Pink Fire Pointer June 2012

Parrot Owners - Materials Commonly Used in Bird Toys

                  Birds need to chew, wood is an excellent material to satisfy this natural urge. Birds play most often with wood toys. Wooden toys are meant to be destroyed. Some bird owners may be frustrated by the destructive nature of their parrots. However, chewing is a natural instinct and vital to birds mental and physical well-being. If you provide only acrylic toys they will often find other, more expensive ways to satisfy their chewing needs (i.e., molding, furniture). It is important to know what woods are safe for your bird. Both soft and hardwoods are commonly used in toys.

Safe Woods (not a complete list):

Pine, Balsa, Birch, Basswood, Poplar, Maple, Walnut, Ash, Apple, Elm, Cactus (Cholla) and Manzanita

Unsafe Woods (not a complete list):

Cedar, Red Cherry, Plywood. Oak

If you like to make your own toys NEVER use pressure treated wood, it is treated with arsenic and will poison your bird. If using natural branches make sure they have not been exposed to insecticides. Also, take care to collect branches in areas removed from highways where plant life may have absorbed toxic emissions from cars. Scrub all branches with a non-toxic disinfectant (dilute chlorine bleach), rinse and dry thoroughly.

If you need to clean wood toys, don't soak them. It is best to wipe them clean with a damp cloth or sand the soiled area until clean. If your bird likes to dunk his toys beware that moisture can promote bacterial growth and the toys should either be discarded or thoroughly cleaned and dried in a low temperature oven before returning them to the bird.

Birds are able to distinguish colors therefore color makes wood toys more attractive and interesting to birds. Manufacturers usually color wood with food coloring or vegetable dyes. We don't believe in flavoring wood as the bird should not be encouraged to ingest the wood and, unless properly controlled, the fruit sugars often used provide a perfect medium for bacterial growth. Do not buy toys that have been stained or varnished to add color. If you are interested in a toy with painted parts (ie, ABC blocks) make sure that only non-toxic, child safe paints were used.


Several kinds of rope are used in bird toys. Only 100% natural fiber ropes such as cotton, hemp (jute), or sisal should be used in bird toys. Nylon blend ropes should never be used as they can result in serious injury and cuts due to the strength of the strands if the birds get caught in it. Ropes can be safe as long as they are maintained properly and the bird's beak and nails are kept trim. There have been safety problems noted when excessive fraying occurs. Birds have choked and lost circulation to legs by getting tangled in ill maintained ropes. Rope toys have proven very beneficial in solving feather picking problems and therefore we don't like to discount rope as a viable material. Bird owners have a responsibility to check their bird's rope toys daily and to cut back or discard rope toys when they become frayed and present a hazard to their bird.


Chain should have welded not open links. Un-welded chain provides sharp surfaces and narrow openings which have been known to cut toes. Make sure the links are a safe size for your bird, if toes get caught in the links the result can be broken toes or legs. Chain length is also a consideration as a long length of chain could conceivably end up wrapped around a bird's neck during a vigorous play session. As the wood components are chewed off, a chain hazard could develop. Owners must monitor the status of toys and ensure that as they physically change safety hazards do not develop.


This is a crucial area of concern as good fasteners are expensive and therefore many manufacturers cut corners and use potentially unsafe items such as split key rings or dog leash type snap hooks. Birds have been cut and lost circulation to toes and tongues on toys utilizing split rings and spring type clamps. For conures or larger birds we recommend either Quick-links (also sometimes called C-clamps) or Pear links to attach toys to the bird's play area. They come in a variety of sizes and can be tightened with a wrench easily to prevent the bird from unhooking his toys. This type of fastener provides the least potential for injury. They are available in a variety of sizes and can be purchased from your local hardware store if needed to replace unsafe fasteners from existing toys.

Do not use split key rings, spring loaded clips or metal shower rings to fasten your toys. Small hardware pieces can be ingested accidentally. Birds have cut toes and tongues on split rings and spring type clamps.


A lot has been mentioned recently about zinc toxicity in birds. Many bird toys are made with zinc coated (galvanized) metal components. Zinc is also commonly found in cage powder coatings. Some avian health specialists have stated that in order for zinc related health problems to result that the parrot must actually swallow the metal components and that "beaking" the parts is insufficient for toxicity to develop unless the galvanized coating is extremely brittle and flaky. If a bird spends a lot of time chewing on toy hardware (i.e., washers, quick links, wire) then it is possible they will ingest enough zinc to build up toxic levels in their systems over time. Owners who are worried about the possible health effects can often find stainless steel replacement components at their local hardware store. This option is also often much more cost effective to the consumer than buying toys constructed with stainless steel parts.


Acrylics are used in many toys today and if sized properly to the bird are virtually indestructible. If purchasing acrylic toys we recommend the acrylic have a minimum thickness of 3/16?. Recently, there has been a shift back towards wood toys because although the acrylics are durable and attractive they are also not as fun for the bird who likes to chew. We recommend that a few of your birds toys be acrylic or a blend of acrylic and wood, they will be long lasting and the bright colors used are stimulating to your bird.

When considering toys with plastic components a bird owner must consider the nature of the plastic component (i.e., soft vs. brittle) relative to the size of the bird. Brittle plastics should not be given to larger birds because when they break very sharp, cutting edges are formed and if swallowed accidentally could result in ruptured organs. Hard plastic toys specifically designed for parakeets and cockatiels should not be given to larger birds with the beak power to destroy them.


Leather is a great material for birds to safely play with and chew on. Most birds especially like to spend hours untying knots made in leather strips.

Only vegetable tanned leather should be used on bird toys. Do not buy toys with dyed leather or leather tanned with chemicals as most are toxic to birds (i.e., chromium, formaldehyde). For this reason you should also not retire old shoes, belts and pocketbooks to your birds toy chest.

Replace leather if soiled or wet. Bacteria will flourish under these conditions. Many toy companies will sell replacement leather strips.

When hanging toys strung on leather (or rope or chain), avoid leaving a long strand between the toy and the cage. Some birds when rambunctious with their toys can get the leather wrapped around their necks and strangle. It is best to tie the toy close to the bars of the cage.


When choosing toys with rings or large plastic chain links make sure that the rings are of a size that the bird can't get his head stuck in them and choke. Also beware of toys with multiple rings looped directly together as birds have met similar fates when they have been trapped between the rings.


Birds love to make noise and bells provide a fun source for their merrymaking. If a bird is mechanically inclined and can remove the clapper the potential exists for swallowing/choking. Make sure the bell clapper can not be removed by the bird. If it is not securely fastened either remove it or weld it (we recommend silver solder). Make sure the clapper is not lead (toxic), if it is lead you will be able to dent the clapper with your fingernail. Do not buys toys that use jingle type bells, toes can become caught and cut in the wide to narrow openings, we recommend the cow or liberty bell design. Appropriately size the bell to the bird so it will be able to withstand the power of the beak.


Just because the label says the product is safe doesn't mean that it's OK for your bird. Any toy has the potential to be unsafe if improperly sized to the bird. Ask your toy vendor or bird store owner for help or advice on choosing a toy appropriate for your bird.

As with kids, no toy is 100% safe for all birds. Use common sense and supervise your bird when you first give him a new toy. Observe how he interacts with the toy to determine how best to hang it and where and when to allow him to play with it (some toys are safer outside the cage).

Provide a wide variety of toys and rotate them in and out of the cage or play area. Variety will help alleviate boredom and keep your bird more alert and curious. Keep 2-3 toys minimum in the birds cage and don't overstuff the cage so the bird doesn't have room to move.

Don't assume that if your bird doesn't like a toy that it won't play with any toy. Try something different and take the time to observe what your bird finds interesting in terms of design, texture or size.

Introduce toys to baby birds but make them small...don't intimidate them. Hand toys are some of the safest toys available and they are especially great for young birds as they help to develop hand-eye coordination.

Play with your bird...most birds think it's great fun to chase balls across the floor or couch, play "catch" or "pick it up" with mom or dad.

This guide is by no means comprehensive but we have tried to address as many issues as possible. When in doubt, ask for help. We sincerely wish you a long, happy and healthy relationship with your bird.

Bird Flu - The Lethal Menace

                   These days all one seems to hear in India is "Bird Flu". The disease which has taken a major part of India in its grip, has not only severely affected the poultry industry of the nation but also it has sent panic bells ringing across the states - from Delhi in the North to Tamil Nadu in the South, to West Bengal in the East, the latter being worst affected. Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the current outbreak of Bird Flu in India as the worst case reported till date.

In the affected areas, chickens are being culled at a rapid pace, but still the disease is spreading its wings from one district to the other, from one state to another. One primary reason for the rapid spread of Bird Flu is the lack of awareness about the virus which causes the disease. Almost everyone knows that the disease is lethal, but not many know what causes it, how it spreads, and how it can be prevented.

Keeping in mind the scale and spread of Bird Flu virus that has taken its toll in India, Headlines India decided to give its readers an insight into the disease, which first broke out in 1997 in Hong Kong, affecting 18 people and claiming 6 lives.

Bird Flu, also known as Avian Flu, is an influenza caused by virus, which affects birds. It might sound surprising, but the fact is that birds, like humans, are vulnerable to influenza. Influenza viruses can be divided into three types (strains) - influenza A, B and C. Type A is responsible for the deadly influenza pandemics. Type B can lead to smaller, more localized outbreaks. Type C, less common and more stable than other strains, has milder symptoms. Types B and C are usually found only in humans, whereas type A infects both people and animals, including birds, pigs, horses, whales and seals.

Bird Flu is caused by the H5N1 strain of virus, and is a type 'A' influenza. It usually affects chicken and other poultry birds such as ducks. Earlier, human infection was unheard of in Bird Flu. However, the virus spread from birds to humans in 1997, when six people in Hong Kong died of the disease. According to the data provided by World Health Organisation on February 1, 2008, approximately 225 people across the world have succumbed to the disease over the past five years.

It must be noted here that although the bird flu virus is highly contagious, it rarely causes any harm to the carrier. Thus, even while infected with an avian flu virus, the animal does not have "flu". Typically, flu virus is adapted by one species of bird, and in turn spreads to another species. This happens more with the domestication of chickens and turkeys, as the avian flu virus acquired by one species rapidly mutates and infects the other species as well. This rapid spread can be stopped only by killing every domestic bird in the affected area.

The H5N1 strain virus causes avian influenza. The highly pathogenic Influenza A virus subtype, H5N1 virus, is an emerging avian influenza virus that has been causing global concern as a potential pandemic threat. It is simply referred as "bird flu" or "avian influenza".

Over the years, H5N1 has evolved into a flu virus strain that infects more species of birds than any previously known flu virus strain. This strain is deadlier than any previously known flu virus strain, and continues to evolve becoming both more widespread and more lethal.

H5N1 has killed millions of poultry Asia, Europe and Africa. Although human transmission of the virus is rare, the recent cases of human infections have left the health officials worried. Health experts are concerned that the co-existence of human flu viruses and avian flu viruses (especially H5N1) will provide an opportunity for genetic material to be exchanged between species-specific viruses, possibly creating a new virulent influenza strain that is easily transmissible and lethal for humans.

With bird flu engulfing almost the entire nation, where 26 people with suspected symptoms have been kept in isolation, the disease is posing a potential threat to the country. The virus is spreading like wildfire, and in order to prevent the disease from affecting human beings, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of how bird flu affects human beings, the symptoms of the disease, its treatment and prevention measures.

Bird flu is known to scourge millions of poultry birds in a single outbreak. Lately, we have been hearing of the bird flu virus attacking human beings as well. Once the bird flu virus has made its way into the human body, it renders the infected person terribly sick. In some cases, it also causes death.

At a time when bird flu menace has gripped India severely, we must take care to protect ourselves from the bird flu virus. In order to do that, we must understand how bird flu affects human beings. Read on, and know the implications of the H5N1 strain of virus on human beings.

During an outbreak of bird flu, human infection is very rare, as there is a significant species barrier that exists between birds and humans. However, the virus that causes the infection in birds is capable of changing or mutating to infect humans. Since the first H5N1 outbreak occurred in 1997, there has been an increasing number of bird-to-human transmissions leading to clinically severe and fatal human infections. Health officials are concerned that this bird-to-human transmission can lead to a pandemic, or a worldwide outbreak of the illness.

During an outbreak of bird flu, people who have contact with infected birds can become sick. It is also possible to catch bird flu by eating poultry that is not well cooked or through contact with a person who has it. Bird flu makes human beings sick, and in extreme cases, it can even cause death.

Bird-to-human transmission of the avian influenza virus can take place in the following conditions:

Birds shed the virus: Infected birds shed the virus in their droppings, saliva, nasal secretions and even in their feathers. Humans may contract the virus by close contact with any of these, or even by touching an infected bird.

The virus spreads to domesticated birds: Domestic poultry become infected from contact with other infected birds or with contaminated water, feed or soil. Bird flu spreads quickly within a domestic flock and is inadvertently transported from farm to farm on equipment, cages, and workers' shoes and clothing. Heat destroys the virus, but it can survive for extended periods in cool temperatures.
Markets provide pathways to humans: Open-air markets, where eggs and birds are sold in crowded and unhygienic conditions, are hotbeds of infection that spread the disease into the wider community.

Migration of humans and birds: The ease of worldwide travel has the potential to spread bird flu around the globe. An infected person travelling from an affected area to another area may transfer the virus to other people. Similarly, migratory birds can carry the virus from continent to continent along flyways.
Signs and symptoms of bird flu in humans:

In humans, the virus usually develops within one to five days of exposure to the infected birds. Once the virus is developed in the human body, certain changes are noted in the health of the infected person. The common symptoms of bird flu are:



Sore throat

Muscle ache

A mild eye infection

In rare cases, some severe symptoms may also be noted. These are:

Viral pneumonia

Acute respiratory distress - the most common cause of bird flu related deaths.

However, bird flu cannot be diagnosed by symptoms alone. So a laboratory test is required.

Treatment of bird flu:

The primary treatment option for bird flu in humans is the flu drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu), which works by preventing the virus from multiplying. However, Tamiflu may not always work, as the bird flu viruses may become resistant to the drug. The drugs must be taken within two days after the appearance of symptoms. These drugs are scarcely available, and hence many infected human beings die due to the non-availability of Tamiflu.

Preventing bird flu:

A bird flu vaccine is the latest way to prevent the infection of the H5N1 virus in human beings. In April 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first human vaccine to prevent infection with one strain of H5N1 bird flu virus. This new bird flu vaccine is not available to the public, but the U.S. government is stockpiling it and will distribute it in the event of an outbreak.

The bird flu vaccine is intended to help protect adults aged between 18 and 64 and can be used early in such an outbreak to provide limited protection until another vaccine - designed to protect against the specific form of the virus causing the outbreak - is developed and produced.

Besides the vaccine, the first and foremost way to prevent bird flu, according to WHO, is to handle and cook the poultry with care. Heat destroys the virus, and hence cooked poultry does not pose a health threat. However, handling and cleaning the poultry with care is also important. Some simple ways to prevent bird flu infection are:

Wash your hands well with soap and warm water before and after handling raw poultry and eggs, and dry them with a disposable towel.

Clean cutting boards and other utensils with soap and hot water to keep raw poultry from contaminating other food.

Use a food thermometer to make sure you cook poultry to a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook chicken until the juices run clear, and it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 degree Fahrenheit (74 degree Celsius).

Cook eggs until whites and yolks are firm.

Prevention for travellers:

Since bird flu is highly contagious, it may affect a person travelling to an affected area. By following certain public health regulations, travellers can prevent the infection and spread of the disease through them. These regulations include:

Avoid domesticated birds: If possible, avoid rural areas, small farms and especially any close contact with domesticated fowl.

Avoid open-air markets: These can be interesting places to visit, but they are often breeding grounds for disease.

Wash your hands: This is one of the simplest and best ways to prevent infections of all kinds. When you are traveling, alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60 percent alcohol are an excellent choice. They are effective, easy to use, don't require water, and are safe for children.

Watch your kids: Keep a careful eye on young children, who are likely to put their hands in their mouths and who may not wash thoroughly.

Steer clear of raw eggs: Because eggshells are often contaminated with bird droppings. Also, avoid mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, ice cream, and any other foods containing raw or undercooked eggs.

Ask about a flu shot. Before travelling, ask your doctor about a flu shot. It might not protect you specifically from bird flu, but it may help reduce the risk of simultaneous infection with bird and human flu viruses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 36,000 people die of influenza in the United States each winter. And three or four times every century, a flu pandemic sweeps the globe, claiming millions of lives. We, humans, cannot stop the outbreak of a disease, but we can certainly prevent and cure the infection. All we need to do is, educate and and care for ourselves and our family. So, take care, and stay healthy!

Got Birds - Absolute Bird Control Addresses Top Ten Pest Bird Problmes Home Owners Encounter

                  Got birds? Absolute Bird Control is a website dedicated to providing the very best in affordable and humane bird deterrents. The site offers a full line of easy to use products that can remedy virtually any pest bird problem, and the products are designed for home use! Whether you have pigeons under an eave, geese in your yard, or sparrows nesting on a window sill, Absolute Bird Control has the right product for you!

Pest birds can be quite a nuisance. They create a mess, and can carry disease such as West Nile Virus, Avian Flu, and Histoplasmosis. It is important to address a pest bird problem as soon as one is spotted. The longer birds inhabit an area, the harder it is to get them to move on.

For years Absolute Bird Control has been dedicated to helping home owners find the best product for their pest bird problems. The customer service department is committed to educating customers on the different products available.

Recently Absolute Bird Control polled its customer service department to find out what the top ten "pest bird" questions they received were. The list below provides solutions for the most common bird problems home owners' encounter. If you have a pest bird problem, Absolute has a solution!

1. Pigeons On a roof

Birds like the highest points on buildings for predator and food lookout. When you take away the option to land there, they will usually move on and find another spot. Pigeons or seagulls can be deterred by using the spike products. Birds know they cannot land on such a surface. An outdoor sound deterrent also works well in this situation. These units are weatherproof, and can cover large areas. Other options would be the gel repellants. Applied to the roofline, birds do not like the "sticky sensation" on their feet, and will move on. Making the area uncomfortable will be your best bet. Because it can be difficult to access a roof area, calling in a authorized pest control company may be the best way to take care of birds on a roof. To find an installer in your area, call 1-800-392-6915.

2. Small Birds nesting under and eave or canopy

An eave is the perfect home for a bird. It provides shelter from the elements and predators. Scents in the nesting material and droppings will lead the bird back to their own nest. The most important step is to make sure all of the nesting material is cleaned away. Calling a pest control professional to help aid with the clean up and installation is your best bet. Bird droppings carry disease, and the proper protection is a must. Once the nests and droppings are cleaned up, there are several products that can help. The best way to keep smaller birds out of an eave is to block them out with netting. The netting acts as a physical barrier. Treating the beams that the birds are nesting on with the Bird Gel will also help. The Bird Chase Supersonic, an outdoor sound deterrent, is weatherproof and can be programmed for smaller birds. Predator calls signal the birds to move away from danger.

3. Pigeons on a Balcony or patio

Pigeons on a balcony or patio area are a very common problem. These areas provide shelter, and prime nesting locations. Because the birds land indiscriminately on these areas, it is important to choose something that will encompass the patio or balcony. Many people have success with stringing visual deterrents such as Mylar Flash Tape or Scare Eye Diverters. Both use visual scare tactics to frighten birds away. A sound deterrent can also help with this problem; they cover wide areas, and require no maintenance. For table tops and A.C. units, the Repeller, a solar powered unit that uses motion to scare birds, will also work.

4. Geese in yard, making a mess of grass area

Geese are large birds, which create large messes. Absolute Bird Control carries three different products to deter geese. There is a topical grass repellent called Migrate. It is made out of grape extract, and geese can't stand the taste. Applied to a lawn area, geese will realize they do not have a food source and move onto a better spot. There is also a product called the scarecrow which is hooked up to a garden hose. Every time the unit detects motion it will spray out water. Lastly there is a sound deterrent called the Goose Chase Sonic, which uses distress calls of other geese to move geese on. If you only have a few geese any one of the goose products will work. If you have a greater number of geese on the property, you may want to consider using a combination of the products.

5. Woodpeckers destroying the side of a home

Woodpeckers peck into surfaces for a three reasons, to look for food, to attract a mate, and to create a nesting cavity. If woodpeckers have chosen your home to peck at, there are a few successful items you can use. Visual deterrents, such as the Diverters, Scare Eye Balloons, or Mylar Tape work well with a woodpecker problem. These three items have reflective surfaces which woodpeckers will avoid. The Bird Chase Super Sonic can be programmed for woodpeckers. The unit can cover between 1-5 acres, and is weatherproof.

6. Birds sitting on a window sill

Window sills provide a perch, and often shelter. Making the sill un-usable for birds is a good way to stop a bird from choosing your window. Products such as the Bird Spikes or Bird Gel work well in this situation. If you have birds flying into a window, or pecking at a window, we carry "window alerts". These are decals applied to the window itself, which help birds recognize the surface, and ignore the reflection.

7. Seagulls or Pigeons making a mess on a boat or dock

When a boat owner goes out to their boat, the last thing they want to do is clean bird droppings. The masts and spreaders of boats provide perfect landing spots for these large birds. We have two great products to help boat owners battle a tough bird problem. The Bird Spider is a very simple product, with very successful results. Steel arms bounce in the wind, the motion will frighten birds away. Usually one spider at each end of a boat will be enough to deter birds. The Repeller, the solar powered bird deterrent, can also be used on boats. This unit is ideal for flat surfaces such as canopies or covers. The continuous sweeping motion of the rods will keep the birds at bay.

8. Noisy Birds in a nearby tree

Its 6:00 am and the birds in a nearby tree are at it again! Usually customers are troubled with the noise and mess birds create while in a tree. If they are not nesting you could try the outdoor sound deterrent (the Bird Chase Super Sonic) this emits predator and distress calls, when birds hear these calls their natural instinct is to flee the area. Visual deterrents in the tree such as our Mylar flash tape of scare eye balloons may also help. Fruit growers have success with the Scare Eye Diverters when trying to protect fruit trees.

9. Birds / Ducks in or near a pool

If you are having problems with birds around your pool you may want to consider the outdoor sound deterrent. This devices uses predator and distress calls to scare the birds. It is weatherproof and can be programmed to which bird you are having the problem with. Because you cannot really treat the pool with surface treatments (like spikes or gel) this may be your best option. If the problem is ducks in a pool, the scare eye balloons used in the pool have proven to be successful. The "Scare Eye Balloon" has mock predator eyes printed on the balloon. Ducks will be frighten by the site, and move on.

10. Small Birds nesting in a Garage / barn

Nesting Birds are tough to get rid of. Absolute Bird Control gets calls about birds in a garage or barn area often. Again these structures provide perfect shelter. As with question 2, netting off areas is the best way to keep birds out. Blocking access to the rafters or beams that the birds perch on is a great way to protect these areas. We also carry an indoor sound deterrent called the Bird Chase Super Sonic. This unit uses high frequency ultrasonic noises to deter birds, and can cover up to 6,000 square feet.