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19th C. parrot care

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ecb

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This is one of those extremely focused research topics that is not so easy to just run to the library and grab a book about, so I'm wondering if anyone has ideas on *where* to look for information (unless we happen to have an expert on Regency or Victorian aviculture on the boards! No? Alas. :dr). There is a parrot in my WIP, and while I'm having no trouble with the research into animal behavior, I'd like to get the care/feeding/sheltering (cages, etc) right, too, if I can.

Any ideas where to turn?

Thanks!
#1 - February 22, 2012, 07:23 AM

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Did you run across this little article in your travels?  http://www.birdmag.com/history.htm
#2 - February 22, 2012, 07:39 AM
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Thanks, Cat; I did see that one! :)
#3 - February 22, 2012, 08:05 AM

Try googling Sotherby Auctions. I'm certain they've sold a lot of Victorian bird cages.  However, most of the Victorian cages I've seen were for smaller birds.

Also, it's earlier and an aviary, but the Earl of Leicester had quite a bird collection at Kenilworth--it impressed Queen Elizabeth. It might inspire something.

This might help as well. http://pages.northforkpets.com/11570/InventoryPage/1712905/1.html
#4 - February 22, 2012, 08:38 AM
« Last Edit: February 22, 2012, 08:48 AM by PatEsden »
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I do think birds had a much lower life expectancy back then. People didn't know what was bad for birds even 20 years ago, much less 100+. Mistakes would be things like putting birds in round, not square cages, over feeding them "junk food" like millet and sunflower seeds, exposing them to fumes from chimneys and stoves. Also putting them in cages they could destroy or that were made of harmful materials the birds would ingest.

Also, any parrot owned back then would be wild-caught and brought into the country--I don't know that there were many/any domestic breeding programs in place at the time. It is only within the last 20 or so years that bird smuggling has become seen as heinous, and all birds from reputable sources are bred and never wild-caught now.

A healthy bird back then might be healthy almost by mistake. Like if people thought birds only ate seed and that it was strange that the owner fed the bird from her plate (in reality a much more balanced diet). Or if the bird were let free all the time rather than kept caged as a living decoration, the free bird would be much happier.

If wings were clipped they would clip one wing only, not two as is the modern custom. The bird would not have a band around its leg (those are put on by breeders to show a bird is domestically bred). Let me know if you have more bird questions! I can try to help.
#5 - February 22, 2012, 11:23 AM
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I wonder if the Smithsonian would have somebody who knows stuff like that. There are oodles and oodles of Victoriana in their collections, and it is the kind of place where somebody may actually know something about your topic. Just not sure how to contact them...
#6 - February 22, 2012, 11:27 AM
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ecb

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Thanks, everyone! Pat, those are great! When I looked up "Victorian" and anything bird or parrot-related, I got lots of hits... for Victoria, Australia!

Amanda, you're my hero! You just named like fifteen things I want to happen in the book. (Was especially concerned about the idea of the parrot just flying free much of the time.)

Can I ask, just as a matter of animal husbandry curiosity, what's the problem with round cages?
#7 - February 22, 2012, 01:52 PM

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E - I'm not an expert, but I've read that round cages freak birds out. They like corners to hide in.
#8 - February 22, 2012, 02:09 PM
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ecb

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Brief update: I was selling historical aviculture short! I don't know why it never occurred to me to look up period parrot art (even knowing what I do already about colonial history and naturalism of the era!)... and it turns out that there are, in fact, quite a few books on historical bird care out there! Silly me!
#9 - February 22, 2012, 02:10 PM

Yay for research books :) I want to read your historical parrot book now! What kind of bird are you thinking of? I have owned or my family has owned a cockatiel, a lovebird, budgies, a mexican red-headed Amazon, a yellow-naped Amazon and a red-bellied parrot. So I could talk about bird behavior if you needed info on that too.

And yes, birds like a cage with corners to nestle in if they feel threatened or frightened.
#10 - February 22, 2012, 02:59 PM
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With one wing clipped a bird is instantly grounded if they fall, and can easily be attacked by an animal. With two wings clipped they cannot fly but they can gain a little bit of air and potentially escape from an attacker (as well as flutter to the floor if they fall rather than sinking like a lead weight).

If a parrot is flighted, no matter how tame, if they are outdoors they would 99.9% probably fly away, no matter how attached it was to its owner. It's very difficult to get back an escaped bird, too. So if it is fully flighted it would need to be contained very well in a house or aviary.
#11 - February 22, 2012, 03:03 PM
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Have ye tried Robert Louis Stevenson? Yar. But seriously: there might be stuff in piratical lore.
#12 - February 22, 2012, 03:19 PM

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How about talking to a vet that specializes in birds?  He/she might have resources, etc.
#13 - February 23, 2012, 06:30 AM

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