May, 2003

The President's Perch
Steve Fitzsimmons, 2003 MACAW President

Hello everyone and welcome to our May issue of the MACAW Flyer. I think it's safe to say we have survived another tough winter. The birds of spring have returned, spring flowers are blooming and summer is at our doorstep. Spring and summer also bring their share of challenges and this year is no different. The West Nile Virus will be making an encore visit this year, so please protect your birds by keeping them inside. Some people may protect their bird rooms with mosquito netting as well, while others may use other techniques to protect their birds. I keep a fly swatter handy in my bird room and several other strategic areas around the house. There are a couple of other avian viruses making their way around the globe this year so stayed tuned to the news and our web site for information on viruses such as the Exotic New Castle Disease in western US and the bird flu recently appearing in Europe. Also, with spring and summer, we have some of our most colorful weather. Have a plan in place to move your family and animals to safe locations in your home, like the basement, in case of a tornado warning or severe weather and have battery powered flash lights and radios available for those power outages.

Last month at our April MACAW meeting we celebrated MACAW's 20th anniversary. We had a beautifully decorated cake with a big Blue and Gold and baby on top thanks to pictures supplied by Kathy Thimling. Thanks to Jackie for putting this event together and ordering the cake and supplying the sodas. After our celebration, we listened to our two externship recipients give their excellent presentations. Allison Shreve talked about egg binding in caged birds and Maria Verbrugge talked about the avian physical exam and bird anatomy. Ruth will have more on these topics later in this flyer. Our April lottery ticket winners were Bob Lockhart and Sandy Olson, congratulations to you both!

On April 12th, Carol, Jackie and myself gave a presentation on cockatiels to several girl scout troops at the Dane County Humane Society. Afterwards, we made bird toys for the humane society and then we were taken on a personal tour of the facility. Pictures of all MACAW events including these are on our web site. If you would like to volunteer for future events please email me. Our next event will be Bark and Wine at the Humane Society April 26th and our biggest event of the year is the Pet Bird Seminar May 3rd, which, by the time this flyer goes out, may have already passed, so you will have to wait until the June flyer is sent to you to learn how well these events went. There are no more educational meetings scheduled until September, 2003. We have the Pet Bird Seminar May 3rd, then a board meeting scheduled on June 8th which all members can attend and then we will be on a short summer break. We will still have events going on. The Adopt a Highway program will continue through the summer months helping to keep our community clean. We will have events at the zoo when the new aviary opens and we will continue to recruit Bird Ambassadors during the summer. We will have a car wash fund raiser with Fine Feathered Friends Bird Sanctuary sometime this summer and will be staffing our table at the Busy Bird Toy Bird Fairs on May 4th, June 1st and July 6th. We may have other opportunities come up that we will join in too, so MACAW will be keeping busy. If you have some extra time this summer and would like to help out, please send me an email. If it is happening at MACAW, it will be posted on our web site and forums as well as in our newsletter.

On a sad note, our two Membership Directors, Sue Brunsell and Pam Hosler have resigned effective the first week in May. Both have served as Membership Directors for MACAW for over 10 years. We thank them for the many years of hard work, service and support they both have given to MACAW. They will be missed.

On a good note, we are working on a bulk buying opportunity with MADCAT Pet Supplies for our members. If you are interested in saving money, please send me an email and let me know what types of bird foods you buy. I will pass all of your information on to Ted and we will try and put together something for MACAW members. As you may know, MADCAT Pet Supplies already gives MACAW members 10% discounts off all bird supply purchases. MADCAT also has another store in downtown Madison at 1012 Williamson Street if that location is closer for you. Animart on the east side is also working to give MACAW members 10% discounts. Just show them your active MACAW membership card.

Thank you for sharing your day with us. I now invite you to read through our May issue of the MACAW Flyer. Thanks again!

Steve Fitzsimmons, MACAW President

Egg Binding in Caged Birds
Notes from a presentation by Allison Shreve 
Ruth Gundlach, MACAW Secretary

 Allison's presentation began with an overview of the anatomy/physiology of a female bird. Almost always there is only one ovary, the left one, and that might be full of forming ova (yolks). The ovary is surrounded by the oviduct (this corresponds to a fallopian tube in mammals), which has five regions. Each region of the oviduct is distinguishable under a microscope because there are different cells which perform different functions in egg production. 

Fertilization occurs in the first part, closest to the ovary, if the bird has mated successfully. The ova (yolk) moves through this part within 15 minutes.  It remains in the second part for about 3 hours, where albumin (the egg white) is applied.

The ova stays in the third part for 1-2 hours, where glands apply sulfur-containing compounds that begin to form the inner and outer shells. The egg shell is still soft while in this region. 

The fourth part of the oviduct is called the uterus, though it bears little resemblance to its mammalian counterpart. Water and minerals are applied, and calcification along with any pigmentation (coloring) of the shell occur. The egg stays in this region for 20-26 hours, and hardens here.

The fifth region is called the vagina. For most hens, the egg just passes through this region, although some birds have more hardening occur here.  Egg binding is failure of an egg to pass within 24 hours. It is more common in smaller birds and those passing eggs for the first time.

Problems could be caused by:

*              oversize, rough shell, misshapen egg
*              mechanical problem with the egg passing (distocia). There could be some malformation of the bird's organs.
*              infection, fungus, cancer, tumor, mass. It is most common for Budgies to have fatty tumors.
*              any systemic disease
*              environmental temperature is too warm or too cold.
*              genetic predisposition (especially small body size)
*              housing, especially if the bird has insufficient room to exercise to condition its muscles.
*              deficient muscle function, which could be caused by over-laying, injury, poor nutrition, calcium deficiency
*              stress during the egg laying process.

Signs to look for:

*              fluffed feathers and wide stance (feet far apart)
*              reluctance to fly or perch
*              bird is not passing droppings
*              tail bobbing or wagging
*              abdominal distention, straining, prolapse (The inside comes outside. More on this later.)
*              lameness (almost always seen in the left leg due to location of the reproductive system in relation to the nerves    serving the left leg).
*              shock, sudden death

What else can look like this? Egg related peritonitis (a yolk loose in the abdomen), torn oviduct (often from a broken egg inside), abdominal tumors, septicemia (a blood infection), leg or foot injuries.

Egg binding is diagnosed by asking questions, getting the bird's history, and observation for the above signs. The vet will probably perform a complete physical exam, feeling gently.  Perhaps a blood test will be taken to evaluate the chemistry, especially for calcium level. Radiographs (X-Ray) can be used, but problems with soft-shelled eggs won't show. Ultrasound might be used. This can also reveal tumor, cyst, soft eggs, sometimes even infections in the oviduct. 

What can be done if the hen is egg bound?  The bird is stabilized with food and nutrition. The vet will try to correct the cause by administering fluids, calcium, selenium, vitamins A or D3. The hen should be put in a hot room, 85-90 degrees with high humidity. Steroids might be administered if the hen is in shock, or antibiotics if infection is present. If all goes well, the hen lays the egg. If this doesn't work, anesthesia is used to put the hen out. Any prolapsed tissue is moistened and cleaned, and the vent area is lubricated. The vet might attempt to gently expel the egg. If she's a lucky hen, it works. X-Rays are taken to ensure that no broken shells or other eggs remain inside. 

If she's not so lucky, prostaglandin might be administered to induce contractions, but only if all medical conditions allow. When all else fails, a procedure called ovocentesis can be used. A syringe is inserted either into the egg (if it can be seen) or through the abdomen into the egg, and the contents of the egg are withdrawn. With luck, the egg collapses. Frequently egg shells are left inside with this process.  The vet might need to cut the surrounding tissue and suture.

Prolapse is when tissue that belongs inside the bird appears and remains outside. It is not abnormal for tissue to briefly prolapse when the egg passes outside the body, then the egg is released from the tissue and it immediately withdraws back inside the bird's vent. If prolapsed tissue remains outside of the hen's body, tissue death can occur within 30-60 minutes, from dehydration or twisting. To make matters worse, the hen might cause mechanical damage by biting the area or scraping it on the perch. The egg must be removed quickly! 

Interesting stuff Allison found while researching this topic:

*              The first egg of a clutch tends to have a thicker shell.
*              Parrot eggs have thinner shells and are more pliable than other birds' eggs. The shells can be thinner because developing chicks don't get skeletal calcium from the shell.
*              Parrots are considered "determined" layers.  They tend to lay a certain number of eggs whether they are taken away later or not. Indeterminate layers keep laying to replace lost or taken eggs.

M.A.C.A.W. Education Calendar
Paula Fitzsimmons, MACAW Education Director

May 3rd (Sat.) - Our avian education seminar and auction at DCHS. 
June 8th - Board meeting only. No presentation.
September 14th - Joanna Eckles of the World Parrot Trust. Tentative.
October 12th/November 9th - Sandi Meinholz of Fine Feathered Friends avian rescue in Madison, will speak. For the other month, I'm hoping the Vilas Zoo Aviary will be open by then, so we can schedule a private tour. 

Are there any topics you'd like to see covered, or places you'd like our group to visit? Here's some of my ideas for topics. Please contact me if you know of someone who can speak on any of the following:

*              First aid for birds
*              Behavior: What is "normal" and how to correct negative behaviors
*              Finches and softbills: The "forgotten" birds
*              How to ensure your bird is getting adequate exercise
*              Is your bird a dinosaur? A look at the evolution of birds
*              How to protect birds (companion and wild) through legislation and advocacy
*              Update on avian diseases and cutting-edge treatments
*              Proper nutrition and what's in the foods you give your birds (I'd like to schedule an avian nutritionist for this one) *              Planned Parenthood: What are the options for preventing unwanted bird births?
*              The similarities and differences between companion birds and their wild counterparts

 Each month the schedule is as follows:

-               Board meeting starts at 1:00. All MACAW members are welcome to attend board meetings.
-               Hospitality break is at 2:00 pm.
-               Speaker is at 2:30 pm.
-               M.A.C.A.W. meetings are held the second Sunday of the month (excluding June, July, & August).

Meeting Location:
Midvale Community Lutheran Church
4329 Tokay Blvd., Madison, WI
Rooms 221-223 (second floor)
The meeting location is accessible by the Madison Metro bus system as well as handicapped accessible.

Dane County Humane Society Corner
Sandi Meinholz, MACAW Board Member

As of this writing, the shelter has 11 zebra finches and 5 silver Wyandot Roosters available for adoption. Please contact Jane Hanson with questions about bird adoptions at 608-838-0413, extension 101.

Fine Feathered Friends Update
Sandi Meinholz, MACAW Board Member


Adorable adoptables from Fine Feathered Friends Sanctuary Inc.: 

                -               A Red Lory, 5 yrs. old, very friendly.
                -               A Blue & Gold Macaw, 9 yrs old, female
                                named Annie.
                -               A Blue & Gold Macaw, 10 yrs. old, female named Ollie
                -               An Umbrella Cockatoo, 14 yrs. old, female named Gypsy (plucker & mutilator) needs                                 special care.
                -               5 Zebra Finches (including 1 white)
                -               1 Peach Faced Lovebird, 3 mo.

 For more information on any of the above birds, or to start the adoption process, go to our main website at


Mid-America Cage Bird Society Exotic Cage Bird Exhibition. Sunday, May 18, 2003, 10 am - 4 pm.
Des Moines Botanical Center. More information 515-278-9159.

Badger Canary & Finch Club Bird Fair. May 18, 2003, 10 am - 3 pm. Marshfield Fairgrounds. More information 262-681-4833.

What to Expect from an Avian Exam
Notes from a presentation by Maria Verbrugge   
Ruth Gundlach, MACAW Secretary

Frequently, birds are brought to the vet due to a problem. Describe the problem to the vet. One of the most important parts of the exam is for the vet to obtain a history of the bird, if it isn't already on file. Age, gender (if known), species, diet, and husbandry all provide important information. While the vet is getting this information from the owner, the bird is being observed. 

It is important to observe the bird prior to the stress of handling. Is it perching normally? Is it's posture good?  If the bird was brought in it's usual cage (as small birds often are), what do the droppings look like? Stress can cause birds droppings to be very watery, but there might be droppings from the last day or two to evaluate for the quality of the feces (the green part of the droppings) and urates (the white part).  The bird is then restrained for the exam. Some owners leave the room, or the bird might be taken from the room at this time to prevent it from developing a "grudge" against the owner. When the owner returns, the bird might perceive him/her as the "rescuer", which can lead to a better bond between owner and bird. 

The exam itself is conducted in a systematic manner, in the same order each time, so that nothing is overlooked. Some vets go from beak to tail, others perform least stressful procedures to the most stressful. The bird is weighed, which is one of the reasons that a Healthy Bird Exam is valuable. The weight can be compared to previous information from this bird, not just to a range of weights for the species.  The keelbone is palpated to determine overall health.  (The keelbone is the long bone that runs from the bird's throat to its abdomen.) The surrounding breast muscle quality and size can provide information about the bird's strength and muscle to fat ratio. A healthy bird's keelbone can be easily felt, and has muscle (not fat) that fills out over the ribs just slightly farther than the keelbone itself.  If the keelbone protrudes farther than the muscle, the bird might be underweight, maybe even malnourished. Tumors or fatty deposits might also be found while the vet is performing this procedure. 

Skin and feathers are checked. Damage to either could be medical or behavioral. The preen gland (this is located where the tail meets the bird's back) is checked to ensure that it is normal. This gland secretes oil that the bird uses for feather grooming.  Cysts and blockages can form here. Checking the birds respiratory system can be stressful. The vet opens the bird's mouth and checks inside. The roof of the mouth should have nice, sharp papilla around the slit that is found inside the upper beak. Blunt papilla could mean a respiratory infection or vitamin A deficiency. The vet listens to the birds lungs by placing a stethoscope on its back, behind its wings. The vet also listens to as many air sacs as possible. These are found throughout the birds body, and can be challenging to evaluate. One can't always hear changes, so sometimes a radiogram (X-Ray) is used. The vet also listens to the birds cardio-vascular system. Heart rate can be 100-400 beats per minute, so it is very hard to hear changes. The crop is palpated to evaluate if the digestive system seems to be working well, and in hens, the abdomen is checked for any signs of egg binding. 

Birdie Bread
From the Internet

2 boxes corn bread mix
2/3 c. milk
3 eggs
1 jr. size jar sweet potato or carrots
1/2 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. seed (optional)
1/2 c. pellets 

Mix all ingredients together. Bake in muffin tins or 13x9 cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. 

2003 Busy Bird Fairs
First Sunday in month


May 4, June 1, July 6, Oct 5, Nov 2, Dec 7
VFW Hall , 301 Cottage Grove Rd. , Madison, WI
10 am -3 pm,  $2.00 Admission

Sheila at 608-362-4696 / email

Stop by the MACAW table and say hello to Kathy and other members staffing the table!


Here are some helpful tips and reminders. MACAW Insider readers are connected to the grape vine! Get breaking news as it happens in the club, to subscribe, please send your email to me at Our two web sites are (main site), and our web site at is Buying your bird supplies from MADCAT Pet Supplies or Animart helps save you money through member discounts. Sandi will help you clean your bird cages (donations appreciated)!

105 Careers for Animal Lovers
Paula Fitzsimmons

If you think that jobs involving animals are limited, you will be pleased to learn of at least 105 different paths you can take. 105 Careers for Animal Lovers is a 39 page booklet listing 105 career ideas including resources and tips to help the reader zero in and help jump start that career search.

Pet Supply Retailers
7820 Mineral Point Rd
Madison, WI 53717
MACAW Members receive 10% discount on all bird supply purchases!

Feathered Fid's Bird Boarding
Jackie Hugo
Reasonable Rates

Health Exams Required
Including Blood Work

MACAW Members 10% Discount

Fine Feathered Friends Sanctuary, Inc.
Sandi Meinholz


Will bird sit for you in your home or ours.

We are a 5013 non-profit exotic bird rescue and will care for your bird/birds in your home or ours. All proceeds go directly back to the birds in the sanctuary. For more information please call (608)274-2615 or email

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