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Friday, December 19, 2008

Can Tropical Birds Survive in Ohio?

“I heard that birds like cockatiels and parakeets can’t survive outside in Ohio. Why not, they’re birds; they have feathers like the other birds and they do live in the wild somewhere.” The Newton Falls Public Library patron asking the question went on to explain that they are trying to catch a cockatiel which they spotted flying outside their home, and a few years ago her husband climbed the roof to have a parakeet land on his hand. The library staff hasn’t had a bird question since our insistent cardinal last spring so it was fun looking into this one.

Parakeets and cockatiels are both small parrots. In Cockatiels: everything about acquisition, care, nutrition, and diseases by Annette Wolter [p.60] it states that they are from Australia and are used to dry heat, where the temperatures can range from 86 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit in the day to below freezing at night. Slow changes in temperature do not bother them, but sudden drops can cause sickness and death. According to Birds for Dummies by Gina Spadafori and Brian L. Speer, what we commonly refer to as a parakeet is actually a budgerigar or budgie, also from Australia. The latter book gives advice on what to do if your bird escapes, including the hint to leave its cage outside with the door open as it may decide to return home. In the section on escaping birds, there is a note of encouragement to owners of missing birds to not give up hope as some birds are “found after months ‘on wing’” [p. 131].

Remembering that both budgerigars and cockatiels are wild birds as well as pets, the staff also examined some of the library’s collection of wild bird books including Birds of the World: a photographic guide and Birds--their life, their ways, their world. While the photographs in the first are fantastic, Birds--their life, their ways, their world has more detailed information including what they feed upon when not in captivity. Vegetables are the primary food of the parrots’ diet, though budgerigars seem to prefer seeds, and both will also eat some fruits, berries and insects. This would seem to answer our patron’s question in that some birds do manage to survive, as long as the changes in temperature are not too extreme and there are sources of acceptable food.

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