Birds And Holidays: Keeping Polly Safe

Happy Holidays! The yearly rush and commotion have officially started. At this time of year, we often see lots of dogs and cats featured in cute holiday cards and commercials. While birds may not be as prevalent, they aren’t absent, either. After all, that partridge in a pear tree has certainly established its place in tradition! Cardinals, mourning doves, and even pigeons also pop up in holiday movies and décor. If you have birds of your own, it’s important to give them some extra care during this busy time. Just like our other animal companions, Polly can face some pretty dangerous seasonal risks during the holidays. To help keep your feathered friends safe, a Lexington, KY veterinarian shares some seasonal care advice specifically for bird owners below.


Are Christmas Trees Safe For Birds?


In a word? No. The decorations on the tree can be especially tempting for birds, who are often drawn to shiny objects. Many ornaments have small parts, or are sharp and/or breakable. Additionally, items such as tinsel, lights, garlands, popcorn strands, and ribbons can pose entanglement or strangulation risks for birds.


In addition to that, fir trees themselves can be dangerous. For example, they tend to have very sharp needles. These can cause puncture wounds or splinters, which can lead to infections. Plus, a lot of the trees that are sold as Christmas trees have been treated with chemicals, such as pesticides, herbicides, fire retardants, and dyes. None of these are safe for your little buddy!


What Foods Are Unsafe For Birds?


Dangerous foods are one of the biggest seasonal dangers for pets. Do not give Polly avocado, caffeine, chocolate, fruit pits or seeds, garlic, or onions. Anything that has a lot of salt, sugar, or fat is also harmful. Ask your Lexington, KY vet for more information. Having guests? Ask them not to offer your bird food or treats without checking.


How Can I Protect My Pet Bird From Holiday Hazards?


The tree is a big one, but bird owners should be aware of other dangers as well. Plants are another one. Many seasonal plants are poisonous to birds, such as holly, ivy, poinsettia, and mistletoe. It is also important to be careful when hanging fake plants. Your winged friend could get tangled in them. Plus, many have small parts, such as plastic ‘berries,’ which are choking hazards. Stick with pet-safe options.


Can Birds Be Left Alone?


Our feline pals are pretty independent, as long as someone checks on Fluffy every day, you might be okay leaving her alone for a few days. Birds, on the other hand, require more daily attention. Polly absolutely must have some free time outside of her cage every day. This is crucial both for her mental and physical health. Your pet may also get very upset at being left by herself. Boarding or finding a pet sitter for your home would be ideal.


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


Many of our feathered buddies feel uneasy when they are surrounded by a lot of noise. If you’re having company over, keep Polly in her cage during the festivities. This can also keep her safer, by reducing the risk of accidents. You definitely don’t want your pet flying out an open door! Give your avian pal lots of free time before your company arrives, so she won’t feel trapped. Consider temporarily putting your winged buddy in a quiet back room, and covering her cage early that night. It’s also important to watch for signs of stress, such as erratic behavior, feather pulling, and strange vocalizations. Spend extra time with her if she seems uneasy. If you notice anything really concerning, contact your Lexington, KY veterinarian.


What Smells Are Toxic To Birds? 


As you may be aware, our avian companions have particularly delicate respiratory systems. Therefore, they must always be kept in rooms with good air quality. That is always important, but can be an even greater concern than usual during the holiday season. Products such as scented candles, potpourri, wax burners, and room sprays are all hazardous for your feathered friend. Additionally, cooking fumes pose a significant risk. Nonstick-coated pots and pans, like those made with Teflon, emit vapors that are harmless to humans but toxic to birds. That list includes things like toaster ovens, popcorn bags, and many other types of cookware. Keep Polly away from the kitchen!


Another thing to be aware of is the fact that the dry air produced by furnaces can also irritate your pet’s lungs. Consider investing in an air filter and possibly a dehumidifier. If you have further questions or concerns about your pet’s respiratory health, do not hesitate to consult your Lexington, KY veterinarian.


What Are Good Gifts For Birds? 


Polly may or may not want a cracker, but we’re pretty sure she’d appreciate some new toys and perches. Fill Polly’s stocking with small goodies! Choose items you know will be safe for your bird. Your colorful pet may also enjoy playing with smaller gift boxes. Just make sure there are no string, tape, or sharp edges, and fill them with crumpled paper and small treats.


How Does The Christmas Bird Count Work?


This is a big time of year for many charities, as so many people offer support during the holidays. As a bird enthusiast, you’re likely already familiar with the Audubon Society, a conservation organization dedicated to safeguarding wild birds and promoting awareness of the threats they face. Every year, the society organizes the Christmas Bird Count, which is held from December 14th to January 5th.


Though not widely recognized, the Christmas Bird Count has been a bird-lovers tradition since the early 1900’s. As the name suggests, the goal is to spend a day observing and tallying all bird species you encounter. Each count takes place in a designated 15-kilometer-wide area, or circle, as they are called. While the event spans several weeks, each circle is only counted once on a specific day. The main purpose is to gather crucial data for researchers and conservation organizations. Participation is free, though you will need to arrange your own transportation and bring any necessary equipment. For more information, visit their website here.


Is It True That Partridges Live In Pear Trees?


We can’t properly write a bird-themed holiday blog without mentioning Polly’s favorite Christmas carol: The Twelve Days Of Christmas. We don’t see many swans, geese, colly birds, French hens, or turtle doves, but we do find them interesting. For example, swans are known for their lifelong monogamous relationships. They often swim alongside their mates, which has helped build that air of romance around them. Then we have the colly bird. Many people mistakenly think that “colly birds” is actually “calling birds,” but it really is colly bird. This important distinction was officially clarified by the Library Of Congress in a 2016 blog post. The real mystery seems to be the colly bird itself. Turns out no one is entirely sure what a colly bird is. It is assumed that the lyric refers to blackbirds, since “colly” typically means something dark like coal. Next, there’s the turtle dove, a charming fluff ball that, despite its name, has no connection to turtles whatsoever. Last but not least, we have the adorable partridge. There are over 92 species of partridges in existence, none of which actually reside in pear trees.

To conclude, the holidays are a special and wonderful time of year. Simply taking a few precautions can go a long way toward helping you keep your feathered pal happy, healthy, and safe. Avoid exposing your pet to common seasonal hazards, and minimize stress and disruptions.

Please feel free to contact us at any time during the holiday season. As your Lexington, KY veterinary clinic, we’re here to help!

Comments are closed.