Posted by Beth Anne Quinlan, PhD Avian Sciences on 2/6/2021 to Companion Birds
Right now, I'm sure you're thinking, 'Wait. What? I thought birds didn't get Covid-19.' Correct. To the best of my knowledge, there are no known cases of Covid-19 in birds (yet another reason birds are great companions during times such as these).
So if they don't get it, how can birds suffer from Covid-19?
Sleep Deprivation. If you've ever watched the birds outdoors, you've probably noticed that they become quiet each afternoon. Your bird at home probably takes an afternoon nap, too. Mine have always napped around 2:00 pm each afternoon. But if you, or others in your household, are working from home, that tends to be the busiest time of the work day--loud phone conversations and webinars can prevent your bird from taking that afternoon nap. And if you're not working from home, there is probably something playing on your TV or radio--the impact to your bird is the same. To make matters worse, if there has been a change in your schedule, such as sleeping in later since you no longer have a commute and then staying up later as a result, your bird might not be getting as much nighttime sleep.
A quiet room for your bird to spend part of the afternoon may be a good solution for your bird. In my house, I have a sleeping area for my cockatiel, Spike. During this time of Covid-19, with everyone home all day, I've been moving Spike from his play stand in my office to his 'bedroom' and covering the cage for a couple hours each afternoon. Further, I moved my husband to a different floor where his booming voice is less obvious in Spike's bedroom. Spike is now taking his usual afternoon naps (I know, I've peeked under the cover).
Stress. People in and out. Doors opening and closing. Children's laughter and disagreements. Noisy toys. That's all part of the life our birds knew on the weekends. Your bird probably loved all the excitement and may have even shown how much he enjoyed it with increased screaming and flying about to join in the fun. But now, instead of two days a week, your bird is experiencing this hyper-stimulation every day. As with people, avian anxiety and stress results in higher levels of stress hormone; corticosterone in birds is similar to cortisol in humans. Scientific studies have shown that birds in a prolonged stressful situation, such as overcrowding, have higher blood or feather levels of this stress hormone (von Eugen et al, 2019). This may not be a factor in one-person households, but it definitely comes into play when there are children staying home all day.
While it sounds counter-intuitive, leaving your bird alone for a little while each day could give it the break it needs.
Increased Hazards. You are probably cooking more now and that means more hot pans and stoves, more open dishwater, and more toxic foods that are out on your counter. To make matters worse, you probably have enlisted the help of members of your household who aren't as familiar with bird safety.
If you have a dog, he too, has probably adjusted to the new normal--mine needs to go out about twice as often as pre-pandemic. This means an increased number of open doorways--remember, a momentary distraction at the door could result in permanent loss!
By this point in the pandemic, you might no longer care if your home isn't immaculate, but your bird will find that one hazardous item left on your counter or floor. Now is the time to be especially vigilant, after all, the end of the pandemic is in sight!
And when it's over, and it will be, you'll miss this special time with your winged companion! I'd like to invite you to browse our selection of species-specific items for something you can take with you when you return to work--a watch, keyring, money clip, or other small item with your bird can help you when you transition back to the work environment!
von Eugen, K., Nordquist, R.E., Zeinstra, E. and van der Staay, F.J. (2019) Stocking Density Affects Stress and Anxious Behavior in the Laying Hen Chick During Rearing. Animals (Basel) 9(2): 53