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Frequently Asked Questions
by list member Michele Treolo

Welcome to the senegal email list. We've compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions to help you out in your new life with your wonderful little puff of personality. Whether it's a hand-fed baby or a mature bird, you have a new baby. Congratulations! This FAQ and this email list are merely guidelines to help build a better relationship with your bird.

One thing to keep in mind with these little green attitudes is that they are all individuals. What works for some may not work for others. Some are cuddly and some are not. Some are very active and playful and some are not.

Like mentioned before, the key is building a relationship with your bird. Birds are way too intelligent to put in a cage and leave there to eat seed and look pretty. It is often said that people do not own birds, the birds own the people:) Also, birds are not showpieces. If you have purchased your bird to be a novelty item or "because they're cool", this list is not for you. Take that bird back to where you bought it and get yourself a pet rock.

Q: What should I feed my bird?
A: There are many opinions on this and no one opinion is correct. Actually, a combination of everything is really what you want. Some things to definitely AVOID are chocolate and avocado as they are toxic to animals.

The bird's main diet should usually consist of some sort of pelleted diet. To name a few, Harrison's, Pretty Bird, Zupreem, Zeiglers, Roudybush, and Lafeber's are all good but certainly not the only choices.

Also, fresh vegetables every day are absolutely necessary, especially ones with vitamin A. Some examples are broccoli, sweet potato (yam), bell peppers, squash/zucchini, carrots, peas, and green beans. Of course there are plenty more vegetables to choose from. This is just an example list.

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Q: What kind of toys should I give my bird?
A: With senegals, anything they can chew or destroy is very popular. You can buy the ones in the pet stores though they tend to be a little pricey.
Some suggestions on less expensive stuff would be wood coffee stir sticks, empty toilet paper rolls (cut down the middle), index cards threaded through the bars of the cage. There are also places that sell toy making parts. These are wonderful as you can create anything you want for your little gem. They usually consist of wood pieces with holes drilled, plastic marbella beads and rings.

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Q: My bird is doing this funny little dance, holding out his/her wings and making these cute little sounds!
A: This, my friend, is the "skirt dance". It is a mating dance that is more often done by females. Of course, there's always the exceptions. You have been chosen as a special friend. Just like other sexual behaviors, such as masturbating, this should not be encouraged. As Pamela Hutchinson said "During breeding season or if the bird shows signs of wanting to breed, avoid touching the corners of the mouth, or stroking down by the tail. I don't think it's cute because if you should ever stop doing it, you'll be bitten by the bird who wants you to continue." If sexual behaviors are enforced, you may get a sexually aggressive bird.

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Q: What are some good books I can read about Senegals?
A: There are a treasured few books about senegals alone. Guide to the Senegal Parrot and Its Family by Mattie Sue Athan and Complete Guide to Senegal Parrots by Pamela Hutchinson are the only senegal species-specific books out there for now. Guide to a Well-Behaved Parrot by Mattie Sue Athan; My Parrot, My Friend by Bonnie Munro Boane & Thomas Qualkinbush and The Pleasure of Their Company by Bonnie Munro Doane are also very good resource books on parrots in general. Birds on the Couch: The bird Shrink's guide to Keeping Polly from Going crackers and You Out of the cuckoo's Nest by Ruth Hanessian is a cute book with great bird stories in it that may relate to you at some time or another:) A subscription to BirdTalk couldn't hurt either.

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Q: Where can I find more information on the web?
A: There are some great sites out there with a lot of information for birds and their owners. Some examples are www.birdsnways.com, www.upatsix.com, www.petbirdreport.com, www.wingscc.com/aps, www.wingscc.com/jardine

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Q: When will my bird talk? or Why doesn't my bird talk?
A: First of all, let me say that not all parrots will talk. Senegals usually have an array of sounds from beeps and whistles to screeches and clicks. They are excellent mimics of sounds around the house, such as the microwave or the phone. Beware of the smoke detector because that one is usually a favorite! When they talk, it tends to sound kind of mechanical. They are not quite as clear as an African grey would be. It usually helps to use certain words or phrases to relate to certain things and to use these constantly. For instance, every night when covering the bird or turning off the light, say "night night". Upon arriving home, always greet the bird with "hi baby" or some other expression that you choose. Some people choose to use tapes or cd's and leave them on for their birds. This method has
been effective as well. Whatever works for your bird, that's what you use.

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Q: HELP! My bird's feathers are falling out! or How long will this molt last?
A:
If you've never had birds before and have never seen a molt, it can be pretty scary. Their feathers fall out and they get a little irritable. Okay, not just a LITTLE irritable. They look pretty silly sometimes too:) This is the shedding of old feathers and the preparation for new growth.
The duration and intensity of a molt is specific to each bird depending on a number of factors, such as weather climate, temperature directly around them, diet, light sources, etc.. It can last from 1 week to 1 month, maybe longer. They will be irritable because it is a bit uncomfortable for them. Think of it as a sunburn that is in the healing process. You get itchy when the new skin is coming in. You want to get scratched SO BAD, but sometimes it's a bit uncomfortable when someone else does it because they don't know how hard or soft to scratch you. Same for birds. Their new feathers coming in are uncomfortable. So be gentle during this time and don't be upset if you get a nip or a beak charge while petting. They're only telling you "Hey, that hurts!" or something along those lines.

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This page was updated on 06/09/00.