was my cherished 15 year old, DNA tested male, pied cockatiel. In the picture to
the left, Mama has found the "Treat Jar" on Thanksgiving Day, 2008. Mama is now
a geriatric bird. His story is being told so that other birds
and their owners will not have to go through what that we went
through when he was younger and the final ordeal that he is going through now.
This website is the result of my love for Mama Bird and it only exists
because of my love for him. I also hope that others will never give up on
trying to improve their bird's health or quality of life. Mama was a seed
junkie who refused to eat any other food for the first 5 years of his life. By 5 years of age, he started losing feathers and
he had bare patches on his neck and chest.
Mama also stopped eating, singing and he lost most of his energy.
Mama also developed behavioral problems. He became territorial and a nasty biter.
His biting was so bad
that taking him out of the cage was no longer enjoyable for either one of
Clinical findings and tests from his first
visit to an avian vet confirmed that he was under weight with nutritional
deficiencies and that he had developed pre-fatty liver syndrome. All of these
conditions and the feather loss were the result of poor nutrition from an all
seed diet. Seeds have a very high fat content and they lack nutrients that birds
need to stay healthy. The doctor's prognosis was that Mama would probably not
live past the age of 8-10 years of age. His doctor also thought that he may have
come from poor breeding stock and that some of his problems, like being so
nervous, could be genetic. Mama was the smallest bird in the clutch when I
purchased him. All of the other cockatiels were twice his size. Because of this,
his doctor thinks he may have been the runt of the clutch.
I went home with all of this discouraging information and cried. Mama's
diet had to be changed to a pellet based diet with supplemental high
protein foods as prescribed by his avian vet. I had to learn behavior techniques to
help stop him from biting. Knowing that he might not be with me much
longer and that he might soon die, I was determined to do whatever
had to be done to make his remaining years healthy and happy ones. I
spent hours each week, chopping different types of vegetables for him, 2 or 3 times a
day, hoping that he would at least try one of them. My family thought I was
crazy. Day after day, different types of vegetables were prepared then tossed
into the trash because he would not even taste them. It was both a discouraging and emotionally
draining year for me.
Then a remarkable transformation took place. Mama finally started eating
pellets, vegetables and other healthy table foods. He also stopped biting me
after many months of my fingers and cuticles getting bitten so hard that they
bled. Mama even started singing and climbing on the cage bars to come out to me
in the morning. Mama's follow up visit with her avian vet a year later proved to
be one with unexpected good news. We waited 3 days for the results of his new
blood test to come in. The results showed that his liver values were all normal and
that there was no evidence of a liver problem. Mama's doctor was amazed at the
dramatic improvement in his health and his prognosis was that he had the same
chance as any other healthy cockatiel of living a normal lifespan, 15-20 years.
The doctor attributed this recovery to Mama's change from an all seed diet to a
pellet based diet.
Mama looked so beautiful now, with smooth, thick, feathers. At 100 grams,
he had gained 20
grams of weight since that first, life saving, visit to his avian vet but some things
in life don't change. Even at the age of 15, Mama was still a
nervous bird who was easily upset by noise and other unavoidable, stressful
situations in life. Since stress impairs the immune system, Mama has had a few
infections over the years and I thought I was going to lose him at least 3 more times.
One of the worst infections that he had was caught during a routine, yearly
check up by a routine gram stain, (lab analysis of droppings). With antibiotics
from his avian vet he had always pulled through. Mama was also prone to getting
"Temporary Polyuria", watery droppings. When birds are frightened or
upset, their droppings will become very watery but they should return to normal a
few minutes or hours later. Mama's avian vet had prescribed supplements to
boost his immune system and to help counteract the effects of stress, Other
changes to his diet had been made to keep his digestive tract
acidic. This helps to prevent bacteria which is a normal part of the
digestive system, from multiplying to excessive amounts and making him sick. If you hope and expect your bird to live the normal 15-20 year lifespan, you're bird is going to
need some help from an avian vet along the way.
Despite a shaky start in life because of my lack of knowledge, Mama was now a
healthy bird. After many positive changes in his life, both of our lives were now much more enjoyable. Mama enjoyed being
with water from a misting bottle. He also loved table foods and shared dinner with us.
Scrambled eggs, cooked
brown rice, fresh corn, peas, kale, broccoli, carrots and baked sweet potatoes
Mama had also learned how to play with toys. In the past, toys terrified
him so much that he would stop eating. I must have spent over $500 on toys over
the years. Now I finally knew what types of toys he preferred, natural fiber toys
that can be chewed on, shredded and ripped apart. Shredders, Bird Kabobs,
Octopus Piñatas, Mardi Gras, Munch Vines and plain white adding machine paper
were his favorites. His favorite play area was the kitchen counter, in front of
the microwave where he could see his reflection. In the above picture, he
was playing with his toy box. It was filled with small scraps of fabric, yarn,
paper, Q-Tips, small toys, wicker vines, munch balls and pieces of Shredders.
Mama was able to choose what he
wanted to play with, chew on or drop onto the floor. I had to sweep the
kitchen floor at least 4 times a day.
vocal since he was a male. He loved to sing to the sound of the electric
toothbrush, the dust mop and to his reflection in a mirror and to my hairbrush. Mama
was also capable of learning any song or sound that caught his ear within
2 weeks. Some of the tunes he could sing
included Pop Goes the Weasel, Old MacDonald, Dixie, a Credence Clearwater song,
Looking Out My Back Door, and Shortening Bread. I
enjoyed hearing his natural whistles too, so melodies that only the 2 of
us recognize were made up. Mama was very creative, like most vocal birds, combining sounds to make
up his own pretty songs. I never taught Mama to talk but he did pick up a few
words on his own. He could say "Mama", "Matthew" and "Morning". (If you
want your bird to learn how to talk, teach him to talk first. Singing is much
easier than talking.) Mama was also very good at imitating sounds. He could call a cat with a "pssst, pssst, pssst"
sound and he could mimic a cough, sneeze, telephone and a gulping water
sound. Mama rarely screamed but if I did leave the room, like all parrots
he would scream. This type of vocalization was normal. Our established flocking
call, one special whistle that he recognizes, usually made him stop. Mama responded to
this flock call by whistling the same
tune back to me. He needed reassurance that I was close by and that he has not been
could perform a few tricks when asked to do so and so can your bird, male or
female. This is a picture of him doing the Birdie Ballet, a term used for wing
displaying. His cue to perform was the
phrase "Pretty Girl".
Mama would also Beat the Drum and tap on objects to make sounds. Tapping was one
of our ways of playing and communicating. He would play the game with
anybody who tapped on an object and said "Bop bop bop". He would even start the
game himself if he wanted somebody's attention. Beak tapping is a
typical male behavior and they use it to attract the attention of a mate. The easiest tricks to teach birds are tricks that take
advantage of their natural behaviors and actions. Cockatiels are very intelligent and they are capable
of learning to associate words with actions and objects. By
repeating a specific word over and over
for each action or object, cockatiels will perform the action when asked to. Mama
would also fly to me on command. When I extended my hand and said "Mama
Hop" he flew
to me, landing on the palm of
my hand. This was easy to teach him too. He flew to me whenever I was eating food. I added the words "Mama hop", then gave
him a treat. It took him about 30 seconds to catch on.
I loved seeing him fly but knew there's a risk of accidents or escape.
flight time for birds provides physical and psychological benefits that help birds to cope with
the stress of living in captivity. Exercise is also important for a bird to maintain strong muscle tone and to help prevent obesity.
Mama received a
bedtime snack of loose
seeds at the end of the day, usually at night right before his cage was covered.
He had also becomes very
affectionate in the evening as well. Mama let me know when he wanted me to pet him through the use
of body language, bending his head down. Although he enjoyed
being pet with fingers, he loved having the top of his head and neck kissed or
stroked by my chin. If he was on my shoulder, he would come very close to my cheek, bending
his head down, while pressing his head against my face. Sometimes Mama would let me pet his head, neck and cheeks for 30
minutes. At other times, 5 minutes of "scritches" was all that he wants. When
had enough, he would let me know by hitting my finger with the tip of her
beak. If I continued to pet him despite his warning, it was my own fault if did
bite me after "kisses". Then he was kissed, returned to his cage and
covered for the night. I always said to him "night night pretty lady" (even
if she is a male). He needed his 12 hours of quiet, undisturbed sleep each night
to stay healthy. I was usually a bit sad when it was his bedtime.
I worried so much that he wouldn't be with me in the morning. Before I went to sleep each night, I thanked God
for bringing this precious little bird into my life and for helping him to
recover from so many illnesses. For these blessings I am truly
Friday, October 29, 2009:
Mama awoke on Tuesday, October 26, 2009 and was having trouble using his left foot to perch and
climb. His avian vet was on vacation so I had to take Mama in to see a
different one the next day. The findings were not
good. Sudden lameness for a 15 year male bird can have several causes, but the
most common 2 causes are tumors on one of the kidneys or testicles. As the tumor
grows, it presses on the nerves that control the use of foot and leg. Because of
Mama's age, the tumor can not be surgically removed. The avian vet said that tumors
are much more common in older birds, in lutinos, in overweight birds, birds on
poor diets and in diluted color mutations. She also said that tumors are often
linked to genetic background and they can be the result of in-breeding.
According to the avian vet, Mama may live for a few days, a few weeks or a few
months. Now, 5 days later, Mama is having difficulty walking. He's dragging his
foot behind him and pulling himself along the cage bars with his beak. He can no
longer lift his foot to perch on my hand without losing his balance and falling.
It's breaking my heart because I can only comfort him while he's in his cage.
Mama also has to receive most of his scritches and kisses while he's still
inside of his cage. I spoke to the avian vet who saw him on Wednesday again and she has prescribed an
anti-inflammatory medication that can be put into his soft foods. Mama took his
first dose of Metacam mixed in with a tiny amount of peanut butter, his new
favorite food. At this stage of his life, "A healthy diet" is no longer an
issue. I'm praying that the medicine works and brings down some of the
inflammation of the tumor so Mama can re-gain some of the use of his foot. The
perches in his cage have been removed and a 4 inch thick sheet of foam rubber
has been put over the grate then covered with several layers of white paper
towels. Cage papers have to be changed several times a day so he doesn't step in
his droppings or get his tail feathers dirty. All of his toys have been lowered
so he can play with them and I also purchased some smaller size versions of his
favorite ones, like Bird Kabobs. It's easier for him to shred smaller toys now
that he's confined to the bottom of his cage. My prayers are for his
remaining weeks to be painless , as comfortable as possible and enjoyable.
Please pray for my little angel. To follow Mama's progress on his final
journey in life, Click Here,
or the Next
button below, or on the main index page,
Mama's Journey 12/13/09.
Please consult an avian veterinarian if your bird has any change in behavior or
appearance. These could be symptoms of a serious health problem. Don't waste
valuable time treating your bird yourself with over the counter and home
remedies. CLICK HERE
to find an avian vet now.
Note: Mama, is referred to by the use of the pronouns "she and her" in several articles on this
website. Her avian vet visually identified "her" as being a female several years ago.
confirming male gender, was performed in 2005. Since Mama recognizes and
responds to these feminine gender pronouns, I continue to use them when talking about her
and when talking to her.