Bands…What Are They Good For?

Can a Band on a Pet Bird be Good?

blauaras-406776_1280

Sure – there are some times when a band is very useful

  1. International Travel may require unique identification and some birds are too small for microchips.
  2. Identification in a breeding situation ensures that birds are not mixed up – which is especially important if there are subtle health issues.
  3. A band, if the number is known, is a way to prove the bird belongs to you.

So Why is a Band ever Bad?
When it is unnecessary.

  1. Larger birds can be microchipped.
  2. Birds that have left a group situation no longer need their bands.
  3. Since there is no central database for bands they cannot be used to track down an owner.

Why Should You Remove a Band?
The main reason – to prevent injury.  We see birds who damage or break their legs because the band got caught on something.  They can irritate or annoy birds causing them to bite at the band.  If the leg is injured it may be difficult or impossible to remove the band without causing further injury.

Jackie’s Band Problem
Here is Jackie – a cockatiel.  She came in for an injured leg.  You can see that the skin of her leg has swollen around the band:

Luckily we were able to remove the band and with supportive care the leg has healed well…if a little different from her other leg!

It could have been much worse – the pressure can cause damage to the bone.  In Jackie’s case, she didn’t need surgery to repair the leg since there was no exposed bone and she still had good blood flow to all the digits.  Her smallest toe was damaged – it is likely permanently pushed forward due to the swelling.  Maybe it too will heal with time.

The Eggbound Bird – What Happens Now?

Egglaying

Pearly’s been laying eggs.  She usually lays 3 eggs, 1 every other day, but she’s only laid 2 eggs and it’s been 3 days since the last one.  She seems uncomfortable and is straining as though something is stuck.

Is this an Emergency? 

Until you know more, it’s possible that Pearly could die quickly from this problem.  It’s important to bring her to the vet and get an evaluation.  What happens after your vet confirms that there is an egg stuck inside depends on several different factors…

Eggbound Macaw

This egg isn’t coming out the way it should.

What kind of bird is Pearly? 

Smaller birds have fewer reserves than bigger birds.  An eggbound canary will go downhill much much faster than an eggbound macaw.  Technically, any kind of bird could have problems with eggs – delayed passage, dystocia (eggbinding), diseases of the reproductive tract…however, eggbinding is much more common in smaller birds such as Budgies and Cockatiels than in Amazons and Macaws.

How sick is Pearly?

Is she straining? Was she straining and now has stopped?  Is she eating, sleepy-eyed, unable to stand up or just plain looking like heck?  The more sick that Pearly is, the more quickly she’ll need intervention.

What’s been going on in Pearly’s past?

Is this her first egg?  Her third this year?  Or has she already laid 20 eggs and may be flat out of calcium?  If there isn’t enough calcium in the diet, Pearly will have started to take it out of her bones in order to make a hard shell for that egg.  Eventually she just won’t have any more.

Birds that are on a nutritious diet such as pellets will have more resources than those on seed based diets – they have more of the basic building blocks available. But Eggbinding isn’t always about nutrition.  Infection, damage, wear and tear as well as environmental factors may play a big roll.

Now what?

The first step is to assess how ill Pearly is.  If she is stable and not in pain, we can move a little more slowly through our treatment options in the hopes that conservative treatments are all that she needs.

If stable, we’ll want to support Pearly’s own system and see if she can get the egg out herself.  Fluids, heat, pain medications and calcium can all be helpful to a bird that may be too tired, or too painful, to push.  If that’s not enough, hormones can be applied to relax her cervix enough to let the egg through.

Abnormal cockatiel eggs

The leftmost egg is a little too round while the egg on the right has an abnormal shell – it deflated while being removed under anesthesia.

Small birds, like budgies and cockatiels, might need to have that egg manipulated out under anesthesia.  This only works in the small birds and only if the egg is not stuck to the reproductive tract or outside of it completely.

Our final option is to remove the egg surgically – cut it out!  We’ll want to stabilize Pearly as much as possible before going to surgery so that she’ll have the best chance of surviving.  Unless Pearly is a valuable breeding bird, that problematic reproductive tract should come out along with the egg.

Abnormal egg

This abnormal egg was removed by surgery – it wasn’t in the reproductive tract!

Now that the egg it out…

After it’s all over, changes should be made to Pearly’s diet or lifestyle to reduce her chances of laying eggs again.  If that isn’t done, you can expect another egg to get stuck – eventually.  Check out this handout on egglaying in birds – what can predispose a bird to doing it and changes that can be made.

A new concern is that too much food, even if nutritionally appropriate, can be a stimulant to be hormonal or lay eggs.  Try not to offer heaping piles of food or too many options.  Budgies only need about 2 teaspoons of food per day (1 of pellets and 1 of other foods including some seed) so don’t offer them a whole cup.

But my bird has never layed an egg…

While any bird could have egglaying problems, not every bird will.  So it is always a good idea to try to prevent stimulating your bird.  A pellet based diet, lack of stimuli (such as nest boxes) and a grate on the bottom of the cage are the 3 most important ways to decrease your bird’s chance of have egg related problems.

Informational handouts on food and egglaying can be found at our website in the Pet Care Information section.

Brenda or Bruce

Trying to figure out whether you’ve brought home a Brenda or a Bruce is not always easy when it comes to birds, reptiles and even rabbits.  Luckily our mammal boys will eventually give themselves away once their testicles show up but it’s not always that easy for the others.

Birds are often sexually dimorphic (visually different based on whether they are male or female).  Take the Peacock and Peahen for example – it’s easy to tell who is who.  Some of our parrot-type birds are quite easy to identify as well, while other require DNA testing.

Pacific Parrotlets
In general, the boys are green with pretty blue feathers while the girls are all green.  Even most of the color mutations follow this general pattern.

Budgies
Boys usually have a bright blue cere and are more likely to speak while girls have a lilac or brown cere and just chirp.  This only a guide!  I’ve see more than one budgie with a blue cere who talked lay a few eggs!  If you have a male budgie whose cere changes color from blue to brown, bring him in to the vet.  Estrogen is the cause of brown colored ceres – any true male who has that much estrogen in his system may have a tumor producing it.

male budgie head female budgie head

Male

Female

Cockatiels
They used to be very obvious.  With the original, or wild type, coloration boys have bright orange cheek patches and girls have spots and stripes on the wing and tail feathers.

But people have been breeding them for all sorts of color mutations and now it can be a little harder to tell who’s who.  Check out the American Cockatiel Society or the North American Cockatiel Society for a more in-depth review of cockatiel colors and mutations.

One thing to keep in mind is that all cockatiels start out in “girl feathers”.  When they molt into their adult feathers the boy coloration will show up.  This is especially noticeable when your pretty pearly cockatiel turns out to be a boy and looses all that pretty pearly-ness.

pipper sm

Cockatoos
Adult females tend to have red eyes but it’s not a guarantee. Those guys can sure tell themselves apart. We walked a bald female cockatoo past a male one day and you should have seen his eyes pin. He started a preening dance right away. Sadly for him, she wasn’t impressed.

African Grey
Female: belly (or ventral) feathers start dark but usually switch to light farther out
Males: belly (or ventral) feathers start dark and may blend into lighter feathers father out

Amazons
There’s no way for us to sex them!  However, recent research shows that these guys may have different colorations…in the ultraviolet spectrum. Perhaps one day in the not too distant future we’ll just shine a light on your bird and be able to tell you

If you have to know for sure, DNA sexing is easy and requires just a drop of blood.  Surgical sexing can also be performed but most folks don’t need to go to that extent.

Conures
That’s a bit of a broad category, but they are much like Amazons – they keep their biology shrouded in mystery.

conure

Who cares? 
For most companion birds, male vs female is not important.  However, there are illnesses that are specific to reproductive organs.  Knowing that you do or don’t have a girl in your hand can save time if egg related problems are a concern.

Of course, if you are trying to get more birds you’ll be a lot more successful if you pair up a boy with a girl!