While birds are not as popular or prevalent among pet owners in the state of Virginia as cats or dogs, there are still many shops that specifically cater to bird owners and the needs of their pets.
One place, right in Falls Church, is the American Bird Company. Located along Lee Highway at 7219 Lee Hwy, Falls Church, the locally-owned pet store has been serving the Washington, DC area for over 20 years.
Carrie, one of the caretakers, spoke to me about what it is like to own and care for a caged bird like a parakeet, macaw or cockatoo (birds that fill the inside of the store, front to back, in a variety of colors and sizes).
The primary thing is making sure that the bird gets “fresh water, fresh food” on a daily basis. Talking about her own routine both with the birds at American Bird Company and her own pets, Carrie stated that the cages must be cleaned “everyday.”
While cleaning out bird droppings, she explained that it is important for an owner to “monitor the poop, making sure that [the bird] is eating enough.”
For larger birds, like Parrots, “fresh veggies are really good.” Papaya is also a good option for bird food, as it is “good for their gut.” When it comes to baby birds, Carrie says that “we feed them a lot of formula. After [the] formula, we use pellets.” She mentioned that ZuPreem is their go-to brand at the store.
Many of the birds in the shop can be seen hanging off of or chewing on various toys inside their cages. Carrie explained that toys — ones made out of “balsa wood, pine or dragon wood,” which birds like to “chew on and destroy” or cholla cactus, abundant in “nooks and crannies” — are a key part of a bird’s daily life. Toys are “great for their beaks and their brains,” says Carrie.
She added that “a lot of birds like things that make noise,” like bells. There is also a kind of concrete perch which can be placed in a cage and on which birds can “file their nails.”
It helps to have a number of toys and to “alternate [them] so that [the birds] don’t get bored.” In addition to the kinds of toys already mentioned, Carrie remarked that “kids’ foam, shredded paper [and] dried corn husks” are also good items for a bird to play with.
Besides all the colorful birds — which fill the shop with their cacophonous, yet bubbly, “bird talk” — another obvious characteristic of American Bird Company is the humidity. According to the Best Friends Resource Center, a national animal welfare organization, it is “important to purchase a humidifier for every room in which” a bird will be kept. It is crucial to have a humidifier with a built-in hygrometer, making sure to not exceed 60 percent humidity — as that is typically when mold begins to grow.
Setting the humidifier “at 55 percent humidity will ensure” that the bird “lives in as humid an environment as possible without mold growing.” Humidity is a pet care requirement for every kind of parrot, which helps keep their skin and feathers healthy.
American Bird Company, in addition to selling birds and bird supplies, also provides grooming and boarding services with professional care that includes clipping their wings and trimming their nails.
Another store in the area, a bit further out, is Wild Birds Unlimited, located at 2437 N Harrison St, Arlington. Michael Zuiker has owned and operated this franchise store since 1991.
Wild Birds Unlimited specializes in the sale of bird food, feeders, bird baths and houses and a variety of poles and baffles — which act as blockers that help prevent squirrels from jumping onto the bird feeder; they also help keep the bird seed in one place.
For those looking to expand their parameters and engage with other bird owners and birders, there is a state-wide group called the Pet Bird Association of Virginia, based out of 5652 Haden Road, Virginia Beach. The PBAV — which originated as a club in 1982 — helps to promote education, research, conservation and responsible breeding practices in regards to exotic birds such as finches, canaries, budgies and parrots.
The organization is made up of pet bird owners and veterinarians, pet store owners, rehabilitators, shelter owners and breeders, working to support further bird education and conservation.
According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, it is important, “before bringing a wild or exotic bird into Virginia,” to “check with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources to ensure that possession of the bird is not prohibited or restricted.
If you are a resident of Virginia or are moving to Virginia, there are no entry requirements for you to bring in your personal pet birds.”
“If the bird is intended to be used for any purpose other than being a personal pet (such as offering it for sale or adoption, breeding it, or using it for promotional purposes) the bird will need to be accompanied by a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) issued within 10 days prior to entry into Virginia.”
To learn more about American Bird Company, visit americanbirdcompany.com; to learn more about Wild Birds Unlimited — Arlington, visit arlingtonva.wbu.com. To find out more about the Pet Bird Association of Virginia, visit pbav.org.