Every late spring, my phone rings off the hook from callers who just found an abandoned baby bird hopping about on the ground and who want to bring it to me to be rescued.
But if you see a baby bird on the ground that has feathers, has its eyes open and can hop about, don't pick it up.
Baby birds sitting in a nest in a tree are targets for predators and it is their instinct to leave the nest and scatter about under bushes in the area. This way, if a predator finds one baby, at least the others are not with it and they could survive. The parents go from baby to baby in turn and feed them on the ground. The babies hop about and gradually learn to fly.
If the bird is in an open area and attracting unwanted attention, gently move it to an area under some shrubs so it is out of sight. Do not worry about the parents not feeding it. The notion that a parent bird will not feed a baby that has been touched by human hands is just a myth. The only time a bird needs help is when it is naked and undeveloped - perhaps the nest was too crowded or the nest itself fell out of the tree and cannot be replaced. In those cases, you should contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who has the training and permits to help the bird. Otherwise, leave it alone.
Question: My mother, who suffers from asthma, is moving in with us. We have two dogs, two cats and two parrots. We are afraid the allergens and dander from our pets are going to compromise her condition. Do you have any suggestions to help us keep Mom happy and keep our pets as well?
Answer: Every one of these situations is different, so what works for one household may not work for another. I can tell you that apart from the obvious - such as frequent bathing of your pets and not allowing the animals on furniture and in certain rooms - the best thing to invest in is a high-quality vacuum and electronic room cleaner.
A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter will help a great deal. The machines are expensive, but they are built to really deep clean rooms for people with environmental allergies. A poor vacuum can actually make matters worse by stirring up the dust and allergens that settle in the carpet.
Air purifiers are another good idea, but some work well and some do not. I have tried many of them with mixed success. The one that worked best for me has no fan and works on the negative ion principle. It emits no noise and we have to change the filter only about once a month - even in my house with lots of critters.
No matter what kind of technology you use, these situations usually involve a bit of compromise from all sides. The results are rarely perfect.
Question: The yellow nape Amazon parrot I have owned for 43 years died yesterday, and it was a great shock to us as he was fine the day before. He was never sick a day in his life, and I have no idea what could have caused this. I thought these birds could live for 80 years or longer.
Answer: I am very sorry for your loss. To lose a companion that has shared your life for almost half a century is a great tragedy. However, you will never really know why your parrot died unless a veterinarian performs a postmortem on the bird. You must understand, your bird was up there in years, and birds, just like any other living creature, can suffer sudden heart attacks and strokes out of the blue. There is very little you could have done to prevent it.
The idea parrots can live into their 80s is more anecdotal information than anything else. King Tut, the cockatoo at the San Diego Zoo, did live that long - but most are pretty geriatric by the time they are 40.
A yearly visit to an avian vet for a blood test and culture can predict and help avoid quite a few problems in pet birds, but there are certain things in life that owners cannot prevent at all.
Question: My backyard is full of dandelion and chickweed this time of the year, and I was wondering if these were OK to feed my bearded dragon lizard and Russian tortoise.
Answer: As long as you do not use any chemical weed killers or fertilizers in your yard, those greens are among the most nutritious foods you can feed your pets. Whenever I am walking anywhere, my eyes are always on the ground to see if I can locate a particularly nice dandelion or patch of clover growing in a safe place free from chemicals.
There are many websites and books that say what type of weeds are safe for humans and pets to eat.