. Some birds do tend to develop overgrown beaks, and an experienced avian vet or bird groomer can easily trim the beak if needed. Also, supply a water bowl large enough that they can bathe at will.

Sometimes their chattering voices can become an annoyance. But, a single bird kept as a pet is usually not too noisy. The main thing here is to not teach your bird to be a screamer. Many people, without realizing it, teach their bird that screaming gets them attention. Never reward your bird in any way if it is screaming. Do not take it out because it is noisy or offer a treat just to quiet it down. Take them out of their cage for play time only when they are quiet.

Brotogeris Species

The following are descriptions of the various Brotogeris. Some birds can be smaller or larger, depending on their sex or the individual bird itself. Mature males do, at times, seem to be a bit heavier.

Orange-chinned Parakeet

The 7-inch orange chin (B. jugularis) is also commonly known as the tovi parakeet and the bee bee parrot. This bird is the true bee bee parrot. It is a small bird of 58 grams, m4erainly green in color, lighter on the throat, breast, undersides, and abdomen. The flights and tail feathers have a hint of blue. There is a blue tinge on the crown, lower back, rump, thighs, under the tail and flights. There is a bronze patch on the wing shoulder area. A distinct small orange patch can be clearly seen just under the lower mandible, giving this bird its other common name. The under-wing coverts are yellow. The iris is dark brown, the beak is horn-colored and the legs are a flesh-gray color. Both sexes look alike. There is one subspecies with a paler orange chin spot. Immature birds are similar to adults.

The orange chin inhabits parts of Mexico, Columbia and Venezuela. We have been fortunate to have some small shipments of orange chins imported to the U.S. some time ago. Years ago, they were being imported by the thousands, and most of these wild-caught birds were sold for pets. They could be easily tamed and made excellent house and family pets.

Golden-winged Parakeet

This stout 6 1/2-inch bird (B. chrysopterus chrysopterus) is a deep green, with a deeper shade on the back and wings. The crown has a bluish tinge with a brownish frontal band. The primary wing coverts are bright orange. A dull spot of orange-brown is on the chin. The iris is brown, and the beak is horn-colored. The feet are a pale yellowish-brown.

There are four subspecies, which all vary in color and/or size. An average weight is 65 grams. The four subspecies are B. c. chrysosema, B. c. solimoensis, B. c. tenuifrons, and B. c. tuipara.

White-winged Parakeet

This 9 1/2-inch white-winged parakeet (B. versicolorus versicolorus) is sometimes also referred to as the canary-winged parakeet or yellow-winged parakeet. This bird weighs about 65 grams and is mainly an olive green, with a tinge of blue surrounding the eyes, forehead, and upper parts of the cheeks. The outer primaries start off as blue-green with the remaining primaries white. The secondary coverts are yellow. Usually when the wings are held against the body, the white patch is not visible; only yellow can be seen. The legs are pinkish-gray, and the beak is horn-colored. The sexes are alike in appearance. Immature birds are similar to adults in color.

The true white-winged parakeet has bare facial areas (no feathering) around the beak and eyes, giving it an appearance of old age. Most of these birds available now have been hybridized with their close cousin (a subspecies) the canary wing; so, most birds available now have a well feathered facial area. Most also seem to be a bit more green as well because of the canary wing influence.

I find the white-winged parakeet's personality very similar to the grey cheek when it comes to hand-fed pets. Lately, I have seen many of these birds available in pet stores for moderate prices. They seem to be more available in large numbers in California and Florida. If one is interested in setting up any of these birds for breeding, now would be the time to get them before they disappear, and their prices soar.

Canary-winged Parakeets

This 9-inch, 60-gram bird (B. v. chiriri) is a subspecies of the white-winged parakeet, mentioned above. The reason I separated these two in description is because of distinguished differences in size, coloring and personality. Both are commonly called canary wings most of the time (and sometimes yellow wings). They are also wrongly referred to as bee bee parrots.

This species is slightly shorter than the white wing. It is brighter green, more like an apple green. The face of this bird is totally feathered--no bare facial areas as with the white wing. There is a slight blue tinge to the flights. A bright lemon-yellow patch highlights the greater wing coverts, giving this bird its common name. There is no white coloring on this species wing. These is one more slight larger subspecies that is less common in aviculture.

Grey-cheeked Parakeets

This 8-inch, 54-gram bird (B. pyrrhopterus) is also known as the orange-flanked parakeet, as well as the pocket parrot. Grey cheeks inhabit a small range in western Ecuador and northwestern Peru. It can be quickly distinguished from other Brotogeris by the bright orange-colored patch on the under-wing coverts. When the wings are being held against the body, only a small amount of orange can be seen peeking over the tops of its shoulders.

The main color is a bright green (paler on the underparts). The chin, forehead and sides of the face are pale gray, giving this bird its common name. The crown, primary coverts and primaries are bluish. The eyes are dark brown, feet and legs are pinkish, and the beak is horn-colored.

Both males and females are identical in color and size. Immature birds are very similar to the adults in appearance, with the very young having black coloring on the beak. This black sometimes remains for months until it fades to the adult horn color.

Tui Parakeet

The tui (B. sanctithomae sanctithomae) is a very attractive 7-inch birds that weighs about 58 grams. It is a bright green with a lighter yellowish-green on the chest, abdomen, under wings, lower back, and underside of the tail. The flights are bluish with a brighter blue on the primary coverts. There is a tinge of blue on the cheeks, nape and underside of the flights. A very bright yellow patch is on the forehead, making this species look like a tiny version of the yellow-crowned Amazon. The beak is a chestnut color. The iris is a glowing golden color, which is set off by the jet-black pupil.

Sexes are alike in color and size. Immature birds resemble adults except that their irises are dark in color. The subspecies (B. s. takatsukasae) has a yellow streak behind the eye.

Cobalt-winged Parakeets

This 7 1/2-inch bird (B. cyanoptera cyanoptera) is olive-green in color, with a darker shade on the back and wings. The forehead is a dull yellow just above the beak. The crown and nape have a blue tinge. The chin is marked with an orange spot. The primaries and primary coverts are bright cobalt blue, giving the birds its name. The upper mandible in horn-colored, darkening toward the tip. The eyes are dark brown, and the feet and legs are brownish-pink. Sexes look alike and weigh about 65 grams. Immature birds resemble the adults. There are two subspecies with some color variations.

I know many people who have these birds as pets, and they say they are excellent family birds and learn to talk. I love these birds. I have pairs set up that I hand-fed years ago, and I can still reach into the cage and pick them up without them attempting to bite me. They stay tame and sweet. They also make very good breeder pairs, usually producing clutches each year, whereas other species of Brotogeris may skip a year or two.

Plain Parakeet

This 9-inch bird (B. tirica) is mainly green, with a yellow tinge on the crown, cheeks and the underparts. There is blue on the flights and underside of the tail (with just a tinge on the hind neck and the mantle).

These birds are common in their native land, but there are only a few in the U.S. None were legally imported because of the strict exportation laws of Brazil, their country of origin. I have recently been told that the few plain parakeets in the U.S., government seized because they were illegally imported, have all died, except for possibly one bird. No pairs, to my knowledge, are available in the U.S.

The following combinations of Brotogeris have been produced in both captivity, as well as in the wild:
  • canary-winged parakeets with white-winged parakeets
  • grey-cheeked parakeets with orange-chinned parakeets
  • orange-chinned parakeets with cobalt-winged parakeets
  • grey-cheeked parakeets with canary-winged parakeets
  • grey-cheeked parakeets with white-winged parakeets
I am sure there are more combinations of the above, but those are the ones I have seen. It is best to put together only the same species when it comes to breeding Brotogeris.

Housing

Most any cage that is suitable for a cockatiel will do just fine for a pet Brotogeris. The cage bars should be close together. Too much space between the bars can lead to a pet getting its head stuck between them. Dowels that are 1/2- to 3/4-inch in diameter should be used for a grey cheek (too large or two small could cause foot problems). Natural branch perches are always welcomed for climbing and chewing by most grey cheeks or Brotogeris. If selecting your own branches off trees, be sure they are pesticide-free and nontoxic.

Brotogeris love to play on an open playpen with treats and safe toys at their disposal. All kinds of various safe toys can now be purchased in pet stores. Rotate different toys every few days, so your pet will not get bored with the same old toy. When out of their cages, these birds should be supervised; Brotogeris can be very mischievous and wander off, possibly doing damage to furnishings or even to themselves. Think of a pet Brotogeris as a child, and you should do just fine.

My readers would write in telling me all kinds of things about their Brotogeris. One lady wrote and told me her grey cheek, named Chicken Little, loved to play with wooden popsicle sticks. This bird is famous because some years back he did some professional modeling. Actress Isabella Rossellini did a shoot with Chicken Little for the publication Interview. But, since then, Chicken Little has retired and just prefers to live a pampered life (thanks to his owner).

Dietary Needs

A bird must receive a well-balanced diet to be healthy and strong. I offer all my birds a large variety of food in their diet. All my Brotogeris are offered the following dry seeds: parakeet mix, safflower seed, and medium-sized sunflower seed. If more convenient, a good cockatiel mix is suitable for Brotogeris.

I have found, when it comes to this family of birds consuming dry seed, that each bird is an individual as far as actually consuming the various seeds offered. For example, one grey cheek will eat only parakeet mix, another may prefer mostly sunflower seed and even another eats all types of dry seed. A diet of formulated pellets can also be offered.

Offer fruits and vegetables (washed thoroughly) for a well-balanced diet. When it comes to soft foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, all of my Brotogeris love them. I have found that almost all Brotogeris love apples. My birds received daily a bowl of various soft foods, consisting of sprouted seeds, apple, oranges, peaches, bananas, grapes, peas and corn (these can be fresh or frozen), grated carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, beets, spinach and other seasonal fruits and vegetables. A tip here: carrots, yams, and sweet potatoes are consumed with more relish by Brotogeris when they are quickly steamed or cooked, then cooled. It brings out the sweetness of these vegetables, and the birds seems to enjoy eating them better when lightly cooked.

I sprinkle a good avian vitamin and powdered calcium on fruits and veggies, especially for my breeding birds. Brotogeris also relish soaked (in water or fruit juice) primate biscuits. Just be sure the biscuits are fresh. They can become rancid and cause health problems for birds.

Birds, like people, need variation in their lives. Some Brotogeris even enjoy eating live meal worms as a special treat (a good source of protein), which can be purchased at local pet shops. Others like treats such as various bits of breakfast cereals or crackers. Most pet Brotogeris become part of the family and eat at the dining room table. This is fine as long as the "junk food" is kept to a minimum.

Here's a little story about one of my breeding pairs of grey cheeks that will show how unusual some of the personalities of these little characters can be! Each day, I would fill their flat glass bowl with the soft food mixture that I prepare daily for all my birds. This pair, like all the other pairs, would immediately devour their treats with delight. This pair went to nest, laying six fertile eggs and taking good care of their clutch. Upon inspection one morning, I found that three chicks had just hatched. The pair's bowl was filled as usual. The pair came over to the bowl and looked inside, and together instantly they flipped over the soft food tray, contents and all went flying out. I refilled it, and again it was turned over. This continued for days. I kept offering them the soft food mixture many times a day.

One day I scooped out some of the mixture of soft foods into their bowl, and a different outcome occurred. The pair ran over to the bowl chattering with excitement. They immediately started to pick out only the peas. That day, in that particular scoop of my soft food mixture, there were extra peas. This time they did not flip over their bowl. The next time I went out to feed them, I added extra peas on top of the soft foods. Again, the pair was excited, and the bowl remained right side up, I now knew that this particular pair wanted extra peas when they have chicks.

Breeding

It is hard to determine the sex of most Brotogeris by sight. In some cases, the males appear to have a slightly larger head and beak when closely compared to females, but this is not totally reliable when it comes to pairing birds up for breeding.

If you must know the sex of your bird, the most accurate way to determine it is by having your bird surgically sexed or DNA-sexed by a reliable vet. Keep in mind that surgical sexing is an operation. It can be a little more risky with the smaller types of birds, so please find an experienced vet to perform this procedure if surgical sexing is your choice in correctly determining the sex of your bird. Keep in mind that without knowing the correct sex for breeding, breeders could be wasting valuable time assuming they have a pair. Birds set up for breeding that are not of the opposite sex can become frustrated birds and begin to feather pick themselves.

(Note from site owner: The chest feather DNA test accurately determines the sex of the bird and is none-evasive. All you need to do is pluck 5 chest feathers from your bird and mail them to the lab you choose. (2010)

When setting up pairs of Brotogeris for breeding, each pair should have its own individual cage or aviary. Breeding pairs can become quite ill-tempered when getting ready to go to nest. A pair preparing to nest may kill any other birds (Brotogeris or other species) that are in the same enclosure with them at that time. I've had the tamest pairs of grey cheeks become terribly vicious toward me when they are thinking about going to nest. They lash out to attack me while I am trying to feed them or clean their cage.

If a pair of pets suddenly become a bit nippy, this is usually a sign that the pair is thinking about going to nest. It is natural for breeding pairs to become extremely vicious towards people during the breeding season. At this time, they become very territorial and protective of their home. A single pet bird can act very much the same way during breeding time; this aggressive behavior usually passes with just a bit of time and patience.

Grey cheeks or other Brotogeris do not have to be tame for breeding. Wild or tame birds will breed if ready to do so. It is alright to have other Brotogeris or other types of birds around in the same building or room. The main thing to remember is to put only one pair of birds in a breeding setup. However, I have heard of people who had some success with colony breeding canary-winged parakeets. I was successfully breeding two pairs of cobalt-winged parakeets in one enclosure, but after a year the birds starting fighting, and I feared that one might kill the other. The pairs were given their own cages. I feel that is the safest way to breed these birds--one pair per enclosure.

My pairs of Brotogeris use standard wooden parakeet nest boxes with a layer of pine shavings on the bottom. These birds are not known to build their own nests, but I have had pairs fill up their nest box with apple and orange peels, and other scraps found on the bottom of their cages, almost as if they were attempting to build a nest similar to a lovebird's. I have offered them branches with leaves, but they go untouched.

Most of my breeding pairs have a single clutch of eggs a year. There are some pairs that will double and even triple clutch in a year. Nesting is generally from February through July. Pairs may be housed outdoors, weather permitting.

There is no set number of eggs per clutch. It can be as few as one or up to seven. The incubation period for Brotogeris eggs is 25 to 26 days. I've had many fertile eggs not hatch for more than a month from the time the first egg was laid. Brotogeris seem to start incubating only when they are almost finished laying all the eggs in the clutch. The hen may stay in the box with her newly laid eggs, but many times she is only brooding the eggs, not sitting tightly until at least three or more eggs have been laid. Because of this waiting period of brooding eggs--not actually incubating them--incubation seems to be longer for this species. Start counting 24 days from the time the last egg is laid. I have heard of too many people breaking open eggs way too early to find live babies inside the eggs. So, be patient!

Usually, the hen does most of the incubation with the male standing guard just outside the box. Both parents tend to the chicks when they start to hatch. The chicks grow quite rapidly. At 12 days old, their eyes are open, and within two more days, dark quills can be seen developing under the skin. At about 4 weeks old, feathers start to "pop" through the quills, first in the tail and wings, soon followed by the rest of the body.

Chicks fledge at about 6 weeks old, with both parents continually feeding the chicks on the outside of the box until they are eating on their own. By the time they are 9 to 11 weeks old, they are weaned, eating mostly soft foods at first.

If you desire, domestically reared chicks can be closed banded. I use the same size leg band used for cockatiels. A closed band (no open seams in the band) can prove that the chick has been domestically reared and can also be used for identification (and age, if dated).

Once the chicks are eating on their own, they should be removed. Otherwise, they could disturb the adult pair, should the pair decide to return to nest. Chicks can be left with the parents until they fledge or can be removed for hand-feeding when young and still unfeathered.

The best age for removing the chicks for hand-rearing is at about 2 weeks old. Baby Brotogeris (unweaned) will bob their little heads up and down and make very loud "squeaking" noises. Once weaned, the loud squeaking stops. Hand-reared youngsters make excellent pets. I remove all my chicks for hand-rearing.

Medical Considerations

Some years back, there was some controversy as to problems occurring with some grey cheeks. At times, avian tuberculosis was found or suspected to be a problem with a few individual grey cheeks. Not all findings were lab tested; many were just assumed to be that problem. In all my years of owning and raising grey cheeks and other types of Brotogeris, I have never encountered avian T.B. in any of my birds. So, this finding is most likely presumed by some and is in no way any type of epidemic.

Here is my theory on this matter--again, this is only my opinion. In the 1980s, when thousands of grey cheeks were being imported, there were babies that were being hand-reared by natives as they sat in Peru awaiting transport. Now, keep in mind that these people were not hand-feeding the chicks with sterile eye droppers or syringes; they were feeding them by a method known as "blow-feeding."

Blow feeding is when food is chewed up by a person and "blown" into the hungry chick's mouth. Now, if there were people with medical problems, some of that close contact could pass disease to a young bird. Keep in mind, all chicks now available on the market are domestically hand-reared here in the States. I know of no person that would "blow feed" any type of parrot chick.

Another problem I am starting to hear about are problems arising from a poor diet. Some people insist on allowing their pets, because of them appearing to be so "humanized," to eat people food. The problem with this is not so much because it is people food, but because of the choice of foods allowed to be consumed, such as food high in fat and processed sugars. Brotogeris, like people, can suffer health consequences from eating such poor food choices.

Recently, a grey cheek owner had a feather problem with his very dear pet. They decided to run some tests and found that the pet had a cholesterol count of 600--normal is 160 to 180. The bird was put on a diet of better foods, and shortly after the cholesterol dropped to 325. High-fat diets of "people foods" can cause liver damage that sometimes cannot be corrected. This type of feeding can and will shorten a bird's life.

Common Brotogeris Accidents

For years, I've spoken to people about their pet grey cheeks and other types of Brotogeris. People have called and written about all types of accidents that occurred with their birds. I have heard of birds getting injured or killed by dogs or cats.

Other fatal accidents have been caused by pets in their cage left by window where the sun would shine in and give the bird a heat stroke; pets being accidentally stepped on; birds getting slammed by a door being closed; wandering pets chewing through an electrical cord; drowning in a toilet where the seat had been left up; a full-flighted pet landing on a hot stove, in a hot pot or in a kitchen sink full of hot water. I even have had people tell me how their pet ended up flying into an open freezer, and the door was shut not knowing the bird had flown in.

I must say the most common accident I hear of are people that sleep with their pets and roll over on them. Brotogeris like to crawl into a pocket or some tucked away small space. They may crawl underneath their owners to feel warm and secure. This is why this accident is just waiting to happen.

I once talked to a lady on the phone from midnight until 4 a.m. as she cried about the loss of her pet she loved so much. She told me she was a psychologist and was calling from the East Coast, (I'm on the West Coast). She could not sleep because she had just woken up to this terrible tragedy; she had fallen asleep on the couch and had rolled over on her pet. The bird was dead. She had my phone number and did not know who she could call, so she called me.

I had never spoken to her, and after that phone conversation, I never heard from her again. She did thank me for my time and comforting words. I hope I helped. This type of tragedy does happen so much; I hear about if often with all kinds of pet birds. Sleeping with your bird is not a good idea. I know how easy this is and can happen, for I was forever taking my daughter's bird out of her bed as she slept, but she has since broken this habit after hearing of all the accidents.

Most accidents can be prevented. Give some thought to ways your bird could be in possible danger and then correct the problems to help prevent accidents from happening; allow your bird a long, happy life. Brotogeris can be long-lived in captivity and have been known to reach their 30s. I received a letter from a man who told me his cobalt-winged parakeet had been in their family for 37 years. I own many types of Brotogeris around 20 years of age that are successfully producing young, are in good health and are looking great.

Article originally appeared in the June 1998 issue of Bird Talk. This is copyrighted material, reprinted with the author's permission. This article may not be reprinted without written consent from the author and Bird Talk magazine.