Mickaboo Newsletter Blog from November, 2007

News and Announcements

  • A Mickaboo Volunteer in the making: The photo to the left is of Adhiraj, a second grader in the South Bay. His school had a yearly themed contest and this year the contest was "How I Can Make a Difference." Adhiraj decided to make a poster depicting the Mickaboo slogan "Don't breed, don't buy... adopt a rescued bird!". Great work Adhiraj!
  • Mickaboo Ornaments: Do you need something to fill those stockings at holiday time?  The second in the "Mickaboo Bird" series of ornaments is available now at Mickaboo's Cafepress store.  The website is www.cafepress.com/mickaboo and then click on the first category called ornaments.  All proceeds from the store go into Mickaboo's coffers to help pay for medical bills.
  • Holiday Gift Giving: If your looking for gifts for your feathered friends; as well as gifts for the humans check out our retail sponsors.
  • Vehicle Donation: Help Mickaboo's birds, get rid of your old vehicle, and obtain a tax write-off all at the same time! By donating your car, truck, RV, or boat, you will be making a vital contribution toward rescuing birds in need and avoid the headache of selling a used vehicle. Mickaboo will receive 70% of the net proceeds from the sale of the vehicle while you save money at tax time! To donate your vehicle, call toll free at 1-800-237-5714 and designate Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue as your charity.
  • Many Thanks: A big Thank You to the Newsletter Team, Matt Linton, Newsletter Contributors, and the Mickaboo Admin Team who have made this newsletter possible.

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Volunteer Spotlight

by Shauna Hill

It is with very mixed emotions that we announce that Dr. Bridgett Ferguson, an avian certified veterinarian, who has been working with Mickaboo for over 10 years has left Holly Street Pet Hospital to pursue a wonderful opportunity in Washington with Avian Exotics in Wallhoo,WA. 

 Our Director, Tammy Amarzo, reflected on Dr.Ferguson's time with Mickaboo:
"The thing that sticks out in my mind is her absolute undying devotion to helping whenever and I mean whenever! She told me to call anytime day or night, and sometimes we did (against every grain in my body but I did it). Through new jobs, moving homes, conventions, studying for her avian boards and even through the births of her two children, she was there for us.  There is one story that sticks out in my mind.  It was when she and I had just met, and she was the new vet at the practice where I worked.  She immediately showed an interest in helping with our rescue work, and she gave me her number to call in the event of an emergency.  As you can imagine, that event didn't take long.  We took in a cockatiel who had his beak nearly bitten off by a lovebird.  When we saw the extent of his injuries, we knew we needed to call her.  She was at my house within minutes (I was lucky then--she lived really close) with her medical bag and, as usual, she had lots of optimism for this pathetic injured little bird.  There was no where to take him, so we ended up needing to suture his beak in my home.  She did the procedure; she medicated him; she made sure he was comfortable before she left, and then she refused the money my husband tried to give her (which was nothing compared to what the emergency room would have charged for much less specialized care).  That began a trend that lasted for nearly ten years.  We would get in a sick/injured bird; we would call Bridget, and she would come to our rescue.  I am going to miss her tremendously, but I will always have many, many great memories.  Years ago when I thought about starting a bird rescue organization, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that we would be fortunate enough to have such a smart, dedicated, caring and tirelessly devoted vet at our beck and call.  It is time for the sweet little feathered friends in another part of the world to have the good fortune to have her for a while."
-   Tammy Amarzo

Making herself available when ever needed and going above and beyond "office hours" was a common experience.   Over the ten years working with Mickaboo, Dr. Ferguson has supported many Mickaboo volunteers in times of need.  Below is just a short list of comments and thanks from Mickaboo volunteers.

"Between the late night emergency visits to Dr. Ferguson's house (because all emergencies seem to wait until the vet offices are closed) by me, my husband, my mom, and any combination thereof, we'll never be able to repay her for everything she's done for us.  She's fantastic and gentle while handling the birds. She takes every case to heart to the point of coming back to the hospital multiple times during the day and night even on days she's "off" to check on sick birds and other exotics she may be caring for on behalf of Mickaboo.  She's been truly selfless throughout the years, and we're going to miss her tremendously!"

"Bridget Ferguson was there for us when our elderly and magical Mr. Charms became ill and passed away.  Mr. Charms was diagnosed with an inoperable foreign body, and he had stopped eating. In the final week that Mr. Charms was with us, Bridget remained positive on the single day that he tried to fight, and she provided tenderness and understanding the night we had him put to sleep. We could have not made it through that experience without her kindness."

"I first met Dr. Ferguson when I had a medical emergency early on a Sunday morning when I brought my bird to her.  She was a wonder.  She reassured me about the situation.  She took the time to talk to me and to listen to my concerns. She helped me set up a working plan for dealing with the issue...  After that, I moved my whole flock to her care.  I'm going to miss her tremendously both as our vet and as a friend."

My own experiences with her echo the sentiments above.  She was wonderful with my flock and with the many fosters I brought in for care.  She was equally wonderful even with the pair of blue front amazons who were determined to take a chunk out of her and the vet techs!  She has a wonderful way of calming fearful birds and their fearful and sometimes tearful humans. 

This article would not be complete without also taking time to mention her generous and giving nature.  She would find ways to help keep the cost within reason for Mickaboo's birds and others as you can see from this experience:

"My first strong memory of Dr Ferguson was when I went to her at BayAreaBirdHospital. I was pet sitting 5 birds, 2 cockatiels and 3 budgies, for my manager's manager, and I'd taken the menagerie to BABH to see if anything was wrong with one of the female cockatiels that was scratching herself way too often.
Since all the birds were in the same cage, Dr Ferguson wanted to do a test consisting of swabbing the back end on the female cockatiel and on all the other birds.  In order to save me money, she decided to put the swabs for all the birds on a single slide so she could do the test all at the same time and charge me for only ONE test."

Dr. Ferguson has donated her time and services to Mickaboo by sponsoring fund raising events such as safety clinics where she would trim countless beaks, nails, and wings!  She took a special interest in helping the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco.  The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill have been plagued by a neurological illness that has claimed a number of these magnificent birds.  She has worked tirelessly trying different treatment regiments to help the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill brought in by our volunteers.

There was a luncheon held on October 6th to present Dr. Ferguson with a gift in appreciation for her years of work with us.  Here are some photos of that day:

[Place photos here]

In a farewell email, Dr. Ferguson left us with the following kind words...

To Everyone at Mickaboo,

I want to thank everyone for the beautiful send-off last Saturday and for the lovely statue.  I will treasure both of those things forever.

Over the last 10 years I have tremendously enjoyed working with everyone at Mickaboo to not only take care of many of the rescue birds, but also many of your personal companions.  I feel truly blessed to have had such a wonderful opportunity and words cannot express my sadness at leaving everyone here in California.  As most of you know I am leaving for a great opportunity in Washington to work with another veterinarian who has very similar philosophies as mine.  Together we can offer our clients and patients so much more, since we will have each other for back-up.

I will still remain on as Mickaboo's Medical director; however, it will be a long distance relationship.  Thank you everyone at Mickaboo for all of the great care you have all offered our fine-feathered friends, and I will miss seeing everyone.


Dr. Bridget Ferguson, ABVP

Yes, to say that Dr. Ferguson leaves a huge gap in our organization and hearts is an understatement, but a truthful one.  We wish her the best in her new practice!  If you do find yourself in Washington, and you are in need of an avian vet, make sure to give her a call.  Save to say Dr. Ferguson has a countless list of glowing references from her Mickaboo family.  Thank you Dr. Ferguson!

Bird Of The Month

by Brian Greger

My wife and I adopted Pepe, the 51 year old blind Military Macaw, on July 27, 2007 from Mickaboo. Prior to Pepe being rescued by Mickaboo, Pepe had led a less than ideal parrot life. Pepe had been blind for ~20 years; he had lived in a very small cage with a blanket over it, and he had been fed a mostly peanut diet. Ken and Diana Sena rescued Pepe, and they quickly got Pepe on the right path with lots of care and good nutrition. Upon our adoption, we told Mickaboo that we would pursue cataract surgery for Pepe to restore his vision. Before pursuing eye surgery, we acclimated Pepe to his new cage and surroundings for the first 8 weeks. Pepe showed no signs of vision. He was completely blind without any response to light. Pepe had totally adapted to being a blind bird for the last ~20 years. He would feel out his surroundings and remember the spacial relations. He was then quick to navigate his new surroundings, but he did not show any typical bird body language when we interacted with him. We really wanted to improve his quality of life by restoring some of his vision.

After contacting and consulting with a number of animal ophthalmologists and avian vets including Dr. Speer's office, the consensus was that we should go to UC Davis where they have all the specialties under the same roof. UC Davis had us spend all day waiting for their assessment. At the end of the day, UC Davis's junior ophthalmologist insisted that cataract surgery could not be preformed on Pepe. In their opinion, the lenses had hardened, there were adhesions to the iris which would cause bleeding complications, and there was no equipment small enough to perform removal of such small hardened lenses.

Well, we were not convinced by UC Davis's findings. We went to Dr. Hacker, an animal ophthalmologist practicing in El Cerrito (http://www.animal-eye-specialists.com/) for a second opinion. After a 20 minute examination, Dr. Hacker proclaimed that Pepe was a good candidate for cataract surgery with a 80+% chance of success. Dr. Hacker has been in practice as an animal ophthalmologist since 1986. He is the animal ophthalmologist for the Oakland Zoo. We were very pleased to hear such a positive diagnosis.

On September 25th, we took Pepe to Dr. Hacker's office for the surgery. Dr. Hacker first performed an ultrasound on both eyes to make sure that the retinas were not detached. The ultrasound showed that both eyes were in good shape for the surgery. There were three physicians in attendance at the surgery and two nurses/technicians assisting with the surgery. Dr. Hacker and one of his former residents performed cataract surgery to both eyes, and Dr. Olsen from the Medical Center for Birds provided anesthesia and monitoring during the procedure. The surgery was a success with no complications.

During the first 12 hours of Pepe's recovery, Pepe's eyes were slightly swollen, and Pepe was not unacclimated to his new tube collar and his change in vision. He bounced around the carrier falling over and not knowing what the heck happened to him. He did not eat much; therefore, we decided to assist his nutrition with some syringe feeding. The next morning after the day of surgery, Pepe started to get his bearings, and he started to show some signs of vision responses to light and movement. He also started to eat on his own. After 51 years, Pepe is truly a bird that has learned to quickly adapt. He is a real trooper!

At Pepe's first checkup, Dr. Hacker said his eyes looked great. Dr. Hacker said his vision will continue to improve over 6-8 weeks. Pepe was kept in a kennel for the first two weeks. We applied pain medication drops and steroid anti-inflammatory/ antibiotic drops to his eyes twice a day. We also gave Pepe an anti-fungal oral medication once a day until we stopped the steroid antibiotic drops.

No swelling, no complications, perfect surgery results after just one week. Cataract surgery for birds involves removing the cloudy cataract lenses, but birds' eyes are too small to implant an artificial replacement lens. Therefore, Pepe is able to see but more in the distant. It will take 4-6 weeks for Pepe to fully understand and use his new sight, but he could definitely tell that things are going on around him after the first week.

Ten days after the surgery Pepe had lost a lot of weight, approximately 15%. The oral anti-fungal medicine, Sporanox, really suppressed his appetite. Losing this amount of weight can be quite dangerous for a bird. We reduced the dosage of Sporanox, and he got his collar removed to help him regain weight. Still Pepe did not regain weight, but he stopped losing weight. Finally, we moved Pepe back to his cage, and immediately Pepe started to eat more and regain weight everyday. The kennel was keeping Pepe from relaxing, sleeping well, and eating well. The return to his cage did the trick.

Pepe shows all signs of recovering completely with restored farsighted vision. The biggest change is in his personality. He used to be pretty oppressed or depressed. He did not open his wings; he would get fearful a lot evidenced by his sleek down his feathers, beating of his wings, and then squawking. He is doing all the opposite behaviors now! Since the surgery, he has not once shown his fearful behavior; he now flaps his wings, and he is just a lot more relaxed. We now have him stepping up onto perches. He now gets time out on the play area, and he responds well to step up and step down commands. Pepe's life has been forever changed into a happy, healthy, secure, and enriched life. His behaviors indicate he has a new leash on life. Looks like he will turn out to be a good old bird!

As an older blind macaw, many would not have thought Pepe could turn into such a great companion, but he showed us all just how much a little love and care can do for one of these beautiful creatures. We truly love and respect him!

Hooray for Pepe and many thanks to Dr. Hacker and his team!

Tip Of The Day

Avocado and chocolate are toxic to birds. NEVER feed your bird these foods.

Labels: newsletter, tip, nov07

Thanks to all of the supporters of Mickaboo, our summer fundraiser was a wonderful success, bringing in nearly $9,400.   Although we received another $55,000 in donations and adoption fees thus far in 2007, our corresponding vet bills of $82,000 means that we continue to run at a deficit Unfortunately this means we still cannot take in all the birds that need homes; therefore, we are forced to take in only the most urgent cases such as those that face euthanasia.  In order to open our doors to all birds needing homes, we continue to need your help.

Our goal is to raise an additional $20,000 by year end.  If everyone who receives this email sends in just $15, we will reach our goal.  If you can send more or less, please do!  Any donation amount is greatly appreciated and vital to our continuing success.  Donating is simple and can be done in one of the following ways:

  • Send a check to Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue, P.O. Box 697,San Jose,CA95106
  • Donate electronically using PayPal 
  • Donate electronically using Network for Good

Your donations are 100% tax deductible and you can be confident that every dollar you send is going directly to helping these birds.  On behalf of our growing family of rescued birds, adopters, and volunteers, thank you for your help.

Ask The Expert

This Months Expert: Louisa Jaskulski, RVT

Question:  During the holiday season what are some of the main sources of hazards to our avian companions and how can we eliminate or minimize these hazards?


Stress:  Our birds are very empathic, and will absorb and reflect the emotions of the household.  If we are tired, upset, worried, unusually happy and energetic, or distracted, our birds may react by screaming or biting, or trying to hide.  Give them calm attention, reassuring them that they are loved and safe, and that the human flock has not entirely lost its collective mind.

Strangers/Guests:  Birds are prey animals, programmed to be cautious of new beings in their environment lest they be predators.  New people should be instructed about how the birds should be approached and treated.  Discourage guests from poking fingers into cages.  Even well socialized "show off birds" who love attention can become tired from too much fuss.  Small children are often oblivious to animals' limits and sensitivities, and can frighten or harm birds without meaning to.  Older children can sometimes be threatening.  For shy birds, the
arrival of strangers can be traumatic. Guests may get bitten by a frightened bird who is trying to defend its body or cage.  Be sure that your birds can retreat from view and attention when they want to, and that they get plenty of undisturbed sleep. (A "sleep cage" in a dark quiet room can be a big help).
Foods: Our homes are often filled with foods of the season - candies, baked goods, salty snacks, rich foods, drinks with caffeine or alcohol in them.  Parrots (budgies to macaws) are by nature curious, and if we are eating/drinking it, they want some too.  Our birds are not designed to eat chips, chocolate, gravies, cheese sauces, butter,  cakes/cookies, or any caffeine or alcohol. These can be toxic, even fatal.  Keep bird appropriate treats on hand to share instead.
Open Doors: With all the comings and goings, be triple careful about keeping birds away from doors - they can get caught in doors, or they can escape.
Decorations: Bright shiny paper often contains substances which are dangerous if ingested.  Chewing on wiring for lights can result in electrocution, and there can be toxins in wire insulation or the wire itself.  Tinsel can get stuck in the GI tract.   Christmas trees can be sprayed with toxic fire retardants or fake snow.
Air Quality: Birds have a complex respiratory system, and are much more  sensitive to airborne particles than we are.  trees sometimes carry molds or chemical sprays; cigarette or fireplace smoke; strong perfumes; holiday candles, incense, potpourri, smoky  fireplaces,  cooking fumes, burning food, any kind of overheated "non-stick" coating - - all can cause avian illness or death.   Best to keep birds well away from such potential sources.  Good ventilation is critical to avoid build ups of bacteria, viruses, dust, fumes in the tight confines of our homes.  Let fresh air come in when possible,  and don't let the air get too dry.
Feet, Pots and Plants: Birds on the floor will, of course, seem to aim to get under your feet.  Hot stoves and cooking pots can burn the misdirected bird.  If your bird likes to eat plants, beware the lovely poinsettia and romantic mistletoe.
Boarding:  If you board your birds while you are gone, check to be sure the boarding facility requires the birds to have a recent health check, including blood work and a negative chlamydia test, so your birds are not exposed to disease being shed by another bird.
Winter Temperatures: Our birds are much hardier than we might think.  Certainly the wild parrots in San Francisco have thrived through cold foggy winters, wild Quaker parrots live in Chicago, and I have seen films  of cockatoos gleefully playing in the snow (they had an indoor area to to to if they so desired).  (I have also met a macaw who lost most of his feet because a stupid breeder left him outside in  winter when he was a young bird and his feet froze to the ground ---)  Feathers provide great insulation.  If our birds are healthy, and have had a chance to acclimate to the lowering temperatures, they should do fine in our homes or outdoor aviaries (as long as they are protected from abrupt temperature changes, wind and rain).  Most birds appreciate a lit supplemental heat if kept in a cold room or outdoor aviary..  Older birds, arthritic birds, or birds with health problems, should be kept warmer.   Heated perches (these are chewproof, and have steel wrapped wire designed to avoid electrocution) or radiant wall panels designed for birds, work well.
Nutrition And Hydration:   Keep in mind that the air in our homes gets very dry when we use heat, creating a
risk of dehydration and drying mucus membranes.  Provide moist foods and lots of fresh water.  Keep up those daily showers - give them their drenching bath first thing in the morning so they can dry off as the day warms up. Be aware that birds need to eat more nutritious calories when it is cold.
Final Note: Parrots love silliness, singing and laughing.  These intelligent, beautiful beings are themselves great gifts to us.  Remind them often that you love and enjoy them.  With care and consideration, they can enjoy healthy "HAPPY HOLIDAYS" right along with us crazy bird people!

Labels: expertnov07
Bird Recipe

Curried Sweet Potatoes

Curried Sweet Potatoes

By Bonnie Jay & Anne Eilers of StarBird Parrot Products

  • Garnet yams cut into strips wedges or squares
  • Purple kale minced (or any leafy green, except chard)
  • Any whole grain
  • Raisins
    Soak grain overnight to germinate. Fill heavy pot with enough veggie broth to cover drained grains. Add a dash of curry and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, turn off heat, cover and let sit. Simmer sweet potatoes and raisins in broth until the potatoes are tender. Place sweet potatoes, wheat and raisins into bowl and sprinkle with finely minced kale. Serve warm.