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Tips For Having A Bird-friendly Holiday Season

December 1, 2023

Tis the season for joy! The holiday hustle and bustle are in full swing! You’ve probably noticed how dogs and cats steal the show in many of those adorable seasonal cards and commercials. Let’s not overlook our feathered companions! If you’re a bird owner, you’ll want to give your winged friends some extra TLC in the coming weeks. This time of year can bring risks for feathered pals. In this article from  Arapahoe Animal Hospital, your Boulder, CO vet, serving Louisville and surrounding areas, a local vet shares some tips on how to keep your birds safe and healthy during the holidays.

Can Birds Be Left Alone?

Cats and birds can live together, but this is one area where they have very different needs. As long as someone comes and checks on Fluffy, you might be able to leave her by herself for a day or two. However, birds require more daily attention. Polly needs to spend some time outside her cage every day: this is important for both her physical and mental well-being. Ideally, we would recommend boarding your feathered friend or finding a pet sitter to stay at your house.

What Can Birds Have For Holiday Treats?

Different birds have different needs, so you’ll want to get a list of approved snacks from your vet. Uncooked pasta tends to be a popular choice. Millet sprays are also a favorite. Just take care to stick with safe options. Don’t let Polly have avocado, caffeine, chocolate, fruit pits, garlic, pitted fruits, candy, onions, or anything containing salt, sugar, or fat. If you’re having guests, ask them not to feed your winged buddy without asking. For more information, contact your Boulder, CO veterinarian.

What Scents And Fumes Are Dangerous To Polly?

As you may be aware, our avian companions have very delicate lungs, and must be kept in spaces with optimal air quality. This is especially important to remember during the holiday season. Avoid using scented candles, potpourri, wax burners, and room sprays around your feathered friend. Additionally, be mindful of cooking fumes, which can also pose a significant danger. Nonstick cookware with Teflon coating releases vapors that are safe for humans but toxic to birds. Plus, the dry air from indoor heating systems can irritate your cute pet’s lungs. Consider investing in an air filter and possibly a dehumidifier. 

What Can I Do To Protect My Bird From Holiday Stress?

The holidays can be a stressful time for both people and pets. Polly may get unsettled by the commotion, schedule changes, or even that singing Santa in the living room. Watch for signs of stress, such as erratic behavior, feather pulling, and strange vocalizations. If your little buddy seems uneasy, spend extra time with her. You may also want to offer her some new toys to keep her occupied. We’d also advise keeping Polly in her cage if you have guests. Give her plenty of free time early, so she won’t feel cooped up. You may also want to consider temporarily putting your winged buddy in a quiet back room. This may be a good option if you have many guests or company staying over.

What Should I Get My Bird For Christmas?

Fill Polly’s stocking with toys, treats, and perches! You can also reuse some smaller empty boxes. There are also plenty of great DIY options, many of which are very budget-friendly. Just choose things that you know are safe for your bird, and make sure there are no strings, tape, small pieces, or sharp edges attached. 

How Safe Are Christmas Trees For Birds?

In a nutshell? Not very. In fact, Christmas trees pose a variety of potential dangers. In general, the vast majority of your decorations will likely be unsafe for Polly. Birds are naturally attracted to shiny objects, and as a result, may attempt to play with sharp or delicate ornaments. Additionally, items such as tinsel, light strings, garlands, popcorn strands, and ribbons can easily entangle your winged buddy.

As if that weren’t enough, the tree itself can also be dangerous. Fir trees—real or fake—tend to have sharp needles. These can cause puncture wounds or splinters, both of which can cause infection. In addition, many of the trees sold as Christmas trees are treated with chemicals, such as pesticides, herbicides, fire retardants, and even dyes, all of which are toxic to your little buddy.

What Other Holiday Hazards Should Bird Owners Be Aware Of? 

The tree isn’t the only danger for bird owners to be aware of. Plants are another concern. Many seasonal plants, such as holly, ivy, and mistletoe, are toxic to birds. In addition, you must be cautious when hanging fake plants, since they could tangle your pet. Plus, many have small pieces, like plastic berries or flowers, which are choking hazards.

How Does The Christmas Bird Count Work?

At this time of year, many people make an effort to show support for their favorite causes and charitable organizations. If you’re a bird enthusiast, you probably already know of the Audubon Society. Their main goals are to monitor and safeguard wild birds, protect their habitats, and draw attention to the dangers they face. 

Every year, the bird lovers’ group organizes the Christmas Bird Count, which is held from December 14th to January 5th. While it may not be widely recognized, this event has been in existence since the early 1900s. It actually started as a new twist on an old tradition of hunting birds. Today, the focus is on counting them, as the name suggests. The counts are organized by location, with participating areas being divided up into 15-km circles. It should be noted that while the event lasts for several weeks, each designated area is only counted once on a specific day. Some people can even participate from home! Participation is free of charge; however, transportation and any necessary equipment must be provided by the participants themselves. Additional information can be found here.

Do Partridges Actually Live In Pear Trees?

No holiday bird blog is complete without a mention of the beloved Christmas carol. Although they aren’t the most popular pets, swans, geese, colly birds, French hens, and turtle doves all have interesting characteristics. For example, swans are known for their romantic sides: they mate for life, and often swim side-by-side with their partners. Next, we have the colly birds, which many of you (and us) probably thought was a ‘calling bird.’  This misheard lyric was so commonly confused that the Library of Congress clarified it in a blog post. As it turns out, the true identity of a colly bird remains unclear. Some suggest it may be a term for blackbirds due to its meaning of ‘black like coal.’ And let’s not forget about turtle doves. They’re very cute and sweet, but, despite their name, have no connection to turtles. Last but not least, we have that iconic partridge in a pear tree. There are over 92 species of partridges … none of which actually inhabit pear trees.

How Can I Help Wild Birds? 

Remember Polly’s extended family! Setting up bird feeders can make a world of difference for wild birds during the colder months, when finding food becomes a challenge. You might also consider supporting bird conservation groups or even local bird rehabilitation centers. If you’re thinking long-term, planting native plants can be a big help, though you might have to wait until spring blooms for that.

Our feathered friends bring joy to any home, and deserve to partake in holiday events and traditions. However, make sure to shield your adorable pet from seasonal hazards like certain foods, fumes, decorations, and the inevitable stress that comes with the festive season.

Seasons’ Greetings From Everyone at Arapahoe Animal Hospital, your Boulder, CO vet, serving Louisville and surrounding areas.