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Dr. Pat
Dr. Pat, Bird Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 3596
Experience:  25+ years working primarily or exclusively with birds
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We have a 15 year old male African that we have had years.

Customer Question

We have a 15 year old male African Gray that we have had for 14 years. He has started 'beeping' on a constant basis. He's a great talker when he wants to but this beeping is driving us a little nuts! We've tried redirecting him to singing, talking, engaging in conversation, playing and other things as well as time alone in his room (which he likes a lot). At the same time he is doing this, he is also flapping his wings as though he is having a little nervous fit. He is with one of us most of the day. At 1st, as long as he was with us, he was fine. Now, even being in the same room with us, this behavior continues. We have been unable to change this behavior. We've also changed his food thinking possibly that was not sitting well or there was an allergy but nothing has worked. He's not plucking his feathers and is otherwise a healthy bird. Any suggestions? Thanks!
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Pat replied 1 year ago.

​Greetings, I am Dr. Pat. I have worked with birds exclusively for many years.​

I am sorry no other expert has taken your question. We all come online at different times, I have just logged in and saw that you have not been answered. I hope I can still be of assistance.

The problem with Greys (I have 2 myself) is to sort through the behavioral vs physical problems. He is trying to get your attention, to help with something making him uncomfortable, but it may be difficult to figure out exactly what that might be.

Several things may help to begin with. Is he getting 12-14 hours dark, quiet uninterrupted sleep at night? Sleep deprivation can be a major driving force with both behavioral and physical problems.

Any changes at home: new pets, children, guests, construction etc? Anything different in his room?

IMPORTANT Check the website for the feed you give, there have been many recalls:
https://www.avma.org/News/Issues/recalls-alerts/Pages/pet-food-safety-recalls-alerts.aspx?fvalue=Other

or
http://www.petfoodrecall.org/

or
http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/default.htm

Can you tell me more about the bird?​

How long has this been going on?

Where is he from?

Any accidents or trauma?

Interactions with other birds/pets/children/guests?

What is the usual diet?

Has the bird gotten into anything (I know how Greys love to do this)? Chewed electrical wires?

What is your geographic location and local weather?

I would worry about several things: calcium levels, metal toxicity, metabolic issues.

You need to take your bird to see an avian-experienced veterinarian ASAP for complete examination, diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Check
https://aav.site-ym.com/?page=basiccare click on "find a vet"

http://aav.site-ym.com/search/custom.asp?id=1803

for members of AAV in your area or call your regular vet and see who they recommend; ask if they really have worked with birds a lot. Unfortunately, this list does not rate competency or experience, but is only a starting place; the vets at least take the avian medicine journal and hopefully see a bird or two a year. The best referrals are word-of-mouth, so check with several non-bird vets, the humane society, parrot rescue groups, bird clubs, etc. for their input. As you might guess there may be controversy and varying opinions even with this. Even board-certified avian specialists may not have a lot of practical bird experience. Unfortunately there are few resources available to refer you to really good, clinically-experienced bird vets.

If this were my patient, and money no object, I would start with complete fecal analysis and direct smear, stained with Sedi-stain and unstained for multiple parasites, fungi, spirals; direct smear stained with Sedi-stain and unstained of the oral cavity; bacterial culture and sensitivity of the feces and choana. Depending on the case I might do a fungal culture. Routine blood work is necessary to rule out other issues such as calcium, metabolic and toxicity. There are MANY DNA/RNA tests for bird diseases. Ultrasound is often more informative than radiographs and does not require anesthesia (ask your vet about this option). Generally I start them out on medications as indicated by the tests.

AAV recommended lab work

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Dr Pat, Thank u for you reply. I will check his food for recalls. This behavior has been going on for a couple of years but has increased in the last year. We bought him from a breeder/pet store owner in Kansas City when he was 1 year old. He was and has been very healthy for his entire life. We own and operate a Bed & Breakfast in Las Cruces, NM. It is about an hour north of El Paso, TX. We are high Desert at an altitude of 5000'. We have been here 11 years. We have a cat and 3 big dogs. Bill Bird pretty much keeps everyone in line! He has a great since of humor and normally is very interactive and entertaining. He duplicates every electronic sound in the house except the driveway monitor. When he hears that he waits a minute or 2 and then as loudly as possible says 'Hi, How are you?' He always wants to meet the guests but rarely will speak to them. He carries on little mini conversations with my husband , myself and the pets. As far as any changes lately-there have been none in his room. We did make 2 long trips (1-2 week and 1-3 week) + a short 6 day trip this year. This is unusual as we usually are gone once/year for no more than 2 weeks. This behavior has escalated since the March trip and has gotten much worse since the July trip. With each trip he has been boarder at our Bird vets office which also boards cats and dogs. He loves going there. They leave him in the front reception area as he is very entertaining. So, yes, he has come in contact with other birds recently. Also my husband retired Sept 30th so is home now and in and out of the house all day. Bill is very fond of him and still a little confused as to why Dad is around so much. We have been suspicious that this might be separation anxiety as he hates for either of us to leave him alone. We always tell him what we are doing when we leave the room.. Also each evening about sundown this behavior escalates. We are very careful to keep him in a well lite area till he is ready for bed. He has his own room and seems very content in that room . His sleeping cage is there and he can see the outside birds through the window. His daytime cage us in our private family room and he has numerous perches around the house. His usual diet is fresh fruits and veggies along with a parrot blend of seeds especially for greys. He also gets a tiny bit of cheese with his food. He loves this. No accidents or trauma that we are aware of. He has been DNA'do so we know for sure he is a male. His bed time is about 8:30p-8:30am. Not always uninterrupted as sometimes the dogs go out barking in the middle of the night if we have coyotes. We also have a tremendous amount of wind and are aware that he doesn't sleep well when there is wind. He also has a 2 hour rest with me in the afternoon. He has an appointment on Wednesday with our avian vet who also has extensive experience with greys. Any suggestions for us from what I have told u? Thank u so much for your help. Anita
Expert:  Dr. Pat replied 1 year ago.

Sounds fairly typical. They do not like change and really hate when their people are gone. When he is boarded, is he away from the mammals, and does the room he is in become dark and quiet? ie no barking sounds, sirens, bustle etc etc? And same at home: do the curtains block light and sounds? Is his night cage covered? Is there any way to block the sounds? Night disturbances can become very disruptive to daytime behavior and make anxiety much worse.

Try putting him to bed a little earlier, even 14 hr sleep is not a bad idea. And it might disrupt the bedtime anxiety to shake up the routine just a tiny bit. My own Congo Grey (who had anxiety much, much worse and for valid reasons) has benefited greatly from 14 hr rigid schedule bedtime.

I recommend high quality pellets, no seed. Harrison's HPC or TOP are the best in my opinion. Seeds=fat=hormones=metabolic stress.

Lab work is a good idea. I personally prefer labs that do avians/exotics only. The first step is to rule out physical problems, then approach behavior/psychological issues.

I prefer to manage greys according to their age:15 yo male is approximately 15 yo male human. He is no doubt having anxiety issues, and they need to be dealt with by finding the real cause and what triggers are involved. He may just need simple reassurance and some kind of "night-night" ritual.

He might respond well to a reostat on the light switch that mimics twilight--going from bright to sunset in a gentle way. I do this by hand with my birds by turning off the lights in sequence until it is almost dark. Then they get to settle, I say good night to each, and lights out. We have a little ritual, according to each bird's needs. Sounds silly but they go right to their roost/teepee/branch/cave and sleep.

Taking him for car rides, secure walks in a carrier, getting new input may help (if not done too radically) as forms of "benign stress". If he is athletic, a scheduled period of intense physical play ("fetch", "soccer" etc) may help dispense some of the anxiety before it happens. The quiet afternoon time can involve reading or counting lessons. You can read children's books to him, point out the pictures, show him garden catalogs, teach him to count, anything to make him educated.

PS I lived in Radium Springs at one point in my life.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Dr Pat, These are all great suggestions. My husband and I just discussed some changes we can make immediately, especially getting him in bed earlier and putting some room darkening drapes on his window. We tried him on pellets once before and he wouldn't eat them but we are going to try again. We will continue with his appointment on Wednesday. Thank you so much for the excellent suggestions. We will let you know what happens. You have definately given us hope.
Sincerely,
Anita and Ken McLeod
DreamCatcher Inn B&B
Expert:  Dr. Pat replied 1 year ago.

Just checking to see how things went with the visit.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
We were able to get a video of him 'beeping' and 'flapping' to show the vet. As well, she saw Bill Bird also. She thinks it is a behavior issue and gave my husband some ideas of how to correct this. He is also now going to bed earlier and staying a full 12-13 hours. We haven'the changed the food yet. We are trying to engage him in activities and conversation more. It will be a slow process but one we will continue. The vet, Dr Calista, didn't feel blood work was necessary at this time. He will be back in her boarding facility for a week at Christmas which will give her a chance to observe him again. Thanks for checking up on him today.

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