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Wings 'n Things on PetLifeRadio.comSusan Chamberlain, host of Wings 'n Things

Susan Chamberlain
Bird Expert, Author & Columnist

Your Questions Answered

Roberta Fabiano

Roberta Fabiano

Have you ever wondered about the pros and cons of a planted aviary? Despaired at the amount of poop produced by your parrot? Considered traveling abroad or by air with your pet bird? Roberta Fabiano joins the show for a lively discussion of all three topics!

[program intro with background music]

Susan Chamberlain: Welcome to “Pet Life Radio”. I am Susan Chamberlain – your host to “WingsNThings”, where it is always all about pet birds. This time we are going to address some questions from listeners, readers and bird-owners everywhere. We are going to be talking about plants, and poop, and a few other things that are really concerning bird-owners today. Don’t fly away – we will be right back with our sound-engineering guest, Roberta Fabiano, with her mitered conure, Ratchet.

[commercial break]

Susan Chamberlain: OK! We are back on “WingsNThings” on “PetLifeRadio”.

You know – in nearly 30 years of parrot parenthood, I have seen a lot of changes. When wild-caught parrots were the ones offered for sale, taming them was a big issue. Now, the availability of domestically-bred, hand-reared baby birds is the norm rather than the exception.

Although behavior issues are still important, the focus is on training and behavior modification, rather than taming. Cages have improved to better accommodate specific birds species and to suit the aesthetic and maintenance needs of their human companions.

Remember the days when moths routinely flew out of a newly-opened pack of your bird-seed? Well, we now have access to varied and formulated avian menus instead of seed-only diets. The packages improved dramatically – we no longer have flocks of moths flying out of them.

Some things do not change, however. Bird owners often write, phone or email me about household toxins, cleaning, health-matters and safety concerns. I could expand about the dangers of non-stick cookware and appliances every single week. Fumes emitted from heated non-stick cookware and appliances, can kill pet-birds very quickly.

This time, I have received some questions about plants for an aviary and some problematic poop – poop happens! Roberta Fabiano is here to help me with some of these questions and give me some of her input. Welcome, Roberta! Welcome Ratchets!

Roberta Fabiano: It is great to be back, Susan. Here is Ratchet – I am trying to get her to sing. Come on, Ratch. Ratchet, come on, sing, sing, sing! Come on, sing, come on: “shake your booty, go, shake your…”

[bird chirping only]

Susan Chamberlain: Come on, Roberta – is Ratchet ever going to sing on “Pet Life Radio”?

Roberta Fabiano: She does sing, and she will sing – you have to stay tuned.

Susan Chamberlain: OK.

Roberta Fabiano: She wants everyone to listen: listen and just wait in anticipation.

Susan Chamberlain: OK. Well, we will not get her too excited – we will not talk about the poop first.

Roberta Fabiano: Good idea.

Susan Chamberlain: Let us talk about the plants. You have a question here from somebody.

Roberta Fabiano: All right, we see our first question saySusan Chamberlain: “ I would like to add some plants to my aviary. Do you have a list of poisonous and non-poisonous plants - or can you tell me where to get a list?”

Susan Chamberlain: At first glance, this request is pretty easy. “Bird Talk Magazine” frequently features lists of toxic and non-toxic plants. Many bird-care books and online resources also list plants believed to be safe and un-safe to display where birds are present. A planted aviary can be beautiful and beneficial to the birds inside, but there are many other factors to consider when adding plants and soil to the avian environment.

Roberta Fabiano: Yes.

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah, definitely. Climate, the species of the bird, the aviary size, and the location – are also very important considerations. The person did not mention whether the aviary was indoors or outdoors.

Roberta Fabiano: Oh, that is important.

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah, definitely! If it is outdoors, are there plants and soil and a sheltered area or are they open to sunshine and other elements?

Roberta Fabiano: I guess it is natural to your bird to go after the greenery – and they just do; my bird does.

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah, it is pretty natural.

Roberta Fabiano: It must be an instinct.

Susan Chamberlain: Mhm. [agrees] Definitely! As you know, in the wild, they strip bark from trees, because there are good nutrients underneath the bark. In the wild they, for example in South Anerica, the birds - the amazons and the mackaws and even the conures – they go to these clay-licks and they eat the clay off the cliffs and they think that clay counteracts some of the toxins in the plants. When you are home, we do not really have any such things, so we have to be careful to keep our birds away from toxic plants.

Roberta Fabiano: I was told that Laurel was good for our birds – if you wanted to put a branch of Laurel in the cage. Did you know about that?

Susan Chamberlain: Well, I am not quite sure about Laurel being on or off a safe plant list. One of the things about safe and toxic plant lists is, that they often change – new discoveries are made about whether a plant is safe or whether a plant may be toxic.

Roberta Fabiano: Or an implant.


Susan Chamberlain: When is a plant not a plant? When is it an implant? OK.

There are other things too: does the aviary have a soil, a gravel or a concrete floor? How big are the birds?

While small birds often find refuge in sheltering branches, larger hook-bills may simply shred the leaves, make a horrible mess, strip the bark from the tree limbs and poop all over everything. I am not a really big fan of planted indoor aviaries, because it is difficult to control the mould and mildew in a humid, controlled environment. Unless it is scrupulously cleaned up every single day, the leaves from the plants, bird droppings, discarded food – all of that will contribute to bacterial growth and development of mould on the soil and plant parts.

Roberta Fabiano: Here is a question: what about plastic plant or a silk plant?

Susan Chamberlain: I do not know about the silk plants – you do not know what they have been treated with. When you have a silk scarf, the silk is nice and soft and it flows – a silk plant is stiff and standing up straight. So what else is in that silk? What kind of sizing? Are there little wires in the silk leaves that could possibly injure your bird? I would stay away from them – a lot of them are imported; the dies and fabric treatments may not be safe.

Roberta Fabiano: Hmm.

Susan Chamberlain: Some plastic plants? That might be nice in an aviary with finches, or budgies, or canaries – birds that are not going to chew on them. But do not underestimate your budgie – they can be dire little beavers and really chew on things. My budgie destroyed perches and toys; she is like the little wood-chopper.

Roberta Fabiano: She is the Godzilla, that bird.

Susan Chamberlain: Yes, she is [laughing] Budgie-zilla.

If the bird is not going to be able to chew on it, one of the advantages of plastic plants is that you can take them out and simply wash them. That is a good thing. It will give you the look without the maintenance. But with big birds – big birds have big beakSusan Chamberlain: they could ruin it and make a giant mess and possibly be damaged if they actually ingest the plastic.

I like to use potted plants where birds are housed indoors. I would not advice hollowing-out your floor and building …

Roberta Fabiano: Why would you do that?

Susan Chamberlain: I have been in houses where people have atriums and they have planters built into the floor. It is very nice; it looks quite lovely, but it is humid in there and it is a great environment for the plants - I am just not sure about the birds. I am really weary about the mould and the mildew.

If you are using greenery indoors, spider-plants are generally safe. You can place it on the floor or hang it from ceiling hooks or round your bird’s cage – get the look without the danger there.

Roberta Fabiano: Hmm.

Susan Chamberlain: And they can be easily located away from the cage, you can take the plant into the shower and wash it in case your bird does bomb it or trows food on it.


Roberta Fabiano: OK.

Susan Chamberlain: You have to watch: sometimes the soil or the plants themselves can draw millie bugs and spider mites and such.

Roberta Fabiano: What is a millie bugs?

Susan Chamberlain: A millie bugs looks like a little dot of cotton on a plant. And you might not notice them right away, but they can really infest the plant and suck the life out of it. They are usually on the back-side of the leaf.

Roberta Fabiano: Where do they come from? Do they just evolve and infest your plant?

Susan Chamberlain: I don’t know! I think they are ubiquitous in the atmosphere because I have gotten them on an umbrella plant I have at the top of my stair-landing and I had the plant there for years and - all of a sudden, there were mille-bugs on it. Maybe them came into the house on another plant, maybe the eggs were air-borne?

Roberta Fabiano: People carry them on their clothes? Have you though of that? What do you think?

Susan Chamberlain: I do not think it is very likely.

Roberta Fabiano: Yeah.

Susan Chamberlain: They are sticky; they have consistency of cotton-candy.

Roberta Fabiano: Really? Could they get onto the bird skin?

Susan Chamberlain: No, no – they would not like the bird’s skin; they like plants – they do not like humans, the do not suck blood.

Roberta Fabiano: Ugh. OK.

Susan Chamberlain: They just suck life out of the plants. When you are planting things in your house, re-pot your plants whenever they become root-bound. Use clean pots to reduce risk of mould and other contaminants. Many veterinarians advise against providing pet-birds with grit or gravel. I add a layer of bird-gravel on top of the soil in my house plant-pots. It looks attractive and it gives you a layer of protection from errant birds foraging in the soil.

Roberta Fabiano: What is the bird-gravel again?

Susan Chamberlain: It is a bird gravel, I guess. It is like quarts; it is a grit; it is sold in pet-stores. Years ago, people always used to get pet-gravel for their birds.

Roberta Fabiano: For the birds to chew on?

Susan Chamberlain: They eat it. It is put in their crop. It has really been discovered that the necessity for bird-gravel really is not there and that one or two grains of gravel in an entire year are usually sufficient. So I just use the gravel for the house plants – it sweetens the soil, because it has some charcoal in it.

Roberta Fabiano: Mhm.

Susan Chamberlain: And it looks nice.

Roberta Fabiano: People sometimes put coffee grains into the soil to help it.

Susan Chamberlain: I guess so. Oh, I have heard of it, but I really do not know why people do it – I guess it adds some element to the soil that does something really good.

Roberta Fabiano: It does, mhm. [agrees]

Susan Chamberlain: One way I reduce mould development from my house-plant soil is that I spray the soil very lightly with white vinegar every once in a while.

Roberta Fabiano: Do you? Wow.

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah! I discovered it by accident.

Roberta Fabiano: And you know it is not harmful?

Susan Chamberlain: No, not so harmful to your plants at all. I do not spray it on the plants, actually – I just do a ‘spritz’ onto the soil. One time I looked at my plants and there were mushrooms growing in there.

Roberta Fabiano: Oh, my gosh!

Susan Chamberlain: I know! Mushrooms! So I said: “Oh, my goodness, this means we have mould spores in here if mushrooms are growing. There’s a fungus among us!”

Roberta Fabiano: O-oh…

Susan Chamberlain: I went and got my bottle spray-bottle of vinegar - I always keep vinegar in a spray-bottle; I use it to clean cage parts, clean counters and all that stuff – my house smells like a salad.

Roberta Fabiano: [laughing]

Susan Chamberlain: I sprayed them lightly with the white vinegar and 24 hours later the mushrooms were gone.

Roberta Fabiano: Wow!

Susan Chamberlain: Shrivelled up and disappeared.

Roberta Fabiano: Wow.

Susan Chamberlain: So that was really an interesting experiment. I should have done that in grade-school – it would have been fun thing to do.

Roberta Fabiano: Yeah.

Susan Chamberlain: How to make a mushroom disappear?

Roberta Fabiano: [chuckling]

Susan Chamberlain: But it will not work if you do not like mushrooms and someone serves you a plate of mushrooms – it will not work on those, sorry.

Roberta Fabiano: Oh, well…


Susan Chamberlain: Some other things that work good when you have house-plants around your bird: make sure you have adequate ventilation; sunshine is a great purifier; and the use of an air-filter is great – it will help improve the air quality and help filter out mould and mildew spores that might be travelling around there.

Outdoor aviaries – they are very interesting. I have a friend in Florida, who has an outdoor aviary. It has a pond, it has got trees, it has a landing platforms for parrots and it has a flock of Guinea hens running around under the flights, eating the bugs.

Roberta Fabiano: Oh.

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah, not all of us can have Guinea hens, but…

Roberta Fabiano: What are Guinea Hens?

Susan Chamberlain: Oh, they are a type of chicken, I guess. They are from New Guinea; they are insectivorous and they just run around just hunting and pecking for bugs all day. From what I hear, they are noisy, too.

Roberta Fabiano: Do they fly, though?

Susan Chamberlain: I don’t know – I don’t think so.

Roberta Fabiano: Are they eating the bugs that maybe the parrots shouldn’t be eating? We don’t want our parrots to eat our bugs.

Susan Chamberlain: Well, I don’t want my parrots to eat bugs. Bugs can be a host for tape-worms.

Roberta Fabiano: So how do you stop them in an outdoor aviary?

Susan Chamberlain: With screenings; screening usually helps.

Roberta Fabiano: But gnats can still get in there. What if your parrots eats a gnat?

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah, gnats can get in. Well, if you have got an outdoor aviary, you are typically not going to be terribly worried about all of that. Hopefully you have some insect management in place.

Some insects do have their place: spiders eat other insects, the snakes eat palm meadow-bugs – it is just like a whole hierarchy of nature there. You just have to keep it raked and clean underneath. Create a little breeze - a natural breeze will often keep them away. Simply by situating the outdoor aviary in a place that gets adequate ventilation and some sunshine, may help keep the gnats at bay. When you go to one section outside your house, the gnats may be really active and in another area they may not even be there.

Roberta Fabiano: If you have a pond in your aviary outside, could you put fish in there?

Susan Chamberlain: You would want to put fish in there to eat mosquito larvae and other bug-life that might land in there. You would also want to be sure that birds have actually no access to the pond.

Roberta Fabiano: That is the question.

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah. Parrots can not swim.

Roberta Fabiano: How do you do that?

Susan Chamberlain: You keep them in enclosed flights around the pond.

Roberta Fabiano: I see.

Susan Chamberlain: Although a friend of mine who has got a really huge, huge flight – I would say it is probably about a quarter of an acre. He has fully flighted Amazons in there and he has got a pond in there. So if the birds are fully flighted, then they are acclimated to the enclosure, so I think there is probably very little likelihood that they will go diving into the pond.

Roberta Fabiano: Could you put some sort of mesh over the pond – is that OK?

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah! You could certainly put mesh over the pond – that would be a good idea.

Roberta Fabiano: Yeah.

Susan Chamberlain: If you live in an area near the water where you are going to have herrons flying around, you want to make sure that your aviary enclosure is strong enough to withstand their beaks, because they are going to be hunting for the fish in those ponds.

Make sure the plants and the trees are non-toxic.

Roberta Fabiano: Yeah, again, you have to go online and find out, look up “Bird Talk Magazine”. I remember that article.

Susan Chamberlain: Mhm. [agrees]

Roberta Fabiano: I cut out little sections of it, so I could remind myself.

Susan Chamberlain: I know – it is important. Some of the plants we typically keep as house-plants, maybe like philodendron, there are some reports that they are poisonous and there are some reports that they are not poisonous. My advice iSusan Chamberlain: “Hey, if you have the slightest doubt, do not use them.”

Roberta Fabiano: Right.

Susan Chamberlain: OK. Let’s move from plants to…

Roberta Fabiano: We have another question here, right?

Susan Chamberlain: [inaudible as R is talking over]

Roberta Fabiano: Must we talk about this? All right: “I am a new bird-owner” – don’t we have names of people?

Susan Chamberlain: This person preferred to remain anonymous.

Roberta Fabiano: Oh, OK. “We recently got two hand-fed cockatiels that we love” – [R comments] that’s good – “How do you deal with the constant droppings? Every time we take them out of the cage, they poop all over the furniture and us. Do we just wipe it up and learn to live with this? Are the droppings hazardous? I have two small boys that crawl around the floor and if I missed a bird dropping, would it hurt them? I hear about birds carrying diseases and it scares me.”

Susan Chamberlain: [laughing] The bird dropping that hurt the little boys. Well, poop happens! And, as this person has learnt, it happens quite frequently. Unless the birds are suffering from Coccidiosis or other infectious disease that is transmissible from birds to humans, it is very unlikely that the children will suffer any ill effects from contacting the cockatiel’s droppings. However, if droppings are permitted to dry and disperse into the air as a fine dust, the powder may exacerbate respiratory ailments or conditions like asthma or allergies and it may affect birds and humans alike.

Oops, oops, oops - we need to take a break here for a second? We will be back with more poop on poop.

[commercial break]

Susan Chamberlain: We are back on “WingsNThings”. Susan Chamberlain here.

Roberta Fabiano: Roberta Fabiano here and Ratchet.

Susan Chamberlain: Is Ratchet going to sing this time? I don’t think so.

Roberta Fabiano: Sing, sing, come on.

Susan Chamberlain: Won’t sing.

Roberta Fabiano: Sing “Merry Christmas”. Forget it.

Susan Chamberlain: Not interested. Just some little chirps.

OK, we are talking about the poop; the bird poop; those prolific cockatiels. I am sure you have noticed your bird goes quite frequently. Guess what – that is normal.

As far as cleaning up is concerned, the answer to the person’s question iSusan Chamberlain: yes, we do continue to wipe after our birds as long as we share our homes with them. 28 years of servitude to my own flock have taught me that there are things, though, that we can do to make our tasks easieRoberta Fabiano: keep the birds away from upholstered furniture – droppings can often be removed, but depending on what the birds have eaten, stains may be permanent. If you do not want to rid stains on your white couch, either keep the bird off the couch or do not feed him beets, cherries or pommegranades.

Roberta, how about a suggestion from you here?

Roberta Fabiano: Have birds’ wings clipped regularly to prevent accidents and escape and to prevent them from making regular bombing missions around the house.

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah, we do not want bombing missions around the house - just because it is green, it does not mean it is pesto.

Purchase a gym for your birds to use when they are out of their cage

Susan Chamberlain: they will enjoy their freedom and the droppings will land on the stand-end of their stands, so that it lands on the floor. It is just part of parenthood.

Roberta Fabiano: Allow your birds out only in rooms with hard, easy to clean floors.

Susan Chamberlain: Like tile.

Roberta Fabiano: Right.

Susan Chamberlain: Vinyl.

Roberta Fabiano: Good.

Susan Chamberlain: Maybe sealed wood – if your wood has worn out finish and the bird poop is allowed to languish there, that may stain it. Keep moist wipes and paper towels and a roll of toilet-paper ready for quick cleanups – many people have a paper-towel holder right there, next to their bird’s cages, which helps quite a bit.

Roberta Fabiano: Learn to time your bird’s droppings – return them to the cage or stand when defecation is imminent.

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah, I do that. People always say: “How do you know?”, and Cracker is on my shoulder - “Mother knows”.

Roberta Fabiano: Mother knows.

Susan Chamberlain: A mother definitely knows.

Roberta Fabiano: Yes.

Susan Chamberlain: Wear special shirt or a light jackets when your birds are on you. I have an old terry-cloth beach jacket over my clothes when Cracker, my double-yellowhead is helping me around the house. I call it the ‘Cracker-jacket’ and it provides her with a pretty firm grip and it launders very easily, too.

Roberta Fabiano: I wear a vest.

Susan Chamberlain: Oh, there you go. That is a good thing. Do you keep bird-treats in the pockets?

Roberta Fabiano: No, I forgot that. I have not thought of that.

Susan Chamberlain: Ah, OK.

Roberta Fabiano: My bird does not like treats, anyway.

Susan Chamberlain: Oh.

Oh, here is one – here is a ‘biggie’.

Roberta Fabiano: [sings] Teach the children well, to clean up after their birds.

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah, that is very important. You want to teach them to do that, because what they learn when they are kids, they will take with them into adulthood. Whenever I had pets when I was a child, my parents would say: “OK, you can have the bird, or you can have the cat” – whatever it was, “But you have to take care of it”. And I knew they meant business, so I did. Pet birds are not difficult to care for, but they do present many unique challenges. Your bird is not just a hobby – having a bird is a lifestyle.

We have time for one more quick question.

Roberta Fabiano: OK.

Susan Chamberlain: Maybe a little lengthy one. Here we go…

Roberta Fabiano: “I am planning a 10-day trip to San Diego, California, from Minnesota. I would love to bring my eight month old blue-crown Mackaw with me. What do I need to know to take my bird on a plane? Do I need a vet check-up for a clean bill of health before I leave. Are blue-crown conures allowed in California?” – that is a pretty good question.

Susan Chamberlain: Whether they are allowed in California or not, they are proliferating in San Francisco or at least one I know of – one wild one, featured in the “Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”, but, yes – blue-crowned conures are allowed in California. The first thing you need to do purchase an airline-approved, under-the-seat style carrier, well in advance of your planned trip. You need to call the airlines and see if they even allow birds on the plane and the cabin. I certainly would not recommend shipping an eight month old bird.

Roberta Fabiano: How come?

Susan Chamberlain: Do you really want to put your eight month old bird in cargo?

Roberta Fabiano: No.

Susan Chamberlain: Temperature fluctuations, stress, the thought of maybe the bird being lost or misplaced and whether they have non-stop flights from Minnesota to San Diego or do you have to make several connections – it is probably too stressful for both you and your bird. But the most important advice I can give to anyone planning to fly with a bird, is to plan ahead: four to six months in advance is essential for international travel, or destinations outside the continental United States.

Roberta Fabiano: Could you actually bring your bird to Europe? How could you do that?

Susan Chamberlain: You can probably bring your bird to Europe, but it may have to undergo extensive quarantine over there – I would not advise doing it unless you are moving over there permanently.

Roberta Fabiano: Right.

Susan Chamberlain: Your other issue is bringing your bird back into the United States.

If you are flying domestically, make plane reservations for your bird when you make your own reservations. Most airlines transport animals and birds in a cargo compartment, but some permit passengers to carry their birds into the cabin, as long as the kennel will fit beneath the seat in the plane.

Do expect that there will be a fee to bring your bird on board – when I carried my Senegal Parrots on a flight, they were charged only a single fare, as they were small birds and they were sharing the same container.

Bring a cover along for the carrier as passenger compartments may be chilly. When a bird travels as cargo, the kennel must be strong enough to withstand the rigours of shipping and spacious enough to permit the bird to stand and rest comfortably. It must be ventilated near the top and there must be a rim around the kennel to prevent freight from obstructing the vents. Learn which kennels meet these requirements and choose the proper airline-approved container.

You have to attach instructions for feeding, watering and administering medication to the animal and put those on the kennel. There should be a label that says ‘live animals’. All this is very, very important.

Roberta Fabiano: Do you know what airlines are more animal-friendly?

Susan Chamberlain: I just read that South-West Airlines does not permit animals in the passenger cabin. You have to call the individual airline. It can change. I could say something today and they could change their mind tomorrow. The big trick here, I guess, is calling the airline and getting somebody on the phone, who knows about it. You should be able to – just keep trying or ask your travel agent.

Roberta Fabiano: I would not recommend having your bird put in cargo, though. I do not think that is a good idea.

Susan Chamberlain: No, I would not either, but if you have a big Mackaw, you may have to. I had a bird shipped to me one time by air and it was absolutely fine – it was a non-stop flight. When you have a bird shipped, make sure that you are there to meet the bird when it is shipped to you.

Get your bird accustomed to the carrier, too, before you go on a trip. You do not want to put the bird in a carrier for the first time when you are going on the trip – it will be stressful.

Roberta Fabiano: Good plan.

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah.

Roberta Fabiano: Absolutely.

And you do not want to give your bird a sedative or anything like that. Does anyone ever do that? Have you ever heard of a vet doing that?

Susan Chamberlain: A sedative before travelling?

Roberta Fabiano: Yeah.

Susan Chamberlain: No, I have not. I have heard about birds getting car-sick and, in that case, it is possible that a vet may recommend some sort of medication, but you would have to consult your avian veterinarian. I certainly would not want to second-guess that situation at all.

If you are travelling by car, bring some treats for your bird, get your bird accustomed to riding in the car by taking short, frequent rides to help your bird get accustomed to it.

Roberta Fabiano: Extra water?

Susan Chamberlain: Extra water – well, the water will often splash around. Get your bird accustomed to drinking out of a drinking water-bottle and attach that.

Roberta Fabiano: How do you do that? That is another story in itself to get your bird to be used to that.

Susan Chamberlain: Most of them will if you position it a proper height above the perch or near a perch. The all have a little ball right in the spigot and birds’ natural curiosity will lead them to investigate it.

Roberta Fabiano: Is it why that is there?

Susan Chamberlain: Partly. It is also there to keep the water from just flowing out.

Roberta Fabiano: Mhm.

Susan Chamberlain: Some of them have a red ball in there to give the bird a little more interest. Most bird will learn to drink from one – again, be sure that your bird is actually drinking from it before you depend on it.

Bring some nice, juicy fruit and vegetables for your bird when you are travelling. If the bird does not drink the water or if the water splashes out with the motion of your car, you will have some grapes and half an orange and a piece of grapefruit and some apples for the bird to eat – they will get plenty of water out of that.

Roberta Fabiano: Oh, good.

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah, they certainly will. Well, you travel with Ratchet all the time…Oh, there is Ratchet! She is complaining!

Roberta Fabiano: [laughing] She is saying: “I don’t want to do that anymore.”

Susan Chamberlain: Yes.

Roberta Fabiano: “Don’t you even talk about it”.

Susan Chamberlain: What doesn’t she want to do? She doesn’t want to go on a trip?

Roberta Fabiano: She doesn’t want to travel anymore.

Susan Chamberlain: She does not want to travel. She is such a diva.

You can find more about travelling abroad and back home with your pet bird: go to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services website – it is You can also go to – that is the animal care and the US Department of Agriculture; your website there is and you will be able to find more information about travelling with your pet bird internationally.

Domestically, you may need a health certificate for interstate travel – it is always a good idea to have it. It is a good idea to get vet referrals for your itinerary – ask your avian veterinarian for a referral of somewhere along the road, consult the Association of Avian Veterinarians website, or consult “Birds USA” – that is the publication of “Bird Talk Magazine” for veterinary and bird-club listings. Call ahead to verify hours and availability. Bring your health certificate, if necessary. Have your bird’s wings and nails clipped before you go on a trip. Do you have any ideas here, Roberta?

Roberta Fabiano: Did we mention about the coagulant powder we should probably carry with us while travelling?

Susan Chamberlain: Oh, yeah. In a first-aid kit.

Roberta Fabiano: In case he bleeds.

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah, if your bird catches a nail or chips its’ beak during the trip, you will want to be able to stop the bleeding, so you will want to bring some coagulant powder, or even just some – what do you call it – sunflower....

Roberta Fabiano: What is it?

Susan Chamberlain: Cornstarch!

Roberta Fabiano: Cornstarch – that works? Wow.

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah! A friend gave me a really good idea for stopping bleeding: she put a towel or a glove on her hand and sprinkled it with cornstarch and then got the bird to step onto her hand – as the nail gripped, it got the cornstarch onto the chipped nail and the bleeding stopped.

Roberta Fabiano: Oh, that’s good.

Susan Chamberlain: She didn’t have to go through the trauma of restraining the bird.

Yes, bring an avian first-aid kit, know how to use it. Bring some drinking water from your home, too, for the first couple of days, because your bird may be sensitive to drinking water from other supplies.

Roberta Fabiano: Do not forget to bring a knife, too, if you want to cut some nice fruit - it is always one of those things that you forget about.

Susan Chamberlain: Oh, yeah! If you will want to cut up the fruit and vegetables, you need your knife. You will not be allowed to bring one on the plane, though. You will have to use one of those little plastic knives from the airplane.

Roberta Fabiano: Right.

Susan Chamberlain: Bring a light-colored cage cover for the day-time travel – I always like to cover my birds with a white cover so they can perceive daylight.

Roberta Fabiano: What about a portable stand?

Susan Chamberlain: Yeah, you can do that. You can certainly bring a portable stand, like a table-top one. Bring some paper – maybe some waxed paper to put inside the bird’s cage.

Roberta Fabiano: How about some music for the bird to calm him?

Susan Chamberlain: Yes.

Roberta Fabiano: There is a great song I know: “Dog in car in Tupelo”. The birds love that song!

Susan Chamberlain: Ah! That song – from the “Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” – yes, play that in your car; soothing music in your car – don’t have the car vibrating with hip-hop. The birds love it, but maybe not on a trip.

Last, but not least, make advance reservations for hotels and motels.

Roberta Fabiano: Find out who is bird-friendly.

Susan Chamberlain: Yes, find out who is pet-friendly.

I think we ran way over on this edition of “WingsNThings”, but thank you, Roberta, for being here.

Roberta Fabiano: We are happy to be here once again. Are you going to say ‘bye-bye’? [talking to her bird]

[bird chirping]

Susan Chamberlain: Say ‘goodbye’, Ratchet.

Roberta Fabiano: Bye-bye. See you later. She is looking at the microphone.

Susan Chamberlain: She is not going to say anything. She is just going to lick the mike.

Thanks again for tuning into “WingsNThings” and email me your questions and experiences with your feathered friend Susan Chamberlain: Signing off, thank you.

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