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#230706 - 02/18/11 04:12 PM Stress: What it's really all about.  
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Jerry Offline
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The number one issue with all birds in captivity in my opinion has always been stress. Stress of not being allowed to live a "normal" life. That includes flying, breeding, and foraging especially. To be placed in a cage, even a large cage is very stressful. This is why I have always recommended an aviary where possible.

There is an article in my local paper today about stress on Raptors. These birds of prey are like any other birds, in that they experience stress. Here are some excerpts from that article;


IN THE 28 YEARS since he helped found the West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center, Mike Book has learned a thing or twelve about caring for birds of prey.

The proof can be found in the ages of some of the center’s longtime residents. Annie, a red-tailed hawk, has lived at the center for 24 years. Bubo, a great horned owl, has been there 15 years. Thunder, a bald eagle, has lived at Book’s Harrison County residence for all but one of her 19 years.

Birds born in captivity can live a long time. Cockatoos have an average life span of 65 years. Macaws average about 60. Wild birds tend not to live as long. The average life span of a wild bald eagle is about 30 years. Wild hawks average 10 to 15 years.


Book said there are two principal keys to keeping those “education birds” alive and healthy.

“First, we try to reduce the amount of stress they feel,” he said. “Second, we try to keep their diet as natural as possible.”


( Does this sound like what we've been preaching for over a decade here on Mytoos? )


Neither is easy. When birds are brought into the center, their stress levels tend to be sky-high. They’ve been injured and have lost their freedom. As if that weren’t enough, humans are handling them.

“We have to be very careful that we don’t overstress the birds,” Book said. “High-strung species, such as Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks, will literally die in your hands if you stress them too much.

Covering the birds’ heads during handling helps reduce stress. So does keeping human contact to a minimum.

For example, Thunder the eagle has grown somewhat accustomed to Book’s presence but strangers still make her nervous. When Book shows her in public, he keeps a covered cage nearby and puts her in it when she starts showing signs of stress.

Raptor Center staff members have employed some interesting tricks to keep birds from freaking out. Book remembers how they used one bird’s injury to help allay its fears.

“We once had a white redtailed hawk named Snow, and he became a wild and crazy bird any time we got him out and perched him on a [gloved] hand,” Book recalled. “Eventually we figured out why.

“Snow was missing his left eye. We train our staff to handle birds right-handed. When we had Snow perched on a staff member’s right arm, he couldn’t see the handler but could see everything else, and he went nuts. We started putting him on the left, where he could see the handler and not much else, and he turned into a perfect little angel.”

When it comes to the birds’ diets, there are no such tricks. Book has one simple rule: keep the diet as natural as possible.

“I really think food is important,” he said. “We feed our birds a lot of mice and rats, which are major components of their natural diets. It isn’t cheap. Those rats cost us about $6 a pound.”

The only danger of feeding birds a proper diet, he said, comes from well-meaning staff members’ urge to feed their charges a little extra.

“Annie almost died on us once,” he said. “Her ideal weight is about 3 pounds, but overfeeding caused her weight to balloon up to almost 5 pounds. She suffered a seizure, and we almost lost her. After that, we put her on a diet and got her weight down where it ought to be. She’s been fine ever since.”

Meeting the birds’ nutritional needs keeps the staff from having to administer many medications.

“We try to keep that to a minimum,” Book said. “In 27 years, I think we’ve only had to medicate any of our education birds about six times.”

To keep the center’s birds from developing “bumblefoot” — a potentially debilitating infection caused by perching in the same place on an ill-fitting perch — staff members wrap the birds’ perches with thick rope.

“The rope keeps them from perching in the same place all the time, and the roughness of the rope keeps us from having to trim the birds’ talons,” Book said.

Some avian rehabilitators find it necessary to trim their birds’ beaks from time to time. Not the staff at the Raptor Center, who simply provide bones for the birds to gnaw on.

People say what we do for our birds is simply common sense, but if it’s so common, why doesn’t everyone do it?”


I thought I would pass along some of the finer points of this article, because I simply cant "stress" enough how important it is to provide as natural an environment as possible.

#230709 - 02/18/11 06:30 PM Re: Stress: What it's really all about. [Re: Jerry]  
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angelinasmom Offline
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great advice jerry. I was just thinking about this today when I once again wanted angelina to step up. She didnt want to and I realized, why force her. I know in every bird book, a bird should properly step up on command, but maybe they should just be left to be birds. I know in an emergency I could get her where she needed to be, so lately, even though its been lonely for me, I have tried to just let my birds be birds

#230710 - 02/18/11 06:51 PM Re: Stress: What it's really all about. [Re: angelinasmom]  
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It is ideal to let them be birds and to try your best to mimic their natural life.Very good points in that article and it does fall under what we try to achieve.

Just to answer your concern about the step up...you have to motivate her to want to step up.With my guys they get treats to step up.Whatever they desire it to be...some are praised because that is what they want and some are given food treats or rewards.There are times however that even with the food motivator they don't want to step up.Maybe they are happy right where they are and just want to hang out in that spot...I don't know but they deserve a choice to be able to stay there if they wish.If it was an emergency and I had to get them somewhere that is a different story but I try my best to give them choice and allow them some say in what they want.So if someone doesn't want to step up...they don't have too.I will show them their treat and if they still don't want too I might just stand there and talk to them and scritch them a bit and let them be for a few minutes and try again.

Last edited by Janny; 02/18/11 06:53 PM.

Jan

Sometimes damaged goods are the best gifts the world has to offer
#230717 - 02/19/11 03:52 AM Re: Stress: What it's really all about. [Re: Jerry]  
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popeye1 Offline
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I have learned sooo much from you people...ty...What kind of rope would you use on the perch & what kind of bones are you talking about? Popeye is really a good boy and I am so new at this...We have come along ways, but I always need some guidence on some matters....I thank you all so much....


Not all Too's are bad & hopeless!!! Kim & Popeye
#230719 - 02/19/11 04:16 AM Re: Stress: What it's really all about. [Re: popeye1]  
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Great advice and article Jerry! TY for sharing it with us.


Deborah
A Too is not a pet, it is a choice for life!


#230724 - 02/19/11 05:17 AM Re: Stress: What it's really all about. [Re: popeye1]  
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Originally Posted By: popeye1
What kind of rope would you use on the perch


You can buy rope perches for parrots quite inexpensively. The main thing is that you don't want to have any dowels or perches that are completely the same all around -- you want variety.

You also want to have different types of perches -- natural wood, rope, etc., as well as several different sizes so the bird has a lot of variety and can switch it up.

The article mentions bumblefoot -- we usually see that in canaries and finches with improper perches. The problems we see in larger birds with improper perches are arthritis-related issues, in my experience. (This is with parrots, not raptors.)

Jerry -- what a great article; thanks for posting!

#230726 - 02/19/11 05:26 AM Re: Stress: What it's really all about. [Re: Beeps]  
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I think this is important, but these educational birds have been born "birds", they know what being a bird is. A lot of our birds (not all) but many of them are raised by humans. Its hard for us to give them a "natural" enviroment. I have to teach one of my birds how to fly, because her parents never taught her. So that is almost "stressfull" to her. Its so sad. I think the best thing for her is to see Charlie. Because he was most likely wild caught. He knows he is a bird. She gets to see it. But she also doesnt see herself as a bird. So I think she is learning, but its all I can do to help her.

This makes me angry/sad at the same time for what these poor angels have to go through in their lives. ; ;


Mandy
#230872 - 02/24/11 04:13 AM Re: Stress: What it's really all about. [Re: CharlieandCasper]  
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No cage can ever be big enough...great information!


Gail

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