Small pet birds and anything related by Pete Etheridge – aka – 'Stanton Birdman'

Archive for May, 2011

Ay up mi duck!

Although I normally focus on small pet birds I was intrigued to find something yesterday, OK it’s about a duck but why not talk about it here, after all a duck is still a bird when all is said and done.

Yesterday I found myself being the allocated driver for a trip to the hospital as my nephew had to go in for a minor operation.

The notice on the planter

Whilst we were outside the relevant department at The Queens Medical Centre Hospital (‘t’Queen’s med’ to the locals) I spotted a little note (see image) attached to a wooden planter  ‘A Duck has made a nest in here. Please leave her in peace, thank you!’  On closer inspection I saw mother duck laid in the planter, no doubt incubating her eggs.  I knew instinctively that what I saw was a female mallard.  So I took a photo of her (see image); sorry for the quality of the photos but all I had was the built-in camera on my rather old mobile phone.

Mrs. Duck on her eggs

This situation just goes to show how versatile our wildlife has become, constantly adapting to changes in habitat (the urban fox is another good example).

I decided on a quick ‘Google’ search for more stuff and found a few items:

Firstly a duck had returned to a store in the USA for a second year to build its nest in a rather unusual place.  Click this link for the story.

Here’s another mallard duck story for your reading pleasure, and another one here.

So as you can see, what I saw is not that unusual after all.

Find more mallard info here at ‘Wikipedia‘ or here at ‘RSPB‘.

Finally some mallard ‘YouTube’ videos for you to view:

Baby mallards in someones swimming pool, drake mallard mating display, house mallards, duck eggs hatch in parking lot, mallard mini-documentary, mallard family in someones garden, and another duck vid.

That’s enough about the common mallard to keep you going for now I think.

But I can’t do a piece about ducks without mentioning the most famous duck of all.  Take it away Donald!


More information can be found in my new pet bird keeping ebook available now.

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The importance of rapid response

On Tuesday evening, once my good lady wife ‘Ruth’ and I got home after being out most of the day, I decided that it was a pleasant evening so I would go outside and get planting up my plant containers for the patio whilst I was in the mood for it.

An hour or so passed and I was getting to the bottom of a large bag of compost and decided it would be easier to lift up the bag, now it was a little lighter, and sort of pour the compost into the patio plant container rather than scooping the compost out by hand trowel as I had been doing up until then. Nothing new there, I’d done the same sort of thing hundreds of times before.

The only snag was that as my missus and I had been out that day I was still wearing my best jeans and jacket, and of course as I lifted the compost bag (which had been stood in some dirt) and rested it against my body for support I left myself with an awful messy mix of dirt, water and very dark compost all over the front of my best jeans and jacket; silly fool I know, I should have changed into gardening gear before I started my planting up!  Too late now, I was in a mess.

I know what you’re thinking; “What’s this got to do with birds Pete?”

Nothing directly!  But I’m using this to push a point!

You see, as soon as I realised what had happpened I quickly changed out of my best jeans and jacket and changed into something more suitable for gardening.  I promptly threw my best jeans and jacket into the washing machine and set it going.

A little later when I emptied the washing machine my best jeans and jacket came out as clean as a whistle with no trace of the earlier disaster.  If I had left the mess to soak in and dry out they might never have come clean.

So here’s the point; as soon as you know there is a problem you should deal with it straight away and not allow it to become a big issue.

It’s the same with your birds, or any pet for that matter; if you notice any problem you must deal with it quickly and not let it become a disaster!

Suggestions for Choosing Your New Small Pet Bird or Birds – A Few Things to Consider

When selecting what type of new pet bird would best suit your circumstances and desire there are a few thing you must consider before making that all-important purchase.

During my 10 years experience I have only dealt with small pet birds so unfortunately for some my knowledge is restricted to these only.

Firstly you must decide what type of bird you would like and if it would be suitable to your circumstances, then you need to be sure you have a home set up for your new feathered friend before you bring it home.

Below is a brief but hopefully informative list of the most popular small pet birds and the ups and downs of their upkeep:


From the parrot family and originally from Australia the budgie is often called ‘parakeet’ or ‘long-tailed parakeet’, the budgerigar is without a doubt the most popular pet bird in the Western world and with good reason; small enough to handle, easy to tame, inexpensive, a startling array of different colours, can be kept on its own, very friendly (if tame), a chatterer, minimum requirement to keep in good health, easy to breed (if you want to), usually mixes well with other small birds (budgies and other species). Ideal in a cage or aviary.

However budgies can inflict a nasty wound if they bite you whilst handling (rarely a problem if they’re tame, but they can draw blood if they sink their beak in), they can also be rather destructive (they love to chew), and budgerigars can be very territorial during breeding (especially if kept with other birds).

In the wild budgies live in large flocks and so need plenty of interaction to save them from becoming bored. They therefore need to be kept busy with lots of toys and your attention, or alternatively kept with another of their kind, so as they can interact with each other.



Originally from Australia, the cockatiel is a very poular pet bird

Another Australian bird often called ‘tiel’ for short, these small parrots are also very popular as pets, due to their calm nature and unique character. A little bigger than the budgie so more space is required (a bigger cage for example), the cockatiel also lives in large flocks in the wild so again interaction and toys are a must.

They can be kept an their own or in pairs or small groups, and easy to keep. Ideal as a cage or aviary bird, and because of their calm nature the cockatiel will normally mix well with other small birds of a different species (cockatiels are often kept in the same aviary as budgerigars and finches with rarely any problems). They can learn to mimic other sounds with patience and determination, and are easy to tame.

However they can also inflict a rather nasty wound if they choose to bite (probably a worse injury than the budgie due to their larger beaks, but again not usually a problem when tame). Ideally if you want to breed your cockatiels they need to be on their own as a breeding pair with no other birds. These birds can also be very destructive due to their desire to have a chew at almost anything, but they are easily startled (so no sudden loud noises or sudden bright lights please!).


Somewhat smaller than budgerigars and cockatiels, and not part of the parrot family, the most popular types of finch are again very popular for good reason: very easy to keep, good natured, small and compact, extremely active, cute, prolific breeders, usually low priced, little space required for good upkeep (the perfect pet bird for apartments, flats and small living areas).

There are many types of finch available on the pet bird market but the most popular are: zebra finch, society finch (Bengalese finch), gouldian finch, java finch (java sparrow), the java being the largest of the four just mentioned (slightly smaller than the budgie).

All of these can be accommodated in a cage of aviary and also usually mix well with other species (I keep budgerigars, cockatiels, zebra finches, Bengalese finches, and javas together in a large outdoor aviary and very rarely have any problems).

As for the initial cost of these little characters the zebra finches usually come out the least expensive (from £3 to £8 each, often with a good deal for a pair), next would be the society finches (from £5 to £10 each, again with a better deal for a pair), then the javas (£8 to £15 each, buy two for a better price), and the gouldian finches coming out on top (the cheapest I’ve seen these is about £20 each right up to £60 – sometimes more – but a deal on more than one can usually be arranged). The reason for the bigger price for the gouldians is because of their great colouring and rarity, a desirable bird that people will often pay handsomely for.

However finches do not always take readily to handling and must be kept in groups of 2 or more.

At least due to their small size a bite is not likely to bother you a great deal.


There are many other types of birds available but the price is usually higher as they are not as common.

Many other types of parakeets however are still rather popular – ring neck parakeet, grass parakeet (bourke, turquoisine, elegant, alexandrine), kakariki (New-Zealand parakeet), rosella, love bird to name but a few.

The upkeep however for all small pet birds is basically the same.

Always remember to shop around for the best deal and if possible buy your new bird or birds from a breeder, or hobbyist rather than a pet shop.

A note on accommodation for your new pet bird.

Most small pet birds will live happily in an aviary, and this is the nearest they are likely to get to their natural environment, but in an aviary your birds will become semi-wild and may not take very well to handling or one on one interaction.

Caged birds however are a different matter, and can often be tame and friendly towards us humans. Make sure that if you plan to keep your bird or birds in a cage then go for the biggest you can afford (within reason of course, no good putting zebra finches in a large wide barred parrot cage); your bird needs to be able to stretch its wings to their fullest extent and still have some room left.

Most pet birds – especially parrot type species – will spend more time climbing than flying, even in an aviary.

For more bird keeping related issues please email me with your questions.

More information available in my new pet bird keeping ebook out now, visit to get your copy or paste the above url into your web browser.

Follow me on Facebook at!/pages/Stanton-Birdman/178059325577474

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How to give your pet aviary birds the right start for the breeding season

It’s that time of year when if you have your birds in an outdoor aviary they will be ready to do what Mother Nature intended; that is to raise offspring and pass there genes to the next generation. With the outdoor temperatures on the increase now is the time of season for your outdoor aviary birds to breed.

I intentionally avoid putting out nest boxes until May at the earliest because, although we have recently recorded the hottest April on record here in the UK this is not always the case, there is normally a risk of frost right until the end of May. This is the same reason why it is unadvisable to plant out your summer bedding plants until the end of may or early June, the possible risk of frost can cause serious damage.

Your birds eggs are likely to be OK as your birds will incubate them themselves, but young chicks in a cold frosty environment is a recipe for disaster.

The size and type of nest box required depends solely on the species of bird you intend to occupy it:

Cockatiels will require an upright box with a removable or hinged lid or flap for inspection and cleaning. The nest box should be approximately 12 inch (30 cm) high, 8-9 inch (20-22.5 cm) wide, 8-9 inch (20-22.5 cm) deep, with a round entrance placed high up about 2-2½ inch (5-6.25 cm) in diameter; remember to have a perch of some sort mounted just beneath the entrance hole. It is advisable to attach some aviary mesh on the inside of the nest box below the entrance hole, this will help as a ladder rather than the parent bird jumping onto the eggs or chicks; but they don’t have such a thing in the wild so it’s not absolutely necessary.

Budgerigars (budgies, parakeets) will require a box of about 9 inch (22.5 cm) long, 6 inch (15 cm) wide, 6 inch (15 cm) deep with an entrance hole approximately 2 inch (5 cm) in diameter on the front top corner. An upright nest box of similar dimensions also works well but the horizontal type seem to be the most popular. Again you will need a removable lid or a door for inspection and cleaning purposes, a perch below the entrance hole, and if using an upright nest box some wire mesh on the inside below the entrance hole will help for the same reason as the cockatiel box above, but again not essential.

Small finches such as zebra and Bengalese (society) will need a nest box that is approximately 5 inch (12.5 cm) in all dimensions with the front slightly smaller in height by about 1-1½ inch (2.5-3.75 cm) to leave an entrance opening at the top front, you can have a perch below the entrance if you like but it’s not needed. Finches will also often take to a small semi-open wicker basket.

Before putting out your nest boxes you must inspect each one carefully for any signs of wear or rot, and if necessary repair or replace them. Also make sure your nest boxes are hygienically clean, so give them a scrub if needed with a mild disinfectant solution, then rinse them thoroughly and allow them to dry completely before using them.

Place your nest boxes as high up as possible, after all birds usually nest in trees so like to nest high up. Be sure to fix all your nest boxes at the same height otherwise your birds will squabble over the highest placement. If you have a mixed aviary make sure you do not mix different types of nest boxes in the same place. By this I mean split your aviary into areas, no barriers required, an area for cockatiel boxes, an separate area for budgerigar boxes, and a separate area for finch boxes or baskets. If you have nest boxes for different species in too close a proximity this may result in territorial disputes between different species and can result in destroyed eggs, or chicks getting attacked.

Unless you are breeding for the show bench, for which a totally different approach is required, it is best to let your birds choose their own mates and nesting boxes.

Whilst they are breeding and raising young you must be certain to supply your birds with a constant food and fresh water source, after all they will need all the energy they can get. Also try not to let your birds raise more than 2 clutches per year, 3 at the most as once they have finished they will need to build up their energy and fat reserves to get through winter, so be sure to remove the nest boxes in the autumn (fall) when they have done.

Good luck!

For more bird keeping related issues please email me with your questions.

More information can be found in my new pet bird keeping ebook available now, visit to get your copy.

Follow me on Facebook at!/pages/Stanton-Birdman/178059325577474

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How to make sure you get the accommodation right for your new pet bird.

So you are thinking of getting a new pet bird. Before you do you need to be sure that you have the right home set up for your new bird before you take it home. Here are the basic housing requirements for all small pet birds.

Whether you are going for a budgie, cockatiel, lovebird, parakeet, finch or some other type of small pet bird the accommodation is basically the same and the only difference depends on the size of your new charge.

Cage or aviary.

This mainly depends on the space you have available and whether or not you want to keep just one pet bird or a number of them. All small pet birds will be happy in either, however you must be sure that your new friend has enough space to be given relative freedom. You wouldn’t want to live your entire life in the closet would you? Neither would your pet bird! Space is required to move about and not be cramped.

If going for a cage you need to go for the biggest one you can comfortably afford, but be sure it’s secure so your bird cannot escape, the cage bars need to be close enough together for the same reason. Go for metal, not wood, with a plastic base for easy cleaning.

Furnish your cage with perches of varying thickness and set some at an angle rather than perfectly horizontal, some horizontal, some angled, and even some almost upright would be perfect. The different thicknesses and angles will encourage your bird to exercise and possible save it from a foot cramp. If you can only have one of each of the above that will be fine but a few more is better, don’t overdo it though and leave room for your pet bird to move freely. On the subject of perches; natural wood is the best option, but be sure it is hygienically clean, give it a scrub if you need to.

As a general rule finches need company and parrot type species (budgie, cockatiel etc.) need toys, so incorporate this in your cage; keep finches in pairs or more, and parrot type in pairs or alone with plenty of toys.

Parrot type species love to chew so be certain to assure that anything in the cage is safe.

Your bird needs to have a minimum of enough space to fully spread its wings and height is better than width as most cage birds will climb rather than fly.

If however you have enough space for an aviary then this is by far a better choice as it is the closest your pet bird will get to its natural environment. Lots of room to fly, climb, rummage and explore; plus if kept with others then the opportunity to get away from the others when things get too much.

A group of birds, even of different species, can be kept together in an aviary with enough room for all, but be sure to check the compatibility with other species. As an example lovebirds aught to be kept with birds of their own species as they will become territorial and aggressive towards others. Budgies however can live happily with other birds of a similar size (except lovebirds) or finches, as long as they have room to get out of each others way if they choose.

If introducing your new bird to an aviary colony you must first keep it in quarantine for a few weeks before letting it loose in the aviary with the others, this is to ensure that any issues with your new bird can be addressed before release. A decent sized cage as mentioned above will be fine, or a small aviary separate from the others.

Aviaries, like cages come in many shapes and sizes; shop around for the best deal or better still, build your own (the essentials to building your own aviary will be covered in my next article).

Again make sure that the aviary is well furnished with safe branches, perches, shelter, toys (if required) etc. with no escape routes.

Your aviary can be indoors (in a shed or outbuilding, or in the home) or outdoors (on the garden for example), and don’t worry about the comfort and warmth of an outdoor aviary as most popular small pet birds are very hardy.

These and other bird keeping subjects are covered in my new ebook, out now. Email me to grab your copy or click on a link.

One of my zebra finches

For more bird keeping related issues please email me with your questions.

More information available in my new pet bird keeping ebook available now, click here to get your copy.

Follow me on Facebook!/pages/Stanton-Birdman/178059325577474

Pete Etheridge
Nottinghamshire, UK

Keeper and breeder of pet birds for 10 years.

Offering information and advice on all aspects of bird keeping.

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