Q: What should I feed my new baby parrot? Her veterinarian recommends a pelleted food, but I heard seeds were better.
A: The idea that birds need only seeds for a complete and balanced diet is one of those myths that keeps hanging on. Seeds are high in fat and don't provide the nutrition that birds need. Feeding only seeds is like giving your kids a diet of hamburgers, hot dogs, and mac and cheese every day. Birds who eat only seeds are prone to obesity and other health conditions caused by poor diet.
Pellets are a mixture of grains, seeds, fruits and vegetables, and provide appropriate levels of vitamins and minerals. Different types of pellets are made for different species and sizes of birds. But not even pellets offer a complete meal for every bird. Many species have unique nutritional requirements. Adding fresh foods such as vegetables, fruits, pasta and various types of protein – including lean poultry or cooked eggs – is important for giving your bird a well-rounded diet.
Birds enjoy fun foods that they have to work at: think corn on the cob, a slice of watermelon, the core of a bell pepper, sprouts, or a nut in the shell. Your bird-savvy veterinarian can advise you about the proper percentage of pellets and fresh foods for your bird's species, but in general, pellets should make up about 80 percent of your bird's diet.
When are seeds OK? I'm not saying you can never give seeds to your bird; in very small amounts, they are a great reward when you are teaching her something new, or when she has just done something you like. Just remember that they should be a special treat, not a large percentage of her intake.
• Travelers arriving in Finland's Helsinki-Vantaa Airport will now be greeted – at a distance, of course – by coronavirus-sniffing dogs, who will check to see if they are infectious. The dogs, trained to recognize the virus that causes COVID-19, are located at specially built sniffing stations. Passengers swipe their skin with small pieces of gauze, then put the samples in a beaker and pass it to a dog handler on the opposite side of the booth. The dog sniffs the beaker and indicates any samples that may belong to an infectious person. Results for the free, voluntary tests are available within 10 seconds, and the entire process takes less than a minute. Dogs and passengers don't come in contact with each other, which helps to protect the dogs from potential infection.
• Teens in Hungary who participated in a program that involved working with horses two days a week had fewer emotional and behavioral problems, and better "prosocial behavior" – actions that benefit other people or society as a whole – than students in the control group, who did not work with horses, according to a report in the journal Environmental Research and Public Health. Researchers' analysis found that equine-related activities were a significant factor in development of the positive traits. Working with horses requires students to understand equine communication and behavior. The relationship-building skills they learn translate to developing trust, acceptance and understanding with humans as well.
• Burmese cats, with their unique brown coats, were known as copper cats in Southeast Asia. Smart, funny and playful, they enjoy interacting with people and have a loyal, loving temperament. Burmese aren't as talkative as their Siamese cousins, but they will carry on a conversation with you in their raspy voices. The medium-sized cats have eyes ranging in color from yellow to gold and a short, glossy, solid-colored coat.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Marty Becker and journalist Kim Campbell Thornton of Vetstreet.com. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Send pet questions to email@example.com.