( read this page, I've spent a lot of time on it )
OK, Birds Unlimited has been around for about 24 years now, four years at this new location in Webster, we get all sorts of people in the store and we get many questions. Someone once said there is no such thing as a stupid question. Hmmm, I'm not sure about that, for instance... If I bring in my cockatiel's eggs, can you fertilize them? No I can't and neither can any of my birds. More than one person has actually asked me "where do African Greys come from". Some questions we get all the time, here are some of the good ones...
last updated 9/17/14And the number one question of all time...
A. My hours are 70-75 a week, every week, but we're open, Monday thru Friday 11 AM to 8 PM, Saturday 10 AM to 5 PM, Closed on Sundays and major holidays. This hasn't changed in 23 years, I list this in all my advertising, on several pages on this web site, it's in both the white and yellow pages of the phone book, (women seem to like the white pages while the guys love to go for the yellow, me too, maybe it's all the nice pictures), the hours are on my business cards, my answering machine, my front door, my side window, they don't change!! If we get a snow storm and there's a storm warning then I try to let the staff go home early. Now don't get me wrong I do very much appreciate you folks who get here ten minutes early to an hour or more before we open, but we've got stuff to do. Every cage gets scrubbed down, floors get swept and vacuumed, bowls get scrubbed and birds get fed, babies get hand fed, deliveries show up... it takes three people two hours to get most of this done, unfortunately regularly there's only two people doing this. Here's my favorite, someone pulls into the parking lot about 30 minutes before we open, they wait a few minutes, come to the door, y'know the door with the hours right about face high, they'll pull on the handle, "darn it's locked". They'll proceed to look into the store much like a guppy looking out of a fishbowl, if they happen to see someone they'll knock and they'll mouth these words much like someone talking to a deaf person, ARE YOU OPEN? Some people have even called on their cell phones hoping that we'd answer, (we don't pick up the phone until 11). What I want to say is, " yes we do our best business with the door locked and the lights out and the sign that says CLOSED", but I resist. Don't anyone take this personally as you're not alone, it's been going on for years. Please be patient, we always try to open on time and we sometimes unlock a few minutes late... we've got stuff to do.
Q. Does this bird talk, I want a bird that talks?
A. I can tell you that if there's any one question that will turn us off towards a customer it's this one. If that's your criteria for getting a pet bird I probably won't sell you one. It also tells us that you probably haven't done much research before coming in to the store. While it is sometimes a fun part of having a bird it is way down the list of why I like birds, there's so much more to a bird than having it repeat a few things. When I say a few things, I mean a few things. Even the best of the talkers, the African Greys, will say a lot, but unless they know a lot you'll hear the same things over and over and over... Most people aren't creative enough or know how to get the most from their bird to have a non stop great talking bird. Ten years from now I'd much rather have a bird I can handle and socialize with than one that says a few things. Although a nice wolf whistle does wonders for your ego.
Q. Are there any veterinarians in the area the treat birds?
A. Yes there are several and then there are some that want nothing to do with birds. Here are a few, more will be added as I think of them. They're in alphabetical order by doctors name. There's also a link to the left that is just veterinarians.
In the case of an emergency, do not email me and wait for a response, call a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you think there's something wrong with your pet, there probably is, get help, don't wait.
All Creatures Animal Hospital, Dr. Alexandra Adamcak, East Amherst 716.636.3600 (avian certified)
East Ridge Animal Hospital, Dr. Gerald Balonek, East Irondequoit 585.467.2120 (this is where we go when we need a vet)
Clark Animal Care Center, Dr. Denise Charpentier, Penfield 585.377.1160
South Towne Veterinary Hospital, Dr. Edward Gschrey, Henrietta 585.334.1550
Fairport Animal Hospital, Dr. Brian Hall, Fairport 585.388.1070
Town & Country Hospital, Pets, Dr. Lisa Jensen, Syracuse 315 469.5777
Suburban Animal Hospital, Dr. Heidi Licata, Henrietta 585.334.4230
East River Animal Hospital, Dr. Christina Seidel, Henrietta 585. 334.3110
Animal Ark Animal Hospital, Dr. Edward Spindel, Syracuse 315.635.2525
Specialized Care for, Dr. Laura Wade, Lancaster, 716.759.0144 (avian certified)
Cornell University Hospital For Animals, 24 hour, Ithaca, 607.253.3060 (avian certified)
While this is not actually a question it is a situation that arises all too frequently. The loss of a beloved pet. It's never fun to lose a family member, over the years I've lost many, dogs, cats, and of course birds, and it doesn't get any easier. We all have our own ways of dealing with death. Regularly I get phone calls from people who have just lost a pet and many times when the phone call ends I feel I don't always have the right thing to say to comfort them. Maybe I did but in times like that you don't want to say the wrong thing, (I've done that at other times plenty), now here's of places to contact who can help if you're having a hard time dealing with the loss of a loved one.
Pets at Peace Memorial & Cremation Center, 585.544.2041
Q.What's that ring on the birds leg?
A. It shows that the bird was raised in captivity and not taken out of the wild. It's a New York State law implemented in 1986. There are a few exempt species that don't require a band, like parakeets, cockatiels, canaries, and some finches, but most exotic birds should have them on to be sold legally in NYS.
Q. How can I tell how old my bird is?
A. You could cut it in half and count the rings....no don't do that, that works for trees, nevermind. The bird however would be very well mannered and quiet too. Sometimes there is a date on the birds leg band, it would be sideways on it, but some breeders will use old bands when they don't have the proper one around, so that's not always accurate. Once a bird reaches maturity it's almost impossible to accurately gauge a birds age. I've seen birds that were quite young for their species and looked much older. Conversely, I've seen old birds that look just a few years old. Much like humans, some of us look pretty beat by the time we hit 30 or so. Fortunately for me I still look fantastic........yea right. Save the emails, I'm kidding.
Q. Is there sales tax on a bird?
A. Yes, 8% in Monroe County.
Q. How often should I give my bird a bath?
A. What? Give my bird a bath? Yea right..your kidding right? Honestly you should saturate your bird at least once a week, twice is better. Now I'm not talking about a light spritz that puts a little dew on it, I'm talking soaked to the skin. This stimulates normal preening, removes dander, and makes the feathers look like they're supposed to. Birds that chew or pluck their feathers should also get baths and this may help correct the feather mutilation problem as well. If the house temperature is comfortable for you, yes even in the winter, it should be fine to wet your bird. You can blow dry it but do so from a distance so you won't burn or overheat the bird. Most birds dry amazingly fast on their own.
For food or makeup stains you can use a product called Cockatoo Shampoo or a mild soap like Ivory or Johnson's Baby Shampoo. Wet the bird, work the soap in, and rinse thoroughly, most stains should come out. For oil or grease on a bird use only Dawn detergent and rinse thoroughly. This is what oil spill birds get treated with.
Some people will comment that " my bird doesn't like a bath"... what I tell them is if you had a child and it didn't want to take a bath you'd still get the kid in the tub once in a while to get the crud off them, they'll smell better too. Give your bird a bath, it'll thank you for it.
Q. My child has a nut allergy, is this a problem?
A. Nearly every diet in here has peanuts or other nut meats in them, or are manufactured in a place that produces them. If the kid is hypersensitive, keep them out. I don't need any kid konkin' out in here. If you're interested in getting a bird and are worried about the nut thing, we could wean your baby onto a pelleted diet that doesn't have any nut stuff in it. Honestly, what a shame not to be able to eat a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Q. Do you breed all of these birds?
A. Nope, don't raise them all, but we do breed a few of them, not as many as I used to, but a few. Most of the smaller birds are raised locally in New York State, but most of the larger parrots come out of Florida. Here's a list, cause I was kinda curious myself, of what I have bred in the past 30+ years, at least what I can think of at the moment...
Several species of finches, canaries, English budgies, cockatiels, ducks, yellow collared macaws, scarlet macaws, sun conures, black capped conures, golden conures, maroon belly conures, blue fronted amazons, goffins cockatoo, Eastern Rosellas, Congo African Greys, red billed hornbills, red crested turacos, ringneck and diamond doves, black headed caiques.
Q. I'm thinking about getting a pet bird, what can you tell me?
A. Well let's see...they're loud, they're messy, they'll chew your stuff up, they're loud, they'll poop on just about anything that's under them (regularly you), they need daily care and attention, they're loud and will get louder, they can bite at times. Man, who wouldn't want a bird? The noise is the main reason I see people getting rid of their pet bird. Big birds with big personalities need big cages and playpens. If you've spoiled your bird from the start then they'll need and want plenty of your attention. Monthly upkeep can be anywhere from $25.00 to hundreds of dollars. If you live in an apartment, be cautious. If you have small children, be cautious. If you have other pets, be cautious. If you have allergies, be cautious. If you like your quiet times or regularly wake up with a hangover, be very cautious.
However, a bird can add lots of enjoyment to a household. A simple canary adds life to the environment, a joy to listen to. The larger birds are very entertaining and can be the best part of your day when you come home at night. It's a long term commitment, do your homework, don't rush into it, have patience. Once you decide on a certain species one great way to research it would be to go to www.youtube.com and simply type in the bird you're interested in. It gives a pretty good idea what that bird is like. If you do decide to add a bird to your life it will soon be considered a family member for many years to come.
We also have a handout here at the store that will give some idea what you need to prepare for.Ask one of the staff for it.
Q. Would you be interested in trading a web site for a baby bird?
A. No thanks, about every other week someone has this great idea that they'd like to not pay for a bird but instead make a new web site for me. This web site works fine and not a day goes by that someone doesn't compliment me on it. I like not having sponsors to bother you folks, no pop up things, no links to adult sites... One person wanted everyone to go through her web site to get to mine, hmm sounds like a great idea for her. Not too long ago a professor at Penn State said my site was hard to navigate but she could make me a better web site in trade for a bird. Hard to navigate for someone w/ a big brain like that? I appreciate your concern but no thanks. I just had a person on 6/3/11 tell me it needed to be updated because the info on it was wrong, also hard to navigate... and she hadn't even been to the site yet.
Q. How do I teach my bird to eat a wider variety of food items?
A. Feeding is a flock behavior, birds like to eat when others are eating. Ever notice that your bird will start to pick through the food bowl when you're eating dinner? If you want your bird to try something new, try removing the normal food a couple of hours before you sit down to eat. Put whatever it is that you want the bird to try in its bowl when you sit down to eat. It may try something new because it feels the need to eat. Temperature and texture play an important role in how birds accept a new food item.
What I've told people for years is that my neighbors apples tasted better than the ones that grew in my own back yard because I could steal 'em. I always wondered if my neighbors new I was creeping through their yard to swipe a few green ones. I did get caught swimming where I wasn't supposed to a couple of times, yet I had a pool in my back yard too. Ok enough about my misguided childhood, back to feeding birds. If you're not weird about your bird walking around on your dinner table after you eat many birds will sample food items that they would have nothing to do with if you were to put them in their food bowl. Let them try the mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, mac & cheese... the wider variety the better, (remember no chocolate, avocado, or alcohol). Once they get used to something they'll many times continue to eat it wherever you feed it. Not always, some will only eat things off your plate.
Another method to get a bird to eat better is a food kabob or skewer. It's a stainless rod that you harpoon various food items with and hang it in the area where your bird perches. Out of curiosity the bird should start to explore the new thing in the cage. Hopefully after a while you'll be able to offer various new foods in the food bowl and the bird will recognize it as what it as eating on the skewer.
Q. What kind of birds are good for kids?
A. My top three choices are Cockatiels, Bourkes, and English Budgies, all of them train easily, are fairly quiet, not overly expensive, and the cage isn't huge like that needed for a larger parrot. I'll be the first one to tell you that the large parrots and little kids don't make a good combination. A small bite on a little finger is gonna hurt. Then you have to listen to that little screaming, crying voice, maybe make a trip to the doctors to patch them up and then figure out what you're going to do to keep the kid away from the bird until it gets older. Start small. Other birds that have worked out quite well are, Lineolated Parakeets, and some of the smaller Pyrhurra Conures like the Black Capped and the Green Cheeked.
If you're just looking for some entertainment and the child doesn't want to handle the bird, try a couple of normal parakeets in a larger cage. They'll offer plenty of activity and a little bit of noise. They'll also teach some responsibility to the child and what is involved in keeping a bird if someday they may like to step up into a larger species of bird.
Q. Is it alright if we come in and just look around?
A. Absolutely, we've lots of people, especially from the neighborhood, that stop in regularly and don't even have a bird. Some people just want to see the birds and don't want the mess at home, others are just getting the idea of keeping a bird as a pet, while others may have had a bird when they were younger and want to relive some memories. No fair just dropping your kids off here though, we don't babysit. If they were to get bit however we do have a parts department in the back and we'll try and match up size, shape, and color with any fingers, nose, or ears that may have been bit. I also take no responsibility on how their glasses will fit later in life.
Q. If for some reason I'm unable to keep my bird, what do I do with it?
A. There are several things we can help you with, the first would be if you wanted to sell the bird and recoup some money we'll take all your information about the bird and what may come along with it, if anything, we'll get your contact info and pass this along to anyone who might be interested in that type of bird. If it's a bird that you got from us we'd love to have it back. Having put in a lot of time with the babies here we feel some obligation to continue to do the best for them and find them a good home. We won't buy it back from you but we will promise you that it will not be euthanized and we'll eventually find it a good home. Ideally we'd prefer not to take the bird in but have you keep it until we can line up a possible new home. We do however take in approximately 30-40 birds a year and find them homes. We also have found homes for hundreds or others that needed them. Another option is that you could also advertise the bird in the newspaper. I would however use caution if you wanted to drop them off at an animal shelter or "bird rescue", great intentions, sometimes very poor execution, sometimes just collectors and not rescuers. The only bird rescue that I continually hear only good about is "The Gabriel Foundation", in Colorado, any others please check out before committing your bird to them.
Q. What should I do if I lose my bird outside?
A. OK, let's get past the part where you thought your bird loves you soooo much it won't fly away if you take it outside, or its' wings are clipped and since it doesn't fly inside that it wouldn't fly outside. Already this year we've had four situations where birds have flown off, much to the surprise of the owners, a senegal that the owner thought wouldn't fly away, ooops, there it goes over the neighbors house, a parrotlet that the wings weren't even clipped and she took it outside thinking it wouldn't ever fly from her, see ya, don't forget to write, hope nothing has you for lunch, an African Grey that was pretty much clipped but since it goes out regularly it wouldn't fly, see ya later, and a Blue & Gold Macaw that was on a perch in the garage and something spooked it and off it went, it was clipped but got away and started climbing, it got up about 30 feet in a tree. All of these birds were recovered, amazingly, there were many more that have not been found yet this year, quakers, tiels, and parakeets, very sad when you realize how easy it is to avoid. Now I jump down from my soap box and give you some ideas on how to retrieve your lost pet.
If you have a special whistle, call or toy that your bird might usually respond to, walk the area where the bird was last seen making that noise hoping to get a response. Let as many people know about the lost pet, put up flyers, call pet stores, and put a reward on the bird. More than a few birds have been found and a friend has blown in his "buddy" to get the reward. Watch other groups of birds as they may lead you to your bird, they may "mob" your bird, meaning pick on. Early morning when there isn't as much going on and it's a bit quieter is a good time to look as well. Watch the newspaper, the local one here will let people place free found ads for a few days, but it wouldn't hurt to put in a lost ad as well. Hopefully you've recorded any information that was on the birds leg band if it had one on. A picture may also help identify your bird if someone questions whether it's your bird or not. Don't give up the search, a cockatiel lost off a high rise in downtown Rochester ended up about 15 miles away 30 days later. Good luck and check and clip the wings regularly.
Q. How do I keep my bird from biting?
A. There are many reasons why a bird will bite. You need to figure out what may be getting the bird uncomfortable enough to feel the need to bite. There are many instances that a bird tries to train the owner, and I'll say that most people do get trained by their birds. I can't begin to tell you how many times that someone will come in and tell me that their bird loves to play with their fingers, or their lips, or eyelashes and says the bird is very gentle. there also isn't a day that goes by that someone will ask "does this bird bite" and then proceed to let the bird chew on their fingers. What are you doing? Would you walk up to a strange dog and let it chew on your hand? How about going up to a large snake or iguana and just letting it gnaw on you for a while? Don't let your bird casually chew on you, it will, in time, progress to a bite. You've already told it that it was ok to chew on you, how is the bird supposed to know when it hurts you. About the time you pull back a bloody stump of a finger, or when you get an involuntary ear piercing from your bird, that's when.
You always need to keep in mind that a bird will protect its territory, even the friendliest, tamest of birds may bite if you get into their "space". I've had several customers put their bird in the cage for the night and then lean in to give the bird a kiss. All went to emergency to get their lips stitched up, no kidding! Put yourself in the birds position and think what the bird may be perceiving. Keeping a bird is not just training the bird, it's training yourself to think like a bird.
There are plenty of birds that are set off by a certain color or person. Unfortunately if you happen to be holding your bird you may get the bite as the bird may feel the need to get out its anger or fear. This is sometimes called misplaced aggression. I call it being in the right place at the wrong time. "Honey, get the bandaids".
I will say after 30 + years of playing with birds that I have no good reason why birds like to chase after feet and bite them when they're playing on the floor. They even go after the feet of the people they're usually friendly with. Now I'm not bragging here, in fact I'm not too crazy about it myself, but I've got some stinky feet man. Dr. Schoals or not, they can stop a clock from across the room, my dogs roll on my sneakers like something died in 'em, when I throw out my old shoes my refuse collectors complain about the stink. This goes to show parrots must have a poor sense of smell. Several times a year though people come in and tell me their birds go after their feet as well.
There are many more reasons why a bird may bite,(see the question about no birds on a shoulder), eventually I'll cover more of them.
Q. I'm doing some painting in the house, will it bother my birds?
A. It sure could, any kind of strong smell or odor can pose problems especially with smaller birds. Oil base paint has a much stronger smell and the smell lasts longer than latex paint does. I'd suggest getting the birds out of the house, if you can't do that, move them to the furthest point from the painting project. You might even shut the door and wedge a towel under it to keep any paint smell from getting in. You'll probably find an 800 phone number on the paint can and it also wouldn't hurt to contact the paint manufacturer. When the smell dissipates it should be safe to bring your birds back in.
Q. Can I catch a disease from my bird?
A. Sure you can, they're called zoonotic diseases and they can be transmitted from human to bird or bird to human. The most common one and it still is quite rare is called psittacosis or chlamydia, or formerly known as ornithosis or parrot fever. Tuberculosis is another that is possible but highly unlikely to catch. The one now that you've probably seen in the news is the avian flu, no cases have even been reported in pet birds,again extremely rare. See above question on avian flu. Catching bugs from your pet is possible but should not be a major concern. Relax.