Yoda, a Case of Calcium Deficiency

Sherry Rind


For several weeks Yoda, a young Timneh African grey parrot, has been subject to the anxious attention of three human beings as they try to rectify his calcium deficiency and worry about whether he will live to be a healthy, mobile adult. His story began in the spring of 1984 when I decided that my grey, named Audio Feedback because of the noises he made, wanted a mate more than he wanted my company. An ad in the local bird club newsletter resulted in his meeting Sollie, owned by Sue Ellis and Mark Snodgrass, and it was a case of compatibility at first sight. Perhaps we should have known in those first few months that our luck was going too well.

Audio moved to Sollie's house in mid-May. The two birds spent a day gazing at each other through the bars of separate cages before Sue let them out to meet. They clambered to the tops of their cages. A confirmed people-fearer, Audio leaped away from Sue and landed on Sollie's cage. Soon the birds were sitting on the same perch, preening each other; and a few days later Sue and Mark moved the birds to a large cage in the basement.

Propped several feet off the ground, the cage measured 3'x4'x6' and was made of 1/2"xl" wire. In a far upper corner was the nest box, sized 1 'x 1 'x3'. The plywood box was

attached outside the cage and nailed to a log facade inside the cage. Apparently the birds liked this natural-looking front, for they began to investigate the box immediately.

A combination of daylight and Grolux light gave the birds fourteen hours of light every day. They ate a parrot mix supplemented with oats, alfalfa, and safflower, along with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Audio was finicky about his vegetables, but Sollie, a tame pet, ate almost everything given to her. The birds also received wheat germ oil and Super Preen on alternating days.

Each time Sue or Mark walked down the stairs, they would hear the birds making a rush for the nest box, with Audio usually diving in first. By July 13, two months after the birds had been put together, Sue and Mark realized that for several days only one bird had been diving into the box. Sollie was remaining inside full-time.

On July 20 they found two eggs in the nest box and a few days later, two more. Every day they provided a pie pan of water in which the birds bathed to keep the eggs moist. The human excitement quickly rose but fell when nothing happened. Finally giving up hope at the end of August, Mark removed the eggs and found them all infertile. We all hoped for better luck next year but were surprised when we discovered we did not have to wait that long. On October 14, Sue and Mark found Sollie sitting on two eggs. She laid a third on October 16.

Deciding to be more scientific this time, Sue and Mark candled the eggs on October 27. They decided one was infertile because it was light in weight and showed nothing when they candled it. Of the two others, one showed a dark spot and the other showed something that looked like a vein. They put all three eggs back in the nest.

On November 13 Sue and Mark left for work feeling depressed and discouraged. Any eggs should have hatched by now, they thought, but there were absolutely no signs of action. When Sue returned home at 2: 30, she checked the box again. Growling, Sollie lunged at her while Audio cowered and screamed in his corner. Sue could see nothing but thought that underneath the noise she had heard a faint "peep." She closed the lid on the box and pressed her ear to the outside. There it was again, not loud, but unmistakably the sound of a baby bird.


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