Parrot Toy Angels: May 2008 Angel Wings
Parrot Toy Angels

Angel Wings

A monthly journal for human angels who make a positive difference in companion birds' lives.

May 2008
Volume 3, Issue V

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In this month's issue:

    Angel Announcements ~ AUCTION STARTING
    Angel Tips
    Easy Sprouting: Part 3 of 3
    Metal Safety
    The Scoop on Poop
    Rikki Sez
    Birdie Salad
    What is Red Palm Oil?
    Featured Fid ~ Hahns Macaw
    Feathered Funnies
    Sandy Steele Delivery
    Breathe This In



Welcome

Welcome Vicki H.
and
Lisa M.




A big thank you to the Newsletter Committee. Ya'll rock!

Angel Toys For Angels

Featured Toys for May

Fun Wheels - Colored
Fun Wheels - Colored
For Medium to Large Birds

Paper Holder
Paper Holder
For Small to Large Birds

Leather Bites
Leather Bites - Medium
For Medium to Large Birds

Check out all the
Angel Toys for Angels

now!


ANGEL ANNOUNCEMENTS
Watch for upcoming events, news, website updates, etc. here

Spring Auction Preview

PTA's Mission Fish Auction

The Spring 08 Auction will be done thru ebay and Mission Fish.
We have over 140 items up for bid.
New items will be uploaded every hour for the first 4 hours.
Auction starts at 10:00am PDT.
Starts Thursday, 5/8/08
Ends Sunday, 5/18/08

The Mission Fish banner above will be active on
May 8
and take you directly to our auction items.

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ParrotNutz

INTRODUCING

Fruit & Grain Mini Muffins
and
Tropical Mini Muffins

Tropical Mini Muffins

ParrotNutz says...
think Spring into Summer....what better way but to feed fruits and grains!!
Choose either our
Fruit & Grain Mini Muffins with dehydrated fruits mixed with healthful grains all rolled into one yummy treat or
Tropical Mini Muffins
loaded with a fresh mixture of tropical fruits including papaya and mango and many more mixed into a base of the finest organic multi grain flours.

$14.95/15 mini muffins.
(Approximately 1 - 1.5 lb.)

Click Here to order

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Bird Cages Galore

Why buy a Bird Cage from Bird Cages Galore?? Because we do not "just sell" top quality cages at reasonable prices, provide free shipping and a free toy with each cage; we offer first rate customer service and will answer your questions about most bird-related matters. Visit us on the web, browse our selection, join our discussion forum and sign up for our free Newsletter,
The Caged Bird Courier.

We are here to help, because we care about your bird!!

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ANGEL TIPS
Birdie Safe Cleaning Tips
By Sue Christie-Cox

Cornstarch: A derivative of corn, this powder can be used to starch clothes; clean windows, carpets and rugs; polish furniture; and absorb grease and oil. Mix it with vinegar and water to make a window and glass cleaner. Make a paste with water to remove fresh blood stains. (Remember this the next time you get bit!)

Lemon: The juice of this fruit contains citric acid and can be used as an alternative to bleach to clean and deodorize your home, according to the EPA. Mix it with baking soda to create a brass polish, or mix it with water for a window and glass cleaner. Add half a cup of juice to 1 cup of olive oil to make furniture polish. Rub a cut lemon on chopping blocks to sanitize them; to remove strains from cutting boards, rub in the juice of one lemon and let it stand 20 minutes before rinsing. The juice can also be used to remove stains from clothing. Run the peel of a lemon through the garbage disposal to deodorize the drain.

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Stanley and Beans sharing a salad
Stanley, Bunny & Beans, Sennie sharing a salad

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Easy Sprouting:
Part Three of Three

By Regina M. Jankowski

I have been busy sprouting up a storm this past month. It is easy to do, yummy (okay...yes, I tasted them!), and the birds are loving it! We have our seeds and EasySprouts from Parrot Toy Angels, so let's get started!

First you will need to wash your EasySprout prior to use. I washed mine in dish detergent. You can soak your Sprouter in a bleach solution for 10-20 minutes if you chose. Use 1 tablespoon of bleach per pint of water and then scrub it thoroughly.

Put the amount of seeds you are ready to sprout in the Inner Container. This is the container that sits inside the larger one (hence the name) with the little slits at the bottom. If you are using very small seeds, there is an Alfalfa Insert that goes in the bottom of the Inner Container. This will keep your seeds from escaping. (Figure out how to keep your parrot from escaping and be sure to let us all know!)

Rinse well until the water runs clear. Use the water you provide to your birds. For example, I use filtered water and some use bottled. Whatever water you soak these seeds in will be absorbed by the seed and ultimately fed to your bird.

Put your Inner Container in the Outer Container. Make sure to rotate the Inner Container until it sits all the way inside the Outer Container. You want it to sit as low as possible and the two outer rims should be level. If you cannot attach the lid properly, it's not low enough. Add enough water to cover your seeds by several inches. No need to fill the container. Ultimately you should have 2-3 parts water to 1 part seed.

Attach the Vented Lid to your EasySprout. You will want to place it in a location with good air circulation. This is important. I tested this theory myself. It took 24 hours to sprout on a kitchen corner counter with no circulation in comparison to 12 hours in a more open area. You want the seeds to open. Some will open and some will grow little tails. You do not want long tails, like those of lovely alfalfa sprouts we see so often. Any growth, no matter how little, proves the seed awakened. Once it is awakened and alive, it has reached its full nutritional value. Longer tails does not mean more nutrition. Start with soaking for 12 hours and increase if you feel needed.

After your seeds have sprouted, rinse them again. Shake the water out best you can. The Inner Container makes this job very easy to do. Leave them in their Inner Container and this time place it raised in the Outer Container so it is elevated from the bottom. If you did it correctly, the bottoms will not touch and the lid will not snap into place. Sit your sprouts in a well ventilated area and let them dry for another 12 hours or so to drain completely. Storing wet sprouts will spoil them. They do not need to be completely dry. I learned that moist versus wet was the best way for me to judge.

Now they are ready to feed to your birds! Any left over sprouts may be refrigerated for several days.

This is so simple to do that when you realize how many sprouts your birds can consume in one day, I recommend sprouting daily. Fresh is always best and we all know our birds deserve the best! My birds tend to drive that point home on a daily basis, if not more often. Your EasySprout comes complete with directions and even some recipes for humans. They look delicious, but one contains chocolate. I guess I'll just let my cockatoo eat that recipe page! different types of sprouts:

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Metal Safety
By Susan Kesler, Safety Committee Chairwoman

Parrots love to chew on anything and everything, including things that are hazardous to their health. Our responsibility, as parrot owners, is to do what we can to make sure what they are chewing on is safe. A commonly overlooked item is the metal our birds come in contact with every day. The very best metal to use for bells, chain, and hardware (to hang those bells and other toys) is stainless steel. A good device for determining if a metal is indeed stainless steel is a magnet. True stainless steel will have little or no magnetic attraction. The next best, and more affordable choice, is nickel plated steel. Both nickel plate and stainless steel are non toxic and safe for our birds to chew on. If you make your own toys, finding safe chain is especially important for the bigger birds because it is practically the only way to keep a toy hanging in a cage for more than a minute.

Zinc coating on any metal is highly toxic to our feathered friends and should be avoided in any form, at all cost. This fact cannot be emphasized too strongly. Zinc coating is commonly found in quick links, nuts, bolts, large washers, chain, and the clappers in some bells. Zinc has even been found in some bird cages. If you even suspect that any part of a toy your bird has is zinc coated, take it down immediately and replace any suspected parts with stainless steel or nickel plated parts.

Chrome plating can be used over zinc or nickel and since there is no way for the lay person to tell the difference, I advise against using any chrome items, especially dog collars, commonly called "choke chains".

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, so any brass bells, chains or cages should be avoided. Copper toxicity is less common in birds, but still should be a real concern.

Lead is also a major health hazard, and can be commonly found in the welds and paint of some cages, especially older ones, and in the paint on some wood, plastic, and soft PVC toys, and the clappers of some bells. If you suspect lead paint or zinc in your birds' cage, or toys, you can send a sample to the Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and, for a fee, they can test it for you. Please go to http://laddl.lsu.edu for more information. There are also home test kits available for testing the lead content in the paint on toys and toy parts such as the paint on some wooden blocks. These kits are fairly inexpensive and can usually be purchased at any hardware store.

Lead Test Kit
Please note: Parrot Toy Angels does not advocate the use of any particular brand of Lead Test Kit


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The Scoop with Poop
By Dr. Lauren Powers, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian)

As an avian veterinarian, I have become obsessed with bird poop. This frequently leads to a variety of responses from my clients, from puzzlement to sheer disgust as I scrape excrement from their cages and stare at it pensively. But, what a bird leaves behind can reveal important clues about its health.

Under your bird's tail is the business end. There, under a patch of feathers, lies the vent. The vent is the bird's version of an anal sphincter. Inside the vent is a structure lacking in mammals called the cloaca. The cloaca is basically a sac that stores products excreted from the colon (feces) and kidneys via the ureter tubes (urates and urine). Feces are normally a green-brown color in birds, depending upon what color food they eat (often more green if they eat seeds and more brown if they eat pellets). Urates are collections of uric acid crystals, a byproduct of protein metabolism secreted from certain tubules in the kidneys. Urine is normally a clear, watery substance not unlike that produced by mammals. Feces, urine, and urates sit together in the cloaca until the bird decides to poop. Then, this material is all excreted into one nice pile of droppings. A normal, healthy poop usually has a worm-like strip of green-brown feces, a covering of urates, and a thin rim of watery urine.

Before I tell you what is abnormal, an important thing to remember is not to panic too soon. If your bird is consistently passing abnormal poops, or if your bird is showing other signs of illness such as weakness or lethargy or vomiting, it might be time to call your avian veterinarian.

Color Changes
With birds, stuff that goes in quickly comes out. Often, natural or artificial dyes show up in the droppings and give an interesting rainbow of color changes. Red colors can look a bit like blood in the stool, but often have an orange-red or brick-red color, which is not the color of blood. This fact is one reason why many people are opposed to feeding pelleted diets containing dyes or pigments. True blood is a crimson red. Appearance of true blood in the droppings is a reason to call your avian veterinarian as soon as possible. The blood could be coming from the intestines, kidneys, or reproductive tract. Blood that leaks into the stomach turns tarry black. This is called melena. You need to call your vet as soon as possible if you see melena in fresh droppings. Be aware that normal feces can turn very dark when dried out, so you need to evaluate the appearance of fresh droppings.

The urates should normally be a creamy white color. The urine normally is clear. If the urates or urine turn a brilliant to fluorescent green or yellow color, this could be an indication of liver disease. Usually, birds sick enough to excrete these pigmented byproducts because of liver disease are acting pretty sick. One cause of severe liver disease in birds is psittacosis, cause by the bacteria Chlamydophila psittaci. This disease is contagious to people and can cause flu-like illness, and is not to be taken lightly. If the feces and urates sit long enough in the cloaca before being evacuated, natural pigments from the feces can leach into the urates, giving them a bit of a greenish color. This is not a reason to panic. Just make sure the next few droppings have more normal appearing urates.

Volume Changes
Birds with watery droppings do not necessarily have diarrhea. An increased wetness usually means an increased volume of urine per dropping. Increased urine volume can be due to stress. For example, birds often have watery droppings when they are brought in to see me. Increased urine volume can also be due to increased water intake from playing in their water bowls, taking a shower or bath, or eating wet foods such as fruits and vegetables. This is perfectly normal. However, certain diseases such as lead and zinc poisoning and kidney infections can cause damage to the kidneys themselves, reducing the ability of the kidneys to reabsorb the water they filter. This can lead quickly to dehydration, particularly if the bird is feeling too sick to drink enough to make up for these losses and maintain hydration.

Another cause for concern is if your bird is consistently passing droppings with few to no feces. Nothing in, nothing out. If the droppings consist only of urates and urine, then your bird may not be eating to maintain its energy level and body weight. If this goes on long enough (more than 24 to 48 hours), this may not be compatible with life itself. When a bird stops eating, the feces quickly start to change from a thick, tubular green-brown substance, to a thin to pasty, scant olive-green brown material, to nothing at all. This is a reason to call your vet right away.

Consistency Changes
If the feces have lost their tubular shape and are loose or watery, this could be considered as true diarrhea. Loose stools could simply be due to the diet. For example, pectin found naturally in apples can cause gelatinous, bulky feces. True diarrhea, particularly if the feces smells nasty or has air bubbles or blood or mucus, is a reason to call your avian vet as soon as possible. Common causes of diarrhea in birds include intestinal bacterial, yeast, and parasite infections, as well as toxins and gastrointestinal irritants.

Consistent passage of undigested food material in the feces (such as seeds) could indicate a decreased ability of the stomach to grind food. Some diseases that can cause this include proventricular dilatation disease (PDD), gastric foreign bodies, and gastric cancer. Bulky, pale feces could be consistent with a decreased absorption of nutrients. This can be due to diseases of the pancreas and intestines, such as from infection with Giardia (an intestinal parasite) and paramyxovirus-3 (a viral infection).

I recommend using paper litter such as newspaper, paper towels, butcher paper, wax paper, cage liners, or computer paper. Pelleted litter and shavings absorb or cover the droppings, making it difficult for inspection. Get familiar with your bird's poop. Ignore the comments and harassment from your loved ones. You, too, can become a master of avian coprology if you work hard and strive for great achievements.

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Have a topic you'd like to see addressed by Dr. Powers? Drop us an Email

Rikki Sez...

Rikki will try and answer frequently asked questions here.

Rikki, my parrot does not like other parrots, only me. Doesn't he know he is a bird?
Signed, Birdlove

Dear Birdlove, when birds are hand-raised they sometimes imprint on humans. When it comes time to choose their life-mate, they often choose a person. Instinct tells them to chase off any rivals for their chosen one's affections. Your bird loves you and doesn't want another bird to steal you away.

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Rikki, I just bought a parrot and his previous owner said he would step up on command and that he could talk. I've had him a week and he won't step up and he won't talk. Should I return him and get my money back?
Signed, Regretful

Dear Regretful, the three most important things to have when dealing with a new parrot are patience, patience, and patience. Parrots are very sensitive and intelligent creatures and must be treated with love and respect. Try sitting by his cage and talking softly or reading to him. He will gradually learn to trust you. A parrot will not respond to demands but must be made to feel safe and secure before interacting with you. Your patience will be rewarded with many years of companionship and entertainment.

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Birdie Salad with Red Palm Oil Dressing
By Shelly Wing

2 Cups cooked plain Quinoa (you can substitute Brown Rice or Couscous if you can't find Quinoa)
1 Cup cooked Beans/Legumes (your choice)
1 large Plantain
1/2 Cup Raw Carrot
1/2 Cup Raw Broccoli
1/2 Cup Raw Greens (Kale, Mustard Greens, etc.)
1 Cup Pine Nuts (or other nut of your choice)
Red Palm Oil

Put all ingredients EXCEPT Plaintain and Red Palm Oil into food processor and chop until the consistency of a fine meal. Add Plantain and process until thoroughly mixed. Store in covered bowl or freezer bags in freezer or refrigerator. To serve: Spoon desired amount into bowl, warm in microwave or on stove. (If using microwave, stir thoroughly amd make sure there are no hotspots!). Dress with 5 to 10 drops of Red Palm Oil. Guaranteed a Tails Up!

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What is Red Palm Oil?
By Lori M. Nelsen

Red Palm Oil is from the flesh of the fruit of the palm tree (Elaeis guineensis-not the coconut palm). Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of the oil palm tree that grows in tropical areas all over the world. It has been used in these areas for centuries. Red Palm Oil comes from the pulp of the fruit, while palm kernel oil is extracted from the kernel. Red Palm Oil gets its red color comes from high levels of carotenes. It is resistant to rancidity and solidifies quickly. It can be purchased as 100% certified Red Palm Oil under several different brand names.

Red Palm Oil is one of the richest sources of carotenes, specifically beta carotene, in terms of retinol (provitamin A) equivalents. Vitamin A can be highly toxic when derived from either synthetic or natural sources if taken in an overdose. The beta and alpha carotenes, in Red Palm Oil, can be taken in their natural state safely. They are nontoxic and provide the same benefits of pure Vitamin A. Red Palm Oil was found, in a study in 1994, to provide 15 to 300 times the retinol equivalents as found in carrots, leafy greens and tomatoes. It contains by far, more nutrients than any other dietary oil. In addition to beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lycopene it contains at least 20 other carotenes along with vitamin E, vitamin K, CoQ10, squalene, phytosterols, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and glycolipids.

Red Palm Oil is very balanced. It has almost equal percentages of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. It possesses natural antioxidants. Antioxidants are the scavengers for free radicals. These free radicals have been associated with heart disease, cell aging, cancer, arthritis and, in humans, Alzheimers.

Red Palm Oil contains forms of Vitamin E called tocotrienols (4 types: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta) and tocopherols(4 types: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta). Most diets contain only alpha tocopherols. Red Palm oil is the only oil that contains abundant tocotrienols, which are super antioxidants. HMG-CoA Reductase is present in the avian species and the above forms of Vitamin E inhibit the HMG-CoA Reductase, controlling the rate of cholesterol synthesis.

In avians, Red Palm Oil is recommended for dry skin, cardiovascular disease, muscle weakness, nutritional deficiencies, immune system weakness, feather problems, eye problems and reproductive disorders. Clinical trials have found lower cholesterol, vibrant plumage, improved heart function, cataract reversal, reduced incidence of bacterial and fungal infections.

Red Palm Oil is another addition to the list of EFA's (Essential Fatty Acids) including: Hemp Oil, Flax Oil, Seabuckthorn Oil, and healthy nuts to keep you and your avian strong and healthy.

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Dillon and Sailor
Senior Angel Dillon V. with his pal,
Sailor, Military Macaw

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Featured Fid ~ Hahns Macaw
By Dori Jacobson

SidneyThe Hahns Macaw is the smallest of the Macaws. Once thought to be in the genus Ara (Ara nobilis nobilis), it is currently felt that they belong to the genus Diopsittaca (Diopsittaca nobilis). They are also known as the Red-shouldered Macaw. They weigh approximately 165 Grams, and are about 12 inches in length, of which half is their tail. They are native to the tropical forests of Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana. Their average lifespan is 20-35 years in captivity.

SidneyThe coloring of the Hahns is bright green body, with a slate blue forehead. The face has the characteristic bald facial patch with bright white skin. The wings are bright red at the forefront (hence the name Red-shouldered), with bright green feathers above, and olive green below. Tail feathers are bright green, very long and narrow. The beak is black, eyes coppery brown, and legs are grey.

The Hahns Macaw is a very active bird. They seem to be Juliaconstantly in motion...from one perch to another, up the bars, down the bars, hanging by one toe, up and down ladders and ropes, on one toy, over to the next three. If you've ever seen a classroom of toddlers running around, that's what one little Hahns looks like. I don't think mine spends more than 3 minutes in the same spot on his playstand. The Hahns should have a variety of toys. They love chewing wood, preening, tearing paper to shreds, ringing bells, twirling beads, etc. Their small size makes one think that they need thin wood, cockatiel type toys, but this is often not the case. My Hahns will chew 1-2" wooden blocks as readily as he will chew thin wood slices. They readily accept the introduction of new toys.

The Hahns is also a good talker/mimicker. Their enunciation is good, but they usually have higher voices. They imitate bodily noises (burps, sneezes, sniffles). Despite their small size, they can be somewhat loud. Mainly when calling their "flock", human or otherwise.

The Hahns Macaw can be a good bird for those who are afraid of the huge beaks of their larger Macaw relatives; however the Hahns also can be dominant, demanding, and pushy...big birds in tiny bodies. Thus it is important to spend good, quality time with them...not too difficult because of their constant antics and pleasing personalities. They also need to know their boundaries with loving guidance.

Minimum cage size for a Hahns MacawSidney is 24 x 24 x 24", though larger is always better. Bar spacing should be 5/8 to 3/4 inches. The bars need to be of sufficient thickness, not little cockatiel bars. They also need plenty of room to expand their wings, as they love to "play hummingbird" and flap up a storm. Since they are tree top dwellers and feeders in their native habitat, they also tend to be up in the higher areas of their cage and playgyms. I have yet to see mine "go to bottom" in his cage, even to retrieve a toy. He will rummage around destroying paper on the top of his cage, but will not attack the same paper if it is low inside the cage. Hahns are also known to love snuggle rings, particularly when they sleep. This may relate to their nesting behaviors in the wild...they nest in hollows in palm trees.

In the wild, Hahns feed on fruits, nuts, berries and vegetation in the treetops. In captivity, their diets should be varied with plenty of fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, pellets and a little high quality seed. They eat a lot in comparison to their small size.

SidneyI rehomed a 17 year old Hahns Macaw a few weeks ago. His owner (who had had him since he was weaned) had died. Though he lived most of his life alone with a male, and then terrorized the female that tried to care for him after his owner's death, he is slowly learning to trust and accept me, a female. They can learn to form new attachments with love and patience. So, a rehomed or rescued Hahns Macaw should always be a consideration.

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FEATHERED FUNNIES

Haley and the Police Officer


Too Too

Due to long-standing neighbor problems, a police officer stopped by my house to see how things were going. Haley Deja'Too (Lesser Sulfur Crested Cockatoo) was sitting on her playstand. Normally she is shy around strangers, especially large men. She was doing her darnedest to be as cute as possible. She fluffed her feathers around her beak in what I've read as the "I'm so sweet, I don't even have a beak!" move. (Thanks Sally Blanchard!). As soon as he acknowledged her, she batted her big cow eyes and motioned with her foot to pet and rub her neck. Now, I KNEW she was up to something. He, of course, took the bait and was quite intrigued at how this little cockatoo was interested in being his friend. I knew better. After he petted her and was feeling comfortable she did her "pick me up" dance and slowly tried to con her way onto his arm. Anytime Haley isn't playing "hard to get", trouble is on its way! My mother instinct got the better of me and I said no. That's when her eyes shot to the "Prize" she had been working so diligently on getting to...shiny brass Police buttons! She was completely enchanted with them and looked as if she were in love...gazing and clacking her beak. As soon as I called her on it and told her there was NO WAY she could have the buttons, and that it was actually against the law, she started laughing hysterically. I'm not sure which part she found funny. Her being told "no" or the thought of a jail she couldn't break out of.




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Sandy Steele Toy Delivery
By Laurie Kombert

The date was set and the place was set and with Jane and my husband Steven and grandson Dillon to help us, we arrived at the East Greenbush library ready to set up before the other members of the Capital District Caged Bird Club arrived.

Tables and chairs were arranged, tablecloths thrown over, the food was set out and the staggering amount of boxes all wrapped in pretty red paper by Jane, were piled on the tables.

With members arriving, someone was set as lookout for Sandy but still with many things to do, I heard someone say, "Hi Sandy!" She had slipped in, but was still surprised. She now knew why Jane had pushed for her to come to the meeting that night and could not believe that this had all been done for her.

With each box opened there were ooohhhs and ahhhhhs and as Sandy looked at each toy she knew immediately what would give each bird the most enjoyment, "Oh, this one will be great for Thor", "Baskets! Oh Lily loves to shred baskets!". And on and on it went!

I have to say that I was amazed, as was everyone else, at the talent that everyone showed in making those wonderful toys! The blankets we had laid down on the floor were getting more and more filled with toys. People were coming up to help open packages because we only had the room for 2 hours and we were running out of time. At one time there were two or three club members up helping Sandy open packages. People came up to see how this or that was made, turning them over and over in their hands amazed at how tightly knots were tired or "how did they do that?" was something I heard repeatedly.

The night closed with Sandy telling the members about the birds these toys were going to help and how they had come to be with her. Every Angel should be extremely proud for the joy they brought not only Sandy Steele that night but also the birds they helped as well.

View Sandy Steele Delivery Pictures Here

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Have these stories got your toymaking talons twitching? Do you want to help make a difference in somebirdie's life? Come join our ranks! We have angels from all different backgrounds and walks of life, and there's always room for another generous heart.
As a Parrot Toy Angel, you will be asked to contribute on a monthly basis to help support our ongoing work. Apply for membership:
Angel Application ♥  ♥  ♥ Join our Yahoo! Group

Breathe This In, For Your Bird's Safety
By Regina M. Jankowski

We've all heard it. Scented candles, Teflon, air fresheners, cleaning agents (just to name a few) are not safe to use around our birds. You know it, but do you know why? I don't know about you, but in order for me to be able to determine what is safe or not safe for my birds, I have to understand why these things are so dangerous. To understand why something that is relatively safe for us to inhale but not our feathered friends, we have to understand the massive difference in our respiratory systems.

The respiratory system of mammals is fairly simple. We have two lungs. The lungs contain bronchi, which leads to alveoli. The bronchi are tubes leading out from the lung and the alveoli are small sacs within the lung. The alveoli have one opening. Air can flow in or out, but never through them to the outside of the lung. This means that they contain a mixture of fresh and stale air. Our lungs expand, gas exchange occurs and the air is exhaled. Okay, so now you're thinking "That was simple?" Besides making me hungry for Broccoli Ravioli, it sure was! Your bird's respiratory system is so much more complex and evolved than you know.

The avian respiratory system does not only deliver oxygen to tissues it also removes carbon dioxide like a mammal's does. It also warms and moistens the air, detoxifies metabolic products and is used for vocalization. Birds have two symmetrical lungs plus nine air sacs. The upper respiratory system does filter air and trap dust, much like ours. However, their lungs do not move during breathing like ours do. Breathing in expands the air sac volume and exhalation decreases them. The volume and shape of the lung remains constant because the air travels through them into the air sacs and back through the lungs on expiration. They have a greater volume of air pass through their lungs and it does it twice, so gas exchange is more efficient. This explains why Polly is doing laps around the room (laughing at you manically) while you pant like a dog and gasp for air like a fish out of water trying to catch him/her.

Air sacs are connected to the lungs and also air space in the bones. They have very thin walls with few blood vessels. Air sacs do not play a direct role in gas exchange but rather act as "bellows" to ventilate the lungs and reduce the overall weight of the bird for flight. In aquatic birds air sacs also provide buoyancy. Unlike our alveoli, which have one opening, they have Para bronchi. Para bronchi are open at both ends so air flows right through them. Even though air sacs do not take part in the actual oxygen exchange, they greatly enhance its efficiency and give our birds their high metabolic rates.

All of this means that when birds breathe, they inhale and use more fresh air than we do. So when a toxin enters the air, they will inhale much more of it than we would. It also enters into the blood stream at a much higher rate. I had received some great advice from the owner of a local avian store. It makes a lot of sense so I will share it with you. He advised that if you read the warning label on a product and it gives instructions on what to do if inhaled, it is not safe for your bird. After this research, that makes perfect sense. If your bird was to inhale a chemical from across the room, it is equivalent to you inhaling it directly. We all know the dangers of "huffing" thanks to the deaths or now impaired teens reported on the local news. Using dangerous agents with a bird in the home is equivalent to "huffing". Since we would use more of these agents than a teenager while "huffing", you can see how that danger is multiplied.

Now you understand the dangers and why your bird's respiratory system is so sensitive and amazing! This is another reason birds stand out from us mere peasants. Please make certain to read those labels and keep your birds safe.

REFERENCES:
BSAVA Manual of Psittacine Birds
http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/birdrespiration.html
http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/multimedia/birdlungs
http://www.paulnoll.com/Oregon/Birds/Avian-Respiratory.html
http://www.ornithology.com/lectures/RespirandCircul.html

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This is the official newsletter of the Parrot Toy Angels. Members and subscribers are encouraged to submit articles/photographs for publication. PTA reserves the right to reject, edit, or use only portions of items submitted. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the PTA Editor, Directors, Officers, or the general membership.

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