General Pionus Care


This will help you along on what some general care is on keeping a pet bird, this not only applies to Pionus but to all parrot species.  Give your pet bird the best you have to offer. Your relationship with your pet bird should be meant to last a life time but often people tire of a bird and the bird has to learn to love all over again with someone different, sad but true.  If you feel you can't commit yourself to a pet birds messy nature then a bird is not for you, your house will not stay as clean it did before you had one.  They are worse than a kid, they do not ever clean up after themselves! [This page is loaded with a lot of info so it is quite long]

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  Many people marvel at the idea on owning a parrot.  It sounds like a neat and fun idea to own a parrot, especially ones that talk, this is what attracts people to parrots.  Some will just jump right in without doing any research on knowing the need or care that goes into parrot keeping.  Many people step inside of a pet store and then on a split decision, they will buy a parrot with no thought of what is actually involved; this is not a smart choice as the parrot could be at risk as the new owner may be lacking much needed knowledge for keeping a companion bird.  Parrots can be so much fun and entertaining and loved so much like a family member, but they also have a side to them that people can not put up with.  Some of this information may sound negative but it is the truth and people don't really seem to understand before they buy a parrot.  Three things people do not have an understanding about parrots, they bite, scream and are messy.  If you can understand and put up with those three things then you should have a good relationship with your parrot.  Parrots bite or scream for certain reasons and if you don't know why or understand them then you will have a hard time getting along with your bird.  If my birds get nippy with me, there is a reason.  I usually leave them alone and come back to them later and then they are fine.  Parrots can be moody just like you or I can be at times.  A parrot's scream is a way of communicating usually to their own kind but they do it too because they are happy or perhaps they are nervous or something has scared them, but you can learn what their different behaviors are.  A lot of problems can be solved just by learning and understanding your parrot.  Keep in mind that having even a pet bird still has it's wild instincts within them, you can't ever take that out of them.  An example of that is the way they scream or yell at certain times of the day, this is a wild behavior that you can not really control.  Suppressing certain wild instincts can lead to behavior problems.

  Remember that a parrot lives much longer than a dog or cat will so your bird is a much longer commitment.  So many parrots are given up as people just can not tolerate the upkeep of a bird any longer.  Birds are definitely more upkeep than dog and cats.  With the busy lives that people maintain now a days makes it even harder to keep up with the needs of a bird.  The one key factor is not enough attention towards the bird.  Birds need and require a certain amount of attention and love each day,   without it they don't thrive as well.  I truly believe this is why birds are given up so much now a days as no one even has time for themselves let alone even a bird.  Our society is not like it use to be, people can't slow down even for a minute.

  There seems to be a large amount of unwanted birds, because no one wants to take on and keep up with the challenges of a bird therefore making a lot of unwanted birds in today's society.  This will continue to happen as people want them but only for awhile then the bird gets sold or given up to someone else or to another bird adoption or rescue program.  Sorry to say - but honestly - parrot breeders can not be blamed for the parrots that are unwanted,  but in time it will hurt us parrot breeders,  if we keep breeding the birds and there are less and less people that are demanding them, then that will eventually slow down our breeding programs.  The over population of birds still don't come anywhere close to the dog and cat over population and never will.  The amount of unwanted birds has nothing to do with parrot breeders, as breeders are here to supply the demand.  A person who buys a parrot and then decides they no longer want it for what ever reason is why there are too many unwanted birds.  I was very offended by one person who tried to blame breeders for too many unwanted birds and that we should not breed birds anymore.  If breeders stopped breeding birds then many species could vanish.  One reason for giving up a pet is aggressive behavior due to what  I hear people describe it as too much hormonal aggression, well I must tell you that's the way birds are. This is one reason why people can't cope with their birds, they just don't understand how parrots really are. This not only applies to Pionus but with all other parrot species as well.  Some parrots are not as aggressive as others. Most parrots are acquired as babies so as the bird ages it changes and as it becomes sexually mature it may start showing aggressive behavior.  Like I describe at the end of the very first paragraph of this page, the behavior revolves around a parrots instincts.  Learning parrot behavior and understanding it will give a better relationship between you and your parrot.  Don't think it's the bird who has the problem and not you, as you will not change their instinct from within.  

  So what am I trying to say in the above information?   I want people to be sure to do all their research homework of keeping pet birds before making the final decision of owning one.  As a Pionus Breeder it is my intent to sell you one of my babies or even if you buy someone else's baby or adult bird but buy with the great knowledge of the upkeep and needs of owning a parrot. I would rather lose a sale of a bird then to see it fall into the wrong hands of a owner who may not know anything about birds.  I don't believe you need to know everything there is to know about birds totally but there is much vital info that is needed  to obtain and maintain a bird's healthy life style.  Educate yourself well before taking on the responsibility of a parrot.  I know and understand that keeping a parrot is not for everyone and some people try living with a parrot and then not like it after a while for many reasons.  Many people can not put up with the mess that parrots make, they drop their food a lot and most do not eat over their food bowls.  They will fling food from their beak by shaking their head and they wipe their beak on the rim of the food bowl or on perches or on the cage bars.  The walls will get splattered with food particles.  Parrots are messy by nature, so you must be able to tolerate this or you will not do well with owning a parrot of any type.  Parrots will poop where ever they are sitting unless they are well potty trained.  Yes, you can have a  Potty Trained Parrot!

  A person who buys a parrot and then no longer wants to put up with it, is a person who gives in quite easily.  This is why it is important to know what you are getting yourself into before owning one.  Parrots that are noisy is one thing that gets on a persons nerve quickly and the first thing they want to do is get rid of the bird.  You must be able to know how to handle your bird so you both will get along fine. Remember, parrots do not choose to go to pet shops on their own to be sold. You wanted the bird in the first place, the bird did not ask you to buy him and take him home.  I get quite frustrated hearing about people who give up quickly and get rid of their bird too easily.  People who live in close situations to other people must understand and realize that most all parrots that are  noisy, you will have problems with other people complaining which are the ones that do not have parrots.  A bird's sounds of screaming and yelling will carry a long distance away and other neighbors will hear it screaming from down the street.  You should not have this problem with the Pionus Species at all, but occasionally there is a Pionus that is out of the ordinary and does get too vocal. 

If you are one who likes to be away most week ends or goes on long vacation trips, then you may have a problem trying to find proper care takers for your bird.  Most birds can do alright if left for one or two days with proper amount of food and water set up in the cage and proper toys provided as well.  But if you are always gone you might have your bird feeling very neglected.  Think about it for a moment - you're usually gone all week to your job through out the day and are only home at night, then comes the week end and its Friday now you load up the car or truck and zoom you're off and running and not back until Sunday late afternoon or evening.  It doesn't give your bird much time to see you or be with you, so think about he/she must feel pretty lonely. If this happens week after week you won't probably be giving your bird the much needed love and companionship it desires.  If your bird is just a single bird all by its self in  the cage, you can see where he may feel like he has no companionship.  If you have two birds in the same cage, it is better for the two of them as they do give each other company.  If you have two single birds each in separate cages and can see one another that does give some company towards each other but still not the same as two together in the same cage.  Better yet, they want you to be there for them.  Before buying a bird really think about how much you will be there for them.  Even dogs and cats can feel the same way when their owners are gone away from the house too much.  Birds like to go places to once they get use to the idea, but it often limits the places that you may be able to go to.  Birds can be a burden when trying to travel with them.  Certainly do not leave them in a lock up car if it is warm out side.  As you know cars get very hot inside quite quickly and it is not good on the bird or any animal or person as we all know too well.  There are many precautions that you must take when traveling with a bird.

  Please do not get offended by the way I talk as it is the truth of what goes on between people with parrots.  Owning a parrot can be  very rewarding and pleasurable experience.   Now, below is some more information, I don't go into great detail of each category but it gives some understanding of what is good knowledge on some basic aspects of keeping and caring for companion birds.

Attention
All birds in general thrive on attention, some more than others.  The attention that a Pionus or any other parrot wants will depend on his individual personality as with any other parrot,  they all seek out different types of affection.  It's up to you to love your bird; as a rule your bird will look to you as their mate.  You are their person that they look up to, with out you they can't thrive.  Parrots can not keep care of themselves, its you who brings them the food, the water and the love!  What kind of attention or love do parrots seek?  Parrots love to be with you, sit on your hand or shoulder, this means a lot to them.  They often like to have their heads scratched while on you and some like to be petted.  Parrots like to go around the house with you or sometimes even outside but be sure they are clipped if you take them outdoors.  They want to spend time with you in whatever you are doing, they are curious and like to participate in the activities that they see you do, although they can be a nuisance while trying to do something and many times they get in the way.  Smaller birds are more easily taken about than some larger birds as the larger birds tend to not hold on to you as well as smaller ones do.  Parrots do not like to be in their cage all the time, even if you can't hold them a lot they want to be out to play and this is an important role of activity for them.  How much time is needed for direct attention?  It can vary from bird to bird some only want 10-15 minutes of your time may be once or twice a day, while others are not happy unless they are on you almost all the time.  You and your bird will learn a routine of time together and it usually works out as long as you don't totally ignore your bird.  

Toys for Fun
Be sure to offer your parrot toys to play within the cage and for when they are out of the cage.  Toys offer entertainment and stimulation and is a vital necessity to a happy playful bird.  A Birds nature is to chew on things and to prevent them from chewing up your house offer them toys, although if given the opportunity they will still chew on your nice wood molding and such!  Birds always want to have something that they are not suppose to have, just like a child.  What if your bird does not like toys?  Have them available anyway.  They may still play with them a little when you're not around.  Some birds will chew up toys quickly while others may just bat them around and not do actual chewing.  You should have selection of different toys and offer part of them and then maybe rotate them every 1 or 2 months so they do not get bored with the same toys. Go to our Toy Safety Page to read some info.

Exercise 
Birds need to have exercise just like you do.  That is why it is important to let them play outside of the cage as much as possible.  Having the play gyms that have numerous levels of branches or ladders help to exercise the bird.  Adding ropes on areas to help them to climb give them better strength as well.  Toys give exercise too, so be sure to have them on your birds play area.  Remember, the higher the bird is and if the bird should fall - the harder the fall will be so take that into consideration when having play areas above 5 feet.  Some birds that have too many flight feathers clipped will make the fall harder when they hit the floor or the bottom of their play gym.  If you have a simple play gym that has a feeding area,  place the feed or water bowls in an area where they have to climb up or down to go to the dish creating exercise for them otherwise if they don't have to move while on a perch to eat or drink they just sit there and become a perch potato! 

Lighting
Birds love light, they are happy with a well lit area.  Dark areas of the house may make them feel sad.  They need some sun shine but not too much.  If they are in a situation where they can never get to sit in the sun for a bit then have one of the Fluorescent Fixtures with Full Spectrum  available for plants and animals, not the type that put off heat.  The kind that is a substitute for the sun.  You can buy them in hardware stores and other places.
Go to Avitec.com they have these sort of Full Spectrum Lights and also infrared heating elements among other things.

Temperature
Just like yourself, birds like to be comfortable. If extremely hot birds will lift their wings away from their body and they pant with the mouth opened. You can mist them with water to cool them down.  Try keeping them comfortable.

Food
Pionus love to eat.  They usually love fruits, veggies, beans, seed, pellets. There are a few items that are toxic to birds.  Look on our Nutrition page for that info.  A bird only eats what they are use to, if they are not accustom to eating fruits or vegetables, it's because they were not introduced to it or kept up with it, requiring a taste for such foods are started at an early age. That is why it is important that a breeder who raises the baby introduces them to fresh foods early on when it first learns to start eating.  If the bird is not kept up on these foods and they get accustom to eating mostly seed or pellets then it may be hard to get the bird to acquire the love of fruits and veggies and it can sometimes be a hard task to get them back to eating these things.  Your bird should have a variety of things not just one thing, it needs to be a well balanced diet, just as it is important for humans.  If fed a proper diet, additional vitamins are not usually necessary. Water too, plays an important part as it does for every living being.  Change water at least once a day.  You will find with Pionus' they love to drink water as they are eating, therefore making a mess of the water, you may need to change it two or three times a day.  Remove food (fresh) after it has been in the cage about three hours or so. Seed or pellets should always be available in the cage as they snack on it often.  You can feed your bird most anything that is actually healthy for you with a few exceptions which are listed on our nutrition page.  Stay away from the junk foods, birds can turn into junk food junkies just like people can, it really is bad for them.  Most birds love potato chips but with all the chemicals on chips it not a good idea to give them to your bird.

Cages
Don't always assume that the cage in which you saw your bird in the pet shop is the right size. Because birds are displayed on open perches in many shops, the cages may be used only for feeding or rest periods, and may not be suitable as long-term housing. Choose the largest cage you can afford and accommodate in your home. A great size for a Pionus is 24"X24" X 30".  

Bar spacing on any cage should be sufficient to prevent toe and limb trapping, but not so wide that birds can stick their heads through them. Check cages with curved or domed tops to be sure that bars do not converge at the center. Welds should be smooth, with no rough edges to injure your birds or your hand when you're cleaning the cage. A No Dump Feeder that is already built in to the making of the cage are the best, one that has at least three areas for bowl placement.  You can slide your proper sized bowl in to place and never have to worry about the bird dumping out the water or food.  I absolutely will not buy a cage if it does not have this feature built into the cage. 

Placing cage in a safe area of the house is important, if near a window be sure the sun is not constantly on the cage as it could get to hot on your bird and would be over heated.  Keep cages away from cold drafts and kitchens are not always a good idea as there are many hazards within the kitchen area. 


Look for a cage that is easy to clean, with pull out trays. A cage with horizontal bars, Play area on top is essential for out of the cage play time. Parrots also think they do not belong in a cage at all!  They sure seem to learn this quite early in life, even when I have baby birds still in the tub they always want out of it. 

Perches
The diameter of a perch for whatever size parrot you may have should be big enough so the the front toes and the back toes do not come together and touch when perched.  An ideal size for Pionus would be 5/8" to 3/4" diameter.  Offer natural wood branches if available, they all don't have to be natural branches.  Offer different textures of perches as well.  Perches that are smaller at one end and larger going towards the other end are ideal too as this gives your bird an area on the perch where they maybe best comfortable.

Routine Cleaning
Routine clean up after a parrot is not the bright side of keeping a feathered companion.  Most people dread it after a short time and this is in part to why people end up getting rid of their pet bird.  It's to be said that daily clean up is needed, but hard to do as so many of us are very busy.  If you keep up on it regularly by washing the cage, whether it be taking it out side to scrub it or just wiping it down, it should be disinfected periodically.
Keep up on the sweeping or vacuuming, sweep up large stuff before you vacuum, large hard things such as nut shells are not good on vacuum belts and certain parts of the vacuum. Wash food and water bowls daily if you can or at least every other day.

Bath Time
There are many ways to give your bird a bath. Bath time is the part of grooming that can be enjoyable for both you and your birds. It plays an important part in keeping your Pionus healthy by promoting preening and controlling dry, flaky skin. Pionus' love baths, a lot of them go in to acrobatic motions, turning this way and that way, they don't want to miss a spot. When they are drenched, soaking wet they look pathetic, but when they dry they are back to looking beautiful!

Larger birds may like to join you in the shower. If you have shower doors, some birds just like to sit on top especially if they are the type that like to be in there with you but they don't want to get wet because they think they are being tortured by getting wet (This is my Blue & Gold Macaws out look on a shower!). You can purchase shower mounted type perches with suction cups, there are some that mount caddy corner,  others that mount straight. Place them where they will get the mist or over spray of the shower.  Always take precaution on being sure the water is not too hot or too cold.

You can provide a shallow bowl for your bird's bathing pleasure. There are several bathing bowls available from bird product manufacturers.

Another form of bathing is by using a clean, unused spray bottle or plant mister filled with lukewarm water on your bird. Some birds prefer this light shower. Make sure that the water is at room temperature--not too hot or too cold. Do not spray directly in the face, spray upward and let the mist fall on to your bird.

Make sure that your bird bathes during the warmer daylight hours and that it is not exposed to drafts or cool air. Do not bathe your bird if it seems ill. The bathing can become a great time for you and your bird, and it will enhance its health and appearance!   

Choosing a Veterinarian
Have a well "Qualified Avian Veterinarian" already picked out that you can go to if needed.  Annual check ups are good for your pet bird so you know that your bird is in good health.  Just because the avian vet is closer in mileage to you doesn't mean that's the one you have to use.  I have two avian vets much closer to me but I use a avian vet that is further away from me and is much broader in the avian field than the others are.  Some avian vets are not as knowledgeable as others so you will have to find out how they are if you want the best of the best.  Some avian vets only do certain things where other are more extensive.  Pick one that you feel comfortable with.

Wing and Nail Clipping
Routine maintenance on wings and nails is a vital step in bird care.
See our page on Wings & Nails.

Preparing for emergencies -
First Aid Kit you can put together yourself and keep readily available

You must always know what to do when it comes to avian emergencies. Prepare a first aid kit for your pet bird. Some items to include are: a cauterizing agent (such as Kwik-Stop, cornstarch or flour), scissors, gauze, hemostats, needle-nosed pliers, a small hospital cage (an aquarium or brooder), a heating pad, a towel, extra bird food and bottled water.

If your bird should fall and break the tip of the nail or the tip of the beak it may start bleeding, if this happen apply styptic powder (kwik-stop, cornstarch or flour) to the tip of the bleeding area and apply pressure. Repeat if it keeps wanting to bleed.

Broken blood feathers may stop bleeding if left un-touched, but sometimes as soon as they bumped, the bleeding commences. A styptic powder can be used first to see if the bleeding stops, it depends on how its broken and most times it may need to be pulled out.
How to pull out a broken blood feather  
This requires two people to do this procedure - one person to hold the bird and the wing and the other person to pull out the broken blood feather with Needle Nosed Pliers. Sometimes tail feathers break too and it would be the same procedure.  Many times a bird breaks a blood feather and when this happens bleeding may not stop. You may have to quickly pull it out with the pliers. To do this you will gently grasp the feather at the base of the shaft (calamus) where it grows in at closest to the body and  using steady pressure, and quickly pull the feather straight out in the direction it is growing.  A new blood feather will soon grow back in, replacing the broken one. 
Go here to read about Feather info.  NOTE: A styptic powder should always be kept on hand and should be kept in certain location so you are never confused as to where it is.  I have kept my powder on my kitchen window sill and it has not been moved in the last 17 years.  Place it where it is most easiest and readily available to you incase of an emergency. 

If you have cats or dogs
If you do have other animals be sure to always watch that the dog or cat can't hurt the bird, it is a cats instinct to go after birds. It may appear that the cat would not harm the bird but if out of your sight the cat could very well pounce on the bird and either hurt the bird or kill it, birds can be fragile in many ways. The same goes for dogs.
If your birds flight feathers are clipped it can not get out of harms way.

Non-Stick Cookware Pans
Non Stick cookware is toxic to birds if pan is over heated beyond 500 degrees causing a toxin into the air and this can kill your bird instantly. This would be a pan that was left on the heat with no food in the pan.  Your bird does not have to be even that close to the kitchen area to have this happen. If you are unsure about remembering if you turned the heat off or not, then it is best that you not use these type of pans while you have birds.
Also when cooking be sure to cover pans with lids especially if you have birds that can fly, it does happen where someone's bird flies into an open pan of boiling water or sauce or whatever is in the pan.  This can greatly burn the bird and cause problems.  Please be careful when cooking in the kitchen and if needed put your bird in the cage while you cook if you find he is in the way. It is better to be safe than sorry!

Other Hazards
Toilets - leaving the lid opened can be a fatal mistake, especially with birds that can fly.  It's best to make a habit of closing the lid down each time whether you have birds that fly or not. If you take the bird into the bathroom with you for a shower be sure the toilet lid is down so the bird can not fall in while you're in the shower. 
Sinks or Tubs - that have sitting water in them can be a hazard as well, a kitchen sink or a tub that have suds or bubbles appears to be a solid surface to a bird and they will try to walk on it, only leaving them to fall in and drown.  Don't leave sinks or tubs unattended with flying birds or birds that can jump in from a near by place.  Also pans or large bowls sitting in a sink to soak with water may be not a good idea,  if it's too deep the bird could fall in and may not be able to get out and could drown.  These are things that I am very aware of with my pet birds.  I do not keep anything sitting with water in it because I have a little Love Bird that flies around.  The dogs water bowls are not filled too full either so incase he should land in it he can't drown in it. 
Wood Stoves - for heating your house can be a hazard if hot, if a bird lands on a hot surface, immediately swipe the bird off.  Do not try to pick the bird up as that takes more time getting the bird off the hot surface.  There are tons of dangerous things that a bird can get into, just be aware of most situations and do the best that you can do with each. 

With a little common knowledge you can succeed well with your pet bird!

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Updated OCT. 5, 2013

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