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I didn’t ask to be your pet.
You said you wanted me,
I was taken away from the world I knew,
Though not unwillingly.

I learned to trust the human hand,
With its gentle touch,
So patiently I waited for
The caress I loved so much.

I meant no harm that day I screeched,
I just wanted you to see
That some one lived behind those bars,
Thought that you had forgotten me.

Then the human hand I loved so much
Came through my tiny door,
But offered me no gentleness,
As it knocked me to the floor.

A feeling welled in side of me,
Like I had never known,
I felt frightened, hurt, confused and lost
Within the bars of my new home.

But patiently I waited for that hand to treat me right,
But it rarely came to bring me food,
And there were no toys in sight.

In boredom and loneliness,
In hunger and despair
I slowly ripped my feathers out.
But no one helped,
You didn’t care.

So I learnt to hate that human hand,
As it slammed down on my cage,
It held a brand new meaning now,
Fear, pain and rage.

And then one day a stranger came.
And to my great surprise
Gentle words came from her mouth,
And tears welled in her eyes.

But then the terror filled my heart,
For that human who had cried,
Opened up my tiny door.
And put those human hands inside.

I screamed in panic fear and dread,
As I waited for the pain,
That the human hand would give me,
As it slammed me once again.

But gently I was lifted,
From my prison, cold and bare,
But still I bit at those human hands,
In my terror and despair.

The new prison I was taken to,
Was somewhat different to my home,
Fresh food was all around me,
And toy friends to call my own.

And the human hands that touched me.
Brought on me no more pain,
And slowly as the weeks went by,
My ravaged feathers grew again.

And as the weeks passed into months,
I began to understand.
That once again I could begin.
To trust the human hand.

I'm old now, really very old.
But my memories are clear.
Of the gentle hand that soothed the pain,
From the hand I'd learned to fear.

I am tired now, really very tired,
Many years my life has spanned,
So I close my eyes for one last time.
Safe from harm in the human hand.



Avian Biotech International
PO Box 107, Truro, Cornwall TR1 2YR England.
Tele/Fax (44) 01872-262737 email: web:



Aspergillus - The genus Aspergillus includes a variety of related fungi, which cause aspergillosis. An important member of these genera is Aspergillus fumigatus. This fungus produces endotoxins which are generally responsible for the disease known as aspergillosis. Aspergillus species are common in the environment. Spores often become airborne in dry windy weather spreading from one location to another. Spores can enter an individual and develop in the respiratory system, lungs, eyes, and ears. Sick Building Syndrome is a condition caused by continuous fungal growth in areas of buildings and ventilation systems. Growth leads to the release of more spores. This can potentially leads to large-scale respiratory infections and distress associated with aspergillosis.

Aspergillosis can be fatal, especially to those with immunodeficiency. This opportunistic pathogen is common among domesticated and cage birds.
*Penicillium notatum and the antibiotic revolution.
Not all fungi are problematic. In fact some are vital in fighting numerous bacterial infections. In 1941 Albert Alexander had an infection at the corner of his mouth caused by the bacteria Staphylococci and Streptococci. Over time the infection spread to the rest of his face, eyes, and lungs. At the time, two scientists Howard Florey and Earnest Chain had just begun purifying a substance produced by the fungus Penicillium notatum that killed bacteria and was discovered by Alexander Fleming. Albert Alexander's doctor Charles Fletcher knew that Florey and Chain were looking to test this drug on a human volunteer, and so on February 1941 Albert Alexander became the first human treated with penicillin. Within 24 hours of his initial treatment his temperature dropped, his appetite returned and his infection began to heal.


Inhalation of conidia (spores) from contaminated feed, faecal material, bedding material and soil. The spores are often present in the environment and healthy unstressed birds are generally resistant to even high levels of spores. However, young and old birds, birds on antibiotics, and those birds whose immune systems are suppressed by surgery, reproduction, environmental changes, capture, shipping, or age are frequently infected.
Aspergillus can also infect the developing embryo by penetrating the egg while the embryo is developing. Infected eggs may develop a slightly greenish tint when candled. Well-developed lesions may appear on infected embryos after they hatch.


Symptoms range from respiratory distress, gasping, accelerated breathing, voice changes, abnormal droppings, emaciation, regurgitation, poor appetite, diarrhoea, anorexia, gout, increased thirst, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, dyspnea, neuromuscular disease, somnolence, lesions (yellow or grey nodules and/or plaques in the lungs, air sacs, or trachea; less often in the peritoneal cavity, liver or other sites).


Minimise stress and overcrowding. Provide proper ventilation. Reduce contact with mould or spore contaminated nesting materials. Prevent malnutrition with a proper diet. Make sure feed is properly stored and is free of fungal growth. Aspergillus spores may be present in corn and grain products as well as manufactured pellets or extruded food and may develop into fungal growth if conditions are favourable.


Antifungal treatment - Amphotericin, Flucytosine, Fluconazole & Itraconazole. Immunostimulants. Surgery may be required with certain localised Aspergillomas.


Tentative diagnosis can be made with clinical signs along with the absence of bacterial infection. A blood test showing an elevation in white blood cell count, mild anaemia, and an elevation in the monocytes also supports this diagnosis. X-rays can be taken on any suspect patient. A radiograph can reveal densities or nodules consistent with aspergillomas. Samples of the fungus can also be taken, and cultured in specially prepared culture media. Caution - Apergillus is a common environmental contaminant.
PCR and sequence assays to identify the presence of Aspergillus and identify specific strains.


When testing individual birds, a cloacal swab and throat culture is recommended. If the sample tests positive and clinical signs are positive, the bird should be placed in quarantine and aggressive treatment should begin immediately.

Environmental testing using swabs of aviaries, countertops, fans, air-filters, nest-boxes etc. is extremely effective in determining the presence of Aspergillus in the environment. Remember Aspergillus is found naturally in certain environments without causing any harm.



Biting is often a result of abuse, fear, lack of sleep, noise and confusion in the environment, improper handling, or the failure of the owner to read the bird’s body language. Some parrots’ alternately enlarge and retract their eye pupils just prior to biting. This is called "flashing" or "pinnin". Others flare their tails, raise the feathers on the neck or spread their wings as if to frighten an enemy.

Has your bird ever bitten you when you put your hand inside its cage? This is territorial biting. Your bird is programmed by nature to protect its cage and belongings from invaders. Avoid territorial bites by removing your bird from its cage before cleaning and replenishing food. Refrain from making eye contact with your pet at this time, as it may be perceived as a sign of aggression, causing your bird to act even more defensively. Teach your pet to step onto a proffered stick when it wants to come out of the cage. Raise the far end of the stick slightly, and the bird will seek the higher end, safely out of biting range of your hand.

Has your bird ever bitten you at the approach of another human? This is displacement biting and even occurs among birds themselves. A bird, trying to protect its mate, may first nip at the mate, then attempt to drive the intruders away. Never permit a bird prone to biting to sit on your shoulder. Don’t encourage biting by teasing your bird or jabbing fingers through cage bars. The Guide to Companion Parrot Behavior by Mattie Sue Athan will give you more insight into biting and other avian behavior issues.

Remember that your bird is an individual with a strong personality and natural instincts. The reasons for biting are numerous. Some of the more common situations are:

Displacement Biting

Has your bird ever suddenly bitten you at the approach of another human? This disturbing behavior is like a short circuit in your bird’s protective instincts. It’s called displacement biting, and can even occur among birds themselves.

A bird, trying to protect its mate, may first nip at the mate to encourage it to fly away to safety, then attempt to drive off an intruder. Encouraging other family members to handle your bird and to share responsibility for his bird’s care may help correct this behavior. Never permit a bird prone to displacement biting to sit on your shoulder.

Exploratory Biting

Many young hookbills have a tendency to be “beaky.” They explore with their beaks, sometimes chewing on fingers and other human body parts during these explorations. This can be painful, but it doesn’t mean your pet doesn’t like you. It’s just part of being an adolescent bird. Young birds usually outgrow this behavior as they mature and gain confidence.

Sometimes this “beaky” behavior is just the bird’s way of testing objects to be sure that they’re substantial enough to stand on. Discourage this type of biting by making your pet feel as secure as possible. Remain calm when the bird is climbing around on you. A stern “No!” or substituting a toy for your hand may be sufficient to distract a nippy parrot. If the behavior persists, some cage time may be in order.

Territorial Biting

Territorial biting sometimes occurs when you put your hand in your bird’s cage. Birds are genetically programmed to protect their nests from intruders. Psittacine birds can be quite territorial, especially when their hormones are active during breeding season.
Peabody, a half-moon conure becomes frenzied; screeching and dive-bombing anyone daring to touch his yellow food dish! His human companion keeps several sets of dishes, and replaces the empty yellow dish with a full one in a split second!

Avoid territorial bites by taking your bird out of its cage before cleaning and replenishing food. It is often preferable to allow the bird to climb out on its own, rather than to put your hand inside to bring the bird out. Socialize with your little buddy in neutral territory, away from the cage. Refrain from making eye contact with a territorial bird as this may be perceived as a sign of aggression.
Teach your pet to step onto a proffered perch when it wants to come out of the cage. Raise the far end of the stick slightly, and the bird will seek the higher altitude, safely out of biting range of your hand or arm. Don’t encourage biting by teasing your bird or jabbing fingers through cage bars.

Fear Biting

Fear of unfamiliar situations or people may precipitate biting. Such scenarios may include taking your pet to the vet or groomer, having a crowd of people at your home for the holidays, moving to a new home or even bringing in a new piece of furniture.

Does your bird nip you whenever the family dog enters the room? Is something in its line of vision frightening it? The sight of a kite hung up in power lines more than a block away once spooked my Amazons. I didn’t even notice it, but they sure did! Once I lowered the window shade so they could no longer see the flapping kite, they settled down. Get down on your bird’s level and look around. You may be surprised at what you notice!

Some birds have been abused in previous homes and biting was their only defense. In his previous home, my red-lored Amazon, Bogart was lured up a flight of stairs and kicked down the steps once he reached the top. Twenty-two years later, Bogart is still nippy, possibly as a result of this maltreatment. He doesn’t bite if I handle him when I’m alone, but another person in the room sets him off. He’s stick trained, so I just tote him around on a stick when other people are present.

Deal with fear biting by removing the source of the fear when possible, stick training your bird, learning which situations trigger biting episodes and avoiding the beak at those times.

Further reading: The Beak Book by Sally Blanchard.



When the morning sun clears the Amazon tree line in south-eastern Peru and strikes a grey-pink clay bank on the upper Tambopata River, one of the world’s most dazzling wildlife spectacles is nearing its riotous peak. The steep bank has become a pulsing, 130 foot high palette of red, blue, yellow and green as more than a thousand parrots squabble over choice perches to grab a beakful of clay, a vital but mysterious part of their diet. More than a dozen parrot species will visit the clay lick throughout the day, but this midmorning crush belongs to the giants of the parrot world, the macaws. Clay licks, or "collpas" in Quechua, are simply high concentration deposits of minerals that are hard to come by in the rain forest. For parrots and macaws they come in the form of riverbank clay deposits, but mammals sometimes gather around exposed soil in the ground, monkeys lick tree trunks with sediments and butterflies flutter about beaches where nutrient-rich liquids have evaporated. Clay licks are thus a widespread and not so uncommon phenomenon in the rain forest.

Without a doubt the most popular wildlife spectacle around Tambopata Research Centre, and the one for which Tambopata is the most famous for is the macaw clay lick, less then 300 meters from the lodge itself. This particular clay lick is a huge, 50 meter tall cliff of reddish clay that extends for about 500 meters along the west bank of the Tambopata River. Although many clay licks are known to exist along the streams and rivers of the Tambopata Candamo Reserved Zone, the one in Tambopata is not only the largest known, but also the only one where Blue-and-gold macaws are known to descend to eat clay. On many clear mornings of the year, literally hundreds of parrots and macaws flock to the lick putting up what has been described by several well travelled celebrities that have witnessed it as one of the world's great wildlife spectacles.

Macaws and parrots not only come to the clay lick to obtain the hard to find minerals that are only present in high concentrations on the lick's soil. It is also thought that parrots eat the clay to neutralize the effects of toxic fruits and seeds that they eat. Finally, some scientists hypothesize that macaws also socialize and exchange information as they gather around the clay lick. Even though descending to the ground exposes the birds to danger, hundreds of parrots do it on most clear days, creating a racket that is audible hundreds of feet away. As they congregate in the crowns of trees surrounding the clay lick, the parrots spend hours at a time screeching, squabbling, gurgling and purring at each other before they decide to descend to eat the clay. Once they are on the lick itself, they concentrate on grabbing choice spots from which to feast on the clay. This is until they sense danger, usually in the form of an eagle, at which point they will depart simultaneously in a spectacular explosion of colour and sound.

Six species of macaws and eleven species of parrots, parakeets and parrotlets come to the clay lick at Tambopata Research Centre:
Red-and-green, Blue-and-gold, Scarlet, Red-bellied, Chestnut-fronted and Blue-headed Macaws;
Mealy and Yellow-crowned Amazons;
Blue-headed, Orange-cheeked and White-bellied Parrots;
Dusky-headed, White-eyed, Cobalt-winged and Tui Parakeets and Dusky-billed and Manu Parrotlets.



Nutrition of Birds in the Order Psittaciformes: A Review
Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, 2001
© 2001 by the Association of Avian Veterinarians

Nutrition for parrots.pdf