Psittacine Bathing a fundamental aspect of care


Mnkind has kept parrots in
captivity for centuries, with
easons stemming from the
ceremonial needs of primitive cultures
to the ornamentation of palaces and
living rooms. Today, when compared
with other pets, parrots that are kept as
companions are finding that their place
is held in high regard.
Life shared with a parrot often
changes one's view of the world. In
recent years, a shift in attitude of how
we have been keeping these birds in
captivity has become apparent through
the extensive publishing of material
regarding cage dimensions, nutritional
requirements, the safety of toys and
materials employed around parrots,
and the attention to the behavior and
psychology of the animal itself. What
these captive birds require is that we
give them what they are missing from
their natural environment.
For the past several years I have
been studying psittacine bathing
behavior and researching the rainfall
data in areas to which various
psittacines are indigenous. Since the
majority of these data is more than
obscure, the task of compiling this
information has become greater than I
had first imagined. To put it simply, if
mankind does not inhabit a particular
area there seems to be little need to
know anything specific about it.
One of the more interesting points I
have discovered about the range and
distribution of the psittacines is that
they tend to be situated in a sort of
"geographic band" around the planet.
Located in regions between the Tropic
of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn,
which are allocated zoo North and zoo
South of the equator respectively, the
psittacine has evolved in some of the
most lush and humid places on earth.
The exception to this are the species of
New Zealand which seem to illustrate
Darwin's concepts of adaptation and
natural selection. The parrots of this
area have adapted and are noticeably
different than those residing in the zoo
north/south band. There are a few

other species outside of the "tropical
zone" also but this paper focuses on
the vast majority of psittacines which
do live within the tropics.
Rainfall amounts in the regions of
the psittacines' natural evolutionary
process can technically be measured in
feet, rather than inches. An abundance
of water is the general rule in this environment.
Averages range from 90 to
350 or more inches, with more common
averages of Z50 to 350+ inches
per annum. For many years we have
been instructed to "occasionally mist
our birds with a spray bottle" and with
this type of information I feel that we
have done a great disservice to this
Allowing the parrot a good soaking
with plain water is essential to the
health of the plumage, which is the
primary means of survival for birds
through flight, warmth, and camouflage.
The avian feather is brilliantly
constructed to interact with water. The
accumulation of dirt, dust, and the
debris of our environment is eliminated
by the simple wetting of the feathers
with nothing more than clean
water. Removal of debris in the feather
allows for a better preening result and
a more accurate "zipping" of the barbuies.
Parrots bathe to survive, and we
thought that it just made them look
The Crop Bib
I am presently examining a theory
as to the reason some parrots pluck
their feathers. When presented with
the question, "Why does my parrot
attempt to jump into its water cup
immediately after I shower him/her?" I
have come to believe that this is due to
what I refer to as an inadequately
soaked crop bib. I am conducting
studies of bacterial colony counts
before and after a good soaking of the
feathering that covers the crop. I call
this area the crop bib. My thought is
that since this area of the bird is the
warmest, or a "hot spot," it may stand
to reason that bacteria will grow rapidly

To take it a step further, consider
the powdered species such as the
cockatoos and African Greys which
are notoriously known for plucking.
Imagine bacteria on the skin covering
the crop area. Now, place the bird's
natural powder over the bacteria in
this warmest of areas and you have
created an incubator-like environment,
allowing the bacteria to proliferate and
grow on the skin. Trapped between
the warmth of the skin and the powder
produced by the bird, the microorganism
is technically in the most conducive
environment for growth.
Without an adequate flushing or soaking
of the skin in this area, the bacteria
causes itching of the skin. This situation
may lead to feather plucking as
the bacteria grows down the skin
toward the chest area where the bird
can reach the feathers. A thorough
flushing of this area is not unlike how
we remove bacteria from our hands
when we wash them. I intend to publish
the results of this study when sufficient
data is compiled.
Water Temperature
Water temperature used for bathing
the parrot should also be considered.
Human caretakers, with exposed skin
and lower body temperatures, tend to
prefer warmer water temperatures for
their showers. Also, the surveys taken
reveal that the primary caretakers of
birds are women and most women traditionally
take hotter showers than do
men. A woman may set the water temperature
and think, "Ah, that feels
good," and proceed to put this water
on an animal that is already "cooking"
at approximately 104°F.
Cool down the water for your bird's
bath. Rain is cooler than the ambient
temperature in the environment. That's
what makes it so refreshing. Parrots
tend to respond more enthusiastically
to water of cooler temperatures. Some
species that prefer to pool bathe actually
prefer ice water in their bath!
Observe the bird to see which water
temperature elicits the greatest
response. The majority of parrot
species really do exhibit a preference.