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Holidays With Birds

December 01, 2023

Season’s Greetings! The annual hustle and bustle has officially begun. Dogs and cats often appear on many of those adorable seasonal cards and commercials. Birds aren’t wholly absent—after all, the partridge in the pear tree is a pretty solid tradition. However, those of you with birds may want to pay your feathered friends some extra attention over the next few weeks. This time of year can be dangerous for our animal companions, and birds are no exception. In this article, a Greater Cincinnati veterinarian offers some seasonal care tips for birds.

Can You Leave A Bird Alone?

If you have a cat, you may be fine to leave Fluffy by herself for a few days, as long as someone comes and checks on her. Birds, however, need more daily attention than that. It’s really important for Polly to have some free time out of her cage every day. This is crucial for both her physical and mental health. Ideally, we would recommend boarding or finding a pet sitter to stay at your home.

Are Christmas Trees Bird Safe?

Every tree is different, and to be fair, some will be safer than others. That said, we would in general say that no, Christmas trees are not bird safe. In fact, they pose a few different types of threats. Decorations are one concern. Birds are often drawn to shiny things, so Polly may want to play with ornaments, many of which are sharp and/or extremely fragile. Anything ropy or stringy can entangle or even strangle your feathered pal. Birds can easily get caught in things like tinsel, light strings, garlands, popcorn strands, and ribbons.

As if that weren’t enough, the tree itself can also be unsafe. For one thing, fir trees tend to have very sharp needles. These can cause puncture wounds or splinters, both of which can lead to infections. Plus, many of the trees that are sold as Christmas trees have been treated with chemicals, such as pesticides, herbicides, fire retardants, and even dyes. None of these are safe for you little buddy, either.

What Are Some Holiday Hazards For Pet Birds?

We already talked about the tree, so we’ll skip over that. There are plenty of other dangers for bird owners to be aware of. Plants are another danger. Many seasonal plants, such as holly, ivy, and mistletoe, are toxic to birds. You’ll also have to be careful when hanging fake plants, as your pet could get tangled up in them.

What Are Some Unsafe Foods For Birds?

Food is another concern. Many of our favorite dishes and items are poisonous to birds. Don’t let Polly have anything that contains avocado, caffeine, chocolate, fruit pits or seeds, garlic, or onion. Anything that contains a lot of salt, sugar, or fat is also unsafe. If you’re having guests, be sure to ask them not to feed your feathered friend without asking. Ask your vet for more information.

What Kind Of Fumes Are Toxic To Birds?

As you may know, our winged pals have very sensitive lungs. It’s very important that Polly be kept in rooms that have good air quality. This is another concern around the holiday. Scented candles, potpourri, wax burners, and room sprays are all unsafe for your little buddy. Cooking fumes are another huge risk. Pots and pans that use nonstick coating, such as Teflon pieces, give off vapors that are harmless to us but poisonous to our feathered friends. On top of that, the dry air from furnaces may also irritate your pet’s lungs. Consider getting an air filter and, if needed, a dehumidifier. Ask your vet for more information.

How Do I Protect My Bird From Holiday Stress?

Birds can be quite nervous, and many of them feel uneasy with a lot of commotion. Your best bet is to keep Polly in her cage if you’re having company. Give her lots of free time earlier, so she won’t feel cooped-up. If you’re having a lot of guests, and/or your company is staying over, consider temporarily putting your winged buddy in a quiet back room.

It’s also a good idea to watch for signs of stress, such as erratic behavior, feather pulling, and strange vocalizations. Spend extra time with your pet if she seems uneasy. You may also want to offer her some new toys to occupy herself with.

What Should I Get My Bird For Christmas?

Don’t forget to fill Polly’s stocking! Toys, treats, and perches are all great presents for your feathered buddy. You can also repurpose some smaller empty boxes. Make sure there are no strings, tape pieces, or sharp edges, and fill them with crumpled paper and small treats. Just stick with things that you know are safe.

What Is The Christmas Bird Count?

This is also an important time of year for supporting worthwhile causes and charities. If you’re a bird lover, chances are you are already familiar with the Audubon Society, a conservation group that focuses its efforts on protecting wild birds and raising awareness about the issues that threaten them. They’re the driving force between the Christmas Bird Count, which takes place every year from December 14th to January 5th.  While this may not be the most well-known activity taking place this month, it’s actually been happening for some time. The first Christmas Bird Count took place back in the early 1900’s.

As to the event itself, the name is fairly self-explanatory. The idea is to take a day and count as many birds as you see and/or hear. This is organized by the Audubon Society. Each count takes place in a designated area, or circle, which is about 15 kilometers wide. And while the event takes place over a few weeks, each circle is counted once, on a specific day. The point is to help collect data, which is hugely helpful to researchers and conservation groups. It’s free to participate, though you would need to provide your own transportation, as well as any gear you may use. Find out more here.

Do Partridges Really Live In Pear Trees?

We can’t really write a holiday bird blog without referring to the classic Christmas carol. Swans, geese, colly birds, French hens, and turtle doves have all dwindled in popularity,  but they still have some devoted fans. Each of these birds has an interesting or unique trait. Swans, for instance, mate for life, and often swim side-by-side with their mates. If you thought that ‘colly birds’ was actually ‘calling birds,’ well, you’re not alone. It’s probably safe to say that millions of others also assumed that. However, the Library Of Congress clarified the point a few years back, in a blog post. As to what a colly bird is? That’s also a bit confusing, as no one seems to know. It’s most likely a way to describe blackbirds, as colly means something black, like coal. Then there are turtle doves, which are not related to, friends with, or associated with turtles. Last but not least, the chubby little partridge. There are more than 92 species of partridges, none of which actually live in pear trees.

In conclusion, you can enjoy a wonderful holiday season with your bird. Just take care to avoid common hazards, and try to avoid exposing your bird to anything that may stress her out.

All of us here at Clermont Animal Hospital, your Greater Cincinnati pet clinic, wish you a wonderful holiday season. Call us anytime!

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