Board Birdies


Amusing Your Bored Bird

Having fostered a sulphur crested cockatoo this year while researching the Andean condors at Taronga Zoo, I have found that these birds have more in common than meets the eye. Most of us know how important it is that our pet dogs have toys to keep them entertained during the day, but not everyone realises that this is also important for our pet parrots and even animals in the zoo. Providing animals with things to keep them busy is called environmental enrichment and aims to encourage normal behaviours and prevent boredom. I have modified some of the ideas we used for the condors to suit your pet cockatoo. Most of these are fun and easy to make, and are a great way to get kids involved in caring for the family pet

Puzzle toys that release food are a common type of environmental enrichment. For my cockatoo I placed a mix of pellets and seed in a plastic blueberry punnet. As the parrot carried, rolled and flipped the punnet with his feet and beak, the contents fell out through the drainage holes. While this feeder has proven safe for my cockatoo I would recommend supervision if trying it with your own bird to make sure she doesn't eat the plastic! Another way to increase the time your cocky spends feeding is to mix its daily ration through a tub of leaves. If your cockatoo doesn’t seem interested, you might try sprinkling a few seeds on top of the leaves to encourage him to begin searching

Providing parrots with an appropriate outlet for destructive behaviours is very important, especially if you don’t want them to chew their perches, cages or your fingers. Natural branches with thick bark are perfect for this purpose. Alternatively, you can make papier-mâché piñatas by layering balloons with paper strips soaked in a ‘glue’ of flour and water. The rubber balloon can be dangerous for your bird, so be sure to leave enough space around the tie of the balloon so that it can be popped and removed once the piñata is dry. If you like, this hole can also be used to put food into the piñata for your cocky to discover when she rips it open. Again I would recommend supervision to make sure she doesn’t eat the papier-mâché

Finally, freezing food items in a large block of ice is a common method of changing the predictability of feeding times since the items randomly become available during the day as the ice melts. Pieces of fruit, nuts and seeds can be frozen in blocks for parrots. Begin by filling the container with small ice cubes or crushed ice then thoroughly mix the food items through. Top it up with chilled water and immediately place it in the freezer. This should stop all the food from just sinking to the bottom or floating to the top. Ice blocks work best on hot days.