Predators

From Susanne Russo:

In Florida we are loaded with alot of reptiles and predators. So I’m going to list a bunch of responses that I’ve seen from my birds to various things (stimuli)

I have 4 glass snakes that live in various parts of the property. The cockatiels have never sounded off the distress call or panicked in the cages when they see these snakes. I’ve seen this also when I’ve have placed new birds outside that have never seen the glass snakes before. Two of these snakes are still thin enough to squeeze through the 1/2″ x 1/2″ wire on the large walk-in flight. When inside the flight with the birds they do not panic and vocalize. I’ve made no effect to remove or destroy these snakes because I see no fear generated or cause of harm.

I also have black racer snakes that find their way on my property. Every cockatiel that can actually see this snake will give out loud shrills and thrash in the cages. Those that can not see the snake will not thrash or move in the cages, but they join in vocally with the distress call. If one is thin enough to get into a flight or cage, it can generate enough terror to cause serious injury’s.

Someone pet cockatiel will occasionally fly into my yard. ALL of my cockatiels will let out shrill cry’s…loud enough for me to race outside thinking…major problem. The visiting cockatiel acts like it is unaffected or doesn’t hear this loud shrilling. Obviously it is there for food, and I’m assuming that the shrill call from my birds is not a danger call.

Occasionally a pet Quaker, Keet, or Lovebird strays in. The shrill calls are only in the area where the new arrival is.

When a Raven or a Hawk shows up there is mass panic in the cages and all birds join in the distress call. They also panic and vocalize when a blue-jay starts shrieking. Yet if the blue-jay is not vocalizing the blue-jay does not scare them when they see it. At night there are owls. The owls have never generated any type of disturbances. They could land inches from a cockatiel hanging on the wire near the top of the cage, and the cockatiel does not react.

Many iguanas pass through the yard. The only way I know they are around is if all heads are turned and looking in one direction. When I see this I keep looking until I can spot what they are looking at. Normally the cockatiels also panic when I am running through the yard like a bat out of h***. They also react when they see the net in my hand. When I spot an iguana I have learned to first grab a large net and start herding the iguana to the base of the ficus tree that has no cages blocking it…. then scoop up the iguana as it heads up the tree. ALL the birds just watch me get the iguana…and don’t panic or vocalize when seeing the net or the fast movement.

At night when there is an opossum around as long as it is on the ground there is no panicking or sounds. When it does get on top of a cage. The birds in the cage and a few surrounding cages will slap their wings repeatedly hard against the wire and hiss. The sound of the wing slapping is similar to a dull whipcrack. They will continue to do this until the opossum leaves. The cockatiels will NOT vocalize. Occasionally one bird will panic and thrash, but this is usually a bird that was recently housed inside. If the opossum moves to another section of cages that group in the area will start the slapping. If the opossum traveling on top of the cages in a certain direction the wing slapping will start *before* the opossum arrives!! When the wing slapping starts before the opossum gets there it is discouraged enough for it to get off the roofs.

Raccoons are in abundance here. I have spent many times sitting up alnight observing. The birds immediate response when a raccoon is near is to freeze and not make a sound. If it is one raccoon I have never had any damage done to the birds. And the birds must instinctively try not to do anything to get attention. Usually the raccoon will work in teams. One will try to spook the bird and one or two raccoons will be pressed up to the other sides of the cage. The raccoon will try rattling the cage and growling to get the bird to bolt to the waiting raccoon. Unfortunately I just could not force myself to sit and watch the outcome so I would run the raccoons off. They would return within a hour and try to repeat the same thing on the same cage…and I’d run them off again. The next time the trap would be waiting and I’d catch one and remove the cage. During this time there is still no panic from the birds…just a little twirping. If there were initially 3 raccoon the remaining 2 wound watch the cage and then try the teamwork thing. If there were initially 2 raccoons the remaining one would return and watch and make soft sounds and then leave. During all this the cockatiels will not vocalize warnings or thrash to disturb neighboring cages while the raccoon is in the area. I have found that if a raccoon is really determined to have some birds for dinner they do take advantage of the silence of the birds and will even silently kill during the day.

These are just a few of what I have personally witnessed in how my birds respond to potential threats.

The observations taught me what to do to resolve a few of the problems. At least in learning about the wing slapping when an opossum was near solved the mystery of why I was getting *overnight* molts….of dropped flight feathers of both wings. I’ve since put up 6′ reed fencing on the chainlink area where all these cages were which, thus far has not had any opossum activity.

I hate raccoons!!! And in several major incidences I’ve not heard any disturbances from the birds. I had digging around the garage which has a 9′ x 5′ flight inside butted against the south wall. I set out a trap assuming it was an opossum and the next morning found that something was trapped but learned how to fold and twist the trap door to escape. I set out a larger stronger trap the following night. The next morning it was empty with the trap door sprung…but there was evidence that something was trapped. A couple days later at feeding time I noticed a 4″-5″ hole at ground level in the wood wall of the flight. I did a count and 6 cockatiels were missing. I checked outside and saw where something had chewed and ripped off part of the wood siding. So I patched it and set up the trap. Since the cockatiels did not make any noise to alert me when the previous traps went off…I decided to check on the traps every half hour. I wound up trapping a very large female raccoon.

Another incident was when I found a nextbox was robbed of babies and the male missing. The nest box had a sliding part that had to be pulled up out of the grooves to remove. The following afternoon (daylight) several more nestboxes were hit. Either eggs or babies were gone, and the male birds which would have been in the box during the day. A total of 4 adults and 13 babies were missing/eaten. I was in the house and the closest cage was 20′ away from where I was at in the house. I did not hear ANY disturbance from the cockatiels that anything was wrong. I found parts of bodies that were hauled off and partially eaten. We drilled and cross pinned all the nestboxes so that the back doors could not be opened. I suspected a raccoon (s), but wasn’t sure. I sat up that night and not long after dark I heard something hit the chain link and as soon as it was on a cage reached right for the nestbox door trying to pull up…shook/rattled the door…then went on to try another box. The birds did not come out of the nestboxes or make any noise. I’d run it off and in a short time it was back trying another box. Obviously it remembered which boxes it had already robbed because it skipped over them. Again a very large raccoon. I wound off running it off several times during the night…with relief that the cross pins protected the birds. The persistence of the raccoon was terrifying to watch!!

I’ve often wondered if the sense of smell in a cockatiel is part of the reaction to various dangers.

Susanne

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