Archive for ‘Series Post’

April 15, 2012

Foods for Birds #4 – Turnip Greens (or Tops)

A guest post by Elaine Radford, host of the Peachfront Conure blog.

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Turnip Greens — ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ — Key Source of Vitamin K

Turnip greens, also known as turnip tops, are one of those dark leafy greens that are highly recommended because they pack a lot of vitamins and minerals into a high fiber, low fat, low calorie package. Turnip greens actually contain more cancer-fighting phytonutrients than their more popular cousin, broccoli. Turnip greens are an exceptional source of natural vitamin K, the blood clotting vitamin. They also contain several other vitamins, including vitamin A, C, and several B vitamins, in addition to being an excellent source of calcium. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, vitamin K appears to be more important in maintaining healthy bones than we once realized, so turnip tops, as a rich source of both K and calcium, appear to be a great food for strong bones.

Probably any bird would benefit from having some chopped turnip tops in the food mix, but this green is particularly important for Conures and Mini Macaws, who may be at risk for a disease caused Conure Bleeding Syndrome, which can be fatal. In a bleeding emergency, an avian vet must treat the bird immediately with injectable vitamin K, but we Conure and Mini Macaw owners should try to prevent the illness altogether, by feeding a diet with plenty of natural vitamin K.

For more about USDA research into vitamin K, visit this page at the U.S. Department of Agriculture site.

Learn more about Conure Bleeding Syndrome by visiting this page on the Avian Web.


Amino Acids: Rich in tryptophan, an essential amino acid thought to be linked to healthy sleep.

Vitamins: K, A, C, folate, E, B6, B2, B1, B5

Minerals: Manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus.

For more about the properties of this super-food, you can visit the turnip tops page at the nonprofit The World’s Healthiest Foods.

Preparation Methods and Ways to Serve:

In general, it is much easier to grow turnip tops than to grow spinach. I like a non-hybrid variety, called Seven Tops Turnip Tops, that isn’t as bitter as the greens from turnip varieties grown more for people looking to eat the roots. When you can’t grow or buy fresh turnip tops, try the frozen food department. If they are quick frozen, they will be just as nutritious and maybe a little easier for you to prepare. You can use them in any recipe where you would use spinach, but I like to choose recipes with strong flavor elements, to overwhelm any lingering hint of bitterness. For instance, if I am stir-frying turnip greens in olive oil to make a cooked salad, I’ll dash on plenty of balsamic vinegar and maybe some chopped fresh rosemary to bring out the flavor.

It only takes a minute or two to chop up and steam some plain turnip tops for your bird’s food mix. However, my Conures don’t have as many taste buds as I do. That’s why I cook the greens first in unsalted water, drain them well, and remove the portion that I’ll be serving to my parrots. They can eat it plain, but for the human members of this family, I will next want to stir-fry in olive oil or bacon fat, or I will want to cream the greens in milk and cheddar cheese. Parrots don’t need bacon, fancy creamed turnip tops, or even seasoned salt, but in my experience, the human animal is far more likely to eat up all the turnip tops if there’s bacon or cheese involved. So the bird version of the meal is extremely low sodium, low fat, and low calorie, while the human version does contain all those great vitamins and minerals, but now we’ve added some fat and salt to the equation. If you’re on a low fat or low calorie diet, you can try it the parrot’s way and see how you like it: Steam the greens until they’re limp and then sprinkle with a dash of balsamic vinegar. I’d add a touch of a good seasoned salt like Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, but if you have to go low salt as well, maybe you could try Mrs. Dash.

By the way, although I’m in the camp that believes that the nutrients in greens are more digestible if they’re cooked at least a little, you don’t have to cook the turnip tops if you don’t want to. Snip them up in tiny pieces with chef’s scissors and stir them into your bird’s food mix. You can place some larger pieces in their flight, such as a bundle of leaves in a dog dish. They might “play” with these large leaves as much as they eat, but they’re having a good time — and that’s heart-healthy too.

January 28, 2012

Foods for Birds #3: Goji Berries *

I finished HungryHuman‘s request for the Goji Berry entry just in time for today. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to find information on these, but the only problem was that it wasn’t as reliable as most because of the lack of research done on them. Any moderations to this entry will be updated on the main page of Foods for Birds. The next food entry will be Beets as requested by Anita, and should be posted before February 4th.

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Goji (or Wolf) Berry – ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Claimed to have health improving properties.

Goji Berries, also known as Wolf Berries, are produced by plants in the family Solanaceae. These include two closely related species; Lycium barbarum and L. chinense. These plants can be found and harvested in the Himalayans. Goji berries are reddish-orange berries that usually come dried for snacks, or pressed for their juice. They have been used as medicinal plants in East Asia for thousands of years because of their benefits in health, and only have been recognized in Western marketplaces in recent times. There have been many health claims for these berries, unfortunately with a lack of resources and scientific research to back them up. There have been however, results in labs that are encouraging for these claims.

Many advertisements say that these berries have the ability to improve a variety of health problems including vision and memory, kidney and liver function, promote weight loss, control blood sugar and pressure, increase immunity, help reduce PMS or morning sickness, and even minimize headaches or dizziness. Researchers have also questioned their ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells or lower cholesterol. Some, though, have cautioned eating goji berries while on medication as they may interfere with some types of treatments.

Visit this website to read more about Goji Berries and their benefits: Medical Benefits of the Goji Berry


Amino Acids: contains almost a full spectrum of amino acids including 19 different types. There have been claims that these berries contain all 8 essential amino acids: Tryptophan, Isoleucine, Methionine, Leucine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Lysine, and Valine.

Nutrients/Vitamins: contains many B vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. Also contain vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E.

Minerals: these berries contain many minerals that include zinc, copper, calcium, selenium, phosphorus. They are said to have 22 different types of trace minerals. There have also been reports that they contain more iron than spinach or meat, and more beta-carotene than carrots.

Read more about the properties of Goji Berries here: Goji Berry Nutritional Facts

Preparation Methods and Ways to Serve:

Goji Berries usually come ready to serve, either in dried form or juiced. You can however offer them to your birds in most ways possible. They can be put in a trail mix; in a stew or soup or even given alone. Unless you are in China during harvesting season, it isn’t likely that you can find them fresh. Try to buy organic berries for your birds, and only from suppliers you trust. Another option would be to grow your own, and you can find out more about doing so here. Goji Berries can usually be found at a local health food store, but aren’t as easy to find as you would think.

Read more about how to eat Goji Berries here: How To Eat Goji Berries

January 25, 2012

• Tinkering with Toys #1: Foraging Bucket *

I want to start blogging a bit more about toys for birds and how important it is to give them the enrichment they need. To do this, I’ve decided that it would be nice to just do occasional posts on DIY toys for your birds called Tinkering with Toys. They will focus on sharing the toy ideas thought up by other bird owners and hopefully will give some people a little inspiration to make their own. I know that it is sometimes hard to sit yourself down and make up new ideas for your bird’s toys all by yourself, so these are here to just help give you some guidance and hopefully more ideas.

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Way back in July I tried a foraging idea from Fids Love Toys called the Foraging Bucket. I called mine the Mini Foraging Bucket because it reminded me of those large stainless steel buckets that parrot owners usually get for foraging, except that it was a smaller version. I thought that it was a clever idea to use those ketchup cups for the bucket, since they are easy and fun to shred for your birds. They are so simple and easy to make, and can help keep your birds busy for even just a little while. Here was my attempt at making one:

And this is how I made it…

STEP ONE: Get the Materials

You’ll need…

  • Small Ketchup Cup – that fast food restaurants use.
  • Beads (I used 12, putting 6 on each string)
  • String – something like hemp twine.
  • Clip – for hanging on the cage.
  • Scissors

STEP TWO: Put it Together!

  1. Poke two little holes on opposite sides of the ketchup cup.
  2. Cut a string off that is about 6 inches long. (For extra room; in case of mistakes.)
  3. Put a string through one side of the cup and knot.
  4. String on 6 beads, of your choice.

  1. Tie the clip on tightly in the middle.
  2. String on the rest of the beads.
  3. Put the string through the other side of the hole and knot tightly.
  4. Place your birds favorite treat inside, or other items to make it fun to forage through.

STEP THREE: Put it in the cage, and Ta-DA!

January 22, 2012

Doodle #1 – Cute Fox *

If you don’t know already, I love to draw; sketch; and doodle whenever I can. I don’t regularly post my artwork or doodles online, but I think that from now on I’d like to post one per week here on Avian Ambition. The doodles will probably be just birds or other animals that relate to me from now on, so it won’t be too off-topic. The first one I wanted to post is my little fox drawing I finished today. I tried taking  pictures of the WIP (Work in Progress) for the first time today, and it turned out half decent. My doodles are only like little cartoon creatures, so it isn’t as realistic as I can get. I still like drawing these though.

Work in Progress

The reason why I picked a fox is because my last name actually means fox in my culture. It is actually pretty cool to have another meaning to your last name. I gave this doodle away to a friend, so I don’t have the original anymore. This picture was where I got the idea from, and is what I used for a reference. I didn’t do any tracing though, don’t worry. Here is the final outcome photo I took:

Final Outcome

From now on I will post weekly doodles of things related to me or my life. They are just for fun and are non-profit drawings. I hope you enjoy them!

January 16, 2012

Natural Wood Perches – Part I *

Natural wood perches are some of the best kinds of perches that a bird owner could get for their bird. More like the #1 best. Whether you own a cockatiel, caique, African grey, budgie, canary, macaw or conure; it is a necessity to have one of these. Tons of bird owners already have at least one or many natural wood perches to select from at their household, but for those who lack a natural perch I suggest you keep on reading. This post will be a brief summary of why it is a must to have a natural perch in your bird’s cage and why there are so many different reasons and benefits to having one. This is part one of the two posts I will be making on the subject; part two will include a guide to making your very own homemade natural wood perches.

First, the main reason why so many bird owners like these perches is that they are almost identical to what they would have in the wild. Natural perches means just that; they are natural. They have the same properties; different lengths and widths, notches and curves, and even bark in some cases. Except the fact that they are no longer alive and don’t have bugs in them. There is such a wide variety of perches in the wild, it would only make sense that you should create the same environment in your bird’s cage. Because they are so close to the real thing, natural perches usually don’t cause any harm or problems for your birds like the regular dowel perches may do. (Or other concrete, plastic or sandpaper perches that can cause bumblefoot)  It is important that you offer a wide variety of perches for your bird for the best outcome. Include natural wood, rope, flagstone, etc. for a good combination. Too much of one type may cause problems for your bird’s feet. Natural perches along with other perches will be as close to the way they are in the wild as you can get.

Here are some examples of the variety of natural wood perches that you can choose from.

 Credit goes to the author of HungryBird for providing this

picture of her natural perch collection. 

Credit goes to Natacha, the author of Just Poifect!, for

providing this picture of her natural perch collection.  

A second major reason for having natural perches is their ability to be used for multiple things. They are great for what they are originally meant for of course: giving your birds a comfortable place to perch and sleep for the day. Natural perches are also good for keeping your birds busy. If you get a perch with the bark still on, it can provide a safe and fun activity for your bird if they like shredding or ripping things apart. I’ve also read about people attaching their birds’ toys to the perches themselves and sliding them onto the branches.  Some people have even used the smaller branches attached to the perches for food kabobs. There are probably dozens of other ways you can use a natural perch, and there is not limit as long as you have a good imagination.

The last important point I would like to make is how natural perches provide so many benefits for you and your bird. As I’ve said before, natural perches have a variety of different lengths, widths, and textures that help exercise the muscles in your bird’s feet as well as keep them healthy. The bark that is kept on some of these perches assist in keeping the nails and beak of your bird trimmed if they enjoy stripping or shredding it off. This can save many bird owners the trouble of spending their time or money on trimming them their selves. There is also the added benefit of keeping your bird busy when enjoying chewing on the wood. The last reason why natural perches are great isn’t just because they are so comfortable for your bird; it’s because they can even give you some peace and quiet to yourself. Only some though…

To sum it all up; natural branches are great to use for your bird’s perches because they are almost identical to the ones in the wild, have many benefits for you and your bird, and also have the ability to be used for multiple things.  If your bird isn’t used to these kinds of perches at first, give them time to get accustomed to it; like they would for any type of new change. The gratefulness that comes from your bird when given this kind of perch to rest on should be enough a reason to get one for any bird owner.

If you would like to know more about how you can obtain a clean, safe and natural wood perch: check out Part II tomorrow.

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