Avian Overindulgence - - - by Liz Davies (aka "Mum")



I'm always on the lookout for new and interesting toys.  One of the best toys I've found for a large macaws is the "Baffle Cage", a small metal cage that you can insert various goodies into.  My birds just love this toy - especially the large macaws.  And I love it, too, because I can load up the cage with goodies of all sorts and my bird is happily obsessed with getting at whatever I've put in there.  It makes for a happy, entertained, and quiet bird.

The birds also enjoy their "bird kabobs".  These are simply stainless steel rods that you suspend from the top of their cages.  Fruit and veggies are threaded on the "kabob", making a lovely foraging toy and an interesting way for the bird to have treats.  

With both the "baffle cage" and "kabob", I've occasionally given the birds an entire piece of fruit to play with.  They eat what they want and then shred the rest.  It's not something I do every day, of course, but they just seem so much to enjoy apples, oranges, and other whole fruits threaded.  They have a ball chomping through the skin and peeling away to the tasty treats.  It's messy, and maybe a little wasteful, but again, it's not something they get on a regular basis.

As of today, however, the days of serving large quantities (such as an entire apple) have ended.


On an afternoon five days ago I placed a whole pear in Laka's baffle cage.  When she saw it, she immediately ran up to it and took a bite - but then backed away.  I had the impression she didn't like the taste, but I left the fruit in there, thinking she'd probably at least enjoy shredding it and throwing the bits on the newspaper beneath her cage grate.

I had a bad cold at the time and with constant coughing, was not able to sleep well that night.  Several times during the night I awoke coughing, and as I lay there trying to go back to sleep, heard Laka coughing in her bed cage (which is in a room next to the master bedroom).  I was very worried about this, as our avian vet does not have office hours on weekends - and having Laka ill on a Friday night wasn't good timing at all.  Saturday morning my concern turned to panic when I found she hadn't been coughing; she'd been vomiting - and large quantities of wet, mushy, foamy goo lay on the newspaper under her night perch.  Additionally, her nightly poo was unusually thin and watery looking.

Dear reader, your mind has probably already raced ahead to identify the solution... but I'm sure you can sympathize with how worried we were that morning.

I grabbed the newspaper out of her night cage and slipped it into a bag to take with us to the veterinarian.  Then I went to change the newspaper under her day cage and found that something strange had happened.  Where I'd expected to find small chunks of pear... there was nothing!  I looked all around the cage area, not quite believing what I was seeing.  Instead of playing with that pear, she'd eaten it - ALL OF IT!  An entire pear - everything but the stem.  

We were unable to contact the veterinarian until Monday, so until then we kept a close eye on Laka.  She seemed fine.  No vomiting, droppings normal, no weight loss, appetite normal, and the usual level of rambunctious activity and happy vocalizing.  She seemed fine, but birds hide their illnesses, so I fretted over her all the same.  By the time Monday came it was pretty obvious that she'd just eaten way too much pear - something which the vet's office agreed with when I discussed it with them over the phone.  With no other signs of a problem, and knowing that we could be here to check her several times a day, we opted to 'wait and see' (something I normally don't do, or advise doing).

I contacted a few friends who keep macaws and other large parrots, asking if they'd ever seen something like this.  What I learned is that it's not necessarily common, but it does happen.  Grapes seems to be the food most frequently over-eaten, but I'm hearing stories about bananas, papaya, and other fruits.

So... it appears that after all these years of bird keeping, I've finally run into a bona-fide avian glutton!  I'll still use the baffle and kabob... but the serving sizes will be scaled down from here out!

(Sorry about not putting photos here... but the only illustration I could think of is a photo of something plopped on newspaper that I'm VERY SURE you'd rather not see...)