Week 2. It’s a boy😊 but it has PBFD☹

Blood tests confirmed the chick was a male, but it had PBFD. So we went back to the drawing board to re-think his age. Pete Wood said 5-6 weeks based on feather growth. But when we knew it had PBFD, we had to adjust for the fact that feather loss is a symptom. Based on fledging estimates from the wild nest, this chick should have fledged around Christmas. Which meant that on 6 Jan when it fell from the nest, it was already two weeks post-fledging. But without flight feathers, it had no choice but to remain at the nest. This meant that this chick when we got it, was at least 12 weeks old. We presume that at some stage the parents would have abandoned it to be able to fly further for feeding with the offspring that fledged. It was likely only a matter of days before this chick would have succumbed to dehydration (starvation) in the nest.

On average I was able to feed the chick four times a day, 20 g per feed. I fed every four hours starting at 06:00. During this week, he also started to tap the syringe with his bill when he was ready for more. I introduced some whole foods slowly by placing it in a small plastic bowl in the brooder: banana (didn’t like), yellowwoods (watched me open it, then did it himself), blueberries (loved), pawpaw (not a fan), green-beans (yeah ok). Pecan nuts were also on the diet. Just one nut every day. Also cashews and almonds. These nuts have an important source of fats for Cape Parrots, which have the highest fat content in their diet of all parrots. I showed him how to open it the pecan nut. I would use a set of pliers, carefully crack open the shell, and extract the nut. I then cracked a shell and placed the two halves in the brooder on the floor. He quickly picked one half up in his bill, transferred it to his right foot, then began extracting the nut with his bill. At first it was a messy business, and he would drop the shell often. But after a while he got the hang of it, and over the next few days I watch with delight as he became better and better at grasping food with his foot.

Introduced perches to the cage. This was important to prevent bumble-foot. He took to them immediately and tended to prefer the branch in the back left of the cage – closest to the heat source. After each feed, he would perch, then spend a lot of time wiping his bill clean on the sides of the brooder and on the perches. He was a bit unstable on the perches at first, walking slowly and often losing balance. He wasn’t yet using his beak to help him climb and walk along perches. But luckily for him, the branches were low and so any fall was minor. He would also strip the branches of any lichen. He smoothed his favourite branch by chewing off the bark. So smooth is nice.

Lara and I prepared the larger cage for him. This cage was furnished with greens and lots of branches. This cage we placed in the house in front of the brooder for him to get accustomed to. This in preparation for ultimately moving him from brooder to cage.

Each morning, I was exposing him to natural forest ambience and the calls of his parents recorded the previous year at the nest. When they were first played, he would chirp and respond. The same call that the chick gave when parents were flying in to the nest vicinity. However, with time, as the chick became more comfortable with the feeding routine, he no longer responded vocally to these playbacks. Lara thought that it was possible that the chick no longer thought he was lost. He was being fed enough, had a safe, warm place to sleep…so perhaps in his mind all was o.k.

In the early morning between 07:30 and 08:00 when the warm sun shone on the veranda, I would take the brooder outside, open the Perspex front, and let him soak up some natural light. Initially he was quiet, taking in the noisy surroundings (drongos, turacos etc calling nearby). It took three tries before I could see he was more relaxed with this. I had to watch him closely, as the temperature in the brooder climbed quickly when exposed to sun, even in dappled light. Too dappled though and he would get cold and shiver. I would shunt the brooder in and out of sun, then 40 minutes later I would return the brooder to the desk inside, and he would return to his chirpy self.


  1. Ate solid fruits for the first time.
  2. Able to hold food in foot – right foot preferred.