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Thread: Adult Bird Rescue - Some Questions

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    Brand New Egg ElementalSiren's Avatar
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    Question Adult Bird Rescue - Some Questions

    My father found a lost adult male gray tiel in the woods in our neighborhood on May 1st when he was walking our dog. There were no “Lost Cockatiel” listings on any of the local boards we looked at, but we made some posts and are keeping an eye out. Since his wings are mostly clipped however, we're thinking it's more a case of pet abandonment than actually being lost. Can't know for sure obviously, but I doubt he could have been out in the middle of the woods on the ground by himself for very long without getting eaten by a cat or something. He's also got a stamped band on his ankle, and is clearly comfortable around people (he rode all the way home on my dad's shoulder with no complaint). He seems completely unafraid of the dog as well, which is good. So unless somebody miraculously shows up and claims ownership by telling us what’s stamped on his band, it looks like we’re keeping him.

    My family has never owned a bird, so we've been reading up on the info posts here and at Cockatiel Cottage, but all that stuff doesn't really make up for actually interacting with the real thing. He's only been with us a couple of days so far, so I'm hoping maybe you guys can give me some advice about helping a bird to acclimate when you don't know what kind of life it used to have before meeting you.

    So far he's quiet and chilled out, chirps and sings normally in his cage, and his eating and pooping seem normal. I'm guessing that's great for a bird who was literally just taken in from outside and thrust into a new environment with new people. He seems to like faces, and has even "kissed" at my nose and lips a couple of times, as well as played with my earrings. He also makes "flock calls", or at least what seem to be flock calls. I'm paranoid about responding to them however, and making the louder calls a reinforced habit. Is there a good guide to the variety and meaning of tiel calls, chirps, and songs anywhere? I haven't found any specific ones yet - just info pages that talk about screaming in general.

    The problem we're having is that he doesn't seem to like hands. He's not aggressive with them, but more wary - he chirps at fingers and backs away, and gives light warning pecks. He seems to be getting better with it when he's in his cage and we're trying to get him to understand (or remember) the 'Step Up" command, but once he's out of the cage and on someone's shoulder, he quickly forgets that hands are safe and goes back to warning chirps and pecks. Is there a way to read his body language better than that and figure out exactly why he's avoiding hands and fingers? Because until he can feel safe with them, handling is going to to be an issue. We want to be able to hand feed him and even cuddle and pet him eventually, and we can't do that if he shies away at the sight of fingers.

    It would be nice if we can at least get him to perch on a hand or table and actually stay in one place, especially for bathing. Any tips for that? He definitely needs a bath after being out in the woods and freaking out at first with a strange house, so any advice on bathing a reluctant bird would be appreciated. His vent looks like it's soiled, but I'm not sure to what extent that's just dirty feathers and not the "bad" kind of bacterial infection. It looks more like the tips of the feathers around the area are greenish, like he sat on his own poop at some point. I don't really know how else to describe it.

    We also have no way of knowing what he used to eat or play with in his former home, so we're flying blind there. He does have an appetite, and he ate some spray millet and the seed we put in a dish for him...but I know birds should have a varied diet and toys, and I'm not sure if he's avoiding other things we offer him because he doesn't trust us yet, or simply doesn't recognize them as food or playthings. Is there a way to tell the difference?

    ALSO: I've been reading and getting the impression that many tiel owners actually keep their birds out of their cages. Do you let them fly around the house? What do you do about pooping and other pets?

    We're looking for a good vet to get him checked out, but so far he seems healthy – bright-eyed, alert, nothing broken that we can see, and vocal.

    The bird in question (we haven't named him yet):


    Sorry for the long post, but I'm trying to be thorough about this. Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.
    Last edited by ElementalSiren; 05-02-2011 at 03:13 PM.

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    Re: Adult Bird Rescue - Some Questions

    You sound wonderful in being so concerned about the proper way to treat this bird, and the bird is adorable. He looks to be a Normal adult male. Tiels take awhile to get accustomed to new homes, so give him some time. Being wary of fingers is normal. Offer him a shallow dish of water, and/or try misting him lightly/gently with a spray bottle.

    A friend of mine found a pied male in the street many years ago, and gave him to me. I had him for 12 years before he passed on. I just watched, when I first got him, to see what he might like, and how he might be. This is an excellent forum for info on birds, so do spend some time reading posts and asking questions.

    My own opinion: a tiel should never be out of its cage unsupervised. They like to chew, and baseboards, woodwork, and electrical wires are favorites. Certainly let him out, but always supervise him. If you are leaving the house, he should be back in his cage. Please keep us posted, and ask as many questions as you like! I am so happy that you and your father decided to rescue this tiel!

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    Re: Adult Bird Rescue - Some Questions

    He sure looks amazing for being outside and he also looks fat and happy sitting on your shoulder. I am happy your Dad found him outside and saved him before he got sick or was eaten out there, poor little bird.

    Don't worry about his food until he settles into your house, keep giving him the seeds and millet and other foods and if all he eats is the seeds for now that's OK. Most likely that is all he got in his past home anyways and it will take him time to know what other foods even are. With a lovie if you ate something near them they would usually have to try eating some of it too. I would put a shallow dish in his cage and perhaps even some head lettuce leafs with water on it for him to bathe this way. In a few days when he settles in if his rear still needs cleaned then you can hold him in water and clean his little rear end off, he will forgive you once its all over and he has a clean rear end. Watch his poops to make sure they are nice and formed well and not runny and if his poops look good he should be just fine. I found out poops are the best way of knowing if they are healthy inside, if you google bird poop you can see examples of what it should look like and what it shouldn't look like so you will know what to look out for.

    Lots of people let there birds have free time out of the cages, boomer was out of his when we were home so he could be supervised, I agree 100% with Linda they should not be left out of the cage unless someone is home to watch what they are doing.
    Fly Free Boomer, we will forever love you.

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    Brand New Egg esther110's Avatar
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    Re: Adult Bird Rescue - Some Questions

    I am so happy for both of you! You found a beautiful male tiel, and he found a great, caring human!!!

    Ask as many questions as you need, that's what we are here for. I just started with my 4 lovies, and had quite a few specific questions that have all been promptly answered by my new friends here on the forum.

    You seem to be doing everything you can, so don't worry and enjoy his company. A visit to the vet should be the next step on your list. All you need is confirmation that he is OK, but he looks healthy: feathers, weight, eyes, he looks great!!

    Welcome to the fluffy world of feathers!!!
    Last edited by esther110; 05-03-2011 at 10:30 PM.

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    Re: Adult Bird Rescue - Some Questions

    Thanks for the replies!

    I got him out of the cage and took him into the shower with me. He kinda chilled out on the ledge while I splashed water at him, and he didn't scream or anything, though he did try to unsuccessfully flap his way out of the tub a few times before settling down and accepting his fate. He chirped quietly a bit too, so I'm guessing he was okay with it. I don't know how thoroughly that cleaned him, but I'll give it another go sometime soon or try holding him and doing that "bottom spot-cleaning" if the problem persists. So far he looks much better.

    It's interesting...he doesn't squawk and peck at hands/fingers if he's on a neutral surface. He only seems to go into that mode either when he's already on someone's shoulder, or when he's in his cage. Almost like a territorial thing. If he's on the floor or a table, he readily steps up to an offered finger and makes a beeline up to the nearest shoulder. I'm thinking maybe once he's on a shoulder, he doesn't realize that the hand is part of the same person? Or maybe he's "protecting" the head he's next to? I tried petting him with my ear when he was perched on my shoulder, and he seemed to like it, so I guess there's hope he'll come around to being touched and cuddled eventually.

    It's almost impossible to tempt him with anything though, as far as training goes. So many sites suggest offering treats as rewards and stuff, but anything offered to him gets a "weird look" (if birds can give weird looks), and he backs away like it's a threat. He doesn't seem to recognize anything at all as food except for seeds, but at least he's eating in the first place. And the only objects he's interested in are jewelry - the toys in his cage go completely ignored. He does seem to respond to verbal praise though, so maybe we'll just have to go with that for now.

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    Re: Adult Bird Rescue - Some Questions

    Being shy of hands might just be him - my tiel was hand raised by his breeder and has been handled by me for nearly 2 years, every single day and he hates fingers. For stepping up etc try offering a flat hand or a fist if he is finger shy, tends to work better with my bird... millet up your arm makes stepping up seem like a better idea when they are just getting used to it. Petting my tiel comes in the form of my chin / nose, because he simply bites me if I try to touch him with my hand. He will step up though and perch and be a sweetheart. Right now he's beak grinding in my lap.

    For food let him settle in, but once he's comfortable enough you could try ordering pellet samples from the companies that offer them - roudybush and harrisons are two good pellets that offer a free sample if you ask. Also you can offer veggies - sweet potato, corn and broccoli are my tiels favorites. But let him settle in for a week or two first. I find "pretending" to eat the food first or actually taking a piece off the plate before I offer a new food helps my bird taste the new foods. They are flock animals, so they love to eat whatever you are eating. Just don't let your germs touch anything he is going to be eating.

    For out of cage... what I do is I am home all day so my tiel is out of his cage all day. When I leave the house, he goes back in his cage. When it is bed time, he sleeps in his little sleep cage. I got him a HQ flight cage for when he has to be in his cage so he has room to roam/fly inside the cage. Since you have a dog, be careful. There was a thread about dogs and birds a few months ago, what was suggested was training the dog to lay down as soon as the bird hits the ground via a leash and the command "down" with the bird in the room under close supervision. I personally would not let a bird and a predator animal be in the same room together, I would be too worried a sudden movement by the bird would make the dog think "mmm food". 4 hours out of cage time is recommended for a tiel.

    As for him being able to get away from an owner while clipped... it is entirely possible. If someone took him outside thinking "oh he's clipped, he can't get away" - a sudden gust of wind can make even a clipped bird fly a fairly far distance if it gets under their wings, my bird while clipped managed to get out our door once and he was up above our 2nd floor balcony in a heartbeat. I would post on craigslist and kijji just in case.


    Edit: Some birds can be very cage territorial, so try opening the cage door and letting him come out on his own. For shoulders, my tiel will nip at me if he doesn't feel like getting off yet, or he thinks I am going to put him back in his cage. It's a dominance thing and can be mostly trained out.

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    Re: Adult Bird Rescue - Some Questions

    Ari, I've never had a tiel that would tolerate being stroked and cuddled by a hand. A head scratch, certainly. Nestled under my chin, stroked by a nose or an ear, yes. But that's it.

    For food, try tempting him with cooked rice, or cooked spaghetti. Unsalted tortilla chips are another good thing. Yes, birds can give weird looks, and actually have expressions, for those humans that can read them. Sounds like you will be an excellent bird companion!

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    Brand New Egg ElementalSiren's Avatar
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    Re: Adult Bird Rescue - Some Questions

    It's been a few more days, and I have some more questions.

    First of all, he seems to have this "trusting new people" thing mixed up a little. Everywhere I've read about trust in birds, it mentions them falling asleep on you as the last "ultimate trust" in being comfortable around you. Yet he seems to have no problem falling asleep on me. Is that normal, for a new bird to be cool with sleeping on someone they only just met a few days before?

    He also has been rubbing his head and cheek on me today. He'll be sitting on my shoulder, and he'll come up to my ear and kinda headbutt my cheek, ear, and neck. It's cute and seems very affectionate, and he lets me rub my cheek against him as well, but I'm not sure if it's actual affection or if he's trying to mate with me. I understand some head rubbing is a pre-mating thing, so I'm not sure how to read the differences. It seems to be a combination of light, jerky headbutts that do kinda seem like humping (but only with his head), and more fluid cheek rubbing where he'll curl his head down and allow me to lean my head on him. Any idea what he's trying to say?

    I'm also curious about your experiences with birds choosing a "favorite person." Is it always their primary caretaker or someone they see the most during the day, or can they arbitrarily choose someone they rarely see, or see for maybe an hour a day at most? Can they change their minds at all? Because while I'm home most of the day, my dad is the only one he actively "talks" to. He'll click and chirp at him almost constantly when he's on his shoulder, whereas when he's on mine or my mother's he's relatively silent (except for a flock call when someone comes home, or singing to himself). It's a little disheartening to me and my mom, since my mom's the one who claimed responsibility for him and I'm the one who actually deals with him in practice. Is silence saying something too, or is he merely tolerating us until he can see my dad again? And not that a quiet bird is a bad thing in perspective, but I'm not sure how to get him to chirp at me more and be more interactive during the day. My dad was the one who found him and brought him home, so is it a bird version of gratitude or some kind of imprinting going on? Any thoughts on that?
    Last edited by ElementalSiren; 05-06-2011 at 02:03 PM.

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    Re: Adult Bird Rescue - Some Questions

    Sounds as though you have found a gem. Curling his head downwards (and head-butting) means he is waiting for a head scratch. Try sneaking a finger around to his head, where he can't see it, and gently rub back and forth on his head/neck. The behavior you describe is not sexual. He just wants a head-scratch. You can also rub him with your cheek or ear, or nose if he happens to be there. Sexual behavior from this male would be his rubbing his vent on you from side to side while making squeaky-squalky little chirpings.

    Regarding the bird's fondness for your father - you don't know the bird's background. His primary owner might have been an older male like your father, which is why the bird relates to him well. Your father may resemble the bird's former owner. As far as tiels having a favorite person, I'm somewhat of a hermit and have mostly lived alone. My tiels have always bonded with me and me alone, eventually accepting whoever I introduced to the house on a permanent basis. I am not sure how they act in a family-type situation.

    Lastly, his trust/mellowness level might mean that he is an older bird, and that was my immediate impression when I saw the photo you posted of him. I am really glad you have him, as you sound like the ideal family for this bird. You and your Mom, just keep charming the bird and being kind to him. : )

    One more edit regarding the head-scratch being a pre-mating thing: it's not. Birds can preen their entire bodies except for their own heads and upper necks, therefore, they look to their close companions (including human companions) to do that for them, then they return the favor.
    Last edited by FlyingCircus808; 05-06-2011 at 06:36 PM.

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