Calling all bird lovers!!!

Have a question about your pet bird? Then ask Sandy. Just send your questions to Sandy Gaston at Make sure that you include with your question
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*Sorry, we may not be able to answer everyone's questions and we cannot provide individual responses. Sandy is available for private consultations. Send inquiries to her via e-mail or call her to set up an appointment (206) 783-6471. Sandy provides consultations in person and over the phone.

Natural Light and Our Birds

By Sandy Gaston

Light influences all animals. Natural light sources come from rays directly off the sun and stars or rays reflected by the moon. Numerous sources of artificial light occur in indoor dwellings. Lighting like full spectrum mimics the light energy from the sun and causes the same physiological results in animals.

In my opinion birds (and humans), more than any other species, are profoundly affected by light because they rely on sensory input from their eyes. Light affects birds in many ways. Birds obtain vitamin D3 from both diet and synthesis in their skin. The synthesis of vitamin D3 in the skin requires ultraviolet (UV) light. This UV light stimulates oils secreted by the uropygeal gland near the base of the tail and the oil is converted to vitamin D3. When your bird preens they are ingesting this vitamin.

Your normal glass windows at home filter out UV rays. So your bird needs either unfiltered sunshine or a good source of certified light like full spectrum lighting. Stay away from broad or wide spectrum lights and chromium lights. They don't produce the same kind of color rays. Full spectrum light produces healthful UV radiation for both you and your birds.

Sunlight prevents infection. Sunlight stimulates male songbirds to sing. Light also has a profound effect on avian reproduction behavior and molting.Without a doubt, light influences the growth, metabolism, reproduction and behavior of all bird species and it is ultimately l happy and healthy it can do the same for your bird. So let your bird bask in some of those unfiltered sun rays.

Full spectrum lights are available in many places today. I will tell you they are not cheap! The benefit you and your birds will receive from them is worth the price. One place I know you can get these lights and also get some great information on lighting is Light Energy Company in Seattle, Washington. Their toll-free phone number is 1-800-544-4826 or local 206-542-7612.

Reading Your Bird's Body Language

By Sandy Gaston

Learning to interpret your bird's body language and vocal signals is an ongoing process. Since behavior varies from bird to bird you should create your own dictionary of bird signals. I am going to share some of my observations from working with birds as well as observations and interpretations of other bird experts, and bird owners like you.

I have learned that birds sing to attract mates and establish territories. But I also know my birds sing because they are happy, healthy and comfortable where they live. They all really like to sing!

I have a bird that sneezes often. When this bird first came into my life I thought he was sick or was allergic to something. I consulted an avian veterinarian, only to find out he wasn't sick but he is just a bird that likes to sneeze. If your bird is sneezing and there is a nasal discharge consult your vet right away.

: Hey I need to exercise. We all need to stretch and flap every day.

If your bird is regurgitating to you — what an honor — you are very much loved and they see you as one of the flock. Birds regurgitate to share the contents of their crops and feed their young. If your bird regurgitates when it is alone, or after a meal, there could be something wrong and you may want to check with your vet.

: You could be frightening your bird without realizing it. Something you're wearing: a hat, dark glasses or a really bad shirt. Your bird may just not be in the mood to come out. Don't force your bird to come out; try later.

: Something every bird needs to do to keep feathers in good condition. Preening is also a very social activity. My birds like me to preen their neck and head since they can't get to those areas. They also like to preen me and my dogs in return. If a bird is bored it could become an over zealous preener and this could lead to possible feather plucking.

FLASHING EYES: When your bird's pupils becom large and small — warning warning — this bird is upset. Something is disturbing your bird. This bird may bite. Speak softly and reassure your bird and don't pick up your bird until it has calmed down. Give your bird some time to get over whatever was upsetting.

: This behavior will tell another bird that they are intruding in its territory. When there are no other birds present this bird may just be cleaning its beak of debris. After dinner with the family, Jherik, my cockatiel, will wipe his beak on the table or my napkin or my plate. He doesn't care where he wipes his lips.

This is a soft sound a bird will make with their beak when they are about to fall asleep. This is a great sign that your bird is feeling safe and very contented. It makes me feel good when one of my birds is sitting with me and I hear the soft crunching.

CALLING: In the dawn or at dusk birds call, sometimes rather loudly. They are talking to the flock. If it is an unusual disturbance something may be wrong. Please check out a call that doesn't sound right.

If you bird starts rejecting you or is bitting you for no apparent reason, stop and see what is different. Your bird could be sexually frustrated, just testing you, or really upset about something in its environment. Be patient, keep calm and keep breathing. You can work out any problem! The vocal and body signals I have told you about are only a few in a large dictionary of bird language. The most important thing I can tell you is watch your bird and know your bird! Learn the signs of a sick bird. Remember, just like us our bird friends get older and change habits with age. But if you educate yourself — watch and listen with your eyes, ears, and your heart — you will learn your bird's body and vocal language.


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