Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Diminishing Parrotlet Lifespans

Greetings Sandee, I read on your blog that Parrotlets used to live to 20 or older but now usually only make it to 10. I was wondering why that might be, and two possible causes came to mind. First, maybe it's because all the birds have become more or less inbred since 1992. Second, maybe the grains their pellets are made from are having an effect. Soy and corn have become mostly all GMO in the last twenty years, and virtually all our wheat now comes from a hybrid that was developed in the 1970s. This wheat has been giving a lot of trouble to a high percentage of us humans who eat it (see "Wheat Belly Blog" online). So maybe, since birds are such fragile creatures, which have never eaten these grains in the wild, these "frankenfoods" are having a negative impact on them too. My 6-year-old PP "Cootie" loves quinoa, so I've been increasing the amount of that that I give him. Opinions? I really enjoy reading your blog! Vickie Dear Victoria: Thank you for your message and your very kind words. The problem with shortening lifespans in parrotlets in captivity has to do with several factors. Yes, many of the birds are inbred and closely related. This happened before the Wild Bird Conservation Act but certainly that was part of the problem. I remember a friend, prior to the passage of the WBCA in 1992, bought 3 Green Wing macaws. One came from California, one from Florida and the other from Texas. DNA testing proved all three birds were related. So it isn't just because of the WBCA, it also had to do with a limited genetically diverse captive population prior to its passage. The second biggest problem was human greed and ego. When the color mutation Pacifics started being imported back in the mid-1990's many people got rid of their other species and normal Pacifics in order to breed pretty new colored birds. Not only could they make 10 or more times the amount of money per bird as a normal Pacific or Green Rump or Spectacled, they also could make new colors by combining them, therefore 'creating' new mutations that gave them recognition and 'fame' for lack of a better word. By the time people realized that the mutations were so plentiful that their prices had fallen into the basement, it was too late to breed the other species as most were all but disappeared from American aviculture (especially the less common species of Mexicans and Blue Wings). Mutations are genetically abnormal birds. In the wild, Nature usually 'weeded' out these birds. However, we humans like the abnormal colors so we bred more of them which, with mutation breeding, means lots of line-breeding (if you are doing it 'right') or more often than not 'inbreeding'. Line breeding means breeding cousin birds and inbreeding is breeding siblings and parents to offspring. Very few of these people outcrossed them to normal or wild-type parrotlets. Again, by the time people realized they were getting incorrectly sized birds, bad feather conditions and loss of fertility as well as birth defects, it was too late to find normal, wild-type Pacifics to breed out some of these genetic defects. As for GMO's and that kind of thing, I have no idea. I'm not a scientist. However, I do know that unless you are feeding pelleted diets, most bird seeds to not contain a lot of GMO's. Most pelleted diets are manufactured from corn, something I have avoided for more than a decade to feed both myself and my birds due to its low nutritional value and high sugar content. Most bird seeds do not contain soy. But, even if it did, I would say it would be affecting ALL birds not just parrotlets so I doubt that has as much to do with it. As for being 'fragile' nothing could be farther from the truth. Parrotlets are little tigers. They are aggressive, territorial and not only survive in very harsh environments where everything eats them, they are thriving and expanding their range in their countries of origin. Indeed, in a lot of places they are considered 'pests' in that they nest under the eaves of houses, in attics, barns and are often seen in cities hanging out much like pigeons in the US. Not to mention they also descend upon farms destroying all those crops of grains, wheat, sunflower, etc. So they do indeed consume grains in the wild. Hope this helps! Sincerely yours, Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S. The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner, A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest. Camaroonian Phrase

Parrotlet Aggression with Other Animals

Hello, I am thinking of getting a parrolet and have read that they can be aggressive towards other animals and that they would need to be separated from other pets. I have a dog and a cat. Would this mean that I shouldn't consider bringing a parrolet into my home as I would have to keep them separated? Thank you. Angie Dear Angie: Thank you for your email. Yes, parrotlets can be aggressive and territorial with other animals, however, your parrotlet is in MUCH more danger from your dog and cat than they are from the bird. Dogs and cats are predators and it is part of their instinct to kill other animals especially small birds. They may not do it when they are together for 100 times but that 101 could be the time they decide its time to eat the bird. Furthermore, cats have bacteria in their saliva and claws that can kill a bird with one bite or one swipe. This doesn’t mean you can’t get a parrotlet (I have/had several dogs and cats with no mishaps because I am careful. So long as you have a good sturdy cage, keep them physically away from one another, keep the parrotlet’s wings clipped and always supervise them when the bird is out of its cage, they will be find. Hope this helps! Sincerely yours, Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S. The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner, A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest. Camaroonian Phrase ________________________________________

Proper Temperatures, The Parrotlet Handbook, Breeders

I have had birds many years ago and am thinking about getting a parrotlets. I am currently the RESPONSIBLE parent of two dogs-a cavalier King Charles spaniel and a papillon plus I have two horses at home. I am reading about the parrotlets and would like to order the handbook you offer for sale. There is a dear, sweet parrotlets in the XXXXX where I buy my dog food. They are improving and renovating their store but while things get finished, this little, young parrotlet seems a bit chilly because they don't have the windows in yet around their aviary/bird sales area and I almost want to buy this parrotlet to get him in a warmer environment. It bothers me so much to see this! Anyway, I always want to be an informed owner so that is why I may call soon to order your handbook because I want to provide correct care. Do you sell parrotlets still?? I thought I saw somewhere that someone said they weren't selling them anymore but it could have been a different farm. Thank you for your time. Kathy Dear Kathy: Thank you for your email. No, I am no longer breeding parrotlets. 30+ years of hand-feeding thousands of baby parrotlets has taken its toll and I can no longer hand-feed. I can't comment on whether or not this particular bird is being cared for appropriately or not since I am not there. However, parrotlets can easily withstand temperatures into the 60's and much lower (even 40's) if they are acclimated. Furthermore, windows make things colder not warmer as glass is not well-insulated. In fact, it is a myth that these birds require hot temperatures as they most certainly are in much greater peril when they are too hot rather than too cold; the areas that they come from rarely get above 85 or 90 degrees. Anything above that can kill them unless they have lots of water and the ability to cool themselves. I am in the process of revamping my website and I hope to have that done shortly. In the meantime you can order my book from or can send me a check in the amount of $15 to The Parrotlet Ranch, PO Box 2842, Aptos, CA 95001 and I'll be happy to send you a signed copy. Hope this helps! Sincerely yours, Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S. The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner, A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest. Camaroonian Phrase

Spectacled Parrotlet Breeders, Loss of Species and Adding Another Parrotlet

Hello Sandee: I purchased my 2 beloved Spectacled Parrotlets (sisters) in Summer of 2000 from Rachel(?) of ‘Little Big Birds’ in Maryland. I have tried to locate her recently and have been unable to find her or ‘Little Big Birds’. I tried the Link you provide but, no luck. Is she no longer breeding Spectacles? Do you know of any other reputable breeders of Spectacles? I live in Vermont and not sure that my babies will live to 15-20 as they are beginning to show signs of old age but they’re still happily acting like Parrotlets – yacking away and always exploring. Thanks for any info you can provide on Rachel and/or other breeders of Spectacles. Best wishes Marcia Dear Marcia: Thank you for your message. Goodness, I think XXXXX got out of breeding parrotlets about 10 years ago. Very unfortunate as she was a wonderful lady who take excellent care of her birds. Even more unfortunate is the fact that there are almost no other species of parrotlets available in the US anymore other than color mutation Pacifics. I know of one person I can recommend that breeds Spectacles. Her name is XXXXXX and her email is XXXXXXXX. She is an excellent parrotlet breeder and I highly recommend her. Be sure and tell her you got her name from me. Best of luck! Sincerely yours, Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S. The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner, A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest. Camaroonian Phrase ________________________________________ Hi Sandee; thanks so much for your response. I have emailed XXXX but am so sorry to hear XXXX is not breeding anymore. She was an excellent source of parrotlet information. I am also sorry to hear there are not more Spectacles in the US. I wonder why that is. Anyway, I am not sure I’m looking to get another parrotlet currently because Bunny is pretty possessive of me and would probably be annoyed if I split affections with another parrotlet although I wondered about supervised ‘socializing’ time for both of them – she would certainly like someone who was more adept at preening her than I and my friends are. Anyway, thank you so much for your care for parrotlets. Best wishes Marcia Dear Marcia: The loss of all the species of parrotlets in this country is very simple and something that I sadly predicted back in the mid-1990’s. The influence of color mutations and their high prices caused people to dump all of the other species to breed pretty colors. People wanted to buy the pretty colored birds. That, coupled with a very limited population, especially with birds like Spectacles (which only 20 pair came into the country) and the fact the Wild Bird Conservation Act which will not allow normal, non-mutated birds to be imported is why we have nothing but color mutation Pacifics available now. While there a handful of these birds around, they are all inbred and in another 10 years or so, they will all be gone from the US as well. Very sad. Also, I never recommend getting a parrotlet as a companion for your parrotlet. They are aggressive and territorial and will look at the new bird as a rival or competitor. So, probably best to leave Bunny as an only-parrotlets. Sincerely yours, Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S. Dear Sandee: Thanks for your tip on companionship for Bunny. To be honest, I just could not see her being okay with any interruption to her supreme rule of the household. I mulled over a friend because she is slowing down and I thought this would perk her up but, upon reflection probably not in a positive way. She has developed a periodic ‘fainting’ which is frightening when it happens. She appears as though dead (eyes closed, body limp). I hold her, and in minutes, she regains consciousness, starts chirping and attempting (eventually succeeding) to scramble out of my hand. I have taken her to various avian vets – she is not egg bound, no tumors are felt, has not lost weight (if anything she has gained weight), her droppings look good. This seems like a neurological thing…In any event, I think she is too small for anything invasive or traumatic so, I think I will just enjoy her for however long she can hang around. I am very sorry to hear Spectacles did not take off – I realize now how fortunate I was to meet up with Rachael in 2001. Are you aware of any Parrotlet clubs/groups/owners in the New England area? it is nice to have contact with others who have some idea of how wonderful they are. Very best wishes Marcia Dear Marcia: Glad to be of help and I think you have made a wise decision. I’m sorry to hear about Bunny’s problems and I agree that its probably neurological and, unfortunately, untreatable. However, that doesn’t mean she can’t continue to have a long and wonderful life with you. Actually, the only reason you have Bunny is because Spectacles ‘took off’. There were only 20 pairs of birds imported 21 years ago and people worked very hard, in cooperation with the International Parrotlet Society to breed enough of them to even allow any of them to be sold into the pet trade. Had Americans been more like Europeans and continued to work with normal, non-mutated species along with the color mutation Pacifics, we’d still have plenty of birds. But they didn’t, for reasons I previously explained. There are many bird clubs in the Northeast unlike out West. While none of them are ‘parrotlet specific’ that doesn’t mean they don’t’ have a lot to offer as far as education and keeping abreast of legislative and regulatory issues. They also fundraise to support veterinary and conservation issues and, many of them have annual bird shows. Here is the URL to the Society of Parrot Breeders and Exhibitors that has a list of all affiliated clubs as well as the URL to North American Parrot Society’s affiliated clubs Both organizations are also very educational and offer a lot to members including bimonthly journals and, of course, information on bird shows. These days those are about the only clubs that are still going strong. Hope this helps and best of luck! Sincerely yours, Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.