People keep companion birds from Florida to Alaska, but is there one state that is better or easier for bird owners than others? When BIRD TALK asked, pet owners, breeders, and veterinarians named Florida, California, and Texas as the three best states for birds. Why? Access to avian veterinarians, bird-related clubs and shops, and a steady supply of sunlight ranked first on the list of the most important factors for bird owners.
The Sunshine States
Many avian veterinarians recommend frequent bathing and direct sunlight (not filtered through a window) to promote healthy plumage, which is easier to achieve in “sunshine” states.
“Weather is a huge role,” according to Dr. Bridget Ferguson, DVM, ABVP, who has an 8-year avian practice at Holly Street Pet Hospital in San Carlos, California. She highlighted southern locations like Florida, Southern California, and Texas as good places to breed birds.
Jillian Baptist of Florida, a BIRD TALK reader, voted for her home state. “Florida is by far the finest place to live in if you own birds, particularly along the ocean.” The mild environment and considerable humidity maintain my birds’ feathers in excellent condition.” “I can cultivate organic vegetables and fruits in my own garden,” Baptist says.
Access to the necessary food items for raising a bird should be a primary issue for bird owners, according to Laurella Desborough, vice president of legislative relations for the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA) and a Florida native. She emphasized the need of having access to a skilled avian veterinarian, recalling an experience with one of her own birds that had zinc poisoning. The bird survived owing to a swift avian doctor visit and is now a prolific breeder.
The online member roster of the Association of Avian Veterinarians reveals that Florida, Texas, and California all have a large number of avian trained veterinarians. They also have avian research colleges, such as Texas A&M and UC Davis. Many prominent pet bird conferences, such as the National Parrot Festival in Houston, Texas, take place in these places, and the sheer quantity of bird owners means lots of shows and bird club events every weekend.
Brenda Schroeder, a Southern California BIRD TALK reader, feels that California has it all. “California!” she exclaimed. Huge bird-owner community, good veterinarians, and beautiful weather.”
“The ADA averages 700 members across the United States,” stated Jeff Downing, editor of the American Dove Association (ADA) monthly and a Maryland native. Our top three member states are California, Texas, and Florida. Most dove species demand warm, dry climates, and these states require less maintenance during the colder months.” He also said that huge breeders are often found in warmer areas.
Despite Chilly Temps, Midwest Is Popular
Although southern areas were seen more welcoming to bird owners, the Midwest region has its supporters as well.
“In northwest Indiana, you have access to Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, where some of the greatest caged-bird events take place,” said Lisa Pajkos, president of the Northwest Indiana Bird Association. She also said that avian care is just a short drive away. “There are at least two qualified avian veterinarians within a 25-mile radius of anyplace in northwest Indiana.” When Indiana’s avian veterinarians are unable to give adequate treatment, one of the greatest exotic animal facilities is just 50 miles away in Chicago.”
Although the weather may be challenging in the north, Connie Larson of the Greater Chicago Cage Bird Club says there are workarounds. “Because the weather is so severe in the winter, we don’t have as many breeders as Florida or California.” Our bird specialist businesses, on the other hand, send in newborns and
finish hand-feeding, so diversity remains excellent.”
“Minnesota is one of the greatest places to keep a bird because pet bird owners have a lot of resources,” says Mary Karlquist, president of the Minnesota Companion Bird Association. “Here in Minnesota, we have an amazing veterinary college with a terrific avian department.” In Minnesota, there are several veterinarians that specialize in avian medicine. We also have two pet bird pellet (s) factories in Minnesota.”
According to Dr. David Kersting, DVM, having an avian behaviorist nearby might be just as vital as having a veterinarian. Birds make up 80 percent of his clients at his 17-year-old Bird Medicine and Surgery in St. Louis, Missouri, and he’s been “dealing with a lot of biting, hostility, and feather plucking.” As a consequence, his firm created a one-on-one behavior modification program for both newborn and adult birds, as well as their owners, seven years ago.
Trouble in Paradise?
Of course, not everything in these popular states is great. According to Dr. Ferguson, parasite exposure might be especially hazardous in Florida, Georgia, and Southern California. Warm, humid environments worsen the issue, but exposure to UV light kills a lot of germs, she adds.
Dr. Kersting noted that exposure to West Nile virus might be a hazard for birds outside during the warmer months. “We have West Nile along the Mississippi,” he said. “I advise avoiding mosquito feeding times.” Take your bird out on bright days between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.”
Natural calamities, such as the hurricane season in Florida and the fire season in California, are also a risk.
All States, All Good
But what if you’re not a resident of one of these states? What if you’re from Maine or Montana? “There is no negative condition to possess a bird,” stated Howard Voren, president and creator of the Organization of Professional Aviculturists. It doesn’t matter whether you have a healthy, happy bird.”
For some, navigating the weather is as natural as the shifting of the seasons.
“Living in the Northeast, I would not say this is the finest environment to maintain birds but since relocating is not an option, we make the most of it and are prepared for what winter throws at us,” BIRD TALK reader Mary Rahl remarked.
“I don’t believe weather is very crucial,” Desborough added. She went on to say that although breeders of bigger species, such as macaws, may find the southern states “more appealing” for housing, pet owners should have no trouble elsewhere.
Dr. Laura Wade, DVM, ABVP of All Creatures Hospital, the first animal hospital in western New York specialized in birds and exotics, believes that any state might be a suitable option as long as “the interior environment is excellent.”
Keeping the thermostat a bit higher during the winter months may be necessary, but temperature is one of the simplest things to modify for your birds. “I have [members] in Alaska who own birds, people in Florida who own birds, and they’re all sitting in a 78-degree home,” Voren said emphatically.
Even if you don’t reside in one of the “sunshine” states, you may take efforts to preserve your bird’s well-being. Dr. Wade suggests that frequent bathing, availability to full-spectrum illumination for a few hours each day, and maybe a humidifier can assist during the winter months. In severely dry yet warm climates, such as Arizona, a spray mister may be useful.
It is critical to locate an avian veterinarian before an emergency occurs. The editors of BIRD TALK produce Birds USA, which contains an annual directory of avian veterinarians. Another useful tool is the Association of Avian Veterinarians’ Vet Look-up, which may be found at www.aav.org.
Cities often attract additional experts, such as avian veterinarians and behavioralists, making them ideal places to reside. Unfortunately, persons with bigger, louder species, such as cockatoos and macaws, may find it difficult to live in metropolitan regions because housing is generally closer together. According to Larson of the Greater Chicago Cage Bird Club, “homes tend to be close together, causing for difficulties with loud birds and inquisitive neighbors.”
With growing costs in most property markets, finding an affordable house with enough room for big and loud parrots may be tough. According to the California Association of Realtors, the median price of a single-family house in California in October 2004 was $460,370. Although California has many expensive coastline properties, the House Price Index published by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight shows that the price of a single-family home is rising significantly across the country, particularly in Nevada, Hawaii, California, Washington, D.C., and Rhode Island.
Is My Bird Illegal?
Aside from temperature and availability to services and supplies, legal difficulties, which all pet owners encounter, are a third aspect to consider when determining the ideal state for a bird owner. Many laws are created to safeguard the rights of animals and pets, such as safe transportation and housing standards, space and cleanliness inspections in pet shops, mandated vaccinations that may help prevent disease transmission, and anti-cruelty legislation.
Other regulations, on the other hand, aim to limit how people maintain pets, and birds are among the creatures restricted.
Noise regulations, which are ubiquitous in most municipal governments’ legal codes, often target birds as potential noisemakers. You could comprehend this logic if you’ve ever been up close to a fun macaw or cockatoo.
Exter, Pennsylvania, a township in Berks county, specifically states that you can be fined for “owning, possessing, harboring, or controlling any animal or bird that howls, barks, meows, squawks, or makes other sounds continuously and/or incessantly for ten minutes or makes such noise intermittently for one-half hour or more to the disturbance of any person at any time of day or night…” Other places with comparable noise regulations include Houston, Texas, Cleveland, Ohio, and Summit Township, Michigan.
Isolated local governments have regulations restricting the number of pets permitted in each home; although these mostly pertain to dogs and cats, there have been some incidents of legislation restricting the number of birds each individual may keep. In Blaine, Minnesota, for example, people are limited to three domestic pets of any kind (birds included). Dr. Ferguson said that her municipality limits the number of birds she may keep, but she is allowed to maintain a hawk head, two distinct types of conures, and a Lady Gouldian sparrow, among other things.
Breeders and hobby aviculturists who want to create an outdoor aviary should be aware of any rules that prohibit the construction of such facilities. Many states have rules that make it illegal to breed or sell birds without a license. There are other rules that prohibit birds from being transferred into or out of states without a permit, such as Rhode Island.
New Jersey has a reputation for being highly severe on bird owners. African greys, macaws, and sun conures, among other species, are illegal unless a permission is obtained beforehand. Without a permission, you may possess budgies, cockatiels, zebra finches, and numerous more species. There is also a prohibition on breeding hybrid birds.
Angel Brown of New Jersey, a BIRD TALK reader, says that “New Jersey is one of the most restricted states in terms of which species are forbidden and our permit prices.” “I reside in southern New Jersey, and we have access to several avian certified veterinarians,” she says.
Other rules require birds to be banded, limit the sale of unweaned birds (California), and prohibit the release of domestic birds outside. Pigeons and doves are often governed by legislation intended for agricultural birds.
However, most states require birds to have a clean bill of health while crossing state or nation boundaries. While traveling, have a current health certificate from your veterinarian with you. Some states may have extra limitations, so check with them before you travel. According to Desborough, you should also keep a record of ownership.
According to Dr. Kersting, in addition to travel restrictions, Missouri mandates that any bird infected with psittacosis be reported to the health department.
Although a sunny environment and easy availability to avian supplies and vets may make life simpler for bird owners, there are methods to avoid these difficulties. According to Sarah Cordish of Jerusalem, “the best state to own a bird is a state of responsibility, sensitivity, and love.”
Rose Gordon is BIRD TALK’s assistant editor. She lives in Southern California and has a cockatiel, a lovebird, and several budgies in her flock.
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