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For Immediate Release: 12/17/12

Born Free USA’s National Bird Day to Focus on Birds in Captivity, Including How to Best Adopt and Care for “Pet” Birds

Jan. 5, 2013, is the 11th anniversary of National Bird Day, when Born Free USA, a leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, shines a spotlight on issues critical to the protection and survival of birds. The annual campaign focuses on education and action to improve standards of care for birds who have been adopted as pets, to educate consumers about adopting a bird from a shelter or rescue, to stop the international trade in wild birds, and to protect and appreciate birds in the wild.

According to Monica Engebretson, wildlife biologist and senior program associate for Born Free USA: "National Bird Day is about appreciating and protecting all birds. This year’s emphasis is on educating the public about birds as ‘pets’ and reminding people that birds are actually not domesticated animals like cats and dogs. They belong in the wild and it is very challenging to meet their needs in a home environment. They are intelligent, highly social, flight-adapted animals.”

Domestic animals are animals who have been bred for hundreds of years to live in the care of humans and are distinct from their wild ancestors. Birds commonly kept as pets are no different from their wild relatives — they are the native species of other countries. Parrots — including lovebirds, parakeets, and cockatiels — represent the largest number of captive wildlife in U.S. private hands.

There are an estimated 16.2 million birds kept in the United States as pets. Engebretson explains: “While Born Free USA works to discourage people from buying birds under the misguided notion that a bird would be easy to care for as a pet, the reality is that with this large number in U.S. households, our focus must also be on educating bird owners and providing them with information on the complicated and necessary care they need in order for their birds to survive and thrive.”

Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA, adds: “If someone feels they are ready for the commitment to care for a bird, they should only get one from a bird rescue or shelter, or from someone who no longer wants their bird and is looking for a new home for him/her. A bird should never be purchased from a breeder or a pet store. By buying a bird, people are contributing to the brutal, cruel bird trade industry. If people can adopt the birds already here and provide them with the proper love and care they need, it will make a compassionate difference.”

Born Free USA offers “12 Facts to Know before Adopting a Bird”:

  • Parrots — including lovebirds, parakeets, and cockatiels — are noisy and messy, and can be destructive. Vocalizing (squawking, chirping, talking) is an important part of a parrot’s social communication.
  • Birds eat continually throughout the day, dropping and discarding bits of food everywhere. They are instinctively programmed to chew and shred wood, whether it is a perch, toy, picture frame or furniture. Birds will also chew electrical cords, paper and curtains.
  • All parrots have long life spans. Depending on species, they may live 20 to 50 years or more. Caring for a bird is often a lifelong responsibility.
  • Parrots are extremely social animals, and have been compared to human toddlers in the needs of their emotional and social lives but, unlike children, they never grow up.
  • Birds are active and inquisitive and must be provided with ample room to move about and play. An indoor or sheltered outdoor aviary or a flight safe room (windows covered, no cats or dogs, no ceiling fans) that will allow the bird to fly is good for exercise. Birds with clipped wings can get exercise by climbing, swinging and flapping, if provided with ample space, toys and climbing structures.
  • All birds need a varied diet, not just seeds or pellets, but also grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.
  • Light is critical for birds. They need at least four hours of exposure to UVA and UVB rays from sunlight or full-spectrum lighting to provide them with Vitamin D, which promotes sturdy bones, and Vitamin A absorption, critical for upper respiratory health.
  • Birds should have a minimum of 10 hours of sleep each night.
  • Birds are very sensitive to air quality. Unlike humans, a bird replaces nearly all the air in its lungs with each breath. Because no residual air is left in the lungs during their ventilation cycle, they transfer more oxygen and more pollutants during each breath. Birds should never be exposed to tobacco smoke, chemical fumes (hairspray, cleaners) or Teflon-coated materials. Exposure to some toxic inhalants can cause immediate death; chronic exposure to other toxic can lead to premature death.
  • Birds need veterinary care from a veterinarian who specializes in birds. Proper vet care for birds can be expensive. Your vet will probably recommend a complete examination and diagnostic tests when you first acquire your bird; in addition, she/he will probably recommend annual well-bird examinations. Smaller birds require the same vet care and regular examinations
  • .
  • Chlamydiosis (psittacosis) and avian tuberculosis can be transmitted through the air from birds to humans. These diseases can cause significant illness, especially for people with compromised immune systems.
  • Birds continually shed "feather dust" — particles of feathers, which may aggravate asthma in some people. Many homes with pet birds have HEPA-type air filters in rooms with birds to control allergies from bird dander.

Born Free USA also has special materials for National Bird Day available at www.bornfreeusa.org/birdinformation with advice and tips on caring for your bird, or if you are considering adopting one. For more information also visit www.nationalbirdday.org.

Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to the United States the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will Travers, now chief executive officer of both organizations. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.

More at www.bornfreeusa.org; on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

Media Contact: Rodi Rosensweig, publicrelations@bornfreeusa.org, (203) 270-8929.

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