Windy City California Bird Nerds
Dec. 15, 2011
Getting to know turkey changed town's Thanksgiving

A wild turkey wandered into the town of Davis, N.C., five months ago, and residents took her under their wing. The big gentle bird has been hit by a car, lost her tail feathers to an animal attack, and nearly drown during Hurricane Irene, but each time, someone cared for her until she could recover. Tomasina, who now lives at the general store, not only survived Thanksgiving, some people in Davis have sworn off eating turkey now that they know one personally.

Dec. 11, 2011
Hamsters edge out parrots as sexy pet

If you must own a pet while looking for love, stay away from spiders, snakes, rats, lizards, and ferrets. Both sexes tend to shy away from prospective mates who own a creepy crawly, according to a survey by YouGov. The least offensive pet is a small furry one, such as a hamster or guinea pig. The second least objectionable pet is a parrot. The best way to attract a lover is to have no pet at all--not even a dog or cat.

Dec. 9, 2011
Scared songbirds scale down their families

Just having predators around makes birds nervous, and that makes them behave in self-destructive ways, says a new study of birds exposed to controlled noises. Scientists played a different soundtrack to two groups of sparrows. Birds that were pummeled with predator noises holed up in thornier bushes, laid fewer eggs, and fed the hatching chicks less because the frightened parents did not want to leave the nest to hunt for food--resulting in fewer babies surviving. The birds that enjoyed the gentler soundtrack of seals and geese produced 40 percent bigger families. Scientists noted their study shoots holes in the theory that well-fed feral cats would not harm wildlife. In fact, in turns out, the mere presence of predators hurts birds' chances for survival.

Dec. 1, 2011
Hero parrot saves pups

An African grey climbed the stairs to his owner's bedroom in the middle of the night and told her to "come on" until she got up and discovered her Pomeranian had given birth to puppies on the cold kitchen floor. One pup had died and the others were chilled but recovered once rescued.

Sam, the African grey, has the run of Suzanna Bolton's home in Darwen, England, but he had never been in her bedroom before, she said, much less roamed the house at night.

October 7, 2011
Be different, even if it's scary

September 15, 2011
Wild birds learn a new language: your pet's

In Australia, people are hearing voices. The birds in their yards are talking, and not just the usual chirps and squawks.

According to Adelaide Now, escaped pet birds are joining flocks of wild cockatoos, which are especially common in Sydney, and teaching the wild birds phrases such as, "Who's a pretty boy?" Apparently, entire flocks are picking up and repeating words they learn from their new feathered friends.

People have reported being startled at hearing a "human" voice coming from a tree, said a rep from the Australian Museum.

July 15, 2011
The case of the Siamese birds

There was something odd about the two young robins flopping around on the ground. When the bigger one tried to fly, he dragged the smaller one. It was because they were joined at the wing.

The Centerville, Utah, family who found the birds took the attached siblings to a veterinarian, who discovered it was not a birth defect. The birds' skin and feathers had grown over a plastic thread from the nest, making them look like avian conjoined twins.

The birds were successfully separated, but the smaller one had to have a partial wing amputation. It will live at a wildlife center, while the larger one is expected to be released.

July 8, 2011
Struck down by parrot fever?

Patricia Ingle worked at a pet shop in Limerick, Ireland, until she became so catastrophically ill that she now must use a wheelchair and breathe through a tube. The diagnosis? Chlamydia psittacosis, which Ingle claims she caught from one of the pet shop's sick cockatiels. Last week Ingle was awarded a total of $15.3 million from the Health Service Executive, Ireland's government-run healthcare organization.

Usually referred to as parrot fever or psittacosis, chlamydia is a common bird disease, especially among cockatiels and parakeets, caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia psittaci, according to Long Beach Animal Hospital. Sick birds can experience loss of appetite, listlessness and respiratory problems. However, birds also can be asymptomatic carriers, intermittently shedding the organism in their droppings. Diagnosis is difficult, usually requiring blood tests and cultures before a veterinarian can say with any certainty. Treatment is a long session of oral or injected antibiotics.

Humans can catch psittacosis by inhaling dried droppings. Usually the illness resembles nothing more than a mild flu. But in rare cases psittacosis turns deadly, infecting major organs, including the brain. Bird owners experiencing lingering flu symptoms should see a doctor immediately. Ingle apparently won her case because while her doctors were able to save her life, they did not diagnose the disease in time to stop severe damage.

In extremely rare cases, you do not even have to own or work with birds to come into contact with this potentially devastating disease. Twenty-five years ago in Athens, Texas, Mike Warms died of psittacosis after a protracted bout with what doctors thought was the flu. Doctors believe he became infected while working outdoors in his garden. Mike was my journalism teacher.

July 3, 2011
What happened to the photo contest?!

Where has the photo contest gone? Nowhere! It's still here! But we haven't received many photos lately. (At least not since our computer accidentally ate the last batch. Sorry about that.) Naturally, we need photos before we can declare a winner, so if you can send us a few, we'll start up the contest again.

June 21, 2011
The best bird dads ever!

Today we honor dads, and not just the human kind.

Over the years the media has recognized the dedication of animal dads, including birds. The National Geographic, National Wildlife Federation and other groups have included the following feathered fathers on their Top 10 lists of animal dads:

The greater rhea does every bit of the egg warming and chick rearing.
The jacana, a water bird, not only incubates and raises the kids, it must protect them from the mother.
The great horned owl spends every waking moment feeding not only its chicks but its much-larger mate until the younguns feather out and mama can start hunting for herself.
The emperor penguin incubates eggs by balancing them on the tops of its feet - for two straight months without eating, in 70-degree-below weather.
The namaqua sandgrouse father is abandoned by his mate after the chicks hatch, leaving him to raise them alone. This includes a daily trip to a watering hole to soak his feathers; the chicks then drink from the absorbent feathers.

May 31, 2011
This reality show is for the birds

There’s a new reality show in town and it’s got everything: sex, sibling rivalry, exotic locales and sometimes tragedy. And birds. Lots of birds.

If spying on a family of bald eagles, barn owls or purple martins sounds like a lot more fun than Real Housewives, you'll love the world of online nestcams. These small remote surveillance cameras installed near or in bird nests and broadcast over the Internet are blowing the lid off the secret lives of birds to the thrill of voyeuristic birders everywhere.

Read Full Story.

May 23, 2011
Parakeets swarm London

Over 30,000 ringneck parakeets live in London, up from a population of just 1,500 birds in 1995, says a volunteer organization that conducts quarterly counts.

The effect of ringnecks on crops or native United Kingdom birds is not known, says Project Parakeet. But the huge leap in numbers has Britons worried enough that they intend to find out more. Project Parakeet is analyzing feathers to try to determine where the birds came from originally, and the group is keeping an eye on another parakeet that might colonize the country if given the chance: the monk parakeet.

Though Quakers number a mere 150 so far, citing the problems they have caused in the U.S. by nesting on power poles, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, a department of the UK government responsible for environmental protection, has ominously announced it will be "taking steps to control" the monk parakeet population.

According to Project Parakeet, ringneck parakeets are the most widely distributed parrot in the world. Orignating in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, they can now be found in 35 countries and on every continent but Antarctica.

May 22, 2011
Bird rescuers save doomsday parrots

William Tinker was sure he would be taken by the Rapture and his pets would be left behind. He didn't want his dog, three cats and two parrots to suffer all alone, so he told everyone he intended to kill "his babies" May 21, as soon as the earthquakes "reached Denver."

Concerned neighbors in Boyes Hot Springs, Calif., alerted the authorities. However, city officials said they could not interfere as long as Tinker dispatched the animals "humanely."

The pets might have been truly doomed if San Francisco-area's Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue had not jumped into the act. Mickaboo volunteers helped convince Tinker to hand over all his pets to local animal control authorities.

Tinker will get his Senegal parrot, cockatiel and other pets back some time this week, said the Sonoma County Animal Care and Control, despite the fact he apparently was serious about prematurely ending their lives. He visited a local animal clinic twice last week trying to get the necessary drugs. He was turned down both times.

May 17, 2011
The dog ate your entries - can you resend?

Twitter has its Fail Whale when service goes down. Meet the Flaw Macaw.

An e-mail crash at headquarters has resulted in the deletion of all the entries we had received for the May-June 2011 Your Birds photo contest. Service has been restored to us but alas, your photos are no mas.

If you entered a photo for consideration in the May-June contest, we kindly request you to submit it again, and please accept our sincere and embarrassed apologies for the inconvenience. (If you had been meaning to enter a photo, now's your chance to sneak in and we'll be none the wiser.)

The new deadline for May-June entries is May 30. See contest rules here, and e-mail your photo to We promise to keep it in a safe place. Thank you.

May 7, 2011
Talk to the bird - but don't expect an answer

German phone manufacturer Gigaset has put up a Facebook app that lets you talk to a blue-and-gold macaw over a Webcam. Ostensibly the bird is there to discuss phone plans, but conversations don't seem to get much beyond hello and clucking like a chicken, at least on the part of the macaw. The humans say more, such as "Hello, bird!" and "What's your name?"

The publicity stunt ends May 9, which hardly seems worth the effort considering it only just started, but if you hurry you might be able to get a word in edgewise. Or, you and a friend could just set up a Webcam conversation between your own parrots.

April 25, 2011
The man who loved birds

Funny what comes to mind when we hear "Audubon Society". Timid bird watchers wearing Bermuda shorts, squinting through binoculars. John James Audubon, the French-American ornithologist who would have been a spry 226 years old today, was anything but owlish. In fact, he was an enthusiastic hunter before he was a painter, and even afterward thought nothing of shooting birds he admired for the convenience of drawing them at his leisure.

But Audubon's attention to detail paid off. Thanks to this accomplished bon vivant who as a young man loved nature even more than music and socializing, we gained Birds of America, the first major art book to realistically depict the continent's birds. Published in the early 1880s, at great personal effort and expense to Audubon, the book was composed of 435 hand-colored, life-size prints of 497 species.

Audubon lived to a ripe old age and produced two sons who carried on his work, one of them, John W. Audubon, a naturalist and painter in his own right. According to Wikipedia, Audubon discovered 25 new species in his lifetime, and was the first to band birds to track movement - he tied strings around their legs.

April 23, 2011
Bird of the Week: The Peep

The American Bird Conservancy does not ordinarily encourage people to eat their Bird of the Week, but here they make an exception.

The ABC notes on its website:

    Peeps typically make their appearance in the springtime, with numbers peaking in April. Despite their ubiquitous distribution and social nature, their migratory paths, wintering, and breeding areas are little known.

    During their breeding season, Peeps can easily be found in suburban backyard habitats, where they lay clutches of colorful eggs in nests of brightly-colored plastic grasses. Adult and immature peeps can be quickly located by their sweet calls and neon plumage.

    Scientists recognize only the familiar “yellow” form of peep; but there is currently support in the ornithological community for granting separate species status to the blue, teal, pink, and purple forms of Peep, currently considered color morphs. Although Peeps are heavily consumed, their populations appear to quickly rebound in subsequent years and therefore they are not a species of conservation concern.

    Enjoy this popular harbinger of spring!

April 16, 2011
I am a baaaad bird, Part Deux

I'm a friendly bird, always happy to say "hello," "stop it" and "Mmmm! That's good!". But I need my space, too. Small, dark spaces.

I enjoy finding places to hide where my people can't find me. Sometimes I chew on something to keep myself occupied. I like to chew and think, and think and chew some more while I'm hiding. Sometimes I think about making a nest and laying an egg. Sometimes I just take a nap. You can relate, I'm sure.

My favorite hidey hole is under the fish tank. I open the door with my beak. Inside there is a lot of cool stuff to keep a girl like me entertained for hours. There are paper manuals, chemicals in bottles, fish flakes in cans, and lots of hoses.

Did I mention the hoses? They have a nice rubbery taste and feel squishy in the beak. Ummm.

Today when I chewed the hose, a waterfall came out and made a nice splashing sound. The water filled the bottom of the cabinet and spilled onto the floor. It was AWESOME. I got so excited I broke one of my cardinal rules about hiding and made a noise. I chortled.

When my person came in the room, she must have really liked the waterfall, too, because she screamed. She rushed me back to my cage so she could have the water all to herself. I could hear her talking to the fish, telling them to hang in there, that they would soon have water to play in again, too.

I love that my person and I enjoy the same things. I hope we can play under the fish tank together again real soon.

April 8, 2011
Draw a Bird

Today is National Draw A Bird Day. What, you didn't get the day off? No matter, get out some crayons or watercolors, look out the window or at your own pets, and draw a picture in memory of Dorie Cooper, who would have been 75 today. According to the official DABDAy site, Dorie was a 7-year-old British girl who cheered up her uncle, injured in the war, by asking him to draw her a bird. Other soldiers on her uncle's hospital ward drew birds as well and little Dorie's request began a sweet artistic movement that spread worldwide after her death three years later.

Share your bird drawings with by e-mailing them to

March 28, 2011
A chicken comes to roost - for a while

Chickens are popular pets these days. Everyone seems to know someone with a backyard coop. I had chickens as a child. Every spring we had dozens of striped fuzzballs running around the back yard peeping, cute as could be. I've missed having chickens. They are loyal, funny pets. Then Betty showed up on our doorstep.

Betty obviously was somebody's backyard hen on the lam. At first she preferred the driveway of the house across the street. After I began feeding her she started living in our back yard and I named her after the mother of my best friend in high school.

By day Betty roamed our yard, pecking and scratching. She liked the cornbread and bird seed I threw but wouldn't eat out of my hand. At night she disappeared into the trees next door. Every day that she returned was like a small miracle. I liked looking out the kitchen window and seeing her there. It was a bucolic scene, my chicken scratching for worms.

I took each dog out individually to meet Betty. If they started toward her I swatted their behinds and said, "No!" This worked until I looked out the window and saw both dogs chasing Betty around and around the yard. I yelled and ran out in my socks but by the time I got there Betty had already flown to the top of the fence, safely out of reach. Even eight-pound Chihuahuas were dogs, with a full set of hunting instincts. But I conducted another class in manners and there were no more incidents.

We told our checker at the grocery store about Betty because we knew she had chickens, too. "Oh, poor thing," she clucked. "Her luck is bound to run out soon. A raccoon or big cat or possum will get her."

I had avoided thinking about where Betty went at night, only that she came back the next day. I hadn't wanted the responsibility of worrying about her but now that someone had expressed concern, I felt guilty. It had been cold and rainy. Some days Betty looked soaked, her black tail, jaunty when we first met, all wet and drooping.

"A chicken exposed to the elements will get sick, if an animal doesn't get them first," said Leslie. "I tell you what. I don't have room for any more chickens. But a friend of mine down the street does. She'll take your chicken in and give it a good home. Just bring her to the store. I get off at 5."

And so, after getting home and unloading the groceries, I took a cardboard box and went outside. Calling "Chick, chick!" I lured Betty down from a tree and inside an aviary with a handful of seed. I followed her inside and closed the door. I had dreaded this moment. I didn't want to have to grab Betty and scare her. I thought she would struggle and fuss. But I was able to pick her up immediately and she sat in my arms as if we were old friends.

Betty felt less substantial than I had expected. Her feathers were soft and her eyes clear, but maybe she was not thriving as well as I had thought. I felt better about tricking her; it was for her own good. I drove back to the store and told Leslie that I had brought Betty. We went out to her car so I could put the box in her back seat. It was plenty cold outside and Betty would be snug inside the car until Leslie could take her home.

I peeped inside the box one more time to say goodbye. Betty looked up expectantly. She was not pacing or worried, just crouched in a corner, patiently waiting for the next leg of her journey to begin.

March 24, 2011
A rare bird indeed

Turns out Steve Martin was not just goofing with the banjo all those years he wore an arrow through his head. He can play, and now does so with his own bluegrass band, The Steep Canyon Rangers. His first album, The Crow, came out in 2009, and the second is Rare Bird Alert. The band members appear to be quail; Martin looks like a white pigeon. Exact meaning: unknown.

March 21, 2011
Quentin Tarantino's macaw-screeching blues

Proving once again that even extraordinary people have ordinary problems just like you and me, Quentin Tarantino is suing his next-door neighbor, True Blood creator Alan Ball, for noise pollution.

Poor Quentin. The "pterodactyl-like" screams of Ball's pet macaws are so heinous that they're making it impossible for the director to get his creative on.

Really? Birds are so distracting the guy who made Pulp Fiction that he can't concentrate on writing his next head-explosion scene? Whatever. You would think Tarantino could just take a few billions and build a sound-proof dome over his house.

But maybe this is just the latest in a long trail of bad blood between the two Hollywood powerhouses. Maybe Ball's dog pooped on Quentin's lawn or his trees dropped leaves in the Tarantino pool. Maybe Ball has 40 macaws in his backyard, in which case Quenty would be completely justified. We'll just have to see how it plays out, and watch for parrots to figure prominently in Tarantino's next movie. Reservoir Macaws anyone?

March 16, 2011
Latest contest winners!

Announcing the March-April 2011 Your Birds photo contest results!

We received some gorgeous and affecting photos of your parrots this time around. Eloine Chapman wins first place and $50 in bird supplies from Windy City Parrot for her moody study of Max, a Moluccan cockatoo, shown here with Chapman's mother, Brenda. Congrats!

Second place and a $25 Windy City gift certificate go to Christina Chandler of Saskatchewan, who submitted a nice shot of her peach-faced lovebird, Mim.

See the rest of the great pictures we received for this contest in the March-April 2011 Your Birds slideshow. Deadline for the next contest is May 5!

February 20, 2011
Photo contest deadline extension

It's not too late to enter a photo in the March-April 2011 Your Birds photo contest!

We've moved the deadline out to March 10, so send your entries to (For contest rules, go to Your Birds.) We look forward to seeing your pictures!

January 21, 2011
One man's trash...

Black kites, a type of raptor, have been found to decorate their nests with the equivalent of "no trespassing" signs that warn other birds to stay away, according to a scientific study conducted in Spain, says this Wired story.

In a recyling success story, kites who used pieces of white plastic in their nests before laying eggs and raising young did not have to fend off interlopers as often as birds that did not use as much or any plastic at all in their nests, said the study. Scientists observed 127 kite nests in Spain's Donana National Park.

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  Can birds get carsick?
  Why parrots "dance"
  Stop a dangerous egg-laying habit
  How parrots are able to speak
  Humor: How weird are parrot owners?
  How to help a disabled bird live a full life
  Bird fiction: "The Real Thing"
  The sweet, stubborn brown-headed parrot
  It's a bird! It's a plane! Flying with a parrot
  Converting your bird to a water bottle
  Yes, parrots love meat - and that's okay!
  Neutering isn't an option for parrots
  Can your baby get sick from the bird?
  Tail bobbing? Get your bird to the vet!
  Birds blush but not from embarrassment
  Harness training your bird
  Height dominance is a myth
  Is it healthy to share a room with a bird?
  Enrichment: the more mirrors the better

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