Thursday, March 31, 2011

Female Parrotlet Odor

Can anyone tell me if female parrotlets have a distinct odor? I have a 2 year old female that emits a skunk like odor. Is this common?

Thank you.

Parrotlets, like all parrots do give off a musty order. In females it can be more pronounced if her hormones are in flux, she is breeding or during a molt. However, it is not a strong odor per se but some people are more sensitive to it. It is a genetic thing in people not something that has to do with the bird.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
Secretary International Parrotlet Society

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Parrotlet Health Questions

Hi Sandee,

I think you may be an answer to my prayer. In November 2009, my blue mutation parrotlet, Billy, was diagnosed with an enlarged liver, and was prescribed milk thistle and lactulose. I have been giving him this daily since that time. What else can I do. My vet says that this condition is primarily linked to his diet. My vet says he should be on pellets, but I disagree due to kidney problems seen in parrotlets, especially mutations. Can you suggest a good diet for Billy? Please be specific. I give him a variety of good fresh foods and vegetables daily, progrow birdie bread, and Kashi whole grain pilaf. He also gets a good seed mixture, (although most of his food intake daily is NOT seed), a few cantalope seeds as treats, and Goldenfeast Treat Petite.

I have really tried with this little guy, as I have lost a parrotlet in the past to liver problems. Am I hopeless as a parrotlet mom?

I have prayed so long that I be led to help with Billy, and then I saw you on facebook. Why didn't I think about you sooner? The person that knows everything about parrotlets.

Thank you for any information that you can share.

I'm praying that you folks on the west coast won't be affected by the nuclear waste from Japan.

Jackie, Trixie & Billy in South Carolina

Dear Jackie:

Thank you so much for your very kind email. That is very sweet of you to say. However, I will be the first one to admit I don't know everything about parrotlets - I keep learning every day. That's probably one reason I still keep them after almost 30 years because there is so much to learn.

I am so very sorry to hear about the problems with Billy. You did not mention how old Billy is but I am going to assume he is a fairly young bird - under 5 years of age. Age can be important when liver is involved. Older birds frequently suffer from liver problems and its probably much like the aging process in humans.

You mention Billy is a color mutation. Does the vet think this is a congenital problem? Although there has not been enough data available to make a conclusion, one always has to think about congenital or even genetic problems in color mutations. After all, they are abnormal birds to begin with.

Diet is the usual culprit in liver problems in younger birds. Generally it is blamed on too much fat in the diet although to be honest, I haven't really heard a lot of this in parrotlets. Parrotlets are generally good eaters of a variety of foods and not just 'sunflower seed junkies' the way other parrots such as Amazons or Cockatoos can become. I also find that most parrotlet owners are more willing to take the time to provide a varied diet. Its easier to prepare a couple tablespoons of food rather than huge bowls.

I have never been a big fan of pellets. Probably because I have been around longer than they have. They were created for one reason - the convenience of the keepers. They can also have the added bonus for some birds, again, largely cockatoos and Amazons, of reducing the fat in the diet and helping to reduce fatty liver syndrome in these birds. I am not aware of any studies that have been done on parrotlets in this regard. Furthermore, all pellets are made from seeds - ironically, either sunflower or corn. Corn is not a nutritious grain, it has too much sugar and it is not part of the natural diet of parrotlets. We know that a diet that has a lot of processed foods is not good for people and can lead to diabetes, heart disease, liver problems, stroke and high blood pressure. I don't eat processed foods myself and I don't feed them to my birds. I believe that birds, like people, should eat fresh, whole natural foods. My birds' diet consists of 70% fruit, vegetables, greens, grains, legumes, sprouted seed and egg food. The rest consists of a very high quality parrotlet mix that I have used for 30 years and gave to Volkman's Seed Company. You can get it through and it is called "Parrotlet Super".

I now have three books out on parrotlets. The most recent is called "The Parrotlet Handbook" and was published by Barron's and is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and my own website. It has a huge chapter on diet as well as healthful easy recipes that you can make for your own parrotlet.

I do have to say that I am not a vet nor do I play one on the Internet. If your bird is under a vet's care and you are following their protocol, I would not change anything without discussing it with your vet. I will say one more thing about a fresh food diet as opposed to a processed pelleted one, I was talking with the president of a very well-known food company when I was speaking at a convention. I told him what I fed my birds and he told me 'there is no way that any manufacturer can ever make a pellet as nutritious as what you are feeding. But most people will not take the time or effort to feed that kind of diet. So we make the next best thing."

Anyway, I hope you find some of this information helpful. Please keep me posted on Billy's progress. Thank you again for your very kind words and your prayers are appreciated although I am sure we will be fine with the radiation. After all, we went through Chernobyl and that was 1000's worse. But thank you. Take care and best of luck!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,

Join the International Parrotlet Society, – the World’s Largest and Oldest Parrotlet Organization

A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest.
Camaroonian Phrase

"Medium Blue" Pacific Parrotlet

Hi Sandee,

You have a great website, thanks for putting it together.
I have a “Medium Blue” Parrotlet (male) and your site is the only one to discuss this variation.
What, if anything, do you know about this color mutation? In your experience does it seem to be dominant or recessive?
I have also seen Green Parrotlets with the same gray coloration. Do you suspect it is the same or similar gene?

This is my Louie (and his dilute girlfriend Lulu):

Thank you,
Paul in Massachusetts

Dear Paul:

Thank you for your email.

It is important to remember when dealing with color mutations that it is not the color that determines the mutation, it is the gene. All blue mutation parrotlets have the same gene so they are all blues – not light blues, medium blues, dark blues…those are just various tones and have more to do with sex and subspecies rather than the mutation. Indeed, even the ‘turquoise’ mutation is not a turquoise but actually a partial-blue because the original birds were blues imported from Europe.

I always tell people to think of blond hair – we have platinum blond, honey blond, dirty blond, strawberry blond – all different tones and variations on color but they are all blond; all the same gene. The blues (and dilutes for that matter) are all the same color mutation but each individual bird can have variety of color tones. In the picture you provided, for example, the bird is clearly a male who has the Pacific subspecies of lucida in it. That is why the blue mutation manifests itself in darker tones and has a lot of gray especially on the back and wings. This is clearly the influence of the subspecies and not the mutation.

Also, the female in that picture is a dilute-blue not a dilute. “Dilute” is the term for the bird formerly called “American yellow”. If you breed her to your male and your male is split to dilute – you will get dilutes, blues and dilute-blues. If your male is not split to dilute, you will only get blue offspring but they will be split to dilute. This is because ‘dilute-blue’ is combination of blue and dilute.

It is unfortunate that most people who have parrotlets these days have never seen a wild-caught parrotlet. I worked with wild-caught species of parrotlets for more than a decade and saw only pure species and subspecies. Since we have not imported wild-caught normal birds since 1992 most of the subspecies were commingled. This was especially true after color mutations were added to the Captive Bred List of Birds Allowed to Be Imported (by petition of the International Parrotlet Society btw). Color mutations have flooded the market and it is almost impossible to find a pure normal Pacific that doesn’t carry some color mutation gene. As for pure species or subspecies, unless someone was breeding parrotlets before 1993 they have probably never seen a pure normal Pacific parrotlet or the Columbian subspecies. You can got to my website and read about the lucida subspecies of the Pacific I think you will have a much better understanding.

I hope this helps!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,
Join the International Parrotlet Society, – the World’s Largest and Oldest Parrotlet Organization
A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest.
Camaroonian Phrase

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Plucking Parrotlets, Benadryl

Hi, Sandee:

I wanted to first thank you for putting up the comment about not overreacting to plucking, as it is something that one wants to stop, just because they seem so uncomfortable, to be pulling out feathers (perhaps we empathize on what it would take to pull out hair for ourselves?).

I also wanted to ask what you think about giving a bird something like Benadryl (diluted, in drinking water)? Most of the human liquid formulations seem to have more additives (e.g., flavouring, alcohol) than would be safe, and it seems to me that it might also mask some symptoms, should there be an underlying fungal, bacterial or metabolic cause.

I have two parrotlets, who have both reached the "teenage" years (i.e., about 5 to 6 years old), and one (the male) starting plucking about two weeks ago (at first, I thought it was just another moult), but he is now including down in what is removed.
As well, the removal seems to increase after he has a bath, so I might even add chemicals in the water as a cause (although, touch wood, the female gets wetter, since she likes to sit right under the tap water stream).

One problem with bird care is trying to find a competent veterinarian - I moved to a somewhat remote community and am now planning on taking him to someone who is two and a half hours away, with the fallback after that, to take a five hour trip back to the vet he used to have before we moved (about a year and a half ago). So one help has been to keep in mind that trying the wrong cure (like the collars, on birds that walk as much or more than they fly) is infinitely worse than getting the right answer.


Dear Marilyn:

Thank you for your email.

Unfortunately, it is human nature to equate animals with humans although it certainly isn’t the same. Humans have free will and animals do not. They are programmed by instinct and react to things as Nature designed them to survive in the wild. These instincts can conflict with our desires when we keep them in captivity. You cannot equate a bird who engages in feather destructive behavior as the same thing as humans who pull out their hair. People who engage in trichotillomania do so because of emotional or physiological issues. Parrotlets on the other hand almost always do it because of stress or hormones. Rarely, it can be due to medical conditions such as feather follicle infections or internal parasites such as giardia which is why I always recommend a bird get a full veterinary examination. I will tell you that I always caution people about not getting too emotional over this condition because a) its unsightly but not life threatening and b) birds are very empathic to our emotions and constantly watching and worrying over a bird that plucks is going to exacerbate the problem. I once had a very well-known bird behaviorist tell me she almost always see feather destructive behavior in ‘over indulged” birds and birds who owners constantly watch and worry about them. So its best to really develop the attitude of ‘I don’t care…” After all, the bird does not have cancer or some other catastrophic medical condition, its mainly unsightly for the person and we being people assume it is painful (it is not, its like cutting your hair or hair or nails not pulling them out) and that they must be severely distressed or emotionally damaged. Again, not true in most cases involving parrotlets. Its pretty much environmental.

I would never give a bird Benadryl. There is no indication this is allergy related and if it was, then you need to find out what is causing the allergy by working with your vet and change the environment. I would not even know how to figure out a safe amount to give a bird – indeed, Benadryl is often used to put birds to sleep so it is highly toxic and too much can certainly kill your bird very easily. Smaller amounts of Benadryl can be toxic to the liver and kidneys so I would not be experimenting with it to see if you can stop plucking. You may succeed at the cost of your bird’s life.

I will also say that your birds are not going through their ‘teenage years’ which is really a euphemism for puberty. Parrotlets go through that at 4-8 months of age. Your birds are in their prime of their adulthood and if they were in the wild, would be breeding. Indeed, they are at the age of their highest reproductive cycles. That is probably what is causing the problems – hormones. Nature designed them to breed when they are mature, have a secure environment, a reliable source of food and you have a male and female. I would imagine they are getting more than 10 hours a day of daylight and very simple things in their environment, including food cups, can be give them nest-like structure in which to reproduce. Or in this case, getting their hormones worked up and aberrant behavior such as feather destruction is how they react. If your birds are free-flighted this will exacerbate the problem. I would clip their wings immediately. Free flight, especially around the house, can increase hormone production.

As for baths, they are usually very good for parrotlets. In fact, I often recommend that birds with feather destructive problems be sprayed daily with warm water from a plant mister. This will encourage preening and help the bird learn how to properly groom its feathers as well as distributing the necessary oils on the feathers in order to keep them healthy. Most parrotlets do not like to bathe and rarely do they enjoy being held under a stream of water (very dangerous) nor are they real ‘bathers’ like canaries and budgies like to use bird baths. This is because they come from a very dry, desert-like area and they only time they get wet is when it rains. I would recommend spraying the birds instead of holding them under a faucet or placing them in a bowl or bath of water. That is probably stressing the male out as it is very unnatural and could make the bird afraid he is going to drown. I’m not sure where you live but in most Western nations our tap water supply are the safest in the world and the amount of chlorine used to disinfect the water is negligible. If children can drink it, your birds can safely bathe in it.

I do hope you can find a competent vet who can help you with this situation. It is extremely important to rule out organic or medical problems. Once that is done, then it is a matter of trial and error until you find what works for your birds. However, there are cases that no matter what is done, we can’t stop them. However, as I say in my article, unless the birds are mutilating their skin or causing bleeding, this really something we as humans may have to learn to accept.

I do wish you the best of luck and please keep me posted.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,
Join the International Parrotlet Society, – the World’s Largest and Oldest Parrotlet Organization
A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest.
Camaroonian Phrase

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Parrotlet Hen Lays an Egg, International Parrotlet Society

My little Lily (my parrotlet) has layed an egg and ate the shell, what
does this mean? Also do you sell catalogs, articles or any kind of
monthly subscriptions for the Parrotlet?

Dear Anthony:

Thank you for your email. Although not as prevalent as is seen in cockatiel hens, pet parrotlets kept as single pets can produce eggs without a mate. The egg, of course, is infertile and won't hatch but Nature will cause her to cycle as if it were. I can't tell you why the bird laid an egg since I don't have any information as to her age, how she is kept, what kind of diet she has, if there are other birds around, how many hours of daylight she is exposed to or if there are nests or nest-like structures in her cage. However, I can explain the behavior and how to best to deal with it.

Generally speaking, a hen that is producing eggs almost always is being exposed to too many hours of daylight. I recommend that you cover her cage at night to ensure darkness and limit her hours of daylight exposure to no more than 12, 10 is better. I uncover my pets at 8 AM and cover them at night at 8 PM. They don't sleep all that time but the reduction in daylight hours will affect their hormone production. My breeding pairs have lights that are on timers and they are scheduled to be on 14 hours a day. The 14 hour days, just like with wild birds, will cause hormone production to occur and get them ready for breeding.

Make sure she has access to lots of calcium both in the form of supplements and in calcium rich foods in her diet. Supplements such as calcium powder should be sprinkled on her fresh foods every other day. Also make sure that cuttlebone and mineral block are available at all times. Many hens consume great amounts of cuttlebone when they are laying eggs to replenish the calcium lost in the development of the eggs. Mineral blocks will make sure she has the necessary trace minerals if needed.

Foods that are rich in calcium and excellent to feed to parrotlets are broccoli, green leafy vegetables such as bok choy and chard and nuts like almonds.

Be sure and remove all nest-like structures from her cage. This could be anything from an actual nest to 'tents' or 'houses' designed for birds. Some hens will burrow under a feed cup (in which case they should be replaced with dishes that cannot allow access under it).

Your hen may or may not continue to lay eggs. If she does, it will probably be every other day or so. Do not remove the eggs or she will continue to lay eggs to replace the ones that were removed. This is bad as it can cause her to completely deplete her body of calcium and lead to a very dangerous condition called 'egg binding' where she cannot pass the egg and it has to be removed usually by surgery which parrotlets often do not survive. The best thing to do is to leave her alone, let her brood (sit) on her eggs, reduce her daylight hours, remove the nest-like structures and give her lots of calcium. When her cycle has been completed, she will abandon the eggs and you can then remove them. There is no set period of time for brooding infertile eggs - she may not do it at all or she may sit for the entire 3 weeks it takes for a parrotlet egg to hatch.

During this period of time, your hen may be much more moody and nippy. This is because of her hormones and her instinct to protect her offspring. It is completely natural and will pass once she gets through the egg laying and brooding cycle. Just be patient and not push her when she does not wish to be handled.

I hope you try the suggestions I have given. Laying eggs is a natural process for birds to that in and of itself should not hurt her if she is a normal, healthy adult bird. However, excessive egg laying can be a very dangerous condition and in a pet parrotlet it is unnecessary since she will not be able to produce chicks without a mate. Btw, this is NOT an indication she 'wants to breed' or prefers to be with a male. It is just a normal process brought about by artificial conditions.

As for the International Parrotlet Society, we are an non-profit educational organization that helps people take better care of their parrotlets whether they are keeping breeders or pets. We also raise funds for veterinary and nutritional projects and support conservation and preservation of rare and endangered species of parrotlets. We produce a bimonthly journal which is full of informative tips on disease control, behavior, training, new color mutations, rare species, showing and just about anything that has to do with parrotlets.

I hope this helps and best of luck with your bird!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
Secretary, International Parrotlet Society

Parrotlet Breeding Life Spans

I have a breeding pair of pacific parrotlets. They have produced several clutches and
I was wondering how long you can breed them. In other words, how old is too old
to continue breeding provided they have a varied diet, lots of calcium and minerals.

They are a tamed pair and I can hold them and they even watch TV with us but yet once a year they will breed for me. I don't want to harm them in anyway by breeding them when they are too old.

Thanks for your response.



Thank you for your email. I have bred parrotlets for almost 30 years so I am well aware of their breeding life spans based on my own personal experience. Generally, females don't last as long as males. Most hens, if well managed, can last up to 7 or 8 years of age although most start slowing down around 5 years. Males can produce offspring until they are in their teens. As for slowing them down, Nature usually takes care of that as they usually become less and less interested in breeding as they age. Females often produce infertile eggs and when they have produced 3 infertile clutches, then they are usually past the age of breeding.

Hope this helps!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
Secretary, International Parrotlet Society